I’ve got nothing against fairy tales. But there’s a time and place for them. Like, when my daughter was a pre-schooler and she was ready for bed.
They don’t belong in religion, as comforting as they may be. Of course, some would say that religions are nothing but fairy tales. Faced with the ogres of death, suffering, and meaninglessness, humans have conjured up magical spiritual “princes” who ride to the rescue of the soul.
All you need to do is believe.
I’m open to the possibility that there is more to spirituality than fantasy. Yet I’m also convinced that before we can know whatever reality may lie beyond the physical, it’s necessary to be firmly in touch with the reality right before our eyes.
Fantasy leads to fantasy. Reality leads to reality.
If I had believed in Christian fairy tales for thirty years, I’d be using the New Testament as an example of spiritual gullibility here at the Church of the Churchless. However, I’ve been a follower of Sant Mat—the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) branch, to be specific.
So it’s the Sant Mat fairy tales that interest me, along with many other fellow initiates who are similarly coming to realize that they had bought into beliefs that have nothing to do with genuine spirituality or mysticism, and everything to do with wanting magical happy endings.
Here’s how a RSSB picture book, “The Journey of the Soul,” ends. This is a wonderful book, written and illustrated by Victoria Jones, a friend of mine. I’m not criticizing the theory that it is possible for the soul to return to the Ocean of Light. But until it is realized as a reality, it’s simply a hypothesis to be researched through meditation or other means.
Yet many Sant Mat devotees swallow this faith’s teachings whole. Gulp!
Having learned that this leads to unpleasant religious indigestion—a swelling of the fantastical organs that makes movement toward truth difficult, if not impossible—a laudable critical examination seems to be taking place among those who want to separate spiritual wheat from the chaff.
Burp! Here are some examples.
From the Radha Soami Studies discussion group, a fascinating post: “Meeting with a Sant—The day Radhasoami Mat Died.” Manjit writes:
Indeed there many people who benefit from association with RS gurus. And this can be truly beautiful.
But, dare I say it, these are not 'true' seekers of the 'Truth' or the 'Absolute'. These are dualistic thrill seekers, bliss seekers.
There will always be a point, in a genuine & sincere seeker's life, where a choice is made to abandon the duality & projections of the RS path & guru. I'm certain of it. It will, nay MUST be found in the end, there never was a real 'guru' except one's own mind & being, and that IT is pathless & formless.
All the rest including guru, satsang, darshan, shabd-yoga etc will be found to be nothing but illusory duality, of no more relevance to the 'Absolute' than the biscuit that was eaten with tea this morning.
And from the ExSatsangi Support Group, an equally interesting message from an ex-RSSB representative whose family members were part of the inner circle surrounding Charan Singh, an RSSB guru: “RSSB.” He concludes with:
When I finally left RSS Beas I had a Great Doubt and some anger in what had trapped me in all those years and the habitual attachments just fell away.
I have of course to contend with a diminutive social life because I jettisoned my cult world view and the people there are not comfortable with free thinkers. I have family members who are unwilling to respond to questions about their life from their own true perspective. The mental straitjacket and the lack of joy which I see in their life is sad.
I have now settled in the Zen way of living our ordinary life attentively as the most dignified way to live.
Both writers consider that they are seeing more clearly now. I have no doubt that their commitment to seeking spiritual truth is as strong, or stronger, than before. I know that mine is, even though I’m considered a heretic by the RSSB faithful.
Well, it’s true that I’ve wandered off of the party-line Sant Mat path. But that’s because it wasn’t getting me to where I want to go: spiritual understanding, satori, enlightenment, nirvana, gnosis—whatever you want to call it. I had fallen into a state of mistaking fantasy for reality, concepts for experience, beliefs for truth, fairy tales for what-is.
I’ve described one of my own experiences that led to my saying “the end” to Sant Mat fairy tales in “Did I see God in first class?” To quote myself (one of my favorite activities):
I understand the allure of what Hindus call bhakti marg, salvation through love and devotion. Though much more inclined to the spiritual path of jnana (knowledge through meditation), I’ve got my bhakti tendencies and have been known to shed a tear at the thought or sight of a guru. But that was then. I believe that I’m wiser now.
Wiser, because I’ve concluded that if I have to think or emote my way to reality, this isn’t a reality worth having. When I let loose of an object, gravity takes it to the ground regardless of whether I’m thinking “Gravity is great” or feeling “I love gravity so much!” Gravity, like all the other laws of nature, just does what it does—automatically.
If there is a spiritual dimension to reality, it makes sense to me that higher laws of the cosmos also will operate naturally and spontaneously. When my inner vision is clear, I’ll experience them without effort, just as I open my eyes in the morning and effortlessly see a world guided by physical laws.
…If I have to believe in God in order to experience God, then that experience is of my own belief, not of God.
I’d be overjoyed to see God in human form. Heck, in any form. A formless form would be fine also. But I want this seeing to be unmistakable, crystal clear, impossible to be doubted. I don’t want to substitute imagination for the real thing.
Maybe I saw God in first class. Maybe. Maybe isn’t good enough. I want to be sure that God is more than, as the song goes, “just a slob like one of us.” Show me. Then I’ll believe, not before.