Using Inner Visions to Your Social Advantage
The Indian Background Index


Excerpt from:
EXPOSING CULTS: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical.
(More chapters of 'Exposing Cults'
online here.)
Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: Garland Publishing, Inc. New York and London.
Publication date: August 1994.

It turns out that almost everybody has the inherent ability to see inner light and hear inner sound. Moreover, almost everybody has the capacity to have an out-of-body experience and behold wondrous inner visions. You don't need to go to an Indian guru to have such experiences indeed, you don't need to go anywhere at all.

But that's not what Kirpal Singh and his successors told their vast following. Instead, unsuspecting seekers(who number in the thousands) were taught to believe that it was the guru himself, not the disciple, who was orchestrating the elevation of the soul into higher regions. But Kirpal and crew were not being completely forthcoming about the mechanism which governs access to such amazing sights and sounds. That mechanism is the brain and that three pounds of glorious tissue is the lot of all humans.

In the early 1980s when I was teaching religious studies at a Catholic high school, I tried several meditation experiments with my students which convinced me that Kirpal Singh and other gurus like him were taking undue credit for their disciples' inner experiences. In my trial mediation sessions, I informed my students beforehand about the possibility of seeing inner lights and hearing inner sounds.

Naturally, given the boring routine of secondary education, my students were intrigued. I informed them that I knew of an ancient yoga technique that would facilitate their inner voyages. I turned the lights off, instructed them briefly about closing their eyes gently and looking for sparks of light at the proverbial third eye. I told them that I would touch some students on the forehead lightly with my fingers. They meditated for some five minutes. I then proceeded to ask them about their experiences.

[Kirpal Singh invariably did such a process directly after his initiation ceremonies; he also kept a running tally of how many saw stars and so on-something which I have called the 'Kirpal Statistic'.]

To my amazement, since I felt that Kirpal Singh and others were actually transmitting spiritual power, the majority of my students reported seeing light. A few students even claimed to have visions of personages in the middle of the light. Others reported hearing subtle sounds and the like.

I repeated the experiment on four other classes that day. I have also in the past ten years conducted the same experiment on my college students (both undergraduate and graduate). The result, though differing in terms of absolute numbers, is remarkably the same. The majority see and hear something. It doesn't take a neuropsychologist or a sociologist trained in statistics to realize that Kirpal Singh and others were simply tapping into an already built reservoir of meditational possibilities.

What was unique about Kirpal's approach, at least in comparison with other Radhasoami gurus, was that he claimed to be the responsible agent, the medium through which such inner experiences can be transmitted. Kirpal's disciples generally did not question his grandiose claims, since many of them did indeed see and hear something during their meditation. What they, of course, did not fully appreciate was that almost anybody could have induced them to have inner experiences.

[I don't mean to suggest, though, that Kirpal Singh was not a good catalyst, but only that he was not unique and that his success at providing thousands with access to inner lights and sounds was not necessarily connected to his mastership.]

Religious devotees seem overly eager to give up responsibility for their own neurological happenings, believing instead that it takes a 'Master' to draw their attention 'within.' This may or may not be the case (and I am not implying that gurus don't have anything good to offer), but one thing is certain: Kirpal's claims, and others like his, cannot be divorced (as they often are in Sant Mat related groups ) from an initiates own cultural and psychological field of interplay.

It is that interplay, that acceptance as fact of a guru's method and the disciple's own inherent capacity-neurological or mystical-for inner experiences, which fuels the claims of would-be masters.

It seems wise to me, in light of Near-Death Experiences and the plethora of other meditation accounts, to inspect how we see and hear during our inner voyages of light and sound. Then we may be able to understand why such experiences can occur to almost anybody, anywhere, anytime. It may also help us contextualize and appraise the claims of gurus like Kirpal Singh, who insist on taking credit for their disciples' wondrous visions.

If, as I have suggested, that anybody can act as a conduit for such other-worldly experiences, then Kirpal and gurus like him should be judged on some other criteria, since their claims for uniqueness and exclusiveness are anything but unique and exclusive.

The 'Kirpal Statistic' is exactly that: the probable outcome that the majority of meditators, provided the necessary instructions in Shabd or Nad yoga practice, will see and hear something.

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