I had to be in question while responding to the question.
I was quietly choosing to have faith in the act of simultaneously accepting both my incapacity and my inescapable duty to respond with honesty to the genuine inquiry of another mind.
I continued, speaking exactly as my thoughts came to me, without weighing my words: “We want to know how to recognize a real teacher, but do we ever ask ourselves in what way we are searching for a teacher, in what way we are searching for truth? Could it be that we can only recognize a teacher when we are in a state of need, when real need pours through us and sensitizes our powers of perception?”
“Just as it is only the real Self that can see the real world behind the appearances, so it may be that it is only the real seeker who can recognize a genuine man or woman of wisdom.”
“But suppose we don’t have such a sense of need? Suppose it is too buried? What should we do? The question is still there—how can we know who to trust?”
“Can we stay with that?”
“I stay with my uncertainty, which is now sensed as a need. It is not only he or she about whom I now have a question; it is myself who is in question. Perhaps I see something else as well—an impatience, a kind of pressure inclining me to close the question, to get on with it all, to come to a judgment about this person before me. But if I stay with the truth of the situation, the truth that I don’t know …
—Jacob Needleman, in conversation with his students in a course on the nature of religious experience