The Neural Basis of Mysticism

Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER
Publication date: February 1997

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.


Dear Dr. Dave,

Thank you for the brevity and clarity of your response.
Would this be an equivalent expression?

"The rose laughs at my long-looking,
my constantly wondering what
a _rose_ means, and who _owns_
the rose, whatever it means.


How about, "How does one reconcile agnostic materialism with mystical 
gnosticism?" If Sant Mat is nothing else, it is a classic gnostic path. Is
the union in the "mystical unknowing." Do you practice meditation to gain 
gnosis or am I more confused than I think I am? Is unknowingness gnosis?
. . . and I don't want to disturb the dust on Bertrand's or all those dead 
Greek dudes' tomes on the bookcase downstairs to figure this out, either. 

from the holy state of con-fusion, (or is it con-fission)


DAVID LANE replies:

I don't practice meditation to gain gnosis. I practice meditation
to remember someone I loved very dearly.

You see, if you and I were in a dream right now and there was a
technique to awaken us to the "waking" state we wouldn't all of a
sudden gain ALL-knowingness.

We would simply get access to a new vivid state of consciousness;
that state would not necessarily--by itself--give us FULL
information about our previous state.

Indeed, it may give us no information whatsoever about the previous
state, except as a basis for a new comparison and a new purview.

Hence, I don't think shabd yoga meditation actually gives one ALL-
KNOWINGNESS, just as I don't think getting a Ph.D. gives one ALL-
KNOWINGNESS about Sociology or Philosophy.

It simply gives one a new venue, a new state, a new awakening.

In terms of ultimacy, as I mentioned before by citing Nicolas of
Cusa, anything finite is still INFINITELY less than Infinity Itself.

So paradoxically the more we know doesn't mean we "approach"
All-knowingness; it simply gives us a different view.

Pardon my bad analogy, but it is like watching a sunset:

if i have 20/20 vision i see the sunset a certain way;
if i have 20/40 vision I see the sunset a different way.

But no matter how much I change my vision, the SUN is still
FAR away. So we meditate, so we pray, so we see this or hear that.

Big fucking deal.

A bubble in an ocean can talk all it wants, it can see all its
wants, and it can alter its form all its wants, but the OCEAN is
still TRANSCENDENT TO IT while at the SAME INSTANT "living" it.

So, in this very poor analogy, all meditation does is give us
a new view; it does not, indeed apparently cannot, give us
Ultimate GNOSIS.

Let me give an empirical way of saying this:

my body is less than the town;
but the town is less than the country;
the country is less than the world;
and the world is less than the solar system;
the solar system is less than the galaxy;
the galaxy is less than the universe;
and the universe is less than the mutli-verse which
manifests in 10 dimensions of super string (Whamo Product for the

Go big and it gets bigger;
go smaller and its gets smaller.......

Meditate and the Infinity stretches still.

My meditation is simply an excuse given to me by my deceased guru to
have the opportunity of remember him.....................

Lights, sounds, inner regions and the like are completely devoid
of interest or meaning for me if the person I love is not there.

Disneyland is quite an interesting place when you are five and
holding your Dad's hand; it is quite a nightmare, however, when
his hand is not there and he has disappeared.

Similarly, this world is quite an interesting display when you are
with one you love (or something you love--even one's self), but it
is quite a suffering place when devoid of that.

Meditation for me is simply a way to experience that love.

Everything else is merely illuminating.

By the way, I do think that my inner visions are brain-related.

But so is my surfing and I still surf.

Confusion 101.....................................



Dear Dr. Dave,

Touche. I am glad to know that you do not share the karmic beliefs of your 
fellow satsangis on this matter. I realize that you are not "simply a parrot
of his [Charan Singh's] teaching or thinking." However, it is clear that 
you agree with him on a vegetarian lifestyle, and no charge for spiritual 
teachings. How about your view on two+ hours of daily meditation or the Sant 
Mat cosmology? I certainly am not interested in the intimate details of your
connubial relations or your personal experiences within meditation. I simply
want to know your current views on the meditation process. 

                       What happens in meditation?
                       How does it happen?
                       Why does it happen?
                       Who does it happen to?
                       Does it happen at all?


Okay, lots of questions here so I will try to do my best. Feel most
free to ask again if I miss one or two.

Ironically, I had a certain criterion about gurus long before I ever
heard of Charan Singh. If you read Juergensmeyer's book, RADHASOAMI
REALITY, it mentions what these criteria were. It just so happens
that Charan met those expectations or guidelines of mine. In other
words, I didn't "conform" to Sant Mat rules; I already had such
strange ideas already and I found that "they" fit my perspective.
Sounds way too egotistical, but I had a very high standard back in
those days and I simply wouldn't adopt a guru who didn't meet them.

So what does this mean exactly?

1. I was a vegetarian since I was 16, at least a year before I ever
heard of Radhasoami.
2. I felt that a guru should not charge money
(including membership dues).
3. I felt that a guru should never want to be a guru in the first
4. I felt that a guru should have a high moral life.

If I had to reason out why I had these set of guidelines I think it
comes from several areas: my Catholic background; my association
with Yoga at an early age (11 or 12); and my father's hyper critical
mind, not say of my two brothers and one sister.

Thus the "agreement" between Charan and myself was not a forced one,
but a completely coincidental one.

Now concerning 2 and 1/2 hours of meditation daily, I have found
that it is much easier than it sounds. The key of course, as in
any discipline (even if all of this is brain trained), is
concentration and perservance. Watching T.V. for two hours is
somewhat easy, same with movies. I don't see why being with one's
own self should be that difficult or off-putting.

Concerning the inner plane cosmology, my hunch on these matters is
that Shiv Dayal Singh's description is both structural and cultural.
Structural in the sense that he has tapped into some apparently
transcultural motifs (tunnel, lattice screen, colored lights,
flowered gardens, geometric shapes, etc.) which may have something
to do with the neural archictecture of the brain. The interpretation
or contextual display of this innate hardwiring clearly has a
cultural component (Shiv Dayal Singh describes some very Indian
things in Trikuti, for example; Sikhs see Nanak, for instance, but
not Pee Wee Herman).

Now for those mystically inclined (and who disdain neural
reductionism), these inner states are transcendent guideposts which
have no physical basis. I take a completely different take:
from this perspective it is only MATERIAL and thus all inner
states are merely brain states. But that doesn't bother me one


My very typing has a brain causation;
my very surfing has a brain causation;
my very thinking right now has a brain causation......

And despite this "I" live in a universe which seems to transcend its
neural origins, provided that my neurons are stilling firing
(paradox and confusion 101?)

What happens in meditation?

The same fundamental thing that happens when you wake up from a
dream into the waking state.

You perceive a new vista.

Is that vista, from the perspective of the waking brain, caused by
the neural net? YES.

Now here is the great Ramana catch: when I go to sleep and leave the
waking state and enter into the dream state, it can be argued that
the only thing then real is my "Dream" brain (at least from the
lived through experience).

In other words objectivity is intimately intertwined with its
subjective fuel......

The great difficulty of course from an epistemological sense is how
to know which "fuel" is "Real"?

Well, I have an answer: I don't know.

But it seems that when my dreams are really lucid I "believe" that
my dream is caused by my dream body. Whereas when I am really awake,
I am very convinced that my brain has caused it all.

What happens when we then enter a new state in meditation?

We think, from that perspective, that all of it
(dream/waking/astral) is caused by that higher vortex.

Is it really?

Well, as I mentioned before, when it comes to big ontology questions
I simply don't know.

I don't know.......

But even in my unknowingness I find meditation to be quite fruitful.

