Recently I heard from a woman who has distanced herself from the Indian religious organization I was a member of for 35 years, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB).
Her family is still very much into RSSB, so she asked me some questions about how I adjusted after being, like her, initiated by the RSSB guru and then coming to see that the RSSB teachings no longer made sense.
Here's one of her questions, along with my response. "Babaji" refers to the current RSSB guru, Gurinder Singh Dhillon.
Question for me: I find myself saying when I need help (to myself) Babaji help me- and then I realise that I don’t believe in him anymore and I don’t believe in god either- do you think there’s some sort of universal energy around us?
My response: I wish there was, but I don’t think there is. But I could be wrong. Like you, I don’t believe in the RSSB gurus or in God. But I still talk to my guru, Charan Singh, and also to God. Life can be difficult. I like having imaginary friends.
To me it’s like watching a compelling TV show or reading a good novel. I can believe the show or novel is real and get all excited about what’s happening, even though I know that both are made up and aren’t real.
In the same way, I like to pretend at times that I believe in guru/God, just because it makes me feel better to do that, and I enjoy telling my problems to my imaginary friends, since my wife can get tired of hearing me complain about the same things after so many years of marriage (32 years).
Like I said, I don't find anything unusual in talking to someone who isn't real as if they could actually hear you. This isn't so different from sports fans yelling at the TV in a bar, exhorting their team to win the game.
Or me getting so nervous about what's going to happen in the Israeli spy thriller "Tehran" that I'm watching on AppleTV+. I realize that Tehran features actors, not real spies. But when there's a cliffhanger at the end of an episode, I can hardly wait to see if the woman who plays an undercover agent in Iran is going to succeed in her mission.
So it's no big deal for atheist me to lie in bed and say to myself, as I'm drifting off to sleep, "Hey, God, how are you doing? I doubt very much that you exist. However, if you do, it'd be great to get to know you. Feel free to pay me a visit, either while I'm awake or in a dream. And if you could do something to fix the sciatica in my right leg, that'd be great. Good night."
I talk in a similar fashion to Charan Singh, the RSSB guru who initiated me (by proxy) in 1971. I used to carry on a one-sided conversation with Charan Singh when I was a RSSB believer and thought it likely that the guru actually did reside within a corner of my consciousness, where he could guide me as need be.
Now I find that to be extremely unlikely.
However, occasionally I still have some things to say to Charan Singh, just because it makes me feel good to have him as an imaginary friend, along with God. This seems absolutely fine to me, since I'm well aware that an imaginary friend is much different from a real friend.
Unfortunately everyone we know, we know only from the construct our brain makes of them.
When we speak to them, we are really speaking to the construct we have made of them. When we hear them speak, it is the construct we are listening to.
That's why it's so easy to have imaginary friends. Because even our "real" friends are reconstructions of our mind based on whatever information it has. And the mind combines these with what our is conditioned to want, to love, to hate.
"We don't see reality as it is. We see it as we are."
To really know anyone requires more than this and less: a very observant state of mind. More focus, less thinking. Not a mind that imagines, but a mind happy with being patient in the darkness of not knowing, waiting, observing.
This is how we really learn about our real friends. And ourselves.
If you can imagine Charan Singh it is only because the mind imagines everyone we know. And that something in you prefers to do this. The mind is reconstructing memories, images, even words spoken to us all the time. And then presents that to our awareness as "real". And it does this under our own subconscious conditioning, our own subconscious command.
When imagination happens even before we are aware of it, we call that "real", but it isn't.
When Imagination is engaged as a conscious reconstruction, we call that fiction. But all good fiction has a basis in truth.
Imagination actually takes place without our permission much more often in what we understand as reality.
That "reality" is through the filter of mind, and"imagination" is a greater part of that than most people realize.
Meditation practice is learning to put that entire construction process aside and to observe what is really there behind imagination, opinions and thinking.
So, when you put aside who you think your neighbor is, you can learn to see your neighbor.
When you put aside who you think Charan is, you learn to see the real Charan.
And there is a point in meditation where we just focus on light and sound only. But what a pleasant surprise to realize that is the real Charan, our neighbor and ourselves.
The brain is a symbol making machine. Everyone and everything, all information is converted into a language of symbols and people.
Behind those are the real sources of that information. Those symbols arise from something. Your choice to imagine arises from something. And the images that one sees in meditation arise from a source. Imagination is constructed from raw materials.
