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The Anthrolological Spirit in the Writings of Dom Bede Griffiths

Ed. note: This essentially is the first chapter of my thesis "The Space in the Heart of the Lotus" re-worked as a paper for the 1999 Camaldolese Institute of East-West Dialogue held inn Big Sur, California, and a chapter for the book that issued form that meeting called Purity of Heart and Contemplation. In the rest of the thesis itself I went on to explore the uses of the "spirit" element through the Hebrew scriptures, the Greek inheritance, the Christian scriptrues, especially the writings of Paul and then traced its use through some of the rest of the Christian patrisitic, monastic philosophical, and Orthodox mystical tradition.

Fr. Bede Griffiths was an Oxford educated English Benedictine monk, an author and a spiritual leader, and a prominent, internationally known figure in the arena of inter-religious dialogue.  Formerly a monk of Prinknash Abbey, England and prior of Farnborough Abbey, Scotland, he had always found himself drawn to Eastern philosophy and religion, and moved to Kerala, India in 1955 to assist in the foundation of Kurisumala Ashram, a monastery of the Syrian rite.  In 1968, he and two other monks from that ashram moved to Saccidananda Ashram (also known as Shantivanam, which means “abode of peace”) in Tamil Nadu, southern India.   This ashram had been founded in 1950 by two French priests, Abbé Jules Monchanin and Dom Henri Le Saux, O.S.B. (who later came to be known by the Hindu name Swami Abhishiktananda).  Both of these monastic foundations were attempts to found Benedictine communities following the customs of a Hindu ashram and Hindu ways of life.  As well, Fr. Bede sought through the study of the sacred writings from many of the world’s religions to find the one Source common to all religion.  Indeed, his last published work, Universal Wisdom, is a collection of excerpts from the sacred writings of various spiritual traditions with his own introductions and commentaries.  Griffiths brought himself and the monastic community of the Saccidananda Ashram under the protection of the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict in 1987.

At the beginning of his autobiographical work The Golden String, written before his move to India, Griffiths had written of his awakening to what he called the “mystery of existence.”  This awakening had come to him through the experience of nature, an experience that he felt to be best expressed and interpreted by the words of the Romantic poets that he had always loved so much––Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats.
Wordsworth taught me to find in nature the presence of a power which pervades both the universe and the [human mind].   Shelley had awakened me to the Platonic idea of an eternal world, of which the world we see is a dim reflection.  Keats had set before me the values of ‘the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination’.  These were for me not merely abstract ideas but living principles, which were working in me over many years and which I tried to comprehend in a reasoned philosophy of life.

These ideas lay dormant in Griffiths during his years as a monk in England, but were re-awakened specifically after his move to India, where he discovered that this intuition of his favored poets was the common faith of Indian culture, and had been for countless centuries.  This “power which pervades the universe and the human mind” had been revealed in the Vedas centuries before the birth of Christ; the eternal world of Plato that Shelley had suggested to him was something that had been intuited by the seers of the Upanishads;  and Keats’s “truth of the imagination” was the primordial truth that hearkened back to the very roots of human experience.

Some background information about Hinduism and its sacred writings is called for.  The religious tradition that we know now as Hinduism is a synthesis of two different spiritual traditions and cultures that came together and formed Indian civilisation.  The Indo-European Aryans migrated to the subcontinent of India around 2000 BCE, and there fused with the indigenous peoples of that region, the Dravidians, who already had a thousand-year-old civilization that was thriving in technology and trade.  The Aryans brought with them their gods and their religious practices based on ritual sacrifice.  The Scriptures that record this religion are called the Vedas; they exist in four collections: The Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda, and the Atharva Veda.  

The Vedas are mainly collections of mantras and details on sacrifices (in Sanskrit, Brahmanas).  The first part of each Veda contains mostly hymns and philosophical commentaries that explain the meaning of the ancient rites.  The second part of each Veda contains wisdom teachings, jnana-kanda, about human nature, life and death, and the nature of God.  This second part of the Vedas is called the Upanishads.  The Upanishads come from the end of the Vedic period of Hindu philosophy culminating in the 6th century BCE, and as such are considered to be the fulfilment of Vedic thought.   Etymologically the word “upanishad” means “sitting down near,” that is, at the feet of an illuminated teacher or guru.  Though the Upanishads are attached to the Vedas, Easwaran says that they seem to come from a different world; whereas the Vedas mostly concern themselves with reverently looking outward, the Upanishads look inward, “finding the powers of nature only an expression of the more awe-inspiring powers of human consciousness.”   Hence, the Katha Upanishad teaches
The self-existent Lord pierced the senses
To turn outward.  Thus we look to the world
Outside and see not the Self [literally “Atman”] within us. 
A sage withdrew his senses from the world
Of change and, seeking immortality,
Looked within and beheld the deathless Self.

