So I will state a couple of things here before we begin… Many of my spiritual guides and teachers have taught me way beyond what any human, living teacher could. I have had knowledge about myself, healing, as well as learning that has been… well… transcendental to sum it up.
I appreciate the ongoing spiritual relationships that I have. They are important, really vital, to my path, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
But physical, living, breathing, in the flesh (just to be clear on all levels) teachers are incredibly important on the spiritual path.
So just to clear another thing up, I teach at a distance. In most cases this works splendidly, and counts in the “living teacher” category. In some cases, such as with beginners, I tell them to go take a workshop from a living in-person teacher, because early on you often need that sort of touchpoint.
So why a physical teacher?
What I see a lot of out there is people who have never had a living spiritual teacher. In a few rare cases (probably out of the thousand or two people I have worked with at this point, a handful) this is all that is necessary. The student is grounded, balanced, and in touch with something that is able to provide the experience of a living teacher.
But in most cases, this does not happen. I will talk a bit below about the difficulties of only having a “spiritual” (i.e. non-living) teacher:
- You won’t notice your blind spots– we all have blind spots, no matter who we are. These may be glaringly obvious to a teacher, or a teacher may just have a different perspective for you to consider
- There is a tendency to not learn any foundational material– when you are self-taught, or only work with “spirits”, it is rare for someone to learn the building blocks of what they need to know. It is natural, human tendency to want to go for advanced “higher level” material. The sort of running before walking thing. And what happens is that the student never really gets anywhere, or much of anywhere, unless they have a solid basis, unless they have someone living to teach them the fundamentals. In many cases with the self-taught, the student will have no idea what the fundamentals are, and will simply spin their wheels, never really learning the basics of any sort of spiritual path
- There is a tendency towards illusion (and delusion)- without a physical teacher people often get really locked in their heads. They may be creating entire universes that are simply coming from unhealed patterns (that could be healed), self-creating spiritual experiences, or outright delusional. A living teacher will gently (or fiercely) guide you to reconsider and release illusions. This is a big part of their job, in fact, if you have a good spiritual teacher.
- Someone might need a different path- I have now been doing spiritual work for a (fairly) long time professionally (a decade-ish). When you do this work professionally, you see that a certain percentage of people drawn to spiritual work really could use therapy instead. A lot of people who are severely traumatized are attracted to spiritual work, and while I have worked with people with all sort of “diagnoses” and “mental illness” and such, there are some people that are looking to spiritual work because they are nonfunctional or delusional to the extent that they really should receive a different kind of care. At the very least, if they are in a place to handle it, a teacher will again function to have the person question some of the illusions/delusions they have created.
- There is a tendency to not know where you are on your path- all of this list, now that I think about it, is about having someone really solid around to teach you the basics (and not-so-basics) and to dispel illusions, but I see a lot of people extolling their wisdom that is (how do I say this kindly) not terribly profound. When you do not have a spiritual teacher to emulate where you can be, people have a tendency to think that they are much further on their path than they are. This will go with #7, but people will think they are enlightened, shamans, have kundalini, psychic abilities, and so forth, without even considering that they may not, or that there are many out there having the same experiences… or that their experiences are on the lower end of what they could be experiencing/know.
- There is nobody to teach you how to filter– a lot of spiritual experiences that people have are self-created. So are a lot of spiritual teachers. A lot of this world and its teachings (not just spiritual) are surface level, false, or illusory. We live in a world where information is given without much thought, and a lot of misinformation is presented as fact, further confusing people. Any sort of spiritual path is about personal, direct experience. Without a teacher, there is nobody to teach you how to filter– how to really look at your experiences with open eyes at to see what is coming from what you may need to be true, what you psychologically need or want to believe, or what may be important to focus on. A good teacher will teach you how to look within, how to filter, and not just teach you a bunch of rules and beliefs to follow.
- There is a tendency to believe romanticized or false knowledge (and titles)- I was talking the other day about a comment I made in my last blog that I have only met a handful of actual shamans, or people that were called to be spiritual workers (my preferred term). I also got a few comments (mostly of agreement) that a lot of people these days call themselves all sorts of things, from “kundalini awakened” to “empath” (this is a big one), “starseed” (maybe this one has gone out of style), “shaman”, “enlightened”, “vampire”, “intuitive”, and so forth. I will say, as I always do, that there are people that firmly fit into these categories. But without a living teacher people will often want to believe they are a shaman or an empath (etc) because it takes them out of their lives. They don’t want to focus on something in their lives (typically trauma) and so the title or spiritual knowledge they have is centered around illusions to take away their focus from their physical lives and physical bodies. Any spiritual path begins with embodiment, with healing trauma, with self cultivation. A proper teacher will know this.
- There is a tendency to skip over self-cultivation- Cultivating the self, looking at your life and your spiritual path continually, and working for many years on self-cultivation is necessary for any spiritual path. People who are self-taught often either don’t know this, or don’t want to know this. Again, this is the sort of “want to be advanced yesterday” sort of mentality, but even if you are incredibly, naturally, a psychic starseed shaman bodhisattva with secret extraterrestrial origins from a parallel universe with witchcraft running through their family line and many past lives of being a priestess… you need to cultivate yourself in this lifetime, in this body, in this world. People who are naturals can actually be a bit harder to teach– it is often like the smart kid in class who gets bored a bit. I was like this for a long time, and it wasn’t until I buckled down (and got yelled at by a physical teacher) that I actually really started cultivating, and learning how to cultivate myself correctly, to the point where I was balanced and of use to others as a teacher/healer.
