I assume there’s a great demand for a book titled “how to attain spiritual realization without going crazy, getting into a cult, getting brainwashed, turning into a meme or getting fucked up in general”. Unfortunately, it would not be bought by the very ones who need it the most: instead, they would browse through the other part of the library, with titles on ancient philosophies, perfect techniques of yoga, enlightened spiritual teachers and recommended spiritual practices. Even less fortunately, that actually is the better option for them, because the books with the first theme are written almost exclusively by the people who are too dense and unrefined to understand the actual reasons why the audience browses the second group of titles.
Indeed, the spiritual scene abounds with fools, cults, madmen and nonsense, but for reasons other than expected. The expected reason would be that the there’s no genuine spirituality and it’s all a bunch of bullshit, which is a position happily advocated by the materialists. The true reason is that more-less all the aspiring spiritualists at some point have a spiritual experience, they interpret it in the context of religion and conclude that it is confirmation and final proof that everything religions said about God was true, and that religions and God are basically the same thing – that God inspired the religions, that religions lead to God, and what remains is to learn the revealed truths of religion and be humble and modest, because those things were written down by men who thousands of years ago mastered the very things you just happen to discover.
One would expect the transcendental experience to lead people towards the transcendental, but what actually seems to happen is that they get to end up in some crazy cult or get completely messed up with things that either serve no purpose, or are actually evil, and as a rule they end up worse off than they started. It is all caused by the belief that religions have a monopoly over spirituality, which is not a stupid idea, to be sure, since the religions are supposed to be the aspect of human activity that deals with the transcendental, with God and spirituality. They keep saying things that sound very much like a description of what you experienced; still, if you take your experience as confirmation of their validity, a new phase opens in your life. It’s a phase where you get fucked up.
Let’s start with the conclusion: if the religions are such a good idea, how come the enlightened people are practically unheard of, the good people are very rare, and evil is common in the religious circles? The religions are a steaming pile of shit. If you had a spiritual experience, regardless of the amount of religious iconography that it got blended with, it is a sign that your personal spiritual growth reached the critical point where this experience was needed. It did not happen by accident, or was it caused by religious practice. If religious practice had the ability to produce spiritual experiences, the followers of religions would not be the empty shells they commonly are. No; this kind of experience neither belongs to religion, nor it is a sign of your membership, following or resonance with religion. It is a sign of resonance between your inner momenta and the reality of the true, real world beyond this physical one. Your “spiritual eyes” were opened for a moment, and that made you capable of feeling the things that go beyond fucking, eating, sleeping and jerking off on Facebook. The fact that a founder of a religion had presumably experienced and described something similar, doesn’t mean that you experienced “his” world. If anything, he experienced yours. You see, you can be certain about your own experience’s validity, but anyone else’s… not so much.
Let’s keep it simple – let’s say you’re a little girl who just had her first orgasm. Does that mean you now belong to the world described by the porn industry, with thousands of whores that moan on cue with dead eyes and point their butts at the camera? No – they are a caricature and a perversion of the sexual experience, in the same way the religion is caricature and perversion of the spiritual experience. Religion is pornography of the spiritual, it’s the sphere of spiritual whores who moan falsely with their butts pointed at the camera.
Why is your spiritual experience colored by religious symbolism and iconography? Well, for more-less the same reason that would color your sexual experience by pornography, had you for some reason been exposed to this filth since birth. Human mind appropriates qualities of that to which it is exposed, it is shaped by the environment, by the experiences. Religious symbolism forms a mental framework which shapes human thoughts on spirituality, and it is perfectly logical, once you actually experience something from this sphere, that your brain searches for the closest possible structure to interpret the experience. The religious symbolism thus resides on the layer of interpretation. If you’ve been hearing how Jesus is the light of the world, the first thing to cross your mind once you see spiritual light will be Jesus – like, who else could it be, certainly not Joe from the lighthouse. The problem is, brain approaches interpretation quite aggressively, and interpretation gets to be so closely bound to the experience that, unless you are especially motivated, you are very unlikely to figure out any kind of distinction between the two. If you don’t know what I mean, just google optical illusions on the Internet and you’ll understand my point very quickly. The brain aggressively interprets the inputs trying to present a coherent narrative to the consciousness. Things that “don’t make sense” get to be discarded, and the “sensible” part consists of the content the brain managed to figure out in some way and was presented in a coherent manner. Those “optical illusions” are occasionally quite dramatic, and you need to keep in mind that millions of illusionists make a living out of them. Your brain is their greatest ally, since it presents you with a “sensible” narrative that will confirm the objective nature of the illusions you are being presented with. In case of spirituality, the reality is the vast, immense, unknowable thing that is experienced. Jesus (substitute with deity of choice) is a lie, an illusion presented by your brain in order to produce a sensible narrative. Jesus is a rabbit that was pulled out of a hat.
