Recently I (R) met a clinical psychologist (Q) from England and the discussion we had was so stimulating I thought I would record it. Here it is in verbatim form.
Q: What are the outward signs of inner development, of spiritual development?
R: You will appear more as yourself, not in a flimsy, superficial sense, but more like you are in the truth of your inner nature. You will manifest your true character with less compromise, less need for personal attention and probably less self-importance.
Q: Why probably?
R: The outward signs of inner change don't necessarily conform to our idea of what a spiritual or an inner-orientated person should look like. The inner path, or the spiritual path, is fundamentally the way of paradox, which in itself is a controversial statement. And also a statement that demands an explanation.
Q: And the explanation is?
R: That human awakening takes place through a process of contrary challenge; whatever you are comfortable with must be radically countered until the opposites of attachment and unattachment – to character, behavior, habits, familiarity, really anything you identify with as the separative I-Me-Mine – are shed, enabling you to reach the state of non-attachment. Everything will appear in relation to its opposite, to its counterpart. As you persist in the inner journey your world is seen as a mass of conflicting, contradictory urges and impulses for some time.
Q: Can you bring that down to earth for me, or express it in plain language?
R: You have to face everything which you have denied or repressed in yourself in both the inner and the outer worlds.
Q: But why would you even want to do that?
R: First, whether we know it or not, we all have a deep desire to realize our potential. That potential is real and to realize it we must become whole, which entails owning our repressed selves. Second, because reality is really rounded, rather than flat! Reality is rather like a sphere, so to be in it, you yourself must be rounded. The way most of us live is as partial human beings, by presenting and believing in ourselves as a certain identity we define ourselves through limitation and since everyone's doing it, it doesn't seem odd, until you wake up to the fact that your potential is way, way more than that.
Q: What is the relationship between human failings, imperfections and limitations and the divine, which by definition must be absolute, perfect and pure?
R: Your imperfect human condition is the vehicle, or the means, to your realization of your true self. Only by means of the unique faculty of self-reflection may a human being experience him- or herself as absolute and in their true nature. That's the inner journey.