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Evaluating Spiritual Guidance


Corinne McLaughlin

If you survey popular literature, TV and movies today, you find so many stories about people hearing voices, communicating with non-physical beings, and receiving spiritual  guidance for themselves and others.  All this helps us realize there’s more to life than purely physical reality and materialistic pursuits. But the negative side is that it’s often the blind leading the blind.  Many sincere spiritual seekers get led astray through false and sometimes harmful information. 

What's most curious about the current fascination with psychism and spiritual guidance is that many people believe that anything from a non­physical source must be truth from on high. They mistake often distorted messages for truly spiritual wisdom. No one accepts everything a typical man-in-­the-street has to say on a given subject. 

And since the non-physical worlds are populated with beings who have varying degrees of spiritual wisdom, it's best not to listen to just any non­physical being, but rather to seek out the wisest.  If your Aunt Sally is dead, for example, would she suddenly be any wiser than when she was living? If you didn't trust her advice when she was alive, why trust it when she's on the other side?

Receiving spiritual messages can be compared to receiving signals on a radio receiver. While a good radio picks up clear stations from distant places as well as nearby, a cheap or old radio picks up a lot of distortion and static and only gets stations nearby. Likewise, a relatively pure spiritual seeker picks up clearer messages coming from a greater distance--i.e., from the higher spiritual planes. This is not as frequent as we would hope. A more self-centered or emotionally off-centered person picks up a great deal of distortion and only gets messages from nearby sources--the “astral planes” closer to earth where there is more garbage. This is the more common “lower psychism.” (See chart at end for comparison).

It’s important to remember that your most reliable source of information is your own soul or higher self.  This is the highest source of guidance for most people and should be your goal.  It’s best to only consult someone else for guidance if you’re feeling totally stuck and not getting any clear answers from within. Guidance from another person is not meant to take the place of your own relationship to God and should never create dependency. It is merely meant to provide guideposts along the path and to help you develop your own inner guidance.

Guidance From Your Own Soul

If you are actively pursuing a spiritual path and a life of service and compassion, and have worked on purifying your personality, then you may receive clearer guidance from your own soul or even higher levels, than from someone else.  It's important to not depend on someone else's guidance or become passive and surrender your will. These are your most precious gifts: your intelli­gence and your ability to make choices. The same is true as to your own guidance. It's not healthy to take an attitude of "just following orders" when guidance tells you to do something you don’t agree with. It's wiser to take full res­ponsibility for your life and challenge the guidance, especially if you suspect it may be coming from an astral spirit rather than directly from your soul. If you don’t engage your own will and responsibility, the spirit might end up possessing you and ruining your life.

Examining the Life of Someone Receiving Guidance

The relative purity of someone’s life will attract a message on the same level through the law of resonance. An emotionally uncentered person who's motivated by ego, anger, fear, greed, etc., will probably attract a similar type of spirit --perhaps a non-physi­cal busybody who's just looking for someone’s life to control. Someone who is bored or unhappy with his/her life will also attract a lower type of spirit. Negative emotions, wrong motivations, and con­fused thinking will distort whatever message does try to come through. Drug use will also tend to attract a lower spirit or distort the message.

To determine the quality of the mes­sage and the level from which it is received, it helps to examine your own life or the life of the person receiving the guidance to see if s/he is applying the information received and whether or not it has helped him/her live a more spiritual life. "By their fruits you shall know them," as the Bible says. Does the person use their guidance mainly to help others, or to accumulate personal fame, money and power?  A good test is to ask yourself if you'd go to this person for spiritual advice if he or she weren't receiving psychic messages. Do you trust this person to be wiser spiritually than yourself, or is it merely the glamour of psychic channeling that attracts you?

Unfortunately, someone may start out well-intentioned, sincerely trying to help others spiritually and so receive guidance from his/her own soul or from a relatively more  enlightened spirit. But then as a lot of attention and power comes his or her way, and their personality is not pure enough to handle it, so the ego gets inflated, and another spirit gets attracted. This second spirit is usually a lower entity who may mas­querade as the first spirit and start subtly distorting the message and trying to control people through guilt or threats.

So if someone doesn’t work on purifying him/herself and use a lot of discrimination, accepting full responsibility for what comes through him/her, s/he can easily be­come deluded and end up deluding others and harming their spiritual lives. This has happened many times and is the reason why most spiritual traditions caution against this kind of “lower psychism,” where the psychic is open to any kind of spirit communicating through him/her. It can also lead to possession.

