Leaving a Spiritual Teacher or Path
Persons transitioning from the “culture of embeddedness” with their teachers into more independent functioning often seek psychotherapeutic help (Bogart, 1992) . Vaughan (1987) reports that many individuals who have left destructive spiritual teachers reported that the experience ultimately contributed to their wisdom and maturity through meeting the challenge of restoring their integrity. One such case was described by Bogart (1992):
Robert had spent 8 years as the disciple of a teacher from an Asian tradition that emphasized surrender and obedience. Robert had become one of the teacher’s attendants, and reported that he “Loved the teacher very much.” Yet there were difficulties. The guru frequently embarrassed Robert publicly, humiliating him in front of large classes and castigating him for incompetence. He even physically beat Robert in private. But Robert didn’t rebel and hoped that by continuing to remain under the teacher’s guidance, he might yet win great praise, confirmation, or sponsorship from his mentor that would enable him to advance spiritually.
Robert left the community after the guru’s sexual and financial misconduct were revealed. Upon leaving, he had intense and at times even paralyzing feelings of betrayal, anger, fear, worthlessness and guilt. Robert went into psychotherapy with a spiritually sensitive therapist. Later in psychotherapy, he realized that his relationship with the guru replicated his relationship with his father–an angry alcoholic who had humiliated and physically injured Robert, but whose approval he had nevertheless sought. He also worked on major issues around establishing a life outside the structure of the spiritual community and integrating his spiritual beliefs and practices into this new life. (adapted from pp. 4-5, 16-17)