The Guru Trap and the Golden Shadow
The Guru Trap and the Golden Shadow

Aviv Shahar with Jeff Vander Clute

March 28, 2024

The teacher-student dynamic has been central for the unfolding story of humanity. Although universities began to emerge in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries, the modern education system only developed during the Industrial Revolution, in part for adults to be able to go to work in factories. Modern education focused on exterior knowledge of the physical world and was shaped by scientific orientation. It also included learning and development of skills. These were mostly physical and mental skills that would facilitate participation in the workforce and employability.

What was largely left out of modern education was the interior and the character development journey. Modern education had no capacity to address this need. It was left for the priest, rabbi, lama, and the guru-teacher. The therapist was added later.

Anyone aspiring to deeper self-insight and understanding and the pursuit of perennial wisdom, both in the East and the West, needed to find the teacher and often the community where the quest for truth and self-knowledge could be supported.

Recent decades brought new realizations about the dynamic between a searching student and their spiritual teacher. In this conversation between Aviv Shahar and longtime Portals friend Jeff Vander Clute, author of Beyond Every Teaching, they trace the teacher’s journey, the identification trap for both teacher and student, and the golden shadow phenomenon. They also are reflecting on the kinds of ethical evolutionary communities that are arising now to address these challenges.

These ponders come at a critical time. We’ve explored on Portals the post-guru quest and the search for truth as new creative capacities come online with the activation of Homo Universalis, the universal human. We can integrate with the new incoming evolutionary impulse as self-authored and self-responsible — our own pathfinders with the help of others around us.

Among their insights:

  • If the teacher identifies with the students’ love and admiration, or with their criticism, they begin to be more attuned to their students rather than the original purpose or the ineffable source.
  • A pathology of communities that decide to do away with teachers is to bounce to the other side of the polarity and not adopt any form of internal structure.
  • We are in the post-guru phase and the resolution of the story is that the collective — the mutualized ecology and distributed body of people that we are — can become the teaching agency.
  • This is about us as human beings learning to handle power safely before we can become universalized, where the power levels intensify; we go through many tests in our life and experience.
  • For as long as we are in the flesh, we will have unfinished business that needs tending to, whatever the degree of enlightenment, even of a teacher. Nobody is exonerated.

This conversation is part of the continuing Portals discovery into what is emerging on the frontiers of human experience in this time of profound change. Information about upcoming special events can be found on the Events page. Also visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

We are each self-responsible — fully responsible to take ownership of our own self-regulation, to become agentic, to have agency. In our own self-alignment, there is no one person who holds the truth and knows better than you what's right for you. This is central to the ethos of a more enlightened way to approach an endeavor.

Aviv Shahar

Jeff Vander Clute

Jeff Vander Clute

Jeff Vander Clute coaches and consults, teaches, writes, and leads travel journeys.

He is a co-founder of Sourcing The Way, Enlightening Journeys and Expeditions, and The Consciousness of Money.

Jeff is also a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle and he serves on the board of directors for Alliance for the Earth and Source of Synergy Foundation (previous chair).

Visit: Beyond Every Teaching

Aviv Shahar

Aviv Shahar

Aviv serves as the Portals' sherpa. He curates transformational journeys and is a storyteller of the epochal evolution culminating at this time.

Aviv is the Founder of Aviv Consulting, helping leaders unleash strategic innovation, and is the author of Create New Futures: How Leaders Produce Breakthroughs and Transform the World Through Conversation.

Visit: Aviv Consulting