Sometimes the obvious escapes us because our mind has been distracted with other stuff. This just happened to me.
I was idly thinking about what I should write about in tonight's churchless blog post, remembering that my previous post was about how to prove that a guru is a fraud.
What suddenly struck me was the simple reason why this is so difficult: believers in a guru typically consider that he or she is qualitatively different from other humans.
Meaning, the guru isn't just someone with some special talents, abilities, and traits. That's true of lots of people. Sports stars. Talented actors. Brilliant scientists. Masterful politicians. Amazing musicians. So many other examples.
No, a guru often is viewed as being more than human, possessing some sort of special attribute that makes them stand apart from other people.
The weird thing is that whatever this attribute is, it isn't apparent.
If a dozen people were put in a room and the goal was to determine which person was a guru who, say, was God in Human Form, there's no test, examination, questions, or any other means that would distinguish the guru from the others.
The guru wouldn't be more intelligent. Or more wise. Or more ethical. Or more kind. Or more eloquent. Or more anything.
Gurus stand out only because other people say, "He or she is a guru." So it's virtually impossible to prove that a guru is a fraud, because there is no way to tell the difference between a non-fraud guru and a fraudulent guru.
Again, the reason is that there's no way to tell the difference between any sort of guru and other humans.
I'm reading a story in The New Yorker about a talented big wave surfer from Hawaii. He has many videos showing how he not only can surf giant waves, but can do tricks on them in pretty much the same way other surfers do tricks on much smaller waves.
There's no problem identifying this person as a big wave surfer. But there's a big problem identifying a person as a guru.
Again, I'm talking here about gurus who are viewed as being more than human, as possessing some sort of divine quality, as having attained knowledge of a supernatural realm beyond the physical. I'm not talking about a "guru" who is merely a meditation teacher or a moral guide.
That sort of guru is firmly in the category of other teachers and guides, a normal human being with a talent that can be conveyed to others.
Since the other sort of guru, the God in Human Form variety of guru, has no attribute that sets them apart from other people, it's no wonder that they typically get the title of Guru in one of two ways. Either they are anointed as guru by another guru, or they start calling themselves a guru.
Pretty good game. It fools many people. No talent required.
All you need to set up shop as a guru is the title, which you can give to yourself or inherit from a previous guru. Then money, prestige, and power can be yours if you play your guru cards properly.
While some may call you a fraud, there's no way for them to prove this, since there is nothing that distinguishes a guru from a non-guru other than the fact that people have chosen to believe that one of them is a guru and one isn't.