Rupert Spira review – nonduality and the long pause

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I’ll admit my initial temptation was to write a quick and dismissive review of Rupert Spira. For one, Spira (via his handlers) has repeatedly turned down my request for a podcast interview. Two, the questionable depth of Rupert Spira’s lineage. One of Spira’s primary teachers was Francis Lucille, who in turn was a student of Jean Kline. More about that later. Three, his almost unquestioned status as one of the clearest articulators of Western nonduality.

By Awareness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFIpXIxS7ek, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91069901

Instead, I’ll attempt to lay aside these preconceptions and see what Rupert Spira is really about. Is he the “real deal” or an articulate talking head?

On the plus side, I find no evidence that Rupert Spira is consciously exploiting people, operating a fraud, or running a scam. There’s no hint of scandal or intrigue. In fact, some refer to him as the “gentleman guru.” However, it’s clear he is in the business of being a spiritual teacher and charges a tidy profit-making rate for his events. A three-day online retreat (1.5 hrs the first day, 3.5 hours on days two and three) in 2023 is $99, which is quite lucrative considering the description says “hundreds” of people will attend. Even if only 100 people attend, that’s nearly $10,000 for what amounts to one full day of work on Spira’s part. Given how slowly Rupert Spira speaks, for a normal human that’s closer to a four-hour workday. Similarly, a seven-day retreat in the U.S. is $1,795 without lodging or food, and only includes four hours of meetings each day.

In this approach, there is no restriction on our activities. This is not a path of discipline or renunciation. It is a path of enjoyment.

Rupert Spira

Maybe there are a few who can retain their integrity while making a living selling that which is priceless, but there is a real danger of teachers unconsciously adapting their message to grow their income stream — little different than your favorite band that “sells out.” However, Spira’s message seems remarkably consistent over the years.

Diving into his teachings, perhaps the most concise critique of Rupert Spira that I’ve seen is: “Rupert Spira speaks of the readily available experience of being aware as your real Self. [In contrast,] Swami Sarvapriyananda explains how the ego, identifying with reflected consciousness, becomes an ‘aware I’ and gives us the experience of being aware, which is also an object from the perspective of the real Self. Anything you can be aware of, even the awareness you might feel to be who you are, cannot be the Self proper.” After investigating Spira’s teachings, I concur with this critique.

Rupert Spira’s YouTube channel has many videos with intriguing titles. From the plethora of choices, I decided to explore what he says about enlightenment, self-inquiry, and try one of his meditations. Unfortunately, the first video, “Enlightenment Is Not an Exotic Experience,” confirmed the above critique. Spira falls into the same trap as Sailor Bob Adamson, believing that the feeling of “I am” is the end-all, be-all of enlightenment: “All that is spoken of is the nature of your being. Not some extraordinary, mystical enlightened being, just the ordinary, intimate, obvious familiar being that enables each of us to say with absolute certainty ‘I am.’ Is there a single person in the world that could not say from their experience ‘I am?'”

As I’ve said elsewhere, many mistake “beingness” as consciousness/awareness. I maintain that every sensation and experience of ours is mediated through the human body/mind, and the honest investigator of these matters suspects that when the lights goes out (death), all that was known, experienced, and felt by this body/mind may go out as well. Thus the admonition to die before you die. Whatever is left when every known thing and experience vanishes – that “pure being” – would be what is eternal. This is not the “I am” that Spira says is awareness. I would love the chance to explore this further with him.

When each of us says “I,” that name refers to awareness’ knowledge of itself. It is the same awareness in each of us.

Rupert Spira

Another friend sent an audio extract from an interview that he thinks captures the essence of Rupert Spira’s teaching. Once again, I found this truncated self-inquiry. Spira led the interviewer in an exploration of “actual experience.” “Go now to the experience of the body,” Spira directed, “the actual experience. Try to draw what you are experiencing. What sort of mark would you make? Would the drawing have a contour or shape…? There are no boundaries…. There is empty, luminous, open space.” Spira then concludes: “Experience always says one. One seamless totality. Thinking says two.” While this inquiry was a little reminiscent of the work of Douglas Harding, it lacked Harding’s unique and spirit-full approach. Yes, it is an achievement to still the mind so that the canvas of awareness is revealed, but Spira’s leap from the personal perspective to Oneness uses logic and belief to span the gap.