So you may dismiss the entire world you know as imagination.
Or attempt a different, scientific approach to understanding what that is, and the reality behind its construction, the deeper symbols built into us, and the very real sources the mind draws upon.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 26, 2022 at 06:13 AM
@ Brian : [ I don’t believe in the RSSB gurus or in God. But I still talk to my guru, Charan Singh, and also to God. Life can be difficult. I like having imaginary friends. ]
What a refreshing post, Brian. Even if there's non-belief in God or guru, you benefit
from their friendship. An atheist has an alibi too if nabbed in the act: "Oh, it's nothing,
Dear, I'm just talking to myself". A mystic would agree : "Yep, he's solidifying that
bond of friendship with his "higher self" where the guru resides inside him and they
That brings an eye-roll from the atheist. "I was just fantasizing an imaginary line
of dialogue in 'Teheran' if you must know. Please, no plot "spoilers" during the
show either", he adds. Mystic: "Mum's the word. Of course, if you'd like me to
explain what's really going on in the spy's psyche, just--". Atheist: "No thanks,
I prefer an evidence-based explanation, not a conspiracy theory". Mystic: You
wound me!". Atheist: "Shh, it's about to start!"
Posted by: Dungeness | May 26, 2022 at 07:11 AM
Well, I must be an oddball! I can't say that I've ever had an imaginary friend. Perhaps when I was younger but I do not recall such. I've had a Sufi teacher and a Zen teacher, though have never been inclined to conjure them up to talk to. Of course, I think about them occasionally. And concepts like Gods and devils and such, although they may enter my head (being part of the information that my mind is comprised of) merit little attention.
The nearest I come to anything like that is the couple of crows who wait nearby for me to put some food out for them in the garden. I call out “Hello Mr. crow, here you go.” and place the food under a leaf or two on the lawn (hidden as the herring gulls would gobble them up). Also, when I hadn't seen a little owl for some years, and one day saw one in a tree, I said “Ah, so there you are!” And of course, I talk (or rather mentally acknowledge) many things I encounter in nature.
And that's about it. And happy for those who find an imaginary friend helpful in some way. Although like most people I do have many conversations (as most people do) in my head they're usually to do with planning or irrelevant thoughts. But I am used to having the thinking process quieten down – and watch what is going on in the mind.
I am familiar with the fact that images emanating from the brain (or mind) are mental constructs and that the 'self' I feel I am is also a construct. In fact when this 'self' and mind content is quiet, all there is is this entire, totally natural physical organism left, being just that – no special self, in fact, no special anything – just this amazing everything.
Posted by: Ron E. | May 27, 2022 at 06:31 AM
We ourselves are also, largely imaginary.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 27, 2022 at 08:02 AM
Once more the reaching. Let's not do this.
Yes, we know now that a great deal of what we know and understand is merely "model-building". We also know that such model-building is often beset with biases and blindsiding aplenty, so that, sure, in a sense much of what we think we know is indeed imaginary, in a manner of speaking. But hey, let's not stretch this way beyond what is reasonable and imply/claim that because a great deal of what we know is not-directly-real, therefore there's no distinction between the real and the unreal. Let's not imply/claim that because much of what we think we know is imaginary (in a manner of speaking), therefore there's no difference between the real (or what we think is real) and the out-and-out imaginary. Let's just not try that sleight of hand, of playing with words and ideas and pretending to come out with entirely unwarranted conclusions, and in the process pretending that science somehow backs up weirdo religious and/or New-Age-y ideas.
As far as Brian's main article, well, I guess there's no harm to imaginary friends, and they may even do some good in some cases, but ---- and this is a very important "but" ---- but only as long as one is clear that that friend is imaginary, only as long as one does not actually conflate imagination with reality, then and only then.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 10:03 AM
"because a great deal of what we know is not-directly-real, therefore there's no distinction between the real and the unreal."
Yes that's the problem, AR. Believing that everything we call real actually is. It isn't. It's largely warped by the mind, that constructs everything we see.
And believing everything we call imaginary is just unreal. Not true. It is constructed of real elements reformulated and warped by the mind.
Imaginary and real are not the same at all.
But we are never aware of just one or the other. We get a mixed picture. And we can use what we have been given to try to get closer to the real and further from the unreal.
Because what we think we know is an opinion based in part on information our brain constructs for us.
So, it's not all one thing. And it's not black and white so long as the human brain is the instrument of knowing.
