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  • de la rouviere
    Dear friends, Allow me to introduce myself as a new member. My name is Moller de la Rouviere. I have been lurking here for a while and discovered many very
    Message 1 of 2 , May 5, 2005
      Dear friends,
      Allow me to introduce myself as a new member. My name is Moller de la Rouviere.  I have been lurking here for a while and discovered many very interesting posts.  As the question of guru has been an ongoing topic for this group, I thought you may be interested in the following two submissions,
      If OK with you, I'll kick off with a very insightful essay pinched from Greg Goode's website www.heartofnow.com  (I have his permission for this)  followed by my reply. Both have been posted to my group  spiritual_humanism@yahoogroups.com  Please take a moment to visit this very informative group.  We have some interesting posts there on meditation. Indepth stuff!

      Recently a guru admitted to me, "You know, when I stopped believing
      that I was enlightened and others weren't, all the fun went out of
      giving satsang!"

      The age of the guru is over. This is the age of the friend. The
      message of self-knowledge and liberation is outstripping any guru's
      ability to contain it. People have been discovering that the message
      is independent of the messenger. The message has become detached from
      its older, exclusivistic, privileged stage settings. No longer must
      it travel down from a hierarchy. These days the message of liberation
      spreads horizontally from person to person. It moves more like an
      ocean than a waterfall. It grows more like a rhizome than an oak

      Of course there are still gurus. There will be gurus as long as there
      are friends. There will always be some gurus able to serve as
      wonderful teachers and inspiring examples. But these days the friend
      is providing more and more of the same services. The friend is
      spreading the message of self-knowledge, opening hearts with
      lovingkindness, and inspiring others with enthusiasm.

      The turn from the guru to the friend is not just a matter of
      inspiration; it's also a matter of information. We've got freer
      access to what was formerly more selective and closed. The message of
      self-knowledge has reached interested parties wherever there's
      communication. And this communication no longer needs to flow through
      the narrow-band guru-frequency, but has overflowed and become

      This has caused the guru model itself to morph into something more
      democratic and decentralized. There are more teachers with less
      charisma. In California, supply exceeds demand to the point where a
      student can choose from any number of retreats on a given weekend.
      Retreat leaders have had to lower their fees to keep competitive. And
      then during the following week, the students e-mail the teachings out
      to all their friends, who then tell others.

      The connotations of the term "guru" are changing. Traditionally this
      Sanskrit word has been interpreted to mean dispeller (gu) of darkness
      (ru). It was understood primarily in personal terms, and the guru was
      worshipped as an incarnation of God -- a sacred, exclusive conduit to
      self-realization. These days, the metaphor has gone stale. No longer
      do people accept the image that they're in darkness until assisted by
      a purportedly perfected human being. In spiritual circles, the "guru"
      word is more and more taken to point to the seeker's own innermost

      No longer can people believe that liberation speaks only Tibetan, or
      that the world was created from holy Sanskrit syllables. People are
      saying, "If it can't be said in my language, then it isn't so
      universal after all." Even as recently as thirty years ago, seekers
      of self-awareness had to trek to India or the Himalayas to see
      someone who could impart a message of liberation. These days there
      are many routes:     Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, Yahoo, Google,
      mobile phones and BlackBerries. Teachings that used to be limited to
      a select few are now being joyously shared between friends in any
      language. Even decades ago, you had to go to ashrams or temples and
      maybe wait three days before the keepers would let you enter. Now the
      same message can be found in coffee shops, living rooms, cyber chat-
      rooms and even prisons. A few of the younger gurus are beginning to
      adapt their teachings to this new democratic tone. They've backed off
      from the stance of exlusivity and have come closer to celebrating
      friendship and enlightened ordinariness. And other gurus are digging
      in their heels and sticking to the old story.

      Public figures are now commonplace. We know more about more people.
      We see their warts and indiscretions. This is inevitable in today's
      infoculture where bloggers and paparazzi themselves can get famous.
      The older guru model can't survive this much information. According
      to the older and exalted versions of the guru model, the guru is a
      unique and perhaps perfected example of humanity. Maybe divinity in
      temporary human clothing. Some have even said that the guru is beyond
      God. But as information increases, it becomes much harder for this
      image to survive. High perfection becomes low comedy with each new
      revelation of vegetarian gurus caught eating chiliburgers, celibate
      gurus discovered having affairs with their PR chiefs, or miracle-
      wielding gurus photographed with trinkets in the folds of their