An additional problem is that, following the experience, people turn into “converts” – they usually see their previous life as “sinful”, the experience “showed them the light” and now they intend to become good believers and practice everything the religion teaches them, because they saw that it is all true. That is about the worst thing one could possibly do, but it is nevertheless something that everybody invariably does.
The thing is, the experience didn’t show how sinful your previous life was. If it were so, it wouldn’t lead you to a spiritual experience. A sinful life leads one into spiritual darkness, depression and evil, malice and viciousness, not into transcendence. What lead you to the point of transcendence must have been good in some way. People usually rationalize such things by saying that God had led them throughout their lives of spiritual darkness and at one point delivered them into His holy presence that is the light and the truth. They then become followers of some religion and think it’s what God was leading them towards.
Do religions look to you like something God would lead one towards, especially those he likes and wishes well? Rather, they are the pit of madness, into which those devoid of virtue and brains fall.
Religions, by definition, are supposed to be intermediaries between God and man. If God just showed you how He can reveal Himself to you without intermediaries, directly, what the fuck do you need the religions for? Your brain works too well, so you need to beat it up with a stick? Your arse is in desperate need of fucking without lube? What? Just accept that you don’t need an intermediary, that this is a fact now, and that any kind of intermediary is in fact someone who will get in the way and interfere with the relationship between you and God. Unless it was some religious teacher who caused you to have a spiritual experience, what business do you have asking him about spirituality? For all you know, he might be butt-fucking children somewhere out of your sight, when his saintly halo is not in use. People, have some fucking dignity and stop humiliating yourselves before all sorts of assholes. Every now and then there’s news about some “saint” who was caught doing something scandalous or abominable, and if you saw him in his temple wearing the religious robe, you’d think he’s hundred levels of holiness above you, because he has the temple and robe and sacraments and enough circus to make Barnum & Bailey drool. And what spiritual use did that all serve? He’s trying to fill his spiritual emptiness by sucking little boys’ cocks, because all the talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit did jack shit for him.
In short, we can conclude that, for a solid percentage of clergy of all religions, cock is more fulfilling than theology. Sometimes it’s not cock, but pussy or arse, but you get the picture. Now would be a good time to remember your spiritual experience and tell me honestly, how much did you think about cock, pussy or arse during the experience? Houston to Mars, hello?? What you were thinking of were ways of praising God and his awesomeness, any you cared about material existence so little that one could saw your leg off and you wouldn’t notice. And now you want to learn about spirituality from a guy who’s secretly thinking about sucking off altar boys. Have some fucking dignity, people.
