Preparing the Way
Inside each one of us is a place—a holy place where the divine Spirit can and does make Its abode. Sometimes we think of this place in metaphysical-biological terms, calling it, among other things, our heart, our soul, our inner realm, or our psyche. But no matter what we call it, the important thing to know is that it exists inside all of us and can become the continuous dwelling place of the Most High simply by our conscious recognition and preparation.
In ancient mystical literature this inner place of man was often alluded to using symbolic imagery. Some of these allusions were so elaborate that they actually manifested on the material earthly plane. Thus we read of men building tabernacles, temples, churches, and other edifices of worship—communal places where they could gather and give expression to the promptings of the spiritual impulse within them to commune with the divine. This was perhaps a well-intentioned act, but there was also a downside to it. Invariably, once edifices of worship were established in the physical realm outside of us, men began to lose sight of the fact that this outward display was merely a reflection of the inner reality of man. And once this happened, the divine impulse became thwarted and no longer moved in those communal settings.
Meanwhile, the ability of individuals to receive the divine life within them has never been thwarted. Why is this? Because it is based on created universal law. It is a law of our nature as human beings. We were created with this ability, and this created function has shown itself to be immutable and inviolable.
This being said, it must also be understood that though we have this innate capability as human beings, it is not automatic. Rather we must, as an act of our own consciousness, activate it and bring it into full fruition. In other words, we have this holy place inside of us just waiting to be filled with the divine life, but it is up to us to put this amazing function to work. Left to itself, nothing will ever happen. We will not lose the function, but neither will the divine life make Itself known to us. Thus we end up squandering this great gift and rendering it obsolete.
Much of man’s traditional spiritual practice then has revolved around this work of facilitating the divine impulse within us and preparing Its place of abode. This work is universal to all human beings, but the terminology and imagery that accompanies it has varied in different lands according to the divergence of traditions. In the East it is thought of primarily as a process of enlightenment and self-realization. The novitiate is taught how to gain dominion over his or her inner world through meditation and other disciplines, in order for the strictly human aspects of our nature to become receptive and submissive to the divine. In the Bible it is referred to as, “Making straight paths for the Lord,” and, “Making the rough places level,” in order for the “glory of the Lord to be revealed.” (Isaiah 40:3-5). But all spiritual traditions agree upon the basic nature of what they are trying to accomplish. They agree that it is only through sincere dedicated spiritual practice and focus that we can become more receptive to the divine and prepare the way for It to take up Its abode within us.
The first step in this preparatory process is to become increasingly familiar with our inner realm. This is done simply by spending quiet time, going inward and exploring with the light of our consciousness. This inner exploration may not result in the full realization of the divine presence, but it will definitely help us to better understand what we need to do and how to go about it. It will also, in all likelihood, lead us to a traditional spiritual practice that we can then pursue.
No matter which spiritual path we turn to, one of the first lessons we will learn is the lesson of awe and reverence for the divine life or holiness. We will gain the revelation that the divine Spirit is holy and that we also need to become holy in order to be able to receive it. This will, in turn, inspire us to make some changes in the way we act, think, and feel, as well as the kind of company we keep, etc. Holiness does not merely involve upholding a moral law, as some have taught. Rather it is a spiritual quality or attitude that has its basis in love—the love of the divine similitude.
God is not only holy; God is pure. So again, in order to prepare the way we too must become pure. And this purity must extend beyond our outward behavior. It too must become an inward quality of our being—a quality in which our thoughts and emotions have been thoroughly revamped and purged.
Attaining to holiness and purity is therefore a subtle pursuit, meaning that it takes place on a deep inward level. So it probably will involve some time and work on our part. It may be that we have not seen the need to go to this extreme in the past. In other words, we may have been attracted to the spiritual life, as long as it did not require too much self-amendment. But don’t forget; all of us came out of a background of extensive conditioning into the culture of this world. So our ingrained past way of being is usually far from holy and pure. This has caused some to clean up the outward display of their behavior but turn a blind eye to the inward. Why? Because much of our past programming seems to us to be beyond amendment. We have grown comfortable with it, despite its mundane, sometimes even crass, quality.