Sources of Spiritual Information  

One of the reasons for the lack of discrimination on the part of many psychics and those who follow them is that we in the West have traditionally no background or cultural framework to interpret non-physical entities. We Westerners tend to consider anything non-physical as either God or the devil, with nothing in between. But Eastern teachings hold that there are many levels of reality or planes of existence between the physical reality and the ultimate reality or God consciousness. Here are some different levels where information can be coming from:

  1. Messages from a person’s own subconscious "wish life" or from what has been read in tradi­tional religious sources.
  2. Thoughts picked up telepathically from a teacher or others on the physical plane.
  3. Messages from spirits on the emo­tional or "astral" plane-- which is full of confusion distortion, glamour and flattery (called lower psychism)
  4. Guidance from a person's own soul or inner Divinity (called higher psychism)
  5. Teachings given by a more advanced soul to his/her student under training (which is only possible if the person has already been receiving guidance from his/her own soul.)
  6. Communication from a true Master (such as Jesus or Buddha) to his/her disciple (this guidance is fairly rare).

Some researchers suggest that most guidance is actually from a person's own subconscious or from the astral plane, which is the emotional plane of illusion and distortion. Only a small percentage may be coming from the soul level or from spiritually advanced initiates or from a true spiritual Master. Although many psychics believe they are channeling a true Master, in fact they may only be contacting his/her "astral shell"--the build-up of all the desires, longings, and devotional thoughts about higher beings and Masters, which begins to take on a life of its own on the astral plane. Or they may be contacting a lower astral spirit who masquerades as a Master.

How can you tell which it is?  An imposter behaves quite differently from any real Master, as s/he lacks love, and usually flatters or chastises his/her followers and demands total obedience. A real Master leaves his/her disciples free to choose—s/he only suggests a course of action, but never commands obedience. Also, a real Master, by definition, has mastered all the planes of earthly existence-physical, emotional and mental--and so has a highly developed mind. Psychic mes­sages that are an insult to the intelli­gence of any thinking person could hardly be coming from a real Master. It's often instructive to compare the quality, intelligence, and originality of a psychic message with the inspired writings of the world's religions, such as the Bible or the Upanishads, as this will give a good indication of whether the guidance is from a high spiritual source or not.

To find out what level the information being channeled is coming from, it makes sense to "find out what number was dialed. " In other words, what prayer or invocation was used before receiving the guidance? Did the psychic ask for help or protection from a higher spiritual power or just fall pas­sively into trance, opening up to what­ever wanted to come through?

It also helps to get a "reality check" from trusted friends about guidance received. This can help prevent glamour and delusion. It's important to maintain a balanced life of involvement in the everyday physical world and not to live totally in the inner worlds as an escape. Whatever wisdom is gained from the inner worlds must be applied in daily life, or else it's useless. If the guidance is not integrated, it can lead to living in fantasy worlds and ultimately to psychological breakdown. We are in this world for a reason--to learn the lessons that physical life has to teach. The important thing to ask about guidance is, how is it affecting your relationship with your soul and with your  relationships to others? Is it helping your spiritual growth or is it just entertaining?

If you feel anxiety around evaluat­ing the reliability of your favorite psychic, it might be reassuring to remember the law of resonance: you attract to yourself what you are. People get the psychic they deserve. If someone is looking for wealth and fame and later discovers that his/her psychic was on a power trip, then as Ram Dass warns in Journey of Awakening: 'Remember, at some level inside himself, [he] already knew. His attraction to this person was his desire for power. His anger is nothing more than anger towards himself ... In truth, we are only ever trapped by our own desires and clingings." Someone who is sincerely looking for help with spiritual growth and is already making efforts in that direction will probably attract a more genuine psychic.

However, one of the problems is that even the best of psychics with the purest life might pick up some distortion, as no psychic or channel has a hundred percent accuracy record in predicting the future. Nor is there any totally accurate way of substantiating what is said about the present or the past. So any psychic information needs to be evaluated intui­tively and with a large grain of salt.

Also, it's important to recognize that the spiritual worlds are different from the physical world and that time and space are experienced differently. Mes­sages can be misinterpreted, especially if they prophecy the future and if the inter­pretation is made too literally, rather than symbolically or psychologically. For example, a message about a tidal wave could refer to being overwhelmed by a wave of emotions, rather than a warning about an actual event.

How to Receive True Guidance from Your Soul

If you are concerned about getting true information about your personal life from a psychic, you can prepare for it by asking from your heart for the highest good and by being sure your motivations are pure. You then can ask that the psychic channel the words that your own Soul wants you to hear to further your spiritual growth.

