Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of June 21, 2010

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World 3: Sacred Light

(Part of the series Worlds of the Spirit)

Where is the Sacred? If it penetrates our ordinary worlds, where does it come from? If we cannot find the pure realm of the Sacred within consciousness, then it must lie beyond consciousness. How can we enter there? These questions matter to us, for they hold a key to unlocking the door to the Sacred. The right questions, explored persistently, intelligently, boldly, and with a humble heart of yearning, can guide us toward the Real.

One thing implicit in this series on the Worlds of the Spirit is that the simple understanding that there is Heaven and Earth, two levels of reality only and none in between, is in fact a gross oversimplification. Happily for us, there are more than two levels and a ladder to climb, a ladder whose next rung always stays just within our reach. This gives us hope, because we can take some positive action, we can engage in spiritual practice to climb these levels and not just passively wait for the rare grace that will reach down from Heaven and transport us across the chasm. We can do our part in this great spiritual endeavor. So having tasted the Conscious World, we ask what’s next. And without abandoning our practice of sensory contact and our work on consciousness and presence, we begin to explore what lies beyond consciousness and how we might enter there.

First we notice the difficulty. Consciousness completely surrounds us. It is the very stuff of awareness. To go beyond it, would be to go beyond awareness itself. Can that be possible? At the very least, it means coming into a different kind of awareness. But that realization does not help, for we do not know what kind of awareness that different one could be. So we focus instead on this notion that the higher reality, including this next higher World of Sacred Light, lies beyond consciousness. Toward that we can try two complementary approaches: first, actively reaching beyond consciousness, and second, receptively asking that which is beyond consciousness to reach down to us. In either case, we need to understand that, unlike the lower worlds, the World of Sacred Light is completely beyond our control, beyond our direct influence. But it is not beyond our possibilities to open to contact with that level intentionally and at will. Only the will involved is a higher will than our usual self-oriented one.

If we are surrounded by consciousness in every direction, to go beyond it we need to find a different direction, a direction of inner depth. For help with that we can look to our will, which is not an energy like consciousness is. Will is the core of who we are, the core which chooses, decides, initiates, and directs, the perceiver of our perceptions, the doer of our deeds. Though our will is central to our inner work at all levels, as we reach toward the higher worlds will becomes even more crucial and needs to be even more unified and refined.

Attention is the easiest aspect of will to recognize and study. With our attention, we can focus our awareness. Our attention can move our awareness from object to object. Attention directs the energies of awareness. So clearly attention is intimately connected to our will, is in fact one manifestation of our will. And one way to learn the direction beyond consciousness is to follow our attention back toward its source, to trace the ray of our will back toward where it comes from. Using our attention as a rope, we plumb our own depths by hauling our perception back along that rope. We move into attention itself, into its roots, like climbing into a mirror. But we do this with gentleness and respect. We are receptively active. In our center we actively explore our way ever deeper toward the source of our attention, but we do so clothed in a warm receptivity toward what we find or do not find. Investigating this question, “Where is the source of my attention?” is a spiritual exercise. And though it may not quickly lead us to that source, to our source, it can show us a new way to explore our own spiritual nature, a way to reach beyond consciousness.

It turns out that a partial answer to the question of where is the source of attention lies in the World of Sacred Light. In that world is our I, our most essential individuality. In the next world down the scale, the Conscious World, we feel ourselves to be whole, we feel fully ourselves. But the inward source of that self, of our self, is in the World of Sacred Light, the world where our true individuality resides and the highest world in which individuals are still differentiated.

Another approach to the World of Sacred Light is through total prayer, an all-consuming, completely focused, directed receptivity. We take the hints of direction we glean from seeking the source of our attention and, in deep silence, we use that direction to guide our opening, our heartfelt asking the Sacred to touch us. We are actively receptive. At our core we allow an opening that we actively, silently, by our attitude, ask the Sacred to fill.

Total prayer engages body, heart, and mind, as well our complete attention and intention. Our body may be still, if we are engaged in a silent, contemplative prayer. Or we may employ a sacred hymn, chant, formal prayer, or ritual movement. In our mind, we may silently intone words of prayer, or a repetition, or a sacred melody, or just an unstructured asking, searching. But the foundation beneath any of those mental forms is a depth of stillness, revealed by our all-in engagement. And in our heart, our bittersweet yearning guides us toward the Sacred, warming along the way. Our consciousness grows porous. And we act. We open our self, our heart, our mind, and our body, to the Sacred, altogether and all at once. We stay with this opening. And then we repeat this action, which transcends all approaches, methods, doctrines, and concepts.

And then comes the contact, the opening event. Though we may be open only to the periphery of the Sacred, we feel its nearness. Perhaps a cascade of very high energies, from this endless source of energy, flows into us, settling in our awakened body, enlivening and nourishing our soul. We touch the source of higher emotions, of faith and hope, of devotion and compassion, and we are grateful.

Though it is required, we need not worry about the purity of our heart, the purity of our intention, for the approach itself and the advancing nearness light a purifying, humbling, and healing flame within us. We naturally wish to protect and to serve our relationship with the Sacred. And so we grow more sensitive and responsive to the stirrings of conscience.

For this week, practice opening to the World of Sacred Light. With experience, we can open to this, not only in formal periods of prayer or meditation, but intentionally, even in brief moments, during our otherwise ordinary day.


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