Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Friday, April 16, 2010

False gurus and spiritual energy

frank waaldijk, the false guru and his Divine Energy (drawing, 2010)

The false guru and his Divine Energy (own work, 2010)

From time to time, people correspond to me about this blog via email. One of these exchanges, coupled with some comments made by people on this blog, prompted me to draw yet another `false guru' drawing, see above. Because obviously, there are many different false gurus all employing some form of `spiritual energy' to draw followers, and to assert their own Special Status.

In the drawing, one sees the false guru emanating his Special Unique Divine Energy (Cosmic Consciousness, Divine Awareness, whatever). This was somewhat discussed in previous posts on `spiritual energy' (pitfall 16), but I believe I may have left out a certain important angle.

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The thing is, certain meditation techniques really work, in my not so humble opinion (imnsho). Therefore, imnsho, it is possible for people to develop certain altered states of consciousness, and I even believe this can be felt by others.

Now, some individuals have more talent in this field than others. And some of those spend a great deal of time to develop themselves in this field. None of this is in any sense reason for precautions.

This changes, when a certain individual who has so developed her/himself, starts claiming that the particular technique used is `Divine' or concerns `Divine energy', and that the only practical way to reach such a Divine State is through the help of this individual, the Guru, and Her/His Technique.

Suddenly, a whole different ballgame is being played. Because now, if we accept this premisse, surely our guru must be as close to Divine as is humanly possible. Therefore, this guru must be a Very Good and Ultimately Loving Person, and have Divine Knowledge as well, and...(fill in any of our human conceptions about `Divine').

Imnsho, a false guru plays upon these expectations, and uses them to enhance her/his Specialness, her/his Moral Authority, the need for Obedience, etc. etc.

Yet how reasonable are these expectations?

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One could compare it even to mathematics (bear with me here for a short while). In a sense, one could really make a case for saying that mathematics is a divine language, and that higher levels of mathematics bring about altered states of consciousness. Mathematics is the language used to describe reality and predict events in a way which our long-ago forebears would surely think of as `divine' and `superhuman'.

Some individuals have more talent than most, and in devoting a lot of time and effort, they reach levels of mathematics that mere mortals can only dream of. These are Special Mathematicians.

Does that necessarily make these individuals kind, caring, `good' people? Do they have Divine Knowledge? Should they be obeyed in moral matters, in any matter? Can one of them be the Unique Person from which you can learn mathematics?

Of course not. They have mastered certain mind levels, using certain techniques, applying advanced levels of concentration, and devoting an incredible amount of effort and time. That is all. If one wishes to learn mathematics on those levels, it is probably wise to study their teachings, but history has shown convincingly that there is no such thing as a unique approach for mathematics. Many ways lead to Rome.

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Back to our false gurus with the `enhanced consciousness' / `spiritual energy'. Does the mastery of certain meditation techniques, a certain stillness of the mind, a certain `energy' if you like, give any guarantee that the person who has achieved this mastery is indeed `good', kind, caring, wise, spiritual, ...?

Personally I don't think so. Science has shown that meditation affects human brains, and brings about different brainwave patterns. Mastering these `energy' techniques might be not so easy, and some have more talent than others. But still, it is an effect which has been widely observed for different techniques and very different people practicing such technique.

There is in other words, nothing `divine' about it - apart from the `divine' mystery which envelops all of Reality.

$$$$$$

Now you might think that I am a skeptic with regard to `enhanced awareness' and `superhuman knowledge' and things like that. You are then mostly correct, but I also allow for `strange' phenomena which might or might not have an explanation in contemporary science.

Even the apparent mastery of or access to such `strange' phenomena does not give ANY guarantee that the person in question is a good, spiritual, loving, ...etc..., person. Let alone that such a person should be `Divine'.

Let me give yet another example.

From scientific experiments, it seems that there is a possibility that humans can look a little into the immediate future. From experiments with cards and other images, it seems that many people can anticipate around 3 seconds ahead of time, what type of card they will be dealt, or what kind of image they will be shown. Not with 100% success rate, but yet with more success than average statistics would predict.

Science as of yet has no explanation for this phenomenon. We could easily call it Mystical. Divine! (if you remember that ` to divine' means to guess correctly...).

No doubt some people are better at this than others. Successful poker players might be found to have elevated potential in this respect...

Does that make these people Divine?

