I'm amused when other people try to understand why I did something -- like diassociate myself from the religious organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), that I was an active member of for over thirty years.
Heck, I don't even know why I do stuff much of the time. None of us does. Neuroscience tells us that most of the brain/mind's activity occurs outside of conscious awareness. A desire, thought, inclination, motivation, or whatever pops up and we act on it.
But where it came from or what made it rise into awareness is a mystery. To ourselves. To other people.
Regardless, we humans erroneously believe that the workings of the amazingly complex Homo sapiens consciousness can be reduced to platitudes.
Today I got an email from someone who described a conversation he had with a senior RSSB "sevadar" (volunteer, basically) after he wondered how a disciple like me, after decades of devotional practice, would leave the guru-centered organization.
The response: "familiarity breeds contempt." Also, that I wanted to publish books outside of RSSB control, and this wasn't permitted. Both assertions lack validity. I may not know everything about myself, but I certainly know more than someone who isn't me.
Regarding the book, Return to the One, about the teachings of a Greek philosopher (Plotinus) that I began writing under the auspices of RSSB, I've previously described how I wasn't willing to compromise truthfulness for the organization's "party line." See here and here.
Other authors who tried to cram Christianity and Buddhism into the Radha Soami Satsang Beas belief box have done this, but I wasn't willing to. After studying Plotinus for several years, I came to have a deep respect for his philosophy. When RSSB wanted me to edit my book in ways I didn't feel were honest, I said "goodbye" and published the book myself.
Successfully (it's gotten good reviews).
What about "familiarity breeds contempt"? I'm not sure what this means. Why would I be contemptuous of something or somebody I know a lot about? Wouldn't I be as likely to feel better about that thing or person after my familiarity is strengthened, as to feel worse?
This is the perspective of a Psychology Today article on the subject.
In relationships, the problem is not with familiarity, but more about that to which we're acclimating. For example, disrespectful, dishonoring, and negative energy all too often become familiar territory in relationships. These are the elements that cause contempt. Perhaps we'd be better off saying mediocrity or unhappiness breed contempt.
I've been married for twenty-two years. All of that familiarity with my wife hasn't brought contempt. It's brought a deeper love. We know each other much better now than when we first met. Our relationship has become stronger, not weaker. My wife and I have grown together, changed together, adapted together.
With a religious organization like Radha Soami Satsang Beas, though, it's natural for someone like me to become disenchanted.
Many people have a superficial relationship with their faith. They go to church, or the equivalent, on the weekend. They pay lip service to vows, commandments, rituals, and the like. So they never really become intimately familiar with their religion. Hence, the relationship remains shallow, a passing acquaintance rather than an intimate getting-to-know-you.
By contrast, I threw myself into meditation, volunteer service, and other devotional aspects of RSSB. Yes, I became deeply familiar with the organization and its teachings. I got to know high-ranking disciples quite well, along with the guru, Gurinder Singh.
It wasn't familiarity, though, that led me to leave RSSB. As noted in the quotation above, if someone has a pleasing and satisfying relationship, familiarity breeds even more pleasure and satisfaction. In my case, the more I learned about Radha Soami Satsang Beas, the more I realized that what I desired -- truth, honesty, friendship, intimacy, caring, growth -- wasn't what RSSB was desirous, or capable, of.
The problem with rigid religions is that they aren't able to change along with their members. By contrast, Taoism, and to some extent, Buddhism, have a "there's no single right way" attitude. A good marriage, ditto.
Give and take; flexibility; compromise; humility; willingness to change -- this is how two people are able to happily get along for decades, or a lifetime. With religions, though, often the hierarchy and dogmas are set in stone.
"It's my way or the highway" says the religion to devotees who find themselves changing in a direction that isn't acceptable to the powers-that-be. Which is weird, when you think about it.
What I mean is, all religions, and particularly those of the Eastern variety like Radha Soami Satsang Beas, are about personal transformation. Yet rigid religions demand that their members change only in certain ways. For example, I spent thirty years meditating several hours a day, investigating subtleties of consciousness.
The result: insights, understandings, realizations.
However, since those weren't what the so-called RSSB "science of the soul" deemed to be valid, I was asked to not express them. So I was faced with a choice between what I had come to know as experientially true for myself, and the dogmas RSSB wanted me to believe in.
I chose truth.
Not just because I'd become intimately familiar with the RSSB organization and teachings; but because that familiarity led me to realize that what RSSB offered wasn't what I wanted. Life is short. None of us should spend our earthly time span living untruthfully, failing to follow what beckons us from the depths of our being.