Types of Gurus
Most often, Gurus, Masters, and Teachers are classified according to the type of teaching; e.g. non-dual, theistic (or devotional), and so on. And in one instance, they are also rated in numbers of stars (little buddhas, whatever). Here a different classification is used, on the basis of dual enlightenment - both Self/Nonduality and Soul/Integrity, or absense thereof. This is a highly controversial, subjective, and dubious subject, and the classification used here can only be at most a very simple, tentative, and biased beginning for a true "integral" system of classification
Every guru, religious or sectarian or cult leader, esotericist, spiritual master, or adept, has something unusual or extraordinary abut them. Even the total fakes and con-artists. If they didn't, they would never acquire a following!
Materialism looks to explanations in the wiring of the brain as to why people want to follow gurus or authority figures. Devotees on the other hand uncritically accept their own guru as a worldteacher, supremely enlightened one, or avatar of this age. I would rather adopt a third position, based on occult and esoteric analysis, between uncritical scepticism and uncritical belief.
As a most basic and highly simplistic classification, a distinction can be made with two axii - Enlightenment and Integrity
The following classification is based on the idea - central to Integral Yoga - that there is not only a transcendent Spiritual Realisation which confers enlightenment or Liberation, but also the Divine Center or Psychic being, in addition to the conventional Spiritual realisation. So there is not one but two types of Realisation,which can be called Self-realisation and Soul-realisation. Each on its own confers experiences and attainment, but both together are required for an authentic integral spirituality.
The term Self-Realisation is here used to refer to Enlightenment or Realisation sensu non-dual philosophy and mysticism, which might be synonymous with what Sri Aurobindo refers to as "Spiritualisation". This can be complete and authentic (without ego), or it can be partial and incomplete, caught up in ego and the delusionism of the negative elements of the Intermediate zone.
The characteristics by which Self-Realised gurus and teachers, or those that have even a partial development on the inner or spiritual level, is already described in the literature of mysticism, Transpersonal Psychology, Perennialism, and the Integral movement. In most cases theer is no discrimination between complete and partiual realisation. This lack of discrimination is why people today are usually unable to tell the difference between a genuine ad a partial teacher, and instead think that all partial teachers must automatically be of the highest Enlightenment, or conversely (with the sceptics) that all gurus are automatically fakes. Attempts at rankings, while useful, are also highly subjective. (See links page for more)
Soul-Realisation, or Integrity, refers to the awakening of the Individual Divine and its transformation of the adhara or outer personality. It is not the same as Transcendent Realisation, but refers to the outer being being being guided by the highest principles and standards, and eventually becoming that.
Integrity is the very opposite of the behaviour of abusive teachers and superficial pop gurus. It means not selling out to anything.
Just as abusive gurus can be recognised by the negative characteristics, so self- and soul-realised individuals can be recognised by positive characteristics. Obviously, an intermediate zone guru or teacher will have both negative and positive characteristics! It is this admixture of profound Truth and delusional Falsehood that makes this phenomena so dangerously beguiling and misleading.
Using these parameters, there are four possible combinations:
Various kinds of Realisation
Most yogas and spiritualities
Most often inauthentic, intermediate zone; there is genuine non-dual consciousness but also the strong possibility of being ensnared by the half-lights of the intermediate zone; hence abusive gurus, pseudo-enlightenment, etc. The majority of genuine teachings in the "spiritual supermarket" belong here. However there are also a few genuine authentic self-realisers (e.g. Ramana Maharshi)
Soul-realisation and Self-realisation
Integral Spirituality – Integral Yoga
The whole being is transformed, choosing either to remain in the world as a bodhisattva, enter nirvana or transcendence, or further the evolution and the process of divinisation of the World Very few have attained this stage.
Outer existence or ordinary, non-enlightened, consciousness only, with all the weaknesses and limitations that the non-awakened state is heir to. Also, fake teachings belong here.
Spiritual life True Mystic
Authentic spiritual aspiration; discrimination; guidance by inner Light and wisdom; if a guru or Teacher there is never any exploitation of disciples or other abusive or self-seeking behaviour These teachers are probably as rare as the authentic self-realised ones.
The above table is obviously simplistic, because there can also be various grades of partial awakening, and obviously there can also be combinations of one or the other, so the above is only a simple generalisation only. The following gives suggested gradations, but as with all inquiries in these subjects, should not be taken dogmatically
Degree of Enlightenment / Self-Realisation
The categories here are presented in the form of a gradation from complete metaphysical ignorance (avidya) of ordinary consciousness, through the transitional stages of the Intermediate Zone, to complete enlightenment. Obviously there are many factors at work, and it is acknowledged that this classification is highly simplistic. Nevertheless, it is better than the naive approach that says that every guru is authentic, and the equally naive asusmption that every guru is fake.
