20 December 2013

Incarnational Spirituality: Conversation with Francis Bennett

I had a long talk with Francis Bennett yesterday, and was much moved by his articulation of what he calls incarnational spirituality. He argues that so many people on the spiritual path are preoccupied with attaining special and mostly transcendent states that they lose sight of the fact that no matter where their attention is focused, they still are embodied human beings that appear hell bent on escaping their flesh.

Others make so much of the states they have obtained, that for them there is only a transcendental ‘me’.

I agree totally with those who explore the Consciousness that they are. The states achieved clearly demonstrate that we are not who we thought we were before the spiritual search overtook us.

To me, the experiences of the divine are especially valuable, as they bring humility, grace, self-acceptance and redemption.

BUT, as Francis points out, many of us lose sight of the fact we are still human and no matter how we may try, the body is still there, incarnating the divine into the worlds of sentient beings.

Yes, we are all incarnations of the divine, whether we personalize one or another aspect of God, such as Christ, Krishna, Shiva, or Shakti that supposedly we are. However, even recognizing this, we need to realize that EVERYONE is an incarnation of some aspect of the divine, and in loving others, we see the divine in them, which allows us simultaneously to recognize and worship it in ourselves.

So, Francis goes on, why not spend some time serving other sentient beings as a way to realize your own divinity? This, he calls incarnational spirituality—manifesting God while realizing the Godhood within ourselves.

There is one person who I know personally that perfectly embodies Francis’ incarnational spirituality: Deeya Gair whose website is kindlemyheartsflame.org.

Deeya spent six years working in a hospice. She was giving the nickname “Morticia” as she was the one always taking the lead of being the person on call when someone was on their deathbed. She would look into the eyes of those breathing their last breaths to feel their souls as they passed beyond life.

She is now working setting up a children’s clinic in India. Furthermore, as a student she deliberately took jobs where she would be exposed to the most horrible sights imaginable, such as working in slaughter houses. Most people, including me, could not stomach such service, such a spirituality.

Yet very few people have experienced the internal states of bliss, emptiness, rapture, or the subtle states of the Subtle Body as has she.

This is incarnational spirituality. Not only has she played in and with Consciousness as have few others, but her life is dedicated to service to others and serving the God in others.

She will hate that I have publicly raised her up in this way because she is shy, which is another endearing quality. She does not toot her own horn like many who have experienced transcendent states of bliss, ecstasy, surrender, and grace. She shies from public recognition.

I must say that to a degree I have repudiated the spiritual states achieved by Ramana, my own teacher, Robert Adams, and that of Nisargadatta attained later in life where all dwell in the subtle embrace of blissful, resting Witness. As Robert said, the Jnani is “good for nothing.” There is nothing in the world he or she is good for except themselves. They just teach others to ignore the world and its problems and go within to find their “True Selves,” whether the blissful self of Shakti or Turiya, or that of the impersonal witness.

My other old teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, would ask these people who dwell in the emptiness of beyond, impersonally witnessing the world: "Is this all? You have nothing more to offer than this?" That is, he'd say there is much, much more to the spiritual journey than pure, spiritual transcendence, as would EVERY OTHER Zen master who I studied with.

What I have been teaching for some time now is coming back into the world bringing whatever insights and power they have acquired through their inner explorations, and using it to help others.

I tell people, ignore those who say the world is unreal, or merely a reflection of your deepest beingness, for they have only traveled half way to the finish and have not joyfully reentered the nitty gritty of being human again.

Those who have explored their own consciousness deeply, who have discovered and embraced the infinite, Emptiness, the Void, but also God and the divine Shakti, have something special to offer others upon their return to the world: compassion, love, and the recognition of their own best parts in others.


  1. Would you say that Robert, Ramana and Nisargadatta were only half cooked?? ("for they have only traveled half way to the finish")


  2. Sam, Robert and Ramana were FULLY COOKED in the way they chose. They both were utterly, completely beyond the world. I cannot choose that way.

  3. Yes and there is the point, in the last paragraph; For Robert and Ramana had no identity to offer anything in the world, yet the offering was going on without a doer being in charge of anything.
    The human being is the one that thinks it is doing - but it cannot do anything.
    "Of myself I can do nothing, the Father within he doeth the works."
    As long as there is a human being doing then there can't be a God doing.
    God or mammon was the choice we had. Not God and mammon.