The Teacher’s Journey, the Guru Trap, and the Golden Shadow
The Teacher’s Journey, the Guru Trap, and the Golden Shadow

Aviv Shahar

April 5, 2024
Portals Into the Soul Event

Note from Aviv: This trace is published in draft form. Because of the compound nature of the inquiry about the teacher’s journey, the endeavor is to describe an inclusive archetypal story. I welcome your reflections, insights, and suggestions as we continue to refine and evolve our understandings of the multifaceted and nuanced dynamics described here. Please write to me at PortalsofPerception @

Our inquiry: How would you describe the archetypal teacher’s journey, the guru trap, and the golden shadow?

This article seeks to answer these questions and put a magnifying glass on the teacher-student subtle dynamics, including the profound possibilities they unlock, and the often-unrecognized challenges that can emerge, which we describe as the guru-student trap and the golden shadow.

The Epochal Shift

From the earliest times people have been captivated by great teachers, awakened souls, healing priests, enlightened agents of truth and wisdom, and pathfinders of the greater human potential. These pathfinding teachers offered revelation, healing transmissions, connective pathways, ecologies of discovery, and access to transformation, elevated states and experiences, and a sense of the infinite. They offered guidance and teaching through dialogue, meditation, inspired art, and shared communion and transmission towards the prospects of spiritual significance, development, and enlightenment. These include practical tools and maps, and unitive experiences with luminescent presences, deities, and divine sources.

Humanity is forever indebted to those daring illumined pathfinders, both from the East and the West, who often overcame extreme obstacles to discover a path and lead into groundbreaking frontiers of consciousness, bringing light, goodness, wisdom, truth, and beauty.

For several centuries Eastern and Western traditions, practices, and mystery schools have interfaced and influenced each other. This reached in the second half of the 20th century a point of greater convergence and integration, especially with Eastern teaching becoming popularized in the West. Curiously, the convergence of East and West was reaching this point exactly as humanity was readying to enter a dramatic phase-shift transition.

The phase-shift accelerated in the 1990s. Along with the personal computing revolution and accelerated global connectivity, just as the West thought it had won the Cold War and Fukuyama announced the end of history, below the surface much was shape-shifting. It was a tale reflecting the adage that when a person or a company is celebrated in Time magazine, it is often exactly when they have reached the peak point of their “bull market” and are ready to begin a decline. So is the case, in retrospect, with Western and US domination of the late 90s.

The global socio-economic paradigm produced by the modern project over several centuries was beginning to unwind by the early 2000s. This broader context — which we describe in the Epoch Culmination trace as a transition from the Blue modern operating system into an Indigo—Violet crucible of change — is not the focus of this writing, but it does serve as an important background scenery and context.

Humanity is transitioning from an epoch that is ending to a new epoch onsetting. Essential to the journey are the greater possibility of human development in its broadest spiritual significance and the emergence of new knowledge.

Without unlocking new ways, maturing capacities and vehicles of development to facilitate the evolution of the interior, the inter-person, the communal, and the gathering of people in small- and mid-size scales, where and how will new modes of leadership arise — a leadership that’s capable of solving the intractable wicked problems humanity faces?

The focus of the teacher’s journey inquiry concerns therefore updating the possibilities of the teacher-student dynamic inside the context of the bigger epochal shift underway.


There is a need to examine what has served humanity in the past, and the new requirements and challenges that must now be addressed to facilitate the maturation of an ethically robust and healthy development. It’s a journey that will give rise to and liberate new capacities and capabilities and facilitate new generations of teachers, healers, journey guides, transformation coaches and leaders, and midwives of the greater universal human project.

Inside this examination we ask, what are the archetypal patterns, the pathologies, and the growth opportunities for both the student and the teacher? How are we to evolve the ways of a spiritual and religious journey at this time of change? In what ways are we prepared to rediscover and update our affair with the sacred?

