I've just finished reading my bajillionth (more or less) spiritual, mystical, religious, or philosophical book. You could call me a slow learner, but today I had a mini-enlightenment.
It dawned on me -- more clearly than ever before -- why every religion and spiritual path is wrong. More precisely, wrong for everybody but one person: the guy or gal who had the initial religious or spiritual experience that led to a claim that it is right for everybody.
A personal experience is just that: one person's experience. End of story.
But if that person shares his or her tale with others, and it ends up getting written down, documented, formed into dogma, systematized, conceptualized, cast into philosophical stone, then a unique perspective on the cosmos can turn into a claim of universal truth.
Science, of course, doesn't work this way.
The laws of nature don't depend upon Newton's, Einstein's, Darwin's, or anybody else's personal experience. Confirmation of a scientific hypothesis is independent of the originator's individual perspective.
It's very different in the world of religion and spirituality. Jesus's supposed sayings are taken on faith as a reflection of divine reality. The Buddha's teachings are much less fundamentalist, but even here many devotees revere the messenger as much as the message.
I've read lots of books where the spiritual teaching is based on the author's questionable assumption: "I did this and that and experienced such and such, so this is how you can do it too."
For example, Ramana, an Indian sage, advised asking "Who is the seer?" So Ramana formed his own teachings around the question, "Who am I?"
Well, that worked for Ramana. But why should it work for anyone else?
Similarly, the founder of another Indian spiritual path, the Radha Soami branch of Sant Mat, is said to have meditated almost continuously in a dark room for seventeen years before supposedly realizing some great mystical truth.
Now, the essence of the Radha Soami meditation system is to do as the founder did: meditate for lengthy periods (two or three hours a day), ignoring the physical world as much as possible.
Since this is Valentine's Day, I'll relate this sort of approach to spirituality with falling in love.
I enjoy hearing stories of how a couple met, got to know each other, and became romantically connected. However, every story necessarily is different. There's no "cookbook" approach to meeting that special someone.
We'd think, that's ridiculous, if someone claimed there's only one way to meet your soul mate, because this is how it happened for him or her. "Go to Joe's Bar on 23rd Street. Sit on the third stool from the end. Order a beer. Turn to your right and look into the eyes of the person you're meant to be with."
Yet I can't tell you how many books I've read, including the holy texts of the world's best known religions, which really are nothing more that a "We met at Joe's Bar" story.
This is why all religions and spiritual paths are wrong: none of them points the way to a demonstrably true reality that can be confirmed to be more than one person's unique experience.
Life, deep down, is a mystery. The cosmos, deep down, is a mystery. Death and any possible afterlife, deep down, is a mystery. Existence, deep down, is a mystery.
Some people claim to have unraveled the mystery, seen through illusion, become enlightened, heard the voice of God, been initiated into divine truths. Well, good for them.
I'm pleased they've experienced something so interesting and appealing. I'm also pleased whenever someone tells me they've fallen in love.
But one person's romantic fulfillment is another person's "What does he/she see in that person?" Similarly, one person's communion with God or ultimate reality is another's "Huh?"
Find your own way. It's good to learn about religious, mystical, and spiritual practices other people find attractive. However, you're you, not them. Roughly similar in some ways, yet different in so many others.
Every love affair is unique. So is each person's connection with whatever it is we call reality. Embrace that uniqueness. Don't march in step with someone's else's drum beat.