Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...
Showing posts with label spiritual guidance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spiritual guidance. Show all posts

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Obedience & groupthink: the Sahaj Marg example

Recent speeches by my former Sahaj Marg guru Chari have convinced me that `obedience' is worthy of being mentioned as a separate pitfall.

Although this blog aims at a general analysis of the pitfalls which commonly occur in many spiritual movements and religions, the example given in these speeches is stronger than anything I could possibly come up with myself.

Dear reader, perhaps you are participating in some spiritual movement, and some of the below sounds familiar. Please then ask yourself if you really wish to give up your own, independent thought to someone else? Especially since a true spiritual guide would never ask you to give up your own independent thought. A guide is a guide, guiding humans. A guide is not a shepherd herding sheep. Or do you prefer to be a sheep? Part of the unthinking flock? Fine. But then you will never be a master of yourself, now will you?


I quote from Chari's recent speech `Read with your Heart' (given 2 February 2009 in Satkhol, I emphasized the last paragraph in bold type):

`Again and again Babuji Maharaj emphasizes the fact that Sahaj Marg does not ask you for all your life earnings, to give up your family and go into the jungle. It is a very simple method: meditation in the morning, cleaning in the evening, prayer at night. No major sacrifices involved. Only to live a good life, in the right way, but with the only stipulation being obedience to the Master's wishes, and that again is only for our benefit.

We obey to benefit. Unlike in public life, in human life, in our day-to-day life, we obey for somebody else's benefit. In spirituality we obey for our own benefit. You obey; you benefit. You don't obey; you don't benefit. In obedience there can be no questions: "Why have I to obey?" If you ask such a question, it would probably mean several lives more to be taken before you understand why I have to obey. In obedience there is no `why'. There is no search for logic. There is no demand for your question to ask: "Why this question should be obeyed?" or "Why this order should be obeyed? Why does the Master have to tell me and not somebody else? Why does he ask me to obey and not somebody else?" No questions. Totally unquestioning obedience is the only requirement of this spiritual way that I know, Sahaj Marg. The moment you start asking questions, it is implicit that you are questioning the wisdom of your Master, the intentions of your Master and his existence itself - never done, except at the peril of your own evolution.'

Notice the not so subtle use of `fear and temptation' above. If you ask questions: it will probably cost you several lives! (fear). If you obey blindly: you benefit (temptation, the implication is `liberation in this life', whatever liberation may mean of course).


And I quote from his speech `Preceptors, the arteries of Sahaj Marg' (given 4 January 2009, Manapakkam, the bold type emphasis is mine):

`When Babuji says eat, you eat. When he says don't eat, you don't eat. You don't think.

One thing that our people must understand is, in obedience there is no place for thought. You are not to think whether this is to be obeyed or not. The Guru orders, you do it. The famous example in our mythology is Parashuram. When he said he was devoted and loved his father, his father said, "Will you do what I tell you?" He said yes. He said, "Cut off your mother's head." Chichick. And the head came off. Mother's head! - obedience.
Of course, then the father said, "I am pleased with you. Ask for a boon." He said, "I want my mother alive again." And the mother came alive again.

So, you see, obedience never gives you personal loss, though apparently it may look so.'


Sahaj Marg, like many movements before it (and after, no doubt alas), has turned into a religion, in my not so humble opinion. I see no difference at all between the organization of the Pyramid in Sahaj Marg and the Pyramid of the Roman Catholic Church. The preceptors are the priests, the centers-in-charge are the bishops, the zonals-in-charge are the cardinals, and the guru is the pope, each with their Inner Circle of powerful confidants.

Blind obedience imnsho is necessary to keep the whole Pyramid from toppling over, to maintain closed ranks to all the critical questions that are posed. Questions which are increasingly difficult to answer, because -like the child saying: new clothes? but the emperor is naked! - not even God can make the square root of 2 equal to π (pi). Not even the emperor can make imaginary clothes cover his nudity.

The point is -if one believes in God- that God saw to it that the square root of 2 is necessarily not equal to π (pi) . Logic, science, rationality are perhaps just a part of reality...but reality nonetheless. To deny critical self-reliant thought a worthy place is to renounce spirituality, in my not so humble opinion.

