Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Five Star Guru

With Ken Wilber's talk of a "deep science" of spirituality, with all the same aspects of verifiable direct experience that come with material science, I started thinking about how that world-view jives with what's really happening in the spiritual world. Although there is a lot of consensus on big-picture things in the spiritual realm, there are an awful lot of gurus and teachers and systems that all make absolute claims in terms of their spiritual teaching. If all of it is so darn verifiable, why are there so many variable teachings, meditations, and practices? And what standards will we use to evaluate them all? It's not enough to, as Wilber says, "Take up the injunction" and run all the experiments ourselves. Most of the spiritual injunctions put out there require months and years of investment -- we don't have time to test them all.

I started to imagine a Guru Rating System, something that would allow people to cut through some of the noise with some semi-objective knowledge of what the teachers and their related schools offer. After about two minutes fantasizing about Consumer Reports-style circles and categories such as "Time Commitment," "Style," and "Exposes", it occurred to me that someone has surely attempted this already. Sure enough, "Sarlo's Guru Rating Service" is a pretty thorough attempt to categorize and rate ~1,500 gurus. He takes a relatively light tone (the home page has starburst declaring "now with 28.7% more credibility!") but it's clear he's made an honest attempt to read all available material and make an informed editorial judgement. I was happily surprised to see that Richard Rose got top ratings, in the same league as Nisargadatta Maharaj.

There are, of course, lots of pitfalls to evaluating spiritual teachers in such objective terms. There is the potential for bias, for misunderstanding, for politics and favoritism. And the whole notion of the students judging the teacher is somewhat upside down; after all, the whole reason we look to teachers is because we suspect that our world-view is incomplete and flawed, and our native judgements potentially invalid. Still, I think the perils of doing such evalutations are outweighed by the perils of not doing them. There has to come a point where the spiritual marketplace is held accountable for its offerings.



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