Many Paths Pavilion - Basic Spirituality area


by Karal Ayn Barnett c1998

All through history there have been so-called religious fanatics, people who
have marched to the beat of a very different drummer, who acted as if they had
lost all sense of reason when teaching their version of the gospel.  The
cartoon character of the shabby preacher standing on the street corner year
after year, holding an "End of the World" sign comes to mind.  All of these
people were not necessarily mentally ill.  At least some of these folks were
Crazy Adepts -- spiritual teachers who act in an incredibly bizarre fashion in
order to teach us the Crazy Wisdom of spiritual truths. 

Crazy Adepts often seem irreligious or unspiritual, but they do so in order to
shock us awake -- a kind of spiritual shock therapy, according to Georg
Feuerstein, an expert in esoteric wisdom.  In YOGA:  THE TECHNOLOGY OF
ECSTASY, Feuerstein explains that Crazy Adepts are "enlightened iconoclasts."
Their "mad" behavior serves to reflect the false worldview that people are
separate from each other.  Crazy Wisdom says in truth, we are all connected.
The separations in the physical world such as human bodies, houses,
communities are merely illusions.  Crazy Wisdom seeks to unearth and heal all
the false beliefs that people have about themselves, and the world.
Crazy Wisdom antics are often at the core of spirituality though they usually
offend secular and traditional religious organizations.  Not so in Tibet and
India where the Divine Madman is a venerated teacher.  In Tibet, the "saintly
madman" (lama myonpa) has been recognized as a legitimate spiritual teacher
all through history.  In India, the holy "avadhuta" has also cast off all
concerns to teach in a highly unconventional manner.  But crazy teachers are
not just found in the East.  There have been Crazy Adepts in other lands.
Europe in the sixth century seemed to be big on Crazy Adepts.  For instance,
there was St. Simeon who liked to pretend insanity for effect.  Once he found
a dead dog on a dung heap.  He tied the animal to his belt and dragged the
corpse through town.  People were so full of outrage they couldn't see St.
Simeon's message.  He was trying to show the useless "dead weight" of excess
emotional baggage that people drag through their lives.  The town's uproar
didn't seem to phase the Crazy Adept, though.  The very next day, St. Simeon
entered a church and just as the liturgy began, he threw nuts at the
congregation.  St Simeon confessed on his deathbed that his life's mission was
to denounce hypocrisy and hubris. 

Another example of sixth-century spiritual silliness was Mark the Mad, a
desert monk who was thought insane when he came into town to atone for his
sins.  Only Abba Daniel saw the method in the monk's madness, and declared the
monk the only reasonable man in the city.  Little-known figures like St. Isaac
Zatvornik and St. Basil were the designated holy fools of history who spoke of
the wisdom of God.  There was even a female Crazy Adept -- St. Isadora.  But
the messages of these crazy teachers unfortunately seemed insane to most the

Crazy Adepts live to turn convention on its ear by challenging and confronting
established dictates.  They bring a sense of chaos to shake up the status quo.
Feuerstein says that Crazy Adepts, "…are a perpetual reminder that our whole
human civilization is an attempt to deny the inevitability of death, which
makes nonsense out of even the noblest efforts to create a symbolic order out
of the infinite plastic that is life."  Feuerstein adds that the Crazy Adepts'
bizarre teachings ultimately smash through the false beliefs of the egocentric
universe and its feeling of separateness.

So the next time you see a very strange person acting in a very strange way,
trying to give you a message from God, don't immediately assume insanity.
Perhaps he or she is a Crazy Adept trying to do you a favor by helping you
pull the little-ego back in line with your Higher Self, even if they have to
get in your face to do it. 

Karal Ayn Barnett c1998

Karal Ayn Barnett, A woman on the edge…of the Mojave Desert. :)  Karal  is a free lance journalist and does tape transcriptions.

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