A disciple from the beginning should realize that the master requires only that the disciple should realize his own higher self. In fact the master is none other than this higher self. ~ Meher Baba

Meher Baba - Bombay (1929)The relationship between an esoteric teacher and his students is often misunderstood. At one extreme, because of our democratic ideals, westerners believe that a student may make demands on a teacher, or that he may ignore or accept, according to his own wishes, the various practices, methods, and instruction set down by the teacher. At the other extreme it is thought that a student must implicitly believe and blindly obey without questioning all a teacher demands of him. This second view of the disciple/master relationship is largely the result of certain eastern disciplines and a distortion of Christian teachings where faith is emphasized above all other ideals. Neither view is completely wrong or completely right. In the end there are no rules about the student/teacher relationship. It is whatever works for the student and the teacher.

A real teacher of conscious evolution, a teacher who is awakened, represents the spiritual possibilities of his students. An insightful student can learn a lot about himself in the presence of his teacher. Since the teacher is a representative of the student’s higher self, the student’s reactions to the teacher can tell him where he stands in that moment in relation to his own higher self. For instance, if the student feels fear around the teacher, it means that he is afraid of his own higher possibilities; if he is disappointed in the teacher, it means that he is disappointed in his own efforts to achieve a more permanent state of consciousness; if he disregards a teacher’s instruction, then he disregards his own higher self; and if he criticizes the teacher, his criticism undermines his own efforts to reach higher centers. On the other hand, if he is feels love for his teacher, that will also be reflected in his relationship to his higher self.

No one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before. ~ George Gurdjieff

A teacher’s connection the higher centers can provide inspiration and motivation for the student to make efforts to be present and to match the teacher’s presence, but to be in the company of the teacher is not a substitute for the students own inner efforts. The teacher can invigorate the student’s work, but he cannot motivate it. Imagine it this way. The teacher is a source of light. His light penetrates the student and illuminates his inner world. This illumination makes it easy for the student to see himself and to learn how he needs to arrange his inner life. This is all good and proper, but in the long run it is the student’s obligation to generate his own source of light, and not be dependent on the teacher for illumination.

The teacher’s responsibility, and essentially his only responsibility, is to bring out, or feed, the student’s higher possibilities. But teachers are also human, and very few are beyond the need for human relationships. What this means for the student is that he or she must, if it is his or her privilege to have personal relationship with a teacher, to be able to distinguish the man or the woman from the teacher. The student must be able to recognize when he is required to act as a personal friend and when he is required to act as a student. If the student has trouble distinguishing between the two, it is probably better for him to ask to be removed from the teacher’s circle of personal friends and confine himself to a strictly student/teacher relationship.

A teacher who attracts a group of people around him generally has external aims as well as the aim to create consciousness in his students. These aims are often connected to the spread of esoteric ideas or to the development of a particular side or aspect of esotericism. Esotericism can be expressed in many ways, and a teacher will often chose a path that suits his essence, and so students who chose to learn from him are usually required to learn something about the teacher’s specialty. A teacher’s specialty can be very broad, like the whole of human psychology, or specific, like the study of ancient dance. A teacher may also go through phases and study one aspect of esotericism for a time and then move on to another aspect after he feels that he has completed the first field of endeavor to his satisfaction.

Georges GurdjieffIt should also be understood that not all men who develop a permanent connection to higher centers become teachers. Some become artists and express their perception through painting or music or writing. These men are recognizable because their work is more perceptive and often more universal than their peers. Bach, Shakespeare, and Rembrandt, for instance, almost certainly achieved a permanent connection with higher centers. Of course there were many others. It is also likely that others existed whose expressions were lost or who had no external expression. Of course we would not know about such men. Teaching, like painting or music, is a talent that is, to some extent, dependent on essence. Teaching and a connection to higher centers do not necessarily go hand and hand. A man may be an excellent teacher and have only a shallow understanding of esotericism; on the other hand a man may have a deep understanding of esotericism and not have the requisite skills that we normally associate with good teaching.