Presentation at the Science and Nonduality Conference.
Many well-known spiritual teachers and gurus have been accused, credibly, of sexual, financial, and behavioral abuse. This, although their own spiritual attainment has arguably appeared significant, and their teachings beneficial. As a result, some people have concluded that higher consciousness and ethical behavior are not correlated, that we are governed by our genetics and conditioning, or by “nature”, and that we have no free will and thus no control over or responsibility for our actions. That logic has been used as an alibi by some spiritual teachers caught misbehaving.
Others have become cynical about the motives of all gurus and teachers, and some have even lost faith in spirituality altogether.
Yet, every spiritual tradition includes codes of ethics that apply to both teachers and students. Ethical behavior has been regarded not only as a reflection of spiritual development, but as a prerequisite to it.
To some extent, ethical values vary from culture to culture. But perhaps the contemporary spiritual community can agree upon some universal values. Can we agree that it’s not all right to misrepresent ourselves? If we claim or imply that we have realized our true nature, and are offering to help others do the same, is it consistent for us to behave deceitfully, perversely, selfishly, or cruelly?
Is it possible to be an enlightened scoundrel? Are purity and saintliness characteristic of higher levels of spiritual development, or unrelated to them? These are important questions. Because we need spiritual teachers and teachings in this critical time in humanity’s maturation, we need to understand what genuine spiritual attainment should look like, irrespective of personality differences. If such understanding were more commonplace, most abusive teachers and cults would never have gotten off the ground.
I discuss these points and others in this talk.
Discussion about this talk in the Batgap Community Facebook Group.
Other talks by or interviews of Rick:
- Interviewed by Richard Miller
- Interviewed by Alex Tsakiris
- Interviewed by Fax Gilbert
- Talk at SAND ’15
- Talk at the Berkeley Open Circle
Recorded October 21, 2017.
Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.