DICK P. writes:

I am disappointed that you don't have a dog. You see, I own one of the 
beasts or he owns me. I'm not sure which of us is better trained. Anyway, I 
was in hopes that if someone had succesfully converted a dog to vegetarianism,
then they might be able to help me with my canine companion. He's a Lhasa
Apso, named Rumi, a breed created as a watchdog for Tibetan monastaries. 
Supposedly, while hung out in a basket over the monastary walls they read the 
auras of approaching travelers. Unfortunately, I also reside with three cats.
There is no question of mastery in a relationship with cats. No one is the 
master of a cat despite my wife's claims. While the dog is an excellent 
watchdog, he does have one rather disgusting proclivity. He regards the 
scatological remains of the cats as a great delicacy. I have been unable 
to correct his bizarre behavior. Is this a characteristic of the breed or 
does Basho engage in this sort of diet, too?

David Lane Replies:

Well, I think dogs have an evolutionary blueprint that seems to
predispose them for certain types of apparently trans-dog-world

Like sniffing other dogs' butts................................

Thank natural selection (or God?) that we humans don't have that

or is that what we are doing in ARE?

P.S. I get the sense from Basho that if he had the opportunity for a
steak he would die from sheer bliss...............................

Don't tell Aaron i said this, though........................

I am still in the doghouse about the donut..........



"Dear Dr. Dave,

Downstairs with the dead Greeks and Bertrand Russell is my copy of Puri's 
work. I seem to recall highlighting some strangely familiar passages in it.
You may want to check it out."

DAVID LANE replies:

I always like new plagiarism examples. It would be better if you
posted it for all to see. Thanks.


Dick P. Writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

Thank you for your answer. I seem to recall a post of yours containing a 
spectrum of gurus with Thakar and Hubbard explicitly on the bottom and 
Charan Singh implicitly on the top. Didn't I read in several of your works 
an informal rating system for paths involving no charge for instruction, 
vegetarianism, etc.? Please, don't make reread all that stuff to find it. I 
passed the 40 mark a couple of years ahead of you and I'm losing my memory, 
too. Just tell me, do you recommend a particular mystical practice or spiritual 
teacher. If so, which one and why?


I think the template you are referring to is THE SPIRITUAL CRUCIBLE.
It may be on Dave Rife's website via EXPOSING CULTS.

Yes, I most assuredly have a sliding scale (relatively speaking)
that is like a Reader's Digest guide on how to choose a guru.
It is a very flawed system, but it does raise some pertinent
questions and gets people to at least think.

I highly recommend SPIRITUAL CHOICES by Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker,
and Ken Wilber, since it raises these issues in a way that forces
attention, even if arguable.

I don't recommend any particular guru or mystical practice as such,
since these are very personal matters and what is sugar for one
person is bad salt to another.

I have gotten quite a few emails about this very issue, like "Dave,
which path or guru should I follow."

My advice is usually to do as much research as possible and resist
taking initiation from anyone.

Resist, resist, resist.... that is, until you care less about my
advice and cannot resist anymore.

There are clearly some gurus that I would advise against: Thakar
Singh being a prime example!

But even with those gurus whom I admire (Ramana, Charan, Faqir),
I have always argued for skepticism, for resistance, for more

Slow and steady and even then doing more research won't hurt.

No need to rush.

As I may have mentioned before, the guru to follow is the one you
cannot help following......... (zen koan 102).

As for spiritual techniques, shabd yoga has some very nicely
delineated practices which make it aimable for testability.

Hope that helps a bit.



Dear Dr. Dave,

As I have stated in previous correspondence, my favorite carbonated 
beverage is a Perrier with a fresh squeezed orange. You can keep your 
caffeine. Just trying to point out its damaging effects.


I like Perrier too. 

But please don't say bad things about COKE...... You know it's a
karmic law that if you say anything bad about the Divine Nectar
you will have to drink a six pack of DIET CRAGMONT MINT SODA (yuck)
and a 32 oz bottle of DIET CREME SODA (gag).


