There are two sides to this question. Some believe we can’t ‘succeed’ unless we have a Teacher. This is especially true of ‘spiritual’ paths. Others feel having a Teacher is not so crucial. Let’s poke into this issue and take a look…
Social emotion appears to drive this sense of importance we feel about the need for a Teacher. The necessity for hierarchal structure, with the Teacher at the top, is an essential feature of the tribal instinct. Thus, those who’ve inherited a strong genetic need for hierarchal structure will obviously believe in, and want to conform to, the Teacher model. Nevertheless, it is prudent to consider the whole picture. Knowing the dynamics of human nature – our nature – is helpful.
When you think about it, a Teacher is really nothing more than a student who has been ‘at it’ awhile. Experience brings insight and perspective. However, all Teachers are, in the end, still students. Thus, what prevent us from falling into a ‘blind leading the blind’ situation? This is especially true from a Taoist perspective, i.e., while Teachers may have walked far on the path that you wish to take, how do you know their path is not a by-path? After all, it takes a sage to know a sage! This, by the way, is one reason behind foreknowledge and other miracles. Simply believing in them allows us to believe the ‘Master’ who did them is real.
On the other side are those who are more or less ambivalent about Teachers and Masters. These folks were probably shortchanged when tribal genes were being handed out. With hierarchal structure feeling less important, they are probably not all that political either. The good news is that these folks are less likely to become hoodwinked by Teachers (and politicians) who’ve taken a ‘by-path’. The bad new is that they may end up spending a life time reinventing the wheel.
Which side of this situation fits you more? Whatever your answer, look to the other side for some balance. Thus, on one hand don’t believe the ‘experts’, yet neither is it wise to disbelieve them. To find the ‘golden mean’, just carefully listen, question and ponder. After all, this is what makes the best student and the good teacher.