It looks like an ever-growing percentage of spiritual or religious teachers in our day have, for the most part, morphed into mere pedlars of their particular brand of truth. Now it might seem a bit rich, and a tad hypocritical for a published spiritual author like myself to make such a statement, yet I reckon that this particular elephant in the room, must be addressed.
The religious and spiritual worlds within Western culture, have become marketplaces populated with teachers of all hues, those benefiting very nicely from their ‘revelations’ with a cash flow of big bucks. I’d better explain that I’m presently not one of them. To date I’m still at a financial loss after my decision in 2011 to dispatch my own wee musings out into the literary world. Now, I’m perfectly happy with that, for it certainly keeps me from getting caught up in some god-like ego trip. Of course, books cost money to produce and so a reasonable cost should be charged for each one.
No, what I’m raising here is the vast empires that have been created around celebrity preachers and spiritual teachers. When a book by an unknown author strikes a chord with folk it seems that already established entrepreneurial flesh eaters swoop in to make as many bucks out of the writer as possible. Suddenly the author in question is propelled into the spotlight, dressed up as an enlightened soul with answers to the human condition.
Every year or so a new leading light appears with the backing of multi-millionaire publishers and media moguls. The goal is to reach the New York Times best seller list, have your own programme on religious tv or, for the more spiritually orientated, a guest spot of one of Oprah’s shows. Now I’ve seen them all and what strikes me is that the original grain of truth that each person was granted pre-fame, still remains, but something fake is trying to dress it up for commercial success.
To have ‘arrived’, is the most dangerous pitfall that a religious or spiritual writer can encounter. It’s a one-way trip to consolidation, and I’m afraid, often the end of authentic inspiration. It saddens me to see how something plastic rushes in to fill the void. How many authors, signed up by Harper Collins or Hay House, to name but a few, have been asked to produce 4 or 5 more books when they’ve already shared their original nugget of truth in their pre-fame publication. Just how many times can one say the same thing over and over again without readers switching off and moving on to the next new literary kid on the block?
Of course it gets worse. Authors are quickly fashioned into seminar speakers to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’ or alternatively, to ’empower’ their fee paying attendees. And let’s be honest – such religio-spiritual shows are not cheap. And yet good folk queue up like lemmings to hear their idolised teacher rehash their material via the spoken word & all singing dancing Powerpoint presentations. Yes, we spiritual & religious folk certainly love our celebrities, those who’ve obtained a glimpse of transcendence and transmit it with a smile of beatific certainty.
Now, if we’ve really ‘arrived’ we get to appear on Oprah to plug our latest book, as well as hosting luxury cruises around the heavenly blue waters of the Caribbean. Now, unlike many faith folk I like Oprah, and some of her guests appear to be great folk, but the subliminal commercial marketing is always a bit too much to take. Floating around with a bunch of ‘gifted speakers’ whilst drinking pina coladas on deck may seem like bliss to some, but there’s something not quite right about this either. Perhaps it’s the fact that the celebrity author/speakers are there for the big bucks and a free cruise to boot, paid for out of the pockets of their ardent fans. I guess the Nazarene completely missed the boat when he passed by on the offer to host 10 day teaching trips around the Sea of Galilee for the rich elite of Galilee.
So where does this all leave us? Well, firstly may I suggest that we’re all broken folk, high-profile authors included, no matter whether they live on Maui or the Bible Belt of Colorado. Our brokenness is the key to the inspiration that can flow through us. Once we believe our own, and more importantly, our mega-publishers mail-shots, then we’re finished, at least in terms of Life flow. Now marketing has its place, albeit a limited one, yet it’s also a potential tool of ego and the desire for fame and fortune that come with it.
Secondly, if Divine Love sees us becoming a guru, or alternatively, following a guru, it will let it run for a while before graciously pulling the rug from under our feet. For, it knows that without a sincere and humble heart, it will all end in tears. No, Divine Love cares too much for us to allow us to follow progressively blind guides into the alley of inauthenticity.
So let’s not fall for psycho-spiritual spin and the new priesthood, the celebrity author guides, who graciously send a free download in order to hook us into their market-leading customer base. Of course free is good, but not when used as a come-on for exorbitantly charged follow-on material. As we cry out for relief from our inner angst, many will offer their answers, usually for inflated big bucks. Best avoid I reckon and look within.
For my part, I’ll continue to blog and publish, but there will never be any Dylan Morrison 3 day conferences at Holiday Inn, slick subscription based web-seminars, DVDs, TV appearances (unless Ms Winfrey calls of course?), or expensive meditative retreats in rural Tuscany. No, there will only be words. Hopefully words to ignite and inspire, but also words to keep us free from the pernicious cult of personality.