- We tend to move towards our imbalances rather than our health- Much of what we need to learn is actually what we may not be really interested in. We tend to want to exacerbate our imbalances and illusions (like an overactive person tends to want to jump out of a plane on weekends and an inactive, mentally oriented person will tend to watch tv or meditate on weekends). A teacher will fill in the gaps in our knowledge, and point us to what we need to actually learn.
- You never learn how to connect with spiritual teachers that have power and merit- real spiritual teachers (non-embodied) will serve to dispel illusions, move you through initiations, and connect you to wisdom, teachings, and power. While I realize that this is confusing, most people never really form a significant (developed) relationship with a spiritual teacher. A non-embodied spiritual teacher will disagree with you, will tell you things you do not want to hear, and will not tell you that you are the most amazing human ever. A real spiritual teacher will have power that is palpable, and will be noticed by any sensitive. This development typically takes cultivation that a living human teacher will need to teach you.
So in looking over this, I realize again that the central point of a teacher is to teach #1 fundamentals, and #2 to dispel illusions. When we talk about fundamentals, people often think that fundamentals are just for beginners, but they are not. If we are to use a somewhat tired analogy of the rabbit hole, each inch down or so is a new world for us. It is a spiritual doorway that we go through (just to mix metaphors a bit). Each time we inch our way down the rabbit hole there are new things to learn, new fundamentals to learn.
If we do not have a physical teacher to get us mid-way down the rabbit hole, we will not have the solid basis or practices to get there in the first place (we will typically get lost in our own heads and “armchair” meaning not do much in the way of practices or cultivation), we will often be unstable and ungrounded (because it is hard to learn balanced teachings being self-taught), and we will often just be self-creating a bunch of stuff based off of our trauma and illusions rather than going through the practices of dispelling illusions.
We will often think that we are more powerful, titled, mythic, and realized than we actually are. I realize that this is one of those blogs that people will get grouchy with me for, but there is a basic teaching that I learned, that is whoever we are, we have further to go. It is the tendency of people at the beginning of their path (especially those who are self-taught) to think that they can do shamanic work, or are shamans. A proper teacher will tell the person when they are ready to practice, or to help others. This is a really unfortunate pattern, as I work with a lot of people who have been really damaged by people, both who were self-taught energy workers/spiritual workers, or who have gone through the “workshop circuit” and from that assume that they have the skill and personal readiness to work with others.
I have also worked with a lot of “self-taught” energy workers and spiritual workers who found out at some point that they were creating a lot of damage to themselves (because they didn’t have the skills/learn how to actually be a medium, or did some spiritual work that was above their paygrade, so to speak), or have freaked themselves out because they thought everything was psychological until they came across an energy that couldn’t be wished away.
And while many people who have not delved deeply into spiritual work think that spiritual realms, or spiritual work, is just another form of self-help, or that spirits aren’t real (or are just psychological), or haven’t been around the block enough to know that spiritual energies, magic, and so forth are real, and aren’t something we can simply control or state we have dominion over and call it a day, real physical teachers who have cultivated themselves can help the student reach these understandings instead of the constantly looping around the surface of the rabbit hole.
I will say that some people are perfectly happy at the surface– that they want the illusion and surface level stuff. Not everyone is ready to cultivate themselves. I get email inquiries all the time from people who want the fastest, laziest, ways to go about spiritual work without putting in much of any effort themselves.
I do also realize that a good teacher is difficult to find. As I mentioned, I have only met a handful of actual “shamans” (spiritual practitioners called to the work), or magical/occult practitioners who aren’t delusional or armchair (discussing without doing) or who aren’t engaged in the endless “bro-down” that occultism engenders (lots of males getting together telling each other how wonderful they are and about how they all found the Sorcerer’s stone and how they all have done the most complex rituals to get in touch with their Holy Guardian Angel), but there are decent foundational teachers all around. If you are at the beginning of your path, they are everywhere. You can literally go get some “spiritual technology” over a weekend class. Is it going to be from someone who is going to be your teacher for the long haul, or is doing anything much beyond just teaching you what they have been taught? Probably not, but at least it will get you some basics to work from, a start of an actual foundation.
I will say that there is a trite saying of “if the student is ready, the teacher will come” and I do find that to be true. I didn’t go beyond certain teachings or find people that were actually engaged in spiritual practices to the depths that I admired until I was ready to. I didn’t find the spiritual paths that I was on until I was ready to. We move on from the surface when we are ready, and if we are not ready, we will likely disregard anything deeper. We meet people of a certain depth when we are ready to. And actual spiritual practitioners and teachers worth their salt are most likely not spending all of their time on internet chatrooms… they are busy with their practices and their path.
Once you get to a certain point in your path, spiritual teachers may make up the large part of your practices. They may teach you way beyond what you have been taught by living, breathing teachers. But too many skip over learning a foundation and working with someone who can dispel their illusions. And you will only go so far on a spiritual path until those steps have been realized.