One of the criteria I use to discern whether or not a spiritual teaching possesses sufficient depth (and thereby participates in an aspect of the Truth) is the presence or absence of a TWO-WAY relationship or union. Many current pop or New Age gurus speak of the power of human intention in bringing about desired ends. It is common to hear these days the idea that if one focuses on positive thoughts, then all of reality will conform itself to these thoughts and manifest positive outcomes in the physical world. In other words, the external world will begin to mirror the inner world of one's intentions. This is of course HALF of the truth. We all know people who perennially maintain a negative attitude toward the world and then seem to have all kinds of negative or challenging circumstances occur in their lives. In fact, we may even see this kind of thing occur in our own lives on occasion.
However, a spirituality of depth understands that the principle of intention and mirroring also runs the other way. As the classical mystical traditions understand so well, the Divine Source - however we might conceive It - is a kind of Beloved who has Its own intentions for our lives and who wants to see His and Her goodness and beauty expressed and mirrored in the world - and more specifically, in our own lives. Here there is an element of surrender to a Greater Power that wants to experience increased Self-awareness through our own attitudes of awe and wonder at the beauty and grandeur of the cosmos.
Speaking personally, I feel my own inner spaciousness, beauty and the capacity for intimacy mirrored in the natural world, thereby enhancing an awareness of who I am at my deepest core. You can see evidence of this personal mirroring each day through the photos I post here. In the composition and framing of these scenes, you are able to see something of my own inner soul. However, for me, this kind of mirroring is miniscule compared to the primary and ultimate mirroring that runs IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. Here, I am aware that my own awe and wonder at the magnificence of the cosmos contributes richness to the inner life of the Creator, both God and Goddess. Accordingly, my joy in the presence of Nature's grandeur becomes a mirror in which the Divine knows ITS OWN beauty and goodness, thereby enriching the inner life of The Source. In fact, I would maintain that this is the ultimate purpose of EACH of us here on earth, no matter what our particular passion or field of endeavor.
How do we know the presence of this divine intention - and this mirroring - in our own lives? We experience it directly in the act of having our passion and joy GRASPED and HELD by the beauty and goodness of the world. Whenever something GRIPS and HOLDS our attention in a positive way - whether it be a landscape, another person, a culture, a philosophy or an idea, we can be sure that we are being called - AND desired and longed-for - by the Divine present within that very landscape, or by the sacred Spirit indwelling the person, the culture, the philosophy or the idea. In this connection, we sometimes hear people say that theology is merely an act whereby HUMAN BEINGS construct a particular view of reality. But what they fail to mention is the fact that some element of that theology - never, of course, the entire thing, at least insofar as it can be expressed in words - is divinely ALIVE and is LONGING FOR and DESIRING to express itself through us! We know this whenever a particular theological insight grips and grasps and holds our own passion, joy and awareness.
It is THIS kind of two-way union which serves as an indication that a particular spiritual teaching possesses depth and truly participates in the aspect of Truth that corresponds to that depth. May each of us find the grace to remain sensitive this day to the Truth that ever stalks us and will not let us go until we express something of its beauty, wonder and grandeur in our own life and character :)
Photo: An ice "canyon" on Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, January 23, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.