On Genuine Spiritual Experience

Eric

Received an email the other day from a source that I discern is a kindred-spirit. Eric S. Fallick identifies himself as a “Platonist contemplative ascetic, renunciant, eremitical monastic and mystic of many years standing tenuously surviving alone and without support.” Having read his essays from his website it is good to know that there are indeed other solitaries out there who are total renunciants to the ways of this world and fully are attuned with and seek Divine Union from the Absolute Source.

The following is one of the essays posted on his site; it describes quite astutely the ascetical discipline necessary to transcend this weary world and be liberated from future rebirths. Thank-you, Eric.

On Genuine Spiritual Experience

by Eric S. Fallick

“We live in a time of the most immense and profound spiritual and philosophical confusion. Despite the self-infatuated notion of the age that it represents the pinnacle of historical “progress” (“progress” being, incidentally, a notion entirely of its own creation), the modern world is the darkest and most lacking in wisdom in at least the last 2500 years. Materialism, positivism, subjectivism, anti-intellectualism, in the more profound sense of the term, and worldliness are prevalent everywhere and in all institutions. The notions of conforming oneself to an objective divine reality or structure, and that it is the objective divine reality that is important, and otherworldliness, more available in the pre-modern world, have been almost entirely forgotten or dismissed as antiquated, and this-worldliness, concern only for this phenomenal world, and concern only with individual subjective experiences and desires as being valid and important has more or less entirely pervaded even things that are designated as “spiritual”–a natural consequence of the belief that only the things of the senses and matter are real, which has, consciously or unconsciously, been steamrolling further and further since the inception of the modern world. Yet, otherworldliness, concern with and adapting to an objective divine reality, renunciation, and ascent through divine intellect are what any real spiritual practice and spirituality are about, whether this goes with the prejudices, thoughts, and tendencies of the present day or not. Since the opposite attitude seems to be found in virtually all writings, publications, teachers, organizations, practices, etc. currently advertised as spiritual, the result is that there is very little real spiritual stuff going on anywhere, and the spiritual seeker is unlikely to ever encounter any real spiritual teaching unless he turns directly to the writings of the ancients and has the ability to understand them directly and correctly on his own without help. One greatly important area where this mess manifests itself is in the understanding, or lack thereof, of what constitutes genuine spiritual experience and the methods and nature of its attainment, despite, or because, of the present exclusive concern with subjective or phenomenal experience and gain. It is pretentious for a poor slob to try to descant on such a subject, but given the enormous confusion prevalent, perhaps it is worth daring to try to say a few words on the matter based on the teachings of Homer, Plato, and Plotinus.

The comments made thus far already give us some pointers in the direction of determining authentic spiritual experience. It doesn’t come cheap—indeed, the whole world must be sacrificed for it. World-denying renunciation and otherworldliness are necessary, though not alone sufficient, conditions for any genuine spiritual experience, and such experience results always all the more in renunciation, unconcern for this world, and otherworldliness. It is not attained quickly, easily, or by many. The people of the present day must think that all the great sages and practitioners of the past, even of their own systems, were spiritually retarded, since they think that everybody and their brother now attains spiritual accomplishment and teaching credentials quickly and easily without giving up anything, no fuss, no mess, while the ancients struggled and exerted the greatest efforts for many years and lifetimes with only a few attaining in a given birth. Real spiritual experience comes only as the result of prolonged, sustained, intense, concentrated, exclusive, properly directed effort, not just in contemplation/meditation alone, but accompanied by true renunciation and asceticism, strictest moral discipline, and correct philosophical understanding and study. It certainly does not arise spontaneously from such things as immersion in the beauties of nature, uplifting music or art or literature, emotional experiences or relationships, physiological practices, just listening to and hanging out with a groovy guru, etc., etc. It can never arise accompanied by or be followed, after any amount of time, by indulgence of any worldly or sensual desires, moral misconduct of any kind, use of intoxicants, flesh-eating, political, social, organizational, or self-aggrandizing activities, etc. True spiritual experience is supra-rational, not infra-rational. It is not at all attained by abandoning rational thinking and immersing oneself in pre-critical sense feeling, but by shifting ‘thought’ into the transcendental realm of the Divine Mind-Thought and the Platonic Forms/Ideas, which is intermediate between this sense-world of birth, decay, and death and the One itself. (Experience of this Nous is also legitimately to be considered authentic, if intermediate and limited, spiritual experience, but is not the ultimate genuine spiritual experience that is the concern of this essay. Even to reach this intermediate stage, however, is a most difficult, remarkable, substantial, and rare achievement.) One of the greatest and most pervasive of errors these days seems to be the idea that somehow spiritual and meditation practice involves abandoning thinking clearly and rationally and just focusing on and plunging oneself down to the level of exclusive attention to bodily sensations, feelings, and emotions, perhaps a reflection of the delusive modern idea that physical things and ‘nature’ are more real than ideal things and values, which is really just the opposite of actual spiritual practice and certainly has never commended itself to the authentic sages of the past of whatever system.

