This post lays the groundwork as we attempt to clarify the muddy waters concerning what it means to have contact with a “Master.” The post discusses where the notion of contact with a Master came from, how it has become distorted over time, and how it relates to the Buddhist idea of the outer Master (guru), the inner Master (guru), and the secret Master (guru).
This is a particularly difficult post for me to write mainly because the notion of being in touch with a Master is full of potential glamour and distortion, especially in New Age circles where norms and established parameters for such contact for the most part do not exist. Still, I will attempt to approach the idea of contact as reasonably as possible. But, first some context. In Eastern spiritual traditions and even many Western spiritual traditions, it is actually quite common for those on the spiritual path to seek out a spiritual teacher (guru – lama -Master – or spiritual elder). In fact, only in the West is it less common in spiritual life to seek out a spiritual teacher primarily because the West has become dominated by secularism, scientific materialism and Protestantism (which typically “protests” against spiritual authority apart from one’s own faith or reason).
The positive side of this Western aversion to seeking out a spiritual elder to guide one in one’s spiritual life, is how it encourages people to tune into what might be called the “inner Master” versus the “outer Master.” By this I mean Westerners are much more likely to rely upon their own spiritual souls or intuitions, than to seek an outer human being as their Master, teacher, or spiritual authority. But, again the negative side regarding this approach is how because there are no clear guidelines said, that because there are no clear guidelines for what contact with a spiritual teacher entails, the West has had a great deal of confusion and conflicted ideas regarding who a true spiritual teacher is, or what it means to be in touch with one.
Which is why this post requires some brief context before we dive too deeply into the subject. Where in the world did this notion of Masters come from? Surely spiritual lamas, gurus, elders, and teachers have been with us for thousands of years. In some cultures they were even known as the shamans, priests, rabbis, mullahs, or even “desert fathers.” There is nothing new or even glamorous about the notion of having a spiritual teacher to guide us. So why all the confusion and mystery?
Perhaps we could say some of it comes from human beings themselves and the levels of consciousness they dwell upon. After all different levels of consciousness will interpret what being in a touch with a Master looks like in different ways. Those in the mythic and magical levels of consciousness will see Masters as superhuman and endow them with powers similar to mythological Gods and Goddesses. Those on the more rational levels will most likely see their Masters as those who are reasonable and who have superior intellects, much like those found in the Western version of the Enlightenment. As consciousness progresses, so will our notion of who a Master is progress. Keeping this in mind let’s start with a brief overview as to where the notion of Master’s first arrived in regards to the Ageless Wisdom teachings.
Beginning in the mid to late 1800’s, the Ageless Wisdom and Eastern religious traditions became increasingly visible to the Western world beyond the confines of only a few human beings who were mainly sequestered off in monasteries and secret societies. One of the reasons for this change was due to the efforts of a woman named Helena Petrovna Blavastky (known as HPB) who came into public view with the founding of an organization known as the Theosophical Society. A highly unique Russian woman, HPB had traveled the world exploring the deeper aspects of various religious traditions and even more remarkable (especially for a woman) had made headway into secret societies of various cultures. On her travels into India, and (according to her) into Tibet, she also claims to have met highly evolved human beings that she called Mahatmas, and that others would later refer to as Masters. Though these Mahatmas mainly were thought to be evolved spiritually and intellectually, many people became overly fixated on the more magical powers they seemed to possess (like manifesting letters of communication from them supposedly into thin air). Regardless of these magical powers, HPB stressed, that these Mahatmas were human beings in human bodies she had met on her travels, and that these magical powers were minor compared to their intellectual and more spiritual (moral, compassionate) natures.
The next step in the evolution of these Mahatmas, who began to be known now as Masters, was the gradual shift away from them being people who lived in physical bodies that you came into contact with like any other human being, to them becoming like disembodied spirits residing on the “inner planes.” This shift was at first gradual. Alice Bailey, also a Theosophist, who wrote her books from the 1910’s into the 1940’s, states that she had met one of these Masters in person in a physical body. But, the Tibetan (who she claims to have taken telepathic dictation from in order to write most of her books), was someone she says she never met in person (though she did state that she received packages from him in the mail, and she did claim he stated he lived in a physical body as a lama somewhere in Tibet).
Over time in the following decades, especially in the New Age movement, more and more people claimed to be in contact with various Masters, but the idea of meeting these Mahatmas or Masters in person as just human beings increasingly disappeared. Increasingly, anyone and seemingly everyone could be in touch with a Mahamata or Master regardless of their actual spiritual development. In fact through the channeling phenomena, a virtual competition seemed to be going on to see who could be in contact with more ever more exalted beings than anyone else. Gone were the human Masters. Now people were in touch with angels, or archangels, or aliens from distant realms, or groups of aliens from distant realms, or beings from various dimensions one thousand times more exalted than any spiritual being who would ever live here on Earth. Unfortunately, all these claims only made it harder and harder for educated people to take any claims of contact with Masters seriously. Hence the baby was all too often thrown out with the bath water in educated circles, and the notion of being in contact with a Master was regulated to having a mental disorder, or written off as simply absurd. Between the two extremes of anyone and everyone could be in touch with a Master to no one who was sane would even think Masters existed, there was no longer much room for any sane discussion on the topic of Masters at all.
Along another line, it has now been well over a hundred years since the time of Blavatsky and about as long since Alice Bailey put her writings down. Since these women put pen to paper, the idea of Mahatmas or Masters in far off exotic lands, is no longer something easy to contemplate. We live in a time where almost every inch of the planet has been mapped by satellites, and people everywhere can see what is going on in even the remotest regions of the planet (or even in our oceans) through Google Earth. Also, in the last hundred years the West has been flooded with gurus, lamas, shamans, and holy men. In many ways they no longer seem mysterious to us. In fact, many people even feel disillusioned with them because so many spiritual teachers have been implicated in numerous scandals. Bring up the idea of contact with a Master, or the necessity of finding a guru as part of the path, and instead of finding many Westerners intrigued by the notion, some now run for the hills.
Keeping all the above in mind then, the upcoming posts will look at more carefully this idea of contact with the Master as a part of the spiritual path. And, as the subject of contact is approached, we will find that the esoteric literature is very similar to what we find in many Eastern traditions, where that Master can have three different aspects to it. Borrowing from the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition we could say that there is the outer Master (or guru) who is a physical person you see and communicate with. Especially my third post in this series examines some of the scandals and cultural clashes that have happened when West has met East in regards to encountering what I am here calling the “outer Master” or guru. Then there is the “inner Master,” which has to do with contacting the nature of one’s own soul. In the Ageless Wisdom traditions this would suggest coming into contact with the levels of contact that occur when you go through the stages of the Egoic Lotus and then the Spiritual Triad spoken about earlier in this blog.
Finally, there is contact with the secret Master (guru), which is related to what might be referred to as the Absolute in esoteric tradition (or as emptiness in the Buddhist tradition), that takes one more deeply into a non-dualistic sense of Being, or what in the Theosophical tradition has often been called simply “Be-ness.” This might also signify Monadic awareness in the Ageless Wisdom teachings. But, here at this level, you are no longer in touch with a Master, you ARE a Master, so at this stage there is no point to speaking about contact here.
This Series Continues Below.
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