Arjuna Ardagh in The Translucent Revolution (more) refers to the level of holistic or transpersonal consciousness. If we posit a spectrum from total ignorance to total Enlightenment, there is ordinary consciousness ruled by the Ego and its Shadow projections, Transpersonal consciousness, still with Ego-Shadow, where there is an opening to transpersonal, transcendent and other inner and higher dimensions of existence, to Intermediate Zone, where consciousness becomes truly cosmic and transcendent, and can truly overwhelm the limited consciousness, to Enlightened Realisation, where all trace of Ego-Shadow finally dissappears.
Corresponding to this, there is the Ordimnary Person, the lesser or limited Merely Transpersonal guru or teacher often but not always associated with big egos and arrogant presumption to be spiritual masters, the far more powerful Intermediate Zone Guru where the person may genuionely think they are Enlighetend and able to Teach, although they have not reached the final goal yet, and finally the fully Enlightened True or Authentic Guru, who is the only one qualified, because they are truly transparent to the Divine.
I had previously used the hypothesis of the Intermediate Zone to explain abusive behaviour among supposed Spiritual teachers and Masters. But the Transpersonal Stage even better explains how gurus can be abusive; even if they are not necessarily, or even often, bad people. Quite simply, although they may have many high ideals, they are just not ready for the responsibility of being a Guru. Indeed no-one who ois not Fully Enlightened is. The important thing is that we have to stop thinking of these people as Enlightened, and start thinking of them as just like you and me; people upon whom gullible devotees have projected all kinds of absurd expectations. Including expectations and intensity that actually gives rise to what David Lane calls the Kirpal Statistic, and I have referred to as the Devotee Effect. Seen in this light, it becomes much easier to understand the apparent inconsistency. There is no inconsistency, becaause they never were Enlightened to begin with.
I have divided the Transpersonal stage or zone of consciousness into three sub-stages or gradations, on the basis of the levels that various transpersonals or transluscents (including those who become gurus) would seem to be at:
The Superficial Guru / Early/Lower/Near/Basic Transpersonal. This stage is the most common, and the most ordinary. As opposed to someone with no spiritual intuition, it is characterised by a few glimpses and insights into transpersonal realities, and superficial if perhaps genuine spiritual experience. They may have authentic psychic, occult, kundalini, or other such experiences. They generally have a worldview incorporating mystical, New Age, Eastern (Vedantic or Buddhist), esoteric Christian, Sufi, Hermnetic, Kabbalistic, Pagan, New Paradigm, Cultural Creative, or Integral theory memes. They are no longer "seekers" or "searching" as they feel they have already come to some understanding of the meaning of existence, and may even have a quite origional take on things. Other than that, they have no more higher knowledge than the average spiritually-orientated but "seeking" man in the street. But certainly much more than the average person they try to live a moral or spiritual life. Because they have big egos and a sense of narcissim, they have set themselves up as gurus or spiritual masters, and established a following. are not enlightened, nowhere near it, not even Intermediate Zone, there may be instances of abuse. Hence only egotists set themselves up as gurus at this level, hence the large number of abusive gurus from the lower Transpersonal Zone.
The Superficial Guru is so called because their understanding is superficial, not penetrating into the (from the point of view of relative consciousness) profound insights and realisations of the Supreme that one finds even in the Intermediate Zone, let alone beyond. Unlike the Totally Fake Guru they do have experiences, but these are only superficial. They cannot access any levels of their being beyond the ordinary surface consciousness. (even if they believe they can), and hence the association of them with the Supreme is misleading. Their consciousness is on other words basic avidya. Nevertheless they may still have a large following who consider them enlightened.
The following charactereristics are suggested as describing the Superficial Guru:
Many gurus that have been appointed to a succession in a lineage, but are not at the level of the Master, would seem to be at this level.
Tentatively suggested or possible examples: Andrew Cohen and possibly some of his staff on What is Enlightenment?/EnlightenNext, Arjuna Ardagh and many mentioned in his Translucent Revolution (a smaller number would belong to the next category, and a much smaller numer again to the higher), Byron Katie, L. Ron Hubbard? (assuming there is some sincerity there and it isn't just a huge con), Guru Maharaji? (or maybe just ordinary consciousness), Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Shri Mataji, some people in the New Age movement, the Integral Movement, etc. Many people who do New Age workshops are at this level.
