Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 11, 2006

Beyond Paradise

O God,
Although Heaven is bright and beautiful beyond compare,
Without the vision of You it is painful and searing …
A beautiful and pleasant station is Paradise,
But it has not the splendor of Your lane.

The ability to abide in consciousness, to live in pure awareness, having dropped ego-centered subjectivity, feels like paradise and often passes as enlightenment, as the ultimate enlightenment. Nevertheless, the bliss of consciousness does not mark the end of the spiritual path. The capacity to cruise through life, even intermittently, in the broad halls of perfect awareness, allowing and not identifying with thoughts and destructive emotions, certainly brings true and lasting happiness. That high level of development signifies a real achievement of soul. But the sacred emanates from well beyond that paradise.

This misunderstanding goes even deeper in making the mistake of considering our true essence to be consciousness, the mistake of identifying with and reifying the conscious energy. But consciousness is not who or what we are. Our reality is more subtle than that.

At each level, the corresponding energy functions as a body, as what we live in, but not as who we are, not as who lives there. This holds on the material level where we live in our physical body, on the sensation level where we live in the sensitive energy, on the conscious level where we live in pure awareness, in the conscious energy, and in the world of light, the creative energy, an even higher paradise than the conscious energy. Like our physical body, these energies are what we use. The conscious energy, as the formless substrate of all perception, enables us to perceive, to cognize, to “see.” We are the non-subjective one who sees, who cognizes, who perceives. We are the one who sits peacefully in consciousness, just being there.

That peace results from non-identifying, from letting go of self-centered grasping and rejecting, pushing and pulling. Letting go is an act of will, or rather a non-act of will. Will is action and non-action. In its simplest manifestations, will is attention, intention, and choosing. Will comes from beyond consciousness, beyond the energies. Will is who we are. Will is most real when open to, connected with, and serving the Sacred Source of All, the Divine Will, the unfathomable, loving and intelligent Purpose behind the universe.

This dialectic between East and West, between the bliss of consciousness and the service of will, forms and informs our path. Paradise, even for a moment, is bliss, but not the end of the one, true, unfolding story.

For this week, re-examine your spiritual aims. Do you seek paradise for yourself? Do you seek meaning in service? Are these mutually exclusive?

[1] Khwaja Abdullah Ansari quoted in Danner, V. and Thackston, W., Ibn 'Ata Illah-Kwaja Abdullah Ansari: The Book of Wisdom-Intimate Conversations (New York: Paulist Press, 1979) p. 187


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