In the religious sphere people have a tendency of imagining things working in ways that have nothing in particular to do with either common sense or reality. For instance, there is a belief that transmission of knowledge from above, into an “authorized guru”, functions more-less like downloading a file from the Internet into a personal computer. The idea is supposedly that there’s readily available knowledge “up there”, this knowledge can be copied into a yogi’s brain, and there are no revisions or modifications. If a guru happens to modify anything along the way, it means he didn’t get the authentic version of the original document, and if he’s perfecting it, it makes him more of a seeker on a path than a master.
So yeah, that’s what the kindergarten of spirituality looks like.
Spiritual experience and initiation are not a download of information. That’s not the way things work. A much better comparison is exposure to a magnetic field of great strength, which produces partial magnetization of suitable ferromagnetic materials even after brief exposure. This “magnetization” can last for quite a while, but it is incomplete, like a fragment of a hologram, which contains the entire picture, only faded and unclear, and it takes multiple exposures to the “magnetic field” to make a stronger impression, but due to the qualities of the physical matter, imperfections of the physical brain, and inability to perform a 1:1 mapping of the higher realities onto matter, the print will necessarily and inevitably remain incomplete. It’s akin to a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional body. As good as it is, it is necessarily an image on a surface, and not a volume. The projection is but an imperfect, reduced interpretation, and only from a singular point of view. If you rotate the 3d object, it will form a different 2d image.
Let’s move from the abstract to the specific, to an example of a spiritual experience. Let’s say you read a few texts on yoga and you tried to meditate. At some point you really manage to attain a spiritual experience, and you feel something that looks at the same time like an expansion of consciousness, powerful flash of joy and bliss, alleviation of weight and pressure that come from the painful nature of the physical existence, and a great sense of this experience’s higher degree of reality compared to the physical, sensory experiences. This experience lasts for ten seconds or so, and after it passes you remain in a state of awe and amazement. You try to understand what was it that you actually experienced, and you automatically create a narrative, a story that purports to explain the experience. And so, you make your theories, but none of it causes the experience to repeat, nor does it necessarily make any sense.
After months or years, you quite unexpectedly, while riding on a train or a bus and thinking about something unrelated, experience the following: a powerful burst of energy that gives you goosebumps from head to toe as if you were exposed to a powerful light, only it isn’t physical, but more consciousness and power. You understand that this light is a sense of presence of some spiritual being that reacted to some of your thoughts and came to answer them, since your thinking started leading you in a wrong way. The being addresses you with something that is more of a sequence of thoughts, or realizations, than spoken language, although you automatically attempt to translate it all into linear verbalized thought, and you get feedback in real time if you make a mistake in translation – the message repeats until you comprehend it as it was intended. After the message has been delivered, the being disappears from your consciousness and you can no longer sense its presence. Again, you try to think of a narrative that would make sense of the experience.
In the following months you have an impression that you keep hitting the limits of your understanding and you are frustrated because nobody is explaining anything to you and you are nevertheless expected to get it, and at that very moment a part of the veil of illusion is removed from your consciousness and you find yourself in the presence of a powerful spiritual being, yet completely different from the previous experiences. It’s powerful, conscious, brilliant, and completely different from the previous one; let’s say you can feel the difference the way you can feel a woman to be different than a man, or a mathematician from a historian. This being doesn’t convey any messages, but its very mode of existence, its “aura” and context automatically deliver you first into savikalpa, and immediately afterwards into nirvikalpa samadhi, and you experience a state of cosmic consciousness, realization that I Am, in all things, that I am One and Undivided, without other. I am that brahman, My nature is sat-cit-ananda. In the transition between that and the human consciousness, your consciousness is flooded by a great number of realizations, very briefly, and you don’t manage to decipher them properly in an unequivocal manner. When asked to describe the thing, you could pick any number of correct answers. In any case, the way you understand things has nothing whatsoever to do with the way people imagine the transfer of “spiritual knowledge”, supposedly by copying books from a heavenly library, or cramming chemistry or math in school, or whatever nonsense. The real thing is something entirely different.
