Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 11, 2006


Spiritual Friendship

Among the valuable, central relationships we can have, spiritual friendship occupies a special position. Such friendships normally have two essential features: recognition of equality and shared commitment to spiritual practice. Spiritual equality does not concern itself with outer or inner equality, with who holds greater wealth, fame, knowledge, or spiritual development. Rather, spiritual equality derives from the core truth that we are all equally children of our common Father God, as taught in the Jewish, Christian, and Hindu scriptures.

Those with a taste for effective spiritual practice sooner or later arrive at this understanding of other people as their equal. No one, regardless of his or her position in life or personal qualities, is above or below any another person. All are equal in their intrinsic nature. Democracies are founded on this bedrock principle and so is spirituality. Spiritual friendship can only flow with acceptance of this implicit equality.

God the Father gives the freedom of His will to us. We all possess a spark of the Divine will and we instinctively honor people who pursue the path of embodying that sacredness. To use that freedom to act in friendship aligns us with another aspect of the sacred: God as Friend. This we also find in scripture, in the both the Old and New Testaments, in the Koran, and in the Bhagavad Gita.

Beyond equality, the specific character of spiritual friendship depends on a common pursuit of the spiritual path. Those with whom you share the search for the sacred naturally earn your interest, your care, your trust, and your joy in their presence. You also find that you need each other, because you support each others’ inner evolution. If you practice together, that practice exceeds the sum of its parts. If you exchange views and experiences, you both grow in wisdom. You realize that with regard to your spiritual friends, both you and the world as a whole need their inner work. People who undertake spiritual practice contribute directly to the spiritual ecosystem of the world, a contribution necessary to any hope of peace on this planet or of environmental responsibility.

In a deeper sense, acts of friendship connect us separate human beings to each other in a greater whole. Friendship embodies the way of shared will, a way toward the emergent symbiotic wholeness of humanity. Like particles interacting to form atoms, atoms to molecules, molecules to cells, cells to organs, and organs to complex living beings, we may one day form a great human unity, a new and sacred wholeness. Friendship, and especially spiritual friendship, steps us toward that wholeness.

But many factors militate against true friendship: the busyness of our life, our shy or overly judgmental nature, not taking opportunities to meet people or to follow up after meeting them, fear of closeness or rejection, unwillingness to consider ourselves no more and no less than equal with others, unwillingness to share our spiritual aspirations, lack of interest in other people, an erroneous attitude that we do not need others, worrying about what others think of us, not wanting to give time to cultivate friendship, focusing on the features we dislike in people, and substituting acquaintanceship for friendship.

For this week, look at your friendships, your attitudes, your words and actions toward others. Is there something you need to change in this department of your life? Something you are neglecting?


     

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