I was browsing through the "Improve Yourself" table at Barnes and Noble today and I got a very familiar feeling as I scanned through books on conversations with God, increasing happiness, and spiritual growth through hardship. I feel frustrated with the pervasiveness of the "expert" voice. One book detailed a man's private conversations with God and presented his experience as a manual of Truth. Others offer concrete steps to follow to manifest all desires instantaneously. It seems to me as though the idea of an opinion has gone by the wayside as the specter of expertise has been extended to everyone within spitting distance of the blogosphere.
Spiritual experiences are incredibly powerful, as well as being incredibly personal. People have a tendency to generalize their own experience for something that is appropriate and accessible to every other person. Today we have authorities on everything; as easy as it is to find an "expert" on any subject from contacting God to eating for longevity, it is equally easy to find a contradicting "expert" offering research supporting their own claims. I believe that different life strategies and belief systems work for different people and there is very little that is innately "good" or "bad" or even "standard". I think many people hear ideas from characters they admire, or think they should admire (see my previous post), and take on their assertions as gospel truth. The danger in this is evident in the fact that the names of charismatic figures in history ("authorities") who have easily convinced masses to commit despicable acts come readily to mind.
Life and the Universe present humans with a vast range of experience and possibility. Our attitude undoubtedly affects our access to opportunity and insight. But humans enter the world in different stages of karmic expression, intellectual development, and psychic or mystical insight. It is highly unlikely that one person's life experience and trajectory will mirror another's. I often find books documenting people's psychological growth and spiritual development to be off-putting, as many of them are presented as the final word on their subject. There is so much to learn and experience—the value of maintaining a beginner's mind (and a healthy critical eye as well as a touch of cynicism) cannot be understated. It is crucial to remember that the advice offered by fellow humans is a subjective expression of their innate creativity and might be honored as such and tempered with patience.