The Love of Devotion
Chapter 1: In Search of Truth – the Nature of Spiritual Teachers
Several decades passed and I continued down the path of awakening. My first book, The Love of Being Loving, speaks of these years. One never forgets one’s past teachers or disciplines. In my case, Metapsychiatry (and its founder, Dr Thomas Hora) and Christian Science had been my main spiritual influences. Such allegiances are forever enshrined in our heart and continue to help, inspire, and mould us. They are pivotal to our development and our total and absolute devotion to them secures the progress which blossoms from that commitment. The cemented bond between teacher and student surpasses time and space, and the love of a teacher can be beckoned whenever requested. Further, one often has an ongoing commitment to the other students of a teacher and, indeed, the entire group of that pathway. Nevertheless, in spite of loyalties, our inner spiritual drive will take its own path through the terrain it determines is best. It will have its own timing and will guide us to whoever is most beneficial to the next stage of our growth.
Like Attracts Like
I started reading a series of metaphysical books by Dr David R. Hawkins which began to have a significant impact on my spiritual growth. Dr Hawkins’ focus was on the concepts of not juicing the ego, going into an energy field and riding it out, surrender, humility, devotion, and love for everyone and everything, including oneself, at all times. Dr Hawkins and Dr Hora, although appearing at quite different times in my life and with no conscious connection one-to-the-other, came from very similar terrain. We are drawn to a certain field of spiritual truth which resonates with our own inner tendencies and interests. My interest in understanding human consciousness has drawn me to teachers who, themselves, have had a deep interest in human consciousness.
Physicians of the Soul
During the early careers of Hora and Hawkins, New York was a fermenting place of much that was original, brilliant, and challenging in terms of therapy, analysis, and the understanding of the human mind. It is, thus, not surprising that from this fertile and creative ground came dedicated practitioners of mental health who later became dedicated practitioners of spiritual health. Both shared many of the same interests: Zen Buddhism, Taoism, the Christian mystics, existential philosophy, theosophy, Freudian and Jungian analysis, quantum physics, and a profound appreciation of the literature relating to spirituality, healing, consciousness, and nonduality.
Nonduality is a term which reflects devotion to and love of a spiritual Good which has no opposite. It is a realisation of the tremendous power of the invisible life-force of the Divine. God and man are not seen as separate entities, but as One. Both are held with an attitude of devotional love and this devotion unfolds as a sincere and unrelenting walk towards greater self-realisation. The concept of nondualism is originally derived from the sacred texts of the Upanishads. It finds its source in the Advaita Vedanta tradition of the Hindu philosophy. It is a system of thought which sees the essence of the human soul as indistinguishable from the Absolute. Nonduality does not make sense to the human mind. It is illogical and goes against everything we sense with our human capacities. One has to open the door to a different realm, and then one begins to experientially and spiritually feel it. Understanding nonduality leads naturally to healing because life is seen in a way that is spontaneously elevating.
All the schools of thought that I have seriously studied are based on an understanding of Reality as being nondualistic – there is only one Life, Life is good and only good, and Life is freely available to everyone. Metaphysical disciplines require mental boldness and a fearless and passionate spirituality. Significant suffering and dissatisfaction with the alternatives help the spiritual flame to ignite and continue to burn. The backward drag in the early stages of one’s commitment can be large. Intensity of commitment ensures that the kindling elements of devotion and dedication overcome the immense resistance to forward movement.
Genuine teachers tend to have, in true Zen master style, high expectations of their students. Teachers, worth their salt, take the responsibility of their students very seriously. They do not want to be held responsible for failing to set their standards high enough. As one evolves, one loses concern for being liked. One’s concern, as a teacher, is the evolution of the student. Given that human nature is intrinsically and unavoidably selfish, lazy, proud, and has a great proclivity for procrastination, there are endless opportunities to confront this ego-nature in the evolving soul.
It is this approach of, sometimes, tough love combined with the sweetness of kind and gentle caring which endears our teachers to us. It also engenders an unshakeable sense of respect towards the teacher from those around. When such an individual enters the room, all those in the room lift. When such a one speaks, people listen. When such a one says no, it is not questioned unless there is a pressing reason to do so. When such a one is around, everyone feels better and acts better. When such a one is temporarily gone, it is a struggle to keep energy at the same level. The humanness creeps in. Sometimes, it barges in.
Who Chooses Who?
One does not really choose one’s teachers. Nor do teachers choose their students. Such things are written in the heavens. It is more a matter of recognising one’s teacher. Likewise, one recognises one’s own students. This recognition is neither intellectual nor emotional, although intelligence, reason, and emotional resonance do play a part. It is something beyond that. It is a knowing rather than a decision. One feels a timeless connection which has become apparent and clear. One gladly surrenders to being given one’s guide and advocate. Such things are destined and one is, certainly, very grateful for these precious gifts. To be such a help to another person is to repay the karma of having once been taught oneself. That is the price. We pay with love for the love we have been given.
