Preface to Dwelling in the Mirror
The following is part of a blurb of (at that time) a best-selling book about a woman’s supposed enlightenment:
“One day over twelve years ago, as a young American woman living in Paris, she stepped onto a city bus and suddenly and unexpectedly found herself egoless, stripped of any sense of a personal self. Struggling for years to make sense of her mental state, she consulted therapist after therapist. Eventually, she turned to spiritual teachers, coming at last to understand that this was the egoless state, the Holy Grail of so many spiritual traditions, that elusive consciousness to which so many aspire. This book is her story, her own account of what such a terrifying event meant to her when it crashed into her everyday life, and what it means to her now.”
The book is no longer in print, but I can tell you what her experience means to her now: Nothing. Because she is dead from the brain tumor that caused it.
Over and over people have mistaken trivial and pathological conditions for enlightenment, written books, given seminars and gained a devoted following. I have encountered quite a few myself, including people who believed they were the Divine Mother, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saint Francis of Assisi, Archangel Michael, Lucifer and assorted famous masters of the past. One called our monastery and left lengthy narratives on our answering machine about herself because, she said, she did not want to die without anyone knowing about her experiences and attainment. Another one wrote me a note that simply said: “I am the Goddess!”
I have known more than one person who believed all their dreams were revelations of truth. And I have known some that continually predicted their imminent death for decades. Others told me how enlightened they were, including the one that had whiplash from “crashing into the divine light.” What did they all have in common? They had an experience! Not of one of them was an intentional fraud. They believed their delusions based on their experience.
When a person practices a deceptive method of meditation he may experience either groundless elation or depression. Both are very dangerous for they can result in the meditator either thinking he is absolutely perfect with nothing to attain or that he is a vile sinner. Some people have even committed suicide after a supposed spiritual experience in which they felt they had experienced how evil they were. I have known many people who practiced one of the up-and-out systems which developed in them an intensely negative attitude toward the world and themselves. This latter took the form of a deep self-cynicism that developed in time into outright self-hatred. More usual, though, are the practicers of the euphoria-producing methods who really believe they are enlightened and experiencing the perfection of the Self, even though the quality of their daily way of life disproves it completely.
When in the grips of artificial euphoria produced by erroneous meditation, the unfortunate individual feels that he has nothing to attain, that he is indeed divine and eternally perfect. He does not take into account the fact that he was in no such state just previously, nor does he consider that after some time his “bliss of the self” will vanish, leaving him just as he was before: empty.
In the infantile non-cognizance of his past or his future he is in virtually the same state as a heroin user, though he believes it is because he has transcended time and relativity. He feels perfect, complete, and exalted. It is no wonder that such meditation methods, though often touted as remedies for drug addiction, lead many of their practicers into the use of drugs in an attempt to permatize and prolong the euphoria of their meditations. Many times the dupes of false meditation can be seen slipping away from a gathering or their work, and coming back some minutes later all shiny-eyed and mellow, having had their psychic fix–just as it is with the users of euphoria-producing drugs.
Nearly all phony systems of meditation are touted as sure cures for drug use. This is not so. It is appalling the number of people who take up drugs as a result of wrong meditation practices. And very often the “saved” promoters of those methods, who testify vociferously how they were delivered from dope by them, in time revert permanently, though secretly, to drug addiction while continuing to spread the false gospel and even offering drug rehabilitation programs. A significant percent (some known by me personally) become alcoholics.
The life and mind of the practicer of false meditation eventually manifest a very real disintegration and degeneration. I say eventually, because some systems deceive their practicers by at first producing seemingly positive results–and then the decline begins. Usually, though, the euphoria produced by the meditation blinds the person to the truth about himself. Some systems distort the mind so much that the person cannot perceive his real condition at all, either inwardly or outwardly.
The type of drug known as “speed” blinds the addict to the degree that he is under the influence of the drug. Only when the effect begins to wear off does he realize how “stoned” he really was. In the same way some systems of meditation radically twist the mind and life of their adherents, plunging them into great misery and inner torment, yet they are incapable of perceiving and confronting the horror in which they dwell. Simply stopping such a practice brings some alleviation, but often the distortion and scarring produced by it will not be removed except through the healing passage of time.
Just as a drunk or drug addict can lie in the gutter, dressed in rags and covered with his own vomit and yet be “feeling great” from the physical poison he has ingested, so the practicer of wrong meditation can lie in the gutter of a degenerate life, his mind in tatters, covered with the filth of his ignorance and moral corruption and still be completely satisfied–even more, considering himself a shining light of perfection.
Since delusive meditation moves the consciousness downward and outward it obviously needs no purification to facilitate it–purification would actually hinder it. Those who deaden their consciousness–especially through meat, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (including a lot of the legal ones) and sexual indulgence–easily experience the effects of such methods, since they are continuing to experience only the lower levels of their makeup, though from a different angle. As a consequence the purveyors of such destructive meditation can boast that no discipline or sacrifice, no “giving up” of anything is needed to successfully practice their type of meditation. And they are right. Starting in the mire, they end in the mire–what need of cleansing, then?
The light of spiritual day dawns gradually and steadily as does the earthly day. And it does not vanish as does the lightning flash. But the false path often abounds in bright flashes and promises of instant enlightenment. Because of the dramatic character of such flashes of psychic lightning, the followers of those paths assure themselves that the great darkness which alternates with those flashes is insignificant and not a true indicator of what is–or is not–going on with them.
Most of these unfortunate people I have described are completely unreachable with reason. They cling desperately, even hysterically, to their illusions and delusions. Yet there are those who can have an experience and realize that it really cannot be real, but a vagary of their mind. Some may not understand that on their own, but can be shown by others the truth about it. For them and those that may one day be in danger of meditation-produced delusions I have written this brief study.
Read the first chapter of Dwelling in the Mirror: Getting Lost in the Mirror
(Or get the paperback or ebook here at Amazon.com.)