When Brian Ji speaks to his Master and insists he is 100% and merely maginary, we don't know.
Once there was a person named Charan Singh. A real human being, not a fictional character.
What Brian Ji's mind does to that is his business.
Just as whatever you do to the person of your mom or dad or brothers or sisters is your business, but they were real people.
But thinking about Charan Singh isn't thinking about a fictional person.
That would be false. And calling him 100% imaginary would not be 100% factual. For that statement to be true, Brian Ji would have had to invent Charan Singh. He did not.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 27, 2022 at 10:59 AM
"When Brian Ji speaks to his Master and insists he is 100% and merely maginary, we don't know."
We do, actually, Spence. That was exactly the point I was trying to make, in my post that you quoted from there.
It's good to know about the model-building thing, and to use that to try to understand our biases and blind sides. But it is NOT "good" to dredge up the model-building thing to claim (outside of a sci fi, that is) that someone's imaginary friend is actually real.
(Again, it's good to keep an open mind. Sure, hold even that, what you suggest here, as a hypothesis if you like, and by all means carry out research --- whether within or without --- to try to get to the bottom of it. But until such time as evidence has actually been uncovered, whether by you/me or by others, until such time it doesn't make sense to say the kind of thing you're saying here.)
And as far as the "100%", see below.
"And calling him 100% imaginary would not be 100% factual. For that statement to be true, Brian Ji would have had to invent Charan Singh. He did not."
Nope. That isn't how that works.
That "100% sure" thing, that there is nothing but a red herring. Nothing is 100% sure. Nothing at all. That doesn't mean we go around considering anything might be true.
I mean, if you received an email from a particularly unpleasant Nigerian prince that unless you turned over half of all of your freely available cash to them within 24 hours you'd drop down dead, well then you couldn't say, not with 100% certitude, that that's BS. But you could indeed say, with enough certitude as to make any doubt redundant, that that's utter charlatanry, to be either ignored, or else, if one has the energy and the stomach for it, to be pursued with the intent of getting the authors of it put behind bars.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 11:31 AM
Added to the above: If you're trying to emphasize the distinction between, say, Brian's remembrance of Charan Singh, vis-a-vis his thinking about Professor Dumbledore, then sure, I agree, there's a difference between the two. I mean, obviously. But if that's what you meant, then that's no more than pedantry, the pointing out of that obvious difference. That difference, while real, is irrelevant in the context of Brian's post.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 11:37 AM
"If you're trying to emphasize the distinction between, say, Brian's remembrance of Charan Singh, vis-a-vis his thinking about Professor Dumbledore, then sure, I agree, there's a difference between the two."
If there isn't a difference then you are claiming there is no difference between the memory of a real person and an entirely fictitious character. I think the difference is huge. But not completely distinct.
If Brian Ji had invented a Master, Floorgamoost, that clearly has no connection to any known living person.
But Charan Singh was a real person. Where does the memory of Charan Singh end and Brian Ji's invention take over?
Who can say?
To claim that image is 100% fictitious simply isn't true, AR.
To claim it is 50% fictitious might seem reasonable, but neither you nor I know that.
It's amazing how what we don't know gets swept under the rug. When it's inconvenient.
But we do know Charan Singh actually lived, and influenced Brian Ji.
Because that is so, you nor Brian Ji can ever hope to know what degree that person Brian Ji speaks to is the recollection of a real person and to what extent it is invented.
Since that recollection isn't talking, just listening, that recollection could in fact be 100% a real person.
Not imaginary at all.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 27, 2022 at 12:43 PM
Or it could be 100% imagination, and have nothing at all to do with the real Charan Singh. Perhaps Brian Ji never really knew him.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 27, 2022 at 02:07 PM
@ AR [ As far as Brian's main article, well, I guess there's no harm to imaginary friends, and they may even do some good in some cases, but ---- and this is a very important "but" ---- but only as long as one is clear that that friend is imaginary, only as long as one does not actually conflate imagination with reality, then and only then ]
Such angst would nullify most of the intuitive flashes or imaginative exchanges that come before our
mind's eye. Of course we'll vet get any rich quick schemes and/or dismiss demonic urges to commit
unsavory/evil acts. But the overall positive effects and reality of imaged "friendships" is unquestioned.
Not just for children or the odd isolated adult either. Besides, the "friend" may well be an imaginative
conjuring by our own subconscious doing instinctively what's best for us. The friend is ourself and
exchanges with it become our reality. As a mystic said: "Imagination isn't so imaginary".