There are ten Upanishads that are considered principal according to the authority of Shankara, the eighth-century Indian mystic.  Four or five other minor Upanishads from later traditions are also considered to be significant by scholars.  The Upanishadic teachers did not believe so much in crying out to gods or in the ritual of sacrifice as much as they sought to find the Reality (Brahman) that lay behind the cosmos.  Particularly, and this is what is most important, they thought that the essence (Atman) underlying individual human consciousness was the same as the Reality (Brahman) underlying the cosmos.  Their main teaching is that there is a Reality underlying life which rituals cannot reach, and that that same Reality is the Real Self of each human being.  Each human being is one with this power that underlies the universe, and each human being can realize this unity directly in the course of this life, without the mediation of priests or rituals.  The Upanishads “teach, in sum, the basic principles of what Aldous Huxley has called the Perennial Philosophy, which is the wellspring of all religious faith.”

The Bhagavad Gita, which Griffiths loved so much and wrote his own commentary on called The River of Compassion, is considered the crowning glory of Sanskrit literature.  It was probably written about 500 BCE, the same era as the Upanishads, but did not really come into prominence until sometime around the beginning of the Common Era.  It is actually only eighteen chapters out of a much longer work known as the Mahabarata.  The Bhagavad Gita (or Song of the Lord) itself is a conversation between the prince Arjuna and the Lord Krishna that takes place just before the culminating moment of the epic, when Arjuna is to lead his brothers into a great battle.

According to Griffiths, the great insight that the Vedic philosophers had come to was an understanding of the threefold nature of reality, that the world is at once physical, psychological, and spiritual.  These three realms of reality are always interdependent and interwoven.  In other words, according to Vedic philosophy, every physical reality has a psychological aspect, and both the psychological and physical realms have an underlying reality which is the source of both other realms–¬–spiritual reality.  The Vedic philosophers never separated these aspects.   Griffiths claims that this understanding of the threefold nature of the world
. . . underlies not only the Vedas but all ancient thought.  In the primitive mind (which is also the natural mind) there is no such thing as a merely physical object.  Every material thing has a psychological aspect, a relation to human consciousness, and this in turn is related to the supreme spirit which pervades both the physical world and human consciousness.

This integrated understanding of the universe was “typical of the whole ancient world which had emerged out of the mythological world of more ancient times. . .”  Griffiths called this unitive vision of reality
. . . the Oriental view of the universe, which is in fact, the view of the ‘perennial philosophy’, the cosmic vision which is common to all religious tradition from the most primitive tribal religions to the great world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.

Griffiths asserts that up until the Middle Ages (500-1500 CE), in China, India, and the Islamic world as well as in Europe, a creative synthesis had been achieved and was maintained in which the physical, psychic and spiritual worlds were integrated.  Economic, social, political and cultural orders were all conceived as a harmonious unity in which each human being was related to nature, to one’s fellows and to the Divine.  According to Griffiths this unitive vision began to be lost at the Renaissance.
After [the Middle Ages] this creative synthesis began to disintegrate.  The Reformation and the Renaissance, the ‘Enlightenment’ and the French Revolution, the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions, are all stages in this process of disintegration.

Griffiths also accused Protestantism of breaking up the organic unity of the mystical body of Christ, rationalism of setting the human mind free from the divine, and communism of depriving humans beings of their basic liberty and enslaving them to the material world.   Consequently, in our times we have now inherited a mind-set that separates matter from mind, and separates matter and mind from the Supreme Reality, from God.   Especially the West suffers from the disease of the merely rational mind that
. . . causes us to see [matter, mind and spirit] as separate from one another, to imagine a world extended outside of us in space and time, and the mind as something separate from the external world.

Griffiths saw far-reaching consequences for the West slowly regaining this original and ancient vision, this perennial philosophy, through depth psychology and modern physics.  It is specifically the application of this world view to human nature that is the subject of this paper.  Though there are no specific references to Aldous Huxley in Griffiths’s writings, and it is quite possible that Griffiths uses “Perennial Philosophy” in the standard Western sense of Aristotelian/Thomistic thought, it is equally feasible that it is Huxley’s version of the Perennial Philosophy that Griffiths has in mind, as will become clear from further exposition of Griffiths’s thought below.  Huxley, coincidentally in his introduction to Christopher Isherwood’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, makes the statement that the focus of Indian religion “is also one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made.”   He states it in four points.  First: “the phenomenal world of matter and of individualised consciousness––the world of things and animals and [human beings] and even gods––is a manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being. . .”  Second: human beings are capable of realizing the existence of the Divine Ground “by a direct intuition [that is] superior to discursive reasoning,” a knowledge that unites the knower with that which is known.  Third: human beings possess a double nature, “a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner person, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul.”  Fourth: the end and purpose of human life is to identify oneself with this eternal Self and “so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.”   It is the third point that leads us specifically into Bede Griffiths’s anthropology, and the connection between the three realms and human nature.

Just as all created reality has a spiritual, psychological, and material dimension, so each human being is spirit, soul, and body.  It is this tripartite anthropology that became the core of Griffiths’s teaching and writings.  This is not the typical Western way to speak of Christian anthropology.  We do not normally distinguish spirit from soul, but speak of the human person as either body and soul or body and spirit, though we do speak of the “spiritual soul.”  For example, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says:
Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit. . . . This does not introduce a duality into the soul.  “Spirit” signifies that from creation [human beings] are ordered to a supernatural end and that [one’s] soul can be gratuitously raised ... to communion with God.

