Many years ago a Master told me that God was an energo-informational substance, created by people for their own ends. Having no experience at all at the time, I was taken aback. Where do all the religions come from in that case and who is it that we serve? At the time, I had to take this statement under advisement, but it was a long time before I was able to come back to it in earnest. I needed God—without Him, it would have been impossible to put any effort into performing the practices; I would have lost my ultimate motivation. Back then, I could not conceive of how that informational substance could itself have been created, and for that reason I preferred to believe in the religious texts, where only good things were written about God. These texts consoled, inspired and motivated me.
Later on when I acquired my own personal mystical experience and more advanced powers of perception, it made me realize what a complex question was the question of God. It is in direct proportion to the complexity of how the world is put together, and to the Levels of Being, which are distinct in and of themselves. And the manifestations of the Creator are in turn distinct from the worldly Levels of Being.
There are three existential levels available to the perception of a person in their ordinary state of being. The first is the level of the physical world and the physical human body; the second relates to the ethereal body, in which emotional energies in particular manifest themselves. The third level pertains to the body of the lower mind, which is to say the mind that people use in their everyday lives. One must clearly comprehend that each body has its own corresponding Level of Being and its own reality. Every body has its own powers of perception and reaction speeds, and each one is subject to the laws of its own plane. Because these three bodies are intimately connected, it is quite hard to articulate how they interact with and influence one another, without the skill of awareness. It is even harder to see the reality to which each of these bodies is connected. Not counting physical reality, of course, which let’s face it, surrounds us on all sides.
And tellingly, in that reality it is impossible to find God. That, to put it frankly, is why every religion demands that its followers have faith, since it will never be possible to locate God on the physical plane or show Him to all who are willing. The atheists have a point, therefore, when they deny God’s existence in this world. Their denial is based on their sensory organs, which are designed for perceiving the physical world and are of practically no use in perceiving anything from the spiritual realm. Their own limited abilities of perception and the self-evident fact that the world is able to exist with no direct or observable interference from God, enables this whole cluster of people to go on living contentedly with no thought and no recollection of the Creator at all. Everything is already in place. Such is their freedom—perhaps not freedom of will, but freedom of religion.
Thus, at the level of the physical body, there is no way of perceiving the reality of God. Perception by the five sensory organs a person possesses is very crude, moreover this perception is adapted for existence on the physical plane and has no other purpose or function. The lower mind is capable of perceiving the idea of God, the idea of the Creator and some higher Source of life, but nothing more. As we know, the idea of God does not constitute real proof of the fact that He really exists, and does not eliminate those doubts that accompany every faith. Conviction is a poor substitute for actual experience, and yet thanks to the functioning of the imagination and its capacity for self-hypnosis, the mind may engender all manner of hallucinations and pseudo-experiences, and a great number of “spiritual” books have been written on this basis. Thanks to the imagination and this self-hypnosis, along with the strong desire for spiritual realization, a whole host of false teachings has come into being.
The ethereal body, when adequately developed, is able to perceive the subtle energies that surround it, and in particular the energy of grace. But by itself, grace serves only as indirect proof of a Higher Presence, and in fact does not make itself felt nearly as often as many would like. And a sufficiently high level of awareness is required for the sensitivity of the ethereal body to become heightened and refined. In the normal state, the sensitivity of the ethereal body is blocked by suppressed emotions and is at times thereby almost absent.
If a person were made up of these three bodies only, then it would all end there. However the design of a person is far more complex and this is why one has that peculiar irrational, mystical sense that somehow creeps in now and then, that the visible world is not the ultimate or the only reality. But because a person does possess these other bodies and centers of this other perception, one will occasionally find oneself in situations where one suddenly experiences things that do not fit into one’s normal picture of the world. There is also a feeling of the non-realization and the unsatisfactoriness of this world—everyone has experienced this in one form or another. It is this, the feeling of the non-realization of the self, that spurs people on to the search for what is beyond the bounds of the ordinary. It is this that transforms them into seekers, and later into mystics.