Posted by: Dungeness | May 27, 2022 at 02:17 PM
It pays to remember that imagination is a mental action; not real in the physical sense but real in the realm of mental phenomenon emanating from the brain and nervous system. It is common to talk of the brain and mind as the same thing, so to remember that the brain is a physical organ, which includes the amazing web of chemical and electrical communication processes.
Anything that we imagine is a thought or idea – all in all, a concept. Examination of the mind shows it to be information gleaned from experiences. This information in the form of thought, memories and imagination is continually arising in the brain. It is the brain that constructs our particular reality based on experiences gathered from the senses. The brain networks that are continually producing mental experiences are what the mind is.
Beneficial or not, imagination is part of our reality as is the world revealed by our senses. There may be aspects of reality that we are generally not privy to but the actual world we have to live in (along with the brain/body organism that enables our living) is the world we need to come to terms with – together with the constructs that the brain (not mind) produces to enable us to live and survive in our particular environment.
Posted by: Ron E. | May 27, 2022 at 03:19 PM
Why "angst", Dungeness? And why would hard-nosed realism "nullify" anything?
If you get this sudden flash of insight tomorrow that time isn't what we commonly experience it as, but merely one of four equivalent dimensions of space-time; well then, why on earth would clear-eyed recognition that that is imagination, not reality, not until validated, nullify anything? It doesn't stop you from from working to validate your idea (or invalidate it, as the case may be). I don't see what is gained by woolly-headed conflation of imagination with reality; and it is easy to imagine plenty of potential downsides to it, dangers even.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 07:02 PM
Ah. Just re-read your last comment addressed to me, Spence. Sure, an imagined (or dreamt of) idea might turn out to be actually memory suppressed away from the conscious mind, that much is entirely plausible and uncontroversial. Agreed, as far as that. But that isn't what I'd understood you to have been saying or implying in your earlier comments (which, to be fair, it is possible might be a function of how I parsed that rather than what you meant to convey); and, in any case, nor do you generally limit yourself to just that much in your comments elsewhere (which last there's no question of doubt about). Afraid you're now shifting goalposts to make your ideas seem more reasonable than they actually are. But, that said, agreed, absolutely, with the more limited point you make in that last comment of yours to me, sure. 👍
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 08:26 PM
@ AR [ Why "angst", Dungeness? And why would hard-nosed realism "nullify" anything? ...
I don't see what is gained by woolly-headed conflation of imagination with reality; and it is easy to imagine plenty of potential downsides to it, dangers even. ]
I was hearkening back to the example of a Nigerian prince's threatening email and
more pervasively to lack of 100% certainty about anything. Sometimes the most
improbable, benign seeming scenario turns out to be dangerous. Suppose this
larcenous "prince" purports to have embarrassing info about your life that'd put you
in a bit of a sticky wicket and hints enough evidence of it to panic you. Of course,
the Prince's silence is purchase-able for $299 worth of Bitcoin.
You'd be circumspect and research details about the threat but what if a
sudden intuitive flash told you his info wasn't really complete or as threaten-
ing as it seemed and your mindfulness practice had facilitated that quick
Would you continue to bedevil yourself with doubt about potential danger or
dismiss the value of mindfulness as a strategy? Call yourself a wooly-headed
optimist for trusting any trace of your epiphany? Repeat the mantra of "no
certainty about anything ever"? I doubt it. You'd rely on honing these skills to
look within for certainty as well as corroborating it outside. Each discipline
plays an important role,
Posted by: Dungeness | May 27, 2022 at 09:45 PM
Fair point, Dungeness. Except, you wouldn't really need "insight" to realize that that is a toothless scam. Some common sense, and some awareness of the world around you (specifically re. scams), and/or some robust skepticism (but followed up with some actual "research"), would suffice, surely?
And should we be faced with some critical decision, of any kind, then, if we did have a stroke of intuition, then it would be risky in the extreme to go by that and that alone. I'm not saying ignore the intuition, not at all: but it is a false dichotomy to imagine that it's either blindly follow your intuition or else ignore it altogether. The middle ground, of being guided by your intuition only to the extent of "researching" the idea or course of action indicated, is what would appear to make sense. And that does necessitate clearly distinguishing imagination from reality. I don't see what can possibly be gained by (prematurely, and pending "research", and pending validation via evidence) conflating the two.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 27, 2022 at 11:51 PM
Where did the flash of insight come from?
