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Searching for authentic spiritual guidance

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Spirituality, as it is conceived by Ostad Elahi, is not based on love so much as it is on developing one’s sound reason. It is a matter of opening one’s reason to the spiritual dimension of things by actively engaging in a process of education of our thought. This education, like all forms of learning, naturally requires a form of guidance, that is, a source apt to teach correct spiritual principles and to accompany the students through the delicate phase of application of these principles. The choice of which guidance to follow is an essential one, for it will determine the quality of the principles that will nourish our thoughts: for example, will these principles be true and up-to-date or tainted and poisonous?

In a chapter entitled “Education of Thought”, the author of Medicine of the Soul provides a number of reference points that can be of assistance in selecting a divine guidance. As a conclusion to the poll The right to divine guidance: how can we make it effective? Debate published a few weeks ago, we thought it would be interesting to recall the main elements presented in this chapter.

B. Elahi explains that a first reliable reference point to identify spiritual guidance is provided by the great prophets and saints of the past. From what remains of the fundamental divine and ethical principles they presented, we can safely adopt those that are generally accepted.

In order to select and extract those principles from the mass of false or accessory principles that have covered them over the years, it is essential to rely on common sense and to set aside our dogmatic assumptions and prejudices. We will then observe many commonalities in the lives and original messages of these saints. For example, all prophets have advised to believe in God, the Source, the Truth, the Absolute… and in the survival of the soul in a world beyond this one. They have all insisted on the fact that, for everything we do here, there is an account in the hereafter and that those who do not do anything positive for their soul here will not have anything there. They have also unanimously talked about the importance of being altruistic, of putting oneself in other people’s shoes and of observing rights.

“The fundamental principles are universal among all religions. Many religious prescriptions have little to do with spirituality and were primarily intended to address social matters (e.g., laws regarding inheritance). Thus, such matters and issues of daily life can be addressed according to various conventional laws, whereas in that which concerns spiritual questions all the religions have spoken uniformly. That is why it doesn’t matter, for instance, if one does not know the particular instructions for a specific prayer or hymn, for in spirituality what matters is observing the foundational principles of religion. Once we have become sufficiently mindful of God, He will guide us however He deems necessary and will tend to us at critical times.”

Ostad Elahi, Words of Truth, unpublished translation, Saying 16.

For those who are not satisfied with religions of the past and who are looking for a spiritual guidance of the present day, the choice they have to make seems more delicate: they should not let themselves be guided by sources that are not authentically divine, by imaginary sources, or worse, by sources that have a hidden agenda which differs from the sincere edification of those in quest of truth.

In this quest of authentic guidance, the essential factor is sincerity: those who sincerely seek divine guidance for the guidance itself rather than to obtain some passing satisfaction for their ego, the Creator will not let them wander or fall prey to spiritual impostors; He will guide them, wherever they are.

As for those who are looking for a guide, the following criteria should allow them to make a choice that will not harm their soul:

  • A first criterion is for the guide not to make a living from spirituality or make it a lucrative venture. The relationship between the guide and those who refer to him or her should be akin to the relationship that exists nowadays between university teachers and their students. The duty of teachers is to relay their knowledge to students, without expecting the students to provide them with any kind of personal profit in return. Similarly, a spiritual guide has the duty to make his or her spiritual knowledge available to others without expecting anything from them in return. Being associated with any kind of profit, whether political, financial, sexual or other, is the major sign of falsehood in a spiritual guidance or in a guide.
  • A second criterion has to do with the lifestyle of the guide. True spiritual guides look and behave normally, without any eccentricities; they live like ordinary people and use a language that is in keeping with their social milieu and time.
  • A third criterion relates to the guide’s teachings. Such teachings should not contradict the fundamentals stated by authentic religions, and above all, it should not lead people to eccentricities or encourage them to seek ecstatic states or other altered states of consciousness…
  • Finally, a fourth criterion is to see if the guide encourages a cult around his or her personality. If someone is self-important and pretends being the only one in possession of the truth, it is a sign that they are not a true guide. True spiritual guides—i.e. those who have reached the spiritual level required to be granted the authorisation of guidance by the Source—are so noble of mind, selfless and detached from their ego that they are above any kind of cult centered on their personality.

Further readings:

Sound reason Sound reason: excerpt 3 of a lecture by B. Elahi, MD

We are like pupils: our life on earth should be used to obtain the “certificates of primary and secondary education” that will then allow us to go through the higher stages of our process of perfection. [read more]

causalité Cause for reflection. What do you think?

