There’s a difference between the spiritual presence that arises from within a student, as a result of his or her training, and mere mimicry. Emulating the teacher seems to be part of the spiritual path itself, at least in the beginning. Every new student will try to imitate the guru, and it’s a true teacher who knows not to be distracted by the flattery but to use it to his advantage. Both student and teacher must negotiate this turn in the path at the outset of any successful training curriculum. It’s a tacit agreement that must be approached obliquely, however, because hitting it head-on will only draw unnecessary attention to what’s really happening.
Spiritual aspirants are drawn to master teachers because they can sense in them something of themselves. After all, Moses had said that all people are created in the image and likeness of God, so it’s one’s own true self that’s the attraction. The problem lies in the tendency of the outer being to mis-identify itself with that innate divinity. The new student will look at the mystical aura surrounding the teacher and say, “Wow, this is for me!” And because the student desires to be appreciated for the spiritual nature of his being, he sees the teacher in an unrealistic light. He sees the teacher as a god to be worshipped, not as a teacher. The outer being is not interested in discovering the inner being. It’s only interested in being worshipped. So the new student will see the teacher as one to be worshipped, which is, of course, not true.
But a skilled teacher will use this intoxication of the outer being to draw the prospective student in close, much like leaving breadcrumbs to lure an animal into a trap. The inner being wants to be trapped, because it knows that it’s already snared in the body, like a chick trapped in its own shell. But just as you don’t let an animal see you lay the breadcrumbs, you don’t let the outer being see too far down the path to its own death. It already thinks that it has found the key to its exaltation. Why disabuse it of that belief? Why thwart the momentum? Besides, it will come in handy when the training starts in earnest. Everyone likes to see themselves as tough enough to take it, so let them.