Spiritual Enlightenment in the West

To those who have taken the first step in meditation that I described earlier, who begin to study the Vedantic literature, and receive the blessing of guru, the path of spiritual enlightenment will open. Higher knowledge, bliss, and grace will be showered down upon them from the divine realm.

It will become possible for them to see that humanity lives in the darkness of ignorance, and precisely in what that ignorance consists and how it has arisen. They will be able to understand not only that all the knowledge of science is on a lower, relative level, but that this is true also of almost all the insights of philosophy as known in the West (and of its counterparts in some other parts of the world).

Indeed, they will see that the religion of the Abrahamitic traditions too is adapted to, or a product of, a lower level of understanding, aimed at people living on a certain level of ignorance, in particular historical circumstances. Their value as religious, moral and cultural forces on that level throughout the last few thousand years is certainly great in many respects. But their basic teaching, which not even their greatest mystics have been able or allowed wholly and definitively to break through and go beyond, is not the ultimate truth and is in some respects misleading.

This is the teaching of the Creation of Man, the Fall of Man from his Original State in Paradise, the Promises of God to Man in History, the Salvation of Man from sin, the Damnation of some in Hell and the Salvation of others, as Bodily Resurrected, in a Future Messianic Kingdom, a New Jerusalem, a New Earth, or a Heaven that is simply a continuation of the present Human Existence with all its ordinary human desires fulfilled.

This exotericism is all on the level of anthropocentric, psycho-physical illusion and ignorance, no matter what piety, moral elevation, and cultural values have resulted from it, and regardless of what metaphysical sophistication has been added by some philosophical theologians. Highly cultured thinkers of European antiquity could certainly to a considerable extent see this, as those religions began to spread.

Today, however, despite the extent to which the genuine traditional spiritual insights are distorted in pop-psychology, social-humanitarian ideology, residual hippiedom, corporeal health-obsession and other concerns and disturbances of ordinary moderns, there are, as a result of the work of Vedanta-inspired spiritual teachers, a few individuals in the West who are beginning to understand some of this, in the way described above. Having taken the first step in meditation, studying Vedanta, and obtaining the grace of guru, they are slowly rediscovering the full, ancient spiritual truths, including the truths of the real nature of man, of this world, and of the life in it.

Others, although these truths are available to them, although they have become aware that there is something more to be learned there, are prevented from doing so by their attachment to European (or Western) cultural and aesthetic forms, and feel alienated by the outer appearance and accoutrements of “Hinduism”. Not least, due to the constitutive historical process of “differentiation” set in motion quite as much by Greek philosophy as by Abrahamitic religion, they have problems with the various expressions and manifestations of “Hindu” mythology, as they are found in the totality of a traditional culture surviving to this day.

All of this is perfectly understandable. And the achievements of science, the partial insights and intellectual instruments of philosophy, and the morality, piety, spirituality and cultural values of the Abrahamitic traditions should certainly not be given up but preserved.

In order to break through the worldview limitations of Western philosophy and religion, it is necessary that the obstacles standing in the way of the full introduction and reception of the complete spiritual truths, the truths beyond the psycho-physical, body-soul-spirit paradigm as the ultimate horizon, be removed. These truths must be represented in the West in forms and contexts that are congenial to people directly and indirectly shaped by those cultural forces.

As they begin to awaken in true spiritual realization, not only the universality of those truths, inevitably present and glimpsed to some extent everywhere, will become evident, regardless of specific cultural conditionings. Their innate familiarity with them, which was only temporarily covered by ignorance, will also become evident. Moreover, those elements of European thought that are closest to them will become immediately recognizable and identifiable, and can thus be strengthened.

In this way, cultural bridge-building, in the sense of the presentation of spiritual truths of Vedanta in ways that are outwardly accessible to Westerners, will, I think, merge and become identical with a rediscovery of these truths in Western terms, or the terms of the current cultural situatedness of the people of the West, as they reinterpret their own tradition.

Rather than a rejection of Western culture, Western thought, and Western religion, the spiritual enlightenment and traditional restoration will be a process of their supplementation, adjustment, and rectification.

3 Responses to “Spiritual Enlightenment in the West”


  1. 1 Kim Petrusson November 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Intressant!

    Vill gärna se en utveckling kring: “This is the teaching of the Creation of Man, the Fall of Man from his Original State in Paradise, the Promises of God to Man in History, the Salvation of Man from sin, the Damnation of some in Hell and the Salvation of others, as Bodily Resurrected, in a Future Messianic Kingdom, a New Jerusalem, a New Earth, or a Heaven that is simply a continuation of the present Human Existence with all its ordinary human desires fulfilled.”

    Har själv en del erfarenheter av komparativ teologi, men vad skulle du säga är de främsta skillnaderna (och likheterna) mellan abrahamitisk och vedisk tradition?

    • 2 Jan Olof Bengtsson November 21, 2014 at 8:00 am

      The Abrahamitic Worldview

    • 3 Jan Olof Bengtsson December 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Skillnaderna och likheterna är ett oerhört stort ämne, inte helt lätt att sammanfatta kort. Huvudlinjerna i den abrahamitiska världsåskådningen sådan jag beskrev dem i det inlägg jag länkade till och som alltså är ett svar på din första förfrågan, skulle dock, tror jag, kunna vara en utgångspunkt som är lämplig för belysningen av detta ämne från mitt perspektiv.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Categories

Jan Olof Bengtsson D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Musae

Recent Comments

Viktor on En självständig europeisk…
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Den politiska kulturens k…
How To Properly Unde… on The Face of Global Modern…
Shiv Singha on Behovet av ett Bhaktivedantasä…
Kristo Ivanov on Ryszard Legutko: The Demon in…
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Hegel och panteismen
Engelbrekt on Alice Teodorescu
Jan Olof Bengtsson on The Mythology Discussion
Krishna Kshetra Swam… on The Mythology Discussion
Tyrgils Saxlund on Hegel och van der Heeg
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Dylan och akademien
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Om förintelseförnekelse
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Om förintelseförnekelse
Non serviam! on Om förintelseförnekelse
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Dharma Pravartaka Acharya…

Archives

All original writing © Jan Olof Bengtsson
"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi