Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reality Checking the Reality Checkers

Okay, some more thoughts on the “Reality Check” discussions I linked to earlier.

Apparently the guys over there are still in a tizzy. I thought they'd just drop the whole thing and pretend it never happened, but apparently not. A number of people are still trying to discredit me, and their leader Kyle Griffith is now claiming I have some secret theocratic agenda of my own. As if I didn't see that one coming. This is getting way too funny. Here's Kyle in his own words:

“The reason I kicked him [Conrad] out of RC when I did was simply that I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN he has a hidden agenda to recruit members of the "silent majority" of RC readers for some kind of New Age theocratic cult, and that he would like to "poison" the atmosphere here so we can't conduct positive discussions based on the WiH ideas.”
You heard it here first. I'm looking for recruits for my secret demonic cult, and that means YOU! Be afraid, be very afraid. If you are, remember Kyle was afraid first. As he says in a followup post:

“To put it in a nut-shell, the more I see from Conrad, the more scared of him I get.”

I don't know whether to be flattered or applaud the comic skills of this guy. Unfortunately, the dude is actually serious, which inspires a certain amount of pity, at least for those gullible enough to have drunk his Kool-Aid. Now, there's not much I can say about my own demonic cult here that wouldn't annoy my theocratic masters and spoil my sinister plan I've been unfolding aimed at controlling the universe and devouring the souls of the innocent (BWAHAHAHA!). But I can comment on what goes on in cults like this a bit, since it seems to be fairly common in the world of spiritual and occult groups.

Here's the frightening dilemma Kyle finds himself in:

“[Conrad has] been posting some very dangerous Theocratic propaganda on the RC boards, where it may be seen by readers who are vulnerable to it. Essentially, Conrad wants me to put me in a lose/lose position where I have to either violate the most important principles of the whole IR/SR movement by compromising the basic cosmology described in WiH, or else appear to be egotistical, close-minded, bigoted, and cultish.”

Yes, that's some lose/lose position to be in. Either violate some internal taboo against actually questioning anything about the whole WiH thesis and cosmology, or end up looking like a crazy cult. The choice seems obvious to Kyle, which is to go down the crazy cult route and refuse to even engage anyone who is skeptical and raising questions about his views. To him, of course, this seems like the high-minded route of integrity and honesty. And this is the problem with cults. They create self-reinforcing ideologies that have to be defended at all cost, the best defense being to refuse to even listen to or engage criticism, and to label critics as demonically possessed enemies of all that is good and true who are conspiring to destroy the defenders of liberty, who as it happens are naturally identified with the cult leader, and his secret sources of truth.

Now here's the problem, and how I came to such wrong-headed (and positive) ideas about Kyle and his work before I started posting here. As I said, the basic ideas of WiH aren't bad, within a certain context. The notion that much of religion is parasitic and run by demonic beings from the astral planes doesn't seem all that far fetched, once you accept that astral beings exist and see what so much of religion is really up to. Likewise, the notion that there are astral beings fighting against this is reasonable too. The Vedantic tradition, for examples, often mentions the endless battles between devas and asuras, and of course the Christians talk about angels battling devils, and almost every dualistic religion has something similar in its cosmology. Likewise, the notion that something refreshing began to be introduced to the world during the Renaissance is quite reasonable as well. Kyle's “Invisible College” is supposed to be the astral body that has essentially inspired and worked towards promoting the whole humanistic, scientific, secular and even occult movement which has helped change the western world, and even now much of the east, for the better, by introducing rational skepticism and a whole system of evidentiary-based models for dispelling many basic illusions. Likewise, they have inspired democratic forms of government which have helped bring down tyranny and exploitation around the world, which would seem to represent the earthly counterparts to the astral theocrats.

All of this suggested to me when I first read it that these Invisible College fellows were pretty much “the good guys”, and were interested in promoting the questioning of authority, self-knowledge, openness, critical inquiry, and all the various facets of intellectual integrity and the rejection of received knowledge that is the hallmark of what is good in the western secular movement. So given the claims by Kyle that the IC is behind this kind of positive development in the world, I simply assumed that's what would be evident in Kyle's group. Unfortunately, the opposite turns out to be the case. Rather than being full of skeptical and intelligent people rigorously trying to determine the truth for themselves, what we get is a group that is incapable of even considering basic questions about Kyle's WiH writings, and who view any form of outside questioning as hostile intrusions by demonic forces who wish to undermine their “positive” discussion.

Even worse, I started to get a real taste for how Kyle has set himself up for failure and rejection, over and over again. His basic idea is that everyone else in the history of spirituality and psychism who has described spiritual reality in a way the differs from his WiH books has basically been duped by these theocrats, who have implanted these ideas in their heads in order to make them susceptible to theocratic parasitism, and to enslave or even devour them in the afterlife. Likewise, his view of the afterlife is remarkably bleak:

“The vast majority of souls on the Astral Plane are like homeless people living on the streets, begging for sustenance from living people and being preyed upon by gangsters who are called "Theocrats" in WiH. Using this analogy, the IC spirits are like urban guerrillas living among the homeless and fighting the gangsters. But where the analogy breaks down is that there is no government or police force on the Astral Plane is there usually is on the Earth Plane -- just criminal gangs CLAIMING to be such...”

