The Path of Purification
The spiritual path contains within it a great divide. It is a division that marks the transition from spiritual living based exclusively on faith, to a type of awareness governed by experiential recognition of the soul. During the long sojourn of the soul over countless lives, there comes a particular incarnation when an individual will experience, for the first time, the eternal soul deep within. This is a pivotal point in one’s long incarnational history, and denotes the beginning of a new approach to living. It marks the time when the spiritual dimension of one’s inner beingness is consciously awakened, and from that moment forward, life is never the same. The transcendent light of the soul is witnessed within the recesses of the mind, and a new and deeper commitment to the spiritual path is pursued, and this, with vigor and unbending devotion. From the esoteric point of view, this is indication that an individual has stepped unto the Path of Purification, and has become a conscious participant in his/her own evolution.
As is implied by its title, the Path of Purification relates to a form of spiritual cleansing and refinement. It is a phase when an individual deeply recognizes that spiritual development can only occur when the distortions of the personality (lower self) have been transformed. Every evolutionary step upon the Path is accomplished only because a measure of purification has been demonstratively achieved. From this cleansing, an individual is better able to sense the intuitive impulses coming from the soul. Purification therefore suggests that the threefold personality (mental, emotional and physical) needs to be cleansed and sanctified in order to rightly register the soul’s guidance and wisdom. Indeed, the degree of perceptual illusion a person experiences (as we all do) is directly related to the measure of impurity existing within the personality. Given this understanding, it can be seen that to walk the Path requires that one continuously work toward the purification of some aspect of the lower self. This is true when considering the physical body, but it is relevant to the emotional and mental aspects of the personality as well.
Though it is true that the role of purification is fundamental to all phases of spiritual development, when referencing the Path of Purification, we are actually highlighting one particular segment of the long journey toward enlightenment. Essentially, the Path of Purification is a reference to the beginning of the Endless Way (as the evolutionary path is sometimes called). As earlier noted, entrance onto it is a crucial event in the soul’s long evolutionary journey. When first entered, it indicates that an individual has awakened something within him/herself (for the first time) that transcends all normal human experience. It is a flashing forth of the soul, and is consciously registered within the mind as a form of divine intervention or communication. This is what is normally occurring when the born-again Christian speaks of being saved by Jesus, and in the process, develops a personal relationship with Him. Esoterically considered, this indicates entrance to the Path of Purification. Yet the explanation of the experience (by the born-again Christian) is slightly amiss, though understandably so. The soul is the great representative of the Christ Principle within every human being. As such, when the soul is first “consciously” encountered by the personality, it is often confused for another being, rather than one’s own higher-self (soul). Within Christendom, this mistaken identity is normally believed to be Jesus Christ. However, it is not the person of Jesus that is being realized by the aspirant. Rather, it is his/her personal soul that has been consciously sensed. And, because the soul holds the vibrational qualities of profound love and wisdom (which are characteristics of the Christ Principle) it is easy to see how the newly-awakened aspirant would misjudge the event. As time proceeds, this misinterpretation is corrected, though it often takes a few incarnations for right understanding to be fully achieved. Nonetheless, entrance onto the Path of Purification, though often misinterpreted, begins when the light of the soul breaks forth upon the shores of the mind for the first time.
When an individual encounters this awakening, the experience is uplifting and profound. Yet, unexpectedly, it is an event that is short-lived. The soul touches the heart and mind then mysteriously retreats within the recesses of consciousness. It seemingly disappears, often leaving the fledgling aspirant bereft and confused. The light of the soul has made its mark, but without warning it departs. Yet from this brief encounter, an individual’s life orientation is forever changed. The soul, which for many incarnations had remained in the background, has now revealed itself directly, even though fleetingly. From that day forward, spiritual life is no longer governed by faith alone. Experiential knowledge supersedes complete reliance on faith, and from this awakening, the seeker is born.
Because the first encounter with the soul is short-lived, the aspirant begins a quest in an effort to recapture the experience. Generally speaking, this quest manifests in one of two ways. For many, it leads down the road to theological orthodoxy. This is not only true when considering the born again Christian, but also fundamentalists found within the Islamic, Hindu and Jewish traditions. To such people, the yearning to re-experience the flash of the soul is believed to be found within a traditional spiritual framework. The choice of such a direction is largely based upon the assumption that because religious fundamentalism is old, it must be correct. In such cases (and usually unconscious to the person holding the view), spiritual validity and time-honored status are related. In addition, fundamentalist theology gives to the seeker a strict set of behavioral and moral precepts that must be followed. Though this is a wayward notion, such a person assumes that through rigid conformity to these behavioral demands, the light of the soul will break through once again.
