When Swamis Multiply: In honor of variant histories

Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER
Publication date: March 1998

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to go back to the home base now.

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

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

This is the way of science: doubting one's observations and letting
others present viable alternatives to better explain the given

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.

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to go back to the home base now.