Some people like this blog. Some people don't like it. After 14 years of regularly writing here on the Church of the Churchless, I've come to expect both praise and criticism.
Not surprisingly, I prefer hearing good things about me and this blog. So when I got the following email message today from someone in India I've been corresponding with, it made me feel good.
I'll explain why after the message.
I've corrected some typos and made the formatting easier to read. Otherwise the message is as written. "Sewa" means service, or volunteer work. The Dera is the Indian headquarters of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a spiritual organization I was a member of for 35 years.
Here's the message, minus an introductory part related to a subject this person and I have been discussing.
Like the person who wrote this message, I also can't be sure about what the ultimate truth regarding reality is. None of us can be. We all make educated guesses, or assumptions, that are founded in our experience, upbringing, culture, education, and so on.
All we can do is keep facing toward the truth as we have come to understand it, while being open to fresh ideas, new facts, different ways of looking upon the world.
It is difficult to admit, "I don't know." So I liked this person's willingness to say about the RSSB teachings, "I don't know if the path is true or not."
But what this person does know is how they were treated while doing "sewa" (again, volunteering) at the Dera. Just as I've heard from other people, this person says that the Dera lacks love -- which is a sad commentary on a spiritual community.
I liked how this person said that my viewpoint comes from "experience and logic and deep thinking." That's what I aspire to, though sometimes I fall short. Now, I realize that some spiritually-minded people believe that love and devotion is all that counts.
I disagree -- strongly.
History is full of examples of individuals, or masses of people, who were fervently devoted to destructive causes and leaders. It makes no sense to be devoted to some unworthy person or entity. Going down that route leads to authoritarianism, being taken advantage of, dangerous blind obedience.
My wife was a psychotherapist in private practice for quite a few years. One of her specialities was domestic violence. Most of her clients were women being abused by men. Without giving their names, she'd explain to me how many women stay in an abusive relationship, even when they're being hit, yelled at, threatened.
Why? Many reasons.
Some are that the women didn't know what to do if they left the relationship, or they were afraid of what the man would do if they stood up for themselves. So my wife would give them options, and help the women recognize that they had more strength than they thought they possessed.
Likewise, one of the reasons I started this blog in 2004 was to encourage people to realize that when it comes to religion, spirituality, mysticism, and philosophy, independence is a virtue, not a vice. I haven't changed this blog's slogan over all those years: Preaching the gospel of spiritual independence.
Sometimes it makes sense to stay in a relationship with another person "til death do us part," as wedding vows in the United States often say. Yet sometimes it doesn't.
And sometimes it makes sense to remain a member of a religion or spiritual path for the rest of your life. Yet sometimes it doesn't. Think for yourself. Nobody else can do that for you. Nor should they.