Sticking to one spiritual path, vs New Age shopping…

Spiritual teachers have traditionally advised people to stick to whatever spiritual tradition it is they grew up in. In Zen Buddhism this is true to the point where one teacher who became the head of a tradition not his own was seen as not quite at his ease. (source)

It’s true of course: switching traditions is an emotional rolarcoaster. It’s like changing jobs, getting a divorce, moving to a different city. All things that used to be rare and not done, or even warned against by religious authority. And all things that in todays world just can’t be avoided.

In todays world, sticking to one spiritual path is perhaps more an expression of fear than a positive tendency to commit. What should be clear, but in practice isn’t, that when it’s time to go, one should go. That’s what I’m doing. I felt I needed to make this clear publicly, perhaps as some personal catharsis, but also because I’ve been an online PR machine for theosophy for years.

I’m looking forward to doing some new age shopping. I never felt the inclination, but I do think it’s time. I don’t think I’ll find anything to replace the TS in my life: can’t expect any one organisation to fit my criteria. What I can expect however is more food for growth, a widening of perspectives, and perhaps…. health.

When spiritual teachers advise sticking to one path they have a few things to say for it:

  • One never gets to know the nuances of any tradition without commitment
  • It takes safety to grow: a known social structure can help

However, what they leave out is:

  • One can get stuck in one view on the path. What if that perspective just doesn’t suit you?
  • The safety of the social structure can turn into a self made prison

In a world as fast changing as ours, expecting one organisation to have all the answers is simply naive. I don’t think I ever fell for that trap. I did however fall in the trap of wanting to shape that organisation (the Theosophical Society in my case) in my image. Living MY best life is work enough. I think for now I’ll stick to it. Organisations like the TS will simply have to deal with people like me. That is: with shoppers.

17 thoughts on “Sticking to one spiritual path, vs New Age shopping…”

  1. You are right, Katinka. No one organization has all the truth. It is always good to look at the other traditions.

    I myself have studied somewhat the ideas of the New Age philosophy. I have written something about it, just an introduction to what New Age philosophy is.

    Thanks for being brave to admit that you feel you like to try other traditions.

    1. I used to think that no organization had “all the answers”. The truth is you are right. An organization that offers answers or makes claims to be ” The Truth” is for the shame based. The idea that there is One God and as many paths to Him as there are people is equally disconcerting to me. I wonder how open minded one would be and accepting of a believe that women don’t get pregnant; men do. I know that I can’t experience God by reading a book or attending church; I don’t care how good the sound. If the journey back or to God (whichever one prefers) does not take a honest look and remove the “real” things that block consciousness off from Him than the journey will never be an experience with God and conscious contact. Just an accumulations of knowledge for intellectually stimulating speculation and “sharing”. One symptom of the initiated is that their very words enlightened the mind and seem to strengthen the will. Yes there is a path to God and it can’t be had in ANY religious organization I know of. Of course I don’t know them all; cause I don’t know everything about the ever changing material nature. Thank God that’s not the path.

  2. Killing your internal symbolic ts image and external connections sounds healthy. But trading one org for another? Is the divine not 1st found in the desert, rather than the mall?

  3. I don’t know if I will trade the TS in for an organisation. I just feel I have to try out other social spaces where people are sharing their spiritual fascination.

    For the record: I never limited myself to theosophy in the sense of reading ONLY works by say Blavatsky, or something.

  4. I think this is wonderful news. And, I agree, that one religion doesn’t have all the answers. But, each religion tends to try to convince its followers – quite the opposite.

    I am a part of no religion – whatsoever. But, I respect them all.

  5. I’ll defer to A Course in Miracles here:

    While Helen Schucman was scribing the course, she was told not to abandon the course that was meant for her, nor discount an entirely different (on the level of form) method, practice, or idea that worked for someone else. I think this is an idea that can work for all of us.

    A Course in Miracles also says, and I completely agree, that there are thousands of forms the universal curriculum that all lead to the same place. They only differ in form.

  6. You are so spot on in this post. I felt like I was forever shopping for whatever it was I was not getting from one practice or another. If you go through enough of them you will find out they all do lead to the same place.

  7. I completely agree with this. Much of my life has been defined by trying to stick to one spiritual path, realizing it was too limiting, then spreading out to several different paths. Right now I take some from Christianity (especially Christian mysticism/Gnosticism), the new age, and the Occult, as well as eastern religions like Hinduism.

    I was actually really interested in Hinduism for a while, and considered converting, but realized even that, though I love the religion as a whole, could be limiting in some ways.

    I think it’s better to explore many spiritual paths, even if you stick to one mostly, because it helps you to have a broader perspective, and see the theme that connects all spiritual paths. If you stick to one religion, it is a lot easier to judge others for their own spiritual path.

  8. I have discovered that experiencing a little bit of all religions, or belief systems, if a learning experience. I agree totally with Sherry. They all lead to the same place. I find, for me, that I am my best when I spend alot of time meditating and looking within myself.

  9. I apologize for jumping in with a comment after reading so few of your posts. This is only the second. The first was on Theosophy and Psychology. I worked in a Theosophical bookstore and was a member for a few years, then a participant for over a decade in a theosophic-Bailey-Agni Yoga organization (Torkom Saraydarian), with concurrent interests in Buddhism and Vedanta, then Ken Wilber. I must say, however, that no matter how mentally insightful the teachings, they did little to help me understand or outgrow the emotional patterns that repeatedly landed me in similar situations, or to deal differently with interpersonal relations. On the other hand, at the time I was convinced that this Perennial Philosophy was the highest spiritual revelation, and that made me dismiss psychology in general as fumbling man-made gropings. Now, with a bit more perspective, it seems to me at least that the “psychology” of these late 19th/early 20th century schools lacked insight into why people have skewed (projected) views of themselves and the world and how these can be undone.

