If we earnestly pursue the search for the spiritual dimension of man (and his health), we find ourselves far removed from current ideas on the subject. Firstly, we must understand the spiritual dimension as consciousness entirely different from the mind, as well as moral, ethical and religious values. The moral and religious state of mind may prepare an entry to the spiritual dimension, but is not the goal and certainly not the only approach to the spiritual evolution in man. Religion deals with cradle beliefs, personally held but expanded into a group or culture. Much of it is passed instinctively from one generation to another and may be followed as custom or mechanical ritual. Such a belief can, no doubt, sometimes help us feel better in moments of crisis. For an exceptional person, it may even be a starting point to a genuine spiritual quest. But for most, it rarely goes beyond mere ritualistic acceptance of a set of beliefs.
It is also sometimes an impulse of being part of a group. To be a member of a particular group, as opposed to another, strengthens the bond of social support. Practiced by most, religion rarely goes beyond a social dimension of health. And since the outer forms of religion and cult practices differ so widely, it is doubtful whether religion can ever serve as an adequate basis for social health. In origin, it was intended as a gateway to the spiritual life. Today it produces more division than unity. Religion can be of use only if it is willing to look behind the forms of the Truth it is supposed to represent.
Ethics and morality belong more to a social than spiritual dimension. They have the potential to enhance world harmony (social health) by teaching us laws of sacrifice, tolerance, goodwill and a sympathetic understanding of others. Yet they can undermine our psychological health by inducing guilt and conflict when the issues are large, complex or transpersonal e.g. the need for death and destruction to serve a larger social good (like amputating a gangrenous limb). These movements of Nature cannot be grasped by the mind with its fixed codes and rigid norms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. For morality assumes a clear cut ‘black and white’ approach and lays down fixed laws. But life is never so simple and easy to grasp. Much is grey to our understanding; so much eludes us. In this way, action often becomes confused, a cause for disharmony, however well-intentioned or morally right it may appear to be. Like religion, morality can fulfil itself only when a greater spiritual illumination has dawned. The law of action becomes perfect only when we have replaced a bookish code by a more spontaneous knowledge that informs us every instant what needs to be done and the way to do it. The rational-moralist discards this prospect and limits the perfect growth in the impulse to act. However, the spiritually evolved person knows from experience that such a knowledge does exist, but from intuition and inner guidance. So he commands a greater mastery over himself and the world. This, in itself, is an index to greater health. A growth into intuition not only gives a clear indication of what we must do. It also shows us what we must not do to avoid disastrous consequences. This is a truth testified by all those who have explored this dimension. The absence of a majority is no reason to exclude it. After all, health is an ideal state. Very few can guarantee a perfect state of physical and psychological health.
In fact, a deeper look will tell us that to fulfil psychological health, the spiritual dimension must evolve too. Greed, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, hatred, jealousy, inordinate ambition and desire are all causes of physical, psychological and social illness. However, it is difficult to get rid of any of these entirely without going into the spiritual aspect of existence.
If that is the case, then how do we define and measure the spiritual dimension and describe its well-being? The answer to this question is not simple for two obvious reasons.
First, we are dealing here with a domain where the mass mind is not yet conversant. It still substitutes shadowy reflections for the authentic light of spiritual truth and experience. Since the value of a definition consists in its power to communicate, we may find ourselves on uncertain ground here. Our language still does not contain the words to express spiritual states. Even where words exist, interpretations can lead to wrong use or misunderstanding, an error of substitution of a lesser and inadequate word. Mystical literature has suffered this distortion. Because of this, many have resorted to the use of symbolic expression. We have to understand we are dealing with an infinite consciousness. The very attempt to define defiles and limits it. Systematization is an activity of a mind that needs fixed forms to handle with convenience. The spiritual consciousness, in contrast, expands to infinity. There is an infinite plasticity and variability in its expression. It can limit itself to suit a system’s belief but cannot be limited by the system. It is free to even choose whether it will permit this self-limitation at all. This is an obvious difficulty. To give an example, we can look at the word ‘knowledge’, which is so different in its spiritual sense from the mental definition. In addition, a second difficulty arises. Many spiritual experiences (indeed the whole range) are subjective. It is only valid to the one who experiences it. But it is impossible to objectively prove. One cannot quantify it. Spiritual feeling, its perception, the phenomenon of inspiration and intuition, identity with God and oneness with all beings are sincerely valid. But they are neither quantifiable nor easy to convey.
How do we overcome this difficulty? We can define spirituality in indirect terms. We have seen that spiritual truths influence our lives. So we can define ‘spiritual health’ as ‘a change induced in our thoughts, feelings, perception, values, behaviour and physical functioning by contact with the spiritual consciousness’. The ‘change in consciousness’ can be measured by a scale of integration. It can be used as a working definition. As to ‘the contact with the spiritual consciousness’, we can give it objective terms by placing it with ‘contact with the spiritual consciousness through a spiritual person, spiritual literature, spiritual place, spiritual group, etc. Of course, the connection can be made without such external aids. But to be objective, we can use this index. So we can qualify spiritual health as ‘positive changes induced in our thoughts, attitudes, aims, motives, beliefs, feelings, life activity, relationships and physical health by contact with a spiritual state as manifested through a person, group, book, place, activity, etc.
We can update the definition as we move forward as a race in the spiritual evolution of mankind.
In conclusion, we can say that:
· The spiritual dimension is entirely different from that of the mind.
· Religion and ethics cannot be equated with the spiritual dimension.
· Only the spiritually evolved are qualified to describe the spiritual state. The mind is an inferior tool in the grade of evolution, it cannot judge spiritual things.
· It is not possible to study the spiritual state by conventional statistical method where the ‘law of averages’ applies. The average person has to yet make the effort to consciously grow into a spiritual state. The spiritual dimension is, by and large, asleep in most people. Evolution is still going on.
· The way to study the spiritual state and its effect upon our well-being must be done along three lines.
a) Empirically, through record of experiences of recognised seers of the spiritual life.
b) Indirectly, by observing the impact of spiritual states in changing and moulding our minds, lives and bodies.
c) Directly, by the scientist who seeks to study the spiritual state and make himself the subject and field of the experiment.
· A working definition of spiritual health can be the scale of integration and wholeness experienced by each person. There are subjective yardsticks we can use to gauge this:
a) A sense of purpose and meaning to life.
b) Absence of conflict within oneself.
c) Absence of conflict with the world around.
d) Presence of an abiding or growing sense of harmony, lightness, unity, unconditional peace, joy, faith and compassion.
In the greater age to come, we may be better prepared to admit the spiritual influence into our lives. Only then will we be able to fully understand the truth of spiritual health. Until then, we must sincerely seek it with faith and will. Faith is our staff on the road to knowledge. Will is the power that dissolves all obstacles on the road to discovery.