Imagine a scenario where you stand at the base of a mountain. One way up the mountain is a narrow, crooked path along a steep fall off. This winding path is treacherous and prone to accidents. Another path is available, and it’s often used by groups of tourists led by guides. The slope is gentle on this alternate path, and the way is wide. Almost anyone can walk this other path.
Which to choose? The easiest path seems the likely choice. You have a guide, it’s wide and more people can climb the mountain at the same time. There’s less chance of falling. It seems the only choice, and yet there’s a problem. What if you discover that the gentle path never reaches the top of the mountain. In fact all the sights YOU want to see are not covered on this path. Instead the tour guides take the mountain climbers into their own preferred locations. You get to see a lake, some trees, and you climb maybe a third the way up the mountain. But you never get to go your own way, or see the sights you want to see.
I believe that within the spiritual quest we have to find our own way. It’s the hardest choice to make, as it’s also the most lonely and isolated of choices. There’s no leader to offer guidance, there’s no network of friends to keep you encouraged. Most of all, you become solely responsible for each decision made.
Most of my life I took variations of the gentle path and maybe I did it for this very reason. If someone else is providing the spiritual path, then my assumption is that they know what they’re doing and I don’t have to be held responsible. I’m just following instructions, not making decisions and that may feel like the avoidance of accountability.
The greatest struggle of the solo journey, is in the lacking guide that could warn a person when they go too far off course. The spiritualist who thinks they’re the next prophet or great wonder of the world, has left the goal to wade into illusion. There’s no one around to advise and pull them back. This is the greatest real danger.
However, there’s also no other way up the mountain. That trek up the proverbial mountain can’t be found in someone else’s paradigm. Yet, this doesn’t infer that the solo climber never learns from another. A climber may learn how to use rope, how to dress for the trek, what to bring, how to live off the land so forth. This information is then put to use and yet it’s a different experience then the alternative (being told what to do.)
Tools not Dogmas
Spiritually speaking, an aspirant will want to know how to meditate, achieve non-thought, focus will, make use of other techniques. In time they may begin to discover some philosophical reasoning that describes the path to the goal. These are tools, not dogmas.
For others the mechanisms of learning become their dogmas. “The master did it this way and it worked for him, so therefore it should work for me,” so thinks the guided aspirant. I understand why a person might think this. After all the carnal world works this way. If you want to learn a trade, you find a master. The master teaches you and you take the role of apprentice.
In my view, the spiritual quest is far different than this carnal concept of learning from a master of a trade. For starters, a trade guild isn’t dealing with your core essence. A great truth is not found outside, but within. That is to say, I believe that we don’t need someone to tell us how to think or what to do, but rather how to learn skills. Like layers of dead skin, we shed the things holding back our spiritual ascent. The techniques and teachings we learn along the way may help us to that task, but they shouldn’t replace the truth and wisdom that is within us. This inner truth shines through and is directly understood as more worldly contaminants are removed. This, in my view, is personal Gnosis.
I would agree that people need to learn the tools to work the process. These tools however should never become the idea of gnosis itself. It’s rather like thinking the hammer will make the cabinet. The hammer is one of several tools that a carpenter can use to make a cabinet. After learning how to plane wood, shape edges, fix hinges and so on, the carpenter puts the knowledge to work (in their own way) and creates something from their own intuition.
Discouragement is a problem along this path. It’s easy to get depressed, or burn out. Yet, the way out of those problems is also part of the unique path of the individual. To rely on the guru, master, teacher or trainer to always be watching to help one side step or overcome, removes the personal accountability required to really grow.
These are my opinions as of this time of my life. I’ve sat with many a group. I’ve followed gurus, and group leaderships for most of my life. But in the end my individuality would assert itself into rebellion and I’d fall off each spiritual path. But those paths were not My path. That’s the key that I believe I’ve discovered in 2019. The only way I can move forward is in listening to me. Grab new tools, learn new processes, but those things can’t become the idol. They are not the goal, nor the dogma. The real spiritual success that any process brings is from the Individual and not the teacher, as spiritual success is already there. It is not something created by the other person, but discovered in Isolation and in Individuality.