What techniques are most useful in seeking guidance from your soul? The most effective tech­nique is a regular meditation practice. Although there are many types of medi­tation practice that are helpful, it's always good to begin by calming your body, emotions, and mind through regular, deep breathing. The most important thing is then to raise your attention and energy from your solar plexus center (at the navel) to your heart and/or head center (sometimes called the "third eye"). If your energy stays focused at the solar plexus level and you become too passive, opening yourself to anything that comes into your awareness, you may just pick up the feelings and thoughts of others. Or you may pick up an "astral" entity who wants to influence you and who may not intend your highest good.

It's better to stay alert and aware, not passive, and to lift your energy to a higher center (or "chakra" as they're called in many spiritual traditions), and then to consciously seek contact with your soul or Higher Self. This can be done through prayer, visualization, invocation, or through the focused attention of your higher mind. The impor­tant thing is the intention of contacting your soul for guidance, and not contacting just any non-physical entity that's nearby.

If you suspect your own guidance has taints of "astral" or lower psychism, then it's best to close down your contact on the solar plexus level and focus instead on contacting your soul through the heart and head centers. Meditation, study and service will help purify your body, emotions and mind of negativity. You can begin by strengthening your mind and developing your will to consciously cooperate with God's will. You can practice releasing your own preferences and opinions, and then ask your soul, the inner Divinity, for guid­ance. It's important also to purify your motivations so that you release any need for recognition and popularity. Higher psychism is a response to the true needs of others.

If on the other hand, you're concerned that you never receive any guidance, no words or visions--even when you ask a question in your meditation--don't worry. Many spiritually evolved people don't receive guidance in this way. Rather, they are guided in the moment, in action. In fact, receiving guidance implies duality and separateness--a split between the giver and receiver--rather than being one with all wisdom. The true goal is to BE the guidance, to embody it moment to moment.

In the end, the most important thing about guidance is not just receiving information. Rather, it's about learning how to think as wisely and as broadly as higher beings do, to see things from their perspective. The more you ask yourself, how would a higher being or a Master answer this question?--the more you are developing wisdom within yourself and becoming truly enlightened.

Guidelines for Distinguishing the Higher Psychism of the Soul from Lower or Astral Psychism

Higher Psychism 

(Guidance from the Soul and 
Higher Spiritual Planes):

Lower Psychism

(Guidance from the Subconscious and
Astral Planes of Desire and Illusion):

1. Serves the good of the whole.

1. Is usually only for the good of the receiver (and sometimes at the expense of others).

2. Focuses on helping others and is inclusive, not separative; its purpose is service.

2. Flatters the ego of the receiver and creates glamour, specialness and separa­tion; often appeals to greed and desire for power; purpose is often just to satisfy curiosity.

3. Creates love and inspiration and empowers the receiver.

3. May create fear, negativity or feel­ings of unworthiness.

4. Suggests or advises only; never demands surrender of your free will.

4. Often demands obedience and surrender of your will.

5. Never conflicts with your personal ethics.

5. May conflict with your personal ethics.

6. Recognizes a higher power (if Christian, Christ; if Buddhist, Buddha, etc.)

6. Often claims ultimate authority for itself.

7. Presents creative new information relevant to your next step; often presents a new approach or new synthe­sis of spiritual teachings, but does not contradict teachings of the major world religions.

7. Usually presents a rehash of old platitudes that can be found anywhere and are generalities rather than specifics; sometimes contradicts teach­ings of major religions.

8. Is usually short, to the point and intelligent.

8. Is often long and flowery and/or confusing and contradictory.

9. Is often a still, small voice.

9. Comes as many confusing voices competing for attention.

10. Is conscious and controllable; often is impressions that are then translated into own words.

10. Is usually unconscious in a trance state (mediumistic) and uncontrollable (such as automatic writing); may happen at any time, even if inconvenient or embarrassing for psychic, often frightening others.

11. Is received through the head, heart and throat chakras or centers, functioning in unison.

11. Received through the solar plexus center.

12. Emphasizes the personal effort necessary for spiritual growth and the slow process of evolution towards fully expressing your God-self and full potential.

12. Often claims spiritual growth happens with no personal effort and proclaims the half-truth that we are gods and are perfect just as we are.

13.  Honors the sacredness of the physical world as well as the non-physical world.

13. Disparages the physical plane and practical living.


Corinne McLaughlin is a co-founder of The Center for Visionary Leadership and Sirius Community in the U.S., and co-author of Spiritual Politics and Builders of the Dawn. You can contact Corinne at , or order her free electronic newsletter fromn www.visionarylead.org.

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