The whole thing reminds me of a story from a Hindu text, where a man saw a whore with great tits and arse and got so turned on, he didn’t watch where he was going and stepped on some sadhu, a hermit-saint who yelled “watch your step, I’m meditating on the eternal brahman, and you’re walking all over me”. The guy then stopped and thought, “Wait a moment, what kind of meditation and what kind of brahman is that, if I got so preoccupied with a whore’s tits that I didn’t know where I was or who I’m stepping on, and you’re meditating on no less than the eternal brahman, and you notice when you’re being stepped on?” When that clicked, he realized what meditation is, he understood what dharana is and what samadhi is, much better than any text on yoga could teach him. Of course, he didn’t attain enlightenment because he’s an imaginary character from a cautionary tale, but it does give you something to think about, and that’s what I’m trying to point at. Meditation and enlightenment almost never have anything to do with either religious entities or with spiritual practice. Religion just happened to hijack those concepts and made a whole show of owning them, and the result was such degradation of both insight and practice that the religious guys find more fulfillment in cock than in the gods and saints they are supposedly praying to. That’s the true purport of the scandals abundant in the religious organizations: they don’t show the corruption of individuals within a religion, but futility, emptiness and uselessness of religion as such. The second message is even easier to understand: if God has less influence over your life than the hooker’s arse from the aforementioned story, you are obviously doing something wrong, and you might try giving up God and instead concentrate on arse. To paraphrase Vivekananda, imagine a thief who knows that in the room next to his there are millions of dollars in gold. He’s going to claw through the walls with his bare hands and teeth if need be, just to dig a hole big enough to get in and steal everything. He certainly won’t play Candy Crush on his phone and jerk off thinking about children, like the “saints”. If spiritual concepts don’t invoke a desperate, immediate reaction of need and desire, akin to that of a thief to the information that there’s gold in the next room, but rather that of a priest who can think about sucking off altar boys despite all the talk about Jesus, then I have your diagnosis: you know jack shit about spirituality. Take your phone and play “Angry birds”; let go of Jesus, karma, reincarnation, Buddhism, Islam and what not. You got here by missing your turn and ending up in the wrong town. It’s much better for your own health to find something that will cause you to react with the forcefulness of a horny teenager who just saw pussy, instead of wasting your life in apathy and spiritual emptiness.
The other danger you are facing are the materialists, the kind that will try to portray your experience as an artifact of the brain and not a transcendental experience. Honestly, the artifacts of the brain start happening once you start second-guessing yourself after hearing an earful of that nonsense. What kind of brain artifacts am I talking about? I’ll give you an example. Somewhere mid-20th century the official psychiatric opinion stated that “healthy” women don’t experience sexual fantasies, that it’s a pathological state – and indeed, women didn’t report having sexual fantasies. It’s logical – people have a need to make a good impression on others, and mostly they try to fit and be like everybody else, they want to be normal. If psychiatrists stated that to be normal means to see green bipedal crocodiles walking the streets, I’m quite sure a vast percentage of people would perceive green crocodiles wearing suit and tie, or would at least report that they did. My definition of a “psychopath” is a person whose mental mechanisms are malfunctioning in such a way as to make him unaware of all the acting and pretense that is necessary in order to portray oneself as normal, which indeed is extraordinary enough to point to a significant psychological problem, such as being preoccupied with having radio waves put in his head by the CIA, so he can’t really be bothered with reporting sightings of green crocodiles to the shrinks, at which they conclude that he is not normal, and they accidentally get to be right. Yes, the green crocodiles in suits may be too much of an exaggeration, but I used to live in a communist country where we as children had to write about our emotions regarding the “big brother”, also known as “comrade Tito”, and also about “brotherhood and unity of all our nations and nationalities”, and, without exception, everybody produced what was expected, including myself, although I can assure you that I couldn’t care less about either topic – I felt it was all some very bad kind of bullshit, but I didn’t want to get into trouble so I figured out what was expected of me and didn’t make any waves. So, if I could write compositions about my emotions regarding the “dear leader”, you can imagine I could as well have made emotional compositions about the friendly green crocodile I encountered while buying groceries.
