Ned just left a comment on a recent post that was so thoughtful and well-written, I wanted to share his criticisms of Sant Mat right away.
Thanks, Ned. You expressed yourself beautifully. I heartily agree with the three conclusions in your comment:
I was initiated when I was a kid and hadn't had much to do with Sant Mat for a long time (decades).
I spent the last month doing an experiment, doing Surat Shabd Yoga meditation for long periods of time, reading the old literature, and so on. I also went to one of Ishwar Puri's talks. I really liked the talk and I liked him. What led to that experiment is another story.
For the most part, however, my conclusions about the Path haven't really changed. I could sum them up in three points:
(1) Creating levels of mystic experience is a block.
About 20 years ago, I had set aside all the stuff I had learned about inner planes from Sant Mat and Theosophy and started practicing Zen. I kept it real simple, just counting my breaths.
What I found surprising was that I had what I would consider my first legit spiritual experience.
And I think it was because I wasn't expecting anything. I wasn't waiting to see the Master or to fly around the astral plane. I also wasn't beating myself up for not having those experiences. The expectation and guilt go hand-in-hand.
(2) Believing in Perfect Living Masters is a form of spiritual authoritarianism.
There is an emotional and intellectual dependency that is quite damaging to a person. It is something that I still struggle with.
There are extreme examples of people being abused by gurus, but there are subtler problems. Like the belief itself that there are perfect people and you're not perfect, and no matter how hard you try you can't become perfect; the belief creates a neurosis that can show up in all sorts of weird and unhealthy ways.
The demand in Sant Mat, as with many religions, is that you need more faith. Master or God or Jesus will make you perfect if you just submit and obey. It is your selfishness and disobedience, that's the problem.
You don't become more perfect, just more dependent. This might be the oldest game in the book.
(3) Subjective experience is not proof of anything.
The atheist position is that they will not believe something unless there is empirical proof, which automatically eliminates most if not all subjective experience as a premise for belief.
This seems pretty simple and obvious, but for a person like myself who has been stooped in this kind of spiritual woo for most of my life, the idea is revolutionary. Not only does subjective experience not justify belief, it doesn't justify authority either.
Humility in spiritual and religious circles is about thinking less of yourself and more of God or Guru or whatever, but I think this is a false humility.
The scientist or secularist who reviews the facts and comes to the conclusion of what is probably true, with the understanding that their information and ability to analyze data is limited, comes to what I think is a sincere form of humility.
Which is that there is a lot more that we don't know than we do, and of what we do know is continuously up for revision. I don't know how much this has to do with Faqir Chand, but I've been wanting to say this for awhile.