From the highest to the lowest then:
- Fully Enlightened/Liberated - refers to those very very few who have attained both egodeath and mastery or transcendence of the adhar's samskaras (impulses). They have totally transcended all selfishness, narcissism, kleshas, separation (from others and from the Supreme) etc. There are actually degrees of Enlightenment, including states beyond even traditional nondual Enlightenment. This is the Sadguru or Eternal Guru; one with the Supreme, totally enlightened, avataric, beyond space and time. This state of Realisation can be considered the same as Avataric, the Enlightened being is the Divine incarnated in human (or other) form. It is impossible for an Enlightened being to in any way abuse the sacred trust placed in them by their devotees. Suggested examples - Anandamayi Ma, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Meher Baba?, Nisagardatta Maharaj, Nityananda, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Ramdas, Vivekananda, Yogi Ramsuratkumar
- Awakened but not fully Enlightened - aka Partial Enlightenment or "Intermediate Zone" - refers to those states between ordinary consciousness and complete Enlightenment. Includes many extraordinary and profound experiences, abilities, realisations and powers; the guru may or may not themseves consider they have reached the goal. Often able to confer profound experiences on devotees. Has qualities of Charisma, supernormal powers and partial Enlightenment. Many Crazy Wisdom Adepts would belong here (there would however also be Crazy Wisdom Adepts who have attained Complete Enlightenment, as well as many fake and abusive gurus who use "crazy wisdom" as an alibi for their actions) Originally I divided this stage into further subdivisions, such as
Due to the difficulty of understanding such sublime states (relative ordinary consciousness) as the Intermediate Zone, I now consider such linear classifications to be not only problematic but highly misleading. It would be better to think of the Intermediate Zone as a sort of matrix of possibilities. In any case, many gurus that are considered fully enlightened are at this level, since relative to mundane consciousness the Intermediate Zone is Enlightenment. Suggested or possible examples: Da Free John/Adi Da, Mata Amritanandamayi, Swami Muktananda, Chögyam Trungpa? (established the crazy wisdom meme in the West), Mother Meera, Poonja?, Swami Sivananda? (unlike most others here was saintly, never abused his position)
- Basic/Lower Intermediate Zone - transpersonal enlightenment etc but egotism, desires, and lower self remains, there may be paranoia, entity take-over, etc; narcissism and self-delusion may be common if there is lack of sufficent sincerity.
- Middle Intermediate Zone - transpersonal enlightenment, transcends egotism, but desire remains, there may be inflation, entity take-over etc
- Higher/Advanced Intermediate Zone - profound enlightenment etc, only some samskaras remain
- Transpersonal or Translucent or Some opening but no Awakening - the "Translucent" stage, using the terminology of Arjuna Ardagh, would seem to refer to a state of insight or partial opening that is between Ego-Shadow and Intermediate Zone. The guru or so-called master has some opening into the inner or higher worlds and knowledge. he or she possesses charisma, even hypnotic or occult powers, but they are not even at the level of the Intermediate Zone, or if they are it is very sporadic. In some cases, where there is excessive ego the result is the Delusional Guru who believes they are an avatar, sadguru, etc when they aren't even enlightened. Many gurus are at this level. I would divide the translucent stage into low (nearest Ego-Shadow), middle, and high (constant experuience of inner being; previously I considered this "Intermediate Zone" but it matches some descriptions in Ardagh's book). Here it is easier to make subdivisions than with the Intermediate Zone, simply because these states are more often realised; indeed according to Ardagh they may represent a large proportion of the developed population. Even so there are many factors at work, so any linear scale is simplistic. the following linear scale is based on insight/jnana/gnosis only:
- High Transpersonal - strong and stable transpersonal consciousness, but not enlightened, although the devotees may consider the guru enlightened. Suggested or possible examples: Gangaji, Osho, Sathya Sai Baba? (daimonic),
- Middle Transpersonal - a person with stable insight and original and unique gnosis, but still mostly in ordinary consciousness (Ego-Shadow) which may break through or temporarily or overwhelm the personality in stressful periods. Because they are not enlightened, there may be instances of abuse. Suggested or possible examples: Lee Lozowick, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet.
- Low Transpersonal - a person with at least a few glimpses and insights. Some superficial if perhaps genuine spiritual experience Other than that, they have no more higher knowledge than the average spiritual-orientated man in the street. But certainly much more than the average person they try to live a moral or spiritual life. Because they are not enlightened, there may be instances of abuse. Suggested or possible examples: Andrew Cohen, Byron Katie, L. Ron Hubbard, Guru Maharaji, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Shri Mataji.