Many great scientists were deeply spiritual persons. They saw God in the wonder of reality all around us. They marveled at the insights that the human mind could glean into Nature, by not accepting religious dogmas and by following the logic of the cosmos. By allowing all questions, especially the critical ones, since the critical questions challenge what we think we know, and lead us further on our slow path of both scientific and spiritual evolution.


Spiritual evolution, that is what we need, if you would ask me. If we would have obeyed religious leaders in the past as blindly as Chari is suggesting, we would still be cannibals. Does one need religion to be kind, loving, sharing, concerned for other beings? Does one need blind obedience for this? Let's get real: we do not need anything, anyone, but our own commitment and dedication to becoming `spiritual'...whatever that may mean.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The false guru

frank waaldijk, the false guru (drawing, 2005)

The false guru (own work, 2005)

The above drawing I made in 2005, after seeing a video of my former Sahaj Marg guru Chari. In this video he `gracefully' allowed people to fall at his feet, perhaps to kiss them even. To understand my indignation at this, one should know that Chari repeatedly stated that hís master never allowed people to fall at his feet, because this would be a false and impeding interpretation of the relationship.

This is not a blog about Sahaj Marg, but I do think it very illustrative of the way in which guru worship can take over the real spiritual issues. This I tried to analyze already in the posts on `spiritual guidance' (pitfall 1). But a picture speaks a thousand words. In the drawing, the false guru enjoys the fawning devotion and the illusion of a special light that radiates from `his presence'.

He doesn't display anger, or irritation like:

`Get up, you fool. What are you doing? Don't worship me, tend to your own inner master. By losing yourself in this outer form worship, you are running away from your spiritual self. Do you want to believe in fairy tales, or do you want to work on the real issues which are perhaps not so pretty but have the decided advantage of being real?'

He also doesn't display a single drop of true humility, modesty even. He only acts the part by folding his hands together, and putting on a serene expression.


The drawing to me seems to capture what goes wrong when we start elevating somebody to the position of Guru, Spiritual Master with capital letters, Absolute (Moral) Authority, you name it.

What really happens is that we create fairy tales that `He' will somehow do our work for us. We experience bliss from this fairy tale, because -duh- now we don't have to do any real, likely confrontational, work on ourselves. Plus we are no longer responsible for the outcome!

Another downside to this transfer of responsibility is that the practicant opens her/himself up to a wide variety of manipulation. Not only from the Spiritual Leader, and the Movement's Pyramid, but also from her/his own subconsciousness.


Which is why I believe that a true spiritual guide would abhor any sign of worship. (S)he would relentlessly refuse to be put on any kind of pedestal (dais), be it physical or figuratively speaking.

In fact such a person would in my not so humble opinion most likely not call her/himself a spiritual guide at all (out of true modesty, and insight in the incomprehensibility of our existence). But people would turn to such a person nonetheless, without the elevation -which creates distance- and the worship and the false humility.

But it would not be in large numbers. Because then where to find the time and true attention which is the basis of any true relationship?


Please also check out the false guru test at, which was discussed to some extent in a previous post on fulfillment and spiritual progress.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fear & temptation, leading to spirituality or manipulation?

On rereading the last post, it seems not the most clear, coherent one so far. I apologize. Perhaps I can tie some strands together in this continued post.

It seems strange to me that many people in as recent times as the middle ages really believed in Hell, eternal Damnation etc. Did anybody ever produce incontrovertible evidence for such horrifying institutions? I don't think so. But then, what in heaven's name made people believe in this nonsense? What made them fear such an invention as `the Devil' to the extent where they were willing to burn so-called witches?

One can wonder at this, and to me (definitely no expert) it seems not unlikely that these fears and terrifying entities were part of a package deal so to say. Because the flip side of the medallion was the belief in Heaven, eternal Salvation, the frequent apparition of angels/saints, other miracles and the presence of a loving God in their lives.

And so, if you were poor and probably being exploited, with little chance of attaining any position of influence, with high mortality of your beloved ones...then religion still offered something to make life bearable. Because if you lived your hard life `piously and just', then you would gain an afterlife with the angels in Heaven. And those who exploited you would get their just comeuppance, for surely God would send them to Hell.


