Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Three Essential Elements

I agree that the Absolute is by definition transcendent and beyond the distinctions and limitations of form. Within the Islamic tradition we have a term specifically designated for those rare individuals who are granted the possibility of approaching the reality of the Absolute as such through direct realization. They are called the "afrad" or "solitary" and due to the unique character and station bestowed upon them by God, they have no need to function within a revealed spiritual path and traditional framework because revelation descends upon them spontaneously from above as it were.

Historically, to my knowledge, the afrad is a very rare individual, and for the rest of us, even those of exceptional character, spiritual and intellectual gifts, it is necessary to follow one of the traditional paths revealed to humanity by God and perpetuated through various authentic and orthodox masters throughout history. It is very common for self-styled spiritual masters to calumniate the traditional methods of approach so as to gain adherents by catering to the vain belief that, like the afrad, they are beyond the need to follow the established and traditional norms of the spiritual life. It is perhaps unnecessary to reiterate that those who seek to practice Kabbalah, especially those who approach it through that fragmentary and spurious "Qabalah" perpetuated in the occult schools, do not belong to this category of the afrad and are most in need of the conditions which adherence to a traditional religious framework establishes within the soul.

Each spiritual path provides three essential elements, each of which is necessary and complementary to the other two, the absence of which would render the path ineffective or dangerous. These are a doctrine, a method, and a conforming and conditioning ambiance. In the absence of a correct doctrine or of "orthodoxy", understanding would at the very least be limited in scope perhaps to the level of sentimentality and at the worst be directed toward that which is patently false or absurd, a situation which is intensified through fortification by the will in the practice of a spiritual method in conjunction with it. In the absence of a correct practice or "orthopraxy", assimilation of the doctrine or its realization will be unobtainable or at worst, as in the case of a potentially dangerous practice undertaken without the guidance of a traditional master, a person may become deluded or obsessed by subjective phenomena and either fail to understand or misinterpret an otherwise correct doctrine. Finally, in absence of a traditional exoteric framework the soul of a person will not be endowed the necessary conditioning arising from an assimilation of traditional symbols and adherence to fundamental virtues such that at the very least that person will be unable to realize the doctrine ontologically and at worst will be divided against himself and in a constant state of interior torment if he pursues a life of vice while attempting to follow a spiritual path.

Frithjof Schuon wrote that "Tradition is not a childish and outmoded mythology, but a science that is terribly real" and I feel very comfortable saying that it is the traditional spiritual path in its entirety and under the guidance of a authentic and orthodox spiritual master which alone provides the safeguards that afford the least room for error in these matters.

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