This is the Truth: God, as we call Him, has no identity. Everyone who makes it to that boundary talks about the same thing—the Source of life has no name, no dimensions, it is possible to experience oneness with Him, but this cannot be properly expressed. It is a complex question, and it is impossible to comprehend the answer to it without the requisite experience. “Heaven and Earth have no humanity,” so says The Tao Te Ching, and if anyone is looking to find in Truth a refuge for their sadness, then they may easily do so. Because there is no loving God the Father, with all those other attributes of His. There is a Force that gives life and death, that fosters and creates myriad worlds, that destroys, that is merciful and wicked... But one thing it definitely does not have is an identity, as we are accustomed to understanding it. The Force that sets the world in motion is faceless. It is difficult for us to comprehend how God might not want anything, particularly when most religions teach us that He always wants something from us. It is hard enough for us to comprehend simple things, so it is difficult to talk about complex things. It is believed that God enjoys creating, and so he creates worlds. Is that so? It is believed that the world exists because God so desires, and therefore the desires of human beings are almost equated to the desires of God, and that means people may influence the world in the most immediate way by simply thinking of what they want. So thanks to desires (and their almost divine power), people begin to feel that they are equal to God and want at this point to change, if not the whole world, then at least their own lives. This is what all popular mysticism and contemporary esotericism is now—a mixture of the sin of pride and the practice of magic.
Can you imagine a faceless Force that is inherently infinite in its potential? You cannot, because infinity does not fit within the constraints of our wholly finite and limited minds. And here lies another Truth: all mystics who progress to the possible limits of human knowledge find that our Level of Being is a private and likewise limited instance within the extremely complex overall system of Being. And now imagine, in place of our four-dimensional world, worlds where there are many more dimensions, and time possesses qualities we are completely unaccustomed to. It is impossible for you to imagine such a thing, and yet, strange as it may sound, it is possible for you to experience it. In the kinds of states that mystics put themselves into, experiences like these are not out of the ordinary. When, for example, time stands at a new connection with space, and one event may occur at a fixed point in time, but yet be stretched out across several years. Repeated, that is, with unfailing regularity on the same day over the course of several years in a row all while remaining the same event, which appears in our world, but is in fact triggered from a different Level of Being. Mystics generally contrive to open doors like these that would be better kept close. But searches can sometimes lead to where people are better off not going. Scientists also discover natural laws, and this led us to the creation of the atomic bomb, but that chain reaction gives us a poor kind of energy.
When we try to imagine a faceless and indivisible Force, we cannot help but look for analogies from our world. Like the force of a hurricane, or the force of a tsunami, for example. Generally we bring to mind disasters. However, the problem is that all the natural forces we know about are subject to certain laws of creation, and not one of them is independent. God, on the other hand, is independent, great, and so on. In other words, God is the Force that gives life to all other forces, as well as the laws that bring them into being. And this is where we are forced to stop in our search for any analogies. Because not everything that we can touch has an analogue in this world. This is why all the higher-order mystical texts are so turbid in the way they are written. Returning to the Source is compared to various processes—a droplet returning to the ocean, and other kinds of dissolution. We might be able to imagine an ocean of consciousness without fully understanding what we mean by consciousness. This is how we get those images that sell so well, creating the illusion of understanding among those who find in them the answers to their questions. All the stories about higher experience and building higher Levels of Being contain distortions and totally simplify the reality of the situation. Quite often, these distortions form the main substance of communication and this is when books appear like Rose of the World, very little of which is dedicated to the true state of things. There are also examples of extreme simplification—contemporary teachings in Advaita suffer from this affliction. The pronouncements of genuine mystics in Advaita are profound and truthful, but their contemporary interpretation, not even that but rather their dumb repetition and the simplification that comes with it, leads to the point where the lie becomes the main substance of a given teaching. Evidently, demand for simple things has found its supply. In reality there is nothing simple about immersion in the inner self or escaping the bounds of the three bodies described above. But without this immersion there can be no experience of God, no attainment of Truth.
Simplification and distortion are inevitable when Truth is communicated in words. There is nothing you can do about this—language belongs to the mind, and the mind is merely an agent of one of the human Levels of Being, and not even its highest. And so mystics consciously simplify things, in order to be able to pass on to those who are aware of the necessity of their own spiritual fulfilment some description at least, both of the Path and what it leads to. And this is the point where Truth becomes absent, as a result of which it is impossible to work on oneself. What does it mean to say that God is faceless, that he is remote, and so on? This would quell anyone’s desire to move or make any effort. God’s inhumanity must be concealed behind lofty words that can motivate people to go within, and exert effort without. And this is where every mystic, to whose lot it falls to train people, must find the words to ignite the hearts of those people.
And let us not forget tradition. Where there is a tradition, the work of the mystics is that much easier, because each tradition already has its own language and its own imagery that may be used to provide those who wish to set out on the mystic Path with everything they need. When there is a cultural context and people are already conditioned to certain conceptions of God, it is possible to speak to them in a language that is close to them and more or less comprehensible. And it is here that a perfectly natural question arises—what do we need conceptions of God for? Especially if they always contain these distortions and simplifications.
