Many people who pursue a contemplative path believe that we are essentially divine Spirit entrapped in a mind, body, and universe that make us forget who and what we truly are and block our inner light from illuminating our consciousness and the world outside with its infinitely loving and peaceful wisdom. Thus, they use meditation and other spiritual disciplines to remove misguided thoughts and emotions from a position of being able to prevent Spirit from shining brightly within and without.
Some have even gone so far as to suggest that senile dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease progressively strip away the obstructing mind so that all that is left is radiant Spirit. I wish this were true. I wish there were a bright side to the senility that afflicts so many people in this world. But I have been around quite a number of senile people, including spending several years as full-time caregiver to my grandmother, and it certainly never appeared to me that, as their mental deterioration became progressively pronounced, they were becoming more and more actualized spiritually. On the contrary, they seemed to be regressing away from mature Spirit into a world of infantile preoccupation with themselves and with basic, physical subsistence.
Yet, if losing one’s mind doesn’t liberate Spirit to shine brilliantly, what keeps Spirit imprisoned? For that matter, how could even the strongest mind obscure awareness of divine Spirit? Or does Spirit, divine or otherwise, even exist?