Welcome to the Spiritual Circus
When we look from the outside at what is going on in ‘spiritual’circles, it would be very easy to say, “these people seem mad”, rest assured it’s madder than anyone would imagine on the inside, and I don’t mean on my inside, I mean within the walls of the ashrams, the monasteries, the yoga schools and the retreats, it is insanity. However, we live in a very mad world, so why should madness stop at the ‘supposed’ gates of salvation?
There is a type of elitist arrogance in religious and spiritual groups that is often referred to as ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’, it comes from a biblical passage about the end days; it’s the core of the ‘us and them mentality’, the saved and the lost, it’s a prepubescent attitude that can linger and be passed from generation to generation, or from the guru to initiate. Let’s leave that aside now that I have normalised the environment.
Hook, Line and Blinkers
By nature, humans are easy to sell to, if you do it right, people will buy anything. The classic example is the dummy in the window, a person wandering down the street, looks through the glass, a desire emerges, imagines themselves dressed as the dummy, thinks ‘wow I will look better than that’, goes into shop, walks out with a spring their step, new outfit in bag. This is very similar to what happens when newbies first find some type of perceived pathway out of pain, heartache and chaos of life. Because of a natural innocence and naivety with spirituality, people often don’t know how to act in a spiritual group, it turns into a monkey see – monkey do, instead of being oneself. And this is where the trouble starts.
The Sanity of Skepticism
As a long term Ufologist and OOBer (out of the body traveler) it would seem odd for me to say that if you are interested in religion or spirituality, get yourself a friend who is a skeptic. A skeptic will fast track you through all the nonsense, and on condition that your new skeptic buddy is not an extreme fundamentalist skeptic or very arrogant and condescending , he or she will probably ask the right questions. Because the honeymoon stage of any new spiritual group can seem euphoric to most because of the new friends, supposedly liked minded seekers, happy people, revelations, the open arms, the feel good quotes, the challenge, the hope of a glorious future; it is critical that the new hot-air-balloon that you have hopped aboard, has a few sandbags to allow a descent back to earth.
Being Well Informed
I have been around a number of cults and sects, it started early in my life as I wanted to be a priest, fortunately I realised ‘that’s not it’, I stole back Jesus from the Catholic clergy abusers, headed east, and into the mystic doctrines instead. Being well informed on doctrines, scriptures and approaches for transformation made it reasonably easy to see who was just doing ‘dress ups’ and had hidden agendas, and who could push the visitors through the doorway of foreverness.
Overtaking the Teachers
So where is this going? As I have been a musician for most of my life, one thing that was critical has been for me to find my own music, to get inside sound, to get an understanding of how it all works and to abandon the idea of ‘being or playing somebody else’, and to some degree, to disregard the known. This attitude is something that I consider important when dealing with the sublime subject of spirituality. When I was about twenty years old I studied guitar with a great musician and he said to me, “I don’t mind if you go past me”. This statement and pass-out to freedom was a great gift. And this is an attitude that is worth considering when it comes to spiritual teachers, gurus, masters or anyone who has sat a crown on their head in the spiritual empire. Ultimately we need to go past them. Dependency is the enemy of the spiritual aspirant; it would be very easy for people to start throwing scriptural quotes in my direction in response to this statement. I did have a great teacher, I owe him a lot; his death was a major milestone in my endless transformation, it meant I had to put into action everything that I had remembered, this was not comfortable, I had to become responsible for myself. But we don’t need somebody to die, for us to die to them. And dying is what this is all about.
Death of the Known
The process of meditation is what I would call the drinking of slow poison. Generally if we think of poison, alarm bells go off, images of sickness, a slow and painful exit from the body, a lot of sweating, gasping for air as we squeeze the last words out of our being. OK, let’s change our definition of poison to it being an elixir, something that pilgrims have been seeking for eons. In meditation everyone is equal, in the Silence there are no show-ponies, there is no feet kissing of gurus, no bowing or prostrating, there are no phantoms, by understanding this, a lot of unnecessary stuff can be dumped. It is important to not confuse the world of forms and sensations, or any real or imaginary spiritual hierarchies with where we are going, or more precisely, with what is at the core under our awareness. In ashrams and monasteries there is a tendency for the ‘been here longer, know more’ attitude to exist, this structure can be a little delusive because the newbie may use a more ‘senior’ member of the community as the model to shape themselves on. The ‘disciple mannequin’ is then the point of focus and what happens is the newbie takes on the habits of someone else, thinking the accrual of habits is development.
When the Guru Stuffs You Over
So what if not only the ‘senior’ monkeys have got it all very wrong, but the guru or teacher themselves, they may be a schyster; people are giving up not only time, but are placing some sort of future life importance around someone who has gotten it total wrong or may just be a control freak? What to do? This entanglement is dangerous, it may even cost us our friends, family, money, our thinking, our precious life. We see this all the time, betrayal, abuse of power, sexual abuse, misappropriation of monies, the building of empires at the expense of others. There are a trail of corpses on the guru trail, there have been numerous tragedies where there has been betrayal; if one were to say “the Spiritual Path is treacherous”, it would be correct from the point of view that a great teacher is rare. Personally I think it is important for everything and everyone to be become our teacher, as life emerges we can savor the wisdom
I had the greatest of teachers, this gives me a good window to look through that allows a certain amount of empathy. I get this ‘teacher thing’, I understand the feeling of obligation that people have; the hooks, the feeling of loss when it doesn’t work; the strings that are similar to being in a family. This relationship being like our families, may be a clue to how to navigate in, through and out of the many spiritual and religious groups we may encounter. With families, we are born into an environment that allows us to grow, we don’t have a choice, in some cases we are nurtured, cared for, guided, but there are situations where people are in fear, are bullied, feel worthless, dis-empowered. Regardless what the family structure may be like, we do know that good natured, well balanced people come from varied family backgrounds. My dearest friend, the man who was my teacher grew up in an orphanage, but he morphed into the wisest man I ever met. With this in mind, if we can learn to take from our family backgrounds and grow into versions of self-reliant independent thinking, emotionally intelligent people, we can also ride through the various ups and downs, wisdom and insanity of the spiritual circus and not get ‘caught’.
Claiming Ourselves Back
What I learnt from my teacher, and this was from the very first meeting, was to start letting go of everything that was in the way, from the outset it was critical that I let go of him, I had to come back to myself and get rid of everything in the way; to see the teachings, the gurus, the experiences as something on the periphery and secondary; to not have anything in the way to block the view; and ultimately that anything else was ‘looking away’. When we are lost in the drama of cults, religious institutions, gurus, practices, spiritual teachings, they sit between us, or more specifically they create a division; where we need to be is in ourselves (not totally up ourselves with some story of spirituality), all these things create ‘another’ and are things that are rising and falling on the screen of life, just consciousness and energy.
An attitude of ‘not betraying God, our guru or teacher’ by claiming back our power is critical. The Universes we move in are benevolent and it is our playground, we are not its slave, and freedom is in coming home to ourselves, not moving away.