So, once again being brief to the point of major omission, thinking along these lines explains to me how people are led to believe in the strangest things. The belief in benevolent fairies, goblins, space aliens, gods comes together with the belief in malicious spirits, kobolds, space aliens, devils.

These beliefs help us to make our life `special'. They help us to convince ourselves that we matter, somewhere, to Someone - even when in daily life no-one seems to care. When we are Good, Someone notices and we will be Rewarded. This is the temptation part. The flip side, the fear part, is that when we are Bad, we will be Punished.


We have come some way from medieval times. Like stated before, science and the efforts of many many people have helped at least western societies to free themselves largely from the stranglehold of christianity. But a lot of this is not really so long ago. There are still many people that I've spoken to who in their youth were brought up in a very strict `fear & temptation' template, in catholic or protestant schools. The idea of `sin' has not lost its hold on society.

What is more worrisome to me (and many others) is that many modern spiritual movements (including religions) have evolved and adapted the fear & temptation mechanism, instead of getting rid of it.

Why worrisome? Well, in a way it's none of my business of course, but if I write about pitfalls of spirituality...then I feel I should mention that this age-old fear & temptation mechanism can cause a lot of mental anguish. And can cause people to be manipulated by others, and to live in shame, guilt, anxiety, performing time-consuming and tedious rituals, separating themselves from other short the opposite of what spirituality to me is about.


If I'm afraid of death (fear), I might be tempted to buy into the Grand Story of this wonderful Spiritual Leader (temptation) which tells me that my life has a Purpose, and that there is such a thing as Redemption / Liberation / Heaven / name It.

If I'm insecure what my life is about, and how I should behave (fear) then I might be tempted to buy into the Grand Story of etc.

If I'm afraid to be alone, if I'm frightened and hurt by the cruel things in my life (fear), I might be tempted etc.

The Grand Story invariably promises me the Sky (temptation). It provides solace for my grief, it gives direction to my behaviour, it brings me the company of other Believers, and it stills my fear of Death. It also provides the possibility of becoming Special, a True Saint! I, who was always insignificant both to myself and others, I can be Transformed into His tool! (One doesn't have to buy into all the options of course, I'm just mentioning some).


By buying into the Grand Story (the Absolute Truth of previous posts), in most cases I open myself up to manipulation. This I see as a real and dangerous pitfall, because usually the manipulation is subtle. The more coarse manipulations of medieval times have been exposed for what they were, we don't fall for them any more. (Well, most of us don't.).

I'm thinking along lines like:

`It takes a Master of Great Caliber to liberate a person in the course of only one lifetime. We are all caught in an endless wheel of reincarnation, having to come back on earth again and again until our soul is cleaned of all samsaric and karmatic grossness. We suffer, life after life after life, because of our desires. Our desires lead us to accumulate grossness, where our soul just longs for Reunion with the One. Only if we are fortunate enough to attract the attention of such a Master, we can shorten the cycle, and even attain the Goal within this lifetime.

These are the teachings of the Great Saint Pujashri Parakrishna Mahamsi, our beloved Adiguru. He developed a special meditation technique to aid the sincere spiritual seeker, called `asnahamsi'. The sincere spiritual seeker is instructed to try out this technique under guidance of a capable Master such as our current Guruji Shri Radhu Amfimakassar, and observe the results.

After a few months of sincere practice, a feeling of lightness, of oneness with the Divine starts to pervade. The seeker's Journey has begun. Still, the Master is necessary more and more as the Path continues. There are knots and obstacles on the path which can only be overcome with the help of One who has crossed these obstacles Himself. Complete surrender to the Guide is necessary, otherwise we become trapped by the foils of our ego. For western people, the concept of surrender can be difficult, but we assure you that the Master is only one who has mastered Himself. To develop faith, at some point we must bid the intellect farewell. It can only bring us so far, and no further. Once we develop Faith, obedience to and complete dependence on the Master becomes our second nature. Now our work is done, He will take us to the Goal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sexuality and same-sex marriage from a spiritual point of view

I came across this open letter to religious leaders for marriage equality.

It shows a very different approach to same-sex marriage than the narrowhearted and narrowminded one of my former spiritual guide, and its writers are people from various religious backgrounds. Their institute is called Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing (website here).