In this exposition we slow down the conversation to become diagnostic on the conscious and unconscious micro-moves that unfold in the teacher-student journey. We hope that by growing our awareness to these subtle dimensions we can bring about a more balanced, mature, and ethical development between students and teachers in spiritual endeavors.

A storyline location: This writing follows the Portals conversation The Guru Trap and the Golden Shadow, between Aviv Shahar and Jeff Vander Clute, recorded in September 2023. The conversation occurred after a four-day virtual event with a global community of spiritual seekers (The Epoch Journey network), many having 30- to 40-years of experience in spiritual communities in different countries. The event delved into both exterior and interior dimensions, including the understanding of the soul, the ghost behavior of the soul, and how the ghost (sometimes referred to as shadow) expresses itself in a person’s life and also in communal endeavors.

In the individual context, the insight of the ghost offered a reframed appreciation of shadow patterns, in the understanding that the soul psychology develops a compensatory act, seeking to reunite with the natural “as was meant to be” quality and essence it has been separated from.

This process was described in the conversation The Ghost and The Inner Conclave between Aviv and Jeff and is now more deeply and thoroughly explored in the Portals Into the Soul series.


The Teacher’s Journey from the Epicenter to the Hypocenter

Let us trace the teacher’s journey by contemplating an imaginary archetypal story of the path of becoming a teacher. Before there was a teacher there was a seeker, a searcher for truth, meaning, and the possibility of higher knowledge. To appreciate the journey of the searcher becoming a teacher, we borrow the understanding of the earthquakes’ epicenter and hypocenter.

In any major earthquake we hear about, there is an epicenter, the point on the earth's surface where the tremor is most felt; where the earthquake has released and manifested its power. Then, there is the hypocenter, a place deep down below the tectonic plates, where the stored energy originated and was first released. The hypocenter is the energetic source of the earthquake. We use this image to invite the contemplation that in most phenomena there is an epicenter, where the forces of life manifest, and a hypocenter, the originating source, deep inside the earth, or deep inside somewhere else in the universe.

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Consider the archetypal journey of the teacher. Imagine the teacher was once an inspired pilgrim on a quest, hoping and searching to travel from the epicenter — where they experience the drama of life with its ups and downs, confusion and excitement, temptation and turmoil — towards discovering the hypocenter, the point where life originates. They yearned to make direct contact, to commune with the core of it all, to find an ultimate, ineffable source.

Then, as they embarked on the journey in the search of knowledge, truth, meaning, and wisdom, the journey itself began to fashion them. Some search alone, on their own, at times through extreme physical hardship. soul c Some inquire by following great teachers, or as part of a communal endeavor, through meditation, prayer, or inquiry; through whatever tradition inspired the pilgrim’s search.

Along the journey, they develop an insisting petitional focus, leading to a first contact. A subtle, invisible presence responds. The pilgrim begins to sense and experience nearness to new perceptions, truth, essence, the origin, and the source of a bigger process. Their devotional petition to connect with the source molds them as a vessel for it, which summons the source to reveal itself, to impart initial revelations, vitality, essence, and power.

As the pilgrim persists in their journey, transforming in the presence of the source, the source begins to permeate and fashion their inner formation, recasting the pilgrim in its image. It is this singular devotional intent of the pilgrim that is the catalyst of the connection, the unfolding development, and the molding process.

Imagine the source, an invisible presence or essence or deity that has in its own way been waiting, perhaps for a very long time. It now quivers and is caused to respond to the radiance and singularity of the pilgrim’s intention. An initiatory engagement and a process of fashioning with source have been quickened.

The pilgrim is instructed by the essence and is being fashioned in its image. The luminous presence of the source begins to imbue them on the inside. student2She or he may still carry all the eccentricities of human life, and even as they have not necessarily resolved all their pains and struggles, there is now a luminous presence that begins to join with and permeate them. Their soul, mind, and being are immersed in a communion with an invisible essence that shapes them.

The presence, essence, and divine source, emanates through them, as a feeling, a form of inner knowing, a connection, a luminous sense and somatic experience, an enhanced blissful state of possibility.