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To finish, I am somewhat amazed at how often these pitfall mechanisms occur in many many different spiritual movements. Imnsho, `simple' spirituality suffices for our planet. Anyone can if they wish learn to be kind, loving, connected, concerned for others' well-being and the well-being of nature. We do not, I believe, need any `divine' energy for this. And we certainly don't need false gurus, if you ask me.

&&&&&&[later addition on 17 April:]

There is one more aspect of this which I forgot to mention above. And some might therefore misinterpret what I'm trying to say, and dismiss it out of hand as being altogether biased against all `spiritual' methods.

However, I don't feel biased against all `spiritual' methods. One could say: well, some forms of meditation calm the mind and help diminish the inner disbalance which so frequently leads to unkind/uncaring/selfish etc. behaviour. There is some merit in that statement, I believe.

And of course someone who really strives to develop her/himself as a kind caring connected person, and who does so unsanctimoniously, is bound to become a `spiritual' person, if you ask me.

So, among the many gurus of this world, I have no doubt that there will be quite a number of `spiritual' persons. And this type of spirituality can inspire, and be of help to others looking to develop similar spirituality in themselves.

So when does the term `false guru' start to apply? It applies like stated above, when things are made Absolute. When mind-calming techniques are made Divine, and proclaimed as belonging Uniquely to the Movement, when altered states of consciousness are associated with Divine Energy, when the Guru becomes Infallible, and -whatever She or He does- is Always Spiritual, beyond the criticism and understandig of mere mortals...

And like I said, this happens far more often than one would think likely.

10 comments:

ray said...

Thanks for another valuable post Frank.

maybe some link with these findings:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627574.200-brain-shuts-off-in-response-to-healers-prayer.html

Brain shuts off in response to healer's prayer
New Scientist 27 April 2010 by Andy Coghlan

WHEN we fall under the spell of a charismatic figure, areas of the brain responsible for scepticism and vigilance become less active. That's the finding of a study which looked at people's response to prayers spoken by someone purportedly possessing divine healing powers.

To identify the brain processes underlying the influence of charismatic individuals, Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues turned to Pentecostal Christians, who believe that some people have divinely inspired powers of healing, wisdom and prophecy.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Schjødt and his colleagues scanned the brains of 20 Pentecostalists and 20 non-believers while playing them recorded prayers. The volunteers were told that six of the prayers were read by a non-Christian, six by an ordinary Christian and six by a healer. In fact, all were read by ordinary Christians.

Only in the devout volunteers did the brain activity monitored by the researchers change in response to the prayers. Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and scepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsq023).

Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.

It's not clear whether the results extend beyond religious leaders, but Schjødt speculates that brain regions may be deactivated in a similar way in response to doctors, parents and politicians.

frank waaldijk said...

thank you ray for this comment, very interesting! when i find some time i will see if i can dig up some more about this phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Frank,
I have studied your article and noted the contents there in carefully.

To introduce myself, I am an abyasi of Sri Ramchandra Mission. My spiritual Guru is Babuji Maharaj who started Shahaj Marg during 1945. I have been since long in this mission and practicing meditation as per Babuji's instructions.

I want to appreciate you for your courage and wisdom to dis-associate from SRCM(Cal). I also dis-associated from SRCM(Cal) from 2002 onwards. Because I could not find Divinity in SRCM(Cal) hence I had to leave it.

But Babuji case is different. He is a Realized soul and a saint. This is my experience. Babuji never went for money, position or power. He was only for spirituality and service to humanity.

If you go through his spiritual books you can find THRUTH in them.

Kindly go through.

Regards.

K.R.S.Rajan.

frank waaldijk said...

dear mr. rajan,

you remark about babuji being a `realized soul'(whatever that may mean) and a saint.

please see the recent post on 4d-don's blog for a comment of mine on babuji (i believe you have already seen it?). when babuji wrote those letters he was 70 yrs old, in full possession of his mental faculties, and yet he is clearly concerned whether his future daughter-in-law has light or dark skin colour...i fail to see how a `realized soul' could find this of any interest at all.

i do not wish to repeat that discussion here, please add your comments on 4d-don's blog for most easy exchange.

&&&&&&

however, for the possible benefit of others who have some doubts about their guru, i would like to add the following:

imnsho we do not need to run after `realized souls' and saints. i'm even coming to the conclusion that sainthood is greatly overrated in spirituality. imnsho we do not need to be saints. it is enough to do the right thing at the right times, and we all make mistakes too. many of these mistakes are well within a scope which will allow for a better world.

kindness, understanding, forbearance, patience, helping out those in need,...we can all add to this list without the necessity of being a saint.

why run after some saint, if you can act here and now yourself? all this fussing about `special personalities' imnsho easily distracts us from the here and now, where we are who we are, and in that capacity any of us can add to a better world.

kind regards, frank

Anonymous said...

