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This book is not about gurus and spiritual teachers, it’s about you and me—though “you and me” includes those very same gurus and spiritual teachers, because absolutely no one is exempt from the pitfalls and trappings that are part and parcel of the spiritual journey. This book is about taking full responsibility for the whole of our lives, including our intrinsic radiance and our greatest spiritual potential—as well as our confusion and undeveloped knowledge.
Self-deception unfolds with increasing subtlety as we move from our false selves toward the more authentic, truer aspects of our experience. The slipperiness of the spiritual path cannot be underestimated; its pitfalls are as numerous as the steps that can be taken, and all of us fall into them. Still, the more we know about the road, the more able we are to avoid its potholes.
The Italian psychiatrist and founder of psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli, suggests that a complete psychotherapy would not only treat psychopathology but also foster spiritual awakening, and then deal intelligently with the difficulties and new levels of challenge that such an awakening brings. As we unearth new levels of our consciousness, we inevitably also uncover that which is unwhole and unhealed within us at personal, familial, cultural, and historical levels. This is not a problem to be feared or a wrong to be righted, but a necessary and healthy aspect of spiritual unfolding that must be met with increasingly potent and effective discernment.
Several years ago, I went to visit the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. “I have a question for you,” he said. “Are you halfway up the mountain?” He was not the first to have posed this question to me over the years, and my internal response has always been the same: I am so much less than halfway up the mountain! It would be wildly presumptuous to claim to be even halfway up, much less to claim any type of “arrival.” I have come to understand that the possibilities of spiritual unfolding are literally endless, and the mountain of spiritual possibility does not have a summit.
I believe that most of us live our lives playing in the foothills of the metaphorical spiritual mountain. Regardless of whether we have been labeled “spiritual teachers,” have had hundreds of spiritual epiphanies, or have been sincere spiritual practitioners for thirty years, we are all still learning to tie our shoelaces and step carefully. Sometimes we get high enough on the “mountain” to have some view, but we also trip and fall continually. The path is infinite, and human integration is an awesome and laborious task. There are a few extraordinary masters and saints—some of whom are mentioned in this book—who have seen and learned to abide in a truly great vision. But the rest of us are left with the humble task of deep and lifelong self-study and the creation of spiritual alliances so that together we can learn how to walk this path with diligence and passion.