At this point, they feel it on the inside; it is a purely interior personal experience that is yet to be confirmed and validated.



The Choice and the Teacher’s Second Journey

The pilgrim enters a transformation crucible with the essence they are attuning to, which brings them to an emerging choice point. First was the journey to discover and contact the ineffable source, the deity they yearned for, the infinite, where their petition summoned a response that imparted revelation, special blessing and enhancement, and elevated knowing. As the discovery and revelation ripen, the pilgrim now faces an intensifying inner pressure, nudging them towards a choice threshold.

They are confronted with the decision: Do I stay in containment, in the isolation of my own private struggle and blissful discovery, endeavoring to foster the presence of source, to become even more illumined? Or do I travel back to the epicenter, to grow the light within while serving and working to propagate it in the world?

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Remember, we are describing an idealized archetypal version of the teacher’s journey. The pilgrim decides to return to the epicenter, the busy theater of life — its brimming noise and possibility, turmoil and excitement — and to interact with people, while growing the light of the essence source on the inside. They realize to serve as an enlightened teacher, a second journey must be fashioned.

First, there was a lonely search which led them to being found and being filled with some of the glow of an ineffable essence source. student 3Now, to bring the source to fuller realization, the teacher must go through a second transformation.

This second journey requires them to codify their experience and fashion the revelation — the essence that turned up with them — into a transferable media. It may take the form of codified language, initiatory teaching, a set of lessons, meditative or somatic practices, a form of art, and whatever would make it transferable for acquiring students.

At this point it becomes evident that the original petition of the pilgrim activated a purpose. The purpose has now gathered people around the teacher. The teacher’s initiatory process is being fashioned into a transferable teaching product, as the expression of source. There are now four octaves of process at play:

  • the ineffable source
  • the teacher’s formative journey and discovery
  • the product knowledge and teaching coming out of the teacher
  • the people gathering around this body of work and the teacher, hoping, and yearning to be in contact with the source

This archetypal story emerged throughout the ages, in both Eastern traditions in their great variety of schools and teachings, and in Western traditions of mystery schools and initiatory paths. The nature of the revelations and the specifics in terms of conduct and ways vary, all while the core patterns reemerge.


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The Students’ Syphoning Effect and Projected Golden Shadow

Students gather around the teacher, in part hoping to fill an inner void and a sense of yearning to abide with or near a higher presence: to enter a communion with the infinite, and be touched by the essence, power, charisma, and instruction afforded in the ecology they together create.

As students gather, the teacher's revelation and connection and the source are validated, and the teacher’s charisma expands.

The students bring their hopes and aspirations, struggles and inquiries. These inquiries facilitate a syphoning effect, a process of induction from source.

As a result, more of the emanatory essence of source now finds the teacher. The teacher loves this circumstance, as it compels him/her to clarify and evolve their revelation and augment their communion with the essence — the source of their vitality and inspiration.

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The energetic dimensions of these dynamics are subtle, profound, and potent. Through the teacher, the students feel and intuit what they’ve longed for consciously or unconsciously. They hoped to find and join a source that will impart well-being and awaken a sense of aliveness. They yearned to find healing solace and redeeming grace. They now experience this aliveness and grace near the teacher.

The teacher’s presence awakens the students to these deeper yearnings, the desire to have communion with a divine source, to thereby unlock their own true nature and potential, guru5 which they sense are increasingly reachable near and through the teacher.

As described in The Ghost and the Inner Conclave conversation and further in the Portals Into the Soul series, because all people experience separation from their natural essence configuration, many walk through life seeking to rejoin their higher nature.

Searchers throughout the ages all over the world, time and again, yearningly intuit the possibility of a blissful state, one they sensed earlier on. Some seek to find it through music, dance, and art. Some search for it outdoors, with the elements, at the top of a mountain, near a beautiful lake. Some experience it in moments of blissful love. Some seek it through intense workouts or extreme sports. Some find the possibility of access to their higher communion through a teacher. These different paths are not identical. The common thread, however, is a yearning to touch and experience a sense of the beyond and the in-between, to feel and come to know an infinite unseen vibrant actuality.

