Originally published in ‘The Laughing Man’ magazine, Vol 3, No 3, 1982
Entrance into the fourth stage of life marks the beginning of spiritual life. At this time the individual begins to become more experientially aware of what Master Da Free John calls the “All-Pervading Current of Life:”
“There is a Current of Vibratory Force pervading the entire body. It is the body’s Life and the Light of its mind. It may be felt to be identified with either the whole body itself or with the prior Condition of the whole body. It is perfectly identical to the whole body itself but it is ultimately not qualified by the finite body or any of its conditions. It appears to be structured and limited via the mechanisms of the gross body, and its principal functional locus is thus identified with the spinal line, running from toe to crown, and vice versa. But the Truth of the whole body is at the heart, where the prior Condition of the Current of the body is intuited, prior to all differentiation of form and thought and self.”’
As awareness of this Current becomes prominent, the individual begins to surrender to or rest in this Current, allowing it to function as a vehicle of spiritual transformation.
“In the fourth stage of life, this now complex psycho-physical being is surrendered beyond itself to and into the Living Current of Being that pervades it and the total world. This is done to the point of generally harmonizing the body-mind in that Life-Current and otherwise Realizing self-transcending devotional Union with that Living Reality in occasions of Love-Bliss that involve and simultaneously transcend the body-mind. ”. 2
The fourth stage of life coincides with the awakening of the heart, the center of the feeling or psychic dimension of the being. This is tantamount to the emotional conversion of the being to a life of love. This conversion, which is necessarily preceded by maturity in the first three stages of life, represents a profound transformation of the entire body-mind of the individual. Conversion here is not the kind of convulsive reorientation popularly associated with this experience. It is not the result of any manipulated traumatization of the spiritual practitioner. Rather, it is based on his insight into the mechanism of the self-contraction, awakening to the feeling-intuition of the Spiritual Divine, and expressing that awakening in his way of life.
Thus, the awakening of the heart in the fourth stage is not merely equivalent to the arousal of religious sentiment or the stimulation of psychic experiences; on the contrary, it represents a sacrificial or truly moral commitment of the whole being in which the “disposition of self-transcending relational love becomes the center of individual existence, producing the life of service to others and of Love-Communion with the Living God.”3 *
I. Bubba [Da] Free John, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1978), p. 425.
2. Da Free John, The Bodily Sacrifice of Attention
(Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1981),
3. Bubba [Da] Free John, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, p. 409.
What is commonly practiced as religion tends to bypass the necessity for individual moral transformation and sacrifice . . .
As the intuitive and psychic dimension of the being begins to flower, the individual in the fourth stage of life becomes capable of living a truly religious way of life, founded on devotional surrender to the Living God or Presence that is obvious to the awakened intuition. For the spiritual practitioner in the fourth stage of life, worship and prayer are not empty ceremonialism or merely symbolic ritual, but expressions of conscious participation in a great sacrificial process of surrender to and communion with the omnipresent Life-Force.
Although entrance into the fourth stage of life is only the beginning of spiritual life, it requires a degree of commitment and maturity that has been displayed by only a small percentage of humanity. What is commonly practiced as religion tends to bypass the necessity for individual moral transformation and sacrifice, and to rely on the irrational acceptance of an historical system of consoling or “salvatory” beliefs, rituals, and codes of social behavior that keep people in a state of spiritual immaturity because no demand is made for responsible exercise of the will and discriminative intelligence.
Generally speaking, each belief system, being expressive of a level of maturity either explicitly or implicitly denies the legitimacy of all other systems, and demands rigid allegiance on the part of its adherents—a situation which inevitably spawns conflict.
Aside from the gross and tragic dramatization of conflict represented by interreligious warfare, the dogmatic dependence on and adherence to rigid “beliefs” has led to schisms and tensions within the major religions. We can observe the relatively benign differences of opinion between the various schools of Buddhism, the more contentious disagreement between worshippers of God-with-form and God-without-form in Hinduism, the periodic persecution of the Sufi mystics by the fundamentalists within Islam, and the terrible Protestant-Catholic wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries . . . and today.
Even within the major divisions of the great religions of the world, the denominations have again subdivided so that Protestantism, for example, has become a jungle of conflicting sects and subsects, each competing with all others for allegiance to its particular doctrinal interpretation of “truth.” While there is certainly no sin in differentiation and pluralism, separatism and antagonistic tensions between religious groups have obscured the real need to establish a compassionate and cooperative human culture. Yet, it is only such a strife-free and benign sociocultural environment that fosters individual growth into the higher stages of human existence.
“Until we have created a human order that is fundamentally free of mutual threat, it will not be common for people to live in a truly awakened and peaceful state, not only of mind, but of body (or the total bodymind). The body-mind must receive the signals that the stressful world has been overcome, that we need not fear, that we presently have a peaceful human society, not a society full of bombs and benighted craziness. The evolutionary mechanism of the bodily being is programmed to awaken to its next higher centers of function only when the chronic problems of its lower functional centers have been solved and when the being can live without chronically creating degenerative stress chemistry.”
