It's the only line from Dante's Divine Comedy that I know: "Abandon all hope, you who enter here." (one of various translations of what's inscribed on the gate of hell)
For me, it's what I feel nowadays when I peruse the spiritual, mystical, metaphysical, and religious volumes in my book collection.
I used to read these books voraciously, devouring them for insights into the Meaning of It All. I went through phases where I'd study a single subject for weeks or months.
Sant Mat. Rumi. Meister Eckhart. Other medieval Christian mystics. The "desert fathers." Zen. Taoism. Plotinus. Emerson. To name a few.
This morning I looked for an inspirational book to read before I meditated. My eyes ran up and down the shelves. I didn't feel inspired by any of them. At least, not in the way I used to be.
I feel this is a positive sign. Of what, I don't know. Let's just call it a positive sign that doesn't point in any particular direction.
Which is why I see it as positive. Every spiritual/religious book I've ever read, including the three that I've written myself, contains ideas that I don't agree with.
These discordances are like off-key musical notes, or stumbles in a dance. I used to be able to ignore them and enjoy the quasi-harmony of the rest of the composition. But now I look at a title and remember, "There's some ridiculous stuff in there."
Of course, what's ridiculous to me might strike you as perfectly reasonable. But I'm not you. All I can be is me.
Who, like you, is someone unique – when it comes to seeking an understanding of what life is about. This uniqueness makes it impossible to find a suit of spiritual clothes that will fit anyone perfectly. Each of us needs to do at least some mixing and matching, and maybe even sewing from scratch.
An example: I find Buddhism appealing, by and large. However, lurking in almost every Buddhist book are dogmas that turn me off.
Such as the need for a guru or master. It always surprises me when I'm reading along, enjoying a Buddhist discussion of how truth can only be found within through direct experience, and then the author adds that this can only happen if you submit yourself to another person.
Daisetz Teitaro (D.T.) Suzuki in "The Zen Koan as a Means of Attaining Enlightenment."
That the Zen experience takes place at all as such, and is formulated finally as a system of Zen intuitions, is principally due to the master's guiding, however enigmatical it may seem; for without it the experience itself is impossible.
Julia Lawless and Judith Allan in "Beyond Words: Dzogchen Made Simple."
The teacher is considered more important than the Buddha, Dharma, or Sangha, for without the teacher there would be no Buddha or access to the lineage of Buddhas, no Dharma, no teachings, and no Sangha, or community of practitioners, for these cannot exist in isolation without the master. The teacher in fact is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and the gateway to realization.
Clang! Stumble! Disharmonies. These words just don't ring true to me anymore.
I'll never find a perfect book. Or a perfect teacher, guru, or master. And this realization feels perfectly fine to me.