Unlike this narrow view, others seek to recapture the light of the soul by sampling widely diverse spiritual approaches. Adherents within the New Age Movement are good examples of this. It is a movement filled with diverse spiritual notions, many of which are rooted in profound truth. Unfortunately, these truths are often distorted by those who proclaim them. Such people are usually newly awakened aspirants, and are just beginning the journey upon the Path of Purification. However, instead of adopting a narrow approach (as in orthodoxy), their search is widely diverse but comparatively shallow.
Whether the seeker chooses an orthodox or diverse quest, both are inadequate to create the recapturing of the soul’s light. Orthodoxy provides depth, but only through a literal interpretation of scripture. From the esoteric perspective, the deeper meaning of holy texts (whether speaking of the Bible, Koran, or the Bhagavad-Gita) is revealed through the abstract and metaphoric wisdom they contain. Because of its emphasis on literalism, the deeper truths are unrealized by those who adhere to an orthodox view. On the other hand, the New Age devotee sees the diversity of paths leading to truth, and is usually comfortable with abstract ideas and metaphoric realization. However, his/her approach is highly glamorized and lacks the kind of spiritual discipline that is required. Both approaches are therefore immature attempts at committing oneself to a spiritual path and the discipline that it entails. Even so, they are still conscious attempts to find a deeper truth within. And, though their search is initially outward and misdirected, it is nonetheless a quest for spiritual light, and this is to be prized. As time progresses the outward search inevitably fails, and the individual begins to shift from an external to an internal search. The deeper aspects of the spiritual life are then realized as existing within oneself. This then leads to a new and disturbing realization. It is the notion that perhaps the reason the soul’s light is difficult to recapture is because there is something impure within oneself. This realization is crucial. From it, a commitment to purify the personality becomes operative and central to the spiritual journey. In the truest sense, this is when the seeker fully steps onto the Path of Purification.
The Path of Purification is filled with various disciplines. To truly walk it demands that the aspirant inwardly realize that the impurities found within his/her personality are the major obstacles to spiritual progress. From this inner confession, various spiritual disciplines are adopted, most of which are related to the physical body. For example, dedication to physical exercise and a focused dietary regime are frequently adopted. A preoccupation with the quality and purity of food becomes central to an individual’s life interest. In addition, movement toward a vegetarian diet normally occurs while on the Path of Purification. At times, these disciplines can become fanatical. This however is eventually tempered over the next few incarnations, becoming a balanced and wise understanding of the importance of taking care of the body, but without fanatical adherence.
Another significant development is the cultivation of good character. The aspirant slowly adopts the attitude that goodness toward others must be fostered. The expression of authentic kindness and compassion are thus cultivated. This attitude does not emerge because society has deemed it appropriate. Rather, it represents a residual effect of having touched the soul at the time of the awakening. Indeed, the needs of humanity become increasingly important, and the spirit of altruism begins to take root. Essentially, the aspirant is slowly trying to become a fit instrument for the embodiment of Christ. Here again, I am not speaking of Christ as a person. Instead, it is in reference to the soul, which is one’s personal Christ. Essentially, the Path of Purification is staged to slowly prepare an individual to become a vehicle that shall someday fully house the soul. For those upon this path, the physical body is considered the temple of the soul. Because of this, it is not surprising that the purificatory emphasis tends to be directed toward the health and well-being of one’s physical form. Later in the journey the seeker realizes that the emotional and mental bodies are temples of the soul as well, and equally so. Yet for now, the physical body and its betterment is where most of the aspirant’s attention is directed.
The Path of Purification lasts for several incarnations. When treading this path, the aspirant is often unconscious (or only semi-conscious) of his/her deeper motives for purifying the body and striving to develop good character. In such cases, the actual awakening most likely took place during a previous incarnation. Therefore the memory of the flashing forth of the soul is not immediately available. Nonetheless, the individual is impulsed by this unconscious memory, even though his/her rationalizing mind may explain the effort as pragmatically driven rather than spiritually motivated.
As we have seen, the Path of Purification begins when an individual consciously awakens to the light of the soul deep within. It is a realization unparalleled in life, and opens the door to a wider vista of spiritual understanding. As a result, faith finds its rightful companion—experiential knowledge of the soul itself. Yet, because the awakening to the soul is initially fleeting, a quest to recapture the experience ensues. This search leads to a realization that impurity within the personality (particularly the physical body) is the reason the soul’s light is no longer sensed. Physical purification then becomes the seeker’s preoccupation, and this, in hopes of becoming a purer container for the soul’s downward gaze. When the Path of Purification is completed, the title of disciple is bestowed upon the seeker. By this is meant that s/he has learned to become a disciple of the soul. On that day, the individual steps off of the Path of Purification and unto the Path of Discipleship—the final road leading to full enlightenment.
© 2005 William Meader
William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects ofSpiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.