I'm not in favour of religion in general, nor of any religion in particular. But please read the below declaration from the institute, and decide for yourself which is the more humane, loving spiritual approach. (Don't take my posting this text here as a sign that I fully agree with all its words, I don't. I just consider the basis of the approach below to be spiritual, loving, uniting instead of divisive).

Sexuality is God's life-giving and life-fulfilling gift. We come from diverse religious communities to recognize sexuality as central to our humanity and as integral to our spirituality. We are speaking out against the pain, brokenness, oppression, and loss of meaning that many experience about their sexuality.

Our faith traditions celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality. We sin when this sacred gift is abused or exploited. However, the great promise of our traditions is love, healing, and restored relationships.

Our culture needs a sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. All persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. Grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings, this ethic fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.

God hears the cries of those who suffer from the failure of religious communities to address sexuality. We are called today to see, hear, and respond to the suffering caused by violence against women and sexual minorities, the HIV pandemic, unsustainable population growth and over-consumption, and the commercial exploitation of sexuality.

Faith communities must therefore be truth seeking, courageous, and just. We call for:

* Theological reflection that integrates the wisdom of excluded, often silenced peoples, and insights about sexuality from medicine, social science, the arts and humanities.
* Full inclusion of women and sexual minorities in congregational life, including their ordination and the blessing of same sex unions.
* Sexuality counseling and education throughout the lifespan from trained religious leaders.
* Support for those who challenge sexual oppression and who work for justice within their congregations and denomination.

Faith communities must also advocate for sexual and spiritual wholeness in society. We call for:

* Lifelong, age appropriate sexuality education in schools, seminaries, and community settings.
* A faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STD prevention and treatment.
* Religious leadership in movements to end sexual and social injustice.

God rejoices when we celebrate our sexuality with holiness and integrity. We, the undersigned, invite our colleagues and faith communities to join us in promoting sexual morality, justice, and healing.

With this I will end this thread for now, and turn to other pitfalls.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Us & them: homosexuality, woman, man AND science

What sparked this short series of posts on sexuality was a recent speech by my former spiritual guide in which he condemns homosexuality as unnatural and against the wish of God. Giving this as reason for not performing same-sex marriages.

The implications of such condemnation by a spiritual `leader' are manifold. I will probably not go into all of them.


But the first thing that strikes me is that, coming from a Moral Authority, such condemnation divides humanity once again. We already had men vs. women, now we have also heterosexuals vs. homosexuals.


The second thing that strikes me is the word `unnatural'. Here obviously this spiritual guide (and many like him) knows very little about nature. I cite wikipedia (article on homosexuality here, article on sexual orientation here):

Homosexual behavior in animals

Homosexual sexual behavior occurs in the animal kingdom, especially in social species, particularly in marine birds and mammals, monkeys, and the great apes. Homosexual behavior has been observed among 1,500 species, and in 500 of those it is well documented.[130][131]. This discovery constitutes a major argument against those calling into question the biological legitimacy or naturalness of homosexuality, or those regarding it as a meditated social decision. For example, male penguin couples have been documented to mate for life, build nests together, and to use a stone as a surrogate egg in nesting and brooding. In a well-publicized story from 2004, the Central Park Zoo in the United States replaced one male couple's stone with a fertile egg, which the couple then raised as their own offspring.[132]

The genetic basis of animal homosexuality has been studied in the fly Drosophila melanogaster.[133] Here, multiple genes have been identified that can cause homosexual courtship and mating.[134] These genes are thought to control behavior through pheromones as well as altering the structure of the animal's brains.[135][136] These studies have also investigated the influence of environment on the likelihood of flies displaying homosexual behavior.[137][138]

Georgetown University professor Janet Mann has specifically theorized that homosexual behavior, at least in dolphins, is an evolutionary advantage that minimizes intraspecies aggression, especially among males.[139] Studies indicating prenatal homosexuality in certain animal species have had social and political implications surrounding the gay rights debate.[140]

Almost all forms of human behaviour are seen in other animals as well. Nature is vast and complex. Who of us can really divine (this word is not a coincidence, you understand) what Nature is about?

