"One Can't Be A Chassid Without A Rebbe!"
Rabbi Dovid Sears commenting on Derech Baal Shem Tov:
I heard that Rav Gedaliah Kenig zatzal once remarked that the era of the "Rebbes" has passed, and that we are now living in the era of "manhigim."
That is, not only was this the case with Breslev when Reb Nachman was nistalek and Reb Noson continued to bear the torch as a manhig (or "mashpi'a"), but not as a second Rebbe; according to Reb Gedaliah's words, this has come to be true of other Chassidic communities, as well.
How is this different than the approach of simply learning the seforim of the Chassidishe tzaddikim and taking an eitzoh from here and there (which has become the derekh in some non-Chassidic circles)?
Through the manhig or mashpi'a there is still an 'inyan of hiskashrus to the Rebbe with a bittul -- afilu achar histalkuso. Thus the original Rebbe-Chassid relationship may continue via the manhig. Maybe the Lubavitcher Rebbe zatzal had this kavannah when he went to the tziyun of the RaYaTZ, and when he often answered those who wrote to him for help: "azkir 'al ha-tziyun."
In Breslev, Reb Noson explains this issue in detail in Likkutei Halakhos, Hilchos Shluchin, Halakha 5; and Reb Shmuel Horowitz explains it b'kitzur in Tzion Hametzuyenes, siman 78 (in the old printing, small format; I don't know about the new one).
Whatever the case, one can't be a Chassid without a Rebbe!
A Simple Jew comments:
In Parshas Pinchas, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim teaches that the Ribbono shel Olam sends each and every generation tzaddikim and leaders to address the specific needs of that generation.
I feel that my shoresh neshoma is bound with the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. Since there are many tzaddikim alive today who are descendants of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim and carry on the Degel's path, do I need to pick one specific tzaddik, or am I misguided to "take eitzoh from here and there" from each of these tzaddikim?