The most abstract element in life is our own awareness. For most human beings, awareness is so abstract that we don't even notice it. The absent-minded professor looks for the glasses that are already on the tip of his nose. Likewise, we are not aware of our own awareness.
We are absorbed in sense perception. We store up a back-load of these sensory images, and this inventory of images is the mind. The intellect is a busy postal clerk who ceaselessly sorts and categorize these mental impression. Imagination recombines and projects them into the future. But the future is the past; both exist only as thought.
Hence the mind is not awareness. It is the stuff that clouds and overshadows awareness. Awareness shines beyond senses, mind, and intellect, as the sun beyond the clouds. Yet on a cloudy day, we cannot see the very source of our light.
Awareness is the abstract background of perception. Material form is the foreground. "Spiritual growth" simply means that the background begins to illuminate the foreground, until they shift. Awareness becomes foreground, luminously crystalized.
The fruition of spiritual growth is to make the abstract concrete, to make awareness more concrete than any object of which it is aware, more solid than any thought in the mind or any perception in the senses.
Pure awareness is a Self-radiant jewel: "the pearl of great price" in the Christian scriptures, "chitta-mani" and "the diamond-cutter of doubts" in Indian tradition, "the jewel in the lotus" as described in the Tibetan mantra "Om mani padme hum," and in Renaissance alchemy, "the philosopher's stone."
These symbolic gemstones represent nothing other than our own Self-realized consciousness. Our awareness has triumphed over the world, the light of the real over the shadows of illusion. Hence the meaning of Plato's Cave Allegory in The Republic, and the words in the prologue to the Gospel of John: "The light shined in darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it."
When the diamond light of awareness solidifies, spirit overshadows matter. The forms of the world are but shadows compared to the adamantine beauty of pure consciousness. This is true perspective. We see the material world arise and dissolve as a mirage within the sapphire radiance of our own unbounded compassion, or like lines drawn by a finger on water.
Somehow this process of solidifying awareness got confused with religion. But in fact, no "god" or religious belief is required for this process to reach fruition. The poetics of religious ritual, myth, and scripture are powerful symbols that enrich our spiritual vocabulary, as long as they are not interpreted literally. For they are only figures in a stained-glass window, portals where the light can begin to illuminate the world, until the full sun shatters the prism. Religions all represent the process through which the light of our awareness overcomes the shadows of form.
In the words of William Blake, "We are set on earth a little while to learn to bear the beams of love."