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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies

 

 

 

The Spiritual Belief Continuum

 

By George A. Boyd ©2003

In attempting to disseminate a spiritual teaching, teachers encounter the full range of attitudes on the part of those who come to hear them. This attitude continuum is briefly described below.

Level on Continuum

Attitude

10

Complete conviction. Deepest truth of one’s heart. Complete dedication of body, mind, life, money and spirit. Total surrender of all other desires in this one overarching purpose.

9

Devotion. Deepest truth of one’s heart. Complete dedication of body, mind, life, money and spirit. Relationship of love, devotion and dedicated service to the teacher who reveals this truth. May struggle against other unfulfilled desires in order to maintain this fervor of dedication.

8

"Won over heart." Exciting new possibility captures the heart with interest and enthusiasm. Willing and enthusiastic dedication of body, mind, life, money and spirit to the teacher who reveals this truth, but this dedication may compete with one or two other important desires that are also seen to require dedication and investment of time, energy and resources. Stage of heartfelt gratitude and public testimonials

7

Fascination. Exciting new possibility captures the heart with interest and enthusiasm that sparks a burning intellectual curiosity to learn as much as one possibly can. One may begin to invest time, money and energy in pursuing this study but one is unwilling to commit one’s body, mind, life and spirit to the teacher, and one has not come to recognize this as the deepest truth of one’s heart. Indeed, there may be reservations that need to be answered before this spiritual commitment can be made.

6

Willingness to learn. Teaching is seen as an augmentation or enhancement of one’s current knowledge of abilities, and one willingly accepts guidance and instruction. One may take notes and practice the methods taught to incorporate these teachings into one’s knowledge and skills. One invests only that time and money actually required in order to master the teachings and does not dedicate oneself to the teacher. This individual may have one’s own abiding truth and conviction, and these teachings are seen as a means to deepen one’s own knowledge and ability.

5

Swept up by the enthusiasm of others. One comes to the teaching as the result of the advocacy or testimonial of others, with a desire to check it out. While aspects of the teaching are interesting and evocative, other aspects do not resonate or are confusing, and one has little motivation to practice or study the teachings outside of the classes or seminars. One may be in the process of formulating or discovering one’s deepest truths, and while the individual is willing to listen to the message and explore the methods, there is little or no follow-through for the initial exposure to the teachings. One may report that certain aspects of the teaching were insightful and interesting, but one continues to search for the compelling and resonant truth around which one can truly dedicate one’s life.

4

Enters with a skeptical mindset. One may come to listen and learn more from the teacher as a result of the advocacy or testimonial of others, but as a result of prior learning, has reservations about the validity or veracity of the teaching or about the character or motivation of the teacher. The individual carefully watches and listens to the teacher, waiting for a blunder or statement that will confirm one’s suspicions. The information is parsed and compared to what one already knows; information that does not agree with one’s current beliefs is rejected. Some of the teaching may be surprising or compelling, however, and this may make this individual reflect about the ideas. This may even result in attitude change and incorporation of these ideas. Notwithstanding the willingness to consider certain new ideas, the posture of guardedness is maintained at all times. This vigilance is maintained in order to avoid being tricked, deceived or overpowered by subtle manipulations. Such inner guardedness may also compromise ones’ ability to willingly enter into guided meditation or share with the group one’s innermost thoughts or considerations. One may be polite and courteous to adherents and believers with an aim not to offend them, but one cannot share their fervor and dedication.

3

Mind, like a steel trap, is slammed shut. One may attend the teacher’s lectures or seminars not out of interest or desire to learn, but out of other desires to be with somebody (e.g., one may have a romantic interest in the person who took him/her). One’s attention is on the person who took him/her and s/he may try to engage this person all throughout the lecture or class. They do not genuinely listen to the ideas and only make motions to participate in the meditation exercises. Instead of following the guidance of the teacher, they think about daily issues or concerns during the meditation sessions. If asked to share, they may make very vague comments ("it was peaceful" or "it was pleasant") and not make any genuine disclosures. One does not do homework exercises or read the materials. As a result of this lack of attention and interest, they learn almost nothing and do not remember what they learned if asked about it.

2

Deeply disturbed mind. Sometimes an individual with severe emotional distress or cognitive disorder may wander into the class. This individual will completely misunderstand and distort the message that the teacher gives, and may form inaccurate or even delusional beliefs about the material disseminated. If the individual participates in the meditations, then he/she may become disruptive to the group, produce very bizarre behavior, or connect with pathological or archaic levels of the unconscious mind. Group members will feel uncomfortable with the individual. Sometimes the individual must be asked to leave and this may lead to rather awkward scenes in the class.

1

Full antipathy with hate-filled conviction. This individual is a zealot of another teaching or faith who believes that this teaching is evil, delusory and wrong, and may do everything in his/her power to disrupt the event, ridicule the teacher or shout down any who try to reason with him/her. If the individual is convinces that the teacher is evil—a demon incarnate—then he/she may attempt to attack or murder the teacher. Such an individual usually has to be forcibly restrained and arrested—groups that have had encounters with these types of individuals have usually instituted security soon after these encounters or in anticipation of them (if the teacher’s message is controversial). These individuals willingly commit crimes or acts of terrorism on behalf of their faith.

Individuals involved at level 10 to level 8 on this spiritual belief continuum comprise the core of the movement that forms around the teacher.

Those newly encountering the teaching, who have an interest in learning about it, cluster between level 7 to level 5 on this spiritual belief continuum. Those who experience level 7 as a result of their encounter with the teacher are the most likely candidates to become incorporated into the core of the movement.

Those that cluster from level 4 to level 1 on this scale have other purposes or agendas in coming to the meeting. Individuals who come with level 4 can sometimes have their reservations countered and their concerns resolved, so that they will, at some point, show genuine interest in learning about the teachings.

Teachings that grow and spread have an ability to inspire fascination and to "win over hearts." The most successful of these groups become world religions that propagate their founder’s original message from generation to generation across the millennia.

You may wish to reflect on your attitudes about the religious or spiritual groups to which you currently belong and to which you have belonged, and where you fall on the spiritual belief continuum for each one of them.

The Seductive Cultivation of Devotion

Some cultic groups try to win peoples’ hearts by having them make public testimonials of the benefits that they received by following the teaching or convince them to tithe generously or dedicate their money and possessions to the teacher’s cause.

We believe that genuine devotion arises after much experience with the teacher, and that this love and trust is both earned and reciprocated by the teacher. We further believe that any manipulative attempts to "win over hearts" or to fascinate them by sculpting the message is unethical, and these spiritual marketing techniques that coerce have led to many abuses at the altar of religion.

While conviction and enthusiasm may lead to large numbers of adherents, genuine devotion arises only when the individual discovers that Highest Truth, that Pearl of Great Price, to which all else pales in comparison. If the teaching is genuine and filled with Divine Grace, then it will indeed lead those who embrace it to encounter that Highest Truth, which alone is worthy of their devotion. This cannot be marketed or sold, but experienced only as the culmination of an inner journey of love.

 

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