Of all the religions and spiritual groups in the world, why do we end up in one or, sometimes, a few? With all the people in the world, why do we closely bond with a relative few? It is destiny, karma. It is internally driven by the need for lessons and the working out of karma from past forgotten associations, agreements prior to being born, and that which will give us specific learning opportunities. Some bonds arise and then release and some bonds remain intact. Sometimes, we cannot tell whether something is beneficial long-term. So, we let time and the flow of events decide for us. There is nothing to prove. We submit to the divine process – not another and not our own ego. It is true humility and makes us invulnerable to domination by any other human. Fear cannot capture us, criticism cannot harm us, and pride cannot make us fall.
The Design of the Patchwork
We will, frequently, find that a commitment to a certain spiritual teacher will coincide with other personal relationship commitments in our life. It is as if the whole complex and intricate fabric of our lives is sewn together in an invisible pattern. Often, in retrospect, we see the design of the patchwork which, at the time, seemed unrelated or haphazard. With a little distance, the purpose and balanced nature of the pieces make perfect sense.
Energetic Field of the Teacher
When one commits to a spiritual teacher, one automatically benefits from the energetic field of that teacher. All one has to do is to sincerely say to oneself that one is a student of a certain person and it is so. One is then entitled to that teacher’s energetic field. Likewise, if one wishes to extricate oneself from a particular teacher, all one has to do is to sincerely say so to oneself and it is so. The energetic bond is then broken. It does not matter if the teacher is living or deceased. It does not matter if one physically sees the teacher or not. Such things are invisible, beyond space and time, and are nonmaterial.
Alignment or Misalignment
Aligning with a spiritual teacher has serious implications. If one is drawn to an ethical, unselfish, mature, and dedicated teacher then rapid progress can be made by virtue of the field of that teacher. However, if one realises that the teacher has serious flaws or is no longer right for us then it is wise to cut the ties with that teacher. It is best to find teachers who are appropriate for our level and with whom there is an intuitive bond. Not only is one affected by the auric field of one’s teacher but one will also share the karma the teacher carries. In fact, one should be very careful about proclaiming one’s allegiance to any teacher or group for this reason. Such an allegiance means that you, in part, share the karma of that individual or group both good and bad. For example, in sharing a Catholic heritage, one automatically takes on board the magnificent spiritual power of all the beautiful Catholic saints, mystics, and humanitarians, as well as the very regrettable deceptions, rigidities, tyrannies, tragedies, and pain.
Dedication to Truth Not Personality
The motive of the ego is always self-centred. The love of less developed teachers is not as unselfish as it may, sometimes, seem. Teachers can love our dedication to them rather than our dedication to the Truth. We dedicate ourselves to Truth, not to a material personality. We learn to lean on the sustaining Infinite and, in this way, we trust not human persons but we trust the goodness of the Divine presence. A true teacher will encourage this. The spirit of the teacher is everything. Words are cheap. Many teachers who have large followings are internally misaligned.
God-Confirmatory Not Self-Confirmatory
Success and power are very seductive elements for less evolved spiritual teachers. A true teacher has no desire to control, needs nothing back, and will be God-confirmatory rather than self-confirmatory. Instead of seeking personal success and power, he or she will view their role as a sacred responsibility to those in need of spiritual help. For such a teacher, the joy of success is in the growth and development of others and in the fulfilment of one’s own inherent gifts and destiny. To follow one’s path and use one’s talents is to rightly fulfil one’s purpose on Earth.
Most spiritual teachers do not consciously and intentionally deceive. However, ignorance of the ego does not make a saint. Good questions to ask about spiritual teachers are: Are there rules and regulations? Does the teacher need or want certain things back? Is the teacher asking for a lot of money? Does this teacher’s presence or writing transform me? Do I feel closer to God by listening to this teacher?
We want the attention to be drawn not to the personal teacher but to the impersonal divinity of those listening. The focus is not on the teacher but on the true spirit within each of us. We want to feel God rising within. Otherwise, the capacity of the teacher to aid our long-term transformation will be limited. Genuine teachers quickly divert attention away from themselves. They do this so that the focus is on the needs of the student and not on themselves. If they have outgrown the desire for personal attention, they will do this very naturally. Sometimes, however, a teacher recognises a lack of gratitude in a student, in which case, he or she may deliberately and repeatedly insist on a student’s profession of loyalty. It is the Zen master’s stick.
Breaking the Ties
Many people instinctively wish to make breaks with certain teachers and groups in an official manner so that the bond is properly broken and the person is then freed from the invisible ties. Some people are not happy in their spiritual home but stay out of fear, laziness or ignorance. Some people clearly see the problems but stay out of love, loyalty, and duty. Spiritual freedom is a primary and essential component of a true teacher and a true group. We lose nothing by removing ourselves from a situation which is not for our highest good even if, at one stage, it was. Freedom is a non-negotiable component of spiritual love. We have our unconditional freedom to explore and go wherever is most helpful to us, whenever we feel so inspired, and to do whatever we consider to be in the highest interest of our growth and destiny.
