The question of whether you need a spiritual teacher or not is an interesting one. There are all kinds of opinions about this, but I think it’s best to step back and look at a number of important factors in this question.
People come to this question with a lot of different presumptions about what a spiritual teacher is and does. They also come with their own ideas about what they want to get from their spiritual path, and because those desires can span such a broad range of things, the answer to this question is going to be very personal.
That means to do this question justice, I’m going to re-frame it before offering some scenarios where having a spiritual teacher is a necessity.
While I’m not a historian, a couple of things seem pretty apparent. Books were not very widespread for most of the existence of humanity, and the Internet most certainly didn’t exist. Literacy has been limited, and it’s still an issue today in many parts of the world. That means it’s hard to learn about something without a living breathing person to teach it. Additionally, secular laws are a brand new thing. Religion and spirituality were the primary source of social codes in many societies, so spiritual teachers served a function in maintaining social order through common beliefs.
In short, spiritual teachers have served a couple of important functions that weren’t going to be filled any other way. But now we have laws. And we have a lot of literacy and books and online videos. So some of the functions of spiritual teachers are less necessary, and people are finding more autonomy to learn in other ways. In many ways, I think this has made a lot of people less inclined to look for a spiritual teacher.
Disembodied Spiritual Teaching Duties
Since so many spiritual teaching duties are getting transferred, it seems like teachers are less necessary. For many things, they are. We can also say that less effort is required of spiritual teachers. Once they put something in a book or on a website, the teaching is out there available to many, many people. In this regard, spiritual teachers are still teaching, but they are not so linked to the medium where the knowledge is stored. When that knowledge is only found in one’s brain, an in-person spiritual teacher is really necessary.
It really is interesting about how spiritual teaching is more and more “disembodied.” If you’re reading this blog post today, I could be asleep. I could be eating. I could be doing one of a hundred things, but I am not telling these things to you directly. In this way, the spiritual teaching is beyond me, and I’m less necessary after I’ve written a post like this one and the many others on this spiritual awakening site. This allows you to guide yourself, however, but that’s where things can get tricky.
What Do You Want From Spirituality?
As we journey deeper into this topic, I have to pause and ask you why you are on the spiritual path. As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of reasons people get started. Some of those include:
- A sudden spiritual awakening and desiring to know what the heck is going on
- Trying to deal with an unresolved pain
- A calling towards spirituality
- An attempt to find community
- A true desire for spiritual freedom
- Attempts to attain ego goals like dream jobs, purposes, soulmates, and other stuff
As you can see, these are really different reasons, and there are different types of spiritual teachers out there too. Not all spiritual teachers are the same even if many use the same title. So the reality is that many people want a variety of different things, and that there are many types of spiritual teachers who serve these different interests.
For instance, finding a dream job is not that hard compared to the aspiration for freedom, and some teachers make a living off of promising to help people find that. So do you really need that person to help you? Maybe. If that’s what you really care about, then that person can help you, but you probably can do it on your own too.
Self-guidance and Ego Guidance
Spending time figuring out what you really want is important. As I mentioned, it’ll help you to decide if you need a spiritual teacher and what kind of teacher you want. I’m a spiritual freedom teacher. I’m interested in spiritual freedom, and that tends to need guidance. There are a couple situations where guidance is not as necessary, but by and large, anyone truly seeking freedom needs guidance or else they’re likely to get stuck having their ego guide them.
One thing about the ego is that it sticks to patterns. It tends to be blind to itself, and that leads a lot of well-meaning spiritual seekers to going around in circles. Many get stuck in repeating issues, and without the extra push of the right spiritual teacher, they’ll stay in those repeating issues for decades.
I’ve seen this numerous times.
The problem is that the ego does not know the way to spiritual freedom. It’s never seen it. It’s a prison inmate sitting in the prison cell with you, and it’s been in this jail cell the whole time. Yet people tend to trust it in terms of how they make their decisions and evaluate “progress.” But as I said, if the ego doesn’t know what progress towards freedom looks like, how can it tell you if you are progressing?
The Faithful Shepherd Helps You Find the Way
True spiritual teachers really are shepherds. They help people find the way in spite of the wandering ego. The ego really is a sheep. The ego just does what it sees for the most part and what it already knows. But who you truly are so much more. You don’t have to live a sheep’s life, and through the correct direction of a teacher, you can take the wool off your eyes (is the metaphor too thick now?) and see reality. In seeing reality, you can interact with it and make conscious choices.
However, this ego-shearing process (okay, now the metaphor is probably too much) is not comfortable, and so many people do not correctly identify spiritual teachers that help them towards freedom. For most people, things getting intense is interpreted as a bad thing rather than a freeing thing, and so they flee from it. It’s only when a deeper internal decision is made that someone will decide to stick it out as the teacher and the true spiritual path begin to erode, dissolve, and destroy the ego.
Gut-check Time and Being Honest About What You Want
Many people will have themselves challenged on this path, and that’s what I call a gut-check. Do you really have the guts to stick with it? Or are you still looking for the easy way out?