Who knows? Not this physical place.
Artists, mystics, and geniuses pursue it and spend quite a bit of time in a world quite different from this one. And even that world is their best internal construction to open a portal to another, the actual place all those brilliant ideas come from.
When Brian Ji speaks to Maharaji he is reaching out to something invisible , beyond imagination, with the only means of focus available, his image of Maharaji.
Is there anything more? Yes, everything we don't know yet. The unknown that is every bit as real as what we do know.
Of course he does not believe it is real. He has no evidence of it. But he seeks it. A practical person knows it is never wise to assume that we know everything. Reality tends to disprove that all the time.
But the genius and the mystic do get their evidence. And this world, filled with invention, is the result.
The mind has to filter those, too, and in that process truth gets corrupted and needs to be further tested by mind.
But the intuition? From beyond imagination. It enters the imagination and is not actually a product of it.
All great ideas come from there. A place that isn't physical at all.
The very idea and motivation for Brian Ji to speak to his own imagined version of Maharaji comes from another place. That place isn't imagination.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2022 at 01:58 AM
Awareness of the world around you and awareness of the world within you is the same practical pursuit of truth. But that is an enlightened practicality.
Dismissing any part of that and calling it Practical really isn't.
For this reason mystics offer practice. And the practical person always has their practice. They have a practice of evaluation, yes. And they have a different practice of not evaluating but observation, and even active exploration. All these benefit from a practical approach.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2022 at 02:08 AM
"Afraid you're now shifting goalposts to make your ideas seem more reasonable than they actually are."
To me it is describing different parts of the same view.
My view contains my belief that my Master is God. That is informed by evidence of experience that happened all of its own, and replication of that as the result of spiritual practice.
Some of that any honest Atheist would agree with. Some of it goes directly against the limited views of the Atheist. But they are part of the same consistent position. There are reasons for this.
First, the experiences can't be dismissed because we don't know enough about them to do that.
My own conclusion, from an Atheist perspective, is that they are hard coded into our genetics, but only available to conscious awareness under very controlled circumstances of deep focus of attention. Those would be built into the human brain. I conclude this because the experiences, for example, of seeing stars and constellations from space, and hearing ear-splitting and deep sounds that pulled me up into and beyond these, happened before I knew anything about mysticism. The experiences of inner stars and sound, happened frequently enough to remind me, and keep the earlier memories alive as I grew.
All I recall from my earliest experience is praying as a four year before bed to see God. And my dream that night became the conscious experience referenced above. It actually was painful. Painfully bright, painfully loud, and ended only when I shouted, within, to that invisible God, that this was too much and it hurt.
When similar experiences happened as a result of meditation I concluded that meditation practice was a gateway into the mind, even beyond the mind (meaning beyond the normal level of conscious awareness, not beyond the brain).
When that practice includes devotion to the Master, love of the Master as God, and works faster and better under conditions of submission and devotion (emotional states that push aside all other thoughts and yeilds pure focus) naturally I concluded that faith in the Master, belief in the Master was real.
But in truth I have no clue about who or what the Master really is.I love him. He is there for me and has been as long as I can recall.
The verification is only of the effect of practice.
Because I had these experiences since childhood, that provided me with an independent perspective on the practice. Mostly, they reminded me that reality is big and powerful, and I am tiny and vulnerable. So, if anything, the experience created, in a child, fear of God, and attachment to my imaginary God right from an early age.
For me, meditation was a means to control and go to those places that I had been brought to but had no control over in childhood.
The fact that Charan Singh looked just like my own father certainly helped.
When my friend Tommy met my Dad he was in silent awe. But my Dad was just a nice guy, who left Judaism because he didn't believe in hurting anyone, and actually made some rude jokes to put an end to Tommy's attention.
So the evidence of my experience supports my belief in My Master, not any factual conclusion about who or what my Master actually is. Only in the necessity of my Master as part and parcel of my life and that inner life.
You see, a part of this makes sense to any Atheist. Other parts are pure faith and belief in something that sounds like it's supernatural, but which I also believe is part of the same reality, just parts we don't understand, factually, with the brain, yet.
The heart understands what is beyond the brain. Hence Brian Ji's occasional speaking to the Master as if he were or might be God.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2022 at 10:33 AM
Spence, just to be clear, I never think Charan Singh, the guru who initiated me, was or might be God. As I said in this blog post, Charan Singh is an imaginary friend, not a real one. Someone imaginary has no genuine qualities, since they exist only in the mind of the person doing the imagining.
