Spiritual Teachers and Spiritual Emergence
Those on a path of spiritual emergence, seeking spiritual growth, often assume that their spiritual teachers are leading lives committed to helping others. Why? Because they have been helped by their teacher. It can create a raw spiritual crisis, a spiritual emergency, when they find that their esteemed teacher is not 100% dedicated to beneficial good works–.that their teacher may, in fact, have problems and actually be hurting people.
The scandal around John of God, an internationally renowned spiritual healer imprisoned in Brazil in December, 2018, on charges of sexual abuse, has rocked the world of thousands who revered him as a healer. And yes, it is true, there were people who experienced such things as complete remission from aggressive brain cancer under his care; and, yes, they have before and after X-rays by reputable hospitals to prove it. Matthew Ireland is one example. He survived a 4th stage glioblastoma, and is now healthy, cancer-free, married with two children. He attributes his healing to personal work he did at John of God’s spiritual hospital.
Those who experienced the powerful healing of John of God considered him to be a spiritual teacher of teachers. They wonder: “how is it that the same man who has been so powerful in bringing the light of healing to people—can also be abusive?” More than six hundred women have reported being abused from ages ten to over sixty! Those who have followed John of God, perceiving him as all good, naturally may feel disillusioned, angry, regretful, or choose to deny the abuses, thinking John can ONLY be good.
John of God is Not Alone
John is not alone. There are many other healers, spiritual teachers and even priests who have fallen into the same personal problems and disillusioned their followers. Mainstream news has recently been full of reports of hundreds of Catholic priests with pedophilia. These priests also found youth to sexually abuse within their church congregations in past decades. They also found a way to hide their sex addiction.
Men devoted to communion with God who shepherd their followers through healing, ritual, prayer, confession, and community service are not immune to the trials of spiritual emergence. In fact, cultivating spiritual gifts through prayer and service, such as the gift of healing, or inspired speech, may bring challenges. Followers of these spiritual teachers may become jealous, or seductive, wanting to drink from the cup of power that teacher, healer or priest, represents to them.
The Ideal Spiritual Teachers
What does a person dedicated to spiritual emergence do with a growing chorus of acknowledgement from followers? Often these gifted spiritual teachers use the acknowledgement to feed their egos and revel in the glamour of fame, and the ease of manipulating their followers. If they were only interested in spiritual growth they would, instead, pass the accolades on to the Creator (God), the one who bestowed their gifts.
What protects us from diverting spiritual energy into egotism or immoral sexuality is profound, dedicated focus on attaining Self-realization. In other words, when we dedicate our energies with singular focus to the highest spiritual goal of enlightenment we will not be seduced into diversions that take us away from that goal.
A person who is not dedicating their energy singularly towards this highest goal may well find energy diverting into areas that are unethical and/or unhealthy. Over-drinking is an example…Think of the fat friars of the Middle Ages who loved their beer and wine and forgot the needs of their flocks while indulging their love of drink. Think of more modern day guru figures and spiritual teachers taken to task for having sexual relations with some students while abandoning others.
An enlightened or Self-realized person will be dependably compassionate and wise. That person is not seeking fame or fortune, overindulgence in food and drink, or sexual exploits. They have transcended the pull and the diversion of acting out sexually in a way that could hurt others. You may recognize that person by their calmness and peace as well as their 100% dedication to help others in their spiritual emergence.
Emma Bragdon, PhD. is the Executive Director of Integrative Mental Health for You, IMHU.org. She has been studying spiritual healing in Brazil since 2001. She is the published author of 7 books and teaches courses to certify “Spiritual Emergence Coaches”. EB@IMHU.org