So, essentially, when you interact with powerful materialists who can adversely affect your life if you don’t go along with their expectations, your brain will attempt to suppress the experience or resort so some form of rationalization or compartmentalization, doing what the millions of years of evolution designed it to do: keep you alive. It will try to keep you in the center of the herd, because those on the margins tended not to leave offspring; the “normal” ones either killed them, or marginalized them and allowed something else to kill them. Human packs have an inherent tendency to throw rocks at the “different ones”, which gave you the instinct that makes you try very hard not to be different because rocks hurt. Your brain will react to social isolation the same way it reacts to great heights, and will in fact attempt to “normalize” you even if it means reconstructing your memories and perception so that you remember the version that leads to survival. This is why members of the same social group tend to like and dislike the same things, and they all look more-less the same; it’s not because of conscious effort, but rather the instinctual conformity. If you thought that such things don’t influence the more fundamental layer, that of worldview and perception, and what experiences will be able to surface from memory and be interpreted this or that way, you’re very naive. Sure, there are people who are much better than others in overcoming such instinctual pressures, and they will be much more inclined to engage in activities that are extreme or out of whack, not necessarily with good results. On the other hand, there are those who have little choice in the matter – they were rejected by society for some reason, and so they must necessarily follow a path of their own, so it’s hardly a choice for them, which makes them very susceptible to social acceptance at some later point. They can very easily be led astray from the spiritual practice, if that is what they attempt. If spiritual practice opens the path to social advancement, they will jump at the opportunity and unscrupulously abuse the spiritual knowledge, abilities and techniques to that end. Since a significant number of my former disciples followed that path, I speak from my own unfortunate experience. There’s no God or transcendence that would mean more to those people than the possibility of being popular or accepted. Such people tend to hang out in some bar with a few “victims” who accept them as “gurus” of a sort, and wallow in their own self-importance. Again, as in the case of a pedophile priest, we can legitimately ask about the quality of their original desire for the transcendental, as well as the depth of their spiritual experience, if desire for social acceptance could outweigh it so heavily as to reduce spirituality to a mere instrument of social emancipation, comparable to showing off a new smartphone. Do not underestimate the power of those mechanisms. Not only are they hardwired in your brain by the power of biological evolution, but they can also reach you through the global astral field, the common psychic backdrop of your entire civilization. In order for one to keep those influences under control, he has to be either very badly rejected by the community, or very strongly attracted to the transcendental; preferably both. You see, transcendental experience is not something you can realistically expect to keep you functioning on a level of daily activities for a prolonged period of time. Such experiences are usually short, and most people can’t repeat them at will. Unable to focus their will and attention on the transcendental, which is now a mere memory, your attention is spontaneously shifted towards the alternative attractors. This mechanism is an important contributing factor to the recognized phenomenon of spiritual people who turn into poseurs, and their stories about spiritual experiences and spiritual posturing serve only to increase their social stature.
One of the nasty dangers threatening those who are trying to find their way around those things are the apostates, or people who tried something and failed. An apostate is distinguished by two basic features: first, that he learned something, so he has his mind filled with some spiritual narrative which he probably misunderstood, but which can be used to impress others, in a sense that he can create an impression that he knows more than actually happens to be the case. The second feature is a strong desire to present oneself in a positive light, while presenting the system from which he apostatized in the worst possible light, and so they commonly spread craziest and most incredible tales which have little reality outside their minds. If you don’t know the facts, and most people don’t know the facts regarding almost anything, you can only make probabilistic judgments, and since you can always find a bunch of negative opinions about every single thing that is practiced anywhere, mostly fabricated by people of questionable mental health, you are likely to be disheartened, because you will fall under the impression that everything is shit.
Idiotic followers are an even greater problem than the apostates. I studied Buddhism with varying degrees of attention for the greater part of 20 years, and what kept repulsing me was the dryness, schematic patterns and, for all intents and purposes, spiritual emptiness I felt in its followers. Those people are just morons, who usually have neither the spiritual experience, nor a valid spiritual practice, they rehash trivial sutras which they present as great wisdom, and they basically look like someone who studied the first-grade math schoolbook for ten years and presents his findings as great wisdom. What they consider to be “profound teachings” usually belongs to the domain of trivial concepts, and contains nothing of value. It’s like listening to Yoda from the Star Wars: attachment causes disturbance, and disturbance leads to suffering. No shit, Sherlock. Don’t say, it leads to suffering. What leads me to suffering is hearing the nonsense and shallow ideas people consider to be great wisdom. Had Buddha indeed taught on this level, basically “people, you should love each other, that’s good for you”, Buddhism would be the dumbest philosophy of all times. Unfortunately, such interpretations of Buddhism, where metta is the beginning and the end of all practice, have ancient origins and belong to the main stream of Buddhism. This is why I removed Buddhism from my short list of systems that can be used to build my personal worldview, and rather opted for vedanta.