This is why science, which I embrace, demands demonstrable proof of supposed supernatural phenomena. You can talk all you want about your inner supernatural experiences, but that means absolutely nothing -- since there are countless (almost) examples of other people having other supernatural experiences, almost all of them at odds with your experiences.
Once we start believing someone's subjective experiences, which have no evidence of being objectively real, we'd be forced to accept the ravings of psychotics, the lies of politicians, and the alibis of criminals also. I doubt that you would want that. So how do you suggest we assess the truth value of anyone's inner subjective experience?
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 28, 2022 at 10:46 AM
Hi Brian Ji
"Spence, just to be clear, I never think Charan Singh, the guru who initiated me, was or might be God. As I said in this blog post, Charan Singh is an imaginary friend, not a real one. Someone imaginary has no genuine qualities, since they exist only in the mind of the person doing the imagining."
Yes of course, but even you must admit that the version of Maharaji you imagine is informed to some extent by who Maharaji actually was, or to the extent you actually knew of him. So, not 100% imaginary. That would be a pure invention, not of anyone who actually lived.
But how much have you added? How much did you learn from him?
As for your speaking to him as God, as if he might be God, or simply as someone you are angry with for pretending to be God, that is something only you can answer. But why you have chosen to do this, that can only be answered with a deeper understanding of your subconscious. Even you might not know the full story behind your choice to do this, and to write about it here, in this way.
"This is why science, which I embrace, demands demonstrable proof of supposed supernatural phenomena. You can talk all you want about your inner supernatural experiences, but that means absolutely nothing -- since there are countless (almost) examples of other people having other supernatural experiences, almost all of them at odds with your experiences."
It isn't one experience or the other, Brian Ji.
They are different experiences reported under different conditions. A good scientist helps understand those conditions and reports, and does not dismiss them out of hand.
And throughout recorded history there have been many, many reports similar to what I have been through.
That it is unique to you may be an issue of culture.
When someone transgender voices their reality, it may seem strange to others. You might say everyone you know has a different experience. But it would be wrong to suggest the Transgender experience isn't real. Wrong and unkind. But mostly wrong because that experience is real for that person.
And if one accepts that possibility, then the evidence in writing through the centuries now becomes a source of evidence.
And those others today who have had such experience do not need to hide anymore. They have a place they can share it. Right here in Church of The Churchless. Not as some objective truth for others, but as a very real experience for the individual. They can use their voice and have that experience honored as legitimate.
"Once we start believing someone's subjective experiences, which have no evidence of being objectively real, we'd be forced to accept the ravings of psychotics, the lies of politicians, and the alibis of criminals also."
You can readily determine if a politician is telling the truth, with other evidence.
As far as psychotics, there's actually are reasons they believe what they retort.
I would be careful labeling everyone whose experience outside of yours with such a label. First because you might be wrong. The data is sparse, Secondly, it is a clinical label used by a clinician who actually makes an examination. And it is used for people suffering a nearly unimaginable horror, often connected to trauma. It is beneath you to do that.
Most Satsangis lead very functional lives. Many are professionals making important contributions to their feilds. You would have to prove their brain isn't functioning well. Again, throwing that around to those who have a different experience than you do is neither scientific nor rational.
When you apply that term to those who function quite well but differently, you are taking an important clinical term and using it in a derogatory way against those you simply may not understand.
I don't think you should be so quick to use that. In some ways those who deny things they don't understand, who cannot accept those who are living a different experience, could be said to suffer their own mental difficulties. But I leave that to the individual's clinician.
"So how do you suggest we assess the truth value of anyone's inner subjective experience?"
The truth is the subjective truth, Brian Ji. The objective truth is secondary if at all. One does not lessen the reality of the other.
The question is answered by starting with that question first before attempting to dismiss or denigrate the very thing that is new to you, because it is foreign to you and your clan.
It is no threat to you that some have such experiences.
The question becomes two sided.
As discussed in an earlier thread, Church Of The Churchless, claiming to honor science,. Should have a running thread for the experience of others, with some actual metrics and summary of those metrics.
Why? Because in the actual mission of this Church, it is accepted that each can have their own experience, and that we use science to help us understand, not dismiss, those.
Your experience in RSSB isn't unique, but neither is mine.
Why not have an open and ongoing investigation that records anyone's narrative along with other biographical and biometric details?