The Middle Transpersonal. This stage is also characterised by stable insight and original and unique gnosis. Although influenced by other spiritual traditions or teachings, this is more a sense of "remembering" what you already were. There is no alliegence to sectarian dogmas. Progressing towards a more universal experience of things. There is no need to ask "What is Enlightenment" , because you already know what it is. At the same time the person is still mostly in ordinary consciousness (Ego-Shadow) which may break through or temporarily or overwhelm the personality in stressful periods. This stage may or may not be characterised by transpersonal and enlightened experiences, charisma, and so on, but Egotism in the sense of attachment to sense of self and getting upset if people criticise you Tentatively suggested or possible examples: Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet and Ken Wilber.
Late/Higher/Far Transpersonal. This stage is characterised by transpersonal and enlightened experiences, but these are accompanied by Egotism, Desire, and subconscious Samskaras. Here there is strong and stable transpersonal consciousness, but not enlightened, although the devotees may consider the guru enlightened.A person at this level may be possessed of amazing charisma. There may be all sorts of occult experience or siddhis, or there may be none at all. It is assumed that more people are at this stage then the following ones. However those with discrimination can see that they have not yet reached the goal, even if their experiences and realisations are profound. Tentatively suggested or possible examples: Barry Long, Gangaji?, Osho, Sathya Sai Baba? (daimonic)
Intermediate Zone (added for sake of comparison). This stage is also characterised by even more profound transpersonal and enlightened experiences, charisma, contagion, and most of all selfless love. There is however still desire and subconscious Samskaras, and there may be narcissistic inflation and delusionism through identification of the individual revelation with some deity or attractor. A person at this level may be considered an Enlightened Guru by their devotees, but the absense of utter self-sacrifice distinguish them from the authentic Enlightened Being or avatar or sadguru. In some cases there may be abuse, due to the presistance of lower samskaras. Those who deliberately set themselves up as gurus do not realise they have not yet atatined the goal. More on the Intermediate Zone
In my understanding, by far the bulk of charismatic gurus and spiritual teachers that are around in the world today (and no doubt in past historical periods too) that claim to be enlightened are actually at one of these transitional Transpersonal stages; this is where their inspiration, their power, their insights and their charisma derive from. It is highly misleading to simply explain them away or dismiss them as con-artists or self-deluded, as many critics and sceptics believe. This ignores the very real transpersonal experiences that for example devotees have, and that it can be assumed the gurus and teachers themselves have. Most of them are in fact totally sincere in their statements and experiences; even the ones who are abusive towards their devotees. But conversely the naive New Age view that they are all enlightened masters is equally misleading. Very very few spiritual teachers could be considered authentic satgurus. This is not to deny that there are still many that, although not actually liberated, are still genuine
The personality of the Merely Transpersonal Guru is often narcissicistic, which means their organisation is always cultic in some manner. In fact an absolutely reliable way to determine if a guru is false is to look at their personality, their actions, reports of abuse, the nature of their organisation and the actions of their disciples and other followers. If it is cultic, then you know they are not the real thing! (This of course pertains to a cultic organisation based around a living guru, as opposed to a religion or sect based on a historical prophet or teacher or guru.)
Merely transpersonal Gurus can be classified in terms of Negative, Ambiguous, and Authentically Principled or Moral
The Negative Guru or Selfish Narcissist -
Occaisonally there is the dysfunctional personality, lacking in empathy or any trace of true spirituality, the selfish narcissist acts only out of self-interest, living in a delusional world of their own making, paranoid, self-serving, full of fear and bitterness and puffed up ego. Motivated by selfish and narcissistic exploitation of eir devotees, which may be for money or sex or sense of power through emotional manipulation, or in some way just to feed eir own ego, or all of the above, the selfish narcissist harms both self and devotees, and helps no-one.
It could be argued that Fascist political states and False Guru Sects have a number of things in common; if so this would be due to the common tendency of humans to give up their sense of responsibility to a strong or charismatic authority figure, and the fact that the resulting organisations tend to encourage the same narcissistic sort of control and shadow project on the part of the leader, and the same antagonistic and aggressive attitude towards critics and non-believers on the part of followers who are comfortable in these situations.
