"It was dark before we started thinking; and it will be dark again when we stop" -Randall Meyers
Ashokananda once said that it's not sufficient to realize; one must also understand. That is, one must also think about
it, and what it means against its philosophical background. At first I thought that he had said it wrongly, and that what
he had meant to say was that it's not sufficient to understand something in your intellect; one must also realize it in
one's heart, in one's life. But he wouldn't have made that kind of mistake. He must have meant it the way he said
it. He must have meant that it's not sufficient simply to have what is called a spiritual experience; one must also understand
that experience against its philosophical background. Otherwise it may lead to fanaticism.
Fanaticism arises through
a lack of understanding of ones own position and a lack of appreciation of the positions of others. This is primarily a failure
in education. But since all these religious experiences happen in this world, they must be understandable if we can understand
this world. That's where our education and our thinking are usually at fault. Very few of us have an educational background
wide enough to take in all the varieties of spiritual experiences; very few indeed, otherwise religious fanaticism would,
long since, have died a natural death.
Education begins with questions and thinking. In India it began with questions
like the one those old physicists asked long ago. "If what exists is changeless, how do we see change" and they
said, "It can only be by mistake." So they studied mistakes. But they had an earlier question. "If the world
which we see is "The Changing," against what does it change?" and they saw that underlying the world which
we see there must be an existence not in time and space, and therefore, changeless, infinite and undivided. And they also
saw that the underlying existence must show through in what we see because you can't mistake a rope for a snake without
seeing the rope.
The educational background in early India was colored by the answers to questions like these which
made it difficult for religious fanaticism to take hold. Spiritual experiences tended to be taken as glimpses of what underlies
the world which we see. All the gods and goddesses, as well as natural phenomena, were taken to be manifestations of that
one underlying existence.
In Europe and Arabia things went the other way. The underlying existence was largely overlooked
and the questions were asked about the visible world. What we call science arose with its emphasis on atheistic materialism,
and it was at war with religion. And the religious groups quarreled over the interpretations, of their own experiences, and
the religious fanaticism held sway.
Now Columbus's people were Jewish, and they lived on the Balearic Islands off
the coast of Spain because they were afraid of religious fanaticism, and they lived in terror of the Spanish Inquisition.
They were looking for a way to get to India where they would be safe from religious persecution. But they didn't dare
cross Arabia where the Muslims held sway. So they tried to get to India by the back door. The rest you know.
people settled in the Rio Grand valley where the name Colombo is common still, and where, till now, the people follow the
old Jewish custom of turning the Christian pictures to the wall on Friday nights, on the eve of the Sabbath.
curious thing is this, that all the religious groups, regardless of what they say from the pulpit or what they write in their
books, believe that seeing the world as we see it is due to a mistake. Otherwise, faith would play no part in spiritual practice.
If your house has burned down, faith that it hasn't will get you nowhere. But if it's a mistake, faith will get you
But what has happened is that the religious groups have interpreted that faith as faith in their own religious
superstitions. And religious fanaticism is rife.
Until we wake up and ask the right questions I don't think this
problem will be resolved.
"It was dark before we started to ask questions; and it will be dark again if we stop."
March 13, 2004