Teaching that denies the use of the mind in favor of intuition sometimes gains a popularity in religious circles that is fed by bursts of short-term membership. The vogue of mindlessness, however, is quickly jettisoned by members who find the irony of such articulate perspectives too much to bear in the long run. The depleted ranks then replaced with new adherents, Thus, a movement of this type may last for some time, particularly when the teaching of intuition is presented in a clever, convincing fashion. When one brain possessed of certitude announces the futility of thought, it seems that other brains resonate and, if you will, think the same thing. As heirs of a Christian heritage, biblical mystics, pietists, and fideists have voiced beliefs about reason's limits in the achievement of religious fulfillment, and they have recommended various meditations to produce peace and solitude within the mind and being. But their emphasis on the limitations of rational activity in religious practice differs from much of today's radical no-mind commitments offered by the Christian fringe.
Among some new religious movements of the Christian variety, the mind is harpooned as the enemy of God and self. A frequent but not surprising result is a disoriented and distorted gospel message. Obviously, modest concessions must be made so that leaders of such movements can actually speak to their members, deliver lectures, and teach others. That peculiar conflict--denying the mind while actively using it--is sometimes revealed in a leader's shrewd claims: his or her reliance on direct revelation from God or an exclusive interpretation of the pure word of God as it is really written in the Bible amount to the confession, better the mind of God than the mind of humanity, if any mind at all. At other times mind-denouncing declarations are coupled with exhortations for members to »be in the spirit.« That seems to imply that decision making and discussion in the spirit are unrelated or separated from the work of the mind. Consider, for example, the views of Roy Masters, whose ministry is ennobled by no less a title than the Foundation of Human Understanding.
Founded in 1961 the Foundation of Human Understanding is located in Los Angeles, California and brings itself to society's attention through daily radio broadcasts and publications. No meager effort, the public broadcast »A Moment of Truth« is heard from coast to coast in the United States and is syndicated in other countries as well. During the broadcast, Masters interacts with listeners (who either call in or have written letters) with the ease of a practiced pop prophet. Masters' general message encourages listeners to turn inward and find the God who resides within. A Masters brochure puts it broadly.
Masters promotes a meditation which he asserts is the spiritual technology required for a successful trip inward. Much of Masters' emphasis on the divine self is illustrated by his interpretation of Genesis chapter one which, by most literary standards, appears to rewrite of divine writ.
Via meditation the divided God reunites. Phrases such as »we are human beings with our own original power source--endless and eternal,« »If we are going to understand our divine nature,« and »Man is the 'negative' humble end nature of God« are common in Master’s teachings. And, like many Eastern meditators, Masters considers internal concentration on the pineal gland of paramount importance in successful meditation. »...depending on how this organ is stimulated lies the 'secret of life or death.'« It is not surprising that Masters' divine human must turn inward and focus on consciousness in order to be self-realized Although such themes are not uncommon in certain schools of meditation, Masters puts an uncommon edge on the rejection of mind and thought. Masters' acerbic, broad rejection of thought and language in spiritual practice in general and with regard to the Bible in particular contrasts startlingly with Christian-oriented meditation. For instance, he says:
It would seem that because the pineal gland neither reads nor thinks, Masters rejects propositional knowledge of God in favor of an »inner knowing intelligence« and »higher life forces« that jive with that gland. Of those who gain propositional religious knowledge Masters writes, »Alas! Not recognizing his true inward nature man becomes the degenerate receptacle for intellectual space garbage.«
Waste is the fitting end product of propositional knowledge which comes through training and discipline and, in Masters view, is unworthy. »Evil is in charge of the system of learning about God.«
Obviously, such barbs are the rusted plows of anti-intellectualism and would only be favored by those passing through new age fads and meditating under pyramids were it not for Masters skillfully promoting an enticing alternative, namely, intuitive and experiential salvation. Consider, for example that Masters’ meditation method has been adopted by perhaps 100,000 people, together with a handful of new age psychotherapists interested in meditation frameworks that are ostensibly divorced from the Judeo-Christian heritage but not antagonistic to notions of God.
Masters reports that the kingdom of God is within the meditator and should be the focus of attention.
Significantly, that inner revelation is always non-propositional in its content and safely eludes description as well. Using words nonetheless, Masters gives some pointers to his meditators. »And through that inner illumination, God wordlessly suggests the way to go and grow.«
When reading Masters on meditation, we are reminded of variations of Christian mysticism, but there are differences that take Masters beyond the tolerant limits of broad ecumenical standards. Masters does not have an appreciation for biblical records and does not support a simple, basic confession like the Apostles' Creed. Biblical language is abundant, but biblical concepts are few. Salvation, for example, can only be gained through meditation à la Masters and is basically apart from the work of Christ. Writes Masters:
Lest we be mistaken through a narrow interpretation of Masters' words, he minces no ideas when he writes, »You can’t believe it (salvation) the way Christians believe it, the way they swallow it hook, line, and sinker.«
Historical actions by God are neither avenues of salvation nor objects of meditation. Rather, they are distractions that cause a lost inward focus. Asks Masters rhetorically, »But now, how can you believe in the truth and be saved by the Divine Presence unless you know how to reach inwardly to where his presence is?«
In contrast are passages of Scripture that specifically address Masters' position while affirming inner conviction arid historical awareness as they relate to each other.