Griffiths, among others, found this anthropology lacking.  On the one hand Griffiths saw the need always to distinguish between the spirit and the soul, between the spiritual and the psychic; on the other hand he saw the need to specifically understand and accentuate the importance of the spiritual realm, and so bring the other two realms to their fruition.  Once, in a presentation just before his death, he said, “The body, mind, and spirit are the main focus of all my thinking presently; we have to integrate these three levels of reality that exist at every moment.”

Griffiths claimed that this view of the human person as body, soul and spirit was fundamental in the Bible and very clear in St. Paul.   As body, human nature is part of the whole physical universe.  It evolves out of the physical universe, from matter and life.  As soul (psyche), humanity is the head of the universe; it is, in a sense, matter coming into consciousness and forming an individual soul.  But then, like matter itself, that soul has the potential to open to the pneuma, the spirit, which is the point where the human spirit opens onto the Spirit of God.

This awakening came for Griffiths, as noted above, through his study of the Vedanta.  That discovery then opened him to see this anthropology latent in Judeo-Christian theology as well.   So following is his own explanation of certain aspects of Hinduism which he used to explain this world view.  In Hindu theology there are many different ways to speak about the Godhead.  Let us examine two of the most basic ones.

At first glance Hinduism appears to be polytheistic, but ultimately all the gods (in Sanskrit devas) are manifestations of the one God, the Supreme One.  There are generally three different names given for this Supreme Being.  The first and most typical is Brahman.  The word Brahman roughly means the Fullness or the Ultimate, the reality behind everything.  A second name for this ultimate reality is Atman.  Whereas Brahman has the nuance of reality, Atman has the nuance of essence.  Atman is the Spirit within everything.  This is the aspect we will delve into more below.  A third name for God is Purusha.  This is the personal God, God as the Person, the Supreme Person. 

Another way to express this same reality is to say that Brahman is manifested at three different levels.  First, God is Nirguna Brahman, the ultimate transcendent mystery beyond all word or thought, infinite transcendent reality, God without qualities or attributes, beyond everything that can be conceived.  Then there is Saguna Brahman, God with attributes and related to the universe.  In this sense God is conceived of as Creator, source of all reality, consciousness and existence, and Lord and Saviour.   As the Chanogya Upanishad says: “The universe comes forth from Brahman and will return to Brahman. Verily, all is Brahman.”   In Return to the Center, Griffiths equates this view with the Trinity.
The Father is nirguna Brahman, the naked Godhead, the abyss of Being, the divine darkness, without form and void, the silence where no word is spoken, where no thought comes, the absolute nothingness from which everything comes, the not-being from which all being comes, the One without a second, which is utterly empty yet immeasurably full, wayless and fathomless. . . . The Son is saguna Brahman, the Word through which the Father receives a name, by which he is expressed, by which he is conceived. . . . In the Son the whole creation comes forth eternally from the Father.

Finally, as mentioned above, God is Atman, manifested as indwelling in each person and each thing.  Again, it is this aspect, Atman, God as indwelling Supreme Spirit, that is the focus of this thesis.  Atman is the spiritual aspect of the three interpenetrating realms of reality, beyond the physical and the psychological.  Atman is also each human being’s highest and truest self, the self that is ultimately one with the Supreme Self.  God as Atman dwells in each person as one’s own inner spirit, as one’s own atman.  This is the Spirit of God in the human person, the Spirit of God’s Self-communication.

The Sanskrit word “atman” is usually translated as “self.”  It is derived from two Sanskrit roots that mean “to move constantly” and “to pervade.”   At various times the word atman means wind, breath, oneself (reflexive pronoun), body, essence, controller and intelligence principle.   This is a striking similarity to the Hebrew ruah and the Greek pneuma, so it is not without justification that Griffiths equates this atman with our notion of spirit. 

One can discern three different uses of the term atman in Hindu theology.  These nuances of the word “atman” correspond to nuances found in Pauline and general Christian use of the word “pneuma” or spirit: God the Holy Spirit (in Christianity, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity); the apportioned  indwelling Spirit given to each person by virtue of grace; and, finally, one’s own spirit, what some call the “natural spirit” or the human spirit.  So in Hindu thought there is first of all the Paramatman, the “Supreme Being” or “Supreme Self,” referring specifically to the Godhead.  Griffiths equates this sense, the Great Self, with the Christian concept of the third person of the Christian Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.  Paramatman, the Supreme Spirit, is beyond word and thought.  This Paramatman is also present in each human being in the depth of his or her being.  This is a second nuance to the word atman––the Spirit of God in a human being.     This seems to correspond to the notion of apportioned Spirit common to both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and a concept that is specifically Pauline, as we shall see later.  In a third nuance, atman can also refer to the human being’s own spirit,  "spirit" as an anthropological element.  This usage of spirit is suggested in Pauline literature when he refers to “your spirit” or “my spirit.”
Meditation is of course essential for the Upanishadic teachers.
One who meditates upon and realises the Self discovers that everything in the cosmos––energy and space, fire and water, name and form, birth and death, mind and will, word and deed, mantram and meditation––all come from the Self.
. . . Those who meditate upon the Self and realise the Self go beyond decay and death, beyond separateness and sorrow.  They see the Self in everyone and obtain all things.
Control the senses and purify the mind.  In a pure mind there is a constant awareness of the Self.