Admittedly disappointed with Rupert Spira’s view of enlightenment, I plowed forward to see his thoughts about self-inquiry in “How Do I Practice Self Enquiry?” Here’s a paraphrasing of Spira’s view of self enquiry: “Let’s say you’re unhappy. Turn in the other direction, away from the cause, and towards the ‘I’ that says it is unhappy. Ask yourself what is this I? The I that is unhappy is always the same I. Look for what it is in yourself that is referred to as an I. Thoughts, feelings, sensations. You notice my thoughts are always coming and going but I’m aware of my thoughts. You take it deeper. Your feelings. All these feelings are passing by. What I am is not my feelings either. What about your sensations? They come and go. You are aware of them. I thought I was a mixture of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, but all of these are things that come and go. This awareness, consciousness that is aware of this person. ‘I’ is this perfectly peaceful background of awareness. What is this aware presence that I always am? We begin to give this aware being our attention. Who is aware of that? It is aware of itself. It is this ‘I’ that is aware of itself.” Rather than being puzzled by awareness of awareness, Spira concludes that is simply a quality of awareness (i.e. Awareness is aware of itself).

Yes, it is incredibly valuable to do the inquiry that Spira describes. Imagine if this were taught in schools at an early age! Yet, what I’m saying is, if you’re talking about enlightenment, who you “really, really are,” there is further to go.

Having had this glimpse, our practice is to revisit it, to take pathways back to ourself over and over again…. That is what meditation is ultimately… the return of the mind to the “I am” from which it arises.

Rupert Spira

I ended my video tour of Rupert Spira’s teachings with the meditation titled, “Three Pathways to Ourself.” While the description was promising, “In this meditation we contemplate truth, love and beauty, three pathways to ourself,” this hour and fifteen minute meditation was little more than Rupert Spira talking about three concepts and stringing them together with a lot of long pauses. This was the most disappointing of the videos, as Spira seemed to be acting: relying on long pauses to make ordinary statements sound profound. I found the meditation very “heady,” highly intellectual, with no actual looking inside. Instead, there was just Spira talking about ideas of perception and essentially “leading the witness” to the conclusions he wanted them to reach, while dappling in platitudes such as “All artists tend only towards beauty” and “Beauty is always a taste of our Self.”

Rupert Spira a nice person, patient, and sincerely wanting to help. While many will disagree, I find he lacks “presence.” While articulate, when Spira says the word “eternal present,” it falls as flat on the ear as if he had slowly intoned “pancakes and syrup.” For better or worse, he seemingly has an explanation for everything and is more than happy to share it. Discussing this review with a friend, we both agreed that Spira is either unable or unwilling to say “I don’t know.” Rupert Spira’s teachings do have their merits, and you might just stumble upon a nugget of wisdom that resonates deeply with you. He delves into topics like nonduality, the nature of consciousness, and the illusion of self with such conviction that one can’t help but be impressed. Overall, Rupert Spira is likely a well-enough place to begin your spiritual search, but don’t stay too long. You will be better served by checking out some of my 4-star and 5-star rated spiritual teachers.

The Lineage of Rupert Spira

Francis Lucille was one of Spira’s primary teachers, while Lucille’s teacher was Jean Klein. Early in my search I read a book by Jean Klein, but he played little role in my seeking. Some quotes by him are intriguing, though, as they hint at the resolution of what I see as the deficiency in Spira’s teaching:

Q. Is the awareness our real nature?
A. In awareness there is no limitation of brain function but there is still a conceptual duality: ‘I am aware of something.’ This something is global functioning, energy uncontaminated by the cerebral structure and the senses. Here you find yourself at the threshold of your timeless being….
A. How does one go from the threshold to the stillness beyond all movement?
Q. You cannot cross the threshold by any activity. Only abide there and you are spontaneously taken.”

Jean Klein

I’m curious what Jean Klein would have thought of Spira’s teaching. I never got the impression that Klein was trying to build a spiritual empire. I recall he was in poor health shortly before his death and there was an appeal for donations, so I suspect he was primarily interested in living his life in service to his teachings rather than making money. Like Spira and Jean Klein, I find no hint of scandal in Lucille’s career, but he, as well, makes his living as a spiritual teacher.

In addition to their love of discourse, another commonality I note among Klein, Lucille and Spira is the “long pause.” Here you can see the transmission of the long pause from Jean Klein to Francis Lucille to Rupert Spira:

Jean Klein
Francis Lucille
Rupert Spira

I hope you enjoyed this Rupert Spira review. For more information on Rupert Spira’s events, books, and more, see the official website.

13 thoughts on “Rupert Spira review – nonduality and the long pause”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about Mr. Spira!

    Who says “I”, says “ego”. And of course there is nothing wrong with this as far as you are aware of it. (And if you are not then you do not exist, in a way, so no problem, either :-).

