7.1.2 What are the basic structures to which all fully developed models of reality conform, to a greater or lesser degree?
There are an enormous number of models of reality available to us, ranging from primitive belief systems, through the whole range of contemporary religious systems and cults, to the sophisticated, meditation-based systems of the East. The apparent diversity of forms, terms used and practices is overwhelming. As a result of this complexity and confusion, there is very little communication and understanding evident between the practitioners and believers of the various models of reality.
Faced with this diversity and seeming chaos, the average Westerner seeking to understand the nature and meaning of life is unable to derive much value from such choice. Believers in every model of reality claim to have the truth; some even claim to possess sole access to the truth. How is one to discern between ignorance, perhaps disguised as an influential and powerful religion, and a fully developed model of reality?
In fact, the apparent diversity of spiritual and religious expression can be reduced to a limited number of forms. Actually, there are four generic paths to enlightenment. All models of reality shape themselves naturally round one or more of these four fundamental ways of understanding the nature of reality.
A fully developed model of reality will both describe the true nature of reality and provide devotional or meditative practices to assist the individual to realise the inexpressible truth of reality. Although the language and the practices used will vary according to time and place, every fully realised spiritual system maps a path to enlightenment. When the seeker possesses a knowledge of the structure common to all models of reality sufficient to be able to identify a model most suitable to that individual’s particular needs, then there can be true choice.
A widely accessible exposition of the common patterns underlying the superficial diversity of the many models of reality currently available will open up the possibility for those who utilise the different religious and spiritual models to communicate on a clear and equal basis. Clear in the knowledge of what leads to understanding of the absolute and what merely perpetuates ignorance of the true nature of reality, it becomes possible to distinguish between partially developed and fully developed models of reality. With a clear and shared understanding of both the superficial differences and the common elements of each model, users of fully developed models of reality need no longer vie with each other for spiritual, or even temporal, authority.
Authority in spiritual matters need not necessarily come from a recognised figurehead, though such a person may indeed have authority. True authority in spiritual matters results from direct intuitive experience of the absolute. With a clear understanding of the absolute nature of reality, it becomes possible to tell the difference between dogma and knowledge based on experience.
The four paths to enlightenment are the four fundamental forms of yoga – devotion to God, knowledge of reality, the way of action, and spiritual disciplining of the body and its energy systems. Through meditating on the discussion of these paths which follows, you should be able to discern the underlying form of any religious or spiritual system. Those elements of a model of reality which reflect one or more of these paths lead to enlightenment. Those which do not are products of ignorance and perpetuate bondage to birth, ageing, suffering and death.