Spiritualism is the ability of a person to know beyond the senses. The world can be understood as the combination of the matter and spirit. While the matter is visible and known to the senses, the spirit that is the cause of the matter is not known to the senses. The knowledge of the spirit is obtained by the observation of the matter.
Spirit is all pervasive in the world as all objects are derived from this spirit. The spirit is, therefore, also known as God, Paramatma (Universal Soul), Supreme etc. All branches of knowledge are an attempt of the man to understand this spirit. Einstein expressed this desire of the spiritual person in the following words,
"I just want to know the thoughts of God. The rest are details."
Spiritualism, contrary to the common perception, is not other-worldly as it is very much related to this world. It is an attempt to discover the ultimate reality which is hidden behind the material beings. When Newton saw an apple falling from tree, he did not focus his thoughts on the apple but on the force that is driving the apple to the ground. Then he found that the same force works between every material object of the universe. He called it gravity. Yet no one has ever seen the gravitational waves or understood the reason why such forces emerge from the matter. Yet this knowledge has been extremely valuable for the mankind.
Spirituality too is nothing but an attempt of the man to discover the unseen and unknown force that drives every reality of this world. The only requirement to become spiritual is to change the focus from the "form" to the "formless" as Osho said,
We should drop our obsession with form so that the formless can enter. The moment the manifest leaves our mind, the unmanifest enters."
Many thousands years back, Upanishads, explained spiritualism as the highest knowledge of the world in the following words (Mundaka, I, i, 6)
By this knowledge, the wise realize everywhere that which can not be perceived and grasped, which is without source, features, eyes and ears, which has neither hands nor feet, which is eternal, multiformed, all pervasive, extremely subtle and undimishing, and which is the source of all.
If the knowledge of the spirit can not be acquired by the mind and senses then, how one can get it. The answer is that the spiritual knowledge can be obtained only by the spark of the spirit that is present in every living creature, which we know as soul. Thus the source of spiritual knowledge is the soul which alone is capable of understanding the knowledge of the spirit. It is for this reason that the spiritual knowledge is also called self-realization as it emerges from within and not from outside.
Four Means of Spiritualism
The goal of spiritualism is to know the spirit, the all pervasive reality of the universe. It was found that such knowledge is possible only when the person transforms himself to a spiritual person and moves in the path of divinity or salvation. This is also known as yoga or union of Self with the God or Divine.
Bhagwat Gita provides for four paths of salvation viz. Gyanayoga (knowledge of Supreme), Karmayoga (Selfless Action), Bhaktiyoga (Faith) and Dhyanayoga (self-realization).
Since all branches of knowledge are nothing but the branches of the same tree, hence all the four paths are common in other branches of knowledge like science which describes these four steps as hypothesis, experimentation, analysis and theory.
However, people often follow the simplest path and stick to only one path instead of balancing the four methods of union. However, these people feel disappointed and disillusioned soon as they fail to evolve spiritually.
Only a person who strikes proper balance in all four types of spiritualism attaints the spiritual evolution.
1. Knowledge: Understanding Scriptures
The truth of spiritualism is hidden in the scriptures. Yet it is not the words of the scriptures that carry the essence of the knowledge but the spirit of the scriptures that can be realized only by the soul. Scriptures requires highest level of imagination and thoughts. The meanings of the texts of Bible are not comprehensible like science. For example, read this texts from Bible
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. John 6:35 (KJV)
Scriptures are like poems which mix reality with imagination and symbolism. The proper understanding of scriptures requires deep knowledge of life and man. Try understanding this para of Bible
Jesus said to her, `I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:24-26)
Yet man with repeated effort and deep desire can grasp the truth of the scriptures just like a person after repeatedly seeing movies of different kinds or after reading fictions develop the ability to understand the truth after filtering the fiction or symbolism.
2. Selfless Action: Verification of Knowledge
Once a person has developed some understanding of the scriptures, the next step is to ensure that what he understood is correct. It has to be tested and verified just like a theory in science has to be verified by experiments. Roger Bacon (1214?-1294?) English philosopher, scientist said,
The strongest arguments prove nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences and the goal of all speculation.
