Taking the Self Off the Cross
Do things happen in life for a reason, or do we apply reason to chaos? If we have the endowment of reason, do we stand alone with this power? If we are not alone, do we stand below a higher power? My consciousness feels timeless although I know my body is aging, what happens to consciousness when my body fails?
Jiddu Krishnamurti is a stand-alone spiritual leader that takes these common questions and reflects them back at the questioner by absolving himself from answering them. His attitude is skeptical of the questioner and puts it on them to get their own answers. He tries to get behind their question to push it back at them. For example, behind the question of death is very likely fear and insecurity about the unknown, all forms of the unknown. Quick answers may sooth that insecurity, but it may not be Truth.
He renounced all forms of organized religion and refused to teach any kind of meditation practice while deconstructing religious practice and meditative behavior, demystifying these things. If this line of thought makes you feel disoriented, that is good. “Truth is a pathless land,” says Krishnamurti.
Despite having no instruction to offer, people flocked and paid to attend his retreats hoping for spiritual advancement through contact, and community. It is fair to say that he was also a pioneer in business. He was in fact a millionaire. His career spanned from the 1920s until he died in Ojai, California, 1986. His business model has been repeated by hundreds of spiritual and self-help figures, from Tony Robbins to Ram Das.
Today, his legacy is recorded in numerous books transcribed from audio recordings, video and film reels, and increasingly these tapes are becoming available online, thanks to the work of Krishnamurti Foundation.
I borrowed his most famous book, Think On These Things, from a neighbor in my apartment building, in Los Angeles when I was 20 years old. Was that book given to me for a reason? The new age school of thought would respond, “Yes, of course, you manifested it.“ But I have found that to be a cultish kind of thinking prevalent on the West Coast.
I lived in the epicenter (LA) of the cult religion (Scientology) that I was raised in but had rejected firmly as an adult person. Today, my parents are out, but they paid a hefty price. And they continue to struggle with the deep conditioning of it. There is a solution from Scientology to every problem in life — not saying correct solutions. But this is how an adult person loses themselves in it, as life is scary and difficult to face. I think most people tend to look for guidance rather than build and refine their instincts.
Today, I self-identify as Buddhist, but I don’t go to a temple. I practice Vipassana meditation, and Zen, and I work to live by the moral code first transmitted by Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha. If you are Buddhist then you may believe that the principle of karma not only delivered me into a human form, but also the opportunity to at once reject religion and embrace Buddhism on the path of liberation. For me, believing in karma isn’t important. It is about finding gratitude for having a fortunate position in life, and using that position to practice the Dharma (moral code).
My first splintering from Scientology began with a short book by Dalai Llama, The Way to Freedom. I was 17. I have written about that process for THRU Media in a story called “Going Clear, For Real”.
Living inside a conspiracy theory like Scientology gave me the opportunity to come out the other side with the power of spiritual skepticism. Scientology is a quasi-political pseudo-religious multi-billion dollar tax shelter that depends on near-slave labor to maintain itself. I didn’t know about any of this until everyone else did, but I knew it was wrong, spiritually, and the intellectual tool of skepticism guided me away from it through adulthood.
The only people who don’t know how corrupt Scientology is are the many thousands of Scientologists that censor their own information. Like my parents. My family wasn’t deep, so I don’t have any trade secrets, but I saw how a community can reinforce itself in delusion. And let’s face it, you may substitute Scientology with “The Republican Party,” or “The Democratic Party,” or “The Catholic Church,” and so on, and this paragraph would still hold up.
That is spiritual skepticism, looking at all institutions and leaders for what they are: inherently corruptible. We know the self by reflecting on our relationship with others, and we know others from reflecting on ourselves.
We look toward figures of greatness for allegorical inspiration. Siddhartha’s legendary story of leaving the walled garden of his kingdom to face the truth of human suffering has inspired billions of people to date, although we cannot accurately place him in history.
Jiddu Krishnamurti has a documented story that carries allegorical power, but it shows the truth of political convenience, individual weakness, and the dark side of spirituality.
Manufacturing The Messiah
He was personally selected by infamous mystic Charles Leadbetter to become the messiah for the Theosophical Society, at their headquarters in India. The boy, fourteen years old, kind of frail and low energy, was lifted from his impoverished Father by some degree of manipulation on the part of Leadbetter.
The Father was devoted to Theosophy and he knew that the opportunity offered wealth and education for his boy. Perhaps the man believed he would benefit too. Their relationship suffered the deep loss of estrangement as the Father was left outside the inner circle.
Leadbetter believed Krishnamurti was already awakened, claiming to see his brilliant aura, while others thought the boy was dull. He was given a rigorous combination of British education with esoteric training into occult practices so that young Jiddu would become The World Teacher. He was not only groomed as their messiah over the next decade, but he eventually served as a salaried editor and columnist for their newsletter, providing a public face for the Theosophical Society.
This is a lot of pressure, and a rebellious young man might exploit some holes to their logic. After those first ten years of rather more blissful times, the delusion of the role they set out for him began to crack under intellectual scrutiny. The first blow to his faith in Theosophy must have been the estrangement of his master.
Leadbetter would be forced out of the Theosophical Society, England and India, where the society was headquartered, for sexual misconduct with countless children under his tutelage. Jiddu himself denied having gone through sexual abuse. Leadbetter found exile in Sydney, Australia, by 1915, just six years after discovering Jiddu. The mystical pedophile would live the rest of his life as a Bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church and as a member of the Co-Masonic Order.
