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Basic concepts in Sacred Science

A fivefold path

Basic terms


A fivefold path

This is a slight revision of an extract from pp. 21-23 of Sacred Science

The map, in figure 1 below, is rooted in my lived inquiry.  It is simple map of divinity. It is not only a crude map of being, but also a map of primary options for creating a path. Each of the four quadrants on the map is interrelated with every other and with the experiential centre. The design is not meant imply that there is some exclusive connection between the transcendent and the subtle, or the immanent and the everyday.      

Figure 1.2 Fivefold path of integrative heart

As a map of being, of what there is, it conjectures that:

  • There is a spiritual consciousness informing everything and also beyond everything, ineffable splendour.
  • There is a spiritual life within everything as its interior source, its pregnant depth and ground. By spiritual life,  I mean a vitalizing principle that is anterior to our normal distinction between the animate and the inanimate.
  • There are subtle realms of invisible powers and presences.
  • There is the world of human society, nature and the visible cosmos.
  • There is individual human experience here and now.
  • There is divinity which is the integrated One-Many totality of these five modes of being.

These modalities also generate a practical working hypothesis, another set of categories whose directions provide the creative options for a self-directed and comprehensive journey for the soul.

  • Inward ascent to the heights of spiritual awareness beyond all name and form.
  • Inward descent to the depths of spiritual life within, the ground of all manifestation.
  • Outward ascent to engage creatively with the presences and energies of higher worlds.
  • Outward descent to become actively involved in social change and planetary transformation.
  • The transformation of these four processes within present breadth and wholeness, within the ever-present reality of immediate present experience, through our own growth in divine autonomy in co-operation with others similarly engaged. This is an activity of the heart through which the four processes can flow in continuous interaction. The map of the unified path is thus five-fold: inward ascent and descent, outward ascent and descent, integrated through autonomous heart into an expansion of immediate present experience.

All maps of this sort are provisional. They have a triple destiny. They are grounded on lived inquiry. They provide a tentative framework to guide such inquiry, both individual and co-operative. They are in principle open to revision by such inquiry.


Basic terms

This extract is from pp. 8-10 of Sacred Science

I find it helpful to distinguish between the spiritual, subtle, the phenomenal and the divine. Here is how, grounded in my lived inquiry, I shall use these key terms:

  • By the spiritual I mean a comprehensive, all-pervasive, dipolar consciousness-life that appears to include human consciousness-life, to be beyond it and to be within it. Note here that I am bearing witness to spirit in two complementary and interdependent modes: spirit as transcendent and present consciousness and spirit as present and immanent life. By spirit as life I mean a moving, vitalizing principle that is anterior to our normal distinction between the animate and the inanimate. For my taste, spirit as consciousness and spirit as life are too often conflated, life usually being ignored or reduced to consciousness. So only consciousness is mentioned as ‘the proper subject matter of transpersonal psychology’ (Cortright, 1997: 49). Transpersonal experience is viewed only as transpersonal states of consciousness (Hunt, 1995).
  • By the subtle I refer to extrasensory capacities in humans, and to energies, domains, presences and powers to which those capacities may bear witness. At one level it is far beyond the phenomenal realm, at another level it permeates it. At the latter level, the subtle has often been called the psychical, as in the field of psychical research.
  • By the phenomenal I mean the manifest human world, which, among other things, includes the physical, biological, psychological and cultural spheres.
  • By the divine I refer to an integrated One-Many reality including the spiritual, the subtle and the phenomenal.

The subtle and the phenomenal may be regarded as complementary kinds of content of the consciousness-life that is the spiritual. The divine is a wider and more inclusive term than the spiritual. It is the spiritual, the subtle and the phenomenal as a total epiphany, a sacred manifestation. I experience the divine as the presence of what there is here and now. I also call the divine the presence of Being. A simple diagram symbolizes the divine, as in figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1 The divine

The circumference represents spirit as the infinitude beyond, a transcendent consciousness, which informs everything with the archetypes of creation. The centre represents spirit as the infinitude within, an immanent life, which moves everything with indwelling potential. The inner circle represents the phenomenal, the intermediate circle the subtle. All these four together symbolize the divine. The point about the phenomenal circle of human experience is that it can open both to the circumference and to the centre, in qualitatively different dipolar practices. The whole model is an experiential conjecture, a working hypothesis, not a dogma.

The transpersonal, ego and person

‘Transpersonal’ is a term much in vogue for designating the spiritual and subtle. Since I use it myself in this book I need to explain what connotation I give to it.

The Latin prefix 'trans' in transpersonal is highly ambiguous and has several meanings. It can mean 'beyond', as in 'transcend'. Or it can mean 'from one state to another', as in 'transform' or 'transfigure'. This is the ambiguity. Some writers use it to refer to what is beyond the person, as if personhood is something transcended and left behind, or discarded like a dead skin. They confuse the person with the limiting ego, and so mistakenly kill off both at the same time.

By the word 'transpersonal' I refer to the person changing from one state to another, emerging from identification with egoic separateness into intrinsic personhood: distinctness of being within a wider and deeper unity. In this sense 'transpersonal' means 'transforming'. Personhood is not left behind. On the contrary, it enters into its true estate, unique participation in here and now divine presence, the heritage which has awaited it all along.

Another meaning of 'trans' is 'through', as in 'transparent'. And this is another meaning I attach to 'transpersonal': subtle and spiritual energies manifesting through the person and their full range of creative activities in the world.

In summary, I do not mean by ‘transpersonal' a state that is beyond personhood and implies its dissolution and negation. I mean a state in which personhood is transformed from being identified with egoic separateness to a state of resonant attunement with, and participation in, Being; and is transparent for psychic and spiritual energies. The person is fully expressive in the world, and celebrates distinctness of being within unitive awareness. This calls to mind Aurobindo’s ‘gnostic individual’ who is:

…in the world and of the world…universal but free in the universe, individual but not limited by a separative individuality. The true Person is not an isolated entity, his individuality is universal for he individualizes the universe. (Aurobindo, 1970: 972-73)

In unitive states, as I experience them, the relative distinctness, uniqueness, autonomy of each entity is both enhanced and transfigured by their participative relations with each other and the whole. In the wider scheme of things, I hypothesize, there is a divine integration of the spiritual, the subtle and the phenomenal uniquely within each being and universally within the totality.