Vedanta is far richer in the intellectual sense; it encompasses a much wider spectrum of human reality and experience. For starters, vedanta doesn’t give a fuck about suffering. Suffering is irrelevant to vedanta; it can be bad, but in some cases it can actually be good, for instance when you have to choose suffering rather than to lose your dignity and identity through compromise, but suffering is never a cornerstone of spiritual experience, only an external influence, something that takes place on the layer of senses and activities. You can say that suffering is evil as such, because it is the opposite to the ananda aspect of brahman, but there are many forms of suffering, and sometimes it is good to choose the external, physical suffering in order to avoid deeper, spiritual suffering which comes from sinfulness and having one’s spiritual core compromised.
What vedanta strives to do is awaken you, create awareness of self, of atman, and produce permanent deliverance from the position of an eternal backdrop to the worldly experience. This emancipation of atman is attained by strengthening the ego, by forming the “I” core. As “I” grows in strength, it becomes the one who asks questions, thinks, is able to explore the modes of being alternative to merely witnessing the storm of experience. Such a strong ego becomes the core, the cornerstone of spiritual evolution, and is in fact a precious gemstone made of the stuff of brahman, of asmita.
Again, we see the difference between the way the “spiritual people” usually understand the ego, and the way I understand it. To them, the ego is a state in which an insecure person postures in front of other insecure persons in order to gain status in his social circle, and why, because he doesn’t know who or what he is, and thinks that if others don’t recognize his importance, he is for all intents and purposes a non-entity, since he has no self-effulgent value. In short, it is the opposite of the emancipated personal identity which I call “ego”. An emancipated personality does not care about social standing and posturing, it cares about identifying and solving the actual problems.
It is a paradox that those very people, who couldn’t give less of a fuck about other people’s opinions, become extremely distinguished and admired in the society, simply because they radiate confidence and power, which produces two basic reactions in people: either admiration, or envious hatred, and what it looks like in practice can be seen on the example of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Those characters have more money and influence than most countries, and they cannot be bothered with impressing others even as much as it takes to get a proper haircut and a good shirt. They don’t give a single fuck about you, because they have more important things to attend to. Your opinion, love and sympathy are something interesting to actors and b-list celebrities, who would suck as much cock as necessary, in front of cameras if need be, if that’s what it takes for you to notice them, but that’s instinctually perceived as a sign of desperation and spiritual misery, not strength. Strength is when one doesn’t give a fuck about you, despite making a living out of selling you products and services, and doesn’t even care enough to make a market research in order to find out what you would like to have. He doesn’t give shit about what you would like – you’re just not smart enough and don’t have enough taste to know what’s good for you. He’ll make you something he thinks is good enough, he’ll tell you why it’s the way to go, and if you’re not total fools without taste, you’ll go ahead and buy it. That was Steve Jobs’ approach, with the end result of you all standing in line to suck his dick. You know you did, stop pretending you didn’t. He’s a strong, formed ego, and you’re a herd of morons. You can now pretend you’re not by criticizing him and supposedly roll your eyes over the mentality of “those others”, but that’s going to do you little good – he had the guts and the personality, and you have neither, and whether you choose to criticize him or suck his dick, that makes precious little difference. In fact, from my point of view those who’d suck his dick actually have more virtue, because they at least have enough sense to notice when something’s good, for which the other group lacks the inner fortitude. It’s a much healthier reaction to see a person with strong ego and say “wow, this is awesome” than act like an envious pissy little critter. Being a pissy critter doesn’t make you greater, and admiring great and powerful role models is a time tried and revered method of personal growth. People learn by emulating, and if you choose to emulate someone of value, you have much greater chance of not ending up like a piece of shit, than if you act like that pathetic critter that lives in Jabba the Hutt’s asshole and ridicules Luke Skywalker. I can assume that a dog who barked at Einstein thought it’s at least as important as he, because he ain’t wagging his tail at a nobody walking the streets. Had anyone asked the dog, he’d say he’s much more cool than all those students admiring Einstein, because he’s so cool he doesn’t have to admire, he can bark. So, you have two basic approaches you can take when facing the powerful individuals: that of an admiring student, and that of a barking dog. Sure, a dog can imagine being in the same position relative to Einstein as Niels Bohr, who occasionally argued with him profusely about quantum physics, but the dog would think so only because he’s as stupid as a bag of bricks. Yapping at your superiors is the very sign of a weak and worthless personality, poorly formed and deeply rooted in the animalistic mechanisms of the id, and that has nothing to do with the ego. The ability to admire, however, is a sign of true strength, a sign of personality that isn’t scared of falling apart and ceasing to exist if it kneels before someone greater than oneself. The ability to kneel before your superiors is, paradoxically, a sign of maturity, strength and spiritual growth, because the spirit appropriates the qualities of that on which it dwells, and admiration is indeed just a way of absorbing the qualities of the ideal. It is an important evolutionary mechanism that needs to be recognized and used; it’s not a small thing. You see, the majority of the evolutionary mechanisms are there to make you into a worse animal, and this one has that exceptional quality of being able to make you into a God.
