We all start off our spiritual journey asking some eternal questions: What is the meaning of Life?; Does God exist?; What happens after Death?; Why is there Suffering in the world?; Why is there Evil?; What is the nature of the Soul?; How can we make a better world?; How can there be differences between religions if the Truth is One?

Our problems can start when inevitably we reach a point where we may begin to challenge the answers to these questions provided by the religious traditions of our own society. We may wish to move from commitment to a particular religion to expressing our own innate spirituality. We hope to move from faith alone to Understanding. We wish to progress from the hope of salvation from an outside God or Gods to the long, lonely walk down the spiritual path to enlightenment or transcendence through our own self-guided efforts. Depending on the capacity for tolerance of our own religious tradition, open-mindedness and questioning may meet with strong opposition!

The Great Religious Dilemma: Most religions have a fundamental dilemma arising from people wanting to ask our eternal questions. On the one hand, we have a monumental religious organization – church, mosque, and temple – call it what you will – built on religious dogma with a priesthood and rituals. Such a church is based on faith in a dispensation of revealed spiritual knowledge which has to be followed by devotees of that religion. The followers of such traditions are usually the majority of people in any society around the world. Examples would be – fundamentalist versions of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Their advice in answering our eternal questions would be: “The way to God is through our religion – join us!”

On the other hand, in every religious tradition around the world there are always people who are asking awkward questions of their vicars and priests. Such people want to ‘know’. They want to have knowledge and experience of spiritual realities for themselves. They look inwardly for their spiritual inspiration rather than outward to a monumental church or religious professionals. Such people often end up being persecuted by the orthodox majority. Examples would be: Gnostic Christians; Sufi Muslims; Baha’i devotees; and Theosophists. Their advice in answering those eternal questions would be: “Religions are a testament to how far mankind is away from God – go find the answers for yourself!”

In the Hall of Learning: If our brave decision is to set foot on the spiritual path alone and self-directed as to what we feel are the right answers to our questions; we enter into what the ancient Egyptians called ‘The Hall of Learning’. Here, we, in the company of other like-minded seekers, search for instruction from spiritual teachers about the nature of spiritual realities. Here questioning and discussion are necessary to learn and develop faster.

It is worth bearing in mind that at any point in our long spiritual quest we should remember a time-honoured principle of instruction in the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom. We should always develop the habit of trying to answer our own questions first before questioning our teachers. This habit builds spiritual self-reliance and strengthens our connection with the only true spiritual master for every seeker – our own ‘Higher Self’. If, once we have sincerely searched for an answer, but still need further information, we should carefully frame our questions for our teacher as he/she can only address those specific issues we pose in our questions.

I guess the whole process can be summed up by saying that: “You can’t learn anything meaningful by getting into the habit of looking up the answers in the back of your school textbook!” You need to build up inner strength by working on problems yourself so you may qualify as a teacher yourself someday.

In the hallowed ‘Hall of Learning’ we should not become egotistical about what we think we know because spirituality is a never-ending quest. We should always be prepared to change our view of spiritual realities as we grow in understanding over time. We should be aware that the Hierarchy of Spiritual Teachers will always offer further insights into spiritual truths as Humanity develops its capacity to understand them on into the future.

In the Hall of Wisdom: Advancing beyond the ‘Hall of Learning’ to the ‘Hall of Wisdom’ we move beyond reliance on others for spiritual knowledge to increasing reliance on our own spiritual resources. Questioning without the habit of self-examination first is completely discouraged as self-reliance is vitally necessary to build inner strength as we advance. Ego-bound self-justification in intellectual argument, such as forms the basic stuff of university education, is discouraged as we should have accepted the reality of the law of karma (Action and Reaction) by this stage.

All answers to ultimate questions come from within – so where does this leave our teachers as we advance on the spiritual path? The teacher (Guru) and Student (Chela) relationship is paramount and we must have complete trust in our spiritual teacher once we accept him/her as knowing the ‘Truth’. It is said that the relationship between the spiritual teacher and student is even closer than that of a parent and child. A parent provides a body but the ‘Guru’ provides a means to a ‘Second Birth’ into spiritual realities. Trust and Faith in the teacher’s knowledge is implicit in this relationship.

Plato called true education ‘Unforgetting’ our way back to the source of Wisdom within. Essentially this means overcoming the power of the Lower Ego with its limited and selfish perspectives, and reaching out to the fiery source of our being – the Higher Self. As our intuitive capacity develops through a greater identification with the ‘Higher-Self’ within, we can begin to spontaneously appreciate the answers to many of the eternal questions which so vexed us at the beginning of our search.

An interesting film – What the bleep to we know? – giving perspectives from modern science on some of these ancient questions is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioONhpIJ-NY and also the second part of the film ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usMsTPg-hHk

“There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe: I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling – the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come.” – HP Blavatsky- Co-Founder of the Theosophical Society -September 1891.