Selfish narcissists are puppets of adverse forces; rather than serving the Divine, or even just serving themselves, they are toys in the hands of lower astral attractors that use them to create a sphere of suffering in the world.
Ambiguous gurus consititute by far the largest category of spiritual guru or teacher. They might include anything from pseudospiritual and superficial, to the Intermediate Zone guru with their partial but imperfect and flawed realisation. Although they try to use their realisation to helpothers, they are still limited by ignorance and lower samskaras. Because of the power of the Intermediate Zone and the sincerity of devotees, the ambiguous guru genuinely does help some, but also he or she harms others. In some ways the ambiguous guru is a more misleading and deceptive teacher than the false guru, because the false guru is at least obvious in their fakeness and selfishness.
The personality of the Ambiguous Guru may or may not be highly narcissicistic. In fact an absolutely reliable way to determine if a guru is false is to look at their personality, their actions, reports of abuse, the nature of their organisation and the actions of their disciples and other followers. The distinction between the fake and the ambigious guru is that the false guru is full of selfishness and doesn't help anyone except themself, whereas the ambiguous guru genuinely helps some and also harms others.
Some of these higher Ambiguous Gurus may even have an elevated near-Intermediate Zone realisation with their partial but imperfect and flawed realisation.
Concerning the above two categories, the following is a quote from a lecture by Swami Vivekananda "The need of a guru" Volume 3 complete works section, Bhakti Yoga, which applies to what are here called ambiguous gurus.
"There are still greater dangers in regard to the transmitter, the guru. There are many who though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and not only do they stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind both fall in the ditch."Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind""The World is full of these. Everyone wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers."
(Katha Up. I ii 5)
Authentic Gurus: But not all Merely Transpersonal gurus are negative or at best ambiguous. There are also those who are awakened to their inner divinity, which prevents them from acting in a negative manner. Or they may have be in touch with an inner beauty and sensitivity and/or detachment and discrimination that they don't let themselves be caught up in fantasies of power and exploitation. In other cases such individuals don't want set themselves up as "gurus" and teachers, because they realise they still have a long way to go. They may serve as quiet and humble friends and mentors, gurus in an informal sense of a spiritual friend who has advanced a bit further along the path than oneself, but they would have no interest in attracting a large following, and certainly would never claim to be enlightened. In any case, they can serve as a true guru, even though they themselves are not at the highest stage of Realisation
Thus, to say that a teacher or master or guru is at the level of the Merely Transpersonal, or the Intermediate Zone doesn't mean that what they say is deceptive, their behaviour abusive, etc. It is probably more likely that it is just a smaller number of bad apples giving the rest a negative reputation by association.
I have met in person or at least had darshan/satsang with four gurus, each of which is very different. Three of them would seem to fit the description of TranspersonalIntermediate Zone, while a fourth may or may not be.
The first was Sathya Sai Baba, a world-famous guru with a following of millions in India, who has since been exposed as a serial sex abuser. I myself have never had any bad experiences from Sai Baba. I travelled to India to see him a quarter of a century ago (in 1982 or thereabouts), and it was a great experience. At darshan he didn't seem to walk, he seemed to glide in a quite uncanny way. Several times our eyes met as his gaze passed over the crowd and it was a powerful sort of electric experience. My later experiences with him has been on an astral level, including a couple of meetings in dreams, and one genuine remote healing that cannot be explained in physicalistic terms. I was never attracted to his teachings, which I found banal and flat, watered down pop-Hinduism. Neither did I fit in with his following, which consisted of typical Hindus and churchy Westerners. I did many years ago have a couple of Western friends who were Sai Baba devotees, but in the West at least the organisation and teaching comes across as simplistic and rather like an exoteric Christian youth camp or study group. My belief in Sai Baba as an avatar, and accepting as literal fact the myths and folklore built up around him, was a combination of immature wishful thinking and wanting to belive in a "Santa Claus" type god figure, and genuine astral connection, perhaps on the Intermediate zone level. The first thing that disillusioned me was the allegations of sexual abuse that are extensive than that of any other absuive guru. The second thing was the behaviour of certain highly abusive devotees such as Gerald Moreno, who unfortunately I got to know quite well (I would rather that I didn't, but certainly I have learned a lot from him about how the "abusive devotee" works). That such people can be associated with Sai Baba proves that he is not what he claims, because no genuine teacher or avatar would tolerate this without speaking out against such abuses. Were it not for these two things, I would still consider Sai Baba a genuine teacher. Yet paradoxically, this same guru who has sexually molested so many of his male disciples, is also associated with enlightening spiritual experiences, healings and so on the subtle level. That is the paradox of the Intermediate zone.
