In one of the old groups that I was in, there was an elder who was a member. She didn’t reply much, but when she did, most people knew enough to listen. For a bit of background, this is a woman who literally wrote one of the books that brought the type of spiritual knowledge the group was about to the general public, and had been a well-respected teacher for decades. Basically, anyone who was interested in the subject should have known her name.
However, one day a woman who was a very beginner in her path stated her credo, not realizing that her statement was that of a beginner who did not understand the subject, and most of the people in that group had long gone past that type of knowledge and understanding on their path. The elder simply and gently suggested to her that there was more knowledge out there, and the other woman started quoting Wikipedia entries and her own beginning spiritual logic, thinking that she knew everything there was to know about the subject at hand. She ended up suggesting that the elder didn’t know what they were talking about.
This happens all the time in spiritual groups and in the world at large.
With my last blog on protection, for example, I got several emails from people who wanted to offer me “helpful hints” or “their advice” or “perspective” on things and while I love intelligent discourse, these were all people who were similar to the woman I talked about above. It was just painfully obvious that none of them had actually done any sort of spiritual work, and were all beginners in their spiritual journey.
I also teach many of my students how to do spiritual work via distance. For anyone who is reasonably competent, distance spiritual work is easy, safe, and can be more comfortable and preferable to working in person for both the spiritual practitioner and their client. If anyone understands energy, or the spiritual realms, and actually knows how to work with them, it really doesn’t matter if someone is there in person with you. But it is a common teaching that spiritual work should be done in person, so I have had students encounter people who loudly voice their opinions based off of the teachings they were given, which were either simply wrong, or may have been a decent teaching that anyone with experience can simply leave behind (as many teachings tend to be).
A famous author (much, much more famous than me) who writes about magic and spiritual work frequently gets emails from people who read a bit of Crowley and now want to educate her on magic, or expect her to teach them what magic is. She seriously will get emails asking “what is magic” when she has something like fifteen books out on the subject.
And we were all beginners. But most of us realized it, and moved beyond it, and were respectful of those who knew more than us. The world has changed, and anyone who has read a Wikipedia entry about a subject now feels they know as much as a respected elder. It is wonderful we have so much information at our fingertips, but it has engendered a huge amount of people to think they are special and entitled and have achieved depth without doing much, if anything, of a spiritual nature.
It is never people with actual experience, actual depth that act like this. I cannot imagine randomly emailing someone my “helpful suggestions” or “insights” or berating someone because they want to do spiritual work differently than I do. I could never imagine emailing someone expecting them to answer questions for me just because of a delusion that I was in some way special, or was more special than the thousands of other people emailing someone like the famous author I described above. None of the people that I respect or admire would either. We are too busy, and what spiritual work does when you get past the beginner stage is that it humbles you. You realize you aren’t that important, basically. You let go of the “special snowflake” syndrome that so many beginners get stuck in.
What is interesting is that people who are beginners, people who know a little something but are still beginners… often get stuck. They know a little something, and so they will email random people they don’t know, they will go into groups as “experts” and they will espouse their knowledge as something that can be of benefit. They have their intellectualization, their quotes from their teachers, and that is their reality. And they rarely go beyond it.
Every single competent spiritual worker that I know understands this. That no matter who you are, you are not that special, and that if your knowledge base is really so great, or what you have to offer is so wonderful, people will come to you. Knowledge and power– meaning real knowledge and power– are not free. I am not talking about money, by the way… I am saying that anyone worth their salt isn’t spending much time commenting online generally, or randomly emailing strangers their perspective, or offering free advice on Facebook groups.
I have met people who I later see ten years down the road and they are at exactly the same point spiritually. They have not achieved any depth or real knowledge. This is because if you know everything, there is nothing more for you to learn.
But most of us who have been on a spiritual path have encountered more than our fair share of these types. The real question is what to do about them.
It is really common when “waking up” to be faced with many of these types of people. Not only in spiritual communities, but the world. There comes a certain stage in the awakening process when you realize that most people are not awake, or even awakening.There comes a point that you wake up to the fact that most of the people in the world are fairly ignorant, and that most people on a spiritual path are on an extremely surface level one.
I do realize that this sounds harsh. I really do. But the reality is that most people do not want to deeply question, to deeply know, and to move beyond sleep. Spiritual growth is difficult, and most people prefer comfort. Most people prefer comfortable illusions, and the sort of escapism that modern spiritual paths offer than the path of healing, awakening, questioning, and changing in sometimes uncomfortable ways. Most people come to spirituality to feel “special” and to have their empty places filled up. While spirituality does this, the result of being on a deep spiritual path allows for you to see with humility that you are quite small and not that special. It is humbling. Although this is likely another blog, there is sort of a bell curve when it comes to spiritual experiences, and when you are “waking up” and move beyond that curve, you begin to have experiences and understandings that not many people do, and that not many people talk about.
Although I am sort of arbitrary in this statistic, if we basically think of sixty percent of the world as fully asleep (has no deeper questioning, no faith in anything larger than themselves, goes about their days repeating patterns that were given to them without questioning or insight) and another twenty five percent of the world as somewhat awake (understands some of their patterns, may have intellectualized faith, interest in surface spirituality like Oprah and Hay House and such), and then another twelve percent or so who is also somewhat awake, but steeped in more illusion (considers themselves awakened, takes a lot of spiritual workshops, quote their teachers, have only intellectual and self-created knowledge, are having an ego awakening, basically) that leaves a small percentage of people who really achieve any sort of depth or insight in this world.
I do realize that some people will react to that sort of percentage system as being egotistical, but at a certain point you just kind of realize that things kind of are the way they are in the world. If you are waking up, you realize that it is, in fact, not something that makes you feel superior in any way. It is a difficult thing to reconcile, actually.
And the real point is not the people who are beginners, it is those of us who are not. When we wake up, when we move beyond common knowledge, when we really understand oneness and the fact that the world is an illusion (and don’t just intellectualize about it)… when we look out at the world and realize that most people are sleeping it is not an egotistical thing.
It is heartbreaking.
This is one of the hardest things that people have to deal with at the sort of mid-point of awakening. To realize that awakening is beautiful, it is joyous, you get a greater sense of who you are, you heal things and beliefs you never thought possible… but that most of the world is play-acting, most of the world is steeped in ignorance, and you have moved beyond that point.
It is typical at this point to berate yourself, to question how you could have been so asleep for so long, and to realize how much further you have to go, and what you still need to work on.
This is one of those points in time that people tend to isolate themselves. They no longer want to be part of the world, drop friends, relationships. Everyone seems ignorant, chaotic, asleep…
But we can move beyond that. Not into a sort of intellectualized oneness (the oneness we have read about and not experienced) but to let go of the emotions (like anger and rage and despair and grief) that always come up in this stage, to realize the inner divinity of everyone (even if they might not realize it themselves), and to realize how we can be of service to others who are beginning to actually awaken (rather than falsely awaken). We can let go of the beginners, those steeped in ignorance and realize that we have no responsibility to them, and that we can be who we can be in the world and just simply realize that those people exist, and act like they do because they don’t know any better. We can have compassion for them– because despite their loud proclamations on some level they realize they are ignorant, or beginners, because otherwise they wouldn’t act like they do. We can look beyond the walls and illusions that people put up, that the world puts up, and see its inner core. We can see our inner core. And we can move past this stage.
Part Two will talk more pragmatically about how to move past this stage…