Since the Center was founded in 1987, Joel Morwood has served as the spiritual director and primary teacher for our community of practitioners. Joel's first book, Naked Through the Gate: A Spiritual Autobiography, tells the story of his own spiritual path, culminating in Gnosis, or Awakening, in 1983. Here is some of what Joel has to say about himself and his role:
Some people who have come to me have been disappointed to discover that I have no supernatural powers to transmit, no magic wand to wave, no extraordinary knowledge to dispense which can make them instantly wise, loving, and happy. "Who, then, are you?" they ask. "What's your secret?" My secret can be summed up in one word: Selflessness. Selflessness is the Truth. Selflessness is the Way. Selflessness is the Fruit. In reality, there is no 'you' nor 'I' nor any 'self' whatsoever. There is only Consciousness Itself—the One True God—which is what we are. All that is necessary is to Realize This, because to Realize This is Wisdom, to Live This is Love, to Be This is Happiness. So, if you really want to know my secret, look to your 'self'. In finding the source of your 'self', you will find Consciousness Itself, and nothing else. Then, you, too, will be free of your self and all its sufferings.
In addition, we might add that Joel has no special religious attire. In fact, he often wears old blue jeans, sweatshirts, and a Mexican poncho. Like many of us, he is married, enjoys movies, drinks wine, and interacts with others much like any other guy. Why, then, did we ask him to be our teacher? For one thing, Joel speaks from his own Realization, or Gnosis. Although he makes use of stories, texts, and practices taken from many different traditions, his interpretations are always spontaneous, direct, and personal. He continually points us beyond mere intellectual understanding to a Truth that is beyond both thought and experience. Moreover, he constantly links the teachings of the mystics with concrete examples drawn from our own lives so that we can see how they actually relate to our own experiences. In all this Joel displays an intuition, sensitivity and humor which could never have come from book-learning alone. Moreover, because Joel has no pretensions about being someone special, he is approachable not only as a teacher, but also as a friend. He is a wonderful listener who knows how to pierce right to the heart of a problem. Often he can point out ways of viewing a situation from an entirely new perspective, yet he always insists we take responsibility for making our own decisions. Moreover, when he has no advice to offer, he doesn't hesitate to say, "I don't know."
Joel is also a teacher who always challenges us to investigate the mystics and their teachings for ourselves. Far from demanding blind obedience, or even verbal agreement, he encourages us to explore various teachers, to compare what he says with the teachings found in the great mystical traditions, to test all these teachings against our own experience, and to test our own experience against the hard realities of life. In his view, a true spiritual path never leads one away from reality but, on the contrary, forces one to face it squarely, no matter how ugly or painful it may appear. It is only by getting to the bottom of suffering that we can be free of suffering. Beyond that suffering, Joel assures us, there is the Boundless Joy of Consciousness Itself—and, indeed, with his guidance we sometimes catch a glimpse of this as well!
Finally, Joel receives no financial remuneration from the Center. His teachings are given as a labor of love freely to all—although occasionally he has asked for personal donations to cover special needs, like the time he needed a suit for his marriage.
See the CSS staff page for a list of currently active CSS teachers. Among the spiritual teachers who have shared their insights with our community are several students of Joel:
|Andrea Pucci had a Gnostic Awakening in 1997 at a Center meditation retreat lead by Joel. During her fourteen-year spiritual journey she followed the teachings of Joel, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, and several Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Now she lives in Bishop, California where she leads a group of students in teachings and practices in the Center's tradition. An account of Andrea's spiritual path and Awakening is contained in the article Breaking Through... A Journey to Awakening.|
|Todd Corbett was Awakened during the 2004 Fall meditation retreat. Todd has served as a teacher of both the Center's foundation studies course and the regular practitioners group, and he has lead several Center meditation retreats. An account of his journey is contained in the article Awakened by Death.|
|Fred Chambers had an Awakening during the 2005 Fall meditation retreat after practicing under Joel's guidance for thirteen years. Fred has served as a teacher of the Center's foundation studies class and the regular practitioners group. He has also been a teacher on several Center meditation retreats. The story of his journey is contained in the article Consciousness Unveiled: An Account of Awakening.|
|Matt Sieradski had a Gnostic Awakening in 2009 just before a Center meditation retreat lead by Joel. He has taught the Foundation Studies course and the regular practitioners group. In addition to his experience with practices at the Center, Matt is a professional acupuncturist and taiji instructor. Matt tells his story in the article Releasing the Knot in the Heart.|
|Annie O'Shea had a Gnostic Awakening in 2013. She has taught the Foundation Studies course in 2014-2015 and several 'music in the moment' events at the Center. Annie tells the story of her path in the article Beyond Time and Space: An Account of Awakening.|
|David Cunningham had an Awakening in 2016 and has taught an online practitioners group in 2019. He tells the story of his path in the article Where is the Boundary? An Account of Awakening.|
|Hiromi Sieradski Awoke to her True Nature in 2017. She has taught the Foundation Studies course in 2018-2019 and led the Spring 2019 meditation retreat. Hiromi tells the story of her spiritual path and awakening in the article I am Home: An Account of Awakening.|
|Merry Song has had a number of Awakenings over many years since first joining the Center back in 1993 and accepted the role of a teacher in 2019. She has taught several writing workshops designed to bring awareness to and release of illusions of self. Merry Song tells the story of her spiritual path and awakenings in Crossing the Bridge: An Account of Awakening.|
|Tom McFarlane was among Joel's first students when the Center began in 1987. He has taught the Foundation Studies course and has led introductory meditation retreats with Joel. Tom has also taught special courses to Center practitioners on the spiritual relevance of quantum theory and mathematics. Joel and Tom are collaborating closely on the Center's mission to develop the foundations for a new sacred worldview.|
|Clivonne Corbett joined the Center in 2000 and has taught the Foundation studies course several times.
Several advanced practitioners have been appointed as spiritual mentors to provide guidance to students of the Center's distance studies course. CSS spiritual teachers listed above also may serve as spiritual mentors. See the CSS staff page for a list of currently active mentors.
To help maintain the integrity of the teachings, the Center has adopted official teacher guidelines.