The teacher, who initially was singularly in communion with source, which afforded purpose and power, now begins to deal for the first time with the content of the students’ projection, and what this content activates and powers in them.

The students project love and admiration, and the desire to get closer. They project all the qualities they seek and hope to find in themselves: inspiration, vitality, presence, strength, brilliance, flow, intimacy, care, endless endurance, healing grace, and unique qualities they were separated from.

At this point, one more thing happens to the students. Initially, they were enchanted by the teacher’s presence, story, and journey. As a result, they instinctively sought to emulate the original petition that brought the teacher into contact with the divine source.

The teacher’s journey fashioned an inner attunement and surrender to this essence source. Now the students emulate that stance by presenting their initial surrender and attunement to the teacher’s instruction. guru6This posture and attitude of mind carry an important formative function: it facilitates the formation of foundational linings and connection, thereby enabling and augmenting transmission and flow.

A special mid-journey note: This is where the teacher-student dynamics can become delicately tricky. As the teacher imparts knowledge, inspiration, and the imbuing radiance of source, the process opens and activates new dimensions and possibilities, as well as risks and perils, that often test both the teacher and the student.

As the teacher-student discovery process evolves, teachers and spiritual communities are faced with needing to find safe and ethical ways to manage and guarantee the subtle and intimate dynamics of transference and projection. When the natural mechanics of this process are misunderstood, they can be confusing and misused. Genuine, safe, and ethical ways can be found through clear understanding and appreciation of the teacher-student dynamics to safeguard against harm and abuse.

In Eastern and Western traditions, forms of surrendering conduct to the teacher’s instruction were integral to the student’s experience. The esoteric reason for encouraging the path of acquiescent surrender to instruction was to facilitate the inner formation and sentiments of trust and faith that are essential for transmission and transference.

The identification blind spot and trap that often emerge in these experiences, with both the student and the teacher, are where the perils and pathologies also happen to arise.

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The ineffable essence, perfect and complete unto itself, awakens in the students their dormant hopes and desires, including the idealized versions of themselves — the highest forms of their disowned finer, connective, and creative parts. These are now projected at the teacher and become a golden shadow around the teacher.

Quite simply, the students’ instinctive openness, yearning desire, and hope conflate the perfect nature they intuit about the ineffable source. They see and project the teacher to be this divine perfection. The counter-transference of their love and admiration creates the golden shadow.

So far, so good. However, if all involved are not discerningly wise, the perils inherent in the student-guru dual trap enter the scene.


The Students and the Teacher are Humans on a Journey


As the students validate through their inner devotion the perfect nature of source, they tend to put the teacher on a pedestal. Pedestalling the teacher in their projections can become arresting and fixing both for the students and the teacher.

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This insight and awareness are essential to disarm the inevitable realization that the teacher is in fact human. Most likely, s/he is an eccentric human, still on a refinement and discovery journey themselves, seeking to recognize their blind spots, integrate more of themselves, and alleviate their pain and struggle.

A healthy realization is that for as long as we are in the flesh, we have unfinished work to attend to. Nobody is exonerated or absolved from continuing to do the work of inner refinement of attending to and examining their reasons, tenets, beliefs, and ways — even an enlightened teacher.

In fact, the trap we are about to describe is ever present, unless we continually work to illuminate, release, heal, and integrate the ghost patterns and shadows we each carry simply by being human. Even when we feel that we have worked through all our disowned content, there will always be more that will come to the surface as power and intensity grow. Hence the idea that for as long as one is in the flesh there is refinement and integration work to cultivate.

What is the universal design in this process? Why do we consider the need to continue to attend to refinement and integration to be a grace accompanying the development journey?

This is an inquiry we will explore more fully in the Portals Into the Soul work.