    “I” have been puzzled by awareness of awareness (the biggest discovery in this life of mine, thank you for using this term!) since I saw/felt it a few years ago and it’s definitely not a quality of a “regular” awareness, kind of I or any sentient being have had, less alone of an “I”.

    And though “I” have never experienced any “empty, luminous, open space” “I” can see/feel what for me is beyond words… A change of paradigm…, like being born for real, whatever it means.

    And well, who makes his living as a “spiritual teacher”, is more of a teacher than spiritual, I would say, or business as usual… Let’s hope that Mr. Spira will help some lost/seeking souls and not make them pay too much…

  2. It really does feel like this review is in response to having hurt feelings about not being granted an interview. It honestly feels quite petty.

    There is so much depth to his teaching that to make an assessment based on a handful of clips is incredibly superficial. At least read one of his books in their entierety before making a judgment.

    It seems you have a certain view about how spiritual teachers should act (e.g. not charging for teachings). If they don’t act in line with your standard, you ‘mark them down’, which seems very close-minded.

    1. Hi Mike. Glad you find Rupert Spira of value. As long as you’re “growing” (or whatever term you prefer), that’s what matters. You are correct that I have standards. I don’t think teachers should be exempt from standards. I suspect you don’t either, but you don’t like my standards as opposed to someone else’s.

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head vis-a-vis Rupert’s teachings. Although, I am less bothered than you about teachers charging money – unless they resort to brazen profiteering – you found the right words to say what’s missing in his teaching. Like other neo-Advaita types, he downplays the importance of enlightenment as an “exotic” experience, but it seems to me that without a genuinely “exotic” experience (non-experience?) we rarely go beyond mere words.
    I recall watching one of his talks where a woman asked him something like why she is still not enlightened after all the talks and practice, and his response was basically, “What are you expecting? It doesn’t get any better than this. Just abide in presence and you will find peace and happiness” (am paraphrasing a bit). Personally I doubt if anyone finds any abiding peace or joy though such slow-burn hypnotherapy-style spirituality. Like Eckhart Tolle, Rupert seems to think that mimicking some of the symptoms of enlightenment is all there is to the spiritual path. (Although, Eckhart, unlike Rupert, seems to speak from a genuine realization of his own).
    I think a lot of his brand appeal rests on his pleasant personality and posh accent, as well as his admirably comprehensive and coherent philosophical framework within which everything can be explained. That sadly, isn’t the be-all-and-end all of spirituality.

  4. Nice review and I completely agree. Lineage, good or bad, doesn’t mean anything. Ramana Maharshi didn’t appoint any successors.
    PS: I accidently clicked to gice him a 4 star rating and cannot undo. Help!

    1. If you refresh the page (ctrl-F5 in windows), you should be able to rate them again and it will say “Rating updated.” I just tried that and it worked.

  5. Hello,

    I would actually like to delete my previous comment. In reflection, I realize I shouldn’t have written it. I’ve been on many Rupert retreats and am still friends with many in the community and this post stands to cause some harm.

    Thank you,
    Former Rupert Student.

  6. I think you should invite Swami Sarvapriyananda for an interview on your podcast as I think it will be quite interesting and informative.

  7. Hello Shawn,
    It was interesting to stumble across this site and see your critique of RS. I’ve actually attended some of his live retreats, so I think I can respond to much of what you’ve written from experience rather guesswork. Rather than addressing everything you’ve pointed to, which would take quite a long time, I’ll respond to the core of what you are framing as RS’ “misunderstanding”. You say, “I maintain that every sensation and experience of ours is mediated through the human body/mind…” and you say that RS confuses the “I” of identification (the ego) with the true and only “I”. I can tell you here with total certainly that this is a GIGANTIC misunderstanding of what Spira is saying. What you’re mistaking for a rookie mistake by Spira is a very intentional approach that he uses to eliminate the illusion of distance (so to speak) that the practitioner’s conception of “God”/”Infinite Consciousness/”The Self” (pick your preferred term) has generated in the mind of the seeker. Spira is aware that there is identification going on in the seeker’s mind, but rather than throwing up obstacles related to false conceptions of enlightenment, Spira goes in the other direction and points to the fact that the awareness that is aware of THIS experience is ultimately NOT separate from the One Awareness/Consciousness.
    As someone who followed a progressive practice/path for many years, the “turnaround” was a revelation. I still engage in many aspects of the same progressive path I’ve been on for years. But i engage in it from the point of view of being already connected to Source rather than as a spiritual beggar who is battling to eventually make himself worthy of God’s Grace.
    I’m not saying that this approach is devoid of possible stumbling blocks. It’s not a “cure-all”. What I am saying is that this UPDATE that Spira (and some others) have introduced is, in my opinion, a great advance.
    In short: You can be sure that Spira is aware of the difference between the conception of “I”/ego and the true “I” that is devoid of form and ultimately cannot be named anything… not “Consciousness”, not “Awareness”, not even “God”. All of these names ultimately fall short.
    PEace! Mark L

