The Dangers of Internalization/Externalizations of the Spiritual Process

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

So many of our traditions speak of balance. And while I am a believer in balance, my vision of it is somewhat more dynamic than most, embracing the extremes to find overall balance and seeking the center amid the extremes. Winter and summer, light and darkness, are all parts of the balance.

A dynamic less discussed is that of the internal and external. One thing I am noticing more often, though perhaps it’s always been there, is practitioners falling almost totally on the side of the external or internal for their practice. However, like summer and winter, both must be embraced because each alone is imbalanced.

Those of the external-only path tend to look at spiritual phenomenon as totally independent and outside of themselves. Because of this perspective, there is a tendency towards fatalism with the possible hope of averting harm through intercession. Tradition and the continuation of tradition become overly important, superseding innovation and personal gnosis. Much of the spiritual practice tips into transactional spirituality—a continual exchange of offerings for results, but not a whole lot of inner evolution and personal responsibility. There is a greater orientation towards blaming others, be they people or spirits, as the authors of all ills thereby making one prone to conflict, drama, tribalism, gatekeeping, and orthodoxy and dogma. Secrecy and hierarchical structures can more easily develop and be abused.

The internal-only path lends itself to seeing spiritual and worldly phenomenon as a reflection of the internal process. Rather than simply mirroring, the internal becomes the sole source of causation. Because personal gnosis is highly valued, there can be little rooting in tradition. One assumes blame or praise as one is responsible for all. A phenomenon akin to the prosperity gospel of modern Christians arises where financial success or physical health is indicative of spiritual evolution or lack thereof. Narcissism and even sociopathy can easily develop as everyone is a reflection of self without individual agency. Nihilism is a big danger for even the most sincere seeker of this way, for as soon one gains the realization that nothing is real, all can be arbitrary and meaningless without a greater Mythos rooted in community.

The crooked path embodies both the internal and external, the traditional and personal paradigm, offerings to spirits and personal development. And most serious practitioners, despite their leanings, understand this. It is only in the current age where so much information is available without its necessary roots and context, without mentorship, that such extremes can develop. This accessibility is the great blessing and the great curse of our time in the Age of Aquarius. Remember the two waves in the glyph of the water bearer, one above and visible, external and one below, invisible and internal. Both are necessary for the mystery of our age. One is incomplete. Embody both as you walk your path.

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