Augustine and the Stages of Christian Spiritual Growth
Many people know of the types of Christian spiritual practice recommended in the Middle Ages: lectio, meditatio, oratio and intentio; reading, meditation, prayer and intention. The emphasis on centering prayer today is an attempt to focus on this ancient list, and match the efficiency of Eastern spiritual techniques with Western traditions.
What they are less familiar with is the pattern of ascent in Christianity first proposed by St. Augustine:
1. mere animation
2. sense life
3. intellectual life or art
6. entrance into divine light,or the gaze of the purified soul upon God
7. the vision of truth
Now let's start with tranquility. How do you achieve it? The stilling or emptying of thought. Good old emptiness cultivation techniques get you that. Christian prayer, done correctly, will get you there.
What happens when you do that? Your chi masses, and you then can see light inside your body. It becomes a mass of light. In fact, as I explain in the free Stages download, if you don't retain your jing and chi you can never arrive at this state of inner light, called tandra in Hinduism. As Pseudo-Macarius explained about this stage, "the whole soul has become a spiritual eye and entirely light." Why? Because it is a stage of chi amassing prior to samadhi achievement. Of course priests and monks who never cultivate never reach this stage, so course they never interpret his words correctly.
What next? Samadhi attainments, or the "vision of truth." Most people cannot just jump to enlightenment, so this 7th step refers to samadhi attainments. In time, the vision of truth may refer to enlightenment.
So what do we have here overall? The same first three Mahayana Stages of the path taught by the Buddha Maitreya. Origen even taught that there is a double ascent of the soul toward God just as the Israelites were led by two hands - Moses AND Aaron. On hand, he said, is theoria, the ascent of the intellect or WISDOM. The other hand is praxis, the ascent of VIRTUE. Even here we have the first Mahayana stage of the cultivation trail as explained by Maitreya - the Stage of Wisdom (Study) and Virtue Accumulation.
Isn't it nice how all the GENUINE religions lay out the same spiritual principles and path? Once again, the TRUE path is universal, non-denominational. Same thing.
Think about it. It HAS to be that way. It's all the same original, fundamental nature. We are the ones who, when we reach some stage of samadhi or enlightenment and want to teach people, make up wisdom systems and say something like, "this came from God." Actually, it came from our own understanding of cultivation principles and how to explain it for the audience and the times. For those who don't have enough merit and wisdom themselves, you odn't give deep teachings. That's why so many schools, sects and religions proliferate.
How rare it is to come upon the true, unadulterated dharma. It is rare that a fully enlightened being can appear in the world and have the KARMA for listeners to be able to hear everything, and thus the karma to be able to teach unfettered, as a Buddha should.
Seems in the last few thousand years many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have come, but the karmic nexus point was ripe for only one Buddha to be able to reveal most everything without hindrance, and that's why thousands of samadhi masters and Bodhisattavs came at that time to hear his teachings -- Shakyamuni Buddha.
Think about it. If you had samadhi or some low stage of enlightenment, would you come for just any old spiritual master's teaching? No, of course not. That's why in the past five thousand years history, only Shakyamuni Buddha's story is credited with hundreds of samadhi attainment and enlightenment attainment students.
Think about it, and then think of the implications about the excellence of the teachings.
"Know them by their students."
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