Common Lies of the Phony World of Mystics
"There is no one there to tell you you are enlightened." — U.G. Krishnamurti
Most of the world's great religions started as campfire religions. The initial spark of the religion may have come from a remarkable human being having an insight or a vision, but much of the dogma and tradition was formed by ordinary disciples long after the founding teacher's death. Many religious myths, which strict fundamentalists accept as fact, were created by disciples gathered around a fire at night and telling stories about the glory days of their long dead spiritual heroes.
Imagine the world before the printing press and electricity. In ancient times nights were long, dark, and potentially very scary, with no television or radio for entertainment. Huddled around a fire at night, story tellers would gain recognition by fabricating heroic tales of perfect saintly beings in order to entertain and comfort. Over the centuries religious myths became wildly grandiose and fact was lost in a sea of invention.
Modern day gurus often market themselves as being reincarnations of ancient religious heroes, or at least being in a direct lineage of some infallible ancient wisdom. As in The Wizard of Oz, if you pull away the curtain of falsehood surrounding many gurus, you will find an ordinary human being trying to make a dishonest living off the spiritual aspirations of his or her own followers. Below are some of the common big lies told by religious mystics to watch out for. Hold on to your wallet and your sanity, and be aware that it is easiest to pick your pocket as you are being hugged by a guru selling cosmic love and compassion.
Lie #1) "Surrender to me because I am enlightened and thus more intelligent and wiser than you."
The Eastern esoteric definition of 'enlightenment' has nothing to do with intelligence or wisdom. The Western definition of enlightenment is intellectual and artistic, as in the "enlightened age" of the great artists and thinkers. The true esoteric definition of enlightenment means to have no boundaries, thus you feel the infinite emptiness of the cosmic Void. There is no wisdom in the Void: no art, no love, no hate, no compassion, and no good or evil. The Void simply is! All of the emotional and intellectual content is in the mind, and enlightenment is far beyond the ordinary mental level. Enlightenment is the consciousness of raw nature formless and empty of definable content.
Superconsciousness has subjective experiential benefit in that it makes you feel truly magnificent. Unfortunately, cosmic consciousness has no functional benefit and does not increase IQ or practical wisdom. [See The Ridiculous Teachings of Wrong Way Rajneesh] Intelligence and pragmatic wisdom come from a complex interaction of genetics, education, and life experience. The opinions of the "enlightened ones" on politics, science, and economics are of no inherently greater value than the opinions of an unenlightened person of equal education and genetically derived higher brain function. Thus, the undemocratic theocracies of the enlightened elite have failed disastrously in the past and will continue to fail in the future. The violent history of planet Earth proves beyond doubt that religion and politics should never be mixed.
People who reach the Void can become corrupt, but their dishonesty is in the human mind-brain, not in the Void itself. The Void is not human and thus has no mind or potential for deceit. That is why Zen Buddhists say you should live in a state of "no-mind." A more accurate term would be no-thought, as the human mind-brain has other basic autonomic survival functions that continue even if the conscious thought process comes to a halt. Interrupting the mind's constant stream of thoughts, however, is enough to allow cosmic consciousness to enter your body. You do not enter it. It is more accurate to say that the ultimate consciousness, the Atman, enters you. You can never own the Atman, or put your personal brand on it, but it can save you from the pettiness and misery inherent to the limited human mind.
The world of gurus and religion is a world of big business, politics, and lust for power. The more disciples a guru attracts, the more power and income they can generate. Teachers often say "stick with one guru" (themselves) because when a guru loses a disciple he loses a potential source of power and money. As the dishonest propaganda surrounding a teacher grows more fantastic, the quality of the guru's disciples always becomes more immature. People who grow up mentally know there are no perfect human beings, but children can be fooled by claims of divine infallibility.
Lie #2) "I am enlightened and I have no ego."
Some humans do become enlightened, but no living human being is without ego. If you lost your ego you would physically die within two weeks, because you could not eat, drink, or have any activity other than basic involuntary movements such as breathing and heart beat. It is the same neurological mechanism that talks, walks, eats, and accomplishes tasks that we also call the 'ego.' You can have a centralized ego, as most people do, or you can have a decentralized ego, as enlightened people attain. In the end, as far as behavior is concerned, it makes little difference. We feel a centralized ego vividly, so its suffering becomes a tremendous burden. Some may go on a spiritual path to get rid of ego, but in truth we can only push ego to the periphery of the mind. The human mind-brain is vast, with many hiding places in its neural web where the ego function can hide without notice.
