What is the role of a spiritual teacher and do we need one as part of our path?
As I am expanding my spiritual teaching practice, I find that this is an important topic to address. Throughout history, particularly in the Eastern traditions, having a guru or a teacher was necessary – and it was even considered “wrong” if someone decided to change their guru. Nowadays, many people change their teachers all the time, and many don’t even have one. I myself have been in the presence of a great one and it was truly life-changing. And yet I’ve also been mainly self-taught as I allowed my infinite curiosity to take me across countries, across beliefs, philosophies, mysteries and many cultures; endless nights spent exploring the corners of my mind as well as ancient texts, and then, along my mystical ways I’d come across teachers and guides even if only for a short while. As both a seeker and a teacher, here are my insights.
The most important thing to understand about spiritual teachers or guides or gurus is that we must be clear about our own intentions and expectations.
The simple truth is that:
all a teacher will ever do is reflect our own knowledge back to us.
You already have that wisdom within you but sometimes we just forget and need someone, or some experience, to awaken within us our inner wisdom, our inner mystic, and our heart, so that we remember who we already are. My own practice is based on my mini philosophy:
The greatest adversary to re-claiming ourselves is forgetfulness; forgetting the purity of our heart, inner truth and ability to love.
Having said that – it doesn’t mean that we don’t need teachers; in fact, a great teacher will make all the difference in your life and may sometimes even save your life. But in order for you to get what you are truly looking for, you need to understand that it depends only on you. It is your wisdom and awareness that will be initiated; all the teacher will do is help you to remember who you already are and what you already know.
This is why it is also important to find someone that you resonate with – because this is how you’d be more open and receptive to them.
But regardless of how amazing the teacher is – it wouldn’t matter unless you truly understand that it will all be coming from you. Once you start aligning to who you are through awakening and remembering, then you’d need to put in the effort to embody this through your actions and everyday life, to evolve your consciousness and expand further.
Spiritual guides are there to walk with us, and share their own wisdom with kindness and compassion, but they can’t walk our roads for us. They will certainly hold the safe space for us to cultivate our true essence but spirituality is an inner walk; these roads are unique to us and we walk them alone. Teachers can’t give us or add to us anything other than what we’ve already realized and hold as capacity within ourselves. This is why we all see and perceive something different when we read the same book. And this is also why years can pass and then we’ll notice something new in an old book or poem – because our own perception has changed. We need to understand it’s all coming from us.
Simultaneously, all knowledge and energy that we’ll experience from them, even if we can’t process it or receive it currently, will still remain within us, ingrained in our subconscious, and one day when we need its wisdom, it will resurface lovingly and we’ll remember it. So trust that it is always a great gift to be in the presence of someone of high energy and deep wisdom.
We all have the archetype of the spiritual teacher within us. It may not be manifested as an outward teaching but it is alive within us as the quiet bridge towards our higher self, seamlessly guiding us along the way. This is our connection to spirit and to love – and we reach it through our heart. This is what allows us to interpret information that pours from our soul and that comes from without. Often times we might project that onto other external teachers; they are absolutely meant to help us recognize and connect to our innate spiritual abilities, usually via acting as a mirror. But what becomes a problem is when we get lost in extreme idolization or overly identifying with a teacher to the point that when anything goes “wrong”, we start feeling betrayed or hurt or confused, and then end up completely denying ourselves all connection with spirit.
Idealization and Devaluation.
Idealization and devaluation always walk hand in hand in life. When we idolize or idealize someone, we run the risk of devaluating them some day. This is true for any person or situation is our life. As long as we are in human bodies, we will be flawed and faced with limitations and conditioned human minds. No matter how awakened we are, even the most awakened will hold a tiny bit of bias because we are still human.
We will never know it all.
Because we are here to always learn, to be the ever seekers and mystics, leaving space for the unknown to surprise us and teach us further. The pursuit of wisdom is the wisdom itself, and in our unknowingness is where we truly expand. Perfect wisdom is ignorance and the lack of curiosity is what shrinks us. In my opinion, all good teachers are also students; and they will never say “they know it all.”
Actually, the very idea that someone is idealized or idolized implies that we are already in a state of separation – because we believe we are separate from those who are “perfect” – and also, we place a high focus on the external. When we are idealizing, we are also idealizing ourselves on a subconscious level and paving our road to disappointment, which could lead to a reality collapse and to us becoming more judgmental and critical. When we idealize, we limit ourselves and others to a consciousness that is flawed and biased, and we become a slave easily to be controlled and manipulated by the mainstream, by politics, by the masses, etcetera. This in itself means they we are abandoning and not accepting ourselves as the imperfect humans that we are – and abandoning our road to soul development – which in essence is integration of all aspects of our psyche operating from a space of unconditional love.
John of God, The Miracle Healer from Brazil is a great example of someone who people idealized and idolized, only to then find out of the many rape allegations against him. We can’t idealize humans – regardless of their positive impact on humanity.
This also relates to our everyday life. If we suddenly have a fallout with someone, we shouldn’t forget or devalue all the past times when they have helped us, neither should we negate their entire existence or “cancel them”. Yet this doesn’t mean that we should go back to people who aren’t good for us or who have hurt us; we should just walk away with peace and gratitude. This by itself is a whole different departure from a situation, which is healthy.
We also need to get rid of this holier-than-thou perspective and stop going around for justice or revenge and excusing violence as “religion” or “because my spiritual leader/guru said so”.
