The Devil In The Details

“I know teachers who aren’t abusive. They don’t charge money for people to attend their talks. Some of them even hold regular jobs. So, clearly there are some good spiritual teachers out there truly interested in helping others awaken…”


Maybe that’s true. But my basic critique of spiritual culture isn’t that ALL gurus are rotten or exploitative. Many are, of course, but there are some who aren’t charlatans. They are genuinely interested in “awakening” others, so to speak. My main criticism goes deeper than that to the very fundamental assumption that forms the teacher-seeker dynamic i.e. :

“ I am awake, you are not.”

And if you take a look at any teacher-student dynamic in spirituality today, regardless of whether the teacher is rotten or genuine, this basic assumption has to be the case in order for that dynamic to even exist. Or else, what is there to teach?

There has to be a fundamental difference between the teacher and the student. And that difference cannot be one of “knowledge” because spirituality is experiential in nature. So, it’s not like a math teacher teaching you theorems and concepts for you to memorize and mull over and eventually apply. In spirituality , “concepts” ARE the problems we are trying to overcome. So, none of these spiritual teachers are claiming to provide “more concepts” to their students.

So, in lieu of “knowledge” what is it that the teacher is attempting to communicate? If they have no concepts to provide you, what is there left for them to teach you? What is the difference between them and you in that case?

They will claim that they exist in a whole different realm of consciousness than you do. They will claim that they are “awake” and you are “asleep”. That the difference between how they experience reality and how you do, is like the difference between how we experience the world in our waking hours versus how we do in our dreams when we are sleeping at night. They will claim that “waking up” within the dream is the answer to the puzzle of human suffering. They will claim they have woken up and do not suffer and they can teach you how to wake up as well if you are willing.

But if it’s a dream, why is waking up important? If it’s all a figment of imagination then what is the motivation to wake people up? After all we don’t walk around in our daily lives just waking up anyone we see who is fast asleep in bed. They may be dreaming, even babbling in their sleep. We allow it to happen because we understand that sleep serves a purpose. So, what is this great taboo against those who are “asleep” and this glorification of those who are “awake”?

One argument is that the suffering of the world is the result of people who are “asleep” wreaking havoc over it. However, if they can wreak havoc over it, it must mean that this world is also within the dream. So, why do those who claim to be “awake” care so much about any of it? You are awake, so go be awake and leave the sleeping folk to their dreamworld of suffering.

My daughter sleepwalks sometimes. And when she does, I gently and wordlessly watch her and guide her back to her bed being careful not to wake her up. To try and forcefully wake her up would be absurd. To try and talk to her rationally when she is sleepwalking would be insane. Even if she responded it would not be her responding. It would simply be an automatic response with no cognition of what is actually transpiring.

So, if these “awake” teachers are talking to their “asleep” students, what are they hoping to achieve?

It’s all nonsensical. The fact is there are no “awake” teachers and there are no “asleep” students. There are simply people with different levels of insight into themselves.

The world may be all maya and illusion and this may all be an elaborate dream, but I assure you that these so called “awakened” teachers are just as immersed in that dream as anyone else is. They may claim the body is an illusion or the self is an illusion yet they nevertheless will wince when poked with a sharp object and they will respond when called by name.

The only thing they may have had some success around is in being able to step out, from time to time, from the hypnotic trance of the “story-making” mind. There is certainly a freedom in being able to not take one’s own story as gospel. But this is not some incredible feat. And it certainly isn’t indicative of a superior state of consciousness one permanently exists in. All it means is that you know how to sober up from time to time.

The “asleep-awake” model insinuates that the teacher and student exist in entirely different realms of conscious reality. And this is a false implication. One that serves as the source of a whole lot of projection, worship, yearning and desperation that is the twisted norm in spiritual culture today.

On the other hand, the drunk-sober model suggests that everyone involved is in the same conscious reality, just in various stages of intoxication. Even those who are “sober” are only RELATIVELY sober. Even they’re having a drink from time to time. They just aren’t getting totally wasted like some others.

When you create a model like that, there simple isn’t enough of a difference between people to build a teacher-student dynamic out of it. At best you can create some kind of a mentorship based relationship like they have in Alcoholics Anonymous where each recovering alcoholic has a sponsor who themselves is a recovering alcoholic.

That’s it. That’s as far as the differences between any of two people on this planet goes. There are no different states or levels of consciousness. There is just one and we are all in it.

So, even these “good teachers” out there may be well-intentioned. But they are being willfully blind to the falsehood that they are perpetuating both within themselves and their followers by claiming that they are “awakened”. They are not. They may just have sobered up a bit more than you have.

Being well-intentioned, does not preclude one from perpetuating the same messes that those with malicious intentions do. The culture is broken at the very foundation and is built on a fundamental lie. And when you start with a lie, no matter how conscientiously you approach things, you will never end up being truthful.

For the road the hell is paved with good intentions. And the devil is in the details.

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