We live in a time for Spiritual Awakening, the time to invite personal spirituality back to our lives. This is evident in mainstream popularity of meditation practices, vegetarianism, yoga, and new age spirituality. At a deeper level, there is also enthusiasm for the revival of ancient wisdom traditions, including shamanism and shamanic practices. Sadly, we also witness an alarming rise in mental illnesses, suicidal thoughts, and chronic unhappiness in our today’s society. So, it appears that a counteracting spiritual awakening is emerging from within us, for a much-needed healing energy in the world.
The Inner World
Beneath our posed appearances lies a subconscious world, a spiritual inner world, gently steering us through life. This world is real, more real than what we can grasp through our primary senses. Understanding of this world is critical. That is where all of our thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and actions are initiated and manifested. Choosing to ignore it, leaves us limited to our senses and analytical resources, trying to make sense of our lives. This would be like trying to follow a book by reading only a few pages of it. At the end, we can only know very little about it. Without knowing our inner world, we would not be able to discover the deeper dimensions of our being. Like a caterpillar that never gets the chance to become a butterfly.
But, if we are open to connect to our inner world, life becomes richer, purposeful, and spiritual. Spiritual awakening is our chance to get to know, or at least acknowledge, this inner world. The inner world is operating behind the scene, and uses various means to make its presence known to us. We also, knowingly or unknowingly, are being drawn to this inner world, as if there is a seed planted in us, pulling us toward it. Some of us may manage to ignore its presence through cognitive dissonance, materialism, or other distractions. But, for the rest of us, the spiritual curiosity is too strong to be dismissed. As if, our true destiny depends on our connection to this world, and the spiritual awakening that comes with it.
Signs of The Inner World
By nature our mind is more comfortable with familiar concepts that are observable, measurable and understandable, like scientific findings. But, why we are naturally curious to hear about legends or non-ordinary stories. We are fascinated by synchronicity of events, serendipitous encounters, or night dreams coming to reality. We see this fascination taken seriously even by our greatest thinkers. For instance, C.G. Jung studied Synchronicity and even formalized it as a principle called “Acausal Connecting Principle”. He defined it as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability or chance is involved”. All these observations are indications of a deeper connectivity of events beyond our material world.
We see these signs, but how do we actually connect to this inner world? The inner world is spiritual but not like a religion or ideology we can believe and follow. The only way to know the inner world is to experience it directly! When we experience something directly, we connect to it at a different level. We no longer need to “believe” in it, we simply “know” it. Here, it is useful to focus on the difference between “believing” and “knowing”, in order to understand how we form our beliefs. This understanding is necessary to make our rational mind ready for spiritual awakening, accepting its non-intellectual or non-ordinary contents.
“The way towards ‘wisdom’ or towards ‘freedom’ is the way towards your inner being.”
Acquired Knowledge vs Direct Insight
Like palms of our hands or prints of our fingers, we all have our very own view of life. We usually form this view around series of “belief systems”. We either inherit our beliefs from our culture or religion, or acquire them through our own soul-searching. Some of us have a rationalistic view of life and see things from a more scientific or evolutionary perspective. In contrast, some may prefer to have a more spiritual view of life. Regardless, when it comes to establishing a belief system in life, we mostly rely on two approaches, i.e., Acquired Knowledge (Episteme) and Direct Insight (Gnosis).
Acquired Knowledge or Episteme relies on existing body of information. These could be scientific knowledge, cultural and moral ideologies, or philosophical and religious doctrines. We can establish our belief system based on ideologies that are most resonating with us. Our decision could also depend on our cultural and biographical background. Adopting a belief system brings more structure and meaning to our lives. This could be practice of a religion, pledge to morality or a social cause, or whatever else our belief demands from us. Our core belief system can ultimately dictate our guiding principles in life, and shape our purpose.
But, adopting a belief system comes with a caveat. For example, let’s consider two competing belief systems about the world: the Evolution vs. the Creation doctrines. When it comes to these, we can only adopt one against the other. This decision depends on the body of evidence we choose to accept and believe. Nevertheless, no one can “know” for sure, if the world was created by a superior intelligence, or evolved through natural selection, or genetic mutation of organisms. One can only “believe” in one, and not the other. When it comes to acquired knowledge, we end up “settling on” a belief system and “take it” as truth.
