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August 29, 2007


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Dear Brian, I am neither a believer or a sceptic. Neither pro or anti this or that faith/belief/conceptual paradigm. Of this, I am self-assured.

What I have observed, impartially I feel, is the way that mental illness or dis-ease is *equally* apparent in those who are assured of their rational scepticism, as those who are assured of their irrational religous beliefs.

In fact, in my observations, nothing has changed at all 'illness' wise, just that one conceptual paradigm is replaced by another. Essentially, the HUMAN is an ill being.

Everybody is feeling superior or more wise than the 'other' group. Yet nothing haschanged, except the form the illness takes. Perhaps, yes perhaps, the illness has become even worse for those flipped from belief to atheism. Happiness, contentment, peace with ONESELF being nothing but a fantasy.

I hope some are able to find the eye of the needle through which neither faith or disbelief can enter. It is well hidden indeed.


Great post, Brian!

And, man, can I relate to what your wrote.

I grew up in devote Catholic family where breathing wrong was a source of guilt and sin. It was a very "shaming" experience and there is just no way a person could develop a sense of wholeness within such a restricted structure. I felt constantly on guard that the slightest misdeed required a trip to the confessional. I'll never forget the first time I said "goddamn", I thought it was over for me...hell for eternity!!

That same mentality carried over into my earlier days in RSSB. I remember freaking out because I was served an item in a Chinese restaurant that contained bits of meat. Charan Singh was cool about it and blew it off as just a mishap. Honestly, I never found Charan as strict personally as the Sant Mat rhetoric that surrounds the teachings. Not sure where Gurinder stands because I moved on from Sant Mat several years ago.

Nonetheless, your post points out the inherent dangers of this rigid mindset. I have since moved away from any concepts of God that damand perfection or promote any sort of perfection be it Guru, Jesus, or whoever.

To see the divine fabric within the "ordinariness" of the human experience is both a relief and a blessing.


My cat only seems to care about things that affect him. If I am feeling depressed, and showing that I am sad and mope around, he never comes over to me to cheer me up, or shows any concern. But he does come over to me when he wants me to stroke him, and desires that pleasure for himself, whether I need his companionship or not. Cats are not social animals. It is hard to imagine animals in nature that survive all on their own, only meeting one another to mate, giving much thought to things that don’t affect them in particular. But social animals like dogs will sense the distress of their masters when their masters feel bad, and try to cheer them up. And bees show concern for things that happen to any bee in the hive.

It is still a subject of controversy in philosophy whether human beings are naturally social, or solitary. Hobbes worked from the model that humans are naturally solitary, and had them forming states only as a means to attain individual aims necessary for individual survival. But to him the state was an artificial mechanism; it did not simply come to human beings naturally, issuing from their very nature. I would suggest that the fact that human beings depend so much upon socialization and culture to survive is evidence that human beings are naturally social. An organism that depends so much, by nature, upon socialization, because it has left instinct behind, would be utterly lost if not raised in a social setting, all on its own. And if human beings are naturally social, they would be less like my egocentric cat, who does not care a whit if I am sad, and more like the bee in the hive, who will sting in an attack, and in consequence die, for the sake of the others.

But the schizophrenic’s paranoid belief systems are decidedly egocentric. He will form beliefs having to do with his persecution by agencies that are all too focused on him in particular, his inflated importance in society and history, or an unusual effort of his fellows to make him stumble and fail. He does not do as Anaximines did and say, "What is everything made of?" and come up with absurd answers that cannot be known to be true or false; he will say instead, "What does all this mean to me in particular?" and come up with involved delusions in which he is the star player.

Certain eccentrics, who are either schizophrenic or only have schizophrenic tendencies, are often antisocial and reclusive. They prefer to live on their own, if they can, with as little interaction with others as is possible. And schizophrenia is a disease of introversion, like autism. Introverts generally are less socially adept, and do better with solitary creativity, and the life of the solitary mind. Is the schizophrenic an extreme form of an antisocial, egotistical individual who is born to a social, interactive species?

The schizophrenic is not a narcissist or egoist, selfish and only able to understand his personal needs. This is the problem: he is, in his delusions, the center of the world; but in his interactions with people he is no more selfish than the general public. The schizophrenic tends to be humane and generous. Once, when I was giving a homeless man cans of food from a backpack, he said to me, "I’d like the backpack too." I remembered the words of Jesus, "Give to all who ask of you." I gave him the backpack, and had to buy another, at some expense. This simple obedience to the words of Jesus, the action done out of an inflated sense of importance (these words of Jesus did not seem to apply to everyone, but me in particular), is an example of a semi-psychotic behavior that is decidedly selfless. But if the schizophrenic’s delusions are so egocentric, why is schizophrenia not marked by selfishness and cruelty to others?

