Progressive and Direct Paths

Ouspensky said: ‘What is important to understand is that the Way does not begin on the ordinary level of life; it begins on a higher level.’ He went on to describe ‘a staircase with a number of steps which have to be climbed before the Way can be reached. The Way does not begin at the bottom, but only after the last step has been climbed.’ Ouspensky’s teaching provides a system of knowledge and practical methods for ascending the staircase, but he suggests that guidance is needed from what he called the ‘inner circle’ of humanity (Man number 5, 6, or 7) in order to proceed further on the Way towards Self-realisation.

Under the guidance of the Shankaracharya Shantananda Saraswati, Francis Roles followed a progressive path towards an understanding of Advaita (non-duality) and Self-realisation. In the course of this journey, he developed a comprehensive synthesis of the Shankaracharya’s teaching with Ouspensky’s Fourth Way. This has been further refined by his successors. Progressive paths start with a process of purification in which the (apparent) obstacles to realisation of our true nature are gradually dissolved through meditation and other disciplines. This can take many years. Once an aspirant has achieved a certain level of purification, he is led to realisation of his true nature through the guidance and living example of a realised teacher.

The Direct Path is the name given to the teaching of Atmananda Krishnamenon and Ramana Maharshi which was brought to the West by Jean Klein. Present-day Direct Path teachers include Francis Lucille, Greg Goode and Rupert Spira. The Direct Path works quite differently from progressive paths as it starts right away with a simple process of self-enquiry that leads directly to the experiential understanding of our true nature as unlimited, unlocated and ever-present Awareness. This initial step (sometimes known as enlightenment) is followed by a much longer stabilisation process in which this understanding gradually permeates the way we think, feel, sense the body, perceive the world and relate to others (who are no longer seen as ‘others’). Nowadays the Direct Path is regarded by many as a more efficient route to Self-realisation than the traditional, progressive paths and one that fits well with a 21st century culture and lifestyle.

Is the staircase really necessary, or would it be possible to follow the Direct Path without any previous spiritual knowledge or practice? There is nothing in the Direct Path teaching that suggests that any preparation is essential although many of those who come to the Direct Path have previously followed a progressive path or spiritual practices of some kind. The Cotswold Non-Duality Group focuses on the Direct Path as taught by Rupert Spira. It is particularly suitable for those who have followed a progressive path such as Ouspensky’s Fourth Way or the Shankaracharya’s teaching and are now looking for something more.

This video from Rupert Spira explains in more detail the differences between the direct path and progressive paths: The Direct Path and Progressive Paths.

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