Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: Alt.religion.eckankar Publication date: 1995
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The Love Doctor, Inner Visions, and Skepticism
In response to a recent post about sharing my experiences of unconditional love: When I wrote recently that we should be very wary of what we see and hear within during our meditations, prayers, or spiritual practices, it was not necessarily to "dis" our inner lives, but rather to point out that what makes us grow outwardly here and now is the interplay between our own experiences and others. For instance, we all learn a lot in elementary school when we play with our friends. We discover what causes pain to others, what words hurt others, what descriptions of things are more accurate or less accurate (like getting directions from somebody who really knows the territory versus someone who only pretends to know). We do all of this and we subsequently learn that many of our observations are inaccurate, less-than-perfect, or just plain mistaken. Indeed, our childhood is fraught with beliefs and ideas which turned out to be incomplete and which only served us well for a particular time. Many of those same beliefs would, in fact, be dangerous for us now since our naivete may cause us some harm. Now let me loop this with my previous post about authenticity and legitimacy. What makes me very suspect of inner visions and the like is not that we don't have them (we do all the time), but that we oftentimes do not want to "test" them in the rigorous way that we test other "outer" experiences (like how to surf, how to perform surgery correctly, how to drive a car, etc.). It seems that when it comes to my spiritual (read: inner, for emphasis) experiences, we tend not to want to expose them to deflation or critical analysis. I just happen to believe that we are better served both in our inner and outer lives by having critics "test" our observations. If they are pretty accurate they survive; if they aren't we either give them up or engage in heavy "ideological work" in order to defend our positions. Inner visions, inner feelings, inner sounds--they are phenomenologically real. They do occur. But my sense is that as pioneers we should be wary of anything that arises, we should question the veracity of such experiences, we should, it seem, doubt them fully. To be sure, nobody has to do this. But I think that doubt is such a good thing that it is conducive not only to emotional health but to spiritual well-being. I am impressed by Ramana Maharshi, not because he "found" his Self, but because he did not settle for anything less than the truth--in whatever form it may come. I am impressed by Faqir Chand, not because he could see incredible visions and hear incredible sounds, but simply because he "doubted" those manifestations precisely when they seemed most real. He had the courage to question his version of truth, his permutations of the mind. I am impressed by Francis Crick and Patricia Churchland, not because they say there is a soul or a mind, but because they attempt to reduce all mental experiences to the functions of the brain. I don't applaud them because they are right. I applaud them because they doubt dualism, they doubt mysticism, they doubt conventional wisdom. My argument is not that all visions are simply higher order neural fireworks; my argument is that we should always look for alternative explanations (simpler ones perhaps, if possible) for what may be happening within the confines of our meditation. In this way, like we did early in school, we get a better idea of how the world reacts and how others may see it also. On a more spiritual edifice, the whole notion of repeating the five names in Sant Mat is to "test" the inner visions that happen during meditation, not to blindly believe them. I take spiritual practice very seriously (I also take them lightly, but that has to wait for another post), so I see no problem in doubting the ontological status of internal beings. If they are real, all my doubting won't make them go away. Indeed, they will appear all the more real since they will survive my puny tests. But just maybe like the map-makers of old I am a little bit off in my descriptions, just maybe my directions are two or three streets in the wrong direction, just maybe what I see within is not the radiant form of some astral being, but the projection of my own personal-cultural history. In my "maybeness" I remain open; in my absolute certainty, I remain closed. In my privacy of meditation, I want to open the window to my discerning critics. In the society of like mind-observers I want to open my thoughts to would-be flame-throwers. Critics are our best friends. I want them to also be with me in the inner planes also so that I can be clearer on the path that I may venture on. I have said nothing overtly of unconditional love. But covertly it always implied.
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I want to go back to the home base now.