21st century science knows that the brain is highly adaptive. If one portion of the brain is damaged, it is often possible for another area of the brain to adapt itself to take over the lost function. If a centralized ego comes under fire from the brilliant light of meditation, it can simply shift its location to an area of the brain unaffected by the torch of consciousness. In fact, a hidden backup peripheral ego center already exists, because the ego function is essential to human survival. There is no such thing as total self-knowledge of the human brain. Even fully enlightened human beings have blind spots where they cannot see. Just because you do not feel an ego does not mean that you do not have an ego. The East deluded itself into thinking that ego could be destroyed, but the East was wrong.
"Part of the guru is "enlightened," wise, knowledgeable, and he's mentally living in this enlightened part of himself. He believes that he *is* that part exclusively, ignoring the other parts which have been cut off and dissociated from his conscious awareness. He becomes identified with the guru aspect of himself exclusively. The other parts, however, do not disappear. They still exist, but are simply disowned and regulated to the unconscious." — Charles Morrison
Lie #3) "Do not judge the great Masters. They are on such a high level of consciousness that they cannot be measured by normal standards of good behavior."
This is a convenient old lie used by gurus to cover up lie #1 and lie #2, and to turn naive disciples into mental eunuchs, thus making them more useful as slaves. Of course gurus do not want to be judged by normal standards, because that will destroy their business. The corrupt spiritual teacher always wants a blank check. If he seduces your wife, it is for your own spiritual benefit. If he robs your bank account, it is a test of your state of spiritual surrender. If the guru murders someone, it is for the victim's own good and the guru should not be prosecuted. When spiritual teachers start acting like pharaohs, "enlightened" or not, they have crossed a line into the world of criminals.
Lie #4) "Read my new book and it will help you find enlightenment."
The German and Austrian Nazis of the 1930s were wrong to burn books. Books are a great way to learn about history, science, and art. Unfortunately, books can also be an obstacle when it comes to matters of existential truth. Books often turn the search for truth into rigid dogma, and books can give people the false impression that by reading them you can know something about meditation without actually meditating yourself. In my opinion, the world would be better off if most of the books written by the famous mystics were used for fuel to keep us warm at night.
Meditation is basic good-clean-fun. It can make you feel filled with light and highly euphoric, but it will never turn you into a pedantic reservoir of borrowed intellectual knowledge. Reading and religion are polar opposites of meditation. In meditation you clear yourself of thoughts and become more detached. Reading and religion fill your head with other people's thoughts, which are often even more idiotic than your own thoughts, and you become attached to dead teachers, dead philosophies, dead shrines, and dead rituals. Meditation, by contrast, is thrilling real life, right here and right now.
Meditation, like gardening, is a relatively simple affair that requires honest effort and patience. It is not a highly complex intellectual task, such as the study of DNA or astrophysics. You can read all you need to know about meditation in just one hour. A few simple pointers are enough to get students meditating and on a path to growing awareness. You cannot read your way to enlightenment, but you can read your way to the loony bin. Books stimulate the thinking function of the brain, making your mind spew out even more thoughts at a faster pace. Meditation means transcending the conflict and limitations of the world of thought and entering the naturally serene state of no-thought.
Christopher Calder Note* Christopher Calder's website no longer exists. His essays are archived here.
Copyright notice: Please feel free to copy, repost, or publish Common Lies of the Phony World of Mystics (© 2002 Christopher Calder) for educational, noncommercial use. You may repost or publish any of my essays without cost, but you must clearly state that the essays were written by Christopher Calder; you must not change any of my words or their meanings, and no one has been granted permission to use my writings to sell any products or services. This is a 100% free website, published only for the benefit of other students of meditation.
Note Opinions expressed
page must be viewed as the ideas of an ordinary student of
While I truly believe everything I say, you should not believe
unless you see it, feel it, and know it for yourself. I make no
of infallibility. In fact, I absolutely claim fallibility.
Also, this author suffers from dyslexia. If you find any
or punctuation mistakes in any of my essays, please let me know.