One thing that I always say is: don’t listen to me, don’t believe me nor follow me, find out for yourself, research on your own, open your mind, and just stay curious and receptive to a different perspective or viewpoint. At its essence, spirituality means to expand in our perceptions which thereby expands our consciousness, and you can’t do that by following blindly someone; you have to walk through the woods alone, bump against a few things in the dark, and sharpen your own senses. Expand and learn through your curiosity, questioning and your own realizations.
Good guides hold a safe space for you to question and to wonder, to cultivate curiosity because this is where expansion happens; this is the path to higher consciousness.
Good guides reconnect you to your heart, so that you can follow your own wisdom as you are navigating through the roads of life, within and without.
While a teacher can’t walk the way for you and they can’t give you anything other than what you already hold within you, they can place little candles along your way and you can choose to follow those lights whenever you feel it is time for you to do so. You need to trust and to stay true to your heart; you need to feel your feelings because they are your own inner compass. A good teacher will never take advantage of you and will always care for your wellbeing; like any other relationship it is based on trust and effort.
In the old days, teachers would be very selective with whom they decided to take on as a student. They would often times even test them – by rejecting them many times for example – because they needed to see whether the student was really ready. This path is not easy because we are faced with our own selves as we walk it; light is not always liked because it lights up everything within, all the hidden corners and all of our shadows. It takes a lot of devotion, dedication and effort to be with ourselves and expand within.
Can spiritual teachings become outdated?
Humanity evolves, consciousness evolves. Time evolves us. And our human body also changes to reflect this evolution of our consciousness, so we can’t expect that ancient practices will carry the same effect today. We need to continue the deep esoteric wisdom of the immovable truths, while also adjusting the practices so that they serve our wellbeing and our rising. As human beings we tend to believe in what has been truest for the longest time – and so, many people continue to base their beliefs and practices on very ancient texts and truths. But we are not the same consciousness that we were thousands of years ago. We must remember to discern what is immovable or universal truth and what needs to be adjusted. The inability, or unwillingness, to do that is what causes a lot of conflict worldwide and is what many dark occult practices are based on.
Unfortunately, the list of those who abused their power and knowledge doesn’t stop at John of God; this list is long, too long and it includes shamans, healers, gurus and spiritual leaders. Some spiritual laws can actually be abusive and lead to toxic behaviours, especially when taught by the people with ill-intentions. This is something to be mindful of.
Some teachings can become outdated because they just no longer apply to the phase of consciousness that we are in. This just means that they need to be re-adjusted to reflect our consciousness and be more properly understood. One such example we see is in the practices of tantra and “sexual magic” for manifestation purposes, which can be dangerous if the person hasn’t healed their emotional body yet. You can read on that in my episode on Evolution of Consciousness and Sacred Sexuality.
There are also a lot of misconceptions about certain spiritual concepts and many statements are taken completely out of context which has unfortunately led to, and perpetuated, toxic behaviours and situations. For example, statements such as “You attract what you are. I am not responsible for how you feel. It is just you because everything is a mirror,” have become quite unhealthy because they are greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted and can also perpetuate wounding in those who are in a more vulnerable state of mind. Limited spiritual knowledge is actually dangerous.
And then there are other statements such as “love always heals and listen to your heart” which can be unhealthy also – because if one’s emotional, mental and spiritual bodies are not harmonized, how would they truly know? And then there are those who abuse these statements because they are disconnected completely from their emotions, such as narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths who prey on those opne-hearted. This is also why so many women suffer at the hands of male spiritual leaders and shamans. We need to remember that with knowledge, comes power – yet what we do with that power is something dependent on our integrity, soul and true heart. Spiritual integrity and spiritual consent are crucial when one works in this field. This is a big and complex topic, so I will write more on it soon.
There are two levels of knowledge:
- Timeless wisdom / Immovable truths
- Channeled for the specific age
Certain spiritual teachings are timeless wisdoms because they are based on universal truths; they are immovable truths. They weren’t made for good or bad, right or wrong, and whether we believe in them or not, it doesn’t matter – they are true because that’s just how life functions. Timeless wisdom is information rooted at the core of the universe with broader reaching patterns that are unwavering and create the structures of our world, within and without. These are universal laws like the Law of Love and “As above, so below. As within, so without.” They portray the dynamics of the universe and contain immovable truths of esoteric wisdom. Astrology and tarot can be seen as channels of timeless wisdom because they use archetypes – but that’s only when they are interpreted correctly.
On the other hand, we have spiritual teachings that were channeled for the specific age or phase of humanity, covering the challenges of the collective consciousness at the time. Each phase of humanity and time cycle has its own expression and challenges related to that expression. Our discoveries, our art, our way of life, our way of conflict and the exploration of our soul, are all connected to the specific cycle that we are living in. Wisdoms for the age are universal wisdom teachings, techniques and processes that are adjusted to the age that we live in. An example of this is the Mayan calendar.
It is important to understand the levels of information that we share, both as teachers and seekers. And as always – your best point of reference for spiritual growth is your heart and your soul. This connection will always give you what kind of wisdom you need for the time and situation that you are facing.
And so … do you need a spiritual teacher on your path? That’s something I trust that you’ll know if you tune deeply into yourself. And if you do need one, and are ready for that, then as many people have said before us, the teacher will appear.
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Cover Art by Valeri Tsenov.