To inspire myself, an admittedly circular task, I've been reading a mini-chapter from my "Break Free of Dogma" book every morning before I meditate.
Naturally I like everything in the book, because it consists of posts I selected from the early years of this Church of the Churchless blog, 2004-06.
But some of those old posts appeal to me more than others, which gets them highlighted in the Contents section. Here's the first of a two-part Blast From the Blog Post Past, the second being a follow-up I wrote on the theme of mystery.
There: Right there. See the blank space after “There:” That’s where I revealed my mystical experiences.
I was impelled to disclose the status of my inner spiritual realization after reading a comment by A fellow bubble-bursted soul on my recent “Bursting Belief Bubbles” post. This person, a fellow Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) initiate, said that he/she was still pursuing the experiment of meditation even though positive results to date had been lacking.
The commenter said, “Unfortunately if I have a break through I won't be able to tell you because us satsangis [initiates], conveniently, aren't suppose to reveal our inner experiences.”
Yes, that’s true. And “conveniently” is the operative word here.
I used to think that the reason for the injunction against revealing inner experiences was that if you had a profound experience and talked about it, other people would start looking upon you as a divine being. This could inflate your ego, thereby causing you to be dropped from the Mystic Experience Club.
However, that reasoning doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, and many other supposedly elevated souls have spoken about their inner godly experiences. They don’t seem to have been spiritually harmed by sharing their contacts with divinity.
If I hike up to an alpine lake, then descend and tell people how lovely the scenery was, am I now an egotistical maniac who should forever be barred from entering the mountains again? Of course not. I’m just telling about my experience.
So I’ve concluded that the main reason RSSB initiates aren’t supposed to reveal their inner experiences is that hardly anybody is having any. Maybe nobody. I can say this quite confidently because over the past thirty-five years I’ve talked to lots of mystic meditators. Plus, I talk to myself all the time.
The constantly-recurring theme that I hear is “My meditation sucks.” Not always said quite so bluntly, but that’s the message. Now, “sucks” is a value judgment made by comparing one’s actual experience with an expected experience. Some mystical paths (such as Zen) don’t speak much about what is going to happen along the way.
But RSSB does. There are various metaphysical regions that the initiate is told about, along with the sights and sounds that will be seen and heard in each higher domain of the cosmos.
So if you’re stuck in the dark silence of your own brain, repeating your guru-given mantra over and over like an obsessive-compulsive parrot, it’s difficult not to eventually come to the conclusion, “My meditation sucks.”
That said, and I’ve said it countless times, I still meditate every day for an hour or so. I enjoy my meditation. But I’ve never experienced anything that I could conclusively call “mystical,” “spiritual,” or “divine.” I’ve felt like I was rising up into a blissful void, but neuroscientists theorize that this could be the result of sensory deprivation (I usually use earplugs and a blindfold).
I’m a strong believer in inner meditation. It seems to me that this is the best way to grapple with eminently scientific questions about the essential nature of consciousness, life, and existence. If I can simply be conscious, simply live, and simply exist in meditation, I feel that I’m going to be closer to getting some answers.
Who knows? Maybe I am indeed closer. But close doesn’t count in scientific research. You either get a definitive finding or you don’t. I’m still waiting for results. And believe me, I’ve been experimenting for many years—most of that time doing just what I was instructed.
Now I’m modifying my meditation, tinkering with alternative approaches, becoming more open to different ways of opening myself to whatever reality may lie beyond that which I know now. This feels right and good to me. Why should I keep on doing the same thing in meditation when I’m not getting the results that were anticipated?
Life is too short to spend bumped up against a dead end. When I hear a whisper—“back up, turn around, and head in a new direction”—I’m going to listen to that inner voice. And I’ll let you know how the advice turns out.
I have a friend who likes to say, “Nobody’s life is ever completely wasted. He always can serve as a horrible example for others.” Great saying. Science progresses by researchers sharing the results of their experiments and investigations. A negative result can be almost as valuable as a positive result, helping to guide research in a more productive direction.
I wish more meditators, of the RSSB variety or whatever, would speak more clearly, honestly, and forthrightly about their inner experiences (or, lack of them), even though spiritual practice always will be highly individualistic and personal. I doubt that a foolproof, 100% effective, guaranteed-results system of meditation ever will be discovered or developed.
However, if people who meditate talked more openly about what works and doesn’t work for them, I think we’d be more likely to achieve the illusive goal of making spirituality a genuine science rather than merely a collection of competing unproven beliefs.