The essence of the human journey is about learning to handle power safely, all forms of power. In this, the teacher and the students are forever humans on a journey, forever discovering their next levels of refinement and development integration. This is a universal design feature, built into the planetary journey. Nothing is ever fully revealed in one go. Every development and capacity building opens the way to further developments and elevations. Before we can become universalized, where the power levels intensify even more, the human journey on Earth is an initiatory bootcamp to facilitate this learning and development. 

For our purpose here, let us try to imagine the flying upside-down view that sees the human from the perspective of the universe. Let us imagine the universe in its interior dimensions contains increasing levels of refinement, presence, luminosity, and power. Then, let us consider that the initiatory bootcamp of the human planetary journey entails learning and developing a greater capacity to manage increasing levels of power safely. 

We can now appreciate through these lenses all the many tests and challenges a human on a journey is caused to face. The development journey is a character-forming initiation to universal life, to become safe for the universe to afford the human increasing revelation, capacity, and power. guru7

Imagine the universe saying to you along your journey: “Well, so you are intimating you’re ready. We are therefore going to raise the intensity and ratchet up the amperage a little bit for you, to validate and confirm your readiness inside the presence of an even greater field of power.”

Evolving through testing steps is present in our life experience in every domain; for example, in the way we go through tests in any educational institution or working environment or in the Air Force where I was trained. First, you qualify for certain responsibilities, then they are given to you. By demonstrating that you are safe with that responsibility, you are given the next responsibility.

In actuality, we often step into a level of responsibility that we are almost ready for, but not quite. We learn to ride the bike by riding a bike. That’s the nature of the initiatory journey. It is learning by applying and becoming by practicing.

An intentional purposeful journey is one where we are attuned to and consciously step into development opportunities. By exposing ourselves to new responsibilities and challenges, we are called to further refine and illuminate what we have yet to see about ourselves.


The Student’s Trap and The Disillusionment Crisis

Let’s reflect on the student’s trap. As the students draw nearer to the teacher, they discover the teacher is a human being — an imperfect, possibly eccentric, quirky human. If they were not a little bit eccentric, it is unlikely they would have embarked on the journey in the first place. The students now see for the first time that the teacher is not the perfect ineffable source and cannot match the projected golden shadow. This realization leads to a disillusionment crisis.

The process of disillusionment is an archetypal feature of the human experience. It appears also in the child-parent relationship. As children, we all experienced a moment, hopefully a little later than earlier, when it dawned on us that our father and mother were human beings, too, with their own flaws and weaknesses. In this sense, disillusionment is natural and integral to the maturation process. The process of disillusionment and disenchantment catalyzes the melting of outdated maps of meaning we held as children, and initiates the integration of updated ways of seeing the world.

In the teacher-student dynamic, the disillusionment phase represents a point of maturing readiness, and affords the student an opportunity to realize the qualities they projected onto the teacher can now be reintegrated to their own work.

The student’s work in this is to metabolize this disappointment into a development fuel, and in the process become self-regulating, self-authoring, self-responsible, and agentic. They now realize that finding their own sovereignty involves disarming and reintegrating their shadows and ghost patterns, releasing in the process earlier expectations the teacher will do it for them.

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To survive the disillusionment crisis, the student must develop their own center of gravity and generate a self-arising agentic application. We can use the metaphor of a moon evolving into a planet and further into a sun. Initially, the student (moon) reflected the light of the teacher (sun). Now they must become a planet capable of metabolizing and transforming light for growth, until they are ready to become a sun themselves. Along this transition the student develops their own agency.


Thus, the genuflecting surrender can now be transmogrified into a respectful, more balanced relationship, where the student is not abdicating responsibility, and is not giving away their power. We will shortly reflect on what the teacher can do to enable and encourage this step, and why at times the teacher, because of their blind spot, becomes an obstacle for the student’s natural liberation.

In some cases, when students recognize the human flaws and imperfections of the teacher, they use disappointment to rationalize rejecting the teacher. This rejection may be a necessary outlet as part of an individuation process.

