March 16, 2011

Reading books and spiritual life

The spiritual marketplaceImage by EyalNow via Flickr

Sometimes people ask me which books to read or not to read for good spiritual development.

This question is very difficult to answer. I have always kept some principles for myself, but will first give a comparison that has helped me.

We can compare spiritual food with physical food. In the physical world our body needs love and light and warmth and water and substantial food. We also breathe in air. Our body also needs enough rest in sleep and relaxation.

In the spiritual realm we also need love and we need the light of inspiration which we can receive through meditation and prayer. We need the spiritual warmth of a loving and caring environment. There also is advantage of living in a pure spiritual atmosphere, which could be compared with air. Food and water in a spiritual sense can be compared to reading and hearing truth.

The physical body should not just consume. It also has to act and do exercises or workouts. The same is true for our spiritual life. We cannot just read books and meditate or pray because in a spiritual sense we would become very weak or even fat and unhealthy. In a spiritual sense we must give out to others and fulfill the mission we received.

We cannot just always give out in spiritual life. Just like it is true for the physical life, the spirit can only build up its muscles in times of rest.

For the physical body it is true that we need different food in different stages of life. Food that is good for adults could be detrimental or even deathly for small children. When we eat the wrong kind of food we could get ill and eventually die from it.

Very much the same is true for spiritual food contained in books or expressed through spoken word or in films.

Unlike it was for our ancestors, we have easy access to practically all that once has been written. There is a certain danger here lurking around the corner. Even if the content of a text is entirely trustworthy, it could still give us a spiritual food indigestion because we are not ready to understand it.

Still much more danger is in words in which truth and untruth have been mixed. This is like when we eat processed food to which all kind of harmful ingredients have been added. In the beginning you don’t notice how this affects the body, but eating such food for many years gradually can weaken the body and make it ill.

Some books are written with the purpose to make you believe lies. They are almost always wrapped as an attractive package.

How to deal with this in such a way that your spiritual life will prosper and not suffer? I don’t think it is possible to give strict rules for this. It is very personal and of course also always an individual decision.

When you read something you might try to pay attention to how this affects your thoughts, feelings and life. When you feel getting inspired and moved to give out love, chances are that what you read is good for you. If however you feel getting darker, depressed and negative and more doubts come in you, you may decide that these books are not a good choice for you at this stage of your life.

Some people need to read books that spread lies, not to digest those lies but to expose them. This is only advisable when you have advanced far enough to really distinguish between true and untrue. There is a danger of getting too much involved with this. Then your outlook on life might be to always criticize what is not good while you yourself don’t prosper as you don’t receive enough good spiritual food.

Enjoy your carefully selected and prepared meal of good spiritual food!

March 1, 2008

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