Within Christianity, the ecumenical movement represents a recognition of the need for the ending of strife and provincialism and the promotion of communication and cooperation among all Christian Churches.5 Institutions such as the World Council of Churches, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, and the Ecumenical Institute have made sincere efforts to heal the rift between the various Protestant groups, and even between Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy to some degree. However, in the camp of Roman Catholicism, the medieval ecclesiological claim to supremacy is still a ghost to be reckoned with. Even within Protestantism the Southern Baptists, the Missouri Synod Lutherans, and various Pentecostal groups have spoken out as significant critics of the ecumenical movement.
4. Da Free John, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House! (Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1980), pp. 239-40.
5. See N. Goodall, Ecumenical Progress: A Decade of Change in the Ecumenical Movement, 1961-1971 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972), and Bernard Lambert, Ecumenism: Theology and History, trans. Lancelot C. Sheppard (London: Bums and Oates; New York: Herder and Herder, 1967).
Nonetheless, in its relations with other religions, notably Buddhism, Christianity shows signs of a softening of its traditional policy of antagonism. Thomas Merton’s involvement with Zen Buddhism stands out as a particularly benign interchange.5 With each new year, more books are published extending the dialogue between Christians and Buddhists.6 7 The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, hosts an annual conference on Christian and Buddhist Meditation. To a lesser extent, a promising dialogue has also begun between Christianity and Hinduism.8
Yet, the tendency toward separatism, exclusivism, and even armed opposition between various religions remains a threat in the world today. Master Da Free John observes:
“Large-scale institutional religion is not primarily a benign power in the world. We have only to look at the cultural and political conflicts in Europe and the Middle East to see how the immense institutions of ancient religion have now become, for the most part, contentious, absolutist, and the sources of petty social conflicts. And the problem is made extreme by the immensity of these institutions, each of which controls millions of people.
“And why is it that religious institutions, which seem to be founded on higher human and cultural persuasions, ultimately become the primary basis of social conflict and even personal neurosis?
The reason is that religious institutions are obliged to deal with masses of immature and unevolved people who have very little will or capacity for the evolutionary and practical cultural exercise of higher religious or spiritual consciousness. As a result, the institutions of the ‘Church’ develop much like institutions of ‘State’ under the same conditions of universal human irresponsibility. ”9
In the following section of THE LAUGHING MAN we present Master Da Free John’s summary statement on the nature of true religion, “The Subject of Religion.” In this essay Master Da points out that religion, rather than consisting of a specific set of beliefs or behaviors, is the process of the transcendence of separation from the Divine. Thus, the justification for an individual’s particular approach to that process is only in his actual Realization of the Divine Condition. From this standpoint, conflict between the various approaches to religion is seen to be unnecessary.
Additionally, we offer John Theobald’s penetrating examination of the Christian tradition, entitled “Beyond Conventional Christianity,” which is excerpted from a series of radio programs by the author. In this discourse, focusing on the disparity between the example of Jesus’ life and the behavior of Christian institutions and individuals, Dr. Theobald explores some of the i’ strengths and weaknesses of the religion founded on the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
6. Thomas Merton. Mystics and Zen Masters (New York: Farrar. Straus, and Giroux, 1967).
7. The best overview to date on the theological issues of this dialogue is Christianity Meets Buddhism by H. Dumoulin (LaSalle, III.: Open Court, 1974).
8. See Vedanta and Christian Faith by Bede Griffiths (Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973).
9. Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Witt Soon Be Announced by the White House! pp. 194-95.
While suggesting that the “divine force” of Jesus persists in the communion of saints, John Theobald rightly criticizes the practices of mere personality worship, substitutionary atonement, and salvation by belief. Spiritual life demands a high degree of personal application and individual responsibility as the basis for right use of an Adept. As Master Da expresses it:
“You must be responsible for yourself at the human level, and in a profoundly uncommon way. You must live the ordinary discipline yourself. You yourself must be love under all ordinary, daily conditions. You must make a moral change in your life. There is no way whereby you can be relieved of this necessity, and nobody can do it for you. But all of that ordinary personal and moral responsibility simply prepares you for the right relationship to the Spiritual Agency made available by the Divine through the Spiritual Master. Such a one is your unique advantage, because he is present in the same bodily form as you—manifest in this same physical condition, with the same nervous system, the same kind of brain. But in him all of these things are raised to an absolute level of functioning, so that entering into contact or Communion with that individual brings changes even at the level of the psycho-physical body which you bring into relationship with him.
“The abstract Deity cannot serve you in that way, you see, because the physics of this Process must be directly present, and the human Demonstration of the Process must be present, in a form that can do its Work in your case. That Work is the purpose of the Spiritual Master, because he represents a state of the ultimate physics of things that is your potential but not your actuality at the present time. The abstract Divine and the potential powers of the universe are just as true as the Spiritual Master, but they are not organized (except in the case of the Spiritual Master) for the sake of the immediate transformation of human beings. If people enter into right relationship with the Spiritual Master, then they themselves begin to realize the same transformations.”’
10. Ibid., pp. 367-68.
Suggested Readings Related to the Fourth Stage of Life
Holkeman, Anthony, ed. The Four Major Cults: Christian Science! Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdman, 1976.
Martin, Walter R. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany Fellowship. 1976.