Guruphiliac: Matthew Fox On The Guru

Monday, May 08, 2006

Matthew Fox On The Guru

FIle under: The Siddhi of PR

Today we discovered an interview with Christian reformist Matthew Fox at Disinformation. Fox has been mixing his spiritual ideologies eclectically since the late 70s, for which he was finally booted out of the Catholic Church in 1991. We were briefly involved in Fox's attempt to innovate a techno-rave liturgy back in our rave evangelist days of the early 90s. Here he talks about the concept of guru as it gets mistranslated into the West:
I eschew guru. Always have. I don't think the guru thing translates healthily into western consciousness. Too many examples of the kind of thing Andrew Harvey suffered. One should never surrender one's intelligence or one's conscience. That is not to say that some of these Eastern teachers are not wise and worthy to learn from. But what I like about the teacher/student relationship is that one can (and ought) to disagree with a teacher. In my book on the Cosmic Christ I point out that the Christ is not just coming but has already come. In all of us, hopefully. But that is our life-long task, to welcome and offer hospitality to the Cosmic Christ in all of us and to learn to recognize it in all things. Christ is the "light in all things" (science now teaches that all atoms contain photons or light waves). (The Cosmic Christ archetype is paralleled in Buddhism by the "Buddha Nature" idea.) Are institutions such as churches a hindrance or a help? That depends on the church, the culture, and the historical moment. When churches get corrupt, as Catholicism is evidently undergoing today, the Christ gets banished. That is why the church is "semper reformanda," "always needing to be reformed." But people need institutions--to come in out of the rain, to gather as a group at times, etc. So it's not so simplistic a thing as" In the church or out of it" as "in a box or out of it." As Leonardo Boff says, the question is: "Are we birthing (healthy) church or not?"
That's why we bailed on the rave experiment, too much emphasis on what we considered to be a dead spiritual ideology. Some of those who moved on became the nucleus of the Rhythm Society, which is probably the first true (transideological) rave church in global history and still thriving in San Francisco, California today.


At 5/10/2006 12:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Gurus -- I think maybe we Westerners might be a little too gullible, or maybe shallow, or maybe we're lazy, or we're shopping for the best enlightnment deal -- i'm not sure. Maybe we want our enlightenment too quickly and don't want to work for it. For whatever reason, we seem to pick gurus and spiritual leaders too easily and give up our will and autonomy too quickly.

Just finding a teacher is a difficult spiritual practice. In the Eastern practice as I understand it, the student puts a LOT more effort into finding exactly the right teacher. Then once the teacher is selected, you submit to their instruction with the understanding that the teacher knows something you don't, and that you may not even know you don't know. It's the old "you must empty the cup before you can fill it" zen thing. We keep wanting to know what we are going to learn before we make the effort to learn it. What we are going to learn is so completely out of context with our normal frame that in some respects we have to give up what we think we already know. Can you see the paradox in that? If they could just tell you, you wouldn't need it. The best teacher I ever found would trick some students into looking for it.

Fox is right in that the Christ Consciouness resides in us all, but it's a lot easier to find if someone who's been there can help you with a roadmap. So I can appreciate the benefit of a guru. Or at least the right one at the right time.

Still, I've seen friends choose a guru unwisely, and then surrender too much of their authority to them. The surrender would have been good if they had surrendered to someone closer to embodying Christ Consciousness. But they didn't, and they paid a price.

What am i saying, then? Hmm... probably that there is no easy path. If you think a guru is a shortcut, you're not getting it. My rule of thumb is "surrender only to God, and do that completely." But sometimes God comes to you as a person.


Oh yeah -- I don't agree with the way you say that the Rhythm Society (RS) traces a direct path from Fox' earlier endeavors. It's not like a faction of Fox' followers broke off and started the RS as a counter-experiment. They did pay attention to some lessons from Fox' rave efforts, so in that sense you could trace some heritage. But I see it as more of an intermingling of the spiritual rave scene at that time than a factioning. Or maybe that's what you meant?

At 5/10/2006 1:01 AM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

I see it as more of an intermingling of the spiritual rave scene at that time than a factioning.

Quite so. But Fox's techno-mass was essentially Christian, paying lip service to other traditions. The RS is essentially trans-ideological, which is what I believe to be the essence of rave spirituality.

At 5/15/2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got two comments on this post. First, Fox says "I don't think the guru thing translates healthily into western consciousness." I personally am not a fan of the guru thing, and wouldn't encourage anyone to get into it.

But I don't see any evidence that this has anything to do with western vs eastern. The quote shown, in any case, gives no support for that notion.

A reasonable definition of "the guru thing" would be the following of another person without question, total belief in someone else's authority. Simple rationality would suggest that the guru thing works in situations where I'm so utterly ignorant that I have no choice but to believe in someone else. Once I gain some understanding of my own, there's no more need for unquestioned authority.

Why should "eastern" or "western" make any difference? In any culture, it's just a matter of whether the individual has enough sense to make his own decisions. If not, he can blindly follow a guru. If he does, he can listen to all teachers, and decide for himself.

My 2nd comment is to ask for clarification on what you mean by "too much emphasis on what we considered to be a dead spiritual ideology" (regarding your bailing from the rave scene). I'm a bit old and clueless to know much about that scene; or maybe it's just that I prefer my spiritual experiences alone or in small groups. But I'm curious: what exactly is the spiritual ideology you found in the rave scene that you're saying is dead?



At 5/15/2006 3:50 PM, Blogger guruphiliac said...

Fox wanted to create an alternative Christian liturgy to bring kids back into the Christian fold. Most of the rave kids I knew were over Christianity and interested in exploring alternatives. We saw Christianity as dead, as far as raves were concerned. Fox was clearly the boss and refused to really consider what we were saying, so a bunch of folks left and started other, more ideologically open groups.


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