It is for this reason that Gita has given highest place to Karma amongst all paths of salvation as without action, the knowledge can never be verified. Further, like scientists, the person has to keep himself away in participating the experiments and work merely as an observer. Thus the requirement is selfless karma. Only when the experiment is done without selfish motive, the results are accurately known.
If the laws of the scriptures are properly understood, then the result of an action would result into the goal as predicted in the scriptures. If the results does not match than either the theory is wrong or the experiment is wrong.
3. Faith: Believe in Scriptures
If the theory is correct and the experiment has been performed rightly, the results of the action are same irrespective of the observer and the person. In this regard, there is no difference between a scientist and a spiritual person. Thus the results prove the theory that causes the development of faith in the theories of the scriptures.
Faith is the first achievement of the spiritually awakened person. He experiments not on others but on him, hence there are no chances of errors or manipulation. Can anyone doubt the truth of an incident which he has witnessed by his own eyes? Hence the faith is automatically generated. Repeated success of the experiment deepens the faith of the theory and his capability to understand the scriptures and the nature of the spirit.
Faith is highly valued in all religions. Bible elaborate the importance of faith in the following words
He (Jesus) told them, "Because of your lack of faith. I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.
Yet faith can never be forced as it is impossible to influence the soul. No one can lie to himself or fool himself. Faith or belief comes only when a person is really convinced about the truth or accuracy of the principles. Yet once the faith is achieved, nothing remains unachievable.
4. Self-Realization: The Power of Concentration
It takes considerable time before a person has developed the correct understanding of the scriptures and able to distinguish the truth from the symbolism. In the beginning, large deviations are found in the theory and the results of the action. However with concentration, one can realize the fault and get the right knowledge and right experimentation.
The process of deep thinking or concentration is often called the self-realization in religion as this knowledge is realized from within. In Gita, it is called Dhyanayoga or self realization which is the pinnacle of spiritualism. Self-realization has been given the highest place in all religions. In the Gita Lord Krishna says
I shall fully explain to you the Self-knowledge together with Self-realization after knowing that nothing more remains to be known in this world.
Francis Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer, philosopher explained the power of thinking in the following words,
No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.
A Balanced Approach to Spiritualism
Every person who intends to know the spirit or God has to balance all four paths as no single path can lead to spiritualism. Mere bookish knowledge of the scriptures can make a person philosopher but not spiritual. Knowledge without knowing is like cloths which are worn externally and can be changed anytime. This knowledge does not transform the person as he does not really know the spirit. He could only know the body of the spirit and not the True knowledge of Spirit just like none can understand a person merely from his photograph.
Similarly all selfless actions do not provide any benefit to man. First of all, without knowledge it is impossible to do any action as every action originates from a motive or desire. Action without proper knowledge may cause more harm to the person instead of giving any benefit to him.
The blind devotion or faith in the words of the scriptures is the most fetal error a man can commit in the name of religion. Such people are called fanatics or fundamentalists as they instead of knowing their scriptures know only the words. Thus they take body as the whole truth can commit unpardonable crimes in the name of God.
Finally, mere concentration does not yield to anything. It is virtually impossible to see the unseen and understand the formless without having some basic knowledge of the scriptures. Even the most awakened persons started from the scriptures before, they could develop their new understanding of the spirit. Self-realization does not come in vacuum but its feet lies firmly on the existing base of spirituality and religion. Yet the understanding and knowledge arising out of self-realization is fresh like a new born child, as it is designed from a purpose to help solve a real-life problem.
When a person combines all the four means of spiritualism, he is able to move to the higher and higher orbit of spiritualism and attain divinity, the goal of spiritualism and religion.
Dr. Awdhesh K Singh is an Engineer by education and philosopher by passion. He holds his PhD degree in the area of E-Governance.
He has published several papers in International Journals and Conferences on the subject of E-governance and the application of Artificial Intelligence tools like Fuzzy Logic (FL) and Expert Systems (ES) for E-governance.
He has keen interest in the study and application of Religion, Spirtuality and Philosophies for solving the real-life problems of the modern world.
Many of his articles are published on the website of Aatmic Science Forum and Science of Soul.
His can be contacted on the email aksinghirs [a] yahoo.com