In addition to sanctification and purification there is one other important preparatory practice that will greatly help to establish the divine presence in our inner holy place. This practice is the pursuit of calmness and serenity of mind. Many modern religionists tend to overlook this requirement. But the holy men in the East have recognized its value for thousands of years. That is why their traditions stress the disciplines of meditation and mindfulness. The scientific fact is that the divine essence will not and cannot occupy our holy place when our minds are busily running amok. The Bible concurs with this when it teaches that, “God is a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Does this mean that God is concerned with your love life? No, of course not. The jealousy the Bible is talking about is impersonal and spiritual and based on universal law. It is referring to idols of the heart, of which most human mental activity would definitely qualify. Why? Because based on our past cultural conditioning most of our mental activity is worldly and anti-God. So, for us to prefer it to the holiness of God is to love the world more than God. And the divine life will not go where it is not welcome and loved.
Of course, if we sincerely desire God’s presence and are struggling with our wayward mind, that is a different matter. If this is the case, we will not be averse to undertaking a program aimed at quieting our mind. And through persistence with such a program we will eventually gain the kind of authority over our mind that will bring calmness and serenity.
After we have prepared the way and made straight paths inside of us, we will then be ready for the ritual of dedication. The purpose of this ritual is more ceremonial than the actual preparations we have been making, but it can also be helpful in bringing our consciousness into the right posture of receptivity. In religious imagery we find this ritual of dedication being an integral part of Jewish temple procedure and liturgy. It is upheld as a kind of final act of consecration for preparing the way of the Lord. The Old Testament describes how the Jewish priests lit special oil lamps as a symbol of this dedication, which, in turn, was believed to help the worshiper become more receptive to the divine presence. The holiday that we call Chanukah commemorates a wonderful event that once took place surrounding this ritual of dedication. During a period of foreign oppression, when supplies were scarce, it happened that there was not sufficient oil to keep the lamps burning in the temple for the full seven days prescribed for dedication. Nevertheless, the lamps were lit and prayers were offered up to God. And miraculously, the little bit of oil they had kept those lamps burning for the entire seven days. Then in the New Testament this act of dedication is fulfilled by the teaching that the true temple of God is not an outward edifice but is rather our own inner psyche and that we prepare the way for the divine presence through spiritual practice and inward amendment—a revelation that had not previously been considered.
And so the process of preparation is now complete. The Spirit of the divine is free to move in and take up Its abode in our holy place. Through an act of our own consciousness we can now realize the divine presence. And this constitutes the true worship of God. For, as Jesus taught, God is not a person who dwells in man-made edifices. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Spirit.
Every aspect of communion with the divine is governed by created universal law. That is why all fruitful spiritual undertaking is best described as impersonal. And not only is God not a person, in reality neither are any of us. Though the normal consciousness of man at this time is that of egoic identification and personal temporal qualities, in truth we human beings are made of the same stuff as God. Our true identity therefore is neither personal nor temporal; it is spiritual and eternal.
The reason we have always viewed God in a personal light is that we have been so mired in the consciousness of temporality and materiality that we have naturally projected these attributes onto God. But as our consciousness evolves into greater spiritual light, we begin to understand that not only have we not known the truth about God; we have not known the truth about ourselves.
What all this means is that when preparing the way for the divine life to take up Its abode within us, we need not ascribe personal attributes to It. Rather we need only follow the tenets of universal law—that is, the law that already is and never changes. This law, as opposed to personal whim, is scientific and predictable to a tee. Therefore all we need to do is make the paths straight according to this law. This is how we fulfill our highest calling as human beings.
To realize the divine life within us is a capability unique to man. It enables us to commune with the creator of the universe in a mode of heightened consciousness that no other creature shares. And we do this not through exercising our mental prowess and figuring out everything there is to know about God. Rather we need do nothing more than hold to a few basic requirements of universal law. Truly, we have an exalted status among all creatures that inhabit the earth. But this status is only realized as we bring ourselves into harmony with who and what God created us to be. Therefore all glory belongs only to God. It always has and it always will.