Why Does It Matter for People to Develop Spiritually?
One way of thinking about the reason for the existence of the material realm is that it is at least one of the ways in which Ultimate Divine Spirit causes itself to experience, know, and understand itself better. For this to work, it makes sense that consciousness would need to be present within the material realm, not just observe it from without. To observe it from without would be like a person having a body but never residing within it, so that it was only operated by that person's mind as a kind of puppet in a production. The puppet could act under the puppeteer's control, but the puppeteer could never truly understand the puppet's experience. If all you knew of life was whatever you made a puppet do, you would know very little of life, indeed.
On the other hand, if your consciousness were inside the doll and unaware of anything of value existing outside your little stage, you would know nothing but the things that limited existence would allow. How would you understand your true nature if you did not know your world was a theater and there was any more point to your existence than to simply live out your life as circumstances and unseen influences dictated? Spiritual development allows us to move beyond the limits of the stage while still making the best use of it. By experiencing the stage and also moving beyond its limits, understanding can be realized and brought forth from the material world, thus accomplishing the (or an) aim behind having a material realm. In other words, a two-way flow must occur. Divine Spirit must enter into the material realm, and the spirit of the individual must also rise above it.
If there is to be a flow, having it be in both directions would seem not only necessary for the goal but also vital for the health of all concerned. If all one does is try to rise, one can become unable to deal with the apparent imperfections and accompanying disappointments of ordinary life. This can mean attempting to escape by way of isolation, becoming disillusioned and bitter, falling to one's own vanity and possibly megalomania, or simply having a complete breakdown from being unable to cope. All of these things would slow, halt, or even reverse the upward reach.
Only attempting to bring Divine Spirit downward can result in selfish demand toward It, a holier-than-thou attitude that may lead to domineering behavior on Its supposed behalf, loss of a sense of connection and commonality with all life, pettiness, arbitrariness, impracticality, and failure to accept personal responsibility. By these things, downward reach is deadened and replaced with emptiness and falsehood.
Once we know it means so much for us to foster a two directional flow, we can bring it about and assist it in various ways. Prayer, study, ritual and ceremony, vows and commitments, artistic creativity and presentation, the display and use of spiritual symbols, and the living out of one's moral values (as opposed to living by a set of behaviors that are not clearly understood, simply because somebody says they are "what people are supposed to do") are among the kinds of things that will aid in maintaining good focus and developing the individual's spirit. These same things will also allow the expression of Divine consciousness to be made manifest in our world.
If we consider that it is all that important for the consciousness of Divine Spirit to gain experience, knowledge, and understanding, it would seem ideal for every conscious being to have the means and opportunity to develop as much as it possibly could. Every conscious being would have value. And it would seem best for every self-aware consciousness to have the means and opportunity to effect, by choice, an intentional, self-directed development. This would mean many different things can be learned and many perspectives seen, rather than only what some human "authority", with its limited awareness, decides to allow. How can development occur if every thought, word, and deed is dictated and enforced with an iron fist? And if an independent mind is needed, how can any progress be made by trying to force someone into a spiritually directed life?
While hardship can strengthen a person, there is also the risk it can set that person back with rage, disgust, or a quagmire of fear. Therefore, how can it not be wrong to intentionally inflict selfish cruelty, brutality, and abuse? And what good is an institution intended to foster learning and growth if it is riddled with corruption? These things not only damage those that are subjected to them, they also harm those that perpetrate them. Making a life that focuses only on one's own material concerns or on bettering the lives of just a select few at the expense of everyone else keeps one trapped in the theater and the puppet's life. So does grabbing for all control under the delusion that one is all wise. To those who are successful at it, it may seem less painful than being the obvious victim, but it still fails the objective. The whole is sacrificed for the greed of a temporary state of existence.
One kind of flow can stimulate the other, and blockage of one can clog the other. But elaborate activity and strenuous effort are not necessarily required from every person at all times. Something as simple as defining one's own morals and letting them be the motivation behind one's thought, speech, and actions as much as is humanly possible in this world is not only a good beginning, it is a fine way to end up and one of the best ways to get where one is going. A single act of kindness on your part can help you to be a better person, show your faith, provide a conduit for Divine influence, and aid others in doing likewise, all while making everyone concerned feel good. In the grand scheme of things, that is actually quite a lot for one small human being to accomplish.
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