The answer can be partly explained in terms of the phenomenon of mysticism. The mystic, like the schizophrenic, transcends the conceptual framework of his culture, so that he sees reality "as it really is". But he does not replace these webs of significance with delusional, personal ones. The mystic also tends to dissolve the barrier between self and world, thus becoming one with all his experience, so that he is not distinct from the sights he sees or the sounds he hears. This is an ego-less dissolution; the mystic sees that ego is illusion, and so his perceptions merely "exist" rather than being "observed" by someone distinct from them.

The philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre has much to do with transcendence of the webs of significance of society. He writes in his novel Nausea,describing his experience of looking at the color of a root once he had ceased to project the social concept "blackness" onto it: "it didn’t look like black, but rather the confused effort to imagine black by someone who had never seen black, and who wouldn’t know where to stop . . ." Once experience ceased to be boxed up into the arbitrary classifications of language, it became something novels describe better than treatises—things most people classify as "black" looked differently, everything did.

Sartre’s is essentially a mystical philosophy. The Buddhist mystics for centuries have been telling their aspiring disciples not to have any preconceptions in their minds about what their experience means or actually is, but merely to know their experience with such immediacy that they no longer project what they take for reality onto their consciousness and perceptions. Rocks look hard; but we only think so because when we see a rock, we classify it as such, and thus the appearance of the rock takes on "hardness". Actually, though, hardness cannot be seen; only felt. When we look at rocks without thinking of them as rocks, they neither look hard nor soft; we see an image, we do not project a conception of what that object would feel like onto it. In this way, we do not add anything to what we see, and sight becomes more what it really is.

Schizophrenia, mysticism, and Existentialism have much in common. Mysticism and Existentialism involve leaving behind the "illusory" conceptual framework with which society views the world. Schizophrenia is a disorder involving the loss of the meaning the cultural context gives to things, and usually replacing this lack of meaning with a new, personal belief system. In all three, sense perceptions (or more precisely what they mean) are experienced differently from the "normal" societal experience; in schizophrenia, a new meaning is given to experience. With both Existentialism and mysticism, the sense of ego is said to be illusion. With schizophrenia, we have a particular problem with ego: the schizophrenic’s conceptual world revolves around him, but he shows no more selfishness or narcissism than the general public.

I think that the answer is that the schizophrenic experience is somehow akin to Cartesian solipsism. The schizophrenic proceeds to analyze everything as it relates to him and him alone. He loses the socially constructed view of the world in this process, and replaces it with a belief system that involves only his own consciousness and person, like Descartes imagining for sake of argument an all-powerful being whose only purpose is to deceive him. This does not mean he becomes selfish, or inflates the sense of ego in the mystical definition of ego. The schizophrenic loses his social context, becomes for a moment the solitary thing that all experience basically boils down to.

Though the very social man is very sensitive to other people and his interactions with them, this is in a sense illusion: all he really can ever experience are his own personal perceptions, his own personal emotions. His consciousness, due to the concepts he is working under, allow him to see himself as part of a larger social construction; but the schizophrenic loses these concepts that tell him his place among other men and women, and thus he is left with an overpowering sense of his own consciousness. Though he usually does not have a "solipsist delusion", he loses the concepts that tell him his place among others, and thus is left to speculate wildly about his place in society, what the world means to him and what he means to the world.

The mystic does not deny the existence of consciousness, but says it is merely "awareness existing" without a definite being that is aware. Sartre didn’t either, but said consciousness existed without their being a distinct ego anywhere in it. Perhaps the schizophrenic does not inflate the ego as the mystic defines illusory ego: a being that perceives his perceptions as distinct from them, a being that is aware of his surroundings with the "awareness" and the "surroundings" being two distinct objects. The mystic says the inflation of this sense of ego is the inflation that leads to selfishness.

It is possible that this is not the ego that is inflated with the schizophrenic, but only the sense of self that comes from the loss of the concepts that put one into a social network, and tell one, so that one knows almost by nature, where one stands among other men and women. These were the concepts Descartes found he could doubt when he realized all he really knew was his own consciousness, not the existence of other people’s consciousness. These concepts are almost intuitively understood by most people; most people do not sit and analyze their interpersonal interactions to discover them; and if Descartes has shown anything, he has shown that knowledge of these can be very shaky. Say we don’t doubt that others exist, but only what they really think of us? It is hard to come to any real conclusions; these social concepts are usually processed and acted on almost unconsciously.

As the schizophrenic loses the culturally defined meanings to events and actions, he may also lose the socially produced conception of himself as he stands among others. This is not a sign of an "antisocial" individual in the sense that he was actually meant to live on his own; it is, rather, the result of a dysfunction of the natural, unconscious ability of a social being to understand his place in society. He loses the socially produced sense of where he stands among his fellows, and so, just as he did with the webs of significance, he replaces these with ideas about how they see him, what they are doing to him, what he will mean for them, and other things. His delusions are egocentric because his sense of self in society has been produced by him all on his own, just as his own private "culture" has been produced.

