– in Response to an Invitation of the German “Integrales Forum” in 2011

Thank you for your kind invitation to comment on the Integrales Forum position paper in regard to teacher-student relations. First let me congratulate you on this paper, which serves to initiate this important conversation. This topic is a worthy one in need of urgent address on many levels. Let me also commend your excellent deployment of the Integral framework in discussing these issues. It is the use of the Integral framework that allows for this discussion to hold the necessary complexity, multiples perspectives, and nuance that it deserves.

In broad terms, I agree with your conclusions in terms of the need for some essential standards in regard to spiritual teachers. Clearly we are all aware of the most horrific abuses that take place in the context of some pre-personal cults, as well as of some of the more subtle forms of psychological manipulation, financial dishonesty and sexual abuse that take place in these same contexts under the fig leaf of the teacher-student relationship for the sake of the dharma. To protect the potential victim and shield the powerless from the whims of the powerful is a core obligation of any community.

At the same time, as you indicate in your paper, much discernment is needed in this conversation to assure that the teacher-student function is upheld. For indeed, without this teacher-student function, both the transmission of wisdom as well as the personal and collective enlightenment of the interior face of the cosmos would be severely impaired. The teacher-student function is essential for these evolutionary goals.

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This white paper, “Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment,” by Marc Gafni suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is the evolution of an enlightened society, with Enlightenment defined as knowledge of one’s own True Identity. Accordingly, three conclusions are drawn: First, that enlightenment is sanity and hence a necessary ingredient for all individuals, not merely for elites. Second, attaining Enlightenment does not involve denying individuality, but grasping a key distinction between separateness and uniqueness. Third, the goal of enlightenment is said to be not the evolution beyond ego, but beyond exclusive identification with ego. After these three findings, the Marc Gafi suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is essential both for individual mental health as well as planetary survival.

“Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment” was originally published in the October 2012 issue of Integral Leadership Review.