Ostad Elahi has often insisted on the importance of the principle of causality in spirituality. This principle can be summed up in a simple phrase: nothing happens without a cause. The first consequence that follows is that it is—in principle—always possible to trace back the cause or causes that lead to a specific effect. [read more]

Les fondements de l'éthique The twin foundations of ethics: education of thought and respect of rights in general

The processes of assimilation and growth inherent in the concept of “medicine for the soul” are not mere metaphors. They correspond to something real that must be evidenced by experience. It should be pointed out that education of thought is the backbone of spiritual practice… [read more]

Creative Commons License This work is offered under a Creative Commons licence

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  1. Sam Mar 26, 2016 9:19 pm 1

    Thank you for posting this timely article.

    In today’s world where people are so lost, misguided, or directionless with respect to spirituality, it is truly a blessing to find authentic spiritual guidance. As it is stated eloquently in the article and what really grabbed my attention is that the key factor in the quest for divine guidance is sincerity. Indeed, the essential factor in all our spiritual affairs seems to be sincerity (from our search for authentic guidance to the application of the correct divine and ethical principles). Sincerity is a key virtue that we need to practice and develop within ourselves.

    1. A. Mar 28, 2016 8:21 am 1.1

      Hi Sam

      It would be good if you could provide some examples of sincerity in the context of the application of divine/ethical principles. In my case, I have realized that in the context of almsgiving (financially helping out those who are in need etc…), I often have a semi-conscious thought where I tell myself that I am doing this so that in turn the Source will ensure I have a source of income. This is obviously mercantile. I wonder if anyone else has examples of sincerity or lack thereof?

      1. hms Mar 29, 2016 1:55 pm 1.1.1

        Thank you, A. This is something I think about a lot. My intentions are always somewhat skewed, which is normal, since we live in a causal world. But it is something I struggle with a lot, especially during my prayers. I find myself completing my prayers as if i was doing my homework, or some work task. In other words, not out of true spiritual duty, but out of obligation. Needless to say, the quality of my prayers is affected. That difference is very subtle, and hard to work on!

      2. B Apr 03, 2016 1:33 am 1.1.2

        Thank you for your comment.

  2. A. Mar 28, 2016 8:45 am 2

    Thank-you for the interesting article. The following sentences are worth pondering, in my opinion:

    a) are so noble of mind, selfless and detached from their ego that they are above any kind of cult centered on their personality. — which clearly shows that the authorisation of guidance can only granted to very, very, very few people

    b) In order to select and extract those principles from the mass of false or accessory principles that have covered them over the years —- this really gives an idea of the order of magnitude of the challenges of this time and era where there are so many wrong principles and ideas

    c) sources that are not authentically divine, […] imaginary sources, or worse, […] sources that have a hidden agenda which differs from the sincere edification of those in quest of truth. — I would be interested to have an example of an imaginary source that has no hidden agenda with material interests. Does anyone have any idea?

    d) it is essential to rely on common sense and to set aside our dogmatic assumptions and prejudices. — my impression is that very few people know themselves and hence know their prejudices. How then could they possibly set them aside?

  3. David Apr 10, 2016 4:16 pm 3

    Dear A.,

    Thank you for your great comments as always. On your q on c) I could think of the many disillusioned people, or people who have fallen into spiritual pitfalls. Many of them believe without a doubt that they are chosen and selected, and some of them therefore become quite charismatic. And while they even may be somewhat sincere in their “guidance” and beliefs, their followers are likely to find themselves climbing up a rope that comes to a dead end. That said, if their followers were to be sincere, I believe the One would find a way to hand them a rope that gets them where they want to go.

    On your q d), I have no idea. I guess this is why it is nearly impossible to communicate about authentic divine and ethical principles today, and how lucky are those who live by these principles today.

  4. tom Apr 24, 2018 2:04 pm 4

    Could someone provide an in vivo example of sincerity?

    One thing that comes to my mind is attempting to pray over and over again until we have full attention on the One; doing this effort sincerely so that we feel the connection?

    1. adissam May 08, 2018 12:34 am 4.1

      An example about the question of sincerity: there is something I’ve been wanting to achieve but I haven’t so far. It is something material but also has a spiritual dimension to it.
      So how to solve this. First I’ve scrutinized my intention: what is my real intention in that endeavor? Is it really aligned with His satisfaction. Then, my motivation was tested. How much am I ready to sacrifice for it?
      A criteria I’ve found to gauge my sincerity is my level of frustration. Do I get upset if it’s painstaking or do I feel discouraged by the time, costs and efforts involved? Am I grumbling if I don’t get what I want and when I want it?
      For me, the most crucial question to solve is the first one, the foundation of everything: what is my true intention in all this (peace of mind, well-being or God’s approval and satisfaction).

