These are the 10 greatest spiritual leaders today


For millennia, and in practically all cultures, there have been individuals who, for different reasons, have acquired a certain authority to advise, guide or inspire the spiritual development of their respective society. Under different figures, sages, gurus, shamans, alchemists, healers, astrologers, etc., the authority of these people, generally associated with a kind of lineage or simple trust, acquire a significant role in the lives of the rest: they advise and guide them in the interaction with the forces that surround them, generally metaphysical factors but that also directly affect the social, commercial, military, etc.

Founded in London over 120 years ago, Watkins is one of the oldest and most influential bookstores on mysticism, spirituality and esotericism. Annually, through its magazine Mind, Body, Spirit, the establishment publishes its list of the hundred most influential personalities in the development of the spirit. According to the publication, to make this list three criteria are taken into account:

– That they have started the current year alive.

– That they have made a “unique and spiritual” contribution, on a global scale, during the previous year.

– That they are particularly present in the imagination and in the minds of people (which is determined by how many Google searches are carried out with their name, or how many times they visit their Wikipedia profiles).

Needless to say, but in any case I will emphasize this, that every list carries a good dose of subjectivity, and that the essence of all the ‘tops’ or lists of the like, cannot be considered, from any level, as definitive. And having said that, I invite you, beyond reacting in agreement or disagreement with the list, to reflect a little on what it reflects on our society, the fact that these ten characters have reached the top of the exercise “The 100 most spiritually influential people alive Of 2014″.

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10. Paulo Coelho (Rio de Janeiro, 1947)

The alpha male of esoteric self-help, this Brazilian writer has become a spiritual reference, a counselor, for people around the world. With more than 150 million books sold, and his work having been translated into 71 languages, Coelho’s influence, beyond what his speech provokes in us personally, is undeniable.

9. Desmond Tutu (Klerksdorp, South Africa, 1931)

The first black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu has distinguished himself by a consistent fight against racism, poverty, homophobia, HIV, and other battles. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

8.Dr Wayne W Dyer (Detroit, 1940)

An author and lecturer, he is affectionately dubbed the “father of motivation” by his followers. Dyer, who spent her childhood in hospices and orphanages, has become a poster child for self-empowerment.

7. Oprah Winfrey (Mississippi, 1954)

Undoubtedly one of the most powerful people in the world, this charismatic television host has positioned herself as an emotional advisor to millions of followers who see her as a moral authority. Additionally, Oprah has consistently promoted the work of various ‘mystical thinkers’, including Ekhart Tolle.

6. Deepak Chopra (New Delhi, 1946)

Guru of alternative medicine (she is even credited with having coined the term ‘quantum healing’) and one of those responsible for introducing the Ayurvedic tradition to mainstream pop. Chopra has published more than fifty books, writes regularly for various newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post, and is revered by various celebrities who have adopted a healthier lifestyle.

5.Rhonda Byrne

This Australian writer catapulted to fame after producing the movie The Secret, a New Age self-help classic that mixes basic principles of ancient mystical traditions, for example the Law of Attraction, and aligns them in a doctrine of contemporary optimism around of positive thoughts. Following the film’s release, Byrne wrote a book on the same subject, which has so far sold more than 19 million copies.

4. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thua Thien, Vietnam, 1926)

Zen master, active pacifist, author and lecturer, his work during the conflict between South and North Vietnam earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 – a nomination proposed by Martin Luther King. He has founded Buddhist monasteries in his homeland, as well as in the United States and France.

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3. Pope Francis (Buenos Aires, 1936)

From his ordination in 1969, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had a rapid rise through the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In 1998 he was named Archbishop, and three years later Cardinal. A year after his mandate as Pope Francis, this Argentine has led a movement of the Catholic Church, perhaps strategic, that emphasizes making traditional positions more flexible on issues such as homosexuality or abortion.

2. Ekhart Tolle (Lunen, Germany, 1948)

Considered by the New York Times as the most widely read author of spiritual texts in the United States, this German established himself as one of the highest authorities in the field of inner transformation and the awakening of consciousness. His most famous work alone, The Power of Now, has sold more than five million copies. Tolle has established alliances with other personalities, for example Oprah and Jim Carrey, to spread his teachings.

1. Dalai Lama (Taktser, Tibet, 1935)

The 14th Dalai Lama, a position he has held since 1950, has become one of the world’s most popular spiritual leaders and an influential public figure. Tenzin Gyatso, his given name, proposes compassion as an existential principle, and has been an active promoter of his country’s independence from Chinese control. According to Watkins, the Dalai Lama has made an incredible contribution to world spirituality. In addition to his political ability, Gyatso has been characterized by an admirable openness, favoring ethical principles, over institutional postulates, in the development of his public life.

About the anonymous teachers

As we have been able to see, the first ten places on the list are essentially an eclectic block, including everything from institutional leaders of a church, to “inspirational” celebrities, including leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen and, obviously, a significant dose of New Age. I think that beyond evaluating the precision or quality of this selection (yes, the presence of people like Oprah also shocks me), it seems pertinent, through a simple analogical exercise, to verify that this group represents, to a large extent, contemporary spirituality : an energetic lasagna with ancient influences and a novel synthesis of mystical precepts.

As for the rest of the list, the full version of which can be found here, The presence of the controversial and always active Jodorowsky (14), the painter Alex Gray (15), and the original companion of Timothy Leary who would soon abandon the fight against LSD to give himself fully to meditation, Ram Dass (19) stand out. Some representatives of science also appear –which personally excites me because in some way it reflects that in the West the mind and the spirit are finally making peace–, for example the brilliant English biochemist, Rupert Sheldrake (65).

In short, perhaps these are the ‘most spiritually influential people in the world’, but what I consider unquestionable is that there are thousands of anonymous teachers out there, with whom a spontaneous encounter in the least expected place can trigger in us an indelible process of learning. And disguised as a taxi driver, a carpenter, or a librarian, these people, with their daily ‘exemplarity’, are responsible for a good portion of the evolutionary hope that we have today. That is why this text is dedicated to them, the unknown specimens.

Author’s Twitter: @ParadoxeParadis

These are the 10 greatest spiritual leaders today