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
Complete conviction. Deepest truth of ones heart.
Complete dedication of body, mind, life, money and spirit. Total
surrender of all other desires in this one overarching purpose.
Devotion. Deepest truth of ones 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.
"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
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 ones body, mind, life and spirit
to the teacher, and one has not come to recognize this as the
deepest truth of ones heart. Indeed, there may be reservations
that need to be answered before this spiritual commitment can
Willingness to learn. Teaching is seen as an augmentation
or enhancement of ones 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 ones 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 ones own abiding truth and conviction, and these teachings
are seen as a means to deepen ones own knowledge and ability.
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 ones 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 ones life.
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 ones suspicions. The information
is parsed and compared to what one already knows; information
that does not agree with ones 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 ones 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.
Mind, like a steel trap, is slammed shut. One may attend
the teachers 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). Ones 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.
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.
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 evila demon incarnatethen
he/she may attempt to attack or murder the teacher. Such an individual
usually has to be forcibly restrained and arrestedgroups
that have had encounters with these types of individuals have
usually instituted security soon after these encounters or in
anticipation of them (if the teachers 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 founders 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 teachers 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