      Information on gurus abounds in ways that were unthinkable a while
      ago. There's up-close and personal information in books such as Feet
      of Clay, Mother of God, or Enlightenment Blues. There are websites
      such as Jerry Katz's famous Nonduality.com, which has helped
      deconstruct the older guru model by its sheer breadth of expression,
      and by listing so many gurus, including literary and movie
      characters. Then there's Sarlo's Guru Ratings pages, which freely
      give subjective and personal scores to gurus, along with their anti-
      sites where possible. There's Jody Radzik, who for years has been a
      fly in the ointment, reminding people that a guru's image of
      perfection is created by the student's idealizations. Recently Jody
      has come up with guruphilac.org, an newsy info blog with guru refugee-
      sites and other poop and scoop that makes it much harder to idealize
      the guru.

      But it's not always about the message. Another angle to the guru
      model is the notion of enlightenment by transmission (EBT). In the
      EBT model, the special thing is the guru's very presence. It has
      nothing to do with information or the words spoken, but everything to
      do with the special state the guru is thought to be in. The evidence
      for this state is thought to be the certain glow and energetic
      vibrancy which can be felt by devotees in the presence of the guru,
      especially in large group meetings. According to the EBT model, if
      the disciple gets physically, emotionally or psychically close to the
      guru, this state can be transmitted from the guru to the disciple.
      The transmission can be instantaneous or progressive over years. But
      thinking is starting to change on this aspect as well.

      People are asking about the relations between this energy and
      enlightenment. "Is this energy really what constitutes enlightenment,
      or is enlightenment something else altogether?" "If this energy can
      be transmitted, then why does the blissful feeling dissipate in me
      and not remain?" "Why do I feel the same way now in the presence of
      my guru that I felt many years ago at a Bruce Springsteen
      concert?" "After spending three decades in the guru's presence, why
      don't I possess this energy so that I can then go on to transmit it
      to someone else?" "What is the relation between me and the energy?
      Whose energy is it? Am I the energy or the experiencer of the

      In the West since the 60's and the Vietnam phenomenon, there's less
      reliance on authority, lower patience for rigid hierarchies, and
      diminished credulity towards metanarratives (as Jean-Francois Lyotard
      wrote in _THE POSTMODERN CONDITION_.) Causal explanations tend to be
      more rhizomatic and less arboreal - we don't look as much for single
      causes, we look more for interactive scenarios and networks of

      This kind of orientation has changed how people respond to the EBT
      model as well. There's more knowledge about psychology, group
      dynamics and human energetics. What used to be more mystical has
      become more naturalized. What used to be attributed to a very special
      person is now seen as more of a social phenomenon. These days for
      example, the contributions of the observer and her conditioning play
      a much larger role in psychological explanations. This includes the
      EBT model. What might have been seen a century ago as the guru's
      divine energy might now be seen as dependent on projection from
      people with very strong and similar beliefs. The guru's special glow
      might now be seen as the same kind of charisma possessed by
      politicians and celebrities. Where the guru is concerned, projection
      and charisma depend on expectations, which take their shape depending
      on images in social settings and spiritual writings. There's not as
      great a tendency to see the guru as a single, personal root cause.
      There are still interpersonal spiritual experiences and people who
      help transform others. But today's thinking permits these things to
      happen more and more among friends.

