As I've noted before, and surely will do so again, one of the pleasures I get from this blog is reading intelligent comment conversations on posts that I've written. Or in this case, on an Open Thread where the comments are the substance of the post.
Below is a comment that Appreciative Reader left on an Open Thread in response to a comment by manjit. If you want to read manjit's comment, click on that link and scroll up to the preceding comment.
Appreciative Reader has a knack for saying things in a way that I've never come across before. I'm not saying that his ideas are totally unique, just that how he expresses those ideas often is wonderfully clear and creative.
He's correct in noting that every personal experience is subjective, so not rational, logical, or scientific. The world's greatest physicist, along with everybody else, is engaged in a totally ineffable experience when eating a strawberry.
So mystical experiences are simply a subset of all experiences.
They can't be put into words, or pictures, or numbers, or anything else, just as any other experience can't. I make this point frequently on this blog: nobody can question someone else's personal experience, because they aren't the person having the subjective experience.
However, once someone claims that their mystical experience has a meaning beyond the personal, that's when I tend to agree with Appreciative Reader that reason, logic, and science come into play. He just has a fresh way of saying this, as you can read below.
That said, I'm not totally convinced that his thesis is correct about a worldview needing confirmation by reason, rationality, logic, or science. I put raspberries on my cereal every morning. The taste of those berries is "mystical," in the sense that no one but me knows how they taste to me.
But it seems a stretch to say that the fact that I buy raspberries whenever I do our weekly grocery shopping makes raspberries part of my worldview, and so requires confirmation by reason, rationality, logic, or science.
Anyway, Appreciative Reader and manjit have made me ponder things that I usually take for granted. So their comment conversation has benefitted me in that regard. I guess I tend to see a dividing line between symbolic and non-symbolic sorts of experiences, which is a bit different from how Appreciative Reader sees things.
Yet maybe we're seeing similarly. So long as I simply enjoy the taste of raspberries in a subjective, non-symbolic fashion, I'm in the realm of unquestionable personal experience. However, as soon as I try to describe their taste in some way, now I'm in the realm of questionable interpersonal experience.
As ever, pleasure to read your thought-provoking comment.
You think Brian’s approach pseudo-scientific. I’m afraid I don’t agree, at all. I’m kind of curious why you think *that*, but I’ll let it pass, because there’s way more meat in your comment, that I’d like to address, and that I’ll be glad if you’re able to answer, whenever you are able. (I’ll bookmark this thread, so that I don’t miss it, should you end up responding after awhile.)
I’ll resist the temptation of addressing much of your comment, in the interests of (relative!) brevity, and instead focus on just two things, on which your thoughts will be of great interest to me.
The first, and most important, of where we disagree is where you say this: “I think one of your incorrect understandings of mysticism is that there is anything rational, logical or scientific about it.” I’m very interested in how you can possibly have arrived at that conclusion, especially in context of how I see this, which is as follows:
I agree, the mystical experience itself is not rational or logical, in and of itself. Nothing subjective ever is. If we’re content to experience whatever mystical experience we have, and simply stop at that, then, agreed, there’s no reason for reason, rationality, logic, or science to intrude in there. But the moment we incorporate that experience into our worldview, immediately it is subject to all of these things.
And nor is this peculiar to mystical experience, I’d say this applies to any and every subjective experience. You see the sun rise in the morning. Or, say, you feel that kind-of-painful-yet-pleasant pump in your bicep after working out.
Both of those mundane, non-mystical experiences, if you’re content to register them, and simply let them be, then that’s the end of it; and there’s no call to bring in logic, reason, rationality, or science into it. However, the moment you incorporate these experiences into your worldview, even in the slightest bit, then your surest way to arriving at a worldview, a model, that comports best with reality, is by following logic, and reason, and science.
Likewise with mystical experiences, surely? If you’re content to simply have those experiences, and then leave them be, well then, sure, that’s the end to it.