      1. adissam May 08, 2018 9:22 pm 4.1.1

        I need to make a distinction between the search for guidance and something I personally want to achieve.
        In both cases however, it is essential to place God’s approval and satisfaction at the heart of it.
        And even more so in the search for authentic spiritual guidance. Can you imagine, this is the premise of everything!

      2. tom May 11, 2018 7:40 pm 4.1.2

        Thanks for your comment. I think what you are alluding to is effort–how much effort do I make to do something truly for His satisfaction? If my intention was really to do something for Him, then I would spare no effort.

        I can think of many examples in my life where I have gone above and beyond for someone I really loved. Whether it was financial, or was difficult, I still did it because I loved them. I wish I could use this rationale every day to help me do my prayers and apply ethical principles every day.

      3. addissam May 13, 2018 11:31 am 4.1.3

        I find the analogy with what we do for someone we love quite interesting. According to Malak Jan Nemati, “primary divine love” is useful to “set us out on the spiritual path” (Malak Jan Nemati, pp. 118-119). However, don’t we also say and actually have some evidence that “love is blind”? Studies have shown that we actually suspend part of the brain responsible for reason and other critical judgments when we experience romantic love. Quite interestingly, even maternal love seems to share common brain areas. (See for example Zeki S. The neurobiology of love. available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014579307004875 and this review on the biology of “love” in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/dec/16/health/he-love16)
        So how to overcome this biological obstacle? From my experience, once we practice and understand more the reasons why we need these moments of attention and dialogue with the One then we develop a natural fondness for them.

    2. adissam May 10, 2018 12:22 am 4.2

      More specifically about your question on prayer, I would say this connection can take place through what we do, our daily activities.

      Ideally, these moments of attention and dialogue with the One would mainly be a refreshing pause within a mindful day. Mindful that the One is always present with us. I’ve noticed that when I’m receptive to His presence, I have more perspective on life’s events or on my interactions with others. Of course, I am not always in that state of mind and a strict reminder is helpful. And gradually, my whole day gravitates around that reminder, and less and less the other way around. Then everything during the day falls under what Ostad Elahi calls “constant attention”.

      People who have experienced an NDE more clearly describe this particular state of feeling an all-encompassing and enveloping presence. It has become part of them. Hopefully, we can experience this state without an NDE. But that’s not all, this is not the goal – achieving some sort of peacefulness – there is still work to do, on ourselves, in society, etc…

      I think sincerity addresses this exact misconception. We rarely hear about spirituality in connection with developing ethical virtues! And it is unfortunate. So sincerity is more about our expectations when we engage in this process as the title of this article suggests.

      That said, we can still apply sincerity to our dialogue with the One (what do I expect from it?)
      Others have also found in vivo examples of sincerity in this exercise, see here: https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/words-for-prayer/

      And also this excerpt from “Words of Faith: Prayers of Ostad Elahi”:

      1. tom May 12, 2018 1:45 pm 4.2.1

        Thank you for your thoughts and for these links. They are immensely helpful.

        I never thought about sincerity that way before–that it is the distinguishing factor that sets apart those engaged in true spiritual practice from those perhaps just seeking peace. True spiritual practice takes a huge amount of work and devotion and can be hard.

        It is like the difference between someone who has an interest in biology and likes to read about it, and someone who enters a PhD program in biology and needs to deal with difficult and arduous experiments and heavy course load. In this case, one must really love the science to be able to make it through these hardships. In other words, in the case of the PhD student, he/she must sincerely love the biology to pursue it authentically.

      2. adissam May 13, 2018 9:25 pm 4.2.2

        I agree. And the PhD student has developed a rational love for his science. I remember seeing a PhD supervisor surprised by one of his student who had calculated the number of hours he had worked. I’ve never seen a graduate student doing that, he said.

      3. juan May 20, 2018 1:11 am 4.2.3

        Well, maybe this student just needed a break or worst maybe he was burning out. That’s why, if I understand correctly, what Ostad Elahi means by spirituality is really a daily practice up to a physiological quantity. It will not cause excess calm nor induce an altered state of consciousness. I need a clear reason to analyze my daily experiments. By searching for the key words “natural spirituality” on this site I found this article https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/spirituality-natural-spirituality/ where it is said that “Spirituality is not a technique aimed at developing one’s well-being or intended to relieve the ills of modern life”, and the author concludes by “Spirituality then is neither a supermarket that displays just about anything, nor a museum where principles are archived: it is a construction site and it is open to all provided that the stakes have been clearly defined.”

  5. lee May 12, 2018 12:50 am 5

    We can also add the major obstacle of doubt when searching for authentic spiritual guidance.
    It can be positive at the beginning but once you have found the guidance you were looking for it can be paralyzing. For example, if you remain torn by doubts about the existence of God.

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