Now, as I said on their forums, this may in fact be the case in SOME astral planes, in some afterlife scenarios, perhaps of people with very negative karmas or obsessions, or even among people with very passive attitudes towards religion. But the notion that this is the only reality of the astral planes, and that there's nothing else, and that anyone claiming to have experienced anything else is merely promoting a theocratic agenda, is well, let's put it kindly, extremely unlikely. Kyle is putting himself in the position of basically claiming that virtually everyone other than himself in the history of religion and spirituality is deluded, and he is not. It's not just that I'm deluded in his view, but so are the greatest figures in the history of spirituality. What are the chances? On the face of it, it not only sounds absurd, it also sounds precisely like the kind of crazy claims that the truly perverted forms of religious cultism I had assumed he was fighting make. Kyle is of course certain of his own truth, and likewise certain that anyone who disagree with him or criticizes his views is in league with the devil:

“Over the two years I've been back on line, I've read material posted by literally hundreds of other people who are saying essentially the same things Conrad said here -- and they have ALL turned out to have a similar [theocratic] agenda.”

Here we have, in effect, a lone savior, unappreciated except by a tiny group of followers who have complete faith in his revelations, constantly bombarded by hundreds of people who somehow share the same theocratic agenda. This is not ordinary paranoia, this is a clinical pathology. The sad things is, of course, that it didn't have to turn out that way. I'm sure Kyle didn't intend for it to turn out this way, and I'm also sure that in his own mind it hasn't turned out this way. He truly does believe he's not created a cult, and I'm sure the people in his group find the charge preposterous. Unfortunately, the progression from skeptical psychic inquiry to true-believer cultism is often a seamless one, step by step, that we should all take seriously. We could smirk at Kyle's foolishness, but perhaps a better reaction is to say, “There but for the Grace of God go you or I.”

As mentioned, there is some truth in Kyle's views nonetheless. Unfortunately, partial truth is often the path to cultism. The virtues of the true parts of a message hide the faults of the false parts, and lead to the development of a faith-based approach to the entire message, which masks its falsehoods and ignores or facilely explains away its contradictions. The problem with Kyle's message is that there is virtually no outside corroboration for it. Oh, sure, there's some corroboration for some parts of it, but there's huge amounts of evidence that contradicts its overall claims in so many areas, particularly in big picture terms, that it's virtually impossible to support it without resorting to completely deranged forms of cultic thinking. The need to support this way of thinking becomes a rationale for becoming even more extreme in one's views, and this just spirals out of control. Kyle has been doing this for so long he can't for the life of him see how deranged he has become, and at this point there's probably no hope for him. That may or may not be true of his followers. I would suggest that they begin reading some good anti-cult literature and compare the descriptions of cults and cult thinking that is found there with what is going on with Kyle and his group.

Now, as I think back to when I first read WiH, I recall that parts of it seemed true, but there also seemed to be a wild paranoia to it that was highly disagreeable. Others seem to get the same feeling from the material, and the forum itself. What's interesting to me about it is the literal descriptions of what goes on in the astral planes, the various astral bodies, the structure of the astral realm, and the mechanisms by which theocrats feed upon others and exploit them. A fair amount of this material seems at least partially accurate to me, though rather slanted and reductionist. For example, he describes the human being as being composed of essentially three bodies, the physical body, the “soma” body which corresponds almost exactly to the physical body, but is made out of astral matter, and the “astral body”, which is connected to these by a silver cord. Fair enough. This corresponds quite well to what in the Vedantic system are called the physical body, the pranic body, and the lower astral body. However, as I tried to point out to Kyle from the beginning of our thread, it doesn't end there. The traditions of Vedanta and Buddhism also describe an even subtle astral body, called the “vijnanamayakosha”, or “discrimination body”, or “wisdom body” or “prajna body” (and more beyond that as well). While the lower astral body corresponds to the lower thinking mind that deals with the more ordinary matters of life, this “prajna body” corresponds to the higher mind, and these traditions basically describe spiritual growth as a process of developing this higher mind, or “prajna” - in other words, wisdom and discrimination.

Much of spiritual life is essentially just about developing true and higher discrimination, the ability to tell truth from falsehood, happiness from unhappiness, paths that lead to misery and paths that lead to health and happiness. It is more than a merely intellectual capacity, it is a deep feeling capacity to recognize and separate the wheat from the chaff, the bullshit from the real deal. It is also associated with higher realms of experience as well, astral planes that are much deeper and more interesting than the lower astral realms.

