As the human being moves up the ladder of evolution, so the center of his consciousness moves into successively higher bodies. Those of the lowest evolutionary status are aware only of their physical entity and live as though that alone were real. Simple survival and physical maintenance are their sole drives. It is these people who demand that their religion promise them earthly benefits, an opulent earth-type afterlife, and in some religions: the eventual resurrection of the body and its possession by them eternally.
In the next step of evolution the individual begins to identify intensely with his feelings, especially his emotions, and gauges all things by his emotional reaction to them. This person demands that his religion be a devotional one of inspiration and “love” that will reunite him with his “loved ones” in “the sweet by and by” where he will be everlastingly “happy.”
On the next rung of the evolutionary ladder, the human being becomes identified with and absorbed in the senses, reaching out for more and novel sensory experiences. He demands that his religion be one of beautiful and impressive worship, and one which will take him to heaven where he will hear beautiful music, seek beautiful scenes, and eat of the fruits of paradise.
Stepping up to the next rung, the human being discovers the wonder of his intellect. Therefore he will demand of his religion–if he does not think he is “beyond religion” by virtue of his intellectual brilliance–that it explain everything to him through an elaborate and sophisticated system of philosophy and theology and make all mysteries known so that there is nothing he does not “understand.” He will like it even better if it imparts to him the knowledge of “mysteries” that those outside the religion do not understand, thus making him truly superior to them.
Although physical, emotional, and sensory conditions may still greatly affect him, he has grown somewhat tired of them. But now he has this new toy, the whole new dimension of the intelligent mind, the ability to bring into his scope of perception ideas of things he never dreamed of in previous lives. And so he becomes like a bird that has been caged so long he only wants to fly and fly and fly in the realms of the intellect. Just as a person who has almost died of thirst tends to drink too much, or someone who has been starving tends to eat too much, in the same way the intellectual man ends up with mental indigestion.
Finally spiritual intuition arises in him, and it dawns on him that playing with all those ideas has not really produced any change or gotten him anywhere. In other words, he can think and think about water, discuss water, learn its chemical formula, read books on water, but all that does not give him a single drop of the real thing.
So in time he comes to realize that abstractions are not enough. But most of the great teachers in the world have spoken in abstractions–at least publicly or through scriptures–on a very high and exclusively intellectual level.
Although the writings of great masters of wisdom might speak of what attainments are possible through the evolution of the human consciousness and urge people to move on higher to these states, the “how” has almost always in time been lost because people have preferred to hear the ideals rather than learn the process for their actualization. We keep a description of the goal, but we lose lose the map, so we cannot find the goal.
It is very inspiring to read such things as how the goal of the spirit is to be like the radiant drop of dew which drops into and merges in the infinite Ocean of Being, but how do we get to that Ocean of Being? It is thrilling to hear that he who knows the Immortal Being becomes himself immortal. But how will we accomplish that immortalizing knowing? There must come a time when we leave the advertising aside and get busy obtaining the product.
And that is when Yoga begins, for Yogananda often said: “Yoga is the beginning of the end.”