- Ego-Shadow - pertains to individuals with no spiritual consciousness. They just live in their ordinary consciousness. If they are normal or decent, such people would not presume to be gurus or spiritrual masters. And when it comnes to spiritual matters, if they are interested in that area, they would consider themselves "seekers". Those who therefore presume to be gurus or spiritrual masters would be highly narcissitic and domineering, and self-righteous individuals. They may have some atavistic occult powers, or more likely be shallow individuals used by daimonic astral attractors. Some individuals are driven by paranoia, delusion, etc. They would however probably have occaisonal glimpses of the transpersonal, or even some Low Transpersonal consciousness. Generally the lowets and most abusive cults, Jim Jones, Aum Shinrikyo etc
Degree of Integrity / Soul-Realisation
Whereas every fully enlightened guru can only act in a saintly manner, among those who have only a partial realisation, or none at all, a distinction has to be made regarding integrity of behaviour, which may be Abusive, Sincere but compromised, or Saintly. Hence the ethical/integrity axis.
- Saintly - having exceedingly highly developed selflessness, compassion, principles, etc. - all Authentically Enlightened gurus, Dalai Lama (a saintly individual who does not claim to be Enlightened), perhaps A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabupada? (never abused his position)
- Sincere and nonabusive - while such a guru or teacher may have powers, knowledge, etc, they have not yet transcended human weaknesses. However, they do not set out to take advantage of their devotees; they have sufficient sincerity not to. Or if they do occaisonally take advantage, it is out of weakness on their part - example Chögyam Trungpa? (may not have been abusive; ambiguous figure), Gangaji, Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi?, Guru Maharaji?, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
- Sincere but unwittingly or unintentionally Abusive - Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Coming from a puitanicale spiritual culture even quite pure practitioners find it difficult to resist the temptations of the licentious West. As a result they fall from their high attainments, giving themselves up to temptations of sex, money, emotional manipulation, etc. Such gurus may be wonderful people with a beautiful energy (and indeed many are), who have helped many, but their actions are proof that that they are not authentically Enlightened, although they may have a partial Enlightenment conferred through the Intermediate Zone.- examples Andrew Cohen, Swami Muktananda, Osho
- Insincere / deliberately Abusive - When a person of gross and heavy nature aquires transcendent powers and knowledge of the Intermediate Zone, while retaining their narcissism and self-righteousness, it is a dangerous combination; dangerous, that is, for those naive enough to be drawn into the vortex of their influence. Such a one consistently abuses the trust placed in them by their devottees. They may neveretheless be totally sincere, or they could be deliberately predatory and lacking in empathy. Nevertheless, many devotees swear by their abusive guru, and claim that the abuse was necessary to break down the walls of ego etc. Thus is how their own egos avoid facing the fact that they have been manipulated and taken advantage of. Examples e.g. - Carlos Castaneda?, L. Ron Hubbard (created a fake religion), Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Shri Mataji (ref), Sathya Sai Baba on the basis of these allegations,
Other parameters that might be mentioned include:
- Charismatic - an otherwise ordinary (or not) person with a magnetic orexic quality that attracts others. Note, here applies to non-daimonic, non-enlightened, non-hypnotic, non-intermediate zone charismatic "gurus", since those other attributes generally provide charisma in any case
- Daimonic - may be an otherwise ordinary (or not) person, but backed by a powerful orexic entity or attractor (a daimon). The daimonic figure has superhuman abilities on the occult level, may be associated with miracles, profound experiences by devotees, etc. A Daimonic guru is always highly Charismatic, but the inverse is not necessarily the case. - example Sai Baba
- Erratic - a partially (Intermediate Zone) or Fully (Liberated) Enlightened guru who behaves in an eccentric manner. Includes "Crazy Wisdom". May be the result of an authentic action, but more often means a weakness of the adhar, or in other words a lack of Self-Mastery.
- Hypnotic - not Daimonic, Enlightened or Intermediate Zone, but nevertheless has a sense of control or power over devotees. Has qualities of Charisma. To non-devotees this may appear ridiculous.
- Self-Mastery - an otherwise ordinary (or not) person with exceedingly highly developed powers of will. Self-Mastery may involve mastery of desires, likes and dislikes, control of thoughts and consciousness, mastery of the body, and so on. Note, here applies to non-enlightened gurus, since Fully Enlightenment provides self-mastery in any case. - example Gurdjieff
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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 11 November 2008. (Some material on this page from 24 November 2006 or older), last modified 4 December 2008