For a lot of people, what they really want is an easy, enjoyable, and safe life. That’s what their ultimate goal is
That’s not what a teacher focusing on spiritual freedom takes someone towards. Freedom is not about an easy and safe life because life isn’t inherently that way. Life is. That’s it. Some people have easy lives. Some people have hard lives. Some people have deeply rewarding lives that are hard, and some people have deeply rewarding lives that are easy.
Life can be any possible way. We do not control it.
Giving up that control is part of moving towards spiritual freedom. What that personally entails for someone is unique, and since there are no guarantees in life (except that our bodies die at the end of life), many people will discover that they do not want the spiritual path at all if it may mean accepting pain and difficulty after all. In which case, a teacher isn’t necessary because they are not yet ready or willing to be taught.
Additional Support from a True Teacher
Those true teachers helping people towards freedom offer a variety of things, not just an outside perspective on a person’s ego. They offer:
- Energetic support to boost someone through issues or into new levels of expansion
- Personalized support based on what the individual needs (not a dogmatic system that treats everyone the same)
- Teaching arising intuitively from a realized state of spiritual freedom (it’s not just a mental concept)
- A human example of spiritual freedom to help someone understand what a spiritually-free human being is like
- Energetic stabilization when needed
Once again, there are different types of true teachers out there, and everyone’s capabilities are slightly different. But the true teacher helps the person take the right path and accelerate through issues and into growth. It’s kind of like finding someone who already knows how to build a wheel. Sure. Some people can figure that out on their own. Others can’t. Be even those who can figure it out will benefit from the direction of someone who already knows how.
Those Who Can go it Alone
With all of this said, not everyone who wants spiritual freedom needs a spiritual teacher. There are those who can find their way, but they tend to be fairly rare. As mentioned earlier, the tendency for people to stay in ego patterns and energetic shells is strong. For the latter, most people have no idea about the subtle energetic shells that encase them, and that absolutely includes many people who think they’re energetically sensitive.
However, some can find their way through, and they seem to have a combination of several things, including:
- An awakening (in a true awakening, the energy moves the person all day every day)
- A strong sense of intuition
- An ability to surrender to the energy and intuition
This unique combination is rare, but when combined, I’ve watched a number of people really thrive and expand and grow. At the center of it is the awakened energy which drives and guides their evolution. That’s the driver, and in many regards, that’s their spiritual teacher. When this spiritual teacher arises and is listened to, a person may not need a spiritual teacher. However, they still often benefit from them through the energetic boost and the stabilizing sense of presence of the teacher to help them through rough spots. Additionally, all these online resources and books tend to be extremely helpful guides, so many people are benefiting from a spiritual teacher; they’re just doing it more indirectly.
The Guru and Controlling Your Access to the Divine
In some traditions, the spiritual teacher/guru places him/herself as the channel to the Divine. The student is directed in certain ways and guided heavily to help prevent the student from falling into their ego ruts. It’s a powerful process, but it’s not the only way to the Divine. It’s not the only form of true spiritual teaching. So when some people say that someone can only awaken or be enlightened by a true teacher, that’s not entirely true. Some of you have awakened without any such being. Some of you have awakened without any interest in spirituality!
So no, you don’t need another to access the awakened space inside of you or find freedom. But it tends to really help, and most people trying to do-it-themselves are going to get stuck countless times just like most pioneers making their own trails. There’s a lot of dead ends people run into unless the awakened energy is the driver. The ego has no clue where it is going. So for some, the guru-style of devotion may be useful. For others, perhaps not.
Awakened and Still Needing a Teacher’s Support
While I mentioned how those who awakened can find their way, I’ve also seen many people who do not have the surrender, intuitive trust, or resilience to heal and grow on their own even after awakening. That’s okay. Not everyone is built the same. Not everyone has had the same upbringing, and some people have a lot of powerful issues and challenges to address.
What is important is to recognize your limitations and be willing to ask for help. Then having your awakened energy combine with a teacher’s energy is exceptionally powerful. So much can happen in that space of connection and presence. It goes beyond what the ego mind could imagine.
Deciding for Yourself Whether You Need a Teacher
Ultimately, the best way to decide for yourself if you need a spiritual teacher is to turn inwards and listen to your inner knowing. If this is a challenge, please check out the blog posts below to help you on that topic.
Using Intuition to Make Stressful Decisions (Perhaps you can think of this title as also using intuition to make “important” decisions)
Your inner knowing is your Divine access to what your soul truly wants. Not all souls care to experience spiritual freedom on this plane of existence. They’ve got other things in mind. Maybe all they really want is a nice job. That’s fine! Everyone must be able to choose their path.
But be sure that this is your inner knowing talking to you because it knows how to guide you best, and it’s the best way to decide if you need a spiritual teacher and what kind of teacher is right for you.
For some more thoughts on why you would work with a spiritual teacher, you can watch this video.