Five Paths of Spiritual Quest

Every organized religion declares itself to be the only acceptable way of gaining God’s blessing or heavenly bliss.  Considering the incredible diversity within the human species, not to mention the awesome diversity of all life forms, the claim that there can be only one technique of respect for the Creative Source of that diversity amounts to nothing more than political pretext, not divine truth.

Citizens of the Roman Empire, before the advent of Christianity, enjoyed freedom of choice in religious pursuits unparalleled in history, including today.  The ancient world and Pagan cultures understood that the Creative Source was not sealed off from its diverse manifestations, and they knew that the ultimate creative power certainly did not indulge in meaningless political plays of one-upmanship.  All paths that sought oneness with the Creative Source were rightfully understood in the ancient world as virtuous pursuits.  In the ancient cultures there were mystery religions, especially in the early centuries before the rise of Christianity, and these commonly recognized five broadly categorized paths for achieving personal connection with the Absolute.  These five paths were:  1) Path of the Warrior;  2)  Path of the Magician;  3)  Path of the Monk;  4)  Path of Love;  and 5)  Path of Knowledge. 

1)  The notion that soldiering could be a means to spiritual advancement is an alien concept in the Christianized world.  (Well, maybe not so much for fundamentalists or church militants.)  One of the reasons for this concept of a warrior’s path rested in the reasoning that the warrior was very conscious of the mystery of death, and because of that intimate awareness there was provided a lesson in which time would open spiritual devotion.  In our modern world the implements of war can destroy thousands of innocent people at a time, quite unlike the hand-to-hand combats with sharp implements used by the ancients in the interest of some (assumed) superior cause.  One might say that the book of Revelation was directed from the warrior-caste perspective.  Mohammed, for example (as perceived by some Muslims), can be linked with the Path of the Warrior, as could the crusaders of the Dark Ages.  The mythic Arthur of the Round Table romanticized this path.

2)  The Path of the Magician was seen as a legitimate pursuit of spirit for the reason that the magician confronted the gulf between the physical world and spirit, and attempted to unite them.  The magician always respected that energy relationship and the parallels that exist within all dimensions of the universe, and thus he understood that man is a microcosm of the macrocosm, which therefore proved that man is an energy-form made in the image of the creative energy Source.  Magic was the attempt to affect the unseen powers through use of material elements that were assumed to be energy related.  Magicians were denounced by the Christian fathers; even so, Roman Catholicism indulges in magic rites of the seven sacraments (theurgy) in which bread, oil, wine, rings, etc. are alleged to be infused through use of certain spoken formulas aimed at initiating change on the “subtle” plane.

3)  The Path of the Monk is based on the perception of a duality that is active as spirit and matter, which is sensed in humans as a rift between the physical and the spiritual.  This is similar in attitude to the  Magician, but the Path of the Monk seeks to separate spirit from matter rather than unite them as does the magician.  From this separatist point of view the universe is perceived more as a hierarchy of dissimilar states of existence of which our material world is regarded as the lowest.  The Monk sees existence beyond Earth as being progressively finer and increasingly pure once it is released from the intractable clay of the body.  For this reason the Monk seeks to release himself from the vanities of the physical body, the idea being that such pleasures must be relinquished to obtain greater ones. 

4)  The Path of Love, like the Magician’s, strives to close the gap  between the self and the perceived Higher Self so that the two will merge as one.  Unlike the Path of the  Magician, however, which uses assumed similar elements to achieve unification, the Path of Love is work that is to be accomplished within one’s being.  On the Path of Love the power that is personified as God is the all-in-all, and the lover seeks to be reabsorbed so the lover is no longer distinct from the beloved.  The potential sidetrack on this path is that the egos of the devotees often tend to ascribe human traits and characteristics to the all-embracing Creative Power.

5)  The Path of Knowledge is the adoration of Creative Wisdom.  Knowledge was regarded as a divine quality, for it not only becomes a personal possession, it also becomes a part of one’s being.  The divine aspect of knowledge is that it serves as the means of unifying differences between a subject and an object, hence man becomes joined or aligned with the power personified as God through use of intellect.  The Path of Knowledge ambles through study and meditation toward the desired destination of rational soul.

These brief summaries of representative paths into universal attunement may seem quaint notions of an ancient past, and yet it is certain that even today any seeker of life’s meaning or its purpose has touched upon more than one of these paths.  They remain applicable to human longing to transcend mortal limitations regardless of any particular timeframe or race.  The paths may cross, they may even blur, and detours may occur, but wherever one may find themself they will also find consolation in the knowledge that all paths eventually arrive at an intended destination.  This understanding is significantly different from organized religious practices of today that teach and encourage hatreds toward anything different from their ritualized indulgences.  For them it is difficult to accept that the understanding of spirit in the ancient world was intuitively wiser than the rigidity that has evolved in the institutionalized faith systems of today.

13 Responses to “Five Paths of Spiritual Quest”

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