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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

No More Gurus

I don't know if it was Jean Vanier's fall from grace or if it was accumulative, given these "Me Too" times. But I finally had to admit it. Entrusting your spiritual journey to another human being is a bad idea. No one else has the truth you need, or the path, or the practices. You gotta walk that lonesome valley ... all by yourself.

Gurus are so alluring, especially among the young. For me, it was a dynamic young minister named Dave Ward. He had it all. Good looks, fast talk, and faith like a laser beam. When you're a teenager, trying to find your way, the sort of confidence Dave exuded was irresistible. I wanted that, even more than I wanted his fundamentalist take on Christianity.

Needless to say, Dave had his own issues. Nothing to land him in court, as far as I've heard. But control was a big thing. His truth became his congregation's truth. Men were the teachers of women, and sex was a big topic among them all. One woman was accused by some of the men of being a "temptress," as if this was her problem. When she suffered injuries from a car accident, Dave arrived with a delegation to demand she search her conscience. Clearly the crash had its roots in her sinful life.

But I had held out hope that spiritual guides still did exist, somewhere out there in the world. I met Jean Vanier on several occasions, and even did some volunteer work for his L'Arche homes in and around Toronto. His charisma was in his quiet radiance, unlike Dave Ward's brashness. When he opened a Bible to expound, extemporaneously, on the spiritual need to climb down the ladder of success, to serve those who can't climb the ladder at all, I was smitten. His counterpart, in my view, was Mother Teresa, who walked a similar path, working among the poorest of the poor, in Calcutta.

But then Mother Teresa died and her journals were found, where she questioned God, not only God's voice, but God's very existence. How had we so misplaced our trust as to think she could guide us into the way of faith? To good works, yes. To compassion, definitely. But to faith? It appeared she never really had any.

And then, of course, the revelations about Jean Vanier, after he died, the charges of sexual abuse and coercion among his female followers, carried out under the guise of some sort of esoteric spiritual practice. Give me a break. Yet, for a time, he had been a role model for millions, me among them.

So, no more gurus. Just the lonely valley, please.

Next week: Becoming our Own Guru

Visit me in The Mystic Cave:

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