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
“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!”