In meditation one detaches consciousness from the body and senses.  Here is Fr. Bede himself explaining his own approach to meditation:
In meditation I try to let go of everything of the outer world of the senses, the inner world of thoughts, and listen to the inner voice, the voice of the Word, whcih comes in the silence, in the stillness when all the acitivity of body and mind cease."  

Then, the deeper meditation gets, one detaches consciousness from all the layers of mind, to ultimately reach the state of turiya, dreamless sleep, in the depths of the unconscious where one is aware of neither body nor mind.  At this stage every trace of individuality is removed and the meditator realizes pure being, Brahman, the ground of existence, the essence of every created thing.
Simultaneous with this discovery comes another: this unitary awareness is also the ground of one’s own being, the core of personality.  This divine ground the Upanishads call simply Atman, “the Self”––spelled with a capital to distinguish it from individual personality. . . In all persons, all creatures, the Self is the innermost essence. And it is identical with Brahman: our real Self is not different from the ultimate Reality called God.

The classic example of this teaching is in the Chandogya Upanishad where a father tells his son over and over again through many examples how the Atman is everywhere, the hidden essence that merges with all things.  At one point the father compares the atman to salt dissolved in water and says:
It is everywhere, though we see it not.
Just so, dear one, the Self is everywhere,
Within all things, although we see him not.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.

It is this last line––in Sanskrit, Tat tvam asi! You are that!–– that is arguably the most famous of the Upanishadic literature.  Griffiths says that “this is the record of the decisive moment in Indian history, the discovery of the identity of the Brahman and the Atman.”   This is the experience that underlies all subsequent Hindu thought.  Another famous image, “the space in the lotus of the heart,” comes from the same Upanishad.  (The “city of Brahman” here refers to the human body.)
In the city of Brahman is a secret dwelling, the lotus of the heart.  Within this dwelling is a space, and within that space is the fulfilment of our desires.  What is within the space should be longed for and realized.  As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart.

The next necessary step is to distinguish spirit from soul. In Hindu anthropology this is done with the same word atman and a different prefix¬¬––“jiva.” The jivatman is the individual self or the soul, the Ultimate reality in an individual.   It is the individual self as opposed to the Great Self, but it is not the individual spirit; Griffiths and Sharma both say the term is ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬equivalent to our notion of “soul.”  Griffiths employs the sense used by late Vedic and Sanskrit literature, referring to the jivatman as the “lower self” or the self with a small “s.” Here “soul” includes the senses, the mind, the ego and the intellect, all separate components in Hindu psychology––in Sanskrit the indriyas, manas, ahankara and buddhi respectively.  The intellect (buddhi) is of special importance because it is at the point of the intellect, which is our capability for self-transcendence, “where we can go beyond ourselves.”  To humanity, by virtue of the soul and its intellect, belongs the psychological world which stands between the spiritual world of heaven and the material world of earth.   It is important to note, however, that the conscious mind is only one aspect of the jivatman; it is a complex organic structure in which many other levels of the mind exist––the subconscious, unconscious, preconscious, and higher forms of consciousness.  Together they embrace the whole world of consciousness.

But, always, beyond the lower self or soul (jivatman) of each human being, there is the higher self, the atman, which is actually the true Self, “the Self of our striving.” This higher self Griffiths equates with the human spirit, hence quoting and paraphrasing verse 6:5 of the Bhagavad Gita to read
With the help of your spirit (paramatman) lift up your soul (jivatman): do not allow your soul to fall.  For your soul can be your friend, and your soul can be your enemy.  A person’s soul is a friend when by the spirit one has conquered the soul; but when one is not lord of one’s soul then this becomes one’s enemy. 

What is to be noted here is the dynamic between the soul and the spirit.  The spirit is the force or vitality of the soul’s striving toward perfection.  But the soul can be the enemy to the spirit; the lower self can be an enemy to the true or higher self.  The soul stands between the atman and the world of senses, passions and activity.  It is the soul with its intellect that makes the choice either to turn toward the world and the body, or toward the Spirit within and live by the Spirit’s law.  It is this function of the soul to choose between the world of sense and activity and the world of the Spirit that Griffiths uses to make the connection to Biblical, specifically Pauline, thought.  With the translator Zaehner he points out that according to St. Paul to live by the Spirit is to live by the Holy Spirit within, and to live by the flesh is to live by one’s natural feelings.  This latter Paul calls anthropos psychikos, i.e., a person of the soul, the former anthropos pneumatikos, i.e., the person of the Spirit.
The atman is the point of meeting between God and the human person.  The atman is our real Self, and when body and soul are under the control of the inner atman we are yukta (integrated), “realized,” or anthropos pneumatikos in Pauline vocabulary.  When we are thus realized, the Spirit of God meets the human spirit.  This is the goal of Yoga:
[Yoga is] . . . a means of union, union of the powers of the body in harmony, union of body and soul in harmony, union of body and soul with the inner Spirit.  But this is only attained when body and soul are ‘sacrificed’ to the Spirit. . . .  This is the death the body and soul have to undergo, the sacrifice of their autonomy, their surrender to the inner Spirit.

