Gurus are everywhere. We seem to need them, we seem to want them, they help us so much.
I could not help wondering – who makes all those gurus and do we really need them, or do they need us?
My first conscious encounter with a guru was a non-event. It was not somebody with a long white beard, like we usually depict GOD. He did not have these loving eyes that you want to sink into and give yourself up, and he did not even talk in a calm voice that soothes your soul. His name was Tom Thouw and he was the assistant at the chair of physics where I had just started my thesis.
He was such a non-guru but I surely believed the story he told me. He had been the heir of his uncle who was a master of Kung Fu. The real stuff, with philosophy and all, you know? After a difficult escape from Indonesia he ended up in Heidelberg, Germany where he studied physics and decided to put his heritage to good use. He founded a group to teach the real Kung Fu. It did not last long because he found that his students were not ready for it. How did he decide that? By the simple fact that they started to mold him into a guru.
Interesting viewpoint, isn’t it?
Compare that to many of the gurus you know around you in your life.
The phenomenon of guru-ism has always fascinated me and the field of study for me has always been very wide. There are so many gurus and followers around! Often in areas where we usually don’t call them gurus – medicine, politics, psychiatry – you name it.
Let’s look what the make-up of a guru is. Does he need to be wise and benevolent? Nope, look at George W. Does he need to be just and compassionate? No, look at Mr. Lafayette Ron Hubbards quote “If you worry about people, you never climb a steeple.” Does he need to have something to give?
Maybe here we have something. Stability seems to be a common gift of the guru to his following. It does not have to be correct or good stability, it just have to be stable.
And it has to be a stability that the followers still can understand, so it can not be too far away from what those followers consider obtainable. Like my friend Tom Thouw – he tried to give the stability of self-reliance. That must have been so far away from the reality of his followers that they just could not even grasp the concept. They fell back onto something they wanted to have – somebody who told them what to do and think – and this was just something this guru was not willing to give. I can only assume because he knew that this was not in either parties best interest.
All this is nice and dandy, but what can we learn from that and apply and use for our current condition?
I would say that, should we ever feel the urge to follow a guru, we look at the offerings of that guru, so attractive to us, and know what our next level of development (spiritual or otherwise) will be – or could – should we choose to go there. The guru shows us an obtainable goal as it is real to us in this situation.
Isn’t that neat?
It will be nice to know for the 55 million that were attracted by George W’s unwaivering stance that they will be able to reach this same ability to an unwaivering stance if they just work on it, and that they then will not need a George W. any more.
Or the person praying to his physician to heal him – he shows that he has the ability to do it himself because healing is real to him – he can understand that, it’s just that he does not trust himself enough to just do it alone.
Especially encouraging all the followers of spiritual guides – they all can not be too far away from obtaining what their guru is.
In conclusion here the little information that there is a site that collects all the data on guru’s and other spiritual and new-age subjects in a form of an online encyclopedia – it’s called the New-age Wiki, and can be – as we would expect from a wiki – edited by all it’s users and visitors.
Update February 2011: I just worked myself through the whole series Babylon 5, which is no available for streaming on Netflix. A science fiction series like this is able to look at many different social subjects from a distant view-point and thus explore it much easier than from one smack in the middle of it. One of the many subjects in Babylon 5 is the unintended creation of a guru by it’s deciples. G’Kar, the more warrior-like ambassador of the Naarn, is raised to a type of god-hood after understanding that war is really no solution and writing a book about it. This book becomes a bible to his followers, without really getting what he is trying to tell them.
To escape the push into the role of a guru, G’Kar has no choice but to leave, as he understood that giving in to the demands to accept the god-hood would not help either side. It was a nice touch of the film makers to show that a guru, who does not accept to be a guru, is the real McCoy.
But power corrupts, and the power of a guru can be tempting. Above I talked about Tom Thouw, and up to a few days ago, I thought that he was such a real McCoy. I had no reason to believe that he was not sincere about the story he told. The only bitter drop was that I never heard from him again after I was done with my university education. I knew he had gone of to some other research institution and I had actually located his email address and tried to contact him, but never got a reply.
A few days ago I received an email from an ex-student of him and he painted a very different picture than I had. According to the story he had succumbed to the guru trap. I know better than to change my mind about a person based upon the view-point of one person that I don’t even know. Reality is very subjective as seen in one of the biggest gurus of our time, Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, who is god-like to some and the devil to others.
As I have no means of contacting Tom (and I have no intention of putting much effort into that either), I will leave it at that.
But as this article is the first that comes up on a google search for Tom’s name I just want to add this little bit of information that Tom might, just might have gone over the edge. I want to make it very clear that I would have this as a general advice to never, ever become the disciple of anybody.