There are few things more seductive and misleading than psychic gifts. As worthwhile as such gifts might be, they have nothing inherently to do with spirituality.
Fundamentalists are often petrified by psychic gifts. This despite the fact that Jesus of Nazareth possessed all of these gifts himself. Jesus was reported to be able to dematerialize (disappearing when the crowd wanted to kill him.) He also could heal, read people’s minds, walk on water and do any of the things that those with special psychic gifts claim that they can do.
But while Jesus (and others like Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha ) could do these things, we are drawn to these teachers because of their spiritual truths and not because they could do unusual things.
This is a crucial point: psychic gifts are not the same as spiritual gifts. It is, of course, understandable why some people get confused about this point. Perhaps these individuals have been living their lives on a very base level. Whenever they encounter any level of reality beyond their low level consciousness, they think that this must be what is meant by being spiritual. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who get detoured into the level of the psychic have entered an Alice in Wonderland realm of existence. There are sound and light shows and voices and smells and touches and, even, a primitive intuition of cosmic consciousness.
There is nothing wrong per se with any of these experiences. It is just that, because they are so spectacular, they can be seductive. People may end up playing around in this land of Oz to their own detriment and get sidetracked from dealing with the real thing: a life of love based on union with God.
The real saints from all traditions have always been aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the psychic realm. Take Teresa of Avila from the Christian realm, for example. She apparently had all sorts of psychic gifts, including perhaps the most spectacular one of all: the ability to levitate. Her ability to do so is well documented. This is not an allegory of her ability to “rise” to heights of the soul. Scores of witnesses saw her levitate often and publicly. This ability, by the way, has also been claimed by various yogis and other teachers from both East and West.
One might think that Teresa might see this gift as a proof of the power of God. No, instead, she did everything possible to downplay this occurrence. Why? For two reasons. One was that she was intensely aware that such a gift could be an occasion of personal pride. After all, if one had mixed motives, one could use this ability to become a “star.” But the real reason that Teresa downplayed this gift was that she wisely realized that it had nothing whatsoever to do with one’s spiritual life.
Being an awakened spiritual being means allowing God to invade one’s being. It means opening ones heart to all creation; it means serving all of God’s creatures, especially those most in need of help.
There are some spiritual people who have psychic gifts and some who do not. In the end, frankly, it does not matter a whit. When all is said and done, our lives will not be measured by whether or not we have levitated or seen visions or read people’s minds. We are measured by only one standard: whether or not we have had love for one another.
Next posting: Apocalypse Now?
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