Teach From Experience
“If a man clothed in beggarly garments should see himself in a vision rich, and on waking from sleep should see himself again poor and naked, so those who utter a Spiritual discourse seem to speak suitable enough, but if they have not the thing they discourse about verified in their mind by tasting and power and personal experience, they stand in a vain show. Or like a woman decked out in silks and arrayed in pearls, who offers herself in a place of ill fame, the heart of these men is a resort of unclean spirits, while they set themselves up to discourse of righteousness, when they have never had a glimpse of the realities.
“A fish cannot live out of the water; no one can walk without feet, or see light without eyes, or speak without a tongue, or hear without ears. So without the Lord Jesus, and the working of divine power, no one can know the mysteries and wisdom of God, or be rich and a Christian. The wise, the warriors, the brave men, the philosophers of God, are those who are led and shepherded in the inner man by the divine power.” ~St. Macarius the Egyptian
Beggar Dressed as a Rich Man
What St. Macarius is saying in the first sentence is that if a poor man who has always been dressed as such, is suddenly dressed as a wealthy man, it doesn’t mean he becomes a wealthy man. While it is nice to say “clothes make the man,” the limited truth behind that old saying will not literally make it true. By the same token, if I find a stethoscope and carry it around with me, it does not make me a medical doctor.
Plato tells a story about Socrates in which a young student is bragging that he had sat with and talked to some of the great philosophers of Greece, therefore, he must now be a great philosopher as well. Socrates replied that he had sat with a group of wealthy men, but it didn’t make him wealthy.
The Spiritual Teacher Who Read Books
St. Macarius is, of course, not concerned with someone pretending to be wealthy or pretending to be a medical doctor. His area of expertise is spiritual knowledge, and that is his area of concern as well. What he is saying is that just as reading a Book such as “Think and Grow Rich” does not, it itself, make one wealthy, so reading a book on spiritual growth doesn’t qualify you to be a spiritual teacher. Even reading several books doesn’t fo that. The person who travels the world and reads ancient spiritual and religious writings from all over the world is a little more qualified, but she still isn’t there. Only the ones who have personally experienced a spiritual awakening, and have continued to grow and become more and more spiritually knowledgeable through experience with the realms of spirit is qualified to be a spiritual teacher. Only through actual experience do you learn the things that are never put into books for concern over the harm that can be done if evil people learn some of these spiritual truths as Hitler did in the WWII period. So the proper teacher will teach from experience.
A Proper Spiritual Teacher
Jesus, Buddha, St. Francis, St. Thomas, Pythagoras, and others were real spiritual teachers. They didn’t teach theories they found written in books or scrolls. They taught what they knew from personal experience. And they taught others that they should learn spiritual truth and wisdom in the same way. Jesus never told anyone to study the Bible and let it be their sole spiritual guide: it didn’t exist yet! But many who claim to be Christians today act as if He did say that. What He actually said, was “follow me, do as you see me do, and you will be saved.” Part of following those instructions is to learn universal truth and wisdom through direct contact with higher dimensions, higher levels of consciousness. That is how all of the great spiritual people did it, that is how we must do it. You teach from experience, not what others tell you. It is not found in any book, no matter how popular the author and no matter how many copies it has sold. In fact, just as McDonald’s Restaurants are not the healthiest and most nutritious because they are the most popular, many of those very popular spiritual books are popular simply because they are the spiritual equivalent of junk food. Like that food that tastes good, but has little nutritional value, those books sound good, and are easy to follow, but do not produce the results. So buy the million-seller books if you want to be part of the popular new-age pretend spirituality, but learn from experience if you want real spiritual wisdom. Teach from experience when you have gained that wisdom.