So let me return to the question of what it means to be poor in spirit. For me it represents an ego-state which, when compared with what has been called the Higher Self, is shown to be threadbare of truthful substance. It means to be spiritually beggarly, bankrupt, psycho-spiritually sick, poorly if you will. It is an existence within, not a living of, what I see as my life. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I agree. But it requires more than examination to turn the potential offered by poverty of spirit into something of real value. As it has been said, the attainment offered to the poor in spirit is the kingdom of God, a metaphor, perhaps, for the experience of that which is most fundamental to the healthy life of the spirit. What Jesus does not say in the 'beatitudes' is that the attainment of the metaphorical kingdom is not handed out on a plate. Work is required to turn that potential into something real.
It seems to me that spiritual poverty occurs when the ego, my everyday consciousness, is cut off from my Higher Self. If, as some would claim, the Higher Self and God are one and the same, or at the very least intimately connected, then the loss of contact can deprive one of direct contact with God, the direct apprehension of the one Reality. Prolonged loss will inevitably lead to a form of insanity, a loss of right-mindedness. I find it of interest that the first thing St. John of the Cross talks about in his great spiritual treatise, "Ascent of Mount Carmel," is not a re-ordering of one's morality, and one's personality traits (that comes later) but a coming to terms with inordinate longings or cravings, obsessions and addictions, impulses not rightly ordered to a person's spiritual good. Coming to terms with anything requires both acknowledgement and acceptance.
I count myself as fortunate in that the only drug to which I was addicted was nicotine. As a result, my "Dark Nights" were dealt with in reverse order from that given by St. John. In the end, what was important was not what order I chose, not what Saints Matthew and Mark said in the New Testament, not what Jesus might or might not have said or meant in that same testament, or elsewhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, but what practical effort I chose to exert on this individual, in today's world, in the here and now. Of course, this presumes a prior knowledge of what those spiritual luminaries said and meant, an understanding which was denied me, until I had lived through the experience of spiritual recovery.
As I have already said, compared with the life of the Higher Self, the life of the ego will always be one lived in poverty. There appears not to be absolute poverty here, but a growing awareness of comparative psycho-spiritual bankruptcy. Thus no matter how full and satisfying the life of my ego may seem to be, that of my Higher Self is so much more so. And that higher life can be brought down into consciousness, at least in part, through the practice of 'prayer and meditation', as it says in the Twelve Step programmes for spiritual recovery. Some might claim that poverty of spirit may not be a precondition for beginning the spiritual life. It was the case for me, as it has been for millions of people. I needed to be convinced of that poverty, otherwise why bother to change tack?
Finally, it has been suggested by various commentators on the Bible that the poverty being referred to in the beatitudes was material poverty. Now I was raised in a family in which material poverty was a way of life. I can, therefore, say with absolute confidence that material poverty is not a state that has anything of value to recommend it. Material poverty does not turn the heart and soul towards matters spiritual, but towards ways and means of material survival. Before you can speak philosophy to a person you need first to fill the stomach. Only then is there time to deal with other matters.