      Does the message or experience of liberation get diluted if it
      reaches you through night-shift clerk at the local 7-11? Isn't it
      better to go directly to the source? More and more people are
      saying "No - the source is everywhere." People are understanding
      liberation as something that can be communicated by anyone, with
      every breath. Red flags go up whenever someone demands that only
      certain people can be the source. The source can be found at the
      convenience store, and people are now seeing that it's the same thing
      that comes from the wise old bearded guy on top of the hill. There's
      a twinkle in his eye because it's what he's been saying all along.
      Moller's reply:
      Dear Greg,
      I have just re-read your very interesting  essay on the Guru as friend.  (Please refer to Greg's very insightful essay at the end of this post) There is nothing I particularly disagree with, although I feel some aspects of it could be looked at in a slightly different light.  As you know, my entire book is about self-discovery and self-transcendence without authority - not only of the guru, but in a more general sense from the traditions as a whole.
      The Guru is really a cultural phenomenon - we find them mostly in the east, and as far as I know there is not even a word in western languages that describe guru as it is known in the east.
      And it is this traditional eastern-founded style of inner enquiry as a whole that I question.  For after we have rejected the guru phenomenon, how deeply is western spiritual enquiry embedded in the dogmas and traditional methods of which the guru's work is nothing but a natural reflection?  We may no longer feel the need to listen to the guru, but is the message communicated amongst 'friends' in the west not merely a second-hand repetition of the messages of the gurus?  As you so correctly pointed out, the knowledge is no longer spreading from the top downward, but rather broadcasted horizontally.  Yet, the message seems to be the message of the gurus.  Again as you said, the wise old person knows what is being spread is what h/she has been saying all along.
      My question is, why repeat the messages of the gurus at all?  Has the west no true spiritual voice with which and from where to speak?  My sense is that the answer to this question at this stage of western inner, spiritual enquiry is unfortunately: no.  We have no general voice supporting our spiritual views other than the dogmas from our traditional religions. And these may be called spiritual if we accept the existence of a god somewhere in outer or inner space.  However, when god, as the ultimate guru also becomes part of the secular inner enquiry, god loses its spiritual nature and could be seen as a reflection in the imagination of humankind.  So this leaves us  without a true western spiritual voice.
      I am not suggesting we change from the eastern traditions to some fancy new western kind of spiritualilty merely for the sake of pretending to ourselves that we can do without the teachings from the east.  What I am suggesting, and which in fact forms the foundation for  my book, Spirituality Without God, is that we need not base our enquiry into spiritual life on any of the traditions coming from the east.  Once we accept that human life itself has all the answers to the problems facing human life, our enquiry could proceed from a purely humanistic perspective.  This could produce a truly western spirituality - in fact a spirtuality which in many instances may transcend that of the east, simply because the enquiry could be fresh and original, and not conditioned by centuries of dogmatic repetition.
      I am not suggesting we reject the eastern teachings..  What I propose is that we put these aside a little, let go of our unquestioning acceptance of these as the final word on spiritual practice and revelation, and enquire into these matters for ourselves.  We have truly remarkable minds and hearts in the west to engage in this work.   This could be what the Buddha meant when he said:' Be a light unto your very own self'.  I believe we have been sufficiently sensitized by the great eastern traditions for spiritual life outside mere dogmatism and exoteric religion.  But from here, we may stultify the free enquiry into the profound potential of human nature if we keep  our spiritual enquiry within the paradigm of what Aldous Huxley has called the 'Perennial Philosophy'  - the fundamental philosophy of Self as the ultimate Essence of manifest existence, where non-duality is only possible through either becoming one with, or realizing the non-separateness of everything  ( including human life) from this presumed Ground of Being. 
      A truly Humanistic spirituality may prove this understanding to be not necessarily accurate.
      Moller de la Rouviere
      Author of 'Spirituality Without God'

    • Greg Goode
      Hey Moller and all, I applaud your encouragement that we not turn our backs on open inquiry, meditation, humanistic work, etc. Bob has lots and lots of
      Message 2 of 2 , May 5, 2005
        Hey Moller and all,

        I applaud your encouragement that we not turn our backs on open
        inquiry, meditation, humanistic work, etc. Bob has lots and lots of
        helpful meditations on his site. This e-list itself is a very good
        example. Bob, Jeff and others offer written meditative pieces which
        have transformative power in the moment and after.... Many people
        are blessed to receive a great deal of encouragement, guidance and
        help from this list.

        Since you posted my essay and commented, let me comment a bit on one
        or two points. You mentioned,

        "What I propose is that we put these aside a little, let go of our
        unquestioning acceptance of these as the final word on spiritual
        practice and revelation, and enquire into these matters for

        ===Yes, why not? This is what many of the nondual teachings
        themselves say as well. Inquire where your heart leads. It doesn't
        have to carry the label of a "nondual path." This chimes in with
        what I take as your encouragement in the paragraph above.

        "We may no longer feel the need to listen to the guru, but is the
        message communicated amongst 'friends' in the west not merely a
        second-hand repetition of the messages of the gurus?"

        ===Second-hand vs. first-hand. Maybe you are drawing a distinction
        between someone who doesn't feel that they are living the truth of
        their words - versus someone who does. This distinction doesn't cut
        the same way as guru versus non-guru. I've met several gurus who
        *don't* feel they are living the truth they speak (like the guy in
        the first paragraph of my essay!). And several friends who *do*!

        And nondual teachings certainly do contribute to verbal attempts to
        paper over the cracks of experience. "There's no one here to pay the
        restaurant check, so this form is simply going to leave."

        So I wish you well in your endeavor to assist in humanistic

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