Here's a mildly edited email message that I received recently from someone whose connection with Master Charan Singh, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), and Sant Mat started about the same time mine did. I added some links and bracketed explanations of terms.
His thoughts brought back memories, and stimulated some new ideas. He gave me the OK to share his message in a blog post. It's an interesting rendition of how someone can be converted to a faith, and then deconverted.
Reading your blog evokes recollections that have long been dormant. What a compendium of experience I long since left on the processing heap to decompose on its own!
What a saga of my youthful ignorance which commenced in Los Angeles in 1968 (I was 22) with my initiation by Charan Singh's stuffed shirt proxy and ended with a thud in 1975 in the living room in my Greenwich Village, Manhattan, apartment when, in merely a moment -- what could be called a mystical moment -- I experienced all of Sant Mat as pure evil.
I am sure I wrote at length about that experience in my journals as well as my self-created deprogramming which commenced at a brisk pace, but I currently do not possess the patience to revisit those ramblings found in my bound diaries on the top shelf of my wall of personal archives and books.
In short, I recall visiting long gone Wiser's metaphysical book store on Broadway seeking materials that might heal my damaged constitution, and I did. (Later I sold all my Sant Mat books to Wiser's which provided me lunch money and then some.)
In August of the year of my recovery I did Werner Erhard's est and had a great time with it all, and for Thanksgiving of that year I attended an est Thanksgiving dinner, and dined on turkey as strident indication that my "spiritual" vegetarianism had ceased. (It was an odd experience, as if someone other than "me" was consuming forbidden flesh.)
This barebones telling omits a exceedingly colorful story which could grace the multiple pages of a personal memoir. The cast of Sant Mat characters and my perception of them at the time contrasted with my contemporary observations might indeed prove an interesting read. Not sure I am up to such a task, but you might find my writings posted on what was then Yahoo Groups' "ExSatsangi Support Group" etc., amusing. Below this message are some of those postings.
Again, I truly enjoyed perusing your blog, and look forward to doing so again.
My inner child speaks: I tried, I really tried to love Mr. C. Singh, but alas I never did. Love to me comes out of heritage over time with another. He and I had no heritage of knowing one another, despite the lore. He offered no heritage. We never exchanged one word. I didn't even get to shake his hand because I was obedient.
At the reception in Pasadena about 1969, we were told not to approach him, and only respond if he approached us. Others just walked up to him and introduced themselves. But, oh, no. Not me. I abided by the edict.
I recall standing 6 feet from him and our eyes met. I waited. He didn't move, and then he moved on. That was my one chance, only if I were up to being disobedient. So you vow all sorts of things to this guy and he doesn't have the decency to introduce himself.
That was that. I put a picture of him in my journal. I closed my journal entries with Radha Soami. I was supposed to acknowledge what a miraculous service he'd done for me. I did my meditation in my cabin in the woods north of Santa Cruz in the San Lorenzo valley, and he didn't show up astrally either.
Ho hum! What a friend we have in Charan!
My outer adult: This was really lousy. Hell, I wasn't going to arm myself with paregoric and lomatil and pay thousands for airfare and head to the sub-continent, after that! Why there's plenty of Indian restaurants right here, amoeba free. Never made it to the Dera [headquarters of RSSB in India], just saw the PLM [Perfect Living Master] on stage talking.
The first night he didn't even talk. He just sat here surveying us! Paid for my ticket like everyone else and the guy just sits. No rapture, no lights, no fireworks. He just sits there [darshan].
When he did talk on the two subsequent nights there was a lot about the terribleness of sensuous pleasures, but unfortunately he didn't go into any puerile details. I tried to be in awe. It didn't happen. I suppose I mocked up being in awe just to go with the flow.
Later I whipped up a Parshad Pillaf. It was tasty but I think eating it was giving me "sensuous pleasure" with the commensurate guilt. I suppose I should have gotten the message then and there, but I didn't until several years later, when I dined on Thanksgiving turkey with Werner Erhard and the gang.
Werner shook my hand. Werner talked to me. He might not have been a PLM but he sure was damn good company.
And so ends the tale, inner and outer of "Charan Singh in Front of Me.”
Starting off with my Sant Mat story and trying to keep it brief, for openers.
In Los Angeles, when I was about 19, I began having out of body experiences, extreme ones, extreme in their visual vividness and sound. These experiences involved high speed traveling, and I was curious to follow these travels to a destination point, for it seemed, while traveling I was on the way to "somewhere."
I had questions. Was there a final destination of such travel, was the final destination a place I'd want to experience, what was this all about? I was not on a spiritual quest but the quest for some answers.
And it was near that time in 1967 that I met two young men through fellow UCLA students, both later it turned out were initiates of Charan Singh (and both homosexual).
One named Danny was a dreamy bearded young man who was as I was told "very spiritual" and who talked very little. The other was a chatty singer who was once a groupie of Ella Fitzgerald.
One way or another, I ended up in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles at the apartment of a somewhat dour, but not unlikable, woman named Mary Blakemore at a local "satsang." It was the first time I'd heard the word "satsang" and I sat in her living room listening to her wax on and on about her Master and trips to a place called The Dera.
At some point I broached the topic of my out of body experiences and described them.
As I spoke they seemed to be somewhat startled and their eyes got wider and wider, dreamier and dreamier. Only later did I come to understand the root of their reaction when I learned that it was clear to them from my descriptions that I had been travelling in the 3rd and 4th realms according to Sant Mat cosmology, realms that they been earnestly (perhaps) meditating to reach and never got near.
I was told that such high grand experiences were "unearned" ones, gifts from a past life time, and that when and if I was initiated I would be starting from the scratch level at which, I came to understand, was the level of sound and vision that they were experiencing (if any).
I merely wanted to find out where the journeys I was experiencing were leading and would perhaps take me, and thus I began to buy into the Sant Mat interpretation of such experiences.
I was initiated in Los Angeles in 1968 by proxy by a man whose name I do not recall, who looked like a Methodist minister. There was absolutely nothing commanding about this gentleman upon whose face I never saw a smile or any affability or warmth. For several years I attempted to be a good Satsangi and failed.
A grand factor in that failure was that meditation never brought forth the profound, overpowering and spectacular sound and light experiences that brought me to Sant Mat in the first place.
Oddly, the experiences which precipitated my interest in Sant Mat continued intermittently and spontaneously but never during meditation. Meditation did provide an occasional buzz, some minimal sound, and once, just once, the alleged astral form of Charan Singh himself.
I dragged on for several years being a guilty and bad satsangi, trying to love The Master etc. and so on, then sometime about 1975, now living in New York City, another kind of experience occurred.
Standing in my living room, I felt an overwhelming wave of evil and that evil was associated with Radhasoami; I experienced the entire RS Master/Initiate relationship as sinister and manipulative.
From that point on I began deprogramming myself from the superstition and threats etc. that previous posts have clearly outlined. I was unaware of any support groups at that time in 1975, and went it alone, and withdrew.
My involvement was limited in its duration and I'd not formed any close friendships with other RS people, so I suppose it was not the wrenching withdrawal from RS other have experienced. I consider myself extremely fortunate for having ended the association when I did at the age of 28, with a very rich life still to be lived.
And despite the "threats" such a rich life was lived and continues to be lived.
I am indeed grateful to those who have contributed so abundantly of themselves in this and the other ex-satsangi groups, for the sharings have allowed me to confirm the appropriateness of my curtailment of my RS connection, and have allowed me to sever long forgotten loose ends.