The Seven Faces of the Religious Mind

By George A. Boyd © 2018

There are different ways of engaging with religion. One can rail against religion, or be its staunchest supporter. One can study about religion, or become immersed in its mystic depths. One can pick and choose from its fruits, or one can believe its doctrine in its entirety. One can flit from faith to faith as the butterfly rests upon different flowers, or one can be steadfast in observance of only one faith.

Some of these different faces of religion can be briefly described as follows:

  1. The critic – The critic gathers information to discredit religion, to find fault with its beliefs and practices, and to promote an alternate viewpoint.
  2. The scholar – The scholar likes comparing the ideas that religion disseminates, reflecting on the meanings of the passages in scriptures and their commentaries, and discovering the hidden gems of truth. The scholar does not necessarily, however, take these dictums of religion to heart, and apply these principles in his or her life.
  3. The eclectic – The eclectic studies several different spiritual traditions, and creates a synthesis of the nuggets of truths from different Paths that he or she has gleaned. He or she adopts some of these truths as moral values, and uses these to guide behavior.
  4. The dilettante – The emotional believer, the dilettante, may take initiation in multiple Paths, but does not follow through on any of them. After the initial excitement of becoming a member of a new group and learning initiatory secrets fades, he or she readily leaves the Path. The dilettante starts many Paths and does not finish any of them.
  5. The anchorite – The anchorite scrupulously follows the guidelines of the Path, practices prayers and meditations regularly, and studies the teaching of the Path assiduously. The anchorite insists that before he or she can begin to teach or take a leadership role in the group, he or she must have perfect knowledge and ability.
  6. The devotee – The devotee wants to idealize and worship the spiritual Master, who supervises development on this spiritual Path, but may not feel worthy or capable to do the work to become a teacher or leader in this spiritual tradition.
  7. The surrendered one – The surrendered one dedicates him or her self to God’s Will, and carries out his or her daily work under the Master’s direction. The surrendered one asks for God’s Grace to teach and help others, recognizing that he or she is not perfect—but does the work, and learns and grows more proficient with practice.

Those that become teachers and initiators in spiritual traditions typically are of type seven. Types five and six, scrupulous observance and devotion, fervently adhere to the Path engaged, but they lack the core commitment that marks the surrendered one.

These three types form the core of any religious group; the other types are not serious about their commitment to make progress along the lines described in this Path and to follow its precepts. Those that do the work deepen along the track that this Path opens; those that dip their toes in its waters make limited or no progress towards its consummation.

If you are currently engaged with any spiritual or religious group at the present time, notice what patterns you adopt in relation to it.

  • Are you its critic, continually finding flaws?
  • Are you a scholar, content to learn about it without adopting its practices or principles?
  • Are you eclectic, selecting truths from many different Paths and creating your own synthesis?
  • Do you have pattern of taking initiation in multiple Paths and not following through with any of them?
  • Do you scrupulously perform the prescribed practices of the faith, and are working to perfect them?
  • Does devotion drive your spiritual quest and you are on fire to make progress on your chosen Path?
  • Have you surrendered yourself to become God’s Instrument of Light and Love for others?

If you evolve to the stage where you can become a surrendered one, you will become the emissary of God’s Light and Love in your tradition. Those that become teachers and initiators in Mudrashram® transform over time into this posture, and show the inmost facet of realized Divinity and Grace to all who cross their Path.

Profiles of the Spiritual Dilettante

By George A. Boyd © 2017

The spiritual dilettante, also known as the lookie loo seeker, is an all too common pattern in aspirant spiritual circles. Some of the markers of these spiritual dabblers include:

  1. They have a fascination with Gurus and spiritual Masters, and they go to see them, or watch their videos on the Internet
  2. They read the books of these spiritual teachers, they get excited, and they want to be initiated.
  3. They get initiated, practice for two to three days, and then get distracted and stop practicing.
  4. They may repeat steps 1 to 3 for several spiritual traditions.
  5. They are not clear exactly why they are desperately seeking a spiritual Master, or what they are actually seeking in their multiple attempts at initiation.
  6. They may be driven unconsciously to enact this spiritual seeking pattern to escape deep shame, a sense of personal failure, or memories of abuse or trauma. They want to get out of waking awareness and stay out, so these painful memories won’t surface.
  7. They never complete the paths they start; they keep looking for the right Path or the true Guru.

As a result of following this pattern, spiritual dilettantes:

  • Demonstrate a familiarity with a variety of Paths, without a deep appreciation of their rich heritage and lack a thorough knowledge of any of them.
  • Have a track record of incompletion—they start many Paths, but they don’t finish any of them.
  • Have a strong proclivity to engage in spiritual gossip; they look for flaws, character weakness, or sins of their spiritual Master, but avoid personal introspection to weed out their own character weaknesses.
  • With their increasing failure to make any spiritual progress on any of these Paths, they may become critical, skeptical, and mistrustful of any spiritual Paths or any spiritual teacher. They may characterize all spiritual teachers as frauds, charlatans, or cult leaders, without even investigating the merits or deficiencies of that teacher or that Path, based on their own prior experience of frustration and failure with meditation.
  • May undergo a period of excitement when they anticipate getting initiated, and they tell their friends about their discovery. After getting initiated, however, they find flaws and deficiencies, make excuses for not practicing, and then abandon the Path and its practices.
  • May show multiple spiritual imbalances and symptoms of dissociation, detachment, and difficulty to make personal decisions, if they have practiced the techniques of the path long enough to produce inner transformation, before leaving for greener pastures.
  • May show patterns of anomie, nihilism, or despair, if they have multiple frustrations and failures in this area; some of them abandon their faith and become atheists.

We encourage those of you who might have been inadvertently following this pattern to consider the fowling questions:

  • What do you find fascinating about the spiritual teachers and paths to which you have been attracted?
  • Do you want to become like these teachers? Why?
  • What would it actually take for you to achieve what they have attained? How much meditation would you have to do to reach the stage they attained? What might you have to sacrifice or give up to reach this stage?
  • What would happen if you sustained your meditation and made progress upon this Path? How might that change your behavior? How might it alter your perception of your Self and the world? How might it affect your character?
  • What’s at the bottom of you patterns of seeking, getting initiated, and then, doing little or nothing with the Path into which you have been initiated?
  • What is it that you are actually seeking?
  • Might you be trying to escape or avoid something through these patterns? What would happen if you confronted these issues, and stopped running away from them, but concretely worked to resolve them?
  • What spiritual Path could you embrace that you would be willing to complete? What would happen if you completed this Path?

If you have been playing the frustrating and unsatisfying role of a spiritual dilettante, we encourage you to make a change. No worthwhile goal is achieved without commitment and follow-through in your personal life; the same is true for the spiritual life. We invite you to get to the bottom of these patterns and clarify what it is you truly want, and then select a Path that fulfills those needs.

For those of you are uncertain about what a particular meditation will do or what will be the outcome of following a particular spiritual Path, we offer a specialized spiritual counseling session called the Spiritual Teacher/Path Compatibility Reading that will identify what will be the likely scenario if you embark on that Path. If you are not clear about the potential consequence of using a particular meditation technique, we additionally offer a Meditation Technique Analysis Reading. We can also support you with spiritual coaching to help you identify a resonant Path and teaching that helps you fulfill your spiritual destiny.