Does the source of spiritual insight have to be authentic in order for it to have a genuine impact on our lives? Why are we so scared of being duped?

I am currently reading A Course In Miracles (ACIM), and was given an earlier, less edited version than the one originally published in 1976. For those who are not familiar, ACIM was written by Columbia professor Helen Schucman who claimed to be a conduit of sorts for the voice of Jesus. The preface of the less edited version addresses the concern of fraud: If later versions were significantly changed, does this call into question the authenticity of Schucman’s spiritual revelation?

Obviously it is unfortunate when some shyster swindles people out of their money or possessions, or otherwise has some terrible impact on their lives. But what about circumstances in which little was sacrificed and much was gained? For example, what if Helen Schucman was a willing co-conspirator in a massive con, or she was tricked, or she was just crazy? What then? Does it mean that the spiritual journeys of all of the people who resonated with the work become invalidated?

From a purely consequentialist perspective it seems acceptable to follow a spiritual figure, even if the sincerity, or the origins of the message remain dubious. This is as long as the costs of doing so do not outweigh the benefits. If you really resonate with a message or an idea, and your life is made better for it, why worry about its authenticity?

Perhaps what this gets down to, then, is the desire for respect. If someone tricks you, they are not respecting you as a fellow human being who deserves to maintain a certain level of dignity. But perhaps we should be careful when applying this maxim here.

For one, if the search for verification in any way stems from a fear of being disrespected, we might want to ask why the need for respect is so important in this instance.  This is especially true when the fear overshadows the joy we could otherwise glean from the experience if we just relaxed. Maybe the desire for respect from others should not trump the possibility for positive transformation of our worldviews.

For another, it is perhaps problematic to actively search for verification of a spiritual doctrine when its authenticity is unclear, because the spiritual revelations of others will never be verifiable. We can never really know the truth of another’s experience because we are bound to our own perspectives of the world.

If we have doubts, and they are strong enough to hinder our ability to gain from a spiritual message, perhaps it makes sense to abandon that particular line of thinking. If we find ourselves exerting exhausting effort in order to falsify an idea, maybe it is time to examine whether or not the idea is really for us. If, however, we have doubts, but the teaching has the potential to improve our lives, or the well-being of humanity in general, why not allow it to enrich our experiences of the world?  

What do you think? Does a spiritual teaching have to be authentic in order to benefit from it?


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