Friday 17 May 2024

Spiritual Teachers are Largely Useless

In fact, many of them are net negative. I was prompted in this thought after being sent this link to the London Mind, Body and Spirit Festival which takes place shortly. Most of the spiritual professionals who appear at these affairs in talks and workshops are just selling their wares. They are basically business people who have a talent for giving a spiritual presentation but they cater to those who seek spirituality as a lifestyle accessory or means to develop themselves. They are the psychics, intuitives, positive thinkers, motivational speakers, wellness experts and aura readers who offer a kind of therapeutic self-help for people tired of materialism or, since few of them actually renounce it, looking to expand their horizons a bit beyond materialism. I suppose you could say they are a stage to be gone through but you shouldn't need to experience that stage to realise the essential emptiness and self-indulgence of it.

I'm sure some of these teachers believe they are doing good and perhaps some of them are but in my opinion they are mostly leading people away from true spiritual understanding down one of the many blind alleys that the novice might encounter when he first starts to aspire to something more than this world has to offer. Anybody who makes spirituality their profession, other than a bona fide priest who anyway follows a vocation not a profession and is certainly not in it for fame or fortune, is either a fraud or, since most of them are not that, an opportunist or, best case scenario, on a low rung of spiritual understanding. Some years ago my guides informed me that there were many teaching half-truths at present and, though they were not all evil, they were not very evolved. I wouldn't say the picture has changed since then. I am not saying these people are evil but what they have to offer is a spirituality intended to make one feel good, and the spiritual path is not about making the earthly self happy and fulfilled or even loving and good. It has one purpose only which is to reorient the heart and mind to God.

So, are there no spiritual teachers worth following? It depends what you mean by teacher. There are certainly people from whom one can learn but the whole concept of a spiritual teacher is foreign to the West. It is imported from Eastern religion, the guru and so on, and therefore it is operating on a different sort of level. But even on that level I would maintain that the spiritual teacher role as it exists now exists as much for the teacher's sake as it does for the pupil. Certainly we can and should share our understanding but the spiritual path today is an individual path and all teachers can do is give us a push in the right direction at an early stage. Thereafter, we must form our own relationship with God. No doubt many teachers would say exactly that but often by their behaviour they encourage dependence, personality worship and idolatry. Nowadays the spiritual teacher is just another manifestation of celebrity culture.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - As often happens, I have posted on a related theme today.

I think that an underlying problem with modern "New Age" spirituality is that it derives from a "oneness" perspective (derived from Western ideas of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism etc) - which does not recognize *real* evil, and which therefore regards what Christians call discernment as an error of the unenlightened.

The assumption regarding every spiritual teacher is that they *might* help, but they cannot do *real* harm; and therefore you might as well give it a try, and "the more the better"...

Until you get something like modern day Glastonbury, with its many hundreds of spiritual teachers and sellers, all clamouring for the attention of tourists and visitors (seeking sex, power, status, and maybe a bit of money) - and indeed the teachers are often taking-in each others' spiritual washing!

In general, such people never acknowledge their own significant errors, sins, lapses - never seem to learn from their experiences - but repeatedly add-on or move-on-to the next spirituality, then the next...

William Wildblood said...

Your post on the spirit world is really excellent, Bruce. It's of value to Christians who, as you say, see it as all bad, and 'spiritual' people who fail to see it as subordinate to the Divine world. Spiritual teachers, funnily enough, can only really have an audience in a culture that has abandoned proper religion. People still hunger for something more than this world can offer but lack the discernment or guidance to know how and where to look properly. So these teachers come in to fill the void but they fill it with what relates to what you call in your post the spirit world. That distracts from what really matters but is much more easily digested by the modern person who wants spirituality on his own terms.

Bruce Charlton said...


About 20 years ago I read a fair bit of anthropology of hunter gatherers, including some first contacts in the 1800s. It is remarkable to realize that their experience was one of living among spirits, or which they were spontaneously aware - including spirits of dead ancestors.

They must never have been lonely, and life must have been exciting - because some of these spirits were threatening and harmful.

My assumption is that the underlying reality nowadays is similar to then, but now we must choose to recognize the reality of these spirits, and we cannot usually perceive them (see or hear them) in the way of hunter gatherers.

This is where I reach for the notion of "direct knowing". I think that things are nowadays meant to work non-perceptually (because that fits with our greater agency), so that we "just know" (without words or pictures) the presence and intentions of spirits.

How do they communicate with us? I think that we ourselves must do "the thinking", and the spirits communicate by "endorsing" our thoughts, when we get them right. Something like that.

Does that correspond with your (more recent, post-Masters) experiences?

William Wildblood said...

"we ourselves must do "the thinking", and the spirits communicate by "endorsing" our thoughts, when we get them right. " Yes, I think that is right. We are not directly guided but impressed so that way we are responsible for ourselves and develop our own spiritual faculties, intuition, discernment etc. This is all in line with our development of consciousness as independent free beings, under God, of course.