But this in no way implies that the sense of ego the mystic describes is inflated. This sense of ego can exist in a man who is very social, with a keen awareness of how others see him and where he stands among them. Such a man may in fact be very selfish. So we can see how the schizophrenic both becomes the center of his social world and yet can be humane and generous toward others. He may even have mystical experiences in which his sense of ego dissolves, but he will continue to have delusions in which everyone is after him. The mystic who loses his own sense of ego, after all, does not lose his sense of his place in society. The schizophrenic has his own sense of his place in society; it is only one of his own spontaneous invention.

One thing that is characteristic almost across the board with schizophrenics (including my own case) is their utter sense of being alone. This is not only due to being literally alone—as is the recluse. Even when they live with daily interaction with others and are part of a family or group of friends or institutional society, they will feel completely and utterly alone. I think a possible explanation of this is the "private culture" theory I have presented. They do not share a belief system with others, but are the sole inhabitants of their own belief system. The meaning they see in the world—the world they create through webs of significance—is a different world from the one others create, and they are the sole inhabitants of this world. The fact that they lose the ability to comprehend how others see them, comprehend their place in a social system, and in consequence build a personal belief system to replace this, only increases their loneliness. The world is against them, or they are on a mission to save the world from evil as messiahs—in either case, any "real" interaction with society becomes impossible, given that the meaning they place in conversations and interpersonal interactions is their own private meaning, and not the meaning intended by others. The schizophrenic feels this sense of "false interaction" whether consciously or unconsciously, and so this leads to an overwhelming sense of solitude. Were the schizophrenic naturally solitary, like my cat, this would not cause him any anguish; as it is, he is left with the nature of a social animal that is forced to live on its own, like a man stranded for the rest of his life in some uninhabited land.



Manjit, I'm familiar with the argument that belief and doubt are equal prejudices. But I don't buy it.

I think Socrates had it right a couple of thousand years ago. It's tough to improve on what he said.

Namely, that knowing you don't know is preferable to not-knowing you don't know. In other words, falsely believing that you know something is worse than truly knowing that you don't know.

Because an empty cup can be filled. That's the way science works: with doubt, skepticism, openness to reality in whatever form it shows itself.

The believer has shut down all the options but what he already believes. That's sad; how can you dance freely when you think that only certain steps are possible?

Rakesh, I toyed with deleting your comment because it sounds like something copied in from elsewhere that doesn't relate to the subject of my post.

More of a preaching than a comment. But I left it up, even though I don't really know what you're getting at.

If it is that truth or reality lies beyond reason, that's likely true. Quantum physics points to this, along with many mystics.

But if you're arguing that craziness or mental illness automatically equates to mystic knowledge, I disagree.

There's a big difference between the "madness" of ultimate reality and the "madness" of those whose minds are twisted up by an excessive dose of religion.

What some call absolute obedience can also be seen as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nor is a schizophrenic mad with the presence of God, believe me.

Bob said:

"To see the divine fabric within the "ordinariness" of the human experience ..."

Good for you. I agree. And I think that is a wise and yet pragmatic way to proceed.

Thanks Brian for posting a blog about scrupulosity. There is very little awareness about it. It is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, but people relate OCD only with obsessively washing hands. Since your site is mostly visited by highly spiritual people, it will be good information to them to check that their frustration and blind devotion might be psychiatric problem.

You have no idea what you are talking about and what Brian is writing about. It is sometimes good to live in ignorance until it starts effecting your brain chemistry.

Also I guess you don't realize the power of Google. I typed one sentence of your lecture, and I got this Page:

Do you know that copying somebody's work without giving credit to the person is called plagiarism and is a form of dishonesty which is not allowed in your cult:)
-Now if you feel bad about it and promise to yourself that you will not do it again then it is normal behavior or
-even if you don't feel anything wrong about it, its normal human behavior
-BUT if feel very guilty about it and think that this bad karma will cause you trouble and any next problem in your life is because of this plagiarism and you have to beg for forgiveness from your Guru. You can't sleep at night because of it and having hot flashes and asking for forgiveness again and again..That is scrupulosity!

Or may be I am wrong, a scrupulous satsangi might not even visit this site cause he will think that by reading anti-sect or anti-guru article will increase his bad karma load.


Before I could insert the reference, the mail got posted. You are correct; it is an absolute copy. One could easily find it. It was also due to my sudden engagement else where; I write this blog while attending to house hold chores.

As per the definitions, I practically feel 90% of Indians suffer from scrupulosity. But despite suffering from it, they are enjoying the bliss of following the tennets of their whatever religion they are following. Probably you have also felt somewhere, sometime in your life.