Often, though, rejection is merely the polarity of an earlier genuflecting surrender before the student is ready to fully develop their own integration. Such polar reaction doesn’t guarantee a wholesome individuation.

Some students may go through this painful, confusing process in an extreme fashion, rejecting everything they’ve experienced. They may become angry, not just with the teacher, but with themselves. You'll hear phrases such as, “the teacher is a jerk; I’m never coming back”. In the moment they may not be able to discern that this is a form of polarized reaction. At a later stage they may come to see the rejection was a form of bypassing. This kind of interior metabolizing is an element of reclaiming power and taking responsibility for your own development.


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Deep work on one’s shadow (ghost patterns) reveals that becoming upset and angry can be a mechanism for the student to convert the energy of disillusionment and dismay into rejection of what they are not ready to sublimate and distill. In this sense, rejecting the teacher may be a necessary step until the student is ready to more fully take on the self-authoring, self-regulating integration work. We will get to the teacher's part and responsibility in this dynamic below.

As there may have been a bypass inside the uplift of finding communion in the teacher’s presence, there may also be a bypass in the crash of disenchantment and then rejection. The not so easy, wise approach is to never waste a development crisis; embrace the pain and use it as a fuel for ensoulment work and character building.

This painful phase can be messy and often is not managed well, with the student initially rejecting not just the teacher, but also their own devotional content and any new knowledge they have acquired, aborting in the process their own development pursuit. Through this bewildering experience the student may lose access to beautifully luminous part of their own experience.

The teacher can make this even more difficult as they struggle with their own blind spot, pride, defensiveness, and more, aggravating further the students resentment, and inadvertently adding a necessary fuel, which helps the student produce a needed escape velocity.

There are also students who find a path of integration, where disillusionment is metabolized compassionately and lovingly, ripening into a self-authoring process that frees them up to release and subtly encourage the teacher to his/her own next refinement and evolution. Instead of focusing on rejecting the teacher, they work on their own agentic self-insight and development, and embrace their own communion with source. It is through this endeavor and its struggle and blessings that they find compassion to absolve both themselves and the teacher. guru9

As the student transmogrifies anguish into a deeper connection with the ineffabale source, he/she often sets upon the path of becoming a teacher. In the process, they expand their perspective and the ability to embody compassion and the promise of the human possibility.

Enlightened communities will encourage agentic ripening in the first place, as the natural path of development and maturation. That is the bigger point of any enlightened spiritual teaching: not to center on the teacher, but rather cultivate the work and liberate the ecology to help each individual to emerge as their own fully agentic, powerful, and luminescent spirit.

There are of course many situations where a symbiotic scenario has developed; where the teacher and the students preserve over a long period of time a subtle form of dependency and codependency, each for their own reasons. The students prefer to not take full responsibility for the trials and tribulations of individuation, all as the teacher may be caught up in the golden shadow imprint and their unfinished business.

This scenario can often be entangled also in an economic model and its issues, where the teacher has become dependent on the students as much as they are dependent on the teacher.

In enlightened communities there is a special emphasis on practices that encourage each person to become fully agentic, self-regulating, and self-authoring, whilst also being open to insights, revelation, and transmission from everyone around. In mature gatherings, revelation and connective communion and flow can emerge through anyone participating in the conversation. We will say more about this below in the new ecosystem of distributed leadership processes.


The Guru Trap

Let us proceed now to describe an archetypal pattern of the teacher’s struggle with the guru trap. As the students project their love and admiration, the teacher struggles to differentiate between the counter-transference of the students' projections and the initial flow originating with the source.

Strangely, and fantastically, while they are fundamentally different, they bring adjacent natures that get mixed up.

The ineffable source brought glow, love, intimacy of communion, and flow of tremendous vitality. These natures get augmented in the exchange with the students, and are then reflected back, somewhat like the moon reflects sunlight.

Let us for a moment slow down the story to retrace what happened. First, the students’ openness and interest augmented the flow from the essence source and facilitated a larger dispensation field. The initial transmission from the source has, through the syphoning of the students’ petition, become even more potent, more versatile, and more overflowing.

