5 Spiritual Teachers

An Interview Series by Elizabeth Marglin

For those with sensitive ears, the very title of this article will be problematic. What does it mean to be a teacher? What does it mean to be spiritual? Teacher implies a troubling hierarchy; spiritual, as David Whyte says, is too vague to mean really anything. Caveats disposed of, I use the word spiritual to stand in for a larger reality that animates and informs the material world we live in. Even this is too vague, which is why I interviewed five of my favorite exemplars about what it means to be a true human being.

How did I choose who made the cut? I find in each one’s expression, a surprising turn-around, a knack for discovering answers to the very questions themselves. All of them threaten—in a meaningful way—the status quo.

Each has a particular way with words, speaking back to this central mystery in his or her own voice. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s love-struck ardor penetrates and reveals; Byron Katie’s style tenderly pulls the rug underneath your feet; Gangaji gently but firmly puts the kibosh on any postponement; David Whyte challenges readers to become embodied listeners to the conversation always underway in their own heart; and Michael Regan invites fellow wayfarers into undreamed of potentials.

But although each one speaks in an unorthodox voice, I hope you notice, as I did, how their paths crisscross and their answers overlap. They all point to same unfathomable but undeniable moon. The speakers all feel like they are in conversation not just with me but with each other. Vaughan-Lee and Katie share a mind that abides nowhere, Regan and Gangaji both harbored a desperate sense of something missing.

I realized that in writing this piece, I had organized my own sobhet, a Sufi word for a conversation of ‘a totally different nature.’ You get a chance here to eavesdrop on this illuminating chat. Just as Whyte defines good poetry as language against which we have no defenses, these conversations, if we let them, can dismantle our resistance to our own sacred birthright.