The world is a wonderful place, full of opportunity. In this way, not only can we never be contained or destroyed but we also have complete freedom to stay, unreservedly and wholeheartedly, wherever we wish to stay and grow and help. There is no guilty, fearful or resigned staying. Rather, it is a sincere embracing of one’s right place and destiny, whatever that may be. Our devotion to all that is good and all that is good for us becomes unshakeable. The soul’s path is secure and assured. We can walk with profound peace and confidence in our hearts.
Students can be seriously let down by their teachers. It hurts when someone we really trust disappoints us, even if it is only in our own minds. However, it gives us the opportunity to trust something better or to mature in our understanding of life, and that makes it worthwhile. Movement and change is a natural and healthy part of the path. A group or teacher may not be what we thought or we may have outgrown that particular teaching situation. We don’t have to keep carrying our disappointment about moving on. We work through things as best we can and then we surrender it as soon as possible. Sometimes, we just need a change for things to settle into us and become our own. When it is a significant loss of attachment and a big disappointment, it can take a considerable time to truly get over it. We are kind to ourselves and keep working on releasing it.
Choosing Our Battles
In releasing oneself from a strong teacher or group attachment, it may be important to bravely and clearly state our disconnection. Out of respect for other’s growth or out of a karmic duty we may wish to explain why we are leaving. It may be important for our development to demonstrate courage and clarity of thought. If we get upset doing so, it is understandable. We keep working on it until the emotion is released. Explaining ourselves may create more trouble than anything else, in which case, it is wisest and kindest to say nothing and quietly depart, perhaps, with a believable excuse. We do not want to hurt people unnecessarily. We may decide not to show up or correspond anymore. Certainly, most people in a group will not want to know why we are leaving them. In order to protect their own right position, they will simply reject us and find fault with what we say. After all, they are staying and want to feel that they are right to do so. One has to use one’s energy wisely and choose one’s battles. When a thing is really released within us, we do not care what others think about our departure. We are glad of our freedom and wish others the same liberty.
God is Sufficient
When one truly has God, one has no personal need for religion or spiritual groups. God is more than sufficient. However, we may still choose to remain in a religious or spiritual group. We may stay out of love. We may find that the essence of the group is beautiful, and those who are drawn to it are good. Or we may feel that the once beautiful garden of the group has become overgrown with thorny bushes, and we may wish to stay and make it a more pleasant and trouble-free place for its occupants and visitors.
Leaving the Nest
Even with the best of teachers, there is within the student an element of maintaining or reclaiming, whichever the case may be, one’s spiritual independence and power. One cannot forever reside under the wings of the great protector. One is, not infrequently, pushed or pulled to venture out and strengthen one’s own wings like children leaving the nest. This can all happen with good grace. There is a somewhat sad but resigned knowing that it is time. However, the form of departing is not always so conciliatory. It can be a breakdown of trust which forces the student to venture into new terrain. After enough years have passed, the old teacher is often seen with renewed affection, albeit, always in a different way.
Our First Spiritual Teacher
A combination of the stage of life, age, the particular approach to the spiritual path, the level of suffering, the developmental stage of the soul, and the personality of the departing student will influence the surrounding circumstances. Falling in love (in the broadest sense) with the teacher will frequently mean that the student will wholeheartedly throw him or herself into the comfort and security of the work and world of the teacher. Spiritual students with intense, enquiring, and radically-committed natures will not only devote themselves with utter abandon to the teacher but, when that nature is combined with the driving pain of human existence, such students will often tolerate little in the way of deviation from his or her expectations. One forgives such intensities when human nature is understood.
Our first serious spiritual teacher is very important to us. We tend to adore them. We, sometimes, blame them. In the end, they were the one. The first one. Many people after a first serious relationship are hurt deeply and take considerable time to heal. Future relationships are never approached in quite the same way. Hopefully, there is more independence, more forgiveness, and more wisdom about what relationships can and can’t do. Any future falling apart of relationships will be handled with less pain, quicker recovery time, and more ability to accept the ups and downs of life. The same is true of spiritual teachers. Such things evolve as they should.
One Grand Brotherhood
If it is a spiritual journey, a journey drawing closer to God as we see it then the true power of the teacher is spiritual inspiration. It is the opening of Heaven’s doors. It is invisible and one knows not from whence it comes and so we say it is the Spirit of God. Some call it something else. It is good and the person is loved for their contribution to others’ lives. The terrain, as a spiritual student, is large and varied, continuously changing and expanding. One must follow one’s inner guidance about the worth and capability of the teacher while, at the same time, remaining conscious of the limitations of teachers and the pitfalls of spiritual groups. It is one grand brotherhood of learning. One way or another, we are all in this together. Not only are the connections forged with other spiritual students but, more far-reaching, we have irrevocable bonds with all of our brothers and sisters who share Earth and who are, by nature of existence, part of the human family. If one suffers, we all suffer. What blesses one, blesses all.
From The Love of Devotion