From an everyday viewpoint, the requirement that people have for God is perfectly understandable—the presence of God and the morality that has as its source his commandments, lends human existence a higher meaning. The Presence of God in all those ideas that fill the human mind, enables people to focus their attention on the mystical part of their own being. But there is in all this another, more practical reason. It is impossible to make contact with those who are not there, and it is certainly impossible to work with them. The concept of a personal God is necessary for anyone who seeks the Truth, in order that they may transcend it once they have gained their own experience of the Transcendent.
It is impossible to interact with a Force that is faceless, indifferent and omnipotent. How could you communicate with it? You cannot resolve this problem simply by spreading God into everything around you, when every little bush or mountain can suddenly be made to represent Him. But you may well communicate and interact with a God that possesses a name and a history. This is the design of our mind—it needs someone to talk to, and therefore God is something every seeker needs. If, as in Buddhism, God is absent, then one requires a Master, onto whom all of God’s most vital functions are transposed. All of the mystical practices are built on interaction with God, regardless of the time, place or the form of religion or faith.
And there is your history—all forms of religion have their bridges for communicating with that which cannot be named. The only difference between them is the level of communication, nothing more. We have pantheism, polytheism, monotheism... And the only difference between them is in how technically they employ one image of God or another. From a practical standpoint, a single God is far less awkward than a host of gods, each playing its own role, and with each having to be addressed in time of need according to its own particular role. Polytheism means the energy from people offering prayers or performing rites is constantly spilling into different channels, which from a practical standpoint is too wasteful. This is why, incidentally, all mystical disciplines in all faith systems always restrict themselves to just one God. In Hinduism, for example, amid the diversity of different gods there is a cult of Shiva, and other cults, where believers worship one god, essentially creating a regular monotheistic cult. From a practical standpoint, this is the most proper solution, because the whole question of transcending boundaries and moving closer to Truth is a question of energy. And it has been a question of energy throughout all ages—most limitations imposed by religions on their followers enabled that energy to be preserved and afterwards to be directed along a defined course.
Pure monotheism generated much more effective mystical systems. Sufism—for all that believers and laypeople alike may say about it—represents one of the most effective paths towards experiencing that which cannot be expressed in words. Communing with one main God allows mystics to develop practices that can bring magnificent results. The path is made up of a defined sequence of actions and stages that are essentially common to all. Actions demand corresponding efforts, enabling a person to grow beyond the bounds of the three lower bodies, which are of no benefit to them. Developing the higher bodies demands effort, and people who contend that you can reach enlightenment by simply realizing that you are already enlightened and always were, are being seriously disingenuous. No one is born with their higher bodies already activated, and this is why anyone who is looking for total realization really has to make an effort. Actualizing the higher bodies demands conscious efforts, sacrifice and conscious super-efforts—this is another law of our Level of Being, and we cannot do anything about it, however much we may want to.
Living in the world, in the reality of the three lower bodies, one may regularly experience happiness and bouts of passion, creating the impression of inner fulfilment. But within the confines of the physical body, the emotions and the mind, a person can never feel that they are fully realized. No amount of love or passion can fully satiate him—I shall not even explain why this is so, I have written about this so many times before. From the point of view of mysticism, a human being is a potentiality that must be realized, or else he is little different from an insect. From the point of view of mysticism, most people spend their lives in vain, prone to all kinds of passion apart from the single most important one—a passion for true realization. True realization is not the empty phrase it may seem at first glance. There are different types of external realization that can give short-term gratification, as any gratification is consumed by a new fear or desire. True realization happens only through inner growth, and it changes everything in the sense that it may only be said that everything changes. There is a change in perception, a change in the capacity for action, a change in the setting in which all human life flows. When you are able to live, conscious of yourself at the different Levels of Being, the physical world ceases to be the main or final one. This is what the body becomes, though it is the main condition of our existence in the world, the main vehicle of our potential. Without manifestation—in one form or another—there can be no realization. God is also realized through manifestation—the world is a concentrated manifestation in which unlimited potentialities take on limited and finite forms.
And this is another bit of Truth: God cannot be known externally, He is not outwardly revealed. More precisely, His Presence is only outwardly revealed to those who are able to see. All the rest is inside. Man is the principal location of God’s presence, if not the principal location of his manifestation. It sounds paradoxical, but in so far as any person is only interested in themselves, by moving around within themselves, a person may by mysterious means uncover there a multitude of manifestations of God, which, along with other wonders, is what forms the true inner world of every mystic. And the main center here is the Heart, which is identified by all mystics as the most important organ of perception. Although in this context, of course, Heart does not refer to the physical organ per se. And its role in perceiving the reality of God requires a separate discussion.