But I can rather safely say that one does not see animals praying, or meditating under the guidance of a guru of the same species (please let me know if you spot something like this in Nature, outside of humanity). Therefore we can safely conclude that it is quite unnatural to meditate and to pray...

Also, egoless behaviour is seen in primitive to very primitive animals, but in higher mammals it doesn't normally, naturally occur. How about non-agression, altruistic love, non-powerhungry social behaviour?

I think we can safely conclude that most of the behaviour that spiritual movements advocate as spiritual, advanced etc. is quite un-Natural. Does this make a more united humanity, a more loving humanity, a peaceful humanity... undesirable?

`No no, it is unnatural you see, and against the wish of God. If God would have wanted a peaceful humanity, He would not have created us so aggressive.'

(Truth is, most great apes are far less aggressive than we humans. Very few mammals fight so violently amongst their own species as we do.)


So, as usual, science comes to the rescue when medieval bias and unfounded popular beliefs and attitudes threaten some minority (or weaker part) of the population. No, dear Spiritual Leader, women are not spiritually different, and a woman can be as good a spiritual guide as a man. No, dear Spiritual Leader, homosexuality is not unnatural, and the sun does not revolve around the earth.

The (pre)medieval idea that the sun revolves around the earth is a good example of not being able to look beyond one's own nose. Galilei was -I'm not joking- persecuted by the roman catholic church for stating that the earth turns around the sun. Why did the catholic church consider this a dangerous idea? Because the bible stated otherwise. And surely, since humanity was so important to God, everything in creation revolves around us?

In fact, if we look at the truly mindstaggering number of stars and the incomprehensible dimensions of our universe alone, I think the greatest arrogance is to assume humanity is even anything close to important in the Grand Scheme of Things.


So for someone to state that something is against God's wish...he or she has to think that they have some Special Connection to God, or am I mistaken? Is it a humble statement? Not that I take strongly against arrogance, I consider it a lot better than false humility. But spiritual movements often preach humility as a spiritual value, a desirable character trait. And they often claim that their Great Leader is so humble, a shining example to all.

`No no, you see, my Master is the most humble person I ever met. It is true that in His books He claims He is the Special Personality, sent down to help Humanity. But His Divine Grace shines through in every word. And of course He avoids to write directly that He is the Special Personality, He only infers it, out of humility.'

Humility? A truly humble person would - in my not so humble opinion- never agree to be a Great Leader, Guru, Guide, Special Personality, Master, Pope, whatever. She or he would never claim to know God's wishes. She or he would probably not feel unhumble enough to judge someone's sexual orientation either.


That being said, I cannot even imagine the pain that homosexual followers of some spiritual movement or religion must feel when once again their sexual orientation is under moral siege by the Great Leader.

Does this loving Special Personality even stop to consider this pain? Or is it irrelevant, since by Special Divine Communication, God has spoken out to the Great Leader on this subject?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spiritual guidance: the violin teacher analogy 2

After reading the first posts here, a friend suggested to expand a little on the violin teacher analogy. He also asked whether I was aware that my writings perhaps will not make much sense to people who do not have some firsthand experience with a spiritual movement and its organization.

[Yes I'm aware of this. This blog, although meant for all, probably has as imagined primary audience: people with a firsthand experience of a spiritual movement, who are struggling, like I was struggling, to put things into some perspective that makes sense on both the heart level and the head level. I hope that also `novices' and other spiritually interested people will find some things useful. Maybe later I will provide some details on the movement that I participated in (for 12 yrs), but for now I'm content to look at general issues having to do with many if not most spiritual movements.]

Let me take another look at the violin teacher analogy. A good violin teacher -imnsho- knows she can only teach well by devoting personal attention, tailormade even, to her students. How many students can one violin teacher therefore have at any given time? And why do we have so many amazing violinists? It can only be because, by devoting her personal attention, skill, love, motivation to her students, enough of her students grow out to be future violin teachers themselves.

But none of these students is required to play the violin in precisely the same way as the teacher. Because a good teacher -yes, imnsho- recognizes the true individuality of each of her students, recognizes her own limitations, and simply tries to help her students bring out the best in themselves.

