The individual, "attrait," and spiritual direction
With a warning about gurus
There are four “yogas” that have come to be regarded as essential aspects of Vedanta (the word yoga literally refers to a “yoke,” and by extension, a “yoga” is a practice that fosters “union” with the divine). All four are “branches” of a single religious “tree,” but each of the four, as Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902) described them in his book Raja Yoga (1896), appeals to different human temperaments. Karma Yoga, the way of selfless or non-egocentric service, appeals to the active, hands-on type; Bhakti Yoga, the way of affective or loving devotion, appeals to the feeling type; Jñāna Yoga is the (apophatic – neti, neti – “not this, not this”) way of intellect and philosophy, and appeals to the intellectual type; and Rāja Yoga is the way of meditation, appealing to those desiring to invest their energies in practicing deep contemplation. I don’t bring up these four kinds of yoga as systematized in Vedantic teaching in order to explore them here, but only to note that each one holds a special appeal for different types of individuals, all of whom are devoted to the same quest to be united to God. In four previous posts, you might recall that I described four types of spirituality in Christianity, which I called pilgrimage, abiding, ascetical, and nuptial; and, although these four (overlapping) Christian models don’t correspond neatly with the four Vedantic yogas, it can be said that one or the other of them attracts individuals of this or that temperament more strongly than the other models do. Some persons are more emotion-oriented and require an affective form of devotional spirituality; some are more intellectual and require a spirituality that ignites their minds; some are drawn to active social engagement and hands-on service; and still others are drawn into greater seclusion and to a “rule” (regula) that emphasizes silence and contemplation, perhaps alone or with others of like mind. Neither in Vedanta nor Christianity is any one way practiced to the utter exclusion of the rest, but each person has her or his own attrait – a word introduced into the study of the inner life by the influential Austrian-Scottish Catholic theologian, Baron Friedrich von Hügel (1852 – 1925). It is, then, rather of first importance when studying spirituality or practicing spiritual direction or teaching a “way” of meditation, to know the various temperaments of the persons with whom one has to do directly. One size doesn’t fit all.
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