The truth that lies within us, independent of external experience, learning and the views of others, is intuitive spiritual knowledge called "gnosis." It comes from the mysterious spiritual Source. Acquiring gnosis has been the goal of seekers since time immemorial. There have been "mystery schools" for this purpose since ancient Egypt and the races of north India, followed by Greek philosophers (led by Pythagoras), Mediterrannean cults and various pagan societies world-wide. They had schools for the initiated to acquire mystical knowledge and at the same time presented symbolic myths for the masses that were less interested in mysteries without a tangible answer and more in a good story.
The mystery schools practiced techniques of "incubation" - like near death experiences, such that the Ego dissolved, and the seeker realizes that the life he or she had was in a way an illusion, a play: "all the world is but a play and thou the joyful player."
The stillness practiced in incubation was a means for coming as close as possible to the divine world. When we are fed facts and information, it tends not to touch us deeply and does not satisfy us. We try to find other substitutes to fill the void we still feel inside. But when someone became a Pythagorean, it started to become a matter of learning less and less; there were fewer answers and more riddles. Techniques would be provided for entering other states of consciousness; otherwise the emphasis was placed less and less on being given teachers and more on finding the inner resources to discover your own answers inside yourself. The aim was to realize inside yourself what others may simply think or talk about. This had the power to transform people, to lead through a process of death and rebirth to what lies behind the human condition: one's essential spirituality, a transpersonal quality shared with universal consciousness.
The Gnostic teaching - as found all the way back to the most ancient of literature, such as the Indian Vedas - is not a set of rules that we must follow to become 'good.' It is about discovering our own essential nature, which is good already, so that we can live spontaneously. The Gnostics taught that we can liken the truth of our situation to a wheel, with many spokes and an outer rim. Each spoke is an individual. Where we connect to the outer rim is our interface to the physical world, this is our Ego. At the hub of the wheel is Source, a unified quality of creative love. The center symbolizes God the father and the outside symbolizes the Goddess, mother nature.
The Higher Self
The true nature of our consciousness is an expression of unconditional love. When we pass love from our Higher Self, near the center of the wheel, to our outer self in everyday life, we are uniting male and female.
Timothy Freke, who has written so brilliantly on Gnosis in Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, sums it up: "Although we seem to be separate individuals, in reality we are all expressions of one primal imagination. We assume we are many, but in fact we are one. And what we do to each other we do to ourselves."
Enlightenment is to recognize that at the center of the wheel, the separation one experiences at the rim is an illusion, that essentially all is One... the "light that is one though the lamps be many." The "light" is love. Love is caring and connection. Love is what we feel when we realize we are one - two separate players in the game of life but joined together in essence, sharing our space. When we realize that everyone is connected at Source, we may experience love without limits, including those who may appear to be hostile or indifferent by outer appearances.
Timothy Freke says: "Love can be a wonderful feeling, but it also means willingly suffering. The more we love others, the more we suffer with them. Love takes courage. Love can be resolutely tough as well as charmingly sweet. As every parent knows, we can love and still disapprove, challenge and even punish. Indeed we can do all these things because we love."
I feel it is important to recognize the complementary but differing aspects of our being - the spiritual Higher Self and the human being (physical body-mind personality) identified with and intimately involved with the game of life. We may in essence be all One but we are also each and every one of us unique individuals on the earthly plane.
Each of us is a player in the game of life, which we may liken to the rolling wheel... at the wheel's center one is undifferentiated from God; toward the center one is the Higher Self; at the interface between the physical world, the wheel's rim, one is Ego, an individuated self. Taken together, we should embrace both our humanity and oneness in spirit. Though we may be reborn as the Higher Self, it is premature for the death of the Ego.
The Role of Ego
In fact it normally goes beyond that, in that the remorseless turning and grinding of the wheel and one's intimate contact with this dimension, makes one forget one comes from the Source and the physical world that the wheel encounters is considered the cause of all; external influences become habituated thought and one becomes "programmed" - to a significant extent an automaton. An increase of awareness from that trance-like state is in fact to become individuated, to realize one's self and one's role in the game; to become mindful and develop one's Ego beyond reactivity; to become response-able; to chose the games one is involved in - the route the wheel traverses.
Life is a duality: light and shadow go together, and all shades inbetween. An holistic philosophical approach to life integrates all colors and shades: God, soul, body-mind personality, culture and the Universe work together as a whole. An holistic model doesn't exclude any of its parts - the wheel needs both hub and rim to turn, and the spokes inbetween.
On the other hand, a philosophical approach to life that negates one pole of an existing duality - a view that is compulsively transpersonal, for example, rejecting the personal - effectively separates: in this case the spiritual dimension rejects the body-mind and life as a human, as if one necessarily invalidates the other rather than complementing each other. Therefore, despite appearances, this is not an enlightened approach - half of life is missing from the model.
A fundamental mistake in much spiritual philosophy is to nullify the Ego's role, as if the Ego is some bad thing we need to eliminate, rather than our personal identity and face to the world, which may have weaknesses and strengths, and may be developed. There is a mangling of the word "Ego" (Freud's word for self) and the behavior of a weak Ego - which is to be "egotistical." To ignore the role of the Ego is to attempt to perceive only the bird's eye view of life, an objective but uninvolved overview, forgetting we have a personal involvement in the game of life, which is essential to our process of learning from experience and to achieving the purpose we are living here for.
