Great uncertainty surrounds the whole idea of self-realization. When it comes to the possibility of being in conscious relationship with what is divine -- of discovering your immortal Self -- what everyone wants to know is "how?" From that point it seems the confusion boils down to this question: Is there or is there not a plan of some kind? Are there organized lessons of some order that one can follow all the way to everlasting freedom?
The answer is no and yes. And, in the end, the only person who succeeds in realizing the truth of Self is the one who will struggle to understand what only seems to be an irreconcilable contradiction.
St. Theophan the Recluse said that divine grace will not act within us if we don't make efforts to obtain it, but to this idea he also added that human efforts alone are incapable of producing anything spiritually stable or permanent within us. Therefore, he goes on to say, that the divine result, the fulfillment of our realization, is "to be obtained by a combination of effort and grace." Here's what this means to those seeking the Kingdom of the Divine:
Effort -- any kind of "plan" -- without grace is useless. Grace -- unattended by effort and its inherent humiliation -- produces illusion. Just as there must be a marriage between the aspiring soul and the timeless Spirit that gives it life, so must there be a union between spiritual sweat, sacrifice, and the fruit of what that interior work reveals.