But if you go worldviewing your way with those experiences, no matter how much or how little, no matter how concretely or how vaguely --- even if only negatively, in questioning the veracity or the completeness of what we know about the world --- well then, right then, right there, is when it becomes subject to rationality and to science.
(To be clear, I’m not saying mystical experiences might not occasion reason to question, maybe even revise, our worldview. They well may. My point is, the moment you do even that much, the moment you do anything other than simply register that experience, completely passively and completely without any thoughts about it at all; the moment you incorporate that experience into your worldview [no matter how much or how little, no matter how concretely or how vaguely], right then, right there, is where science becomes the surest way of ensuring that that worldview, that model, those thoughts, comport best with the actual reality.)
Which is why I cannot see how you can possibly state, as you did, that there’s nothing rational, logical or scientific about mysticism.
My other point of disagreement is where you say this (and I’ll quote that paragraph of yours in full here):
“One man's "loose-jawed goggle-eyed imbecelic dogma" is another's belief that the universe was created ex-nihilo, like a rabbit out of a hat, or that life & consciousness are the product of the random, purposeless, accidental bumping together of inert matter, as if putting some oil and pigment in a bag, giving it a good shake for 10 seconds, then throwing it at a canvas could create a perfect replica of the Mona Lisa, and assorted other credulous and magical beliefs. Humanity has a long history of conflating the cultural status quo with reality itself, and implying anyone who challenges it is a "loose-jawed goggle-eyed imbecelic" dogmatist. Very often they're more right than wrong. However, very often they're more wrong than right.”
Well said, that. I agree with much of what you’ve said there. But the essence of it, the actual point of it, that is what I disagree with completely; and, again, wonder whether you might not end up changing your mind about this on thinking a bit more about it.
Haha, agreed, things popping into existence out of nowhere does sound crazy. That goes for lots of things, and indeed most things QM [quantum mechanics], agreed, absolutely. But why do we imagine that reality must necessarily comport with our native intuition about what makes sense?
After all, our intuition itself is shaped by our evolution, and is no more than what we needed to deal to best survive while running around naked in the wilds of Africa. Whether something *sounds* reasonable to our intuition, can hardly be the touchstone for evaluating whether something is *real*.
So then, if not intuition, then how *do* we make sense of the world around us, and within us? By following the evidence. By using reason and logic. In short, science. Even if that, for the present, leads us to such apparently goggle-eyed and imbecilic --- read “counter-intutive” --- explanations, as well as non-explanations, like things popping in out of nowhere, and quantum superposition, and the rest of it.
That is, there is a huge huge huge difference between the “goggle-eyed imbecilities” that science reveals to us, and the other extravagant explanations we think up about the world by means other than scientific. And what's more, basis what I’ve said just now, perhaps you’ll agree that if there’s apparently a double standard at play here, then it’s entirely warranted, in fact it is the only thing that *is* warranted, in this context.
-- Appreciative Reader
Dear Brian, thanks for blogging about Faqir Chand. He is a very interesting subject.
Before I go on, I think it is important to realize that all these gurus (of whatever stripe) are human beings, with all the different quirks and distinctive personality traits that go with it.
Having met lots of shabd yoga gurus during the past forty years, I found Faqir Chand unique.
You could ask him any question and he would never shy away from it. Moreover, Faqir (to his great credit) consistently said that he could be wrong and that his point of view was not final. That was entirely refreshing to me.
I say this because one can see a progressive quality in Faqir's writings from the earlier days to near his death.
So here are some answers to the questions that both Spence and Brian posed:
1. First, Faqir came to believe that all the inner regions were ultimately illusory and that even the inner sounds were illusory. As Faqir said in London in 1980:
"Like I said yesterday, I have realized that all these stages of Sahasraradala Kamal, Trikuti, Sunn, Maha-sunn are the play of this mind. Visions are based on the thoughts one keeps. This play of whatever one sees within (i.e. visions) is based on samskaras (impressions and suggestions). They are not the same for everyone. Visions or images vary from person to person."
