Well, my Meister Eckhart fantasy has been fulfilled. I’ve been fired from giving talks (known as “satsangs”) at meetings of my spiritual group because my Church of the Churchless writings have been too heretical.
Yesterday our local secretary informed me that he had been told by a regional representative, Vince Savarese, that my blogging about Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) had caused a lot of people to be uncomfortable. In New York. In India. All around the RSSB world.
Naturally I blurted out “Wow, that’s great! People are reading my blog!” It didn’t bother me to hear that I’ve been making some people uncomfortable. I regularly hear from others that they appreciate my posts, so it all evens out. Yin and yang. Like and dislike. Attraction and repulsion. That’s the way of the world.
Regardless, the RSSB powers that be don’t want me to be a speaker anymore. I said, “That’s fine. Now the folks at the Radhasoami studies discussion group who have been taking bets that I wouldn’t last as a speaker beyond mid-2006 will feel vindicated.”
Interestingly, about ten days ago I’d been asked to write another article by an editor of the official RSSB magazine, “Spiritual Link.” She emailed me, “I so enjoy reading what you write on your blog. It is that kind of energy that I’d like to see in an article.” So what one hand chastiseth, another hand praiseth.
Since I’d been expecting to be charged with heresy at some point, the news of my firing didn’t affect me much. The only real pang came when I deleted two reminder items for next weekend on my Outlook calendar: “prepare satsang” and “give satsang,” since I’ve been speaking monthly for more than fifteen years.
If anyone involved with RSSB wanted to peruse my writings about the organization, I made it easy for them. They’re all neatly listed in a single weblog category and Google also does a good job of searching them out.
I quickly read through my RSSB-related posts this morning, trying to picture how they would appear to a defender of the faith. Not surprisingly, they didn’t seem all that heretical to me, but then I’ve got a natural bias in favor of me. A couple of my favorites are “Don’t believe, just have faith” and “‘I’ is a humble word.” (I presciently noted in the latter post that being fired for heresy was an ever-present possibility.)
Whenever I quoted Meister Eckhart in a talk, which was frequently, my pat line was “Anyone who is accused of heresy by the Pope can’t be all bad.” In fact, in my opinion that’s a badge of honor.
Understand: in no way am I comparing myself to Meister Eckhart. What we share is a passion for mysticism, a disdain for organized religions that cut people off from a direct experience of mystery, and a love of philosophical language. With that comes an understanding of the limits of saying anything about “God.”
Eckhart had an exalted understanding of those limits. I just have a crude understanding. Yet what little I possess has been steadily driving me in the direction of the boundary between words and wordslessness. I’ve become obsessed with trying to figure out what prevents me from crossing to the other side, where mystery lies.
My obsession tends to be expressed in words, of course. That’s a problem. A big problem. Still, I feel like I’m on the right track. For a long time I believed that my finely honed ability to conceptualize spirituality meant that I was becoming more spiritual. Now, as the saying goes, I realize that my initial B.S. status had merely progressed to an M.S. (more of the same) and Ph.D. (piled higher and deeper) in Mystical Pretension.
Thus the fundamentalist religion that I’ve been attacking really is myself. My increasing disbelief in my own dogmas has been projected onto Radha Soami Satsang Beas because that is where the dogmas came from. Believe me, the person who has been made most uncomfortable by my writings is me.
Again, I don’t claim to possess a speck of genuine Eckhartian understanding. But I still resonate to Luther Askeland’s description of Meister Eckhart’s call to pursue an “inner poverty:” (this is from Luther's book, "Ways in Mystery")
We have the feeling that we are not yet real, that we only have the time between now and death to create, somehow, that reality which right now is painfully absent. Human life, therefore, is from the very first day an instinctive effort to “become,” yet Eckhart urges the necessity to “un-become,” that is, to reverse life’s underlying direction and goal.
He calls for the abandonment of all efforts to incorporate reality, to become, and to “make something” of ourselves and our lives. On the contrary, we are to work diligently to cut away whatever reality and substance it may seem that hard work or chance has created.
This reversal applies, above all, to all forms of inner and spiritual wealth. All attempts to acquire the right religious attitudes, accomplishments, and knowledge are to be abandoned. Turning aside from the goal of making ourselves spiritually, we must jettison whatever spiritual wealth, value, and standing we thought were ours.
I never thought I had much. And what little I thought I possessed seems to be steadily going down the drain. The older I get, the less I know. At this rate, I’m going to be a cipher by the time I die. Which, hopefully, is a good thing. Not that I have any choice in the matter.
For at least five years virtually all of the talks that I’ve given to my spiritual group have been on the related themes of not-knowing, emptiness, and confusion. I deeply appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given to better understand my own not-knowing, emptiness, and confusion. As above, what I’ve been speaking and writing about is me.
In sort of a celebration of the end of my RSSB speaking, I’ll mark the occasion by sharing several of my favorite satsangs. I usually spoke quite spontaneously and with relatively few notes, but these talks are actually fairly well organized. I called them the “Energetic Embrace of Emptiness” and “Closing the Circle.”