Chris: How would you describe what happens when you open yourself in that way?
Tony: I believe that depends very much upon who you are and what you can tolerate. You can understand this by looking at any traveller who explores the world. Different people have different experiences because some are more daring than others, some are more studious than others, some limit themselves by their viewpoints or beliefs.
In general though a widening of experience occurs, and what is common to many people is a sort of cleansing taking place. The depth of this cleansing depends upon the factors mentioned above. In brief, the effects and perhaps traumas of the past are brought to consciousness to heal and integrate. In older traditions such as in yoga, this was thought of in terms of meeting ones karma, the sum total of ones past actions and inactions. The many things from the past that had not been understood, not dealt with, not healed, were faced during this cleansing.
Another way of thinking about this is to explain it in imagery. Opening to that inner potential is like allowing a spring to start flowing from deep in the earth. As its flow strengthens it carries with it any rubbish, any blockages that are stopping its flow. As it strengthens further and flows into a stream, the stream carries away debris that is in the way.
Christianity, in the imagery of the New Testament, gives us examples of healing when this inner being — the Christ — is met. So there is the healing of the blind man, the healing of paralysis and the resurrection from the dead. The symbolical meaning is that we have previously been blind to the real situation we occupy in the universe; we have been paralysed by not knowing really who we are; and life was not really flowing through us as fully as it might, so in that way we were dead.
But underneath the process is the movement toward growth. It is a movement toward flowering of the innate quality or potential within oneself. So overall we could say that it is a push toward realising yourself as one and the same as the essence of the universe. Mystics in the past called it at-one-ment with God.
This very much links with what has been said about enlightenment and cosmic consciousness.
Something that has become very apparent to me over the years in regard to the spiritual path is that there seems to be a big difference between East and West in some areas. For instance Buddhism and some of the great masters of the eastern tradition talk about getting rid of the ego. In Buddhism it is described as a blinking out, like a candle going out, a disappearance of self. Whereas with Christianity there is a much greater emphasis on the transformation of self, a renewal and rejuvenation of who one is. Sometimes this is spoken of as a rebirth and so implies a sort of death. So in a way there are great similarities between East and West. But even with those similarities Christianity still emphasises the personal survival of bodily death, and having a life in the being of Christ.
What has happened in the West in recent years is, as far as I can see a sort of outcrop of this Christian view of transformation, and is seen in the development of psychotherapy in its various forms. This has become a very powerful influence in society toward the transformation of self. And I believe this is an amazing step forward. Although many psychotherapists will not agree with me, I believe that in the broadest sense psychotherapy is a tremendous tool and advancement in the process of spiritual growth.
I say this because as far as I can see, nowhere in the past was there a real meeting with the effects of life in the womb, the trauma of birth, childhood traumas, and the sexual dilemmas and pains many of us suffer. Today when we take the spiritual path, the meeting with these blockages and infant traumas is part of the cleansing mentioned already. The best of the psychotherapies looks at the whole of the human being and includes body mind and spirit in its approach to transformation.
What I have seen is that if you press far enough into the deep renovation of yourself you cannot help but confront a widening of awareness. That, after all, is the essence of the spiritual.