Eclectic Spirituality

Is it more likely nowadays that a spiritual seeker will be more eclectic and varied in their sources than before the internet? Is this then a new kind of approach than the typically singular, structured traditions of instruction and knowledge? Is there some power and value in that? Good, bad, other?

I know many earnest seekers that are pursuing a singular traditional path with one teacher. I saw many in the spiritual movements and sanghas I’ve been involved with who were entirely single-minded in their particular spiritual path and teacher. To the extent that they would idealise, even deify their teacher above all others believing this to be literally and objectively true. Perhaps they weren’t even aware that they were doing it, and if pressed as to how or indeed whether their teacher is truly singular or superior they’d certainly assert it and rationalise the claim. Theirs and theirs alone is the true Sat-Guru, the Avatar of the Age, or some such conception of cosmic uniqueness.

Of course in the internet age it’s hard to sustain a viewpoint like this when faced with a plethora, a veritable cornucopia of effective, wise, awakened teachers and teachings. (For now I won’t comment here on the equally large cornucopia of frauds and clowns). And yet seekers still do single-out their teacher and idolise them. Maybe it’s an adaptive feature. Maybe its temperamental. Whatever works, I say. To each their own.

But once you’ve been to a rodeo or three, better or worse might well be a justified judgement regarding teachers and teachings, but I get wary of excessive superlatives and absolutes in regard to particulars. Therein lies the birth of personality cults, charismatic leaders proffering cans of Kool-Aid or feeling-up the followers. I’m all about retaining one’s power, sovereignty and authority while using and respecting (where its due) whatever teachers, teachings, methods and traditions best serve our spiritual clarity and growth. I’m suspicious of those who require someone to bend the knee.

But okay, if a singular path following a particular teaching and/or teacher serves you, then fine, fill yer boots. I guess I’m just curious as to the power (or otherwise) of spiritual eclecticism. And I’m suggesting that it’s its own thing, its own approach with its own opportunities. I’ve called it “bootstrapping enlightenment” before. I guess it’s syncretism with less formality. It’s about using what and who’s at hand to further one’s insight and growth.

“Do what you can where you are with what you have.”

Assemble a grab-bag of spiritual ways and means. Create your own bespoke path to true awakening.

Note: this approach is not to be confused with the clusterfuck of self-indulgent delusions that constitute the excesses of a certain species of spiritual materialism. That said, even this kind of egoic chaos can often distill itself to true clarity in the end.

I can’t really knock it, I was there, I did all of it. And like not eating my veggies as a child, it didn’t do me any harm.

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