What then is the relation of the individual atman, the human spirit, to the Paramatman, the Spirit of God?  This is where language breaks down because later Hindu spirituality, especially under the influence of Shankara, also has the concept of advaita––non-duality.   It is a typically Western way of approaching the problem to point out that there are three notions of atman: God-as-spirit, God-as-indwelling Spirit, and one’s own spirit.  To a Hindu, this does not necessarily matter.  Even though we are pointing to atman as being at once the essence of the Supreme Being and as abiding in the individual soul, to the Hindu they are “not two.”  The basic ideal of the relationship between the individual soul (jivatman) and Brahman is identity between the supreme Spirit and the vital spirit.  The Supreme Spirit enters the human body as the individual atman.  On entering the body the atman is its vital force, directing the functions of its organs, becoming one with the different senses. As well, the atman is the intelligent principle in a person.  Still, to the Hindu ultimately the individual atman is nothing other than the Supreme Atman.  The goal of life is to realize that one’s true nature is one with the Atman.  So a Hindu can say “I am Brahman.”  (Also, “You are that.”)  Of course, in Hindu thinking this entails a jivatman transmigrating from one body to another until the individual soul increases enough in knowledge to be freed from the cycle of birth and death (karma) by overcoming ignorance.   This liberation (moksha) is only achieved, this ignorance overcome, by realizing one’s true nature, precisely by realizing one’s identity with the Atman.
On this ever-revolving wheel of being
The individual self goes round and round
Through life after life, believing itself
To be a separate creature, until
It sees its identity with the Lord of Love
And attains immortality in the indivisible whole.

He is the eternal Reality, sing the Scriptures,
And the ground of existence.
Those who perceive him in every creature
Merge in him and are released from the wheel
of birth and death.

While Christianity does not, of course, accept the notion of the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), the discovery of the Self has definite resonances with the language of our own mystical tradition.  Griffiths explains:
. . . in the normal understanding, as seen in the advaitic school [the school of non-duality], the individual self is identified with the Supreme Self.  “I am Brahman.”  “Thou art that.”  It is an identity with the Absolute.  That is a genuine and profound mystical experience without a doubt.  By contrast, in the Christian understanding the human spirit is never identified with the Spirit of God.

Again Huxley’s explanation helps, too:
The Hindu categorically affirms that “thou art That”––that the indwelling Atman is the same as Brahman.  For Orthodox Christianity there is not an identity between the spark and God.  Union of the human spirit with God takes place––union so complete that the word “deification” is applied to it; but it is not a union of identical substances.  According to Christian theology, the saint is “deified,” not because Atman is Brahman, but because God has assimilated the purified human spirit into the divine substance by an act of grace.

Huxley only seems here to refer to Atman as indwelling in the human person and does not seem to articulate here that Atman is one of the aspects of God, that which pervades the universe and all matter.  Still, whereas the Hindu understands union with God by identity (“I am Brahman”), Griffiths taught that the uniquely Christian insight is that the Godhead is a communion of persons.  He points specifically to the Trinity as the example of this. Hence we look forward not to “union by identity” but “union by communion”:
. . . in love we go out of ourselves, we offer ourselves to another, each gives [oneself] to the other but you don’t lose yourself in the other, you find yourself.  That is the mystery of communion in God and with God–¬–the Father and the Son become a total unity and are yet distinct, and that is true of [human beings] and God as well.  We are one, and yet we are distinct.  There is never a total loss of self.  In consciousness there is pure identity, but in love there’s never pure identity because love involves two, and yet the two become one.  That’s the great mystery.  It’s a paradox.

Hence, the Indian metaphor of the ocean and the droplet that re-merges with the ocean “is not adequate. . .”:
You can say the drop merges in the ocean, but you can also say the ocean is present in the drop. . . . In the ultimate state the individual is totally there, totally realized, but also in total communion with all the rest.

Still there are distinct resonances with Christian mystical language and a valuable insight offered from this Eastern understanding.
This is the great discovery of Indian thought, the discovery of the Self, the Atman, the Ground of personal being, which is one with the Brahman, the Ground of personal being.  It is not reached by thought; on the contrary, it is only reached by transcending thought.  Reason, like the self of which it is a faculty, has to transcend itself.

This, then, is the goal of all holy discipline, to discover, to realize that my ultimate self is one with the Great Self.  As for the meaning of this relationship between the Great Self and the individual self, Griffiths gives no systematic treatment except to say that the two, the individual spirit and the Supreme Spirit meet at the still point, in the heart.  When they really meet they are no longer two. The Paramatman is present in each human being in the depths of one’s own spirit.  The human spirit meets the Spirit of God and we experience God’s presence; when we enter into the depths of our soul, or rather the depths of our own spirit, we discover the depths of God, the Lord dwelling within us.   The human spirit is a dynamic point, the point where the human being is open to God.   This is the point of human self-transcendence.  When we respond to grace we open to the divine.  Griffiths also seems to equate this human spirit with the thought of Karl Rahner, whom he said he “admired more than anyone else,” specifically in regard to Rahner’s notion of the supernatural existential. 
[Rahner] says that in every human being there is the capacity for self-transcendence.  Beyond our body, [note again the same language] beyond the normal faculties of the soul, we are open to the transcendent reality.  That capacity is in us at all times, and it can grow and become total, so it is possible for the human being to give [oneself] totally to God.

