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Types of Gurus


Most often, Gurus, Masters, and Teachers are classified according to the type of teaching; e.g. non-dual, theistic (or devotional), and so on. And in one instance, they are also rated in numbers of stars (little buddhas, whatever). Here a different classification is used, on the basis of dual enlightenment - both Self/Nonduality and Soul/Integrity, or absense thereof. This is a highly controversial, subjective, and dubious subject, and the classification used here can only be at most a very simple, tentative, and biased beginning for a true "integral" system of classification

Guru Categories

Every guru, religious or sectarian or cult leader, esotericist, spiritual master, or adept, has something unusual or extraordinary abut them. Even the total fakes and con-artists. If they didn't, they would never acquire a following!

Materialism looks to explanations in the wiring of the brain as to why people want to follow gurus or authority figures. Devotees on the other hand uncritically accept their own guru as a worldteacher, supremely enlightened one, or avatar of this age. I would rather adopt a third position, based on occult and esoteric analysis, between uncritical scepticism and uncritical belief.

As a most basic and highly simplistic classification, a distinction can be made with two axii - Enlightenment and Integrity

The following classification is based on the idea - central to Integral Yoga - that there is not only a transcendent Spiritual Realisation which confers enlightenment or Liberation, but also the Divine Center or Psychic being, in addition to the conventional Spiritual realisation. So there is not one but two types of Realisation,which can be called Self-realisation and Soul-realisation. Each on its own confers experiences and attainment, but both together are required for an authentic integral spirituality.

The term Self-Realisation is here used to refer to Enlightenment or Realisation sensu non-dual philosophy and mysticism, which might be synonymous with what Sri Aurobindo refers to as "Spiritualisation". This can be complete and authentic (without ego), or it can be partial and incomplete, caught up in ego and the delusionism of the negative elements of the Intermediate zone.

The characteristics by which Self-Realised gurus and teachers, or those that have even a partial development on the inner or spiritual level, is already described in the literature of mysticism, Transpersonal Psychology, Perennialism, and the Integral movement. In most cases theer is no discrimination between complete and partiual realisation. This lack of discrimination is why people today are usually unable to tell the difference between a genuine ad a partial teacher, and instead think that all partial teachers must automatically be of the highest Enlightenment, or conversely (with the sceptics) that all gurus are automatically fakes. Attempts at rankings, while useful, are also highly subjective. (See links page for more)

Soul-Realisation, or Integrity, refers to the awakening of the Individual Divine and its transformation of the adhara or outer personality. It is not the same as Transcendent Realisation, but refers to the outer being being being guided by the highest principles and standards, and eventually becoming that.

Integrity is the very opposite of the behaviour of abusive teachers and superficial pop gurus. It means not selling out to anything.

Just as abusive gurus can be recognised by the negative characteristics, so self- and soul-realised individuals can be recognised by positive characteristics. Obviously, an intermediate zone guru or teacher will have both negative and positive characteristics! It is this admixture of profound Truth and delusional Falsehood that makes this phenomena so dangerously beguiling and misleading.

Using these parameters, there are four possible combinations:

Various kinds of Realisation

Most yogas and spiritualities

Most often inauthentic, intermediate zone; there is genuine non-dual consciousness but also the strong possibility of being ensnared by the half-lights of the intermediate zone; hence abusive gurus, pseudo-enlightenment, etc. The majority of genuine teachings in the "spiritual supermarket" belong here. However there are also a few genuine authentic self-realisers (e.g. Ramana Maharshi)
Soul-realisation and Self-realisation

Integral Spirituality – Integral Yoga

The whole being is transformed, choosing either to remain in the world as a bodhisattva, enter nirvana or transcendence, or further the evolution and the process of divinisation of the World Very few have attained this stage.
Mundane consciousness

Non-spiritual existence

Outer existence or ordinary, non-enlightened, consciousness only, with all the weaknesses and limitations that the non-awakened state is heir to. Also, fake teachings belong here.

Spiritual life – True Mystic

Authentic spiritual aspiration; discrimination; guidance by inner Light and wisdom; if a guru or Teacher there is never any exploitation of disciples or other abusive or self-seeking behaviour These teachers are probably as rare as the authentic self-realised ones.

The above table is obviously simplistic, because there can also be various grades of partial awakening, and obviously there can also be combinations of one or the other, so the above is only a simple generalisation only. The following gives suggested gradations, but as with all inquiries in these subjects, should not be taken dogmatically

Degree of Enlightenment / Self-Realisation

The categories here are presented in the form of a gradation from complete metaphysical ignorance (avidya) of ordinary consciousness, through the transitional stages of the Intermediate Zone, to complete enlightenment. Obviously there are many factors at work, and it is acknowledged that this classification is highly simplistic. Nevertheless, it is better than the naive approach that says that every guru is authentic, and the equally naive asusmption that every guru is fake.

From the highest to the lowest then:

Degree of Integrity / Soul-Realisation

Whereas every fully enlightened guru can only act in a saintly manner, among those who have only a partial realisation, or none at all, a distinction has to be made regarding integrity of behaviour, which may be Abusive, Sincere but compromised, or Saintly. Hence the ethical/integrity axis.


Other parameters that might be mentioned include:

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page uploaded 11 November 2008. (Some material on this page from 24 November 2006 or older), last modified 4 December 2008