Today, in a philosophical discussion with friends, the notion of dogma was raised. It was quoted from material by JvR. I felt, however, that the word dogma is a stumbling block for myself. It conveys the path of someone else, solidified in the world of formation until it becomes a system of rules and regulations for others to follow. Regarding books, they too can become a hindrance, a fetter. Each has a purpose, as what we are drawn to in the moment is perhaps what we need to utilize. In time, a change may come where the book, the dogma is no longer needed, and in that moment I believe the path will require letting go of all of these. As some professed a belief in following books and exoteric teachings, comparing it to natural learning, I believe a point is missed in the analogy – the difference in the natural path vs. the spiritual.
From the Oxford dictionary the definition of dogma is stated as, “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” While there may be other definitions, this is by far the most accepted view of dogma that I have found in my personal life. People who follow dogma, adhere to an authority figure (alive or dead), believing the literal (or interpreted view of the group/religion) is without fault.
The first problem with dogma amounts to the exoteric need of an authority figure to tell us what is true. If we follow a leader (dead or alive), as the source of our truth, our path, then the leader becomes a Master. A Master outside of us will define their path to truth. But is it ours? Each of us is seeking to reveal the True Self. Our task of daily dying is towards this very end. If we become the Holy figure, do we become our True Self? Even if their path overlays our own walk through life, I believe that if we do not find the Source of our Path from within, it will lead to non liberating actions. It becomes mental – egoic even.
The second problem with the definition of dogma is the requirement for incontrovertible truth. Pilot asks the powerful question of Jesus, “what is Truth?” Spiritual truth differs greatly from natural truth. In the natural world, we consider something true if it adhere so to the scientific method of investigation. We attempt to remove personal bias, and collect data that is analyzed and tested. If the data is repeatedly aligned to a specific direction, this direction becomes the accepted truth. Spiritual Truth is quite different. Spiritual Truth may not be discernible by science, logic or even reason. Because of this, it shouldn’t be spread for others to obey, but accepted on an individual level. How one arrives at spiritual Truth, is not even by reading a Holy book, or listening to a Holy Master. Spiritual Truth is lived, it is experienced directly. Rather than follow a creed, a book, one finds the Master within and it becomes their own guide – ultimately we join with it, and harmonize in Unity with that inner Master, living the Truth. That Living the Truth is known to me as Gnosis.
In my past I used to horde books. I bought many a book on mysticism, occultism and spirituality. At times I saved up for an ancient tomb and was often inspired by those who learned dead languages, in order to translate ancient works themselves. One group I listened to at the time were composed mostly of Phd’s. They were published authors, and spoke deeply on topics of Hermeticism, Occultism, and Mysticism. While their knowledge far outpaced my own intellect, I came to realize that many had little self-knowledge or even direct experience. Such is trap of knowledge.
Book knowledge has the vice of the Lust of Intellect. It seeks to enrich itself, because we were told as children, “knowledge is power.” Such a person may quote Buddhism, Taoism, Hermetic Masters and so on, but often become limited to the ivory walls their knowledge encases about them. Is knowledge a bad thing? No, of course not. True spirituality knowledge should inspire, more than educate. In the early stages we need information – this is like milk to a child, but as Paul warns, “I gave you milk, for you were not yet ready for solid food.” When we are ready for more depth, we may feel the One within us challenging the very doctrine, books or dogma. Allow this. Let go of anything… everything… that holds us from the revelation of the One within.
Book learning (in Spirituality) isn’t in itself wrong, it is simply an attempt to apply the natural learning process to the spiritual. The spiritual path is one of direct experience, or esoteric wisdom (Gnosis) and not so much of exoteric knowledge. While the Greek word Gnosis may translate to knowledge, it holds a special meaning for me: Wisdom rather than knowledge. Wisdom, unlike knowledge has no vices for it is the direct experience that bridges the Soul. Knowledge, on the other hand, has many traps of intellect and ego.
The Natural Path vs The Spiritual
A theme appears: Natural paths and how they differ from Spiritual ones. In the natural world, if one seeks to become good at a discipline, they seek out a master. This master craftsman takes on an apprentice and trains them in the ways of their craft. In the end, the apprentice has duplicated the workmanship of the master, insuring the line of quality persists. It is a mistake to consider that this approach works in the spiritual world, for the Spiritual world requires the uniqueness of the True Self (the True Master) to be uncovered and such work isn’t accomplished following the path of others.
Those who follow the spiritual path of others adopt a disciple approach to a Master or Guru. They trust, that like the craftsman example, they will learn the spiritual “trade” becoming a master “craftsman” themselves. At best this approach will only make a person an echo of the master (a copy). At worst they will flail in disharmony with their True nature.
The ways of the natural world embolden the physical process, keeping us focused on this physical plane and going no further. In order to break that pull, one must be willing to let go of the weights and fetters that hold us down. Truth becomes a living thing, that we embody (not read) and our path is forged esoterically from within, not exotically from an outside authority.
As one friend on the discussion today said, “we realize that the true Master is within us.”
I’ll end with a quote from one of the speakers who said, “The past should be put into the cemetery of our past experiences. What matters is what is here and now.”