The story of Leadbetter and other figures in his life are a big feature of the posthumous biography A Star In The East. Author Roland Vernon wanted to illustrate clearly why Krishnamurti renounced Theosophy. Prior to this book, very little was understood about his youth.
Annie Besant consolidated much of the power that she shared with Leadbetter as a leader of the Theosophical Society. She helped conceive of the World Teacher Project circa 1900. She provided a critical role in Jiddu’s daily life, serving him as a mother figure, educator, and role model, while at once manipulating him toward her project. He cared for her and she cared for him, but he would be estranged from her eventually, as well. He last visited Besant in 1926, though she did not pass until 1933.
In August of 1929, just a month before the market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, he dissolved The Order of the Star, an organization of 3,000 members devoted to the oncoming messiah that he had strategically positioned himself to lead. By dissolving it, he was just Jiddu Krishnamurti again. I’m not sure how much money or followers we was able to keep with the dissolution, but it was apparently enough to start his own venture with the help of his core posse.
He never spoke of Theosophy, Besant or Leadbetter unless pushed into it. He made a wise political decision in that regard, but also liberated himself from bad vibes and carried on with the new frequency that he had tuned into.
He settled in Ojai, California with his closest friends and long-time lover, working the land, rebuilding his speaking career where he felt there was more open-mindedness than almost any other place in the world. He spoke mostly in India, Europe, and across the United States, publishing dozens of books containing hundreds of transcripts, until his death in the 1980’s.
Finding My Allegorical Inspiration
He was born into a situation much riskier than mine and his payoff was much greater. Like all heroes, we look to them even if our problems are minor by comparison. I found allegorical inspiration at a time in life in which I was voracious for philosophies that could thoroughly discredit Scientology, so that I could move on psychologically.
If you want to critically think through life, skepticism is indispensable. The term “spiritual skepticism” was adopted if not coined on the Tin Foil Hat Podcast. That is where I heard it. I enjoy that show for its humorous presentation of conspiracy theories. A diversity of opinion is good. Even sifting through false information is good, which you have to do with that show, if you want to get some genuine, unreported Truth.
Our sense of discernment is built like a muscle. Nobody will curate a perfect stream of Truth for us and to expect that is like opening your skullcap for easy brainwashing. I like ideas that make me uncomfortable. I like challenging my biases. By doing so, I explore the depth of my psyche.
Krishnamurti says that true listening happens in three areas at once. If someone is speaking, you hear the speaker verbatim, while observing their bias, while observing your reaction. The same can be said of reading a book, a news article, hearing a podcast, or watching documentary.
Listening is meditation. It involves deep concentration. The old joke of people falling asleep at church is taken for granted. If there is a total loss of attention, what is the purpose of going to church? If one goes for the community, I can tell you that Scientology had a lovely community, but it was the blind leading the blind. If you’re asleep during service, are you deaf?
How often have you loudly reiterated a position on a political topic even though it was debunked or misinformed? Nobody has never done this. Do not deny it. Whereas the admission that you don’t know something liberates the mind from delusion and frees up brain power for new possibilities. Intelligence is allowed to operate with a simple “I don’t know.” It is fully shackled when stuck in one position. So it is not about being right all the time, that is too much pressure, it is about knowing when you don’t know.
I don’t know if there is ever a time that you can absolutely know anything. But in the parameters of our observable universe, there is plenty to know and to live by. If we too frequently say we don’t know, I’m afraid we’re making ourselves dull. Keep an open mind, but not so much that your brain spills out. I’m not sure who said that.
Everything in life is in motion. Sometimes you know. Sometimes you don’t know. Truth will continually flow, but your mind is not required to flow with it, it can believe whatever it wants. The brain doesn’t care if an object is real or imagined. The idiomatic expression, “jerking yourself off” uses the allegory of masturbation to refer to a psychological process. Men will lay in bed with dry palms imagining a warm wet pussy and cum into that imaginary woman, that is their bare fist. There is no difference between this and filling your head with beliefs in order to satisfy some absence in your life.
Be willing to disprove your beliefs every day. Abandon them when you reach the shore of Truth. Belief is a raft to carry over the tumultuous river of doubt.
Skepticism gradually purifies all the nonsense that comes from living in our media saturated environment, this age of PR. I have upended my relationships and reset my spiritual, political, and aesthetic preferences a few times now. I have been susceptible to insecurity and I was clinging to my social group out of fear rather than out of love. It led to almost as much delusion as any cult. It led to many people being hurt by me, and many people hurting me. Let’s face it, fear exposes you like nothing else.
We are all hurdling into a brave new world, with all the trappings of social fragmentation that Krishnamurti spent his life warning about. He tracked it from the end of World War One through the height of the Cold War, the hippie movement, the new age, yoga, and meditation crazes. He got notably more cranky over the decades as it seemed his message was going to waste. But he tried on until death.
Maybe he really was the world teacher, because I have yet to see a more concise and apt description of the stresses taking place on the human psyche than the ones he described. He lasted into the computer age — he had begun comparing the brain to the computer. Science has proven him correct. It is that easy to program.
The world we live in desperately needs defragmentation, yet the tactics of ideological warfare only seem to be increasing. If the world psyche is an operating system, it is Windows 95 and it is full of viruses.
Yet for me, my life personally, I have never felt less like I am on a side, part of any groupthink, or even swayed by any close friends and family. It is lonely, but I’m not tormented. I am watching a world fracturing, watching people at the height of fear become highly susceptible to whatever information, whatever community that brings them security. I worry about them, but I am through with trying to control anyone’s perspective. I know that I crave a good cult and belief to live by, but once you’ve discriminated gold from pyrite, you will not trade back.