Mr.Frank,
I have discussed with mr.don and read your article too. I wanted to tell you that as a human being we have to become Divine being, that what we were already.As you said being good to humanity one can lead a purposeful life. I completely agree with you. We have to follow ethics and morality as much as possible. Service to humanity is service to Divinity .
But the goal of human life will not end there, it goes beyond that.

We have to face misery till the end of this cycle of creation by taking life after life , ofcourse at the end we all merge in TTHAT ONENESS. By adopting spiritual sadana or meditation under a capable Guru or guide, we can reach our destination in a short period and finish our purpose of life once for all( ie.we will get-gid from the miseries and sufferings once and for all). This is the concept of Shahaj Marg introduced by Babuji Maharaj.

After Babuji Maharaj his close associates like Chariji and others started their own faction from the original system.Therefore the Original essence changed into duplicate and triplicate.

If you or anybody meditates as per Babuji's method, surely you will get Divine transmission and you will be divinised.This is the easiest method what Babuji introduced to the man kind.

Regarding the colour of bride or bride-groom etc.,Babuji also physically a human-being and has certain minor defects so long he has a gross body. But definitely he followed morality, discpline, truth and honesty. He did not have any bad habits such as drinking etc.,

In India every elder in the family
will see all aspect of either bride or bride-groom before their marriage to aviod unwanted divourses. In India first marriage and then only dating but in the west vice-versa. That is one's own tradition. Kindly give serious thought about your liberation .

I, remain at the Holy-feet of Babuji Maharaj.

Regards.

Anonymous said...

I genuinely appreciate your efforts in extending your valuable support to those who are misguided souls. One of them is myself. I sometimes wonder; is it worth to go through so much pain just to learn about these fake gurus and marketing gimmick.
Some people waste their whole life pursuing the wrong path only because they trusted someone. I, too, trusted someone but I was saved, but damage was done. Who can repair this damage now? Is God watching all this? If God knows all this then why so much damage has happened in my life? I can never live the way I used to live only because my trust in truth is lost, thanks to a fake guru.
I think a terrorist can kill 100-500 people, but a fake guru can kill 10,000 people. Anyway, now I have to repair my life on my own. If you don't give your trust to these fake gurus, they will all die. Don't ever trust.

Anonymous said...

There are such people out there with tremendeous psychic powers and knowledge of the human psyke. In the wrong hands such powers can be lethal.
Ofcorse that is very diffecult to explain. And very few believes it.
That adds to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Yes there are very much people who are well trained and skilled At their chosen profession, and upon their own authority very subtly charm and seek innocents who are trusting, and honestly seeking to grow spiritually. There is only light and darkness. There is a biblical scripture which helps immensely with discerning if you are dealing with a liar, and a practicer of dark arts. Look up "fruits of the spirit" and remember that people worship the creation and not the creator, are operating in the lower realms. The lower realms are where fallen angels reside, and they also have the knowledge and wisdom, but will impart half truths to their Human host. Their primary goal is to seduce through lust, to open within the seeker a door to access their soul. They do this (through the already consumed guru) by guiding the seeker to believe that creativity and spiritual awareness only occurs through sexual energy. These gurus can hypnotize and even perform miracles, to deceive their chosen future conquest. (pretty young females usually) and will promote and place temptation to you. Any married woman will be faced with the delimma of taking the so-called opportunity to spiritual enlightenment, and through that seduction, will not be able to tolerate her husbands now boring ways. There is big danger here. There is only light and darkness, do your research on fallen angels, nephillim or " the watches" and demons and how they operate. God is the only one that will protect, guide, provides truth. It is really essential to trust no man, and put your trust in him and his son. Read his word and he will show you true spirituality. Remember Satan portrays himself as an angel of light...to deceive those who are not obeying Gods word. It's actually simple. But only once you comprehend it.

Holly Holm said...

Bravo! Brilliant post. Thanks for talking about the not so secret, but rarely discussed (within 'spirituality' is it rarely discussed) problem areas concerning "absolutes" and "divinity". A breath of fresh air ...

frank waaldijk said...

thank you holly!