I always enjoy postings in this blog eversince, I have come across it.

It is helping me to learn the others' view and experience of RSSB,at Beas, Amritsar district, Punjab, India. I was initiated in October 1981 by Maharaj Charan Singh Ji.

There is nothing good or bad about reading somebody's experience with something which may or not appeal me.

oh! milk is boiling on the gas burner, let me attend that.

with love

Thanks, Brian, re scrupulousity, excellent.
Re: Freedom. Sartre stated - as god does not exist we ARE free, we are CONDEMNED to be free.
Elizabeth W

I think it is wrong of you Brian to say that you "left" the path of RSSB because clearly, you were never truely on it. If you were, you'd understand why Satsangi's follow a very strict no meat and egg diet. However, the present Master also says the same as every other Master did, that if a egg or meat product is eaten unknowingly, you shall be forgiven.

Anonymous, what do you mean when you say I was never on the RSSB path? For over 30 years, I was.

I didn't eat a speck (well, maybe a few) of meat, fish, or eggs. I meditated for at least an hour and a half every day. I didn't use alcohol or drugs, aside from one drink at a high school reunion.

Pretty damn good, I'd say. Way better than most initiates. So please, don't tell me that I didn't follow the vows almost to the letter for more than three decades. I did.

hello Anon,

Just quickly passing through and noticed your post.

There is a well-known story that Sawan Singh used to tell about a devoted satsangi who became very ill. On their deathbed, in a state of confusion, they were fed an egg.

Sawan Singh recounts how that person had to take another rebirth for that 'mistake'.

I'm not sure to what extent that is an example of 'forgiveness', or even sanity? :-)

If I have recounted this story incorrectly, forgive me.

Funny, because Brian I could have swore it seemed as though you were criticizing the path of Santmat? If not, I guess you are just still very confused, despite the fact claiming that you followed it for the past three decades.

And Manjit, not everything is written in stone. Although the disciple was still accounted for eating the egg, their punishment could have been much more severe than s/he claims. In my understanding, it is not as "bad" as eating a egg knowingly.

Hope I didn't confuse anyone, that is just my preception!

Bob: Jesus does not demand perfection from you. If you feel that everything you do has to be "perfect," lest you fall into sin, you have scrupulosity--or, perhaps, your parents or priest did.

It pains me to see that you considered Christianity to be a religion of perfectionism and left it. All God (meaning, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) wants of you, I believe, is faith and apology for sin.

I prayed that you might come to realize that Christianity is a religion of love. Do not feel afraid to return.

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you compare 'obsessing' against eating an egg,
with 'obsessing' towards doing two and a half hours devoted meditation?

you say that some disciples obsess about this and this....
So... you are comparing personal idiosyncrasies of people with fulfilling 'a rather ridiculous' devotional-two-and-half hour-meditation to the IT?

You compare meditation/introspection/knowing thyself/ with personal idiosyncrasies of people who basically do not want to eat an egg with their salad, or an egg in their cake? People who live in a society that puts egg in absolutely everything?
Give these people some more credit...pls. (they may be wanderers sent by RA)

And then you combine this entire personal discourse with a wiki search on scrupulosity and then you marry this whole argument to the catholic church and then re-weave it with the narrative of a reverent talking about god and stepping into the unknown. Respect

Here is a poem my friend
in response to this post,
is not great but its the best I got:

eternal patience
love and meditation
in every gesture
in every glance
eternal patience
with no watch
in every gesture
in every glance
in the room in the dark
in the room alone with it in the dark
throw away the watch
and watch,
love and meditation
even in the stillness
of mind and heart
When all is.....
When all is....


fyi, i eat eggs all the time. i eat lots of eggs. eating eggs hasn't diminished my spiritual understanding, illumination or wisdom one iota.

in fact, eating eggs has increased my brain power and has boosted my over-all health and physical and mental well-being immensly. eggs are good for you. also fish and meat too. and butter.

people who are afraid of eating eggs and meat because of supposed karmic reasons, are foolish and lame-brained. they are misinformed. they have a wrong view.

for dharma practioners (truth seekers), it is good to eat meat and fish and poultry, and also eggs.

because when you eat meat etc, it benefits that animal, it helps to free that animal from its endless cycle in samsara. so it is liberating for that animal. the animal's life and body has then served a higher purpoose, and that causes that animal to move out of the cycle of samsara.

it is a very good thing. and thus it brings you good karma as well. for a human to eat the bodies of animals after they have died, is a spiritual boon to those animals. it is a positive and liberating action.

it is not "bad karma" at all. that is a wrong and incorrect view. that is ignorance.

Psalm 34:5....I sought the Lord, who answered me, delivered me from all my fears....

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