Should you choose just one spiritual path or religion and follow only that one, or can you combine paths and still reach your desired goal – of liberation, enlightenment or whatever it is you believe to be the aim of spirituality?
The purists offer the image of paths that work their way towards the summit of a mountain. Their advice is to choose just one path and keep at it, otherwise you simply waste your time and energy switching paths and exploring false trails. Like all analogies it has its limitations. Anyone who has been trekking knows that sometimes you can deviate from a well-worn path and take a short-cut which gets you to your destination quicker, or which later joins the original path and took you on an interesting route. And after all, enlightenment is best seen as a process rather than as a state to be achieved: a journey rather than a destination.
Another analogy offered is of sinking bore-holes for water. If you are seeking water, goes the advice, you don’t sink lots of holes, you just sink one and focus on that. Likewise with spirituality, don’t dissipate your focus: concentrate on one path, one meditation technique, and stick to that. A Buddhist friend, who is also a Druid, told me of the problem with this analogy. He is a hydrologist and he said that apparently to get the best results when extracting water you should sink at least two bore-holes.
The third analogy I’ve come across was given to me by my Druid teacher, Nuinn. He said ‘Don’t mix your drinks’, and yet he was a Universalist, who was fascinated by the common threads in all religions and was a practicing Druid, Martinist and Christian, who drew upon the inspiration of the Kabbalah, Wicca, and Jainism amongst many other influences.
Who is right? The teacher who advises you to stick to just one path/religion/practice or the teacher who advocates, or simply practices, an eclectic path?
My feeling is that it is not a question of one approach being right and the other wrong. Instead it is a question of being sensitive to what is right for you, what it is that you need, at any given point on your spiritual journey. There are times when the simplicity of following one practice, of feeding from just one stream of inspiration, is just what your soul needs. But at other times, or for other people, nourishment from a number of sources, and practices drawn from a number of traditions, may be just what the soul needs.