When we see the moon and it is not full, we can see the edge where there is very marked light on one side and darkness on the other. Human life is very much like that. There is a sharp and dividing line between waking and sleeping, between having self-awareness and being as we call it unconscious. Mostly, what we call the spiritual path is about crossing that line, going over that border, moving beyond that frontier in one way or another. When we do that we become a whole human being. There is consciousness all the way through.
I define the spirit as pertaining to what doesn’t change, what does not shift in human nature, what remains as the foundations of existence. It has everything to do with something that stands beyond life-and-death. And that is why I link it to crossing of that border, that frontier between waking and sleeping. It is about exploring the dark side of the moon.
But often the spiritual is described as if it is something far off, ephemeral, very divine or difficult to attain. What I have come to over the years is these ideas give a wrong impression of it. My simple explanation is that your spirit is you when you remember yourself fully.
What I mean by this is mostly we do not know who we are because we suffer a form of amnesia. It is a memory loss that in our culture is assumed to be normal. We fail to remember our childhood, our infancy, our birth and conception, yet these are all available to us. Although that is an amazing possibility, it is not uncommon for people to experience it. In certain circumstances we can be aware of the deepest levels of our body, its functions, organs and tiny . The Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, in his book Realms of the Human Unconscious, gives details of people experiencing vivid and specific awareness of what he calls Organ, Tissue, and Cellular Consciousness.
“Another interesting aspect of these experiences that I found quite unusual was the fact that subjects, when discussing them (their experience of memory in the womb), seemed to avail themselves of specific knowledge of embryology and the physiology of pregnancy that was far superior to their previous education in these areas. They have often accurately described certain characteristics of the heart sounds of the mother and child; the nature of various acoustic phenomena in the peritoneal cavity; specific details of positions, physical features, and behaviour of the foetus; relevant facts about placentary circulation; and even details about exchanges between the maternal and foetal blood in the placentary villi….
When we do take our memory back to include all these and go beyond that to our life in eternity, we remember who we are. Then we know what spirit is – ones Self.
In attempting to find what the human spirit is by looking at dreams, the simplest definition is that when a dream enables us to go beyond the limitations of our personal memories, our learning, our body and our sense of what life is, it opens our spiritual life to us. The most profound of these experiences usually involve a sense of existing throughout all time – that at ones core exists a level of being that has always been, and is beyond the changes of life and death. Certainly one of the sources of the spiritual is that we have a sense of something, or an experience, that shows us a very different view of our life and the objective world than we usually arrive at through our sense impressions or our inherited cultural views. Common experiences of the spiritual are as follows:-
- Tragedies in our life are suddenly seen from a much more inclusive view, or one’s personal situation is seen as a part of a continuing and cosmic process. This dignifies and integrates our life into a greater whole, and removes the sense of tragedy.
- The spiritual might also be felt as experiencing our own wholeness. This meeting might be an encounter with Christ, or a holy being.
- We experience ourselves as part of one great life, existing throughout time and space. We then see the variety of living creatures and inanimate matter are all manifestations of that one life. The oneness behind multiplicity is experienced as self existent.
- A great experience arises in us of the essential part of us streaming back throughout all time. Our personal life connects with all that has existed and all that will exist.
- A realisation of oneself as being more than one’s thoughts, emotions and body sensations. This direct experience of being is called illumination and cannot be described as it is outside of the thinking process and its definitions.