Sunday, November 18, 2007

Of the Guru's Firm World and Dancing with Fire

On a forum I frequent is a person who wants to be your guru. He's had some mystical experiences (He claims they are beyond counting), and has reached firm conclusions about the nature of god, the self, and the universe.

Whoever doesn't agree with him is a fool, he says, because he has had so many more profound experiences than they. Better yet, he's even brighter than they are too. How can you beat such reasonable qualifications?

Some of the people on the forum are even impressed by this man. He's witty in his put-downs, you know. A sure sign he's the Buddha.

Some years ago, I did a stint as a firefighter. In the ready room, the room where we waited for the calls, the men would bullshit. "Captain, what do you think of abortion?"

"Simple! Abortion is always wrong."

"Lieutenant, what do you think of abortion?

"It's murder, plain and simple."

"Anderson, what do you think of abortion?"

"There's no two ways about it: A woman has a right to choose."

The men would bullshit like that until a call came in.

Then they'd get real.

A fire does not favor firm conclusions. Fighting a fire is a game of odds. A game of probabilities. You cannot be certain what the fire is going to do. You can't bullshit a fire.

In a fire, you calculate the odds, take your best chance, and go with it. You don't look for absolute truth. There is none. You don't reach absolute conclusions because you're not a fool. You stay alert. You remain open to the changing reality.

Reality is always changing. It's just that most of our time is spent in the ready room where we don't notice it changing. So, we relax and bullshit. We speak with absolute conviction. We even call that kind of talk, "being serious". But it's light years from being serious. It's light years from reality.

I suppose it's possible that "seeing god" somehow leaves a person with absolute convictions about god, the self, and the universe.

But if I had to bet on that, I'd bet those absolute convictions are simple, fundamental misinterpretations of what he or she experienced. I'd bet what they really experienced was just as uncertain as dancing with fire.

(Photo courtesy of Ernest von Rosen,


Becky said...

Staying alert with an openness to an absolute changing reality is the only survival. I read somewhere once that every interpretation we give divinity is about as far removed from what it is as we can get. Funny how we fall for that.

StaCeY said...

"But if I had to bet on that, I'd bet those absolute convictions are simple, fundamental misinterpretations of what he or she experienced. I'd bet what they really experienced was just as uncertain as dancing with fire."

How many ways can a fire cast a shadow? What can you read in the shapes there... dancing upon the walls ...

To tie up the mystery in no uncertain terms...
is to lose the mystery all together.

There was a time when I sought to explain the mystical "raptures" I have experienced. Now I realize they were just alternate... if not highly intensified... experiences of the very same mystery.

We see things there in those shifts of awareness... wonderful things! Heightened illuminations of our own symbologies... but they only MAGNIFY the Mystery. They do not in any way seek to explain it.

Grace said...

I really liked this piece :) Having had my own recent bouts with some 'gurus', and writing about it, I appreciated this even more.

Those with Guru complexes may be some of the saddest people on the planet, for so many reasons.

Me - I'm just learning as I go. And the more I "know", the less I grow. So I don't try to "know" to much these days! LOL

Jonathan Blake said...

I'm suspicious of any mystic who sets himself up as a guru. Mystics may help each other, but ultimately it's an individual effort. To put it metaphorically, it's just you and God.

Paul said...

Hi Becky! I agree: An experience of divinity is quite different from any interpretation of that experience.

Hi Stacey! Indeed! It's quite possible that any attempt to explain the mystery results merely in our loosing the mystery.

Hi Grace! Welcome to the blog!

I find it amusing that the "guru" I referred to in my post is so strangely desperate to be perceived as an authority on all things spiritual.

Hi Jonathan! Precisely! Others might help us, but we cannot shift the responsibility for our realization onto anyone else's shoulders.

Mystic Wing said...

I think it's very wise to be leery of anybody seeking to be your guru. The best teachers are reluctant to accept this kind of adulation.

But I have noticed that young people, especially, seem awfully eager to latch onto anyone who has lived a bit and thought about the big questions. It worries me, because they seem awfully vulnerable.

Any hint on whose forum we're talking about, Paul? A member of your list?

Paul said...

Good points, Mystic! Look down my site list until you come to "Religious Forums". Click on that one.

enreal said...

Life is about interpretation. How we view the world is in our minds. This "guru" of yours...well let him continue preaching, good for him, I hope he can deep down inside agree with what he is speaking.

This is an interesting out take on faith and life. Life is as unpredictable as fire. I like the comparison...