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Guidelines for Investigating a Spiritual Teacher, System or Group
Richard Rose freely acknowledged that more than one valid path is available for sincere seekers. He quoted the old farmer's saying that, while there are different paths up the hill, the cows all find their way to the barn by sundown. His basic guidelines will help seekers to evaluate a spiritual teacher, spiritual system or spiritual group for their relative worth, and differentiate those that are genuine from those that are false or deficient. John Kent, Ph.D., authored a dissertation titled Psychology of the Observer: The Path to Reality Through the Self (Kent 1990). Kent documented 15 categories that Rose recommended we use when investigating a spiritual teacher, system or group. Be wary and attentive if you answer "yes" to any of the following questions:
Simplicity: Does the group present its ideas in a mass of unwieldy, complex logic‑structures or arcane symbology, when simpler explanations about life might do?
Inflexibility: Is there a guru you must worship, clothes you must wear, rituals you must practice, or dogma you must accept?
Sensibility: Does the system [lack] appeal to your common sense and intuition?
Sexual morality: Does the teaching [discourage] the necessity for the healthy, moral correction and sublimation of the sex function?
Pure motives: Does the teaching flatter your ego, excuse your laziness, condone your hedonism, encourage your appetite for power, or provide false comfort against the insecurity of honest ignorance?
Existential integrity: Does the teaching substitute concept‑building for experiential discovery, or attempt to use bodily means to attain a non‑physical immortality?
Exclusivity: Does the group insist that they are the sole possessors of the only path to the truth or that the guru is uniquely qualified to save people, and suggest that leaving the group is thus an affront to God?
Bureaucracy: Is the organization highly regimented, with a hierarchy of power within it that keeps the members subservient or leaves room for one to be tempted to ascend through continued involvement?
Priorities: Is the purpose of the group more geared towards social interaction, political activism, or business networking than inner work?
Methodology: Does the system promote mechanical, repetitive practices to induce a mood of quiescence or the presumption of incremental progress, or meditation techniques of self‑hypnosis, rather than encouraging lucid efforts at self‑knowledge and genuine mindfulness?
Secrecy: Is the group secretive in its activities, appealing to some childish ego, or does the teaching promise to contain tantalizing secrets within secrets that require a succession of mysterious initiations to acquire before its real meaning can be revealed, thereby making one superior to those without such knowledge, or is the truth told plainly to whomever can hear it and act on it?
Theatrics: Is the emphasis more on paraphernalia (incense, music, robes, displays), ritual (ceremonies, Masses, movements), and symbolism (tarot, astrology, kabbalah, etc.) than on simple, direct communication of guidance in proper introspection and righteous living?
Dependency: Is the group or a charismatic leader sternly presented as the necessary intermediary between the seeker and God?
Cost: [Are you] required to pay an excessive amount of money to participate in the group, receive instruction, talk with the guru, etc., beyond whatever reasonable amount is necessary to pay for books, room rentals, mailings, and such? Do they say the truth will set you free, but charge you for the privilege?
Fatigue: Did you accept the teaching or group because you were too tired to go on looking?
Remember, unshakeable determination to find the right teacher, system or group will maintain your "vulnerability to Grace."