After the experience, again you try to assemble a worldview. What does it all mean? Some things are obvious, while others are not. It is obvious that the transcendental exists, and that its reality is of a higher order compared to the material existence. It is obvious that there are the spiritual beings with different properties, all of them powerful, magnificent, blissful and with vast consciousness. They are also benevolent, they appear occasionally when they deem it necessary, and they convey some important knowledge or realization. The experiences are occasionally “impersonal”, as the Hare Krishnas would say, and it creates an impression that the core reality is a state of consciousness, something like bliss or awareness, and occasionally they are incredibly personal, which creates the impression that it is the person of God that produces the impersonal radiation of consciousness, power and reality. The impression immediately shifts and it seems that the personal deity is merely a personal form of the vast ocean of consciousness, reality and happiness.
Which of the theories is more accurate? I would really like to hear the opinion of smartasses who think spiritual knowledge to be something that is either copied in its final form, or is not really authentic, because that is what a realistic situation looks like. Which interpretation is intellectually more accurate, and how much does it matter? Is an experience authentic if you are not sure how to accurately interpret it? Is an experience under question if you change interpretations, knowing it’s an equation with multiple solutions, and that it gains accuracy in proportion to the number of iterations, like the integral calculus, meaning that you can meditate on the same state for ten years and, from such direction of consciousness upon a Divine state, the realizations gradually emanate, creating a complex image with progressively greater accuracy?
Do you understand that it is possible to have a complete, perfect and absolute realization of the transcendental, and at the same time be unable to say three coherent sentences about it? If not, you obviously never had a transcendental experience, and all your thoughts on the matter amount to nothing.
The sign of problems is not when one talks about spiritual experiences in unclear terms or with differences in each narration, but on the contrary, when he talks too consistently and using clearly intelligible concepts, which usually indicates we are dealing with either a fraud, or a person whose mind is too shackled with rigid structures, conditioned by the experiences with physical matter. A third option is that you’re dealing with a very smart person who deliberately invented stories that cater to your limitations, in order to lead you as far as possible along the path to actually acquiring a first-hand experience. Still, most often we are dealing with people who had an experience of the spiritual light, and then concluded that it must have been Jesus, because the Bible said that Jesus is the light of the world, or something. Their next step is the conclusion that if they saw Jesus, it must confirm the literal accuracy of everything they read in the Bible, and they end up preaching against abortion and homosexuality, because Jesus wants it – indeed, he personally told them so. And what is the truth in all of this? That they saw the spiritual light. Everything else is just hogwash, the mind’s attempt to forcefully make sense of the experience. That’s what the mind is for: it attempts to integrate experiences into an equivocal narrative, essentially making a map of the world which you can use to find your way around and survive. When you don’t understand how this works, and you don’t differentiate between experience and interpretation, and you start to believe in this nonsense, that’s when you start having a problem. The same experience can be used to prove Christianity, advaita Vedanta, dvaita Vedanta, Buddhism, monotheism, polytheism or Islam. In all of that, only the experience itself is actually true, and everything else is the ape-mind’s attempt to impose its control over the things that go way past its pay grade.
You can blame ego, Satan or Canada, but the fact remains that the purpose of the brain is to process inputs; it is biologically conditioned to perform a single purpose, which is to integrate sensory inputs into a consistent map of the world that will keep you alive, allow you to reproduce, and to attain better social status and control of the resources. When the brain is given spiritual inputs, it treats them the same way it does everything else: it tries to create a narrative that makes sense and will improve its chances in the world. You need to watch out for that, because the brain didn’t cause the experience to happen, nor does it have any claim whatsoever in the matter; if anything, the experience happened despite the brain’s best efforts to filter things out, not because of it. More-less everything the brain does with the memory of the spiritual experience serves the purpose of rehashing it to favor the human animal aspects – essentially, the brain will treat it the way it did in the case of thousands of your ancestors when it saw a stick: it thought whether it could be shaped into a good club to whack someone upon the head or a spear to impale him through the gut. This is why all good systems advise against talking to others about your experiences and using them to further your social status, because the experiences you had will happen to be your last. You see, once this animalistic aspect of human existence creates a “spiritual narrative” that it finds to be socially useful despite being wrong, it will cement things so strongly within your mind, by making a strong mental structure that is intended to defend your existence and wellbeing, that this thing will stand as a strong obstacle to your further spiritual efforts, because you would have to discreate it all in order to move on, and you will have the feeling that your entire world will collapse if you let it go. It is therefore much more useful to see spiritual light, and say that you saw spiritual light the meaning of which is unknown to you, than it is to say that you saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and that he is the light of the world, opposes the abortion and hates faggots, and that it confirms everything that’s said in the Bible, which means that your religion is the only true religion.