Thanks again to Shin for sharing his or her doubts about Radha Soami Satsang Beas, which formed a recent post. I've enjoyed the comments also.
These thoughts have, not surprisingly, gotten me thinking ... about my own evolution from a fervent RSSB true believer to who I am now.
It's sort of tough to encapsulate my current state in a few words, like I used to be able to do with "RSSB initiate" or "RSSB disciple." This is progress.
Before, my spiritual focus was narrow. Even though I read widely in other traditions -- Sufism, mystical Christianity, Greek philosophy -- I was mostly interested in how these teachings related to the Sant Mat belief system.
I was looking for truth along a narrow section of the philosophical, or spiritual, horizon.
While I was more open-minded than most religious believers, I'd still put on devotional blinders that prevented me from seeing that really real reality could lie in a considerably different direction from where I was facing.
That was toward a guru, a dualistic theology, a rigid set of lifestyle commandments, a well-defined meditation approach, an obedience-demanding organization that didn't tolerate dissent.
There are other ways. A multitude of ways. Maybe even an infinity.
Because if there is one thing humans have learned about ultimate reality, it is that we know nothing about ultimate reality. Nothing for certain, for sure.
So a sincere truth seeker shouldn't forestall any possibilities. Reality can lie in any direction; a 360 degree perspective needs to be embraced. We don't want truth to tip-toe up behind us and remain unnoticed as we gaze in the opposite direction.
Shin brought up the subject of meditation. I still meditate every morning. Now, though, it's with a who knows? attitude. For example:
whether God exists
whether consciousness continues after death
whether any existent divinity is personal or impersonal
whether minds can connect non-physically
whether psychic stillness leads to deeper reality waters
whether we can even ask cogent questions about the cosmos
I sure don't.
So I sit down on my meditation cushion with a let's see and show me. I might start off with a churchless prayer that goes something like this.
Hey, God, if you exist, I'm here. Show me what you're like. Or if any other entity is aware of me -- angel, guru, disembodied soul, advanced alien being, whatever or whoever -- let's have a chat. My consciousness is open for truth-business, so long as you've got good intentions (I'd just as soon not meet up with demonic presences, though even that could be interesting).
This sort of talk is directed at the possibility that some being can communicate with me. Since I don't know what or who this might be, I put out a "Welcome" sign for Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Jehovah, Krishna, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or anyone else who wants to drop by my awareness.
So far my meditation has been pretty damn solitary, however. This leads me to suspect that the really real reality I'm looking for isn't outside of me, but rather is me.
Which isn't an original suspicion, of course, since some version of that hypothesis lies at the root of almost every deep mystical teaching or philosophy. Heck, it's even how I started off my book about Plotinus (which is one of my favorite sentences in the 369 pages).
If something has been lost and you're not sure where to look for it, there's good reason to start searching right where you are rather than far afield.
It's good to have a 360 degree perspective. But that doesn't necessarily mean looking far away toward a distant horizon.
Meister Eckhart, a medieval Christian mystic, put it this way:
The eye with which I see God is exactly the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowledge and one love.
What's more all-encompassing and 360 degree'ish than one?