Some random thoughts on the importance of "Rattling People's Cages" and "Poking at Holy Cows" as part of the personal growth process.
I'm a "Cage Rattler." And I've been known to sometimes poke at "Holy Cows."
I am also a highly sensitive person-- or HSP-- so I tend to approach the process gently, in a manner intended to get people to think more deeply about the closely held beliefs they cling to without question, without their becoming defensive.
I was never a big fan of those spiritual Teachers I've come to think of as "terrorist gurus." You probably know them-- they purport to teach through a method of throwing shocking and offensive statements out to the world and then watching the reactions. For example, the late Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff taught followers to rise to higher levels of consciousness through such "shock" tactics. Personally, I found such an approach to have a core weakness or flaw-- well documented by the field of psychology-- namely that most people lose their ability to actually hear a message when they are in the middle of reacting defensively to it.
That said, the questioning of closely held beliefs remains an important part of our growth process; of our journey towards higher levels of consciousness.
Ideally, the path towards higher consciousness lifts us above the "mindless trance" that epitomizes so many lives. We get involved in things-- work, family, relationships, church, spiritual practice, the pursuit of wisdom, ego gratification-- and often fail to pause and question the "what" and "why" of our efforts.
Ironically, we sometimes "fall asleep" even while pursuing the very path that supposedly was intended to help us stay awake. I see this, quite often, within the conscious community: People latch onto a particular discipline or "Teaching" and then relentlessly pursue it without any ongoing inquiry as to whether or not they are headed in the desired direction. After a few years, they may have a superficial appearance of being "enlightened," even while being quite "zombie-like" within their closely confined perspectives of truth and reality.
I might ask such a person what they feel about certain aspects of being-- how to maintain inner peace, or how to be functionally IN the world-- and then I wait for the response.
More often than I care think about, I am rewarded with a lengthy dissertation about "The Teachings Of Swami Bob" and how "Swami Bob" is/has the answer to everything on the planet.
"Should we only eat a vegetarian diet?"
Well, Swami Bob teaches us that the flesh of dead animals will cause the death of the spirit.
"Should we turn our backs on all thing material?"
Well, Swami Bob teaches us that the desire for money is no more than...
Obviously, "Swami Bob" is a caricature. However, there are a startling number of people in the self-development community who blindly attach themselves to the likes of "Swami Bob" and his (possibly noble enough) teachings, while being quick to assure us all that they have reached a higher state of consciousness (thanks to Swami Bob!) and they become extremely aggravated and defensive when anyone questions the veracity of their reality.
In a sense, they have become "spiritual zombies."
Perhaps the single most valuable "consciousness tool" we have on this planet is The Ability To Ask Questions And Think For Ourselves.
Great Teachers-- spiritual and otherwise-- offer us insights, principles and guidelines to help us on our journey. And when we practice discernment and examine the teachings with a critical eye we may derive great benefit from their wisdom. Problems arise when we "enclose" ourselves fully within the "box" of a specific Teaching (like "Swami Bob's"), because what happens?
When we have confined ourselves and our thoughts within a box, we become closed off to everything that exists outside that box. Not only do our perspectives grow narrow and limited; our tendency to turn into spiritual zombies increases. What has happened is that we have simply substituted a new "enlightened trance" for the mindless trance we used to be stuck in. But it's still a trance.
Just remember this: Great minds don't "think alike." They think for themselves.
Peter Messerschmidt is a writer, beach comber, rare stamp dealer and eternal seeker. When he’s not wandering the beach or the Internet, he facilitates groups & retreats for HSPs, and shares his musings at “HSP Notes,” the web’s oldest HSP-specific blog, at http://www.hspnotes.com. He lives in Port Townsend, WA with the great love of his life and several furry “kids.”