There is No Vatican of the Spirit
A Reflection on the Impermanence of Spiritual Movements in a World of Samsara (Changes), By James Bean
There is No Vatican of the Spirit — A Reflection on the Impermanence of Spiritual Movements in a World of Samsara (Changes), By James Bean
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” ― Eric Hoffer
As a friend Neil Tessler from Vancouver says: “There is no Vatican of the Spirit.” He specializes in writing about the politics of Guru-succession in India, suggesting that all spiritual movements decline and turn to dust sooner or later. It’s just a matter of ‘time’. Try as they might, spirituality can not be institionualised. Groups usually undergo a process of gradual decline, dispensing with a crucial mystical principals or techniques every so often. Living in a world of forgetfulness and spiritual slumber, how soon we forget. The decline is so gradual, that sadly, most in a group over the decades of their short human lifespan do not even notice, or would rather not be mindful about such matters. Only looking back years or decades later, the lucky ones not completely intoxicated by social status or “group-think” might perhaps come to see the occasional wrong turn after wrong turn a spiritual group has made, all in the name of progress and good intentions of course:
building bigger buildings
with less meditating going on
in the, noisier, bigger buildings;
getting busier without, yet
not getting as far within;
an overall reduction
in the percentage of the population
having inner mystical experiences,
and all in the name of what…
saving the world by becoming less spiritual? less true to the ideals of the Path?
Life-changing, transformative, inner experience, a close encounter of the God-kind, is what the “world” really needs, not endless branding, photo ops and marketing campaigns.
With any spiritual movement, sooner or later, we are eventually left with bones, statues, dust from the past, apostles and prophets that are no more, the shoes and spectacles of the guru who lived many decades ago, and on a few occasions scrolls that are worshipped as holy books, even though these very same scrolls might instruct us to not worship books. Rather, these Holy Scriptures are advising us to be healed of our blindness, go within, develop sight, see Divine Light, and to be healed from our deafness, with ears opened to hearing inner Music.
All of these great teachers of days gone-by have generally reaffirmed for their generation, the same basic truths and inner experiences. I do like my friend’s phrase: “There is no Vatican of the Spirit.” I find that to be a useful if not ironic way of putting it. Spiritual movements come and go. Schools of Spirituality and mystics are replaced by polyester prophets parasitically interpreting the past inspiration once breathed by others. Living Saints are sometimes eventually replaced by CEO’s of religious companies riding around in very expensive rickshaws and are incapable of composing their own discourses, inspired poetry or prose like their predecessors. All of the organizations associated with mystic-paths at present, rest assured, will meet the same fate as those of past generations, eventually being replaced with vibrant gatherings in diverse locations, new budding branches of the Living Mystical Tree of Life to replace the old, same as always – thank God.
A famous Saint from Hathras, India by the name of Tulsi Sahib used to sleep in the trunk of a tree at night. Read that somewhere. I find that to be absolutely charming as it reveals that Tulsi did not live in a mansion of opulent decadency with four or five super expensive cars in the driveway (back then it would have been elephants I would imagine), an image that would have suggested a contradiction between the teacher’s lifestyle and his teachings. If I ever travel to Hathras, it will not be to visit the samadh containing Tulsi’s ashes, but to that tree that Tulsi once slept in, or one like it, and to the places where he spent much time in meditation.
There is no permanent Institution or University of Mysticism, but a decline-renewal process, a continuous pattern of Masters leaving older groups, movements, ashrams or real estate, and emerging in new locations to begin again, to reboot, to reset, to renew the mystic-path on Planet Earth, to keep the torch of spirituality burning bright for another generation or two. Spirituality is the Impulse of Life from the Great Life, the Universal Soul — God — that we as soul are intertwined with, not golden temples, or idols made of wood and stone. The history of Essenes leaving Jerusalem, John the Baptist leaving Qumran, Thomas heading East, Valentinians moving out of Roman cities to create Egyptian spiritual communities in the desert, Tulsi Sahib moving from Poona to Hathras, and so it goes and always has been, an observable pattern of breaking with the past, a time-honored tradition of crisis and renewal, reaffirming one’s mystic-path, making a fresh start in new locations, remaining free to exist in genuineness and authenticity without a hierarchy of scribes and an ever-growing caste of Pharisees running the show, surrounding the Master, blocking him from our view. There has never been an Institution of Gnosis. There is no Vatican of the Spirit. Seneca said: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Viva the Revolution. ////////