  8. Probably the truth is those that we find at the ‘leading edge’ of the spiritual movement are very likely to be those motivated by money, the ego, recognition etc. Yes it costs money to live but it seems such people seem to have a never ending source of divinity and virtue, at a price. Use discretion some are certainly more blatant than others, a few even sincere.
    My advice is listen by all means but don’t get sucked in too far, no one knows exactly how existence plays out and that includes the physicists whose models are based on axioms just like the spiritual.

  9. Great article! Indeed there is questionable depth of Rupert Spira’s “lineage.” Jean Klein never acknowledged enlightenment/awakening/Self-realization in Francis Lucille, nor did he ask him to teach under his name, or give him permission to do so.

    So, off the bat, there’s actually no lineage at all. Francis Lucille had no business posing as if he was a “teacher” in the “tradition of Jean Klein”.

    I’d say with confidence, that Rupert is not the “real deal” and is just (as you said) “an articulate talking head.” Since you wrote this article, some things have come to light. There is now more that a hint of scandal or intrigue. There is now evidence that Rupert Spira IS consciously exploiting people. (I’ve spoken to a number of people that were in his “inner cirle” who have first had knowledge of this.) There have been sexual improprieties, and attempts to cover them up. He’s not the “gentleman guru” after all. Some staff have outright quit because of this, and a number of followers have also left.

    You are right that he also charges a LOT! In 2024, one of his in person retreats costs close to $4000 U.S. (not including flights) It’s definitely a profitable business. Of course there are expenses, but his prices are WAY higher than his peers. This to me is a type of exploitation because the the teacher, and teachings he charges for are actually “off”. People are definitely not getting there money’s worth.

    You’re spot on in pointing out that Spira’s teachings are at complete odds with Swami Sarvapriyananda’s clear ACTUAL understanding of these matters. Someone made a video contrasting Sarvapriyananda and Rupert on this very topic. The Swami says when we say “I am aware”, this awareness is NOT primordial awareness at all (sorry Rupert) but reflected awareness or Chidhabasa. Rupert is downright misleading people to think/believe (for a lot of money) that the “readily available experience of being aware” IS your real Self. This is just not true.

    He’s made a mistake, and is spreading it, as an “upgrade” to traditional progressive teachings, and confusing thousands. Not enough people are calling him out on it. They are starting to though! A facebook page has been up for a couple of years called https://www.facebook.com/QuestioningRupertSpira. There are about 500 people there, with a lot of intelligent critical disscussion. It appears that the same people also made a facebook “group” where people can post anonyously if they choose, also called: https://www.facebook.com/groups/questioningrupertspira I can see from a few the anonymous posts there that people have excellent critiques, but don’t want to upset friends of theirs who are still into Spira by posting under their name.

    He’s most definitely “leading the witness”, in his “teachings”. Once you spot this, you see it everywhere. Getting back to the false lineage thing, it’s got even worse. Spira and Francis Lucille have had a “falling out”, as Francis became unhappy with Rupert’s “save the world” publicity fervour. Rupert himself confirmed this falling out at a retreat. So, now Spira doesn’t even have his own questionable “guru” to hold him to account.

    I predict a bit of a fall for him. He presents himself as if he is “established” in awareness or “being”, and pontificates on the very nature of God and Reality. But, it’s just talk, the cracks are starting to show. I would suggest people should just consider themselves warned, and to check out someone “clean” like the aforementioned Sarvapriyananda.

  10. Thank you for your valuable website and pointers to many teachers I had not heard of. But I must ask you , what is the difference between charging money for a retreat and charging money for a book or a t-shirt?

    1. I’ll only answer that question if you buy one of my t-shirt designs….
      I’m teasing. I make under $1,000 a year selling books, t-shirts, and films. Would it be nice if it were $1 million? Sure. Would I feel I was being a hypocrite? No… unless I was churning out books, films, and t-shirts only to sell more stuff so I could keep a business running.
      I’m not saying teachers need to live in poverty, are not allowed to cover the cost of retreats, or even that they can’t make a profit. But there’s a slippery slope when you wind up in the retreat business and that’s how you make your living. Are you pleasing the public in order to sell more tickets, or are you staying true to your message?
      That’s said, I’m open to changing my mind on this topic if presented with a compelling example of someone walking what I see as a tightrope between selfishness and selflessness.
      Thanks,
      Shawn

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