How many paths up there?
The One Right Path?
Most human beings in developed countries and regions of the planet are presented with an opportunity to create a life.
Once we are old enough to start asking questions and develop a capacity for critical thinking, there then arises the most fundamental of all queries.
“What path shall I follow?”
Sometimes this might be expressed as: “Whose path shall I follow?”
In countries with high levels of personal freedom, there are innumerable possible journeys and teachings that one might choose to undertake – or perhaps emulate. As we mature and are exposed to books, cinema and other media, most of us discover one or a few people whom we greatly admire or respect. We may think of these people as having lived a noble, powerful or model life.
In the current age there is no shortage of “teachers” professing expertise in the living of the ideal life. Some might be classified as spiritual teachers, others as self-help gurus. Other luminaries might simply have a notable philosophy which they have shared with the world, and their lives and ideas potentially offer wisdom.
We then have people who are set up as role models by our leaders; via education, history books and official media. Who is considered attractive or admirable varies from country to country according to the dominant worldview, values and religious structures. Conservatives in China consider Mao Ze Dong to be the greatest man in history. Yet many people in western countries revile him as a mass-murdering tyrant. In Melbourne where I live, many folks adore AFL footballer Gary Ablett, and see him as an ideal role model. My Chinese wife thinks all Australian footballers are buffoons.
Freedom to choose
Some people believe that there is no such thing as free will. If you are one of these people then obviously this discussion is not for you.
My experience has led me to conclude that while a great deal of life and personal expression is either conditioned or out of our control, the essential and most important choices remain open to us (or at least potentially open, if we can bring awareness to those choices). Here I wish to focus on two related queries.
- Which religious/spiritual/philosophical path shall I follow? (I include scientific materialism as a philosophical choice).
- What teachers or role models are worth emulating?
Now allow me to emphasise my main point here.
I believe that it is unwise to blindly follow the teaching of another person or philosophy, no matter how wonderful or successful it may seem. The essential reason is that each of us is a little different from the teachers we admire (sometimes very different). This is an obvious point, but it is one that many of us fail to fully acknowledge. It is important that we tailor ourselves a life process or path that is a fit for our own souls.
The idea is not difficult to understand. But there are some distinctions that each of us needs to keep in mind.
When we are just starting out in life it is perfectly understandable that we choose a particular teaching or teacher, and try to model ourselves upon them.
When I was in my 20s I tried to be like mystic Stuart Wilde. But I discovered that being a visionary was a bit trippy. A bit later on I tried to be like Anthony Robbins. Later I realised that my teeth just weren’t big enough.
In my thirties I applied myself diligently in following the way of a master of presence – Leonard Jacobson. Leonard is a wonderful spiritual teacher. But I am not Leonard, and he is not me.
I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, which probably explains why it took me a few years to work out something incredibly simple in relation to my attempts to apply Leonard’s teachings.
Leonard and the river
Leonard’s story is remarkable. In the 1980s he had several spontaneous spiritual awakenings which involved transcendent states of consciousness. There was little or no suffering in this for Leonard. He wasn’t trying to achieve anything spiritual, nor escape anything. In 1981 at a retreat near the Bellingen River in northern New South Wales, he threw himself into the flood-swollen river. When he emerged he discovered that he was in a profound state of non-ordinary consciousness. Everything seemed to contain love and beauty. He was filled with a great sense of gratitude for existence itself.
While such exalted states came and went, Leonard’s experience of divine presence remains to this day.
My own journey has been quite different from Leonard’s. My family background was quite dark, and as a child and young man I was exposed to alcoholism, drug abuse and the literal insanity of several close relatives.
When each of us is born into this world our minds become instantly imbedded in a pool of consciousness – that of our family and caregivers. I was therefore born into a vortex of great darkness.
I left Australia at the age of thirty – in part – to escape that darkness. Not long after I arrived in New Zealand I undertook some intense spiritual training, and in the process became highly clairvoyant. I saw intuitively that my mind was still gravely affected by the mental projections of my relatives. It was truly frightening to see the depth of that darkness, and to have to acknowledge how damaged I’d become as a result of it. The heaviness of dark energy was such that it was often exhausting just to be.
It was the realisation of all this – and the suffering implicit in being trapped in such darkness – that spurred me towards my particular spiritual journey.
As you can see, this is quite a different introduction to “spirituality” than that of Leonard Jacobson. Do not get me wrong. I have come to accept the truth of what Leonard teaches, and I apply much of that to my daily life. Yet there were some things he could not teach me – things that he does not understand (as far as I can tell), because his journey did not traverse the darkness that mine did.
So it was that about twelve years ago I asked Leonard what the best way is to deal with the destructive consciousness fields that were plaguing me. I will not go into details here, but the answer he gave me suggested that he did not understand what I was experiencing; because he had not experienced such things in his own lifetime (at least not at the same depth).
I applied Leonard’s advice. Yet it did not free me from those mental projections. In fact, I eventually learned that I had to do something that no other spiritual teacher I ever met advised me.
I had to learn to fight. To fight the darkness.
Perhaps “fight” is not quite the right word. A better term might be to “stand in my power.” But the intensity of the projections that I experienced had been such that the solution required the embodiment of a warrior energy. There was no way around this, because at a soul level I had come to believe that I was worthless, unlovable and intrinsically “bad”. My soul story was that of “The Sacrifice” – the one who is taunted, haunted and enchained by those of dark intent.
Consciousness fields work like attractor fields in physics. At an energetic level I had become what I believed. I needed to change the story, change the beliefs, and embody a more empowered male energy.
Unfortunately – to continue the physics analogies – systems tend to remain at rest unless they are acted upon. Those with whom I was playing out a karmic story of the victim did not wish to relinquish their power over me. That was where the warrior energy needed to come in. I literally had to scream it out of my base chakra.
To this day I have to keep standing up for myself. Old stories – like old habits – die hard.
Often I have asked God why my mind came to be embedded in such darkness. The pattern appears to transcend a single lifetime. But I have never gotten a definitive answer. It seems to be part of my soul’s journey, something unconsciously “chosen” when I came to believe that I was “bad and worthless”.
My journey is different from Leonard’s and many other peoples.
Your journey is probably quite different from mine.
In the end I realised that I was unique, and that I had to draw from a variety of sources to learn how to deal with the specific soul issues and spiritual challenges I faced.
I also discovered that what works in one phase of life does not always work so well in another phase. I had to learn to modify processes and approaches, and emphasise them to different degrees during different periods of my life.
I suggest that you stop trying to be someone else – whether the person be a contemporary role model of yours, or a teacher who has passed on (Jesus, the Buddha, gandhi etc.). After all, how many of us has had exactly the same soul journey as Jesus? How many can endure the outrageous suffering of Gandhi? How many can afford enough toothpaste to be Anthony Robbins?
The key then is to observe yourself as you travel through life. By all means apply the teachings which you feel are suitable for you. There are many fine and beautiful teachings out there, and many great teachers.
And follow through with the process. Some processes require many years of application, and attitudes and skills often require a lifetime commitment.
You might apply different processes and tools than your friends. And that is perfectly understandable. Remember, your life experience, soul needs and soul story are unique.
Nor should you insist that what works for you will work for others. By all means share your wisdom and experience. But do not try to impose “the one true path” upon anyone else. That is an ego game of power and control.
Most of all, be gentle and forgiving of yourself. Have fun along the way. Be committed, but don’t take it all too seriously. As Anita Moorjani is so fond of saying, you are a magnificent human being who is totally worthy of divine love.
You are not here to be perfect. You are here to be human. You are here to be yourself. And there is nobody else that is quite like you.
So live that, and love it. Joyfully.