What then is the genuine spiritual experience we have been considering? It is only the direct experience of, and ultimately re-union with or in, the Absolute Itself, the One, the Good. This experience is completely, totally, and qualitatively different from any phenomenal experience, just as the Absolute Itself is totally and completely different from (though, of course, containing and ‘immanent’ in) any and every thing. It is completely transcendent and not another experience in or of this world at all. It is not really a “personal” experience at all. In truth, it is not really an experience of the little individual phenomenal self, but is really the Absolute re-manifesting Itself to the final and blessed elimination of the experience of the individual phenomenal self. This does not happen all at once to the complete degree, and there may be a very, very long time of continued effort and pain from an initial glimpse and authentic experience to the complete re-manifestation of the Absolute, but when the end is finally reached, all there is left is the Absolute Itself and Its own singular absolute unchanging experience, with no concern at all or, in our sense, awareness of this world. Of course, throughout the long journey of the Path through many rebirths through the long dark night of time, there will be many experiences, insights, changes, and understandings that we may, if we like, designate as in some sense “spiritual”, but they are only so, only of value, to the extent to which they move us along the Path to the one ultimate transcendent type of absolute experience that we have been designating genuine spiritual experience, which is the only portal to and, in the end, state of freedom from birth and death.

By this point any of my more hip, groovy, and modern readers (if I have any readers at all) may have already left me, and I am afraid that perhaps some readers who are still with me may feel that the Absolute and the genuine spiritual experience of it have appeared as so utterly transcendent and wonderful that they may be discouraged and despondent and impatient of their attainment, which has appeared as by no means the quick and easy matter that many nowadays imagine. But be encouraged and take heart! There is nothing else at all to any degree worth aiming at and striving for, nothing even faintly as wonderful, nothing in this world worth even the slightest in comparison, than this genuine spiritual experience and the Supreme Good Itself. Even if it takes a thousand rebirths of strenuous effort and hardship and struggle, that is as nothing compared to the Good to be attained and, indeed, there simply is no other way to go and the thought of not fully exerting oneself on and dedicating oneself fully to this Path is not even to be entertained. Press on!”

Once again, Eric’s website can be found at http://www.eumaiosllc.com/; he also has a YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/c/EricFallick.

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4 Responses to On Genuine Spiritual Experience

  1. Mr.Nobody says:

    This post was most illuminating. This man’s website is amazing, I found it incredibly insightful and the depth of it was most helpful for my situation. I found myself thinking, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!”, loved it!

    My question is to Vajragoni, what are your opinions on the direct impact on solitary renunciate life, with regards to living as lets say, someone in academia still studying, etc. But maintaining a high degree of concentration and discipline when it comes to wandering, delusional thought-streams, finding them unable to disturb said focus. This type of life style versus a more solitary life style, in the sense of living off of the environment around, not needing to worry about money and things of that nature.

    If the practice is genuine and sincere, with effort being expended to maintain a constant mindset of awakening even amongst the affairs of the modern world, will it still be affected to the point that the later, solitary life style, is truly a major difference? Or is it that some find living away from a bundle of distractions simple more conducive and would rather not have those distractions present, regardless of their threat level (that is to say, regardless if they would remain undivided in their focus, no matter the distraction)?

    Thanks again, as always.

    • Vajragoni says:

      The less distractions the better. This is why I’m a strong advocate for the eremetic-monastic lifestyle. If I had my druthers I would prefer to live in a monastic-environment with fellow monastics–each having their own separate cell but gathering together occasionally for Buddhist liturgical settings. My ideal scenario would be to work in union with other ascetics making it possible (in some economic fashion) to build a monastery, let us say, on the island of Crete. For me the current situation these days in the US makes such a scenario next to impossible–far better to live in a more isolated setting in order to best experience the richness of Contemplation away from such harsh conditions.

  2. Mr.Nobody says:

    Thanks, for such a quick response!

    I understand where you are coming from and what you are getting at, I suppose that once i have my affairs settled in terms of debt and am able to do this no longer under the binding of any institution. As it stands now however, I found myself interested in the contemplative life once the debt had already begun (University), with the way the world works; it seems no real choice but to keep moving forward so that I can reach a point where these afflictions no longer apply to my day to day life. I have learned to live with many distractions, retreating inwardly while maintaining a responsible awareness of what happens around. It is unfortunate though, because frankly every minute of every day, this insatiable desire to go deeper into contemplation continues to possess me. I take as much opportunity as I can, incorporating Mindfulness in day to day living and Concentration when solitude is an option. Nevertheless, thank you so much for your response. It will have an effect on my lifestyle in the years to come.

    Regards,

  3. Karl Milhon (Kavoom) says:

    “It doesn’t come cheap—indeed, the whole world must be sacrificed for it. World-denying renunciation and otherworldliness are necessary, though not alone sufficient, conditions for any genuine spiritual experience, and such experience results always all the more in renunciation, unconcern for this world, and otherworldliness. It is not attained quickly, easily, or by many.”

    There are no contradictions, only mindsets incapable of encompassing the whole. Does the fish deny the water it lives in? Does it seek to escape its environment? Where would it go? An early morning drive down an empty highway alone, after six fresh inches of snow with that special quietness of that type of morning and I see an oak, that saw sunlight before white men knew this world, alone in the middle of a field stark perfect black against the white…forever. I didn’t have to go anywhere, there was nothing to sacrifice, or judge…simply abide and appreciate… I have to go nowhere in particular to attain anything. It is there before me. That memory floats through my consciousness wandering here and there, never grasped.

    But my path is not yours and the paths are myriad and rich with potential, tantalizing in the many directions that can be taken at any time, to anywhere. The destination the same.

    And the wind blows, I dance across the field, a dandy lion in the making…

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