    I have come to accept that our karma IS our unconscious, and that we build that karmic unconscious moment-to-moment through our ‘immediately-made, immediately-forgotten’ reactions and decisions.

    The latest paradigm shift in my spiritual seeking came several years ago, at a time when I realized that all my past learning couldn’t change a frustrating relationship situation I was in. The first page of the Workbook of A Course in Miracles (in somebody else’s house) seemed to fall open to me, and though I had dismissed the Course’s obtusely ‘religious’ language when I was a bookstore worker, now it was strikingly comprehensible and spoke to the need to change my own perception–about everything.

    The Course is, as I found out, psychologically oriented (its scribe, Helen Schucman, was an academic psychologist), but a distinctly spiritual psychology, not rooted in the ego/personality, as many therapies are (Wilber’s quote that “psychologists are pimps for samsara”). I know this because I subsequently completed a master’s degree course in psychology. Though my previous searching led me to explore (mostly via books) much “new age” material, ACIM is definitely not of that category–it is the most challenging vision I’ve come across…mainly because I can see every moment where I habitually sabotage myself. Everyone may resonate to teachings differently, but I didn’t get that from theosophy, though the intellectual principles were there, I couldn’t bridge them to practice. (By the way, there are plenty of “new age” interpretations of ACIM out there; the most insightful commentator I found, who is not new age–or Boomeritis, again from Wilber–is Robert Perry.)

    This comment isn’t to direct you in this particular direction but only to confirm that there can be great value in striking out in a new direction, at any age.

  10. Very interesting topic. Although it may be advisable to stay within one spiritual tradition for many reasons, it can be difficult in this time and place–meaning the Western world–for an individual who is exposed to so much information from many traditions to commit fully to one path. It has been said in this age of Kali Yuga, that the individual must find his or her own way.

  11. Quite interesting. In my case, after several years of reading around, I’ve been trying the road of using one line of study and conceptualization – namely Theosophy. For now.
    I think I’m learning along a particularly interesting line, studying HPBs works, Judge, Purucker.. others.

    In my view, there comes a point when all this study and searching for ourselves seems redundant, bordering on selfish at times, and one sees that one eventually has had enough, and plenty to spare of this searching, reading, and reaching for more knowledge. Does anyone feel that they’ve gotten enough?

  12. Of course, accumulating knowledge is a hindrance in experiencing godliness. God can not be known or understood but can only be experienced. What would help in that process is unlearning and making the mind empty.

  13. I don’t ever feel that I’ve ‘gotten enough.’ Even on one particular path, there is always more to read, to study, or to go back and re-read and contemplate. Every day I like to have some input. Perhaps some day I won’t need this. Perhaps I will be able to simply ‘be.’ But my mind is still active and although I don’t consciously feel that I’m ‘searching’ for anything, I just like to read words that wise people have written.

  14. Perhaps the terminology “Sticking to one path in spiritual growth” is creating confusion. In reality there is no path. I am inclined to agree with David’s comment on living as a process of “moment-to-moment through our ‘immediately-made, immediately-forgotten’ reactions and decisions” as apt representation of reality. That is how we live. The moment we say ‘path’ then there is a built in sensation of a destination. Is that destination the ” end of suffering’ or bliss or enlightenment ?

    In my opinion we all can make a beginning with a socially accepted approach to god, like any religion. However to make further progress we have to discard the confines of that religion. It is like we do not have to carry the boat after we have crossed the river. Spirituality means our own approach, our own path and our own destination as God. Here one and the path have merged.

    In this aspect study of religions also could be misleading. The Bhagavad Geeta emphasizes that our own ‘dharma’ however insufficient it might be, is better than following another’s apparently superior dharma. However we must realize that Krishna’s teachings were complete and authentic to provide Arjuna with all the courage that is needed to adhere to his dharma and the dharma had itself the spiritual purity and wealth to ultimately give him “Mukti’.

    Christ was alone to begin with and all along his love had the strength to overcome suffering. He and his path had merged even before the beginning.

    Buddha was never identified with any path. He refused to name even enlightenment. His was the path of pathlessness. There was nothing even to merge with.

    Then we have the strikingly different Atisha. He is supposed to have been taught by over 150 teachers (Gurus). Does that mean that he followed 150 Paths ? Atisha was taught emptiness ( no-mind) by the revered Dharmakirti. He was taught love and compassion by Dharmarakshita. Finally Maitreya taught him the practice of absorbing the suffering of others into his heart and returning it to the world as compassion (The now known Tongleng Meditation). Throughout this processes Atisha maintained his mental continuum.

    I would humbly agree with Carlos Castaneda when he says… “Any path is only a path; they do not lead anywhere….. Choose a path that has your heart.. “.

  15. Ahh, this really resonated with me. A few months ago I stopped working with a longtime spiritual mentor and realized that I no longer had the same passion for Archetypal dreamwork that I’d had for years before. It was really frightening to move on, at first – confusing, too – but the real gift of it in the end was that I learned to really trust myself (that inner voice) to an extent that I never had before. I don’t think I would have found that self-trust if I hadn’t broken away from the safe confines of my familiar tradition.

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