Is there any need for her students to `surrender completely' to their teacher? Do they need absolute, unquestioning trust? Is immaculate obedience a sign of progression? Or would you, as a teacher, be happier if your student said: Well dear teacher, that is probably fine for you but it doesn't work for me. I'm going to play this largo part intensely emotional, to follow it up with a very subdued allegretto ending. And by the way I think Mozart is for restaurants only, I would like to concentrate on Prokofiev for the time being.

It takes time for a good violin teacher-student relationship to develop. The teacher is happy when the student becomes a master himself, becomes independent, and maybe a teacher himself too. There is no need for orthodoxy, because the love of music is such an obvious and overriding aspect of the whole violin undertaking -if this undertaking has any quality. And imnsho true love is never orthodox.

On the other hand, orthodoxy is seen to abound in spiritual movements.

`The Great Saint Bahjamahanuji, affectionately known as Bahji, said: Obedience is the highest form of Realization. Start your day at dawn with a pure Longing in your heart, repeating these words in your mind:

Oh Divine One
Oh Guruji
To be with You
is to liberate our hearts
from the Slavery of Material Existence
You are the Path
and the One to guide us to the Goal

Performing this prayer precisely as prescribed will benefit a practising aspirant in a most effective way. It is very important to use these precise words, since they carry a special spiritual charge. The Prayer was revealed to Shri Bahjamahanuji by his Master , Shri Ram Krasnapolsi, in a Vision.'

So I do not hesitate to oppose love and orthodoxy. And true guidance to me is the opposite of mass guidance. Because if a violin teacher has more than -well let's be real optimistic here- a hundred students at a time, how much personal attention is this teacher able to give each student?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spiritual authority needs legitimization, but do we need spiritual authority?

Following up on the previous post, the common path of spiritual movements with a Guide who is really a Leader seems to be as follows.

In order for Someone to have absolute moral authority, this Person must in some way be legitimized. Most movements spare time, effort nor money to reinforce the Legitimization of the Guide. (Who is a man, in say 99.99% of the spiritual movements.)

A very good practice is to have the current Guide legitimized in a line of previously established Superholy Predecessors. The Great Founder of the movement obviously is the first, and His Legitimization can be embellished all the more the longer He is no more with us in His Physical Form.

`Stars began to blaze in that night of that year, and the holy Aszjnabaraki spoke: He has come. Already at His birth, it was noticed that people and animals grew quiet around Him. At the age of four, His mother was surprised one day to find Him....etc.'

It becomes more elaborate as time passes, but the essence of the legitimization mythos is practically the same in all movements: the Guide is legitimized through Holy Divine Sources (backed up by a lot of books, testimonials etc), which of course cannot be tested by mere mortals, BUT mere mortals can experience the Love emanating from the Guide as a palpable proof of the legitimization... Although of course proof is not necessary since we must rely on Faith. [more on faith later]


I'm putting in these #-s because already we are being pulled in a direction here which -in my not so humble opinion (imnsho)- should read CAUTION, do you really want to go here?

Because to me it seems that any TRUE spiritual guide would NEVER go near anything having to do with moral authority.

A true spiritual guide...that rarest of all human beings...might be inclined to help you find a true spiritual guide within yourself. I would be surprised if this was not the case. And it would mean that the number of guides increases. No followers to speak of.

Oh, but wait! If I am my own guide, then blimey, I must make my own decisions, take my own way, I'd rather be with the herd, in the herd, cosy, warm, following Him.


If you are a seeker of true spirituality (and why else would you read this blog, or to put it more directly: what other thing in life is really worthwile?) then my question to you is:

Is not in yourself the very thing you seek?

You may be desperate, you may think someone else can help you feel spiritual, balanced, loving,...and I think this is correct, there are people everywhere willing to devote their time and energy and love to help others find spirituality, balance, love. But where does this idea of moral authority come from? Where does the idea even of morality as an external obligation come from?

If my guide (or one of my guides, or all of them) gives me some clue, some direction, some example - where's the authority? And if I don't follow the clue, direction, example...well so what? SHAME on me? A WASTE of a UNIQUE opportunity to wash away my sins, clean my samskaras, shorten my longsuffering reincarnation cycle?

