It is not a simple thing to find a spiritual teacher that will help you draw closer to the divine. There is a great deal of misinformation about spirituality, and it is easy to make a mistake.
Seeking the Divine Inside of Religious Institutions
Almost everyone on the planet is completely identified with the ego; the false sense of separateness that is sustained by thoughts. Their awareness is trapped within the confines of the ego-controlled mind. And they are always thinking about something.
Because people are accustomed to interpreting reality through the mind, God is more of an idea than a reality that can be experienced directly. It becomes something you encounter only in the hereafter instead of the here and now.
People who feel a calling to serve others and be close to God become the leaders of religious institutions. Yet in most instances, religious leaders have only a superficial understanding of the divine based on their beliefs rather than direct experience.
By relying upon the local pastor, priest, or rabbi to lead you on the spiritual path you are indoctrinated into a particular belief system. And often faith becomes the goal of your spiritual practice. Most people are never taught how to make true spiritual progress by moving their awareness beyond the limitations of the ego and connecting with the deeper reality. The simple truth is that you cannot learn how to touch the divine by someone who does not know how to do it themselves.
Seeking the Divine Outside of Religious Institutions
Beyond the confines of brick-and-mortar religious institutions is a world without any rules. Anyone can write a book, create a website, or form a meditation group and play the part of a “spiritual teacher.”
It is common for charlatans to lie about their spiritual state in order to attract naïve seekers looking for assistance. In almost all cases these con men have not reached a high spiritual state. And they end up impeding the spiritual development of those who look to them for guidance.
There is a meme within our modern culture that more people are “waking up.” I wish that were the case. The myth of more people attaining liberation is consciously perpetuated by the charlatans through their books, videos, and blog postings. Do not fall for their propaganda.
According to the Meher Baba there are only fifty-six enlightened souls incarnate in a physical form at any one time. And of these only a small number are known to the public.
There are always, at all times and in all ages, fifty-six God realized souls or Shiv-Atmas in human form on earth; and out of these fifty-six only eight have public recognition and function as active members of the functioning spiritual hierarchy, consisting of 7,000 members, who do the assigned spiritual duties on various planes of consciousness according to their spiritual advancement or perfection.
The remaining forty-eight God-realized ones are not amongst the functioning spiritual hierarchy of 7,000 members. They remain aloof and people are not cognizant of their divinity, though all forty-eight have the same experience and enjoy the same divine state of “I am God” as the other eight.
— Meher Baba, God Speaks, p256
Choosing a Spiritually Advanced Teacher
There are two types of spiritual teachers that can help you progress along the path: those that are enlightened, and those that are spiritually advanced but not yet enlightened. They have the ability to move their awareness beyond the limitations of the thinking mind and connect deeply with Source. And they can show you how to do the same.
I would recommend that you find an enlightened spiritual teacher. They will be the most helpful in removing obstacles to your spiritual progress. And they will help you to remain focused on the deeper reality and not become distracted by visions of the energetic planes, which will delay your spiritual progress.
Ramana Maharshi said that an unenlightened teacher trying to guide another to liberation is like the blind leading the blind. And Meher Baba said there is an infinite distance between the enlightened and unenlightened state.
But how do you find a spiritual teacher who is actually enlightened? Unfortunately, most of the people claiming to be enlightened are either lying or deluding themselves.
The vast majority of seekers can only guess as to whether another person is enlightened. Only someone who has reached an advanced spiritual state can tell whether another person has attained liberation. Lakshmana Swamy describes this as the ability to enter a state of “no mind.”
One of the reasons I wrote my first book Into the Formless was to help people find a real enlightened spiritual teacher that will help them progress along the spiritual path. It contains a list of the enlightened masters I recommend, some of whom are living and some are not. Those that are still living are: Mother Meera, Eckhart Tolle, the Dalai Lama, Lakshmana Swamy, and Saradamma.
Take responsibility for your own spiritual fate. Only you can find your unique path that will enable you to make the most spiritual progress in this lifetime. You will have to decide whether a spiritual teacher is important for your path. And if so which one is right for you. The spiritual teacher you choose will have a dramatic effect on your ability to dissolve past conditioning, weaken the ego, and connect with the deeper reality. So choose wisely.