Give up the notion that there is a final state to attain. Spiritual life consists of ongoing practice undertaken as a lifetime work. This realization breeds humility, especially when we realize that in our initial infatuation with enlightenment, we underestimate the amount of inner work necessary to free us from our addictive patterns of thought and behavior.
The trouble of the many and various aims of mortal men bring them much care, and herein they go forward by different paths but strive to reach one end, which is happiness. And that good is that, to which if any man attain, he can desire nothing further... Happiness is a state which is made perfect by the union of all good things. This end all men seek to reach, as I said, though by different paths. For there is implanted by nature in the minds of men a desire for the true good; but error leads them astray towards false goods by wrong paths.
If men as individuals surrender to the call of their elementary instincts, avoiding pain and seeking satisfaction only for their own selves, the result for them all taken together must be a state of insecurity, of fear, and of promiscuous misery.
We settle things by a majority vote, and the psychological effect of doing that is to create the impression that the majority is probably right. Of course, on any fine issue the majority is sure to be wrong. Think of taking a majority vote on the best music. Jazz would win over Chopin. Or on the best novel. Many cheap scribblers would win over Tolstoy. And any day a prizefight will get a bigger crowd, larger gate receipts and wider newspaper publicity than any new revelation of goodness, truth or beauty could hope to achieve in a century.
Mortifications have their reward in a state of consciousness that corresponds, on a lower level, to spiritual beatitude. The artist - and the philosopher and the man of science are also artists - knows the bliss of aesthetic contemplation, discovery and non-attached possession. The goods of the intellect, the emotions and the imagination are real goods; but they are not the final good, and when we treat them as ends in themselves, we fall into idolatry. Mortification of will, desire and action is not enough; there must also be mortification in the fields of knowing, thinking feeling and fancying.
A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition.
The vast majority of people are slavers to their desires. The true king who deserves a royal crown is only a person who is free from the pressures of his desires.
Adoration is an activity of the loving, but still separate individuality. Contemplation is the state of union with the divine Ground of all being. The highest prayer is the most passive. Inevitably; for the less there is of self, the more there is of God.
The work we are doing is more or less the work we meant to do in life [but] it does not yield us the feeling of accomplishment we had expected... If I were required to put into a single sentence my own explanation of the state of our hearts, heads, and nerves, I would do it this way: we are vaguely wretched because we are leading half-lives, half-heartedly, and with only one-half of our minds actively, engaged in making contact with the universe about us.
Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.
Life is based on limitation and compromise. The fact that we forget the meaning of life is the meaning of life. Being in a state of partial awareness allows experience and life to progress. God, as an omniscient being, is not an “experiencing being” because his or her experience is not new. If You were going to start a universe, what would Your options be? You could choose to remain totally stagnant, but that wouldn’t amount to a true universe. You’d need entities that experience it, entities that are fragile and temporary and not omniscient. That’s who we are and why we’re here.
Our culture needs a great deal more than a changed lifestyle. In the Western mind, thought-structures and the relationship between consciousness and matter are badly out of balance, so that our world has become wholly pervaded by a materialism that is threatening to squash us to death. We are in a state of materialistic hypertrophy, and our eventual self-destruction would in fact be no more than the logical consequence of our attitudes.