It’s the Message, not the Messenger

There is a human tendency to believe there are those among us who possess spiritual gifts that are greater than human.  Our religious mythology is rife with demi-gods, prophets, saints and gurus.

It is not my intention to argue the divinity of Christ, for instance, nor the enlightenment of Buddha.  It is my intention to point out that these archetypes are plentiful throughout history, and in seemingly every culture.  For some reason, we humans need examples of humans who have a greater connection with the divine than we seem to.

On the other hand, most religions include the concept of divinity that resides within and around each one of us.  The idea is that each of us is divine, and part of a greater spiritual whole.  In Christianity, we call this the Holy Spirit.  In Wicca we “Draw Down the Moon,” to invoke the Goddess into a human priestess.

Two things seem clear.  One is that we need to feel that certain special humans have spiritual greatness that is greater than our own.  We want them to teach us, to lead us and to inspire us.  Two is that every person has the possibility of teaching us, leading us and inspiring us, since we all possess a divine spark within us.

In all forms of spirituality, there are healers, writers, teachers and ministers who take on a larger-than-life celebrity status with their followers.  Often, spirituality becomes a cult of personality, rather than an accessible opportunity for growth and healing.  Even well intentioned community leaders sometimes fall prey to their own egos, and to the seduction of power and manipulation.  When this happens, spirituality becomes disempowering, rather than empowering.

The fault does not lie simply with these corrupted leaders.  It lies also with those who idolize them.  The part of us that wants to believe another person is infallible is what gives these leaders power they shouldn’t have.  It may be our own laziness that causes us to embrace their wisdom to the exclusion of our own.  It may be our low self-esteem that creates our inability to see the divinity within ourselves, or to trust our own wisdom.

We need our teachers, advisors, healers and ministers.  We need their knowledge, their leadership and their inspiration.  But any teacher who tells you they have all the answers is a teacher to avoid.  Any philosophy that tells you there is but one right way is suspect.  Any minister who uses fear to control your behavior is flawed.

Many of us have gifts that allow us to communicate a message that inspires and heals.  Sometimes that message is channeled directly from the divine.  Usually, it is the message that is divine, not the messenger.

In tarot, the ability to differentiate between divine message and divine messenger is illustrated when we compare and contrast the Hierophant and the Hermit.  Both Major Arcana cards are associated with the element of Earth.  Both indicate spiritual wisdom, knowledge and teaching.  The Hermit holds the lamp of enlightenment.  He is its bearer, not its source.  The Hierophant may sometimes be in danger of thinking his keys of wisdom are his personal possession, or even his own creation.

Some tarot students fail to make this distinction as well, and in that failing lose the opportunity to become great readers.  We are all amazed by the power and accuracy of the readings we do, even after years of working with the cards.  But when a student falls into the trap of believing they are always correct in their interpretations, or claiming the knowledge that comes from a reading as their own, they lose sight of an important reality. 

In a reading, it is not what we know that is important; it is our ability channel knowledge.  It is not about our ability to be right.  The best readers know their study and their abilities allow them to be an open channel for the divine.  The worst readers are caught up in the ego trap of being right.

We are always both students and teachers, either formally or informally.  As students, let’s focus on the messages that heal us and inspire us, and allow the messengers their humanity.  As teachers, let’s be proud of the wisdom we have acquired and the talents we possess, but let’s never lose sight of the true source of all wisdom.

As spiritual beings on a human journey, let’s find the spark of divine wisdom within each of us, and within ourselves.