I readily admit that my reaction to the comment “doctor heal” left a few days ago on my “A thoughtful ‘no thanks’ to Radha Soami Satsang Beas” post wasn’t a sign of an enlightened being. But, then, I don’t make any claim to being such. The commenter, however, said:
I hate to rain on your parade but the inner experiences are very real for us exp ONES>>>better luck next time around. At that point try to leave the intellect where it belongs. Behind.
I assume “exp” means experienced. Meaning, those who have enjoyed the mystical sights and sounds that the Radha Soami Satsang Beas gurus describe in considerable detail in the RSSB literature. And “next time around” refers to my next incarnation. In that rebirth, doctor heal advises me to stop thinking so much.
Can’t argue with that advice. But unfortunately I’m still stuck in this life, where I do use my intellect to decipher the meaning of comments left on my blogs.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard from someone who claims to possess mystical knowledge that I lack. I’m always eager to know more, because, well, I want to know more myself. So I said to doctor heal (both in a comment of my own and an email):
Please tell us more. In detail. About your experiences. How did you achieve them? What were they, exactly? Why are you sure they are genuine? Don't leave us unfortunate ones in the lurch. Place your spiritual knowledge where it belongs. Out front.
We ended up exchanging some email messages. I pointed out to doctor heal my post where Howard reported that the current RSSB guru says that it isn’t a big deal to talk about inner experiences, notwithstanding the belief of many disciples that this is forbidden.
But my correspondent replied that it is a big deal, proving, if nothing else, that he considers his own opinion to be more valid than that of the leader of the spiritual organization to whom he pledges allegiance. I was disappointed. As I am every time someone declines to describe their mystical knowledge after telling me, “I know stuff that you don’t.”
Come on, people, don’t be teases. If you’re going to wink at me from the bar, at least let me sit down next to you, have a drink, and hear your story. I’ve been wandering in a barren wilderness of meditation for over thirty years, like many other hungry souls. Throw me a bone.
(As an aside, whenever I feel like a meditation failure I dig out Thomas Keating’s “Open Mind, Open Heart” and read, on page 10:
I continue to meet people who are very advanced in the spiritual journey who insist that they have never had the grace of contemplative prayer as a felt experience of God…Less than five per cent of cloistered contemplatives that I know have the mystical experiences that Teresa or John of the Cross describe. They generally experience the night of sense, and a few experience the night of spirit. Their consolations are few and far between…What is the essence of contemplative prayer? The way of pure faith. Nothing else. You do not have to feel it, but you have to practice it.)
Look, my supposedly enlightened fellow spiritual seekers (or should I say, finders), it’s evident that there is no solid objective evidence for divinity. If there were, science would have incorporated it into theories about the nature of reality. And whoever manifested that evidence, whether a person or an organization, would quickly rise to the top of the religious pecking order.
So we’re left with subjective evidence. In his essay, “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing” (in A Devil’s Chaplain), Richard Dawkins says that three bad reasons for believing something are called tradition, authority, and revelation.
Agreed. Direct experience is a much better reason. Not infallible, but pretty damn good. Thus if I haven’t had a direct mystical experience of a higher spiritual reality, I need to hear about that more exalted dimension of the cosmos from someone who has.
This obviously is a more fallible reason for believing that my own direct experience, since I can be deceived by someone with the gift of gab. Still, if I have the chance to question them carefully and sort out the details of their claimed mystical knowledge, I’ll feel pretty good about believing them. Or, not.
Well, I’m still waiting for that chance. Which is frustrating. Why be so shy, enlightened ones? Often I hear people say that if you talk about your mystical experiences you’ll stop having them. Why should this be true? Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, and a host of others related their “godly” experiences. Didn’t seem to hurt them any.
Over on the Radhasoami Studies discussion group David Lane persuasively argues that if someone has matured spiritually, they shouldn’t be affected by childish fears. Like the power that reading or speaking the 26 letters in the English language might have other them.
Another thing: shouldn’t a genuine mystical experience have some profound effect on the experiencer? When I told my wife about my interchanges with doctor heal, she said: “Why would someone spiritually advanced go onto your Church of the Churchless blog and brag about their experiences?” Good question.
D.T. Suzuki quotes Rinzai, a Zen master:
O Venerable Sirs, beware of taking clothes [for realities]. Clothes are not self-determining; it is the Man that puts on various clothes: clothes of purity, clothes of no-birth, clothes of enlightenment [bodhi], clothes of nirvana, clothes of patriarachs, clothes of Buddhahood.
O Venerable Sirs, what we have here are merely sounds, words, and they are no better than the clothes we change…outwardly by means of sounds and words and inwardly by the changing of modes of consciousness we think, we feel, and these are all the clothes we dress ourselves with.
Do not commit the mistake of taking the clothes people wear for realization.
OK. I won’t. But I still would like to see the clothes of the supposedly enlightened ones, if for no other reason than to compare them with my own tattered spiritual rags. For sure, it’d be nice if we could see each other completely naked. I’ll take what I can get, though.
So it comes down to this for me: put up or shut up. Having immersed myself in a terrific football game this afternoon, permit me to engage in some crude sports talk:
Dude! If you come onto my blog, show some respect. This is my turf. Churchless turf. You start talking trash about knowing God and seeing light and hearing sounds and stuff, back it up! Bring your best game when you walk onto my court, man. Don’t just jive me. If you can’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.
Hey, that sounds pretty good; but doesn’t “jive” date me? Well, I’m dated.
On a loftier note, I’ll close with a quote from Richard Dawkins, where he’s giving advice to his ten year old daughter:
Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, ask yourself: “Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority, or revelation?” And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: “What kind of evidence is there for that?” And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.