You should always be suspicious of anyone portraying themselves as a paragon of virtue. We all like to be seen as kind, considerate, generous, polite, helpful, and so on, but we know what we really are – self-seeking beasts who will use any amount of deception to get what we want. Of course, we judge our beast since society needs us to be well-behaved, passive recipients of whatever the power-possessors dish out, so they can achieve their own ends. As a result, we push our real drives deep down into the subconscious, although it really doesn’t take much for the beast to surface again (someone pushing in front of you in a queue should do it).
So let’s not pretend that we are nice people who are occasionally angry, envious, spiteful, and other delicacies. We are self-seeking wolves who will use any amount of charm, flattery, and deception to get what we want. Oddly enough there is nothing wrong with this, the error is in the denial.
And so we come to the gurus. No doubt you have seen them on YouTube or read their books. With few exceptions they all do one thing – they deny the beast. If we want to be happy all we have to do is be “in the now”, meditate, cultivate loving kindness, practice mindfulness, pray or apply any one of a large number of palliatives. But where is the beast in all of this? Well, our poor beast, who only wants to survive and procreate using any means possible, has been pushed into the background – and it doesn’t like it. Since we are mostly beast, our real drives will surface somewhere, and if they are not given natural expression, they will surface in more damaging ways – spitefulness, derision, sarcasm, and possibly much worse.
I think it would be fair to say that we can judge the authenticity of a guru by the willingness to display the beast. Gurdjieff had no problems with this. According to the young man who cleaned his room, Gurdjieff “lived like an animal.” Shock horror. He was also fond of his Armagnac, cigarettes and some say he was fond of opium. But a guru is supposed to lead us to the land of milk and honey, not Armagnac. Well, the land of milk and honey only exists in your imagination. It comes from all the bullshit you have soaked up because your beast in unacceptable to you, and so you imagine you are something much more refined. Even Jesus Christ hung around with prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves and the like. He said that the sanctimonious good people already had it sorted and didn’t need him.
This brings me to spiders. Someone I once knew very well also had no problem with his beast. He was a mentor to me for some years. His lounge was populated with demonic masks and once, while he was staying with me, I entered his room to find he was dismembering a spider. He didn’t seem to be embarrassed by this and just continued until the job was done. Spinoza also had a thing about spiders and would place a couple in a confined space to watch them fight. Not my kind of thing, I like kicking my dog across the room when I’m in a bad mood (just joking).
We should be suspicious of the gurus who portray themselves in a saintly manner. I often imagine what they do when they walk off stage. Pull legs off spiders. Smack one of their sycophantic followers across the head. Go watch some porn. Down a bottle of vodka. The wolf has to get out somewhere, and the more it is denied, the more insistent it will be.
It is said that the aim of all personal work is to arrive at a situation where our inner lamb will lie down with the lion (or wolf). Well, the lion will only lie down when it is well fed and generally happy. And the lamb will only lie down with the lion when it understands the lion, and when it knows the lion is content. I really don’t think a lamb would lie down with a lion that hasn’t eaten for a week. In fact a hungry lion will devour the lamb in an instant, and then we become all lion – not good.
So be kind to your wolf. Indulge it. As Shunryu Suzuki says in his book on zen, the way we calm a bull is to give it a large pasture. No, we don’t beat it half to death or tie it to a post – we give it space.
So next time you watch a guru it might be fun to imagine what he or she does in private – on second thought maybe you shouldn’t.