Georg Feuerstein is the author of more than 30 books and offers distance-learning courses through Traditional Yoga Studies. In this revised and expanded edition of a book he wrote in 1990, he surveys the controversy around the spirituality of those who espouse crazy wisdom or holy madness in all religious traditions. Feurerstein begins with a definition:
"Crazy wisdom, or holy madness, is a radical style of teaching or demonstrating spiritual values. I use this term somewhat elastically in order to highlight a range of similar approaches within the great religio-spiritual traditions of the world. What they have in common is an adept a master, sage, saint, or holy person who typically instructs others in ways that are designed to startle or shock the conventional mind. The beneficiaries of such instruction may be the adept's initiated disciples or, at times, the public in general.
"From the conventional point of view, the crazy-wise teachers are eccentrics who use their eccentricity to communicate an alternative vision to the one that governs ordinary life. They are masters of inversion, proficient breakers of taboos, lovers of surprise, contradiction, and ambiguity. They share this skill and penchant with the figure of the trickster and the clown."
What shamanic tricksters, holy fools for Christ, mad lamas, Zen masters, rascal gurus, and crazy-wise adepts have in common is a playful spirit that enables them to shun the mores of the ordinary world in order to fulfill their own spiritual calling. Many of them have dropped out of conventional society, are seeking enlightenment, or are instructing others. Radical questioning and sheer spontaneity are essential ingredients of holy madness. Here are a few of the contemporary crazy wisdom teachers he covers: Chogyam Trungpa, Georgei Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho), Adi Da, Lee Lozowick, Sathya Sai Baba, and Shoko Asahara. The author's comments on guru-centric spirituality, community, and the path of discipleship and obedience grow out of his experiences with Adi Da.
Other authors have analyzed the challenges and the excesses of the guru-disciple relationship but Feuerstein goes beyond them with his erudite considerations of spiritual practice, enlightenment, holiness, the psychopathology of leadership and blind faith, the folly and the transcendence of good and evil. He concludes with the hope that this century will provide us with a new breed of spiritual guides.