In another place, Griffiths goes so far as to link up Rahner’s supernatural existential, Atman, the pneuma and Buddha Nature!
In Christian terms we would say you have your body, your physical organism, and you have learned to control a great deal of that energy: you have your psychological organism, senses, feeling, imagination, reason, will and then you go beyond your body, beyond your psyche to your pneuma, your spirit, the Atman in Sanskrit, and there you open to the Divine, the transcendent, the Infinite. . . what St Francis de Sales called “the fine point of the soul,” the point which Karl Rahner mentions as the point of self-transcendence. . .  It is in every human being. It is what is called the Buddha nature.

One other Christian writer to echo this understanding is the Zen master LaSalle who writes that "Zen leads (one) into the realm of the pure spirit.  The pure spirit, which knows neither psyche nor body, is God.  The long journey of Zen meditation leads to that place."

When we resist grace we fall from that point of the spirit to the psyche, that is, the soul with all of its faculties and powers.  
. . . [T]hen we become subject to the powers of this world, the demonic powers as well as other powers.  But at that point of the spirit is the Self within all beings.  At the still point within my spirit meets the Spirit of God. . .
The Fall of Genesis then takes on a new meaning:
The Fall is our fall into this present mode of consciousness, where everything is divided, centred on itself and set in conflict with others.  The Fall is the fall into self-consciousness, that is, into a consciousness centered in the self which has lost touch with the eternal ground of consciousness, which is the true Self.
In a sense, the reflective consciousness is the source of all sin and misery, but it is also the source of salvation:
. . . the reflective consciousness turned away from the eternal light of Truth and began to concentrate on [humanity] and nature.  The marvels of modern science and technology, the transformation of the world and of human society, which we have witnessed, are the fruits of this reflective consciousness centered on [humanity] and nature.  But the cost of it has been the alienation of [human beings] from [their] true [selves], from the Ground of being, of truth and morality, and now they are exposed to all the destructive forces which this has released.

Let us make now some connections between Bede Griffiths' anthroplogy and the Christian notion of purity of heart, with specific reference to the  Praktikos of Evagrius of Pontus.  In the Christian tradition of the Greek Fathers, purity of heart is associated with apatheia, passionlessness.  For Clement of Alexandria, for example, apatheia is the absense of passions (patheia), passions being not just emotions in general, but pointless, irrational reactions.  One has reached a state of apatheia when one is in full possession of the affective faculties under divine contemplation, so that any disordered emotions are resolved in a state of abiding calm.  For Evagrius there is a progression from ascesis  (asceticism or praxis) to apatheia to agape (being both love of God and love of neighbor). Apatheia is a relatively permanent state of deep calm resulting from the integration of the emotional life under the influence of agape.   Tugwell explains that it is not emotionlessness that Evagrius is trying to inculcate but

a state of harmony in which all our faculties are doing precisely what they were created to do, so that they do not disturb our equilibrium or hinder the proper clarity which the mind should have. 

There is a striking the similarity here with Griffiths' own language, though when he speaks of this same state it is in the context of meditation and yoga.  Note that yoga means both "union" (or "integration") and the steps by which one approaches that union or integration.  To return to our original formula, the spirit or atman is the point of meeting between God and the human person.  The atman is our real Self, and when body and soul are under the control of the inner atman we are yukta (integrated), “realized”.  This is where Bede makes the connection to the anthropos pneumatikos in Pauline vocabulary.  When we are thus realized, the Spirit of God meets the human spirit.  This is the goal of Yoga:

[Yoga is] . . . a means of union, union of the powers of the body in harmony, union of body and soul in harmony, union of body and soul with the inner Spirit.  But this is only attained when body and soul are ‘sacrificed’ to the Spirit. . . .  This is the death the body and soul have to undergo, the sacrifice of their autonomy, their surrender to the inner Spirit.

This sacrifice of autonomy is connected with release from the grip of the ego; one becomes yukta, integrated, when spirit, soul and body are in right relationship, with the spirit as the guiding element.    It is only when the spirit takes the lead that our faculties can do "precisely what they were created to do".  Again employing his tripartite anthropology, Griffiths explains in New Creation in Christ that we have the body, the physical organism, and we have the soul, the psyche which is the psychological organism; and at the center of the psyche is the ego:

that which in Sanskrit is called ahamkara, the 'I-maker'.  The psyche is very limited, but beyond it is the spirit, the Atman which is the point of self-transcendence.  At that point body and soul go beyond their human limitations and open to the infinite, the eternal, the divine.  

