Beginning with my post “Agony”, I explored the three potential spiritual paths that each person can take, which I named the “Thesis”, “Antithesis”, and “Synthesis”— these names themselves inspired by Hegelian Idealism. Since then my understanding of the three paths has evolved and changed substantially; currently, I believe these paths to be “Separateness” (Individualism), “Conformance” (Collectivism), and “Oneness” (Immersion). Which of these paths we choose when living our live will determine how we respond to the Samsaric cycle of life:
1. Fight against the cycle. The end-result of this is unfulfilled desire, suffering, and rebirth.
2. Conform to the cycle. The end result of this is ignorance, a combination of pain and pleasure, and rebirth.
3. Transcend the cycle. The end result of this is freedom, peace, and Oneness of with God.
Looking at the three possible options, the best course seems obvious, right? From a problem-solving standpoint, Oneness seems to be the only true solution to life, giving me all the incentive in the world to transcend the physical world and all its sinful pleasures, and work towards the abandonment of all selfish desires in pursuit of the greater goal of transcendence. Unfortunately though, theory does not translate well into reality, and the implementation of Oneness is not so simple as the idea of Oneness.
For one thing, we have the mind-body problem: Material versus Spiritual. From the perspective of Oneness, the material world and the spiritual world are really just two different ways of looking at the same thing, and our selfish need to discriminate between light and darkness, evil and good, physical and spiritual– and so on– prevents us from being able to transcend our separate reality and become One with God. Put simply, the physical and spiritual world are just different forms of the same energy, which incidentally an idea popularized by philosophers like Spinoza.
That being said, the implementation of the aforementioned life paths are triadic also: Extreme Spirituality (Asceticism), Extreme Carnality (Hedonism), and Balance (Transcendence).
The interesting thing about this third implementation is that a Balance cannot be “chosen”, it must manifest through transcendence of choice itself. The reason for this is that when a person tries to choose a life of Balance, they have unwittingly put conditions on the quality of their life. This not only results in the limiting of one’s potential as part of God, but also instills a corruption sense of self-righteousness and petty piety. Living a deliberate life of Balance is impossible, because Balance cannot be calculated or controlled, it must simply be known.
Asceticism is considered by many to be a noble pursuit in life, because ascetics are willing to abandon all physical desires, and even abstain from basic physical needs, in order to become more spiritual, closer with God, etc. From the surface, an ascetic lifestyle does seem like the path to Oneness, as the physical pleasures do indeed encourage Separateness, and a carnal life is sure to provide infinite distractions to prevent spiritual growth, evolution, and Oneness with God. However, there are just as many spiritual distractions that prevent Oneness (astral projection, psychic abilities/readings, astrology, telepathy, etc.), and the greatest of these distractions is actually Asceticism!
One of the most renown religions to promote a life of Oneness through Selfless Love, Buddhism, while appearing from the surface to be ascetic in nature, is actually built on the balance between the ascetic and carnal lifestyles– a path which Siddhartha Buddha called “The Middle Way”. After living a life of extreme asceticism in pursuit of greater spirituality, the great Buddha accepted milk and some rice pudding (which I might note is an animal-product, which goes against the vegan lifestyle associated with ascetics), and meditated under a pipal tree, and achieved enlightenment. Buddha found that to find the “truth” (Oneness), one must not only eliminate all desires, but all obsessions and extremities as well. Enlightenment could only be found in “the middle” a life of Balance that both appreciates and transcends physical and spiritual needs.
While asceticism can improve one’s spirituality, it is far too imbalanced to enable Oneness. Even the great Buddha didn’t reach enlightenment until he abandoned the barren ascetic lifestyle and partook in some of the “sinful” pleasures. Living one’s life for God is honorable, but the belief that all interaction with the physical world is sinful and to be avoided as much as possible– that’s more compulsion than anything. I believe that such an approach accomplishes little more than escape from reality, and it is far too extreme in nature for one to achieve enlightenment through these means.
While preoccupation with the physical world is a bad thing, preoccupation with only the spiritual world is equally bad. In order to completely manifest one’s potential, one must live a balanced life, and incorporate an equal portion of the elements of both the physical and spiritual world, with enlightenment coming from a life meeting in the middle, and (more importantly) from the recognition that the physical and spiritual worlds really are just two different ways of looking at the same thing.