Fairly often I hear from people -- usually via email -- who want to know why I've "left the path."
By which they mean, failed to keep on wholeheartedly believing in the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) teachings, which are an offshoot of Sant Mat. I respond in various ways, but usually end up saying much the same thing.
To save time in the future, I thought I'd take a stab at re-stating my stock response so I could simply point to this post when the question of my supposedly heretical change of direction comes up.
First, and probably also last, I don't consider that I've left a "spiritual" path.
(I used quotation marks because this word has come to mean less and less to me; but it still conveys a quest for the meaning of life that goes beyond the obvious.)
Quite the contrary. I simply found that an honest, energetic, no-stone-left-unturned search for truth required going beyond the bounds of the RSSB belief system.
That's the thing with belief systems: they're great for organizing ideas, concepts, facts, and other mental entities that can be tied down in words. However, if you want to reach what can't be grasped by human thought or language, a belief system won't get you there.
Notions of duality and unity come into play. The words I used in the previous sentence -- "duality," "unity," and the rest -- obviously are dualistic.
They have to be, or I couldn't communicate with you. Without separate letters, separate words, and separate thoughts, verbal or written statements would be one big mushy blend of everything-all-together.
Yet the best guess of both scientists who seek a Theory of Everything (not Theories) and mystics who claim to have experienced union with the One (not the Many) is that unity rather than manyness lies at the heart of reality.
Not everybody believes this, of course. The Western monotheistic religions, notably Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, posit: (1) God and (2) other than God.
So that basic duality, which never is breached (a Christian gets close to God, but never becomes God) allows other sorts of dualities to be a comfortable and harmonious part of the religions.
Words, thoughts, emotions, ideas, and such directed toward God are how dualistic religions relate to a divine reality that can't ever be experienced as one's own self or being.
I talk with my wife and other people to know them better. That's because they're different from me.
However, I know myself directly.
There's no need for me to tell myself about me, because that's clearly a circular and meaningless exercise (when we talk to ourselves inside our heads, it's for another purpose other than self-knowledge).
Eastern religions (such as Hinduism) and philosophies (such as non-religious Taoism) by and large claim that ultimate reality is much more along the lines of "no need for me to tell myself about me" than the wordiness of dualistic Western faiths where the emphasis is on relating to a God different than oneself.
When I signed up with Radha Soami Satsang Beas, I was attracted to its monistic (reality is one) philosophy. The promise was that meditation would lead the disciple to an experiential realization that oneness rather than manyness is the way things really are.
I still believe that monism is more likely to be the foundation of existence than dualism. It just makes sense that the essence of reality is one, rather than two or more.
Which gets me back to the reason I couldn't hold on to the RSSB belief system.
It dawned on me (partly as a result of writing a book called "Return to the One") that the teachings I originally considered to be aimed at oneness actually were headed in the wrong direction.
At least, so long as I took them more seriously than they deserved. Buddhism has its "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" Taoism has its "the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao."
But Sant Mat, in its modern form, lacks the sort of pin that punctures the dualistic, self-righteous, dogmatic bubble. ("Modern," because the 15th century Kabir, who is held up as a Sant Mat saint, did a great job of pinpricking in his more iconoclastic poetry.)
So I realized that I needed to burst my own bubble if I was going to have a chance of getting beyond all the RSSB "two's" that divided off One.
Guru and disciple. God and man. Mind and matter. Positive and negative powers. Marked and unmarked souls. Virtue and sin. Karma and salvation.
All these concepts came to seem like fences that were keeping my spiritual understanding confined within certain permissible bounds. I got tired of bumping up against them, when my intuition kept telling me "truth lies beyond."
This isn't the whole story, or answer, naturally. There's always more to be said about what can't be described.
There will be another day, another saying, another attempt to bridge the gap between the one that is me and the two that is me and you.
Is there anything else to do?