I was talking to a friend the other day who had asked a question I get frequently: “What makes you think the soul isn’t evolving? Aren’t the advances in medicine, science, and technology evidence that we’re in the midst of a spiritual renaissance? Meditation has become widely accepted and people seem to be moving from dogmatic religion to a more spiritual approach to life. Aren’t these all hopeful signs?”
I responded that it was obvious we were making advances in all these fields, but these are examples of intellectual, not spiritual evolution. It’s also true that we hear more people touting a spiritual rather than religious leaning, but in my observation, much of this quest should still be classified as an exercise in spiritual intellectualism.
The spiritual dimension is self-existent, changeless, it does not evolve. Nor does the experience of this dimension require further development of any faculty, especially the intellect. Every person is presently capable of experiencing the spiritual dimension. The problem is, most treat it as an intellectual prize that must be earned, like an academic degree or a greatly sought-after scientific breakthrough. The spiritual awakening comes, not in waves to the masses, but like a thief in the night, through the intuitive portal of each individual.
There is widespread belief that if we continue to fill the intellect with spiritual concepts gleaned from the minds of others, we’ve joined a collective march toward enlightenment on a massive scale. This is simply not true. Thanks to social media, more people are indeed throwing around spiritual terms like so much confetti, but this is not proof that greater numbers are actually tapping into the spiritual dimension. It only means more have learned the language, the correct postures, and buzz words that suggest they are part of the pop culture of the spiritual set. In this arena, what passes for spiritual understanding tends to be as shallow as the false bonds of social media, where the course of most relationships is not determined by actual interaction, but by the click of a mouse.
Spiritual and intellectual progress are not measured by the same yardstick. The genuine spiritual awakening does not run with the crowd. What’s popular today is forgotten tomorrow. We’re reminded in the Gospel of Thomas: “There are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well. There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite” (#74-75).
Imagine two people in a windowless room, each with a flashlight. In one flashlight the batteries are low and the light is a dim yellow. In the other, the batteries are new and the beam is very bright. The natural comparison here is that of battery power. One sees their world through the dim light of low batteries. The other sees more clearly with batteries fully charged. So we have a scale of dim to bright with which to measure and compare.
Now imagine a third person who has left the windowless room and experienced the full brightness of sunlight. For them, the brightest of the two flashlights pales in comparison to the sun. They understand that the availability of sunlight has nothing to do with the level of charge in the battery of a flashlight. The one holding the dim light can just as easily step outside as the one holding the bright light. Fully charged batteries are not a requirement for stepping into the brighter world of daylight.
The room represents the self-image, the batteries and flashlights are the “brainpower” we associate with intellectualism. Spiritual development is not about charging the batteries of the intellect with spiritual ideas. It’s the experience of stepping outside the room. The intellect of the person who steps into the direct light of the soul is transformed by this experience. It is not a process of evolution but a condition of direct exposure. Nothing in the room can prepare one for the experience of sunlight. It is the understanding that the experience we seek is not of this world of rooms and flashlights. The belief that we’re making spiritual progress by charging our intellectual batteries is simply false.
The driving force behind the true spiritual awakening is often discontentment, dissatisfaction. We’ve seen enough in the room to realize it can never fulfill the yearning we feel at the soul level. We intuitively know there is sunlight beyond the confines of this room. We have observed those who believe that fully charged batteries are the epitome of human achievement, that, in their thinking, the concept of sunlight is but a myth, wishful thinking for those who cannot adapt to life in the room. We may not posses the facts to support what we know is true at the deepest level, but we know these folks are wrong.
We are naturally drawn to the outdoors because this, not the room, is our true home. The soul does not forget its Source. Its light seeps through this battery-powered realm of thought and draws us out of the cultural standards that use the room and flashlights as its basis of reality. The room, we instinctively know, is no more the center of the universe than was the earth, as all room-dwelling authority once believed.
Evolution applies to life in the room. Outside the room, the light of self-existence shines eternally, without shadow due to change. The light forever beckons every soul to open the door and come home.