Please, dear reader, consider what would happen if you don't believe this type of moral pressure. If you refuse this combination of Fear and Temptation which characterizes the vast majority of so-called spiritual movements. And shed it, like you take off an ill-fitting itchy garment.

Would it mean, as most movements suggest or (more likely) strongly affirm, that your Salvation becomes endangered? That your Soul will accrue more darkness, and that you are at risk of debauchery, materialism, clogging your spiritual arteries?

Or would it mean you are realizing your own path, with your own heart, following the true guide within, with HELP from your loving guides but without authority, rank, surrender, obedience, submission, ... and other excess luggage.

If you were this loving God, which of these scenarios would you choose for your human beings who are after all made in your image?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spiritual guidance vs. authority (pitfall 1)

Not surprising, I think, that many of us try to find spiritual guidance. Especially since some people living or in the past claim to be spiritual guides, offering their service in this respect.

For clarity: I believe the idea of spiritual guidance is above board. But -you will ask, since this is purportedly a blog about pitfalls in spirituality- what then do I see as the pitfall associated with spiritual guidance?

The pitfall -imnsho- lies in the gradient between guidance and authority.

For some reason, for almost all of us, guidance and authority are overlapping areas. Furthermore, because of herd instinct?, most of us want to be led more than guided. Leadership has always been held in high esteem. Most of us prefer not to have to think about tough decisions all by ourselves, we follow a (the) leader. In my eyes this is often not a positive thing. I can be bolder and state that imnsho most truly detrimental human actions come from this herdlike following of leaders.

So I see a big difference between guidance and leadership. Leadership often translates in authority structures. Hierarchy, in other words. Seniority, some rank structure like brown belt, second star, 14th ring... If you happen to participate in some spiritual movement I'm sure you can fill in something here.

But does a guide need a 14th ring? A black belt? It seems to me that WE need these signs of achievement in order to trust the guide. `I can safely listen to this person, because she is in the 12th state of consciousness, so she should know.' So we look for some legitimization, some authorization which puts our guide in a higher position than ourselves. And then -herd instinct?- often we try to make the guide into a leader.

Is it any wonder that we often will not accept guidance from peers? `Oh no, I've known you all my life, you're nothing special, what could you know about this? But Shri Paramahamsabii, who is the Special Descendant - as attested by his Master, the holy Pujashri Lama Ricoche - now He says: put all your faith in the Guide, do not waver from the Path. Hold His hand, He will guide you to your Destination

Now, does any of this look familiar?

When you think about it, this is a common element to all spiritual movements. The guide is made into a Guide (Guru, Master, Pope, Ayatollah, Dalai Lama, Rinpoche,...). This by Special Authority, mostly of a Divine Nature. Next the Guide is made into the Leader, the Absolute Moral Authority (often not in so many words, or only gradually...since it takes most western people time to get used to the idea that someone could have absolute moral authority over their life. After all, we kind of got rid of that phenomenon, didn't we? But it never loses its appeal, the idea to give your life over to someone completely loving, the living representative of GOD...)

But wait a minute: how could I possibly check if this Special Authority, Divine Nature is what other people in the Movement (not novices, Senior Members...) allege it to be?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spiritual guidance 1 (pitfall 1)

For the moment, having waited 6 weeks to see if I would really go ahead, I see nothing wrong with simply starting at the top of the provisory list of the first post.

I think that much of what I perceive to be the trouble with many spiritual movements [this includes religions] starts with the issue of spiritual guidance.

Right at the beginning I would like to say that this and similar issues have very subtle shades. Therefore it is easy for the novice of a spiritual method/movement to be confused and even beguiled. [perhaps this is worth a separate mention as pitfall].

To illustrate what I mean, consider a violin teacher. Obviously a violin teacher can do many things to help someone wishing to learn how to play the violin. A good teacher to me is someone who with a keen eye for the person (s)he teaches, strives to help attain good technique AND love for music, love for the violin.

To me, it seems very difficult -although not impossible!- to learn how to play the violin without a good teacher. This teacher can be seen as a violin guide giving violin guidance.

So then, is it so strange to presume that one would need spiritual guidance in order to learn how to live a spiritual life - something which many of us crave, but do we even know what it is, let alone how to attain it?