Why have so many spiritual leaders failed to practice the wonderful things they preach? Perhaps it was ever thus, and those who rise to the profession of telling other people how they should behave have some cognitive dissonance which drives them to do the very things they claim that people shouldn’t do. Today I attended a discussion of the publicly disclosed letters of XXX whose life has been made very difficult by the social misconduct of some spiritual leaders. I was going to link to this site which I have access to, but apparently it is a closed one and so I will just write in general terms. It won’t make any difference to my observations to leave out the persons involved. There is no need to be specific because there have been so many high level spiritual leaders recently who have gotten into serious ethical, even legal, trouble. You may insert your high level clergy person of choice.
A spiritual leader must set a higher standard of behavior for himself than for the people he is preaching to. How can he instruct people to achieve some high level of spiritual or social behavior if he himself has not personally traveled the path to those levels himself? Telling people about a path which has only been speculated about in his mind, but not actually trodden in person and experienced in fact can only create false information. This idea becomes obvious when dealing in concrete reality. If someone were giving instructions about how to get to a particular location, say Timbuktu, when they had not the slightest idea of what it was or what that term was referring to, their instructions would be recognized by everyone as worse than worthless. And yet, the spiritual leaders spin out tales of fantasy lands where everything is perfect. Furthermore, we can get there, if only we follow their instructions. This is obviously nonsense, because they have not been to these speculated places and they are fabricating them wholly out of liars’ cloth. However, they are speaking to an audience of people who want the specious perfect world to be true, and so they are easily convinced. We humans have a terrific ability to wish something to be true and find the most implausible reasons and justifications for believing it to be true. If we are in a self selected crowd of people who want a particular thing to be true, it becomes easy for any given individual to be swept up in the emotion of the crowd and to believe absolutely unbelievable things; after all everyone else believes them and therefore they must be true.
When a spiritual leader tells his followers things which he has not personally experienced, it is impossible for him to accurately portray what he says. And because there are no tests for the reality of their teaching they can claim anything they can dream up, and the good part of that is that they can dream up something which appears to be really great. When something sounds really wonderful then everyone will want to have it, and the spiritual leader can promise to deliver it to them, because after all he has special knowledge of where it came from. Bunko! This is a case where if it sounds too good to be true then it is a certainty that it’s false. Because they know it is a pure fabrication it is easy for the so-called spiritual leader to violate his own precepts, and that is why so many of them seem to go astray. In their own mind they are doing the right thing by getting what they want, but to their followers they are absolute frauds. It is very difficult for the followers to see the hypocrisy because they very much want to believe the beautiful lies.
What these spiritual leaders want are all the usual things that other people want, and they have found this method of promising fantasies to a willing public as a way to fulfill their personal desires. I have been exploring another path; that of contentment. It doesn’t promise a beautiful fantasy land in some time and space but a real one in the here and now if people simply accept the totality of reality and place themselves into a comfortable relationship with that reality.
Heaven can be here and now if you choose it to be so.