In the Book of Mirdad, there’s an opening story of a young man who makes a trek up a mountain. Along the way he is accosted by people who steal, and strip him of his food, clothing and comfort. The whole story is allegory to the spiritual path, of letting go of fetters that hold us back and being willing to move forward with nothing but our bare nature. Yet there’s another lesson here, the lesson of the unique, individual path.

Many people seek spiritual knowledge today. They look for spiritual guidance in books, lecturers, societies, teachers and masters. While knowledge can be powerful, if another person’s knowledge becomes the path of an individual, then that person has voluntarily given up personal gnosis for the gnosis of another. This is problematic as the path itself must be found and traversed by each individual.

Imagine if the seeker in the Book of Mirdad, met someone who said, “ok I’ve been to the top of the mountain, I encountered a shepherd who stole my food… you’ll want to avoid him. There’s also a woman and her daughter who stole my clothes on this other section of the path, so here’s how you avoid them. Also, when I camped, an elderly couple took my shelter from me, so you’ll want to bypass them…” If one were to follow that advice, it may seem helpful at first. After all the seeker is being told how to best avoid the pitfalls and traps. Unfortunately it is those very challenges that are part of the path! If the main character were to avoid all these challenges, they would arrive at the top of the mountain, yet not be ready for the spiritual work, as nothing was overcome.

In this way, each of us are carving our own path up the mountain. Each of us will have our own pitfalls, and our own helpful resolutions to these issues. This is why it is a disservice to claim one person’s spiritual medicine a poison, or to infer that the way you walked the path is the only viable one available. I have a very hard time dismissing the path and work of others. Who am I to judge the spiritual practices of another? What if what they are doing is what they need to do to climb their mountain?

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