People over many years have sometimes asked me my opinion of various well-known teachings which claim to be based on true revelation. Some of these revelations have been said to come through visitors from other planets, others through angelic guidance, and still others through divine guidance.
The acid test of a new teaching
The acid test of any newly proclaimed teaching is whether the truths it proclaims correspond to the eternal, divine truths that have been handed down through the ages by great masters to mankind. The validity of true teachings has been demonstrated conclusively by the uplifting influence they’ve had on sincere spiritual seekers who, the world over, devoted years to their practice.
In one relatively recent instance, it is evident that the newly proclaimed teachings failed to meet the supreme test of spiritual truth. No doubt they included “good things,” and spoke truths—such as, “Love others, and be generous to them”—that are recognized and accepted by all. Many of the claims it made, however, were actually antithetic to Sanaatan Dharma, “the eternal religion.”
Novelty is attractive to many people. The times we live in are filled with newness and excitement. People want to keep on getting the latest “news.” Where divine truths are concerned, however, there is no room for newness and excitement. Truth is eternal. It is more fundamental and enduring than the very laws of physics. How could God ever declare truth once only, or through only one great master? And how could He, later on, contradict Himself through any other true master?
True saints bow before the Truth
If thousands of truthful, reliable persons—saints and masters—who have been accepted through time as great, have stated from their own experience that a certain reality is fundamentally true to God’s ways and to the way the universe was made; and if this teaching, moreover, or something in harmony with it, has been expressed by true saints everywhere, then it must follow that anyone who contradicts that teaching is mistaken.
Science, in its declarations concerning material reality, changes its mind every few years on fundamental issues. That vacillation demonstrates the limitations of the intellect, never completely satisfied with any conclusion, and never completely certain of anything. True saints, who have found God, and have shown themselves to be great and wise human beings, have (by contrast) never contradicted or disagreed with one another on any basic issue.
In the vision of God there can never be anything but agreement. True saints respect and honor one another. Instead of crowding forward, moreover, like children zealous for acclaim as the finders of a “new” truth, they themselves bow before the Truth itself, for they recognize that it alone is.
I should mention in passing, moreover, that angelic guidance is far less trustworthy than the teachings of a great spiritual master whom God has sent down to earth. Redemption comes through divine human channels, not through angels. Nor, it may be added, does any divinely new revelation come through visitors from other planets. I say this because books have been published in modern times that claim to make such “revelations.”
Five tests of trustworthiness
How, then, is one to determine the trustworthiness of certain more newly proclaimed teachings? Certain tests can help to determine whether one is receiving true or false inspiration and guidance. I will list a few such tests, fully confident that anyone who is sincere will not remain in delusion for very long, for God Himself will lead all “by the hand” who seek Him with full sincerity.
One: Any statement of divine truth must contain a certain sternness, almost an aloofness, of self-abnegation and non-attachment, indicative of complete inner freedom. It should seem almost to say, “This truth is something that should not be trifled with.”
God loves us all, and is unstintingly compassionate, but His outpouring of grace is not for the faint-hearted. Rather it is, as the Bible puts it, a “refining fire.” To receive God’s love, one must be purified of every selfish desire, indeed, of every self-definition except that of belonging utterly, completely, and forever to God alone.
Any spiritual statement that falls short of this highest truth—for example, by diluting it to make it more palatable to the average person’s taste – is either catering to people’s ego-defenses or is in flat contradiction of the Truth. If for example, it says that man is inherently evil, that statement is simply false. Man, in his soul, is inherently divine, for he is a manifestation of Divine Consciousness. It is, of course, true that man can express evil, but that is another matter and depends also, first, on how we define evil.
Two: Dilution also comes when a teaching is too accepting of the ego as the central fact of human existence, instead of trying to get people to follow determinedly the upward path to freedom from all egoic limitation. Flat contradiction comes, moreover, when a so-called scripture states an untruth: for example, that evil doesn’t exist, or (as some have averred) that “God does not know evil.”
Evil or Satan is a cosmic reality. Final salvation is, however, for all—yes, even, eventually, for Satan himself—who, as he merges back into the Supreme Spirit, ceases to be satanic and becomes divine.
Three: Another teaching that flatly contradicts spiritual truth is a claim, which one hears sometimes, that the soul has a limited number of opportunities to be redeemed, after which it is destroyed forever. The fatal flaw in this teaching is that the soul, being a part of God, cannot ever be destroyed. As my Guru said to me when I queried him somewhat fearfully on this point, “How can you destroy God?”
Four: A very great error occurs when people insist—as some have done—that any personal effort to commune inwardly with God is fraught with spiritual danger, for it leads to self-deception. This error is allied to the belief that divine communion—which is, certainly, a grace of God—is in no way the result of human effort. As well might one say that nothing can be done to bring sunlight into a room, when the only obstruction to it is the fact that all the window curtains have been drawn shut.
God certainly wants us to commune with Him. It is we who shut Him out by our restlessness, material desires, and dull indifference. Meditation is, in fact, the best way of removing all mental obstacles. Without the practice of meditation, the mind would remain forever restless and incapable of receiving true inspiration from God.
It is, then, an absolute fallacy to insist that meditation leads to self-deception. Meditation is in fact the best way of testing one’s religion. It is scientific, for it offers the test of actual experience.
Five: There are other ways to test the genuineness of a teaching. If, for example, it states, “God gave us our bodies for us to enjoy them,” we may know at once that the teaching is false—not because God doesn’t want us to enjoy this world, but because He wants us to enjoy it in the right way: without ego-consciousness, and in a spirit of sharing our enjoyment with Him. Refined, spiritual enjoyment is possible only when the ego is completely surrendered to the Lord.
The opposite concept—that we should hate our bodies—is equally false. The problem with both these concepts is that they are oversimplified and one-sided. The solution is to enjoy everything without attachment. Hatred, on the other hand, is a negative emotion which pulls the energy in the body downward, to one’s lower nature.
God certainly wants us to enjoy His creation. He doesn’t want us, however, to identify ourselves, by either attraction or repulsion, with any part of it. All emotional reactions, whether positive or negative, must be neutralized by offering them up to inner soul-freedom in God.
The reason we should offer up all our enjoyments to God is that, if we do not, egoic self-indulgence will lead to the very opposite of enjoyment: satiety, disgust, boredom, and, yes, suffering. In everything pertaining to the ego, duality is the ruler. There cannot be pleasure without its corresponding opposite: pain.
Our ultimate destiny
Many indeed are the ways of misrepresenting the Truth. The most important thing always to keep in mind is that all creation comes from God, and that all beings must eventually merge back into Him no matter how long it takes.
The ultimate destiny of all beings is to realize God’s bliss as their own true nature. He has hidden that bliss in us all; it is what endlessly impels us to seek fulfillment, like prodigal sons, until we tire of wandering in this “foreign land” of delusion, and determine earnestly to return again at last to our true home in God.