Rising further in consciousness, when one has released the fears and attachments of Ego (in other words, developed the Ego to its full potential), one increasingly recognizes the Higher Self, the aspect of oneself that never dies or goes away but is much closer to the center of the wheel, one's liaison with God. The Higher Self is not subject to the limitations of the brain's consciousness and can tap into the knowledge networks of universal consciousness; the Higher Self also knows one's fundamental purposes, who one IS in fullness. The Higher Self is still a Self however; albeit fully aware of and encompassing its dual nature as a reflection of God.
Even after death, therefore, one remains an individual lamp of consciousness, even though one is an essential aspect of the light of universal consciousness. Without the lamps the light would not shine. So one's existence is a two-sided coin - one is a unique individual and at the same time one is All That Is. The coin is spinning. Separation is an illusion but dreams are illusions too, and life is such an illusion, but nonetheless real for that: we need that separation for the identities of the be-do-have games of life. But separation is not the essential truth - the dreamer, when awakened, turns out to be the viewpoint of God.
The Inner Path
The vast majority of people approach their life, naturally enough, with the human viewpoint that all their genetic and cultural background brings to them. To make things happen in their life, they use their range of emotions to motivate them and their mental powers to solve problems. This is very different from the bird's-eye, spiritual view of life, that perceives the oneness and abundance in all. The enlightened master may be able to manifest physical objects - though normally won't as it would tend to be confusing and overwhelming to human observers - but most people who try to apply spiritual manifestation of this elevated kind will attempt to do so from within their very human belief system and level of consciousness, and therefore fail. So how to raise consciousness?
The Path of Love
Now I'm no spiritual avatar as such - the beings who come to Earth from a much higher plane than ordinary mortals, who know themselves completely and do not have this subconscious Shadow side - but I have had success in raising my head out of the sea of conformity, and sometimes I've even broken free enough to stretch my wings and fly a little. So I've had enough experience of spiritual awareness to know well its benefits. The "secret" in my opinion is to adopt a middle way - to act towards one's goals by the conventional "goal setting and getting," but also to consciously move one's viewpoint as far as possible in the spiritual direction, to raise one's awareness more toward the center of the wheel of life.
This is the Path of Love. In practice, it means to feel compassionate love in your heart, without conditions and judgment, and one naturally therefore is motivated to be of service... Fear is egotistical and separating; love is integral and communicative. Being at one with the world in this way, one already feels grateful and abundant; the subconscious shadow of egotistical fears cannot exist in this illumination of Love. One is not attached to an outcome but one expects it to occur. And then the "magic" of spirituality will start to apply... synchronicities will occur, the right things happen at the right time, there are telepathic connections with others who act for you, the oneness of Spirit - which is creative Love - becomes evident and that you are part of its flow. One's intent manifests because it is pure.
Realize that one's own actions are a channel for Spirit because one is not separated - indeed, not to take part in manifestation would be to separate oneself and withdraw from its creation. Armchair manifestation on the human plane is misguided, I feel. We're here to do and to learn, to take part and connect with others, to express ourselves, to create with joyful enthusiasm. Although we expect our manifestation to occur, naturally we do our part.
Accept responsibility for being the agent, the one who will put into action and reality, all the actions and knowledge and wisdom and whatever else is required to manifest the state that is envisioned. One has to accept responsibility for being the agent, for that to happen. Not some other person delivering it to you on a plate. YOU are the channel for the manifestation of what you want to manifest. In spiritual terms, it's because you and others are One anyway. If you and all are One and all that is One is God, and God is manifesting, then that means you! You're not out of the equation. You can't expect other people to manifest something for you if you're not doing it yourself. That's virtually like saying I don't want it. You have to be responsible for making it happen.
And then, the magic happens. If you take responsibility for doing whatever is necessary to make this goal come true, using the old-fashioned goal setting and getting that we've been talking about earlier, then the magic happens - you find that synchronicities occur, that people arrive at the right time to help you in the way that you need just at that moment. So you accept responsibility for being a part of making happen what's going to happen. And then it will communicate to others and they will support you to do - by the magic of the universal mind - what is necessary to make it happen.
I would point out that meditation is not about "clearing out the mind" and building a brick wall around it - that cuts out feelings and intuition too. It's about accepting what is there in your inner space - you, thoughts, feelings, wandering images and words, inner fears and loves, etc, etc - and loving that. Learn to accept and love yourself as you are; then tranquility comes. Be mindful but in an inclusive way - conscious of self but not in a detached manner, since the self is multi-faceted and includes body, feelings, mind and spirit. Then the voice can come through - your voice, the part of you that knows. Not mental self-talk; this is spiritual, your Higher Self. Not talking in words but simply knowing. The difference is that the Higher Self that offers inner guidance and wisdom, is always loving - unconditionally so.
The more you love yourself, the more you will love others, and they will automatically respond alike.
Methods of deep meditation get you in a deeply relaxed state, where defenses come down and you can visualize, as in a dream. You don't think or do anything in particular - just practice being with and accepting whatever comes up. Emotional blocks will just naturally dissolve and an inner emotional stability and sense of self emerges over time. You will know that part of you that provides inner guidance as a friend, rather than some external thing, and you will know it is always with you, connected to and channeling Source and therefore unlimited knowing and love.