This mechanism was recognized in religion since the ancient times. For instance, the vedas are hymns of praise and admiration – and they are the oldest scripture known to man. The Hindu ceremony of puja is based on the same principle, as well as the concept of ishta devata. Ishta devata is a deity one recognizes as “his own”, someone he admires and whose attributes he aspires to acquire. This is the reason why the puranas were created – the tales about Gods, demons and important humans, who embody either the spiritual qualities to be adopted, or those that are to be avoided and despised, and a man who reads about the qualities and “adventures” of his ishta devata, “chosen deity”, initially feels admiration quite close to that felt by an admirer of the bitten apple cult when listening about the adventures of Steve Jobs. The difference is that the puranas were written by very smart men, such as Vyasa and Shuka, who used them to gradually build and refine the spiritual states, so that the correct practice of puja, or formal worship of the ishta devata in form of a picture or a statue, accompanied by living through the images from the puranas, leads one to an ecstatic state and shapes the physical conditions for accepting a transcendental experience. As I said, it was invented by someone really, really smart, who knew very well what he was doing, and I am simply amazed by the quality and precision of the idea as well as its implementation. The thing has the ability to control the lower animalistic impulses in a way that vastly exceeds everything offered by the religions that advocate “self-control”. With puja, self-control is not necessary, because the thing with worshiping your ideal is that you instinctively avoid doing anything that would separate you from it. You just have the need to avoid anything that interferes with the puja-state in your spirit, which arises when you admire and worship your ishta-devata. In the state of puja, you try to be the ideal person that is able to exist on the level described in the puranas, on the level where emotions and spiritual states described therein are possible. Everything that pulls you out of that state inflicts upon you the kind of pain a wealthy man would feel if he suddenly lost all his money and became homeless. It is something you instinctively avoid at all cost, because of the loss and pain involved.
As always, the problem is that, in Hinduism, puja is in theory practiced by all, but in reality by almost nobody. Most are merely worshiping statues, putting flowers and fruits before them, pouring water or milk over them, they say a few sentences of praise while thinking about work and family, and go about their business. So, it would be an excellent spiritual practice were it indeed practiced as intended, which it is not.
You might now say that this form of worship and spiritual following can hardly turn you into a strong and emancipated ego such as that of Steve jobs, but you’d be quite mistaken. Puja is not intended to turn you into a sheep, or a follower in the negative connotations of the word, but to turn you into an avatar of your ishta devata. As Caitanya once nicely put it, there are two ways of spiritually existing on Krishna’s level. First is to be Krishna, who exists as Krishna because he has all the properties of Krishna, and his activities reflect those properties. The second way is to be Radha, who exists on Krishna’s level because she is constantly preoccupied with Krishna, with his properties and activities, and incessantly worships him and contemplates His glory, and in such a way Her spiritual state manages to have even greater fullness of taste of Krishna’s properties than the spiritual state of Krishna himself. Metaphorically, Caitanya and his disciples formulated it this way: at some point, Krishna in his transcendental abode felt the need to experience the fullness of his own being and its properties, which is possible only to Radha, and He thus decided to take incarnation as Caitanya, his own bhakta.
Metaphor or not, the idea is as clear as it is brilliant, and it founded in the basic principles of vedanta, according to which, if I am to repeat it for the nth time, consciousness appropriates the qualities of that on which it dwells, which it observes and which it admires. Darshana is, therefore, the foundation of the true yoga, which is why I called my system of practice darśanayoga, or “spiritual union attained by absorbing the qualities of God in direct presence and vision”, as it is translated from the concentrated Sanskrit form.