In opposite spectrum is Direct Insight or Gnosis. As the name implies, direct insight refers to knowledge obtained by direct, firsthand observation. For example, if you see something very unusual with your own eyes, like seeing a unicorn, you “know” from that point on that unicorn exists. But if you share this observation with your friends, they would never be as convinced as you are, because they “believe” unicorn to be a legend, and not real. Regardless of what others think, you most likely stay true to what you saw and “know” that unicorn indeed exists. This makes you different, because you had a direct experience, and no one can convince you otherwise. By way of direct experience and direct insight, we no longer have to “believe” in something, we simply “know” it! This is the most powerful path to knowledge, spirituality, and wisdom.
Finding Our Place In Today’s World
Life specially in urban areas has become more hectic and complex. We are experiencing dramatic shifts in economic, cultural and social fabrics of our society. Even the modes of our interaction have changed. The social media facilitates alternative channels of personal expression, outside of our local social circles. With these changes also comes a broader access to information and body of knowledge. We now have broader access to alternative ideas, concepts and beliefs. On the surface, this could be a good thing. With broader access, we should have a better chance to find a belief system, that gives our life purpose, and makes us happier. But is that what is actually happening?
Not really. We now experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in our society. A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology reported an alarming rise in psychological distress and suicidal thoughts in U.S., specially in teens and young adults. Coincidentally, this sector of our society are also likely on a quest to find their place in the world. The root cause of this alarming trend is certainly complex. However, it is not hard to imagine that having a belief system should have helped in reducing the risk of nihilism, depression or suicide. But we cannot confirm this assumption. It seems that the broader access to more ideologies, or even adopting a belief system, may not be sufficient to bring true meaning, purpose, and lasting happiness to our life.
Direct Insight To Rescue
The problem is that a belief system can always be challenged, specially now that alternative beliefs and ideologies are more accessible to general public. So, building our guiding principles, and defining our life purpose through a belief system can only work, if we don’t ever feel challenged by doubts, or other competing ideologies. Because we “adopt” our beliefs, they always remain subject to challenge. In other words, they can never be as impeccable as “knowing”, that comes through direct experience and insight. For example, people who had transformative spiritual awakening, such as lucid dreams, Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness (NOSC), or Near Death Experience (NDE), tend to become highly spiritual afterward. They also tend to make significant adjustments to their beliefs, and guiding principles in life, only as a result of that single direct experience, and the insight that came with it.
Direct insight and its transformative power have also been acknowledged scientifically. There are new scientific and clinical efforts in exploring the healing potential of mind-manifesting psychoactive medicines, as an effective treatment for life-threatening mental illnesses, such as severe depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The direct spiritual insights experienced during these treatments, and their timely integration have shown to have a lasting healing and transformative effects on most individuals treated.
The good news is that spiritual awakening and its direct insight are not limited to the above experiences. We also have access to other psychospiritual approaches to reconnect with our inner world. For example, Internal Family Systems (IFS) Self-Leadership practice involves the direct experience of our core essence or “Self”, and its healing energy. In addition, we can have direct experiences to gain insight through Shamanic or Psychoshamanic Practice.
The Time for Personal Spirituality
Today, we hear the call for Spiritual Awakening all around us . For example, we observe mainstream popularity in practice of meditation, yoga, vegetarianism, and new age spirituality. At a deeper level, we see renewed interests in ancient wisdom traditions and rituals. This is evident in the rise of indigenous shamanic healing practices using drumming, chanting, and plant medicines, even leading to emergence of psychedelic tourism. Even one can view alcohol and drug abuses as failed spiritual awakening, and desperate attempts to revive spirituality, and connect to something deeper and beyond the material world.
We see one common theme is all these trends. That is our growing interest in connecting to the spiritual and sacred core of our being, at a very personal level. We can all sense the healing potential of this connection more than ever before, like a plant that is deepening its root to reach a new life-promoting stream of water underneath. We live at the time for spiritual awakening, a time to invite spirituality back to our lives at a personal level.
The good news is that everything we need, is already inside us. We have the keys, and just need to learn how to turn them. We can do that by balancing our intellectual view of life with deeper insights from our spiritual resources such as intuition, introspection, and imagination. These resources may not look as valuable to our rational mind, but they are powerful and necessary tools we need, in order to access the deeper dimensions of our beings. With some guidance on how to use them, our connection to our magical and sacred inner world is only a few steps away.