Then, these natures begin to get mixed with the projected veneration. The teacher now begins to struggle, especially if they identify with the story enveloped in the love, belief, and admiration of the students and the golden shadow it creates.

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The teacher initially felt called to serve as a conduit and a medium of the subtle blessing realms of essences and presences, assisting the students to find the source for themselves. The problem ensues as the students identify the source of light with the teacher and put the teacher on a pedestal, when as a result the teacher begins to internalize this same identification (golden shadow), believing him/herself to be a larger-than-life eternal source of light.

In one way they are, of course, right; each person is a carrier of an eternal source of light. In another way, the identification trap occurs when the teacher forgets to remember their own initiation and begins to believe their students, thinking they are the savioral grace of the world. As this displacement thickens, the teacher's attunement shifts, supplanting their love of source with the growing attachment to the golden shadow projected onto them from the students. This gradually closes them off to the pure signal of the ineffable source that uplifted them in the first place.

First the students supplanted the luminescent source with the teacher. Now as the teacher begins to believe the story, it feeds into their own unfinished business, and powers their disowned and fragmented parts.

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This is when the ineffable source itself begins to back off as the teacher’s attunement and capacity weakens and loses fidelity and efficacy. At first the teacher offered the humility of their own reverence to source — the infinite, deity, essence, emanatory presence. Now, having experienced the veneration of the students and its embrace, if the teacher is not even more deeply devoted to the cause that got them on their journey, they can believe the love of the students is a personalized love directed at them, not remembering it was catalyzed by an unseen presence that envelops them.

The subtleties of these dynamics are nuanced because they do not occur merely as concepts or ideas. They involve subtle and potent psycho-activating bio-energetic process dimensions. In the presence of these potentized ecologies, whatever is not well grounded, sorted, and resolved, and is tangentially out of balance with the teacher, can get magnified and powered. A small shadow can quickly become a larger shadow.

The students’ veneration created the golden shadow. The teacher is blinded by the golden shadow and begins to believe and fall in love with their own brilliance, which becomes the guru trap, confusing and jeopardizing their attunement to source.

The teacher’s struggle with the guru trap in identifying with both sides of the polarity being projected. At one end students project love, admiration, and veneration; at the other end, there is criticism, fault-finding, and resentment. Identifying and personalizing any side of the continuum, without internally working to separate what is theirs to integrate, can confuse the purpose and mission they’ve devotionally committed to serve.

In all spiritual communities, including all the major religions, the teacher, the priest, the rabbi, the lama, the shaman, all need to decide, time and again: Do I enroll myself deeper in the journey that catalyzed my initial inspiration? Or have I made the mistake of identifying with the love and admiration I am receiving from the people around me, replacing the original connection and substituting it with the golden shadow?

Any spiritual teacher — even the great ones we might think of as completely infallible representatives of the absolute — will face a point where with enough fame, projected love, and glorification, whatever little, microscopic, unresolved egoic bit in them gets magnified. This by itself is not a failure and not a “sin,” but rather an opportunity for the teacher to attend to the unfinished work they must integrate and 11

Communities function as magnifying lenses. Many teachers fall into the guru trap during their careers in a sad story that repeats itself too often. It can be quite disheartening for their communities to realize their teacher was never perfect.

We can all grow our awareness in our relationship with teachers. Teachers themselves are forever still students, and a work-in-progress developing human.

The guru trap is one case in point in the struggle to metabolize the extra power and charisma projected by others. A similar syndrome is at play in leadership and influence scenarios and, most visibly, with celebrated artists, singers, and athletes. Often, they were inspired by a vision or a muse and then gathered around them a large following, only to discover that they do not have the inner formation and capacity to metabolize the adulation of their fans.

There are psychological, character, and even neuro-biological dimensions to this. The human nervous system never evolved to metabolize the power afforded and projected by many millions of people. In the case of the artist, they often discover that their refuge is in staying connected to their muse; in the case of a leader, it’s deepening their roots in the cause they aspire to serve.