Using the creation myth of Genesis, Griffiths explains that the human body and soul were intended from creation to respond to the Spirit within, and if Adam and Eve had not fallen they would have grown in body and soul to an ever deeper relationship with God, and all of creation would have been as it was intended.  But instead of responding to the spirit within they centered on the ego, "a separated self, separated from God, from others and from the universe."  And thus human beings are trapped in the psyche because "we are all centered in the ego."   He explains in River of Compassion that there is a physical, a psychological and a spiritual level to all human action, and while the body and mind are necessarily involved in every action, behind them is the spirit, the Atman, which is meant to be the force, the motivater of every action.

(I)f the spirit is free from the chains of selfishness and has rid itself of egoism, and if the mind is free from any ill will, then no evil can be conceived.  The action will come from the Spirit within and that cannot be evil.

The most obvious means of freeing the spirit from the chains of this selfishness and ridding it of egoism is meditation.  Speaking of the use of the mantra, for instance, Griffiths says that its function is to

recollect the soul, to bring it back to its centre (sic) and unite the whole person – body, soul, and spirit – with the Spirit of God. . . Meditation is passing beyond your body and soul into that point of the spirit.

Meditation, and indeed all Christian practice, is a way of "going beyond the ego and opening to the Spirit, and then allowing the Spirit to transform us" ; and again, "The aim of asceticism is to realise the spirit within."   Thus for Evagrius, "Apatheia is the very flower of ascesis."   Similar to Evagrius' notion of equilibrium, Bede explains that, once one has realised the spirit within,

one will not be affected by what happens to the body and what happens to the soul.  Or rather, one may be affected, one may feel it, but one will not be overcome by it.  And that is what is being aimed at. . .  In all the suffering of the body and the soul, there is always the presence of the Spirit which remains unchanged, above the conflict.

It is important to note that for the Christian meditation is not a self-powered cure.  While the union involves the uniting or integrating of all aspects of our own being, the union is primarily with God.  "We cannot transform ourselves," Griffiths says, but when we go beyond the ego and open to the Spirit, we allow the Spirit to transform us.   In New Vision of Reality he speaks directly about  Gregory of Nyssa's "concept of apatheia, passionlessness, which (Gregory) relates to purity of heart", as being the effect of divine grace: "One does not become passionless and then find God, but God himself enables one to free oneself from passion and attain to this purity of heart."
    Then, when one is

freed from passion, anger and desire and as the mind becomes controlled, one reaches the state of inner stillness.  At the same time the real self, which controls the body, the mind and everything else, makes itself known.

Evagrius writes that the proof of apatheia is had when "the spirit begins to see its own light, when it remains in a state of tranquility,  and Griffiths' explains that the end of meditation is a "process of unifying all the faculties of the soul at the point of the spirit where they are permeated by the light of truth."  The result, for Evagrius is agape, selfless love: "Agape is the progeny of apatheia."   Thus for Griffiths:

the moment we go beyond the ego, beyond its rational consciousness, we enter the non-dual consciousness where we see everybody and everything as distinct but not separate.

So, Bede Griffiths use of the tripartite anthrolopology is directly connected to purity of heart, through his understanding of the ego as the trap at the center of the psyche, and his understanding of the end of meditation.  Through meditation, we go beyond the ego to find ourselves motivated by the spirit within, which can keep us in a state of equilibrium, in right relationship with the Spirit of God who guides all our actions: "You will guide me by your counsel and so you will lead me to glory."

Let examine some reasons why this anthropology is important.  First of all, it is an antidote to dualism.  By dualism is meant here the notion that the body is trapped in the soul as in a tomb, and the corollary that the body is somehow bad while the soul is good.  Not simply adding another element to a scattered, unintegrated view of the human person, this tripartite anthropology is wedded to an understanding of the three interpenetrating realms of reality––the spiritual, the psychic, and the material.  Far from the notion of casting off the body for the liberation of the soul, this view points toward integration; the truly enlightened person is one who is in tune with all these aspects of reality, sensitive not just to the material, and not just to the psychic, but also to the spiritual, to the incipient sacredness of created matter.  This is a profoundly Christian idea: created things, material and psychic, find their fulfilment in the spiritual.  This seems to me to be the deepest meaning of the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Christ.

The second reason why this distinction is important, is that it points out to Christians and non-Christians alike that there is something beyond the psychic realm.  For a generation attracted to the New Age phenomena of astrology, channelling, occult practices, and even angels, it is important to point out that these things are psychic phenomena.  While the common practice is to call these things spiritual, they are not properly of the spiritual realm: they are still created things of the psychic realm that need to be brought farther, to the realm of the spirit.  The use of hallucinogenic drugs, through which people claim to have had spiritual awakenings, are indeed opening areas of the unconscious and even higher forms of consciousness, and breaking ego boundaries and unlocking secrets.  But these are not spiritual things per se––they are still in the realm of the psychic.  And these psychic powers are neutral often, but also sometimes are evil.  Either way, there needs to be a movement beyond the realm of the psyche, to the spiritual, the realm beyond all phenomena.