Not just as a survey, and not just as a measure of different groups of people, Satsangis, non-satsangis, ex-Satsangis, etc but as the platform for a longitudinal study that can follow volunteers through the coming years on those key objective and subjective measures?
I would be most happy to assist in setting that up if you like.
It's really a matter of deciding how important the the experience of othera who disagree. Indeed that is the basis of an inclusive Atheism.
My point is not to promote a belief in the supernatural. It is to promote a deeper understanding of the human experience. And possibly a means to help tease out what helps and what doesn't, and for whom.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2022 at 11:50 AM
Spence, no matter how many words you use to justify your personal experiences as reflecting some sort of spiritual reality unknown to others, this basic fact remains:
Everybody has personal experiences. That comes with being a person. But most people, including me, don't try to convince others that our personal experience points to an impersonal objective reality unknown to others.
Only charlatans, psychotics, religious fanatics, wanna-be gurus, and delusional people do that. If you find these categories insulting to you, you're free to come up with your own category for your own brand of "I Know The Truth and You Don't Because I'm Special."
I find this sort of religious fundamentalism really dangerous, whether it is a billion people following a religious leader or just one person, such as yourself, claiming to possess knowledge denied to others.
I realize that you don't see yourself in this way, but I think you're so close to yourself (obviously), you aren't aware of how you come across to others. Here's a one question test for you, based on the post I wrote yesterday about science being always uncertain, and thus always open to better understanding.
(1) Are you 100% certain that your personal experiences of God, spirit, holy sound, divine light, all that, actually point to an experience of a supernatural reality beyond the physical world? If you answer yes, you're a religious fanatic. If you answer no, then we can have a good discussion, because you're unsure of what is truly real, just as we all are.
If you asked me, as an atheist, if I'm 100% sure God doesn't exist, I'd say no, I'm open to the possibility of God existing. That's why I'm wondering if you can do the same thing in reverse. Hopefully you're open to the possibility of God and everything else supernatural not existing. Again, if you're not open to this, there's no point in discussing the subject with you, since your mind is closed, not open.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 28, 2022 at 01:37 PM
Hi Brian Ji
"Spence, no matter how many words you use to justify your personal experiences as reflecting some sort of spiritual reality unknown to others, this basic fact remains:"
My subjective experience is real to me.
That is all. I don't claim my experiences, actually, are" spiritual " as in supernatural. They could easily be biological. Just a biology we don't understand yet. I've mentioned this regularly.
Perhaps it is the word 'spiritual' that you are reacting to. It's just a label for things we don't understand yet. You can replace it with the word "Unknown" if you like.
That is a culture bound term, Brian Ji. But as to the experience of things unknown, it is for me and others like me quite real.
" Everybody has personal experiences. That comes with being a person."
Yes that is true. I honor that, the full range of experience. I hope that isn't a problem for you.
"But most people, including me, don't try to convince others that our personal experience points to an impersonal objective reality unknown to others."
Actually that is implicit in everyone's narrative.
Hm. I think I see the problem. Every experience is sourced somewhere in objective reality, Brian Ji, however warped it becomes before we see it. Thats why a Transgender person must work hard to be accepted. They are real. But they are not a part of other's daily experience. So they must use their voice, or risk being not only dismissed but wrongly accused, marginalized and mistreated as something less than equal.
Everyone's personal experience, reported honestly, reflects a version of reality quite real. So when people say they saw shimmering waves in the desert, as if the desert had become fluid, that is a real experience. Telling them they are wrong simply because that is what they saw isn't right nor accurate. They saw the shimmering waves.
Someone else might see waves of heat rising, and notice how light bends. They would say, more accurately, that the desert did not become fluid, but heat and light interacted to warp what light transmitted to the eye.
These are both real insofar as experienced from two different levels of perception.
Both quite real.
The desert is another reality altogether.
I think the problem is liquid, that this is some objective reality. That would be inaccurate. However their site of shimmering landscape is still quite real. It really did look like the hills waved, and a pool of blue water was right in the middle. They aren't psychotic. It might be psychotic to see all that and pretend not to. Or equally psychotic to insist other people didn't see what they actually saw.
You are mistaken if you believe I am promoting a single objective reality. But my view is only from my position, just like yours and everyone else's. And those are as infinite as the number of sentient beings.
Is there only one objective reality? How could you or I know that?
I'm promoting only the legitimacy of our subjective perspectives. If they are both reported objectively.
