“I'm a recovering guruholic,” says poet, novelist, lecturer, and spiritual autobiographer Andrew Harvey with a laugh. It’s shorthand for the journey he’s taken since ceasing to be a devotee of the Indian-born and German-based spiritual teacher known as Mother Meera, whose followers are convinced she's a divinity in human form.
Harvey’s 1991 book, A Spiritual Awakening, illumined his then-passionate discipleship to Meera with all the icy fire of the high tradition of mystical writing; A Journey in Ladakh (1983) recounted an earlier discipleship, to the Tibetan Buddhist master Thuksey Rinpoche. (Harvey also collaborated with Sogyal Rimpoche on the popular Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, published in 1993.) Today, however, he tells his fellow spiritual seekers that “we’ve got to get out of the guru box,” and he speaks and writes for “a direct, unmediated relationship with the divine.”
It's a simple credo from a complex man. Born in 1952 in India of an English mother and a part-Indian father, Harvey became, at 21, the youngest-ever Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Life as a flamboyantly brilliant young scholar who wrote confessional poetry and threw fabulous parties masked deepening spiritual pain, and in 1977 he returned to the country of his birth as a pilgrim. It was the beginning of a journey into Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism—and into “the guru box” and out.
Today Harvey lives in San Francisco with the French photographer Eryk Hanut, to whom he was recently married (he cites Mother Meera's opposition to the same-sex union as the beginning of the end of his relationship with her). He is focusing on the Christian mystical tradition, partly because, as he puts it, “I’ve come to see that the human mandala is incomplete without combining the peace and serenity of the Void—the Eastern contribution—with Love and Charity.”
Not that Harvey is any fonder of the church than he is of gurudom. “The institutional church has been a disaster,” he asserts. “It’s as if it had been created to block the path to Christ—Christ as mother, as the sacred androgyne. The Christ who said, ‘You must have the same relation I do with the Source: a wild, burning, sacrificial love.’”
Harvey insists that by “unmediated” spirituality he doesn't mean solitary seeking. “You absolutely need a community spiritual friends and guides,” he says. “The guru thing is different—it is adoring a human being as God. It keeps people infantile, it keeps them slaves; it siphons off the sacred energy that needs to be poured into social justice and politics.”
And for Harvey, the need to pour out that energy is as urgent as any divine message. “This is a terminal civilization,” he says. “We have perhaps twenty years to find a new way of being in the world. Yet there is one light, one love, and it is here, now, creating everything. It should be easy to communicate with it. Why do we give our power away?”