Q: I’d be interested in any further thoughts you have about the questions which came up in our conversation, eg What distinguishes 'spirit' from 'consciousness'?
A. Good question. It hinges on what exactly is the ingredient which makes meditation 'spiritual' and different from utilising the methodology to serve personal enhancement, personal creativity, clarity of intellect, peace, calm and so forth?
My perception is that some leading practitioners are upfront about being Humanist or secular, and yet they are operating within a context which most people, including those who follow them, see as basically 'spiritual'. They run retreats, train others, and may be wise and insightful people, and hot on being compassionate and on ethical behaviour (as defined by current norms).
But what's going on here? What's missing? Is there a problem?
As an example, I can think of one influential and accomplished meditation teacher who undoubtedly sees his approach as spiritual, and operates most of the time within the contemporary religious/spiritual scene. Yet, as a western psychologist, albeit with serious meditative training, he has adapted a religious teaching which arose within an intense monastic tradition and a totally contrasting cultural milieu, and presented it to lay westerners with busy material life-styles as a program designed to fit in with the 'achievement' ethos of the West.
Is this not likely to lead at some point to a grinding hiatus, which will crunch, at the very least, those who are serious in their long-term aspirations?
I guess the same applies generally to adapting ancient teachings to new conditions, and this is just one example of potential conflict and/or falling short of a potentially deeper understanding of what constitutes 'spiritual'.
As for a Way of Knowledge, that is something else again. The word ‘spiritual’ applies, but is not the whole of it.
Q. People are pulled in different directions by all the ‘spiritual’ opportunities out there. What do you need to know to navigate through?
A. When someone is going through the Sympleglades (clashing rocks), the best option is to try and formulate the questions. As in the myth, advice is needed to get through these rocks but the traveller has to take the initiative to find it, and to realise he has to take the initiative.
Gold isn't handed out like candy-floss.