One thing that is pretty quickly evident in Kyle and his group, however, is the near-total lack of discrimination. They simply cannot ask themselves the kinds of questions that would allow them to discriminate the good from the bad in his writings and ideas. They have to accept either all of it or none of it, and so of course it ends up being all of it (anyone who doesn't except all of it either leaves or is forced out). And they find anyone who brings any kind of discrimination to their group to be an agent of the devil. Why is this? It's simply because they haven't developed any discrimination, and find discrimination threatening. This is of course one of the standard signs of cults, and one of the pathological side effects of being in a cult. Cults degrade the ability to discriminate, to use one's real, innate intelligence to reject what is false and accept what is true. They either have to accept everything as true, or reject everything as false. The world view of the WiH follows this pattern. Everyone and everything else in religion is false, and only the IC messages are true.

Likewise, the cosmology of the WiH lacks any discriminating capacity, literally, in that it rejects, or is not even aware of, the existence of the higher, discriminating mind. It's view of the astral dimension only includes the lowest, most hellish planes of the astral worlds. It excludes the higher worlds, and everything associated with “prajna”, including the vijnanamayakosha body itself, as well as anything beyond that. So it is left with a reductionist world that seems bleak and empty and subject to parasitical attacks by astral thugs. Well, naturally. When you reject anything higher, of course you have no defense against the deprivations of more powerful beings. Just as one could say that people without any responsibility for the lower astral become subject to attacks from astral beings, so people who lack any responsible discrimination also become subject to attacks by more self-aware beings. What's the answer to this? Well, develop the discriminative mind. Unfortunately, this is precisely what most cults discourage or even make taboo. That's certainly what is going on in Kyle's group, and his cosmological views simply reinforce this lack, by insisting that any higher spiritual truths are demonic. This is just what fundamentalist religionists do in relation to people who might even talk about the astral worlds at all, such as Kyle himself. These types are always accusing such psychic and spiritual talk of being demonic and satanic, and of trying to diminish the revealed truths of their scriptures with delusional talk about astral planes, etc. Higher knowledge is always seen as the enemy, rather than a friend, and consequently they never develop any.

One thought I had about this that's interesting is the possibility that Kyle and his group represent the very problem they are fighting, in a much more literal way than I've suggested so far. As I said, I think his descriptions of the afterlife are not valid for anyone but those with particular karmas that draw them into such worlds after death. However, it seems quite possible to me that Kyle and his followers are precisely the kind of people who are likely to be drawn into those realms after they die. They are certainly the kind of people who are susceptible to mind-control techniques in this life, as their blind acceptance of Kyle's channeled messages indicates (including Kyle himself, who accepts what his “guides” tell him virtually unquestioningly at this point). So here's the situation: if these theocratic afterlife scenarios are for real, it's very likely that Kyle and his followers are the very people who will be drawn to these worlds, and become subject to the theocrats who dominate them. The kind of admonitions and directions Kyle gives to these people, to reject any experience of higher spirituality as being theocratic in origin, would be exactly the kind of path that would lead them, after death, to reject anything that didn't correspond to Kyle's dismal, dystopian afterlife worlds, and hence, that is precisely where they would find themselves. This leads to the question, are Kyle's guides themselves theocratic? Or, if not, if they do indeed represent these guerrilla fighters on the astral planes who are fighting the theocrats, are they really much different from them? In other words, this kind of conflict seems to be a karma in itself, and those who are sucked into it will indeed be sucked into that kind of afterlife experience. Whereas those who are not, will find a very different kind of afterlife, and even a very different kind of spiritual life, here and now.

Well, people have to make up their own minds and be attracted to whatever they like. I certainly hope the people in Kyle's group find a way to expand their horizons and see beyond the reductionism and cultism of his views, and the views of his “guides”. I hope those people can find a way to move on to something else. And all joking aside, no, I'm not looking to “steal” Kyle's followers. I have a tiny blog here, and no “following” whatsoever, just people like myself who like to wander in on each other's blogs and forums. People should become aware that they are free, really free, and have no need to be bound by fear and terror, real or imagined.


gniz said...

Hey BY,

Although I find pretty much all of your posts interesting and entertaining, my suggestion would be that getting caught up in these debates (whether on Lightmind or some other forum) seems very much counter to what you've been trying to do with self-enquiry.

I've spent the greater portion of my life engaging in vicious and vigorous debates, and in my experience, its very tension producing and takes me away from dealing with my moment-to-moment reality.

So I heartily applaud your efforts to return to practice, and i'm very interested to hear your descriptions and thoughts on that subject.


Anonymous said...

Even if I don't speak a fluent english, I want to congratulate you to have pushed KG, with your honest and sane and justified criticism, at the limit were he has shown by himself his psychopathic nature. Without you I would not have seen this so quickly, so I thank you very much for this, you helped me and probably some others to not loose their precious time with this group. Psychopaths believe critics are personal attacks, this is one important point that help to spot them. One of the rare emotion psychopaths know is fear, and they like to scare others... etc... KG has shown his true nature, and of course he didn't even realize at this moment what he has shown, and he will deny it. So you've been a great help for normal people (non psychopath people), with your honest efforts to exchange with KG and his group. He has "fired" you when he became to fear that you could influence a member of his group; this guy is totally crazy, a true psychopath that isn't able to understand what "a fact" is, as crazy as this seems to a normal person this is an important caracteristic of psychopathic persons. Well, thank you again !... What you have done is precious, you have helped other human beings.