Christians, too, are in an age that seems fascinated yet again with visions, locutions, and so-called charismatic gifts.  These may indeed be manifestations of authentic spiritual blessings (or not), but either way they are still in the realm of psychic phenomena and there must be a movement beyond, to the realm of the spirit.  One thinks of the warnings of St. John of the Cross to not settle for these phenomena but to press on into the darkness to the nada.  This is the realm of the spirit.  There is the classic argument about whether or not Thérèse of Lisieux was a mystic.  Some say no precisely because she did not have paranormal experiences; some say yes for the same reason.   La Salle again makes the comparison to Christianity by saying the same is expressed in the Jesus prayer of the Hesychasts

. . .  where one is enjoined not to give in even should Christ or the Mother of God, or angels appear.  Zen leads (us) into the realm of the pure spirit.  The pure spirit, which knows neither psyche nor body, is God.  The long journey of Zen meditation leads to that place.  The true Christian mystics have always strictly advised against paying attention to any psychic phenonmenoa, inner voices or similar experiences.

The next reason I think this notion of spirit is important ties in with this last point.  I feel as if we are in desperate need of recovering our mystical tradition in the West, and this cannot be done without a re-appreciation of the apophatic.  This is the realm of the spirit, the way of unknowing, the way of darkness, where there are not clear cut answers but an invitation to surrender to the mystery.  I  am particularly attracted to the Orthodox writer Evdokimov’s very attractive phrase, “an apophatic anthropology leading to an apophatic theology.”  The mystical tradition, contemplative prayer, calls us to our own “apophatic depths,” to our real and truest self.  I feel that it is necessary to take the risk of recovering this tradition.  It is my opinion that it is our lack of nurturing of our own apophatic, mystical, contemplative tradition that causes so many to be attracted to the spiritualities of the East, specifically Hinduism or Yoga, and the many forms of Buddhism.  There are very real and good experiences happening to people through the benefit of these practices, and they are available in our own tradition as well, but we are not offering them because we do not understand them.

On the other hand, to distinguish the spiritual from the psychic also gives a new appreciation for the psychic realm itself.  It is my experience that we Christians are terribly afraid of the psychic realm.  I am not calling for an increase of dabbling in the occult!  But one monk I know insists that it is because Christianity has not paid enough attention to the psychic realm that psychology has replaced Christianity as the spirituality of the West.  But I am learning more and more that good psychology is good theology.  We need not be afraid of the journey into the unconscious, the subconscious or higher states of consciousness.  We need not be afraid of the psychic realm or psychic phenomena.  All these things are part of the created order, and can and must be brought into submission to the higher realm, the realm of the spirit.

None of this, of course, is to deny the Spirit of God.  The Spirit of God meets us in our spirit.   We cannot bring about our integration or redemption unaided; we need to turn ourselves to the Spirit of God who waits for us in our spirit, the point of meeting.  LaSalle quotes Ruuybroeck saying that

. . . the spirit intrinsically possesses God at the level of Pure Nature, and God possesses the spirit; for it lives in God and Goid lives in it, and in its uppermost regions the spirit is capable of directly receiving God’s calrity and everything that it can effect. . . . But it does not follow from this thgat everyone is a saint from birth: This immanent nature is of itself neither holy nor blessed, for all people, good and bad alike, have it. 

An "apportioned" share of the Spirit of God is poured into our spirit, into our highest, or better, deepest self.  It is to this place we go in prayer, where the Spirit of God is, praying for us in sighs too deep for words,  which is perhaps another way of saying in ways beyond our thinking, our comprehension, beyond our souls––beyond the realm of the psyche!  This is a profound call to silence and surrender, for it is only through the stilling of our thoughts, opinions, words and faulty notions that the true God is revealed in a brightness that is blinding darkness.

Perhaps the most profound implication of this view for Fr. Bede, one which I have become convinced of, is that it provides a wonderful meeting point for dialogue with other spiritual traditions.  It is undeniable that the seers of the Upanishads, the Buddha and his followers, the Sufi and Hebrew mystics have all had a very real, and in many ways very similar experience of mystical presence brought about by meditation and the inner journey.  Perhaps we could agree on this “spirit,” this mysterious apophatic depth, as a starting point, if we could share experiences and stories at this depth before engaging in doctrinal debates,  and therefore go from the known to the unknown.

One last reason that this notion of the human spirit is so important is summed up in this phrase used by both Hindus and Buddhists: the space in the lotus of the heart.
Within that space is the fulfilment of our desires.  What is within the space should be longed for and realized.  As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart.
There is something wonderful inside of us, a meeting point with the Divine, the place where God ignites a spark, implants the Word, breathes into us the breath of life.  We are meant for God because God’s image has been imprinted in the very depth of our being.  The Hindu tradition calls this depth of our being the space in the lotus of the heart.
    We shall end with this quote from River of Compassion to sum up our thoughts on Bede Griffiths' use of the tripartite anthropology, and its relation to purity of heart.

There are three levels in all human action: physical, psychological and spiritual.  The body and the mind are engaged in all, but behind them both is the Atman, the Spirit, and ultimately every action comes from the Spirit of God. . .  (I)f the spirit is free from the chains of selfishness and has rid itself of egoism, and if the mind is free of any ill will, then no evil can be conceived.  The action comes from the Spirit within and that cannot be evil.