In addition to my inner search, I was trying to live a reasonably normal life. My vows, for all their undeniable spiritual substance, left me somewhat helpless in huge areas of life. The vow of poverty gave me a distorted sense of the value of money. Chastity rendered me naïve and inexperienced in relationships. Obedience undermined my personal power often making it difficult for me to make a good decision or any decision at all.

In spite of these handicaps, I managed. In monastic life, I was trained as an educator. Soon I was teaching again, making new friends, and building a new kind of life. My spiritual search continued and continues to this day, but gradually it came into balance with all the other parts of my life that needed attention. Much later I would understand that living an ordinary, day-today life with integrity and impeccability is most of what it means to be “spiritual.”

Seeking wisdom and truth is one of our essential human pursuits. We are truly human when we are looking for the next higher place in self-awareness. However, there is a shadow side to the Seeker archetype. The Seeker cannot stop seeking. Now and then during that feverish period, I felt I might have been going too fast. I wondered whether I should be giving more attention to each of my spiritual investigations before dropping them to take up the next one in line.

If we are always seeking and never finding, we may be in danger of sinking into a dark and lonely place. Shadow Seekers are lost souls, constantly out on the road looking for home but never coming to rest in a sense of belonging with community. I used to run into them at workshops. These determined Seekers were so absorbed in their search that they seemed to forget their original goal of spiritual enlightenment. This was a pity, I thought, because compulsive seeking was preventing them from receiving the information they so ardently desired. They would take up with one spiritual teacher, but even before they had heard the entire instruction the shadow of the Seeker archetype would kick in and they would be off to another teacher, only to repeat the same circular sequence of events.

Seekers who fall into the shadow are never content, never fulfilled, never connected. A song by U2 describes their experience: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

You may have met people like this. They travel a great deal but never seem to be comfortable in any one place. They hop around among careers. They move from apartment to apartment, house to house, without achieving what they really want and need, a true home. They do not finish things but instead run on to the next possibility, the next opportunity for seeking. Victims of addiction are invariably driven by the shadow of the Seeker archetype.

I remember a caution from one of my teachers, the American mystic Joel Goldsmith. Later I will have much to say about Joel, but here he is on the subject of the shadow Seeker: “By all means, go and seek. But once you have found your spiritual truth, it is time for you to stop your search and begin to live that truth.” The shadow Seeker, by obsessive seeking, is always denied the peace of mind that living spiritual truth brings.

If you have found yourself caught up in excessive seeking, whether inside or outside organized religion, you are in good company. Siddhartha Gautama spent many years wandering through India, fasting, feasting, and listening to teachers, before he came to rest beneath the Bodhi tree, understood that he was one with all there is, and became the Buddha.

The challenge for the spiritual seeker is to come to the end of searching. If you have done your inner homework, you will find that the end comes about quite naturally. Something clicks within you. There is an “ah-ha.” Seeking is never truly over, but the urgency of the exploration loses its energy as you relax into the tranquil place of living your spiritual truth.

When you go forth from the comforts of religion, with its “revealed” truths, doctrines, and formulas that tend to lull the soul to sleep, taking on the attitude of a professional seeker will keep you awake and open to life-changing spiritual insights. After I embraced a sacred skepticism and began to question the entire spiritual worldview of my childhood, doors opened. I began to see some of the thrilling, infinite possibilities of living in connection with my Source.

Wonderful work awaited me. The more I saw myself as a professional seeker, the more I found I needed to tear down some dilapidated inner structures so that new ones could be built. In that amazing process towers of useless beliefs would topple and walls of false values would crumble.

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