The second was Barry Long, who I heard at a talk, and afterwards went up and spoke to him briefly, many many years ago. The Ligbt and Love I felt from him was amazing, and for a very long time I considered him a genuine Enlightened being (just as I thought Da Free John was, until I heard about his abusive behaviour). Nevertheless, I was never attracted to following him, nor was there any connection or resonance on the subtlke levels, such as I felt with Sai Baba. Barry Long's teachings are more interesting and subtle than Sai Baba's. He seemed at the time to have a sensitivity to women and an awareness of the unfairness and injustice of woman's position and oppression in a male society. However there seem to be some controversies around him, due to his "neo-Tantric" position. I don't know enough about him to speak at length on this, but no longer consider him a fully enlightened being.
The third, around 1988, was Swami Krishna, a Tantric Guru who at the time lived just down the road from me, and had gathered around him a local following of naive and gullible adoring Western devotees, from whom he received a large amount of both money and sex. My feeling is that he was a nice and decent if somewhat egotistic guy, who simply did not realise the way he is exploitating his followers. Like a much more powerful guru, Papaji, Swamiji genuinely doesn't seem to understand the Western mindset and the spiritual weakness of westerners. He had an amazing presence about him, it was a buzz that produced a sort of "high". It is likely that his devotees fed on this, and he likewise took advantage of them fnancially and sexually, resulting in a relationship that could not be spiritually beneficial to either party. I only heard one of his talks, and apart from one moment of genuine humility there was nothing in his teachings that stuck in my mind, the same old watered down pop Hinduism, albeit of an Osho Rajneeshi highly sexualised tone. Nevertheless he did take a liking to me, and remembered me from when I had seen him some 8 or 9 years previously at La Trobe University. He also seemed drunk afterwards at the dinner at his center. So very much a Trungpa/Osho type figure. The buzz I felt in his presence did not continue after I left, there was nothing in his teachings that attracted me, nothing in his words that indicated development of the level of intermediate zone gurus like Da Free John or Muktananda. I found the massive donations he asked from his devotees, and his own claims of sadguru-hood, to be off-putting. All this was some 19 years ago, but he is still around (see link), although no longer in Melbourne.
One guru that I heard talk (about this same time) and came away convinced that he had no spiritua,l experience was Guru Maharaji (before he became Prem Rawat). Nevertheless his devotees, including a friend who later set himself up as a guru, came away full of emotional high. So maybe Maharaji did have power, but I wasn't receptive to it. Or maybe they were just like born-again Christians and other emotionalistic cults. Really, it is very difficult to tell. Maharaji might be considered either as ordinary consciousness or as Basic Transpersonal. His case does show that just because a guru is worshipped by millions doesn't mean they are at the level of the middle Transpersonal.
The most recent Transpersonal zone guru I met, in November 2006, was Gangaji, who I have already referred to. Although I only saw her recently, and briefly (sitting right near the front for two darshans) the experience I received was profound. What I received from her was a transmission of Sri Ramana's Light. I don't know if anyone else there got that; many devotees did seem blissed out, but it was more in adoration of Gangaji herself. Gangaji comes across as a genuinbely humble person, full of Light, very loving and selfless, teaching a simple Advaitin message, a sort of update for the westrener of Ramana's talks. From my own expertiences, I cannot and will not say a bad word about her, and consider her an exemplarary teacher. Unfortunately her forgiveness of and support for husband Eli, who had a long term exploitative sexual affair with a young female discple behind her back, , raised the spectre of abuse, and, on the other side of the coin, showed as well how quick people are to judge and shadow project. This affair caused a lot of hostility towards her among disillusioned ex-devotees and guru-critics in general. My feeling is that Gangaji is without doubt a High Transpersonal Zone guru who as such has had a level of transcendent realisation. Apart from certain questions regarding the cost of her retreats, she has not been involved in any exploitation of devotees; indeed the person I saw had nothing but love to give for those poeple who came up on stage with her.