In spiritual networks, it is common to label someone as “advanced,” be it the teacher, another practitioner, or oneself. It is pretty common to see someone presenting themselves as spiritually advanced. But how many go further to clarify what being “advanced” really means?
“Spirituality” is a loaded term that is contextualized to philosophy and religion, and conjuring images of crystals, candles, 5 am meditation, yoga, tarot cards, organic foods, and chanting. Yet, it just so happens that true spirituality has no props and all the aforementioned objects and practices do not define spirituality.
A spiritual life is available to all and is independent of one’s background and belief systems. If this were not true, some of us would be somehow superior to others, and one life would be considered more valuable than another – how is that possible?
“Advanced” is a strange term to use with spirituality because it implies being above and even beyond. To the ego, which loves to compare everything and everyone using its meter stick, “advanced” means either “better than me” or “beneath me” (ego is fairly binary). Comparison for purposes of fortifying oneself is a game children play on the playground, picking teams consisting of those most like themselves.
Something more unified than the individual is living all of us and, like a light beaming through a prism, is refracting into a rainbow of colors as each of us. The reality is that we can transform our perception of and relationship to what lives us. We are a differentiation of the One living consciousness that is experiencing itself through its many facets. Do we know this? If so, to what degree?
Spiritual evolution is a matter of shifting one’s attention to identify more and more with the Life that lives us, rather that our bodies, emotions, minds, diseases, and other conditions. No one is faulty at the core. The shifts seem to follow a pattern with common milestones.
To identify with something means to know that you are That – not separate, not worshipping something outside of yourself (and not worshipping yourself either), and not striving toward or pulling in anything because you are That.
I understand an “advanced” state as being increasingly identified with the unifying principle while maintaining an individual expression of that principle. We can be unique without being separate.
Our bodies express our degree of identification with this unified Consciousness through verbal and nonverbal communication. Our bodies are also valuable instruments for accessing and integrating the countless aspects of the one consciousness by happily handing over any clinging to a separate self. The more we surrender ourselves to That, the less we believe we are something superior or extra special. Thus, one naturally becomes humbled by existence as one evolves, while simultaneously understanding more deeply the value of all life. This is not even close to the practice of comparing, labeling, or either celebrating our superiority or wallowing in our self-perceived low attainment.
People who don’t use “spiritual” terminology may very well have undergone a transformation where they have peeled off the layers of separation – perhaps even more so than those who deftly toss around Sanscrit terms. This fact is often overlooked by those looking for superficial markers of a spiritual life. Someone who did not read the Vedas may be closer to reconfiguring their perceptual mechanism.
Transformation, as the name implies, is a fundamental shift in how one experiences life and relates to its processes. Perception changes to the degree that one begins to invent words and imagery to describe what one lives because such concepts do not exist in spoken languages. True transformation is not imagination because the descriptions of the so-called sages (as far back as ancient times) actually match at various key milestones.
For example, I have read Buddhist texts about the Watcher after going through several transformations myself to identify with these successive layers of consciousness. The Watcher is a palpable presence that seems to be observing “you” thinking, speaking, and doing until you identify with that observer. Then, one finds yet another Watcher. Eventually, there are no more Watchers. How do I know? Because in the incomplete state, a Watcher is tangible – there is clearly someone watching and seems to be other than yourself. Mostly, people claiming to be aware of their “consciousness” are aware of one of such Watcher layers. Once you’ve felt one Watcher, the rest are more easily recognizable. Their absence is also very obvious, which happens as one goes futher in letting go into Life. The One Life lives us and breathes us, not the other way around.
Transformation is a fundamental change in the configuration of our multifaceted body, rather than a honing or refining of an existing configuration. To someone who has gone through the change, it is obvious who else has or has not.
An “advanced” being cannot prove to others anything – nor wants to. But such a being can easily see where others are in their evolution toward unification and reidentification. Most important, such a being will not casually make claims about his or her state, lightly choose to become a public figure, or even subtly put down anyone at whatever level of life.
I have run into a number of people claiming something about themselves when it is clear that they have not transformed but simply got their life on stable footing. Also, highly tuned intuition or access to certain nonphysical planes of existence are no indicators of how or whether that being identifies. If “advanced” means seeing auras or reading people’s minds, then we are talking about different types of evolution – many who have not freed themselves can develop these skills but still remain removed from absorption as the One Life.
I am not at all implying that any life stage is more valuable than another. We all have equally important parts to develop by living. We will all make different and valid contributions as our lives unfold.
Someone asked me once why bother evolving or transforming if we are all valuable. The answer is simple – those poised for change will do the work to change – this will feel like the whole point of their existence, while others will have no interest in doing so. In any case, change is just that – something different, and neither superior nor inferior.
If someone is poised for change – especially at the critical points of early transformations, a teacher may come and invite one to complete the process. The teacher is an accelerant for something that may take lifetimes to do by oneself. For someone who is on the cusp, why wait aeons when the opportunity presents to move faster? There may be good reasons.
A clear expression of oneself supercedes any transformed state. Many advanced beings were seen as faulty because they did not express themselves clearly. Maybe they presented themselves as greedy opportunists or just horny, and this detracted from their contribution to humanity.
“Advanced” beings, whether hidden or in public view, contribute many things most people will not recognize as contributions by a certain person – beyond their spiritual talks and pithy wisdom. As one transforms, certain acts of service go on automatic and cannot be not done. In simplest terms, such beings make a difference to multitudes simple by being. They do not care if anyone knows what they really do and who they are.
I am a regular Joe. A mom with a job and two kids. I will remain that until my death. Most people won’t see me as anything else and it doesn’t matter to me. While my intensity is evident, it will be just “intensity” to most observers, chalked up to my personality.
In the meantime, I work on healing and clarifying my own expression. I want no gaps between my authenticity and what I present in everyday life.
Be wary of those who put down the human race or talk about it like a plague – this is not “advanced” behavior. As one gets closer to unification of life, it is impossible to hate or resent it, even while regularly confronting any dysfunction in no uncertain terms. Asserting truth may be seen as anger, but it can be very different from anger – although the intensity may be easily confused with anger at first glance.
Unconditional love becomes not only fundamental, it is simply one’s natural state and has little to do with the sticky, clingy “love” in most couples. “Unconditional love,” despite being misunderstood, is a phrase that still brings hope to humanity and continues to function – for now.