In the Ghost and The Inner Conclave and further in Portals Into the Soul, we focused on the personal journey to discover the compensatory ghost patterns, in which the fixation arises with one’s soul in its desire to rejoin source. Here, in this exploration, we focused on the adjacent ghost and shadow patterns that can emerge inside a community, between students and teachers.

The third and fourth dimensions that remain almost out of touch for most, but that we now need to integrate into our inquiry, are the shadow elements in the relationship between self and power, and self and the sacred (the sacred being a special case within the broader study of power). These are the next frontiers of work, discovering and disarming the limiting patterns that haunt humanity, and that we still bring to our association with these realms.

What if the diaphanous luminous realms of the sacred do not need us humans to be genuflecting? What if they depend on us as much as we depend on them, in which they need us to be no less than full partners?


A New Ecosystem of a Distributed Agentic Process

To overcome the guru and the student traps, the ecosystem needs to evolve a distributed process and an ecology that supports self-arising, self-regulating, self-authoring, and self-directing agentic mutuality of purpose. On this journey, self-authoring can become a genuine process of ensoulment, where the ensouling endeavor is how we humans spiritualize the universe.
We spiritualize the universe because by doing the ensouling work of making ourselves safe vessels — for ourselves, for each other, and for the sacred — we liberate dimensions of the sacred that can only be revealed through our human participation.

The sacred can only feel safe with us to the degree that we are safe with ourselves and with each other, or else the sacred retreats because we represent an unreliable and contaminating ecology for it.

This awareness is not meant in a puritanical tone, but in the sense that we are by design tasked to be forever refining and evolving our sentiments, character, and the values we embody. This again is the realization that as long as we are in the flesh we have work to do. We are each a work in progress all the way through to the other side of the veil.

What follows is a minimalistic visual descriptor for a distributed mutualized scenario, where a replica of the ineffable essence source, depicted by the candlelight, is present inside each person.


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This is not to suggest that everybody is in the same place or that we don’t need teachers. In fact, a pathology that may arise is when a gathering decides to completely do away with and reject any possibility of a process guide or sherpa. The gathering then bounces to the other side of the polarity, where there is no permission even for an emergent internal structure, in the fear that structure leads to what they’ve historically recognized as arresting or misusing of leadership power. The result is a flat-earth equality collective shadow pattern, a form of non-structure structure, that has captured the proceeding and is subtly being enforced. This again is a difference between reaction and integration.

Typically, in scenarios where there is no distribution of power, no roles and no functions, the ghost dimensions and shadow elements express themselves in other ways. In the absence of real structure, what often ensues is a hidden power structure that shapes and manipulates the dynamics, which is as pathological as anything else.

Part of the remedy can be imagined in a facilitative ecology of multiple shape-shifting functions, where the dynamics enable mobility of people who get to experience a variety of roles and functional capacities. In such a distributed mutualized leadership facilitation scenario, there are journey guides, healers, and instructors of a particular kind of art or domain. One person guides a somatic attunement discovery process. Another codifies an insight. A third crew of people facilitates an outdoor activity, and then as the gathering moves to the kitchen to cook together, someone else leads the proceedings because they have better know-how in that space.

Imagine a mutualized ecology of practitioners, all together on a journey of realizing the greater luminous possibility of human life. guru11

The opportunity is to create liberating, rather than limiting, structures, because we have reached a point collectively in our evolution as humankind where we need new organizing principles.

We are in the process of waking up to what it means to be connected universal humans — a distributed mutualized agency of self-authored individuals embracing the shared cause of liberating the spiritual significance and potential of all people involved.

In this the keys to personal wellbeing are merged with the possibility of planetary wellbeing, and the wisdom to steward this global village we inhabit to its greater universal potential.

The search and the practice are to cultivate and bring to life experimental scenarios to facilitate our maturation as a species through the shift underway.


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