One of the issues I have encountered during the time I have been on Kinfonet is the question of spiritual authority. Some people are hyper vigilant to this danger, while others seem to be completely asleep to it. Some people feel that by simply having a website dedicated to understanding the teachings of Krishnamurti that this already implies accepting spiritual authority; while others apparently seem to believe themselves to be in possession of spiritual authority (without being explicit about it).
What is spiritual authority? As I understand it, it is the mind’s (or ego’s) attempt to find power, specialness, security or gratification from the feeling of being in possession of a spiritual truth that other people are not in possession of. This feeling can be hidden under layers of phoney virtue, phoney affection, phoney certitude. The person may in fact be completely oblivious to it in themselves.
We all have a tendency to be egotistic, competitive, or want to be special. We are all capable of self-deception. So part of our responsibility in relationship is to be awake to this danger, to be alert to the dawnings of our own pride and prejudice, our own seeds of spiritual authority.
And yet why oughtn’t we to share our questions and insights with other people? We all have little breakthroughs in our understanding, we each have our own small epiphanies. Why can’t we share these when they happen? Surely this is only natural?
I think it is natural. The only proviso is that we do so without claiming to have spiritual authority over other people, and are transparent about not being totally transformed (if we are not totally transformed). I think Krishnamurti sums this up well in his reply to a question he received in Saanen:
The questioner says: ‘I have understood what you have said somewhat, partially, not completely; I am not a transformed human being. I understand, and I want to tell others what I have understood. I do not say I have understood the whole, I have understood a part. I know it is fragmented, I know it is not complete, I am not interpreting the teachings, I am just informing you what I have understood.’
Well, what is wrong with that?
But if you say: ‘I have grasped the whole completely and I am telling you’ – then you become an authority, the interpreter; such a person is a danger, he corrupts other people.
But if I have seen something which is true I am not deceived by it; it is true and in that there is a certain affection, love, compassion; I feel that very strongly – then naturally I cannot help but go out to others; it would be silly to say I will not. But I warn my friends, I say, ‘Look, be careful, do not put me on a pedestal.’
(3rd question and answer meeting, Saanen, 25th July, 1980)
So there is nothing wrong with sharing our insights, partial as they may be. But we should make clear to other people that just because we have had certain (partial) insights we are not completely transformed. We are not in possession of the whole truth. We are not liberated from the contents of consciousness. We shouldn’t try to create a mystique around this.
If one notices, there are people who seem to be on Kinfonet simply to preach, to share an insight they may or may not have had and who refuse discuss it or enter into dialogue about it. They do not like to be questioned about anything, or enter into a relationship of equality, friendship with the person who is questioning them. They keep their statements oblique, generalised, ambiguous, niche. So, wittingly or unwittingly, they have assumed the role of spiritual authority, and when asked to clarify their role, they simply ignore the question.
Are such persons aware of what they are doing? Why are there so many people who find this acceptable behaviour, and who go along with it, make excuses for it, welcome it? Why do we do this?
Why can’t we be open with each other and admit that we do not have total insight into life, that we are not completely transformed? Is there such a great shame in admitting to this? Is our pride in refusing to admit this so important to us that we do not see the danger of doing this? Do we not see the confusion this semblance of spiritual authority creates? - The division it creates between the one who supposedly ‘knows’, and the one who doesn’t?
Do we not see that to become a spiritual authority is a form of corruption, and that to be transparent about our equality with other people is a way of halting this corruption? Can we stop accepting spiritual authority ourselves, or being a spiritual authority to others? And yet still share our insights with others, and be open to listening to the insights they share with us?