To such notions Masters replies:
Words, it seems, have little use as Masters describes the life of the truly religious, both when they meditate and even when they don't. His call for non-thought is extensive, and his phrase on meditation »Let your mind remain empty--it's better that way«--seems equally relevant when meditators are in repose or actively engaged in daily affairs (»engaged« here possessing modest meaning). Internal knowing is intuitive and rather magical.
The intuitive, wordless »light of Truth« is not without its potential liabilities, however, and Masters is somewhat up front with his followers about them. Nevertheless, he exudes confidence that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Thinking no matter how fast or slow, is more than an aggrevating pressure on the pineal gland, and it is more than simply unnecessary work. It is sin, according to Masters' cogent explanations.
Knowing is, in fact, the original sin. »Remember that Adam sinned by knowing God and evil.« Internal knowledge that is neither self-conscious nor logically connected to itself in time or space is truth in the ultimate sense, and Masters tells meditators that knowledge of that type is objective.
In addition to the adamant theological perspectives that remove Masters from broad Christian acceptance, few Christian mystics have taken such a big stick to the mind in the attempt to beat back reason in religious and non-religious spheres of activity. Words, knowledge, thought, and the mind are appraised as worthy by the Bible, as are Peace, solitude, and quietness.
The Scripture tells us to love God with all our mind. He will put laws into our minds; »we have received the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things freely given to us by God,« and we speak the words taught to us by the Spirit. The believer is to appraise all things. We are to live off every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, that is, the Bible. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
The Word of God itself is vital--by it we are born again, grow spiritually, are cleansed, sanctified, protected, edified, illuminated, satisfied, made joyful, and given peace. Masters, however, denies very basis for both preaching and Christian growth as they are outlined in the following representative Scripture passages.
In Masters' worldview it is inevitable that even decision making is denied.
Masters' disciples, however, are thoughtful personalities who apply cogent, intelligent, propositional thought when reading their newspapers or balancing their bank accounts or preparing their tax forms. Masters and his disciples may profess otherwise, but surface investigation shows that even Masters himself works hard at producing and marketing his meditation program. The skeptic concludes that Masters has simply baptized the working of reason as intuitive, then proceeded to lambaste the mind. For the non-Master crowd, Masters' views are a fiction that raises such questions as, why is he so bellicose?, and why is the Foundation so attractive? The optimist interprets Masters' pseudo-Christian theology as an indication that the opportunity exists for creative Christian meditation to emerge as a force of value in the lives of many seeking people. A more sober theological observation suggests that such movements are working in a mind-free zone that insults rather than elevates human dignity. When the Los Angeles Times quoted Roy Masters in December 1978 as saying, »I could get people to die for me any day. I've got more power over people than Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones combined, because I'm smarter,« readers did not use their intuition to take his meaning.
John Weldon, a Californian, is a church worker who has co-authored several books on new religiousity, including such diverse topics as UFOs, thanatology, and new religions. Weldon's critique of Werner Erhard's est appears in InterVarsity Press's recently published collection of essays titled A Guide to Cults and New Religions. Neil Duddy is editor of Update.
»The Foundation of Human Understanding,« brochure, no date, p. 2.
Roy Master's, Secret of Life (Los Angeles, CA; Foundation of Human Understanding, 1977), p. 10.
Ibid., p. 41.
Ibid., p. 138.
Ibid., p. 139. Cf, Roy Masters, How Your Mind Can Keep You Well (Los Angeles, CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1976), p. 185 and Roy Masters, How to Control Your Emotions (Los Angeles, CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1975), pp. 273 and 305.
Ibid., p. 7.
Roy Masters, »The Mystery of Golgotha,« tape (Los Angeles, CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, no date).
Roy Masters, »The Sayings of Jesus--Right Tradition,« tape no 20 (Los Angeles CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, no date)
Masters, Secret of Life, p 19.
Roy Masters, How to Conquer Suffering Without Doctors (Los Angeles CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1976), p. 204.
Roy Masters, No One Has to Die (Los Angeles, CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1977), p. 120.
Roy Masters, How Your Mind Can Keep You Well (Los Angeles, CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1976), p. 165.
Masters, Secret of Life, p. 16.
Ibid, p. 165.
Roy Masters, The Satan Principle (Los Angeles CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1979), p. 121.
Masters, How to Control Your Emotions (Los Angeles CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, 1975) pp. 68-69.
Roy Masters, »The Mystery of the Cross,« tape no. 55 (Los Angeles CA: Foundation of Human Understanding, no date)
Masters, The Satan Principle, p. 81.
Masters, »The Mystery of Golgotha.«
Masters, How to Control, p. 84.
Ibid., p. 126.
Ibid., p. 109.
Masters, The Satan Principle, pp. 122-124.
Masters, How to Control, p. 76.
Masters, No One, p 49.
Ibid p. 153.
Masters, How to Conquer, pp. 184-185.
Masters, The Satan Principle, pp. 144-145.Bella Stumbo, »Crowd Told of 'Peace' Retreat,« Los Angeles Times, 3 December 1978.