This Church of the Churchless weblog doesn’t strike me as scary. Not like a big bad wolf. Pretty much all I do is say it as I see it. My most frequent utterance is “I don’t know.” For variety I try to express this un-profundity in alternative ways, but they all end up pointing at my metaphysical cluelessness.
My musings wouldn’t be threatening if it weren’t for a secondary theme: “I don’t know, and there’s no proof that you do either.” It’s the sentiment after the comma that strikes at the heart of organized religious pretension.
I have to assume that this is what galls the ecclesiastical authorities who represent Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the mystico-spiritual organization that I’ve been associated with for over thirty years and which I have much fondness for.
So much fondness, that I regularly take some time and trouble to critique RSSB’s failures to live up to its claim that it preaches a “science of the soul.” If I didn’t care about the organization I’d give it as much attention as I do to goings on with the Southern Baptists.
Another reason RSSB pops up in my posts fairly frequently is that I still have some connections with this group. As I wrote about back in February, Matt (a New Zealand RSSB initiate) and I collaborated on publishing a German translation of my first book, “God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder.”
The translation was of a shorter and simpler version, but it contained almost all of the quotations from books written by RSSB gurus and disciples that were in the original version. When “God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder” was published in 1995, six thousand copies of my book were purchased by RSSB for resale through its own distribution channels.
What I tried to do was show that mysticism can be a spiritual science, just as physics is a material science. The book didn’t appeal to everyone in RSSB, for sure. But it struck a chord with those who looked upon meditation more as a method for knowing ultimate reality than as devotion to a personal god or guru.
I didn’t mention back in February why I got involved in publishing the German translation. Matt had contacted some RSSB powers-that-be and asked if his translation could be copied and made available to German speaking disciples. They said, “No.”
I couldn’t leave it at that. I felt bad that Matt had put so much work into his translation, only to have it rejected by the group that he had primarily performed this service for. So I emailed Matt and told him that one way or another, we’d get “Wenn Gott flüstert, donnert es in der Schöpfung” published.
And we did. I ended up publishing the book under my own imprint, Adrasteia Publishing. I paid for the book design and setup costs. It’s a print on demand title made available through Lightning Source and thence to online bookstores like Amazon-Germany.
I priced the book most reasonably. Likely I’ll never make back the money I put into publishing it. Not that I care. Like Matt, I considered this project to be a gift to German speaking readers. Our payback wouldn’t be in dollars (or euros). I feel like I’ve already been well-compensated.
After the book was published RSSB was contacted once more. Could the book be made available through their distribution channels? After all, six thousand copies of the English version were bought and resold at cost by RSSB. Why not do the same on a smaller scale for the German translation?
This time a reason for “No” was given. “It’s because of Brian Hines’ Church of the Churchless blog.”
There are good reasons for rejecting a non-fiction book. Untrue. Uninteresting. Uninspiring. Unintelligible. However, rejecting a book because the author has a weblog where he writes about what he wrote about in the book—that doesn’t make sense to me.
Admittedly, I write about other subjects too. Including the aforementioned criticisms of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. Yet I always think back to the words of Charan Singh, the guru who initiated me: “Our critics are our best friends.” In science that is true. In religion it isn’t.
So RSSB has helped make the point that I dwell on in some of my posts. When the focus is on the messenger rather than the message, you know you’re in the domain of religion rather than science. If a revered guru says something, by itself that doesn’t make it right. If a heretical disciple says something, by itself that doesn’t make it wrong.
I’m with the X-files: the truth is out there. There’s nothing to fear but our failure to find it. And maybe not even that.