Since the spiritual realm lies beyond the mind – and many people even argue that the mind is the enemy of spirituality – should we assume that all our emotional impulses come from an inspired source, and should be followed? Or do all these impulses need to be passed through the mind before they are to be followed? Or is there an even higher principle we can apply that transcends both?
This is actually a very simple matter, but it tends to cause much unnecessary confusion. After all, following our heart at all times appears to open us up to dangerous emotional caprices – and subjecting every motion of the heart to the cold rationality of the mind would surely cut us off from all the inspirations of the higher spiritual faculties. So how do we decide when to follow our heart, and when to follow our head? The Hawkins scale of consciousness gives us the answers.
Negative emotions like shame, guilt, grief, fear, desire, anger and pride are all very low in consciousness, and fall below the crucial threshold of 200 that distinguishes ‘power’ from ‘force’. On the other hand, rational intellectual enquiry calibrates at 400, making it vastly superior in consciousness to these negative feelings. In effect, this means that all negative emotions should be rationally examined, to the extent that this is possible. On the intellectual level, we cannot always talk ourselves out of a negative emotion with reason, but it pays to examine the feeling and determine whether it actually has a rational basis.
For example, shame is essentially an emotion that tells us ‘you are bad’. A person who accepts this feeling uncritically as evidence that they are bad is likely to suffer from poor self-worth, and all the problems that come along with it. Giving in to the feeling without any rational analysis of it is essentially agreeing that you are bad. A rational response to the feeling of shame would go something like “I did some bad things in the past, and I will ensure I do not repeat those mistakes. But I am a perfect child of God with inherent self-worth. These feelings do not in any way represent my true self.”
Anger, fear and suspicion are all emotions that can play major havoc with our lives, especially in relationships. For example, one person in the relationship may fear being abandoned by the other; perhaps due to having been abandoned in the past. This feeling, if unchecked by reason, is likely to lead to possessive behaviour, suspicion, and ultimately to the very abandonment they feared in the first place.
Not all emotions are irrational, however. If the person in this example rationally considers their feelings and finds solid evidence that the other person is uncommitted to them, then ending the relationship may be a reasonable option. Our emotions, good and bad, are all there to tell us something, after all. The only problem is that they don’t always tell us what we need to know at the time, because we often feel old emotions in new situations due to stuck emotions and resonances. We may be in an objectively great relationship, but the fact of being in a relationship may have a certain resonance that brings up old negative emotions from past experiences, which we then blame on our current partner.
Anger can be justified sometimes, too. For example, feeling anger at a grave injustice is known in Christian theology as righteous anger. The classic example of righteous anger is Christ’s overturning of the merchants’ tables in the temple. Ultimately Christ taught love and forgiveness as the highest principles, but there were certain circumstances where swift action against an injustice was called for. But we must use our rational faculty and be certain that what we are feeling is truly righteous anger, and not mere self righteousness. Spoiler alert: it is almost always the latter.
As helpful as the intellectual faculty can be, we should not stop at rationally analysing our emotions. There is an even higher principle than the mind, which begins at level 500 on the Hawkins scale – the level of Love. The vast majority of people spend their lives in the bottom half of the scale, and comparatively very few ever make it past the level of Reason. But even though it is rare for people to move their entire consciousness past 500, most people still use the principle of love in their lives, either by expressing love for other people, or through an appreciation of the concept of universal love.
True love is not the same as infatuation, nor attraction, nor like. Indeed, you can love a person without even liking them – though one should probably not get into a relationship with such a person. But rather than being a feeling, true love is the beginning of the direct experience of the goodness of the Universal Spirit, either by direct contemplation of the Spirit, or by appreciating the positive qualities of the Spirit reflected in another person. Very often this experience is accompanied by tangible positive feelings in the heart, but it does not have to be. As we open ourselves up to a deeper and deeper experience of the goodness of the Spirit, we move beyond the mere human understanding of love into the higher divine experiences of it, designated by Hawkins as Joy (calibrated at 540), Peace (600) and Enlightenment (700+).
When we experience true love or any of the states beyond it, the feeling does not need to be analysed. It is above reason, and analysing it with the mind can only weaken or destroy it. But even if we are not permanently in a high spiritual state, we can still evoke the power of these states to deal with negative emotions or any other problems in our life whatsoever. How? It’s simple – cease worrying and refer the problem to God.
This is the principle that makes Emmet Fox’s The Golden Key so powerful. Don’t think about the problem – think about God instead. By raising our consciousness above the base fears we feel about a problem, to the higher divine principles of God – we raise our consciousness on that particular matter to a higher state even than reason. Even if we only experience a faint grasp of a true spiritual knowing – or to say it another way, if we have faith; if we believe in the true spiritual principles without yet having experienced them directly and palpably – this is enough to get results.
Bring God to all your problems; bring love into all your relationships – these principles are higher than your fears and shame. These principles are higher even than the clearest reasoning in the world could ever be. You will discover that there is no knot in the world that can’t be untied if God is put on the case, and no relationship that cannot be redeemed at least in some way by bringing faith and love to the table.
It cannot be said often enough that a successful relationship must be based on true love, rather than infatuation or mere sexual attraction. But too many people give up on relationships where true love exists, simply because they go through a period of boredom or conflict. In his wonderful book on the Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox laments this defeatist approach, reiterates Christ’s statements against divorce, and then writes:
“As none of us is perfect, and the complainant is certain to have his or her own faults no less than the delinquent, he or she should endeavor, if it can possibly be done, to make the present marriage a success by persistently knowing the Spiritual Truth about both parties. If the aggrieved partner will steadfastly see the Christ Truth about the other one, then, in nearly every case a happy solution will be the outcome. I have known a number of instances where marriages which were on the point of being dissolved were saved in this way with the most satisfactory results. One woman said, after a few months of handling her problem spiritually, ‘The man I was going to divorce has disappeared; and the man whom I married has come back. We are perfectly happy again.’”
As Fox implies, there are some cases where separation may be necessary – such as physical abuse or similar. But these marriages were unlikely to be based on true love in the first place. And it’s wise to remember that even these relationships could theoretically be redeemed, with enough faith.
So to return to the original question – should we follow the heart, or follow the head? If our heart is leading us to experience negative emotions, then we should follow our head and subject those emotions to reason. Then once the problem is clearer, we should invoke the higher principles of the heart by bringing faith and love to the situation.
So do we really need the mind at all? There is a place for both of them, but the more our consciousness expands, the more we will turn straight to the spirit. The intellectual phase, after all, is just that – a phase in the spiritual journey. We cannot become enlightened spiritual beings without it, but as we grow in the spiritual life, true spiritual knowing begins to take the place of intellectual knowledge.
But please do not underestimate the importance of the intellectual phase in the meantime. Whenever you turn to the Spirit, it is best to know exactly what your problem is, and the mind will help in understanding this. For example, if you are feeling shame, or the tangible expression of the belief that you are bad, it is better to contemplate God and say ‘please help me to understand that my true nature is the same as yours’ rather than to say ‘please let some of your goodness rub off onto my filth.’ Or if you unfairly suspect a partner of being uncommitted, it is better to contemplate God and say ‘please let me see all these wonderful divine qualities in my husband’ than to essentially say ‘please let me somehow see past all his lies and deception to the divine being he is obscuring with all his terrible behaviour.’
The mind and the higher heart principles both play an important role in our spiritual development. But as for the lower heart principles, or negative emotions – all of these calibrate below Hawkins’ crucial level of 200. The lower principle must always be subject to the higher.