As to your 1981 manuscript of "The Unknowing Sage," how do you reconcile it 
with these 1986 statements:

"My driving point in "The Voyage of Light and Sound" was to point out that
there really are actual methodologies (which don't enjoin the use of drugs)
                           [except Coca-Cola]
that enable one's consciousness to directly perceive higher mystical states.
          [last time I checked a dictionary, brain states and mystical 
           states were mutually exclusive categories] 
I did not claim, though, that it is possible to determine the ultimate 
ontological significance of these states. Science is open-ended; religion,
for the most part, is not.

So in this way, surat shabd yoga can be viewed as a scientific way in 
which to check out eperientially the alleged forms of transmundane awareness.
I am positive about surat shabd yoga because I have done a lot of research 
work on it (having visited India four times on research projects--back in 
1978, I even interviewed most of the current adepts (wonder what technique 
Thakar revealed?)in the tradition on the specific technique for leaving the
body.)"  -- David Lane, August 15, 1986

"Now to this point of "NO CHARGE".

I am not an advocate of Ruhani Satsang, so I will point to R.S. Beas with
which I can back with confidence.

First, the principle is that the guru should live off his own earnings
[Eckankar's masters live primarily off the salary they earn from being the 
"Living Eck Master"].
Second, nobody should be judged a member or a non-member by financial status
[To join Eckankar you have to pay the dues; I know of several cases where 
members who did not pay were cut off from the teachings].

. . . Sure, I may be dogmatic on this point. But, it's a dogma that I find
cuts through a lot of spiritual crap." -- David Lane, November 10, 1986

Well, Dave, I know that our memories are slipping, but am I misconstruing 
this or do you stand by your earlier post "Unknowing Sage" convictions?

How's your dogma, Basho, the wondering doughnut hole chaser?


I don't see mystical states and brain states as being mutually
exclusive. Indeed, I would argue that they are the same. The key
point in all of this, however, is this:

In a very tight dream [that is, a dream wherein I am enveloped by 
the totality of the dream state] when I am asked what constitutes
the "material" of the dream I may refer to my body, which in this
case is comprised of "dream" fabric.

Yet when I awake from that enveloping dream into the waking state
I am convinced that all of the dream transpired because of my 
waking brain, my material "this" world body.

And, as we can see from being in the waking state, I can marshall
some really impressive evidence to convince myself and others
that this is truly the case.

Yet, let us imagine that I had a NDE which is much more lucid
than my dream and even my waking state. From this perspective
I could perhaps see a "astral" brain in which I claim that the dream
and waking state were merely subsets of this larger infusing

Now in each case (from dream to waking to superluminal) I am
"convinced" by the corresponding structural evidence (dream stuff,
empirical stuff, astral stuff). Each state has a tendency to dilute
the "certainty" (what I coined as the "Chandian" Effect) of the
realness or all-encompassing nature of the prior state.

What this, in effect, means is that Neurology correlates with
Ontology. Brain states circumscribe our Ultimaticies.    

Now do "I" know what matter ultimately is?


Now do "I" know what astral matter ultimately is?


Now do "I" know what dream matter ultimately is?



So I have no problem whatsoever with saying that everything I see or
hear is a modification in and of my neurological state.

How could it be otherwise?

Let me put this in a much more radical way:

Imagine that we are in some inner region--Bhanwar Gupha, for
instance--and we were trying to figure out what we were "ultimately"
made of (what was, in essence, causing this state of "whirling

Now from that perspective we may something cool like:

Hey, I am just shabd or just light......................

What's the difference here on earth?

To say we are just matter is cool.

The reason we have trouble with it is because we think of matter
as univocal, one dimensional, and kinda of funky grey........

Well, it is literally not that.

It is so much more.

How much more?

I have no fudging clue.............

That's the groovy part............

I am JUST the body....................

But what's that?

part of the earth

part of the environment

part of the universe

What is the fuck is THAT?

Super ball?

Big Jello?

I don't know.......................................

Hmm..... Now that is what I call "living" in a Mystical

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.