Tap ‘spirituality’ into the search bar of Amazon and you will be faced with around half a million choices. Not so very long ago, you could trawl every bookstore in town.. and most towns had a fair few to choose from… and you would be lucky to find anything more than a bible. Ask for the esoteric section and the assistant would look at you with a blank expression and/or back away from the weirdo before directing you towards the poetry shelves. There were books…but not many, hard to find and expensive because of their rarity. The best places to look were the scruffy, second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, invariably tucked away down a side street in a seedy part of town. When you found a good one, you didn’t forget.
These days, it seems as if everywhere you look there are books, CDs and videos promising you the earth and the heavens…or heaven on earth… or ascension… or, well, you get the idea. Spirituality has become big business.
I have lost track of the number of Avatars and Ascended Masters currently plying their trade. Call me old-fashioned, but I have a deep distrust of anyone who has to tell me they are such a thing. Inspire me, make me think, lead by example and show me the results made manifest in the way you face your life and the way you inspire others… ‘show, don’t tell’ works in the spiritual world too. The true spiritual teachers I have had the privilege to know would never see themselves as any more than students sharing a path towards the Light.
While there are some excellent books, many reputable schools and organisations and a handful of genuine spiritual teachers, it is very difficult to wade through such a plethora of promises and find the ones that speak to the heart. It becomes even more confusing when the lines have become blurred between the truly spiritual and those books and systems guaranteeing worldly happiness and success. Many of the techniques employed are very similar; indeed, many of the ‘feelgood’ systems appear to have hi-jacked magical techniques lock, stock and barrel, repackaging and rebranding them as something new and unique that will bring the subscriber their heart’s desire. The trouble is, they have taken the heart out of the practices to do so.
The true intent of those ancient techniques that work upon the personality is not to hone and polish it for worldly success and a happy life. The need to ‘Know Thyself’ is at the core of all spiritual paths, but not in order to make money or attract a mate. That may well come if you follow the old teachings and find yourself opening up the greater potential of your own being. Such studies give access to great joy as inner balance is real-ised. Confidence comes with the knowing and eyes come alive with wonder. ‘Success’ may well come too because of the expansion of understanding of yourself and your world, and though it may not always be measurable in worldly terms, by the time it arrives, you value each experience for its true worth.
The purpose of such study has a higher aim than filling a bank account. Sadly, their are many self-proclaimed spiritual leaders who seem all too happy to fill their own at the expense of the true seeker.
Mankind has always recognised that there is something beyond himself. For some the highest good is seen in the heart of humanity and how, beyond the petty griefs and greeds that shadow his days, Man can know compassion, generosity and love. For others, that ‘something’ is reflected in the small gods of hearth and home and the spirits of Nature. Still others raise eye and heart towards a universal Intelligence. While the beliefs of individuals differ, there seems to be a common need to perceive and acknowledge a higher good.
For much of humanity’s history, that higher good has been found through the direction of bodies of religious knowledge. For centuries, religion and politics were closely aligned and until relatively recently, it was simply not good for your health to question the prevailing belief of your country. Those who did so publicly suffered for their freedom of thought. Sadly, there are many places where this is still true today and the emergence of a genuine and global freedom of belief is an ongoing process still far from its goal.
Over the past few decades, much of the world has seen a real, noticeable increase in our freedom and desire to question dogmatic teachings and more and more people are recognising that the key to spiritual development lies in their own hands and heart. It is not necessarily a turning against the traditional teachings, but a desire to understand their inner truth and deeper meaning, as well as an acknowledgement that to follow the rules blindly is a far cry from taking personal responsibility for our lives and actions.
That personal relationship with our own spiritual nature and our concept of divinity is unique. Whether we look to the heart of Man or a higher Source does not matter if we truly seek to grow into the best of ourselves. There is no lid on the sky, and no limit to the inner vision that can lead us forward.
No book, no school, no human being can teach you spirituality. What they can do is share knowledge, experience and a system that has been found to work and give results. They can guide, hold your hand on the journey and share it with you until you reach a door through which you alone may walk. It is not always a comfortable journey to examine your self and begin to fit the fragments of your being into a bigger picture and become part of something whole… not for nothing is it called the Work…but it is always worthwhile. Spirituality cannot be sold any more than can a sunset… but you can be shown where to stand and in which direction to look. And no-one, no matter how much they charge, can teach you to be a spiritual being…because you already are.