2. Faqir was appointed a guru by Shiv Brat Lal some 21 years before his guru's death. As he himself confessed:
"Hazur Data Dayal Ji called me in his room. I was already waiting for the moment. I went inside. Lo! His Holiness with a strange blend of affection placed in my hands one coconut, five [coins], made a frontal mark on my forehead and bowed himself to my feet saying,
'Faqir, you are yourself the Supreme Master of your time. Start delivering spiritual discourses to the seekers and initiate them into the path of Sant Mat. In due course of time, your own satsangis will prove to be your True Guru,' and it is through your experiences with them that the desired secret of Sant Mat will be revealed to you.'
Touched by these words, I experienced both joy and sorrow within me. Hazur noted both expressions on my face and asked for clarification.
I humbly said, 'Your Holiness, I am myself ignorant of the Truth, how can I lead others on this sublime path? And when the thought that I have become a degree holder and would deliver discourses and initiate people flashed within my mind, I felt that I had become something and thus a spark of joy.'
Hazur then said, "Faqir, you may be suffering from ninety-nine shortcomings, but one sure virtue of Truth which is within you will lead you to your goal in life. You will not only redeem yourself but will help many others to attain release."
In 1981, Faqir said,
"Further R. S. Dayal writes that he heard the conch-shell sound and the omkar vibration inside. I have explained in a book why a meditator hears inside him sounds of bell, conch, omkar, flute and sitar. All these are manifestations of the mental plane.
Since this knowledge came to me, I ceased to be caught up in the whirlpool of the mind and transcended it. Now, I took upon all these manifestations as mere maya. Therefore, now, even if I try to catch these sounds, I do not get them, because their value, as something real, has vanished for me who has transcended the mind."
3. Faqir stopped initiating anyone formally after 1942, but he continued to give satsang and tried to argue that we should go beyond the mind, even beyond light and sound, and find the source from which all this appears.
Faqir explained his own way of speaking:
"I believe that the intensified faith of these devout persons becomes creative and produces these results. Many so-called gurus misappropriate the credit for similar happenings, which take place in their disciples, whose own true faith should be held responsible for those results.
By the lack of moral, courage and honesty on the part of pseudo-gurus, credulous disciples are kept in the dark and fleeced under fake pretenses.
I alert the faithful but simple minded satsangis, to beware of such sneaks and their false claims. I had been commanded by my Gurudev [Shiv Brat Lal] to introduce plain speaking into religion, so I am duty bound to proclaim the truth behind these miracles, and to save the simpletons from exploitation.
If I do not reveal the truth, I can, by keeping satsangis in the dark, extract from them large sums of money by claiming fake credit, for the miracles that no doubt do happen."
Brian is correct to ascertain that Faqir argued for something beyond light and sound, and in this way dovetailed with the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
He called it hanging on the gallows.
Here is a quote:
"What conclusion did I reach? When I found out that I do not manifest or appear within anybody, then I also leave the mind (and all its appearances). Then remains light and sound. Every two or three months or sometimes every three days, when I go and search for that entity that listens to the sound, then my being disappears.
What remains? Nothing.
Now I think to myself – if I have become something by reaching that place, if I can do something, then I should be able to remove all the problems that the world is facing right now.
If they could, the ancestors from the past would have removed their problems or difficulties. Baba Sawan Singh would have removed his troubles. Swamiji would have alleviated his disease. Kabir had kidney problems for ten years in the old age.
So what did I understand? What is my realization of this supreme element (Tatva)?
I am a bubble of the supermost consciousness. In the process of evolution, I appeared or manifested. Similarly, you also appeared. I did not exist before, and I won’t exist again. Only one element will remain from which this bubble came into existence.
That element is Sound. It’s name is Naam.
That Naam is not the sound of bells or conch. It’s not the sound of Veena. It is the principle sound (Saar Shabad). This is what the bani of saints mentions – Saar Shabad.
So after reaching this, what happened to me? What did I gain? I found peace. What did I gain at this age of ninety-four? Peace."
Will write more tonight..... particularly in response to Jay (hi Jay, always good to read your ideas!).