Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: March 1998
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I am very pleased to read Neil Tessler's critique of my work, especially the book THE RADHASOAMI TRADITION and parts of EXPOSING CULTS (e.g., The Kirpal Statistic). It seems to me that we are always better served by variant histories than by merely one. Or, more to the point of Tessler's critique, we are better served by multiple "interpretations" of "perceived" historical events than merely relying on myopic accounts. Naturally I will have lots of things to say to contravene Tessler's criticism (especially in those places where his speculations seem at best imaginary), but let me start right off with what I find both important and valuable (and even sometimes right on) about Tessler's critique. 1. The Radhasoami Tradition and Radhasoami Reality are but pieces of a much bigger pie, and, as such, can only go so far. It would be wrong to assume that either book has somehow "captured" the wide diversity of Sant Mat or Radhasoami teachings/succession disputes. Neither has, nor should it ever be pretended that they are the sum total of the story. That story--the full history of guru succession--perhaps will never be completely told. But adding voices (like Tessler's), instead of squelching them prematurely or a priori (think of each satsangs tendency to envision history as the "right" version), is undoubtedly the wise course. Tessler's study provides us not only with interesting and suggestive information (some of it rare, some of it forgotten), but with a valuable "purview" (world perspective, as seen from the eyes of a Kirpal Singh who displays spiritual allegiance to Darshan and now Rajinder Singh). Regardless of how much I or someone else may disagree with Tessler over certain issues of facts and interpretations, one thing is certain: 2. Tessler provides us with a unique hermeneutical reading of succession through the eyes of Ruhani Satsang and because of that opens up a door that is oftentimes left closed. Let there be no mistake here about my intentions: I think Sant Mat and Radhasoami history deserves a multiplicity of voices (whether sympathetic or critical) and that we can no longer tolerate the "gaddism" of the past.... What I mean by this curious term is that most of what passes as history in Radhasoami is simply one satsang's "rationalization" of events, which invariably favor their gurus and their lineages and their traditions. In other words, history is okay provided that it "agrees" with their take on it. Anyone who is conversant with R.S. history knows that this is the major problem confronting both scholars and seekers alike. 3. Everyone (yep, even the neural surfer) has a vested interest in some view, some ideological bent. Now the best way to minimize such "bendings" is to air competing and complementary views so that the seeker or scholar can ferret out the "invariant" essentials from the apparently "doubtful" nuance. Whatever Neil or I write should be able to be verified outside of our flavored contexts. If they cannot be, then naturally such observations can be further questioned or disqualified. This is the way of science: doubting one's observations and letting others present viable alternatives to better explain the given phenomena. 4. I think the fundamental differences between Tessler's views and my own are this: I tend toward a reductionistic reading (looking for simpler components, like humanness, to explain guru posing), whereas Tessler looks for an inflationist (or to be generous, "mystical") reading (tending to see meaning and purpose even in very mundane actions, especially if they are connected to his own lineage). In a way, it is akin to the differences between Edward O. Wilson and Ken Wilber. Or, as Daniel Dennett may frame it: cranes vs. sky-hooks. In defending Sant Mat (especially the Kirpal related lineages), Tessler is looking for the hidden mystical thread, whereas I am discovering a much more mundane connection: humanness in the guise of divinity. Now Tessler, to be sure, will see that humanness too, but it usually only in one place: gurus that oppose his own. When it comes to Kirpal Singh he will almost invariably look for a deeper or more mystical explanation, even though a commonsensical explanation is already blatant. But if I point this trait out in Tessler I should also admit that I must cut myself with the same knife of Occam's. Quite simply: all gurus are human (including my own) and I think we should look at that humanity FIRST. If there is indeed something "mystical" or "trans-rational" going on, then our doubts of it will serve it all the better. Truth doesn't get lessened by doubts, only illusions do. In other words, truth should easily and confidently survive our rips, shreds, and lacerations. If the guru is indeed divine (indeed, a conduit of God), then he or she should be able to withstand the onslaughts of "reason." To the degree that they cannot is exactly to the degree that they betray their divinity and show us their "humanity." I will add more to this preface later. Best to tackle Tessler's many interesting points first.
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I want to go back to the home base now.