Between the spirit and flesh is a war for dominance. Our flesh is winning that battle from the start. The very moment you take that first breath the physicality of life is embraced, and this is as it should be. We are, after all, physical beings so it is necessary to root our essence in the body. As one establishes concert with the physical kingdom (learning, growing, eating, existing), a spiritual opportunity will become available. This opportunity is far greater than anything the body alone can give us, and it takes great effort to break free of the pull of the flesh to obtain it.
Each moment we chose the spiritual, there is a lack of vision on the physical to the same degree. In this, religions of the world have attempted to tame this by inserting dogmatic principals that keep people working for the physical need and spending a modicum for the spiritual. Six days you have in the world, and the 7th is the “Lord’s day,” one religion may tell you. By dedicating one day to the spiritual, 6 are left to the physical.
Other faiths will attempt to integrate the spiritual dogma into one’s daily work. By changing the way we think and react, our daily work can become the spiritual work itself… “Chop wood and carry water,” another religion may describe this type of path (alluding to the mind in awareness of mundane activity, as a way of opening to enlightenment.)
Our nature, or Self is at the same time flesh and spirit. It is both conditions of body and esoteric expansion. According to Socrates, he referred to his expanded and greater esoteric Self as his personal Daemon (not to be confused with “demon.”) For Socrates this was a guiding principal or force that was instrumental in his growth and ethic.
I feel he was close to the truth of the matter. There is a greater force at work, and this force is our personal expansion. This is of course my bias, and you are free to explore this on your own, certainly don’t take my word for it. In my personal exploration of the Self, I came to a point of Gnosis (direct perception or direct awareness) that all those times I thought were God (or the Divine) were aspects of me. I carried it with me, everywhere I went, in every faith and religion.
Whether there is a God beyond the Self is not a discussion point here. Likely it is the case, but it is impractical to the first step – Union with Self.
The Self can be illustrated as an inverted teardrop, expansive at one end and a pinpoint at the other. The pinpoint is the human experience. All our bodily knowledge and understanding the infinitesimal point of the teardrop. Yet beyond our physicality there is the profound greatness of our spiritual expansion.
Letting Go – Gaining More
My assertion that the Flesh and Spirit are directly competitive in a zero sum game, is easily put to the test. If you are a spiritual person, simply spend time enjoying something deeply materialistic. In that material moment how spiritual do you feel?
It is quite alluring to the Western world to consider it is possible to be a materialist and a deeply spiritual person at the same moment. In my experience, this is simply what one wishes to be true, and not the reality of life.
The more desire, power, lust, craving, indulgence, one commits to, the more lacking the spiritual influence. I don’t see how one can attain great spiritual growth through desire, anymore than eating your way to heaven.
Proof: The Flesh conflicts with Spirit
I can do more than give my opinion. Using reason alone I think I can counter the argument that “flesh desires can lead to spiritual awakening.”
Premise 1: We are a physical body
Premise 2: We have a spiritual component that is not the body
When we put our attention on something, that is where our identity tends to rest. If our attention rests on the body, we become more aware of being a body. Whereas if your attention rests outside the body, we become more aware of being that essence beyond the body.
This is testable. Everyone who meditates experiences this to some degree. The shift from the body to the non-body, occurs naturally when the mind is set on the breath or other external elements.
Letting Go of What?
The spirit and flesh each have their own gravity, their own pull. Being in body makes the flesh’s pull far more greater upon us. In order to ascend to the realms of spirit and esoteric realization, we have to let go of something. We need to let go of our grasping nature.
Desiring the world, only solidifies our identification as a physical being. If we want to go beyond this into the depth of spiritual Self, we need to let go.
Letting go of desires, hate, anger, justification, demands, politics, and so on. All those elements that create the world around us, those are the very things we need to let go.
What to Hold on To?
Yes, you and I have responsibilities. You may be as I am, a householder, that means you have a family to provide for. You become what you need to be in order to secure the needs for your family. Becoming the best at your work, constantly growing and learning your trade, these are acceptable as they grow your responsibility to others (to your family, to your co-workers and to the owner of your company.)
These are not your identity, keep that in mind. You are not your skillset. If that is what you think, you’ll be sad once you age to the point of diminishing returns to your mental capabilities and skillsets. This again would be an attempt to hold on to the physical, rather than embrace the spiritual.
While we need to keep our physical existence from harm, and achieve our responsibilities to others, there is also a need to let go of the remainder.
Let go of the extra.
Are you driven to make more money beyond your job? Are you looking for more fame? YouTube notoriety? Book deals? Fancy cars?
That extra is what occludes our spiritual path. Our desires consume the waking hours to the point of removing the spiritual need altogether.
The point of balance is to be in the world, but not obsessed with the world. We do our work and let it go. Consider what is written about this in the Tao Te Ching:
The Master has but doesn’t possess,Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her/his work is done, she/he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
One could quote Jesus (John 17:11) as well, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
The Christian idea of “Being in the World,” is when one self-identifies with riches, power, or pleasures of the world. Today it is hard to find such teachings in any faith. Religion, dogma, teachers and gurus have turned the masses into pleasure seekers, because it’s an easy way to secure wealth. Televangelists want more money. Pastors want tithes, and instruct congregants to vote a way to insure power for their faith. Gurus and teachers tell their congregants to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.
Where did the authentic teachings go?
This is why one must follow their direct perception, over teachings offered by gurus, masters, pastors and such. However, there is one insidious enemy here… the ego. The ego will often pretend to be the direct perception, guiding one away from spirit, yet under the pretense of finding the spiritual.
The best way to spot the ego is to ask yourself, “is this internal guidance reliant on physical work? Is it building upon desires of the flesh, or is it undoing it all so that I can find the spiritual? What is it evoking in me? Is it building up more importance in my limited self? Or is it building more importance in the unknown/unseen Self?
The amount of push one commits to in the physical world, is the same degree one pushes away from the spiritual. There is no judgement to this, as one simply gets to chose how this incarnation will play out. If you wish to be carnal, so be it. However, if you wish to delve into the power and Greatness of the unseen Self, then one will begin letting go the fetters that hold us to the material world. Letting go of desires, wants and goals.