There are many yoga ashrams and buddhist temples in the Norther Catskills. Often when we have retreats here at the Catskills B & B in Stamford NY people talk about their gurus or spiritual teachers.
This got me to thinking about the concept of deification and demonization.
Many religions are built on systems of demonization and deification. This is so in the West as well as in the Eastern religious traditions – Christ and Anti-Christ, heaven and hell, master and disciple etc. These ideas might have worked effectively in the hierarchal feudal societies of the past but also in the increasingly multi-cultural and digitized societies of the 21st century, this culture of demonization/deification has done us more harm than good, turning complex ideas and situations into cartoons.
In deification, you may exalt someone or something as an object of worship to be treated as if a God. With demonization, you may depict someone as immoral, evil, wicked and cruel, often in absolute terms. If you do not understand the flaw in this type of thinking, then you are likely to make poor choices based on unrealistic expectations. In the East, there is a culture of Gurus, Sages, spiritual saints, mystic teachers, Rishis, Roshis Lamas and other designations of elevated spiritual status. This pattern exists as well in the West with Rebbes, Popes and charismatic religious leaders and even celebrities.
Since being the object of adulation and deification is no longer connected to any specifically great or evil deed, one can easily pass for the other. Thus, people are given celebrity and treated with adulation for immoral, antisocial behavior, while those who have high ethical standards make an authentic and positive difference in the world, are genuine heroes, or wise men and women and are often ignored or minimized as uninteresting or even foolish.
Lewis Harrison is an author, practical philosopher, motivational speaker, mentor and coach. He often speaks about Zen Buddhism and New Age self help philosophies. He hosts a weekly talk show on NPR affiliated WIOX 91.3 FM (Streaming at WIOXRadio.org)
You can reach him at LewisCoaches@gmail.com
Lewis offers stress management programs throughout the United States that combine the great spiritual principles with applied game theory.
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His book “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Time” addresses important issues on human potential and personal development
Here is a short interview with Lewis Harrison on unnecessary struggle and visionary thinking