"you're free to come up with your own category for your own brand of "I Know The Truth and You Don't Because I'm Special."
Please don't let my brand interfere with yours. That could never be exclusive, Brian Ji. It would have to be inclusive, from each person's perspective.
Your effort to see the world from one point of view as the only right view is, I humbly believe, mistaken. If there is one objective reality we can only view it, even scientifically, from a particular point in time and space.
And that means our accuracy changes with our instrumentation. And accuracy can lead to different conclusions. Did the big bang happen just once? Is the universe just expanding? Or also contacting? Accuracy may change the entire creation! Or science's opinion about that, at least.;) If reality can change with nothing more than better calculations, then reality (bared purely on scientific knowledge known today) is on very vulnerable ground!
That view of reality. can be more inclusive, more objective.
But if someone believes that requires telling someone they aren't experiencing whatever that are actually experiencing, then that perspective is hopelessly inadequate, leaving something out... The other person's experience.
"(1) Are you 100% certain that your personal experiences of God, spirit, holy sound, divine light, all that, actually point to an experience of a supernatural reality beyond the physical world?"
I don't think so. We all see things from our one dimensional point. It is legitimate insofar as we are seeing what we see. Our understanding of it is an opinion. Information can help enlighten that opinion.
I'm pretty certain, as an opinion, that what people label as supernatural is really a party of this physical reality.
Everyone and everything is connected, at least in my experience.
As for God's existence, I can only share my own experiences.
The more we view things from mind, the more we engage the mind's symbol making tools. The brain turns events into attributions and persona. From that perspective,, God is a person, even in human form.
The more we set aside mind the more we see that conscious awareness isn't. Once you become aware of more than what you were aware of, what you were aware of seems small and much more reactive.
Now, what about communicating with God?
We are already connected, Brian Ji.
If you want to hear what God has to say, that would be the billions of moments of life happening all the time.
In meditation, we can touch those things we resonate to... Peace, love, connection. They are deeply found within us. And because these are primordial, before language, personality, and even individuality, tapping into them strengthens our connection, and respect, for each other.
Then we don't need labels, God, Good, evil, Brian Ji, Spence, heaven, earth, hell, real, unreal, physical, immaterial...
Those not only are meaningless imaginations, but they get in the way of our connections, the intimacy from transcendance.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 28, 2022 at 03:03 PM
Observation of the last 25 years of sant mat studies: It's funny that the 2 biggest online critics of RSSB, critics who have argued that the dera should be shut down, the guru should resign, that the guru is a fake, that we were all lied to by the guru, that anything touching of theism has been debunked by the science and critical thinking they claim to revere, have both revealed that they still pray to Charan Singh.
These 2 critics have often ridiculed satsangis who still say they follow sant mat. Ridicule them for being credulous fools who are in denial of reality.
But the truth comes out, these 2 critics still have simran and Charan Singh on their minds al day long. When called on this obvous contradiction, they spout clever arguments about how they see things clearer than their satsangi bretheren and are wiser than the rest of us.
But you still pray to Charan Singh. However you want to dress that up, you still pray to Charan Singh. You still pray to Charan Singh. You still pray to Charan Singh.
Posted by: googlecash | May 29, 2022 at 01:59 PM
googlecash, who exactly are you referring to, the online critics of RSSB who pray to Charan Singh? I don't know who you're talking about. I certainly don't pray to him, so I'm interested in who the two people are. And how do you know they do simran (mantra repetition) all day?
We love truth-telling here on this blog, so I look forward to you sharing links that document what you said in your comment. I suspect what you say isn't true, but I'm always open to being proven wrong. Fake news isn't welcome here, so if your news is fake, I'll edit your comment to note that it is fake.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 29, 2022 at 05:06 PM
"However you want to dress that up, you still pray to Charan Singh."
That is not factually so, applied in context to Brian Ji. He has rejected the Master as God In Human Form and stated so many, many, many times. The point of this blog is to be free of any false notions, and therefore free to decide ones own, so long as they are not confused with a certain basic standard of reality that can withstand basic rational thinking and scrutiny.
That is an excellent step away from superstition. It's noble and courageous and should be understood in that light. From that perspective, we are all still learning from Brian Ji.
It is a tough lesson, but no less true.
We are free to love whom at like. But we are bound by truth to avoid making superstitious attributions. And equally free to make our own investigations each for ourself, even at risk of discovering a truth no one else may understand.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 29, 2022 at 07:32 PM