by James Killough
I was sent an article the other day by Rain Li’s boyfriend, Forest Liu. I think Forest is fantastic, and hope that, if or when Rain is done with him, she’ll pass him along to me. There aren’t many leftover dumplings I would eat from Rain Li’s dim sum brunch, but Forest is definitely one of them.
The New York Times article is about its author going to Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet his friend and former colleague, reformed gay activist Michael Glatze, now an ex-Ghey evangelical. It’s a long piece, so I’ll let you read it here at your leisure.
In a nut’s shell, because such things are completely nutty, Glatze has abandoned cock worship for Bible worship, which says everything about religion right there, in a nutshell. As I’ve always said about AA, if you replace substance abuse with religion, what does that say about God? The same goes for this wacko: if you replace dick with religion, what does that make God?
Phallus worship might be pagan from a Christian point of view, but it’s still very active in India, Michael. Don’t be close-minded about it; they can definitely find you the wife you so desperately desire over there, who will turn a blind eye to your preferences.
Let me insert a further note to a recent post of mine, in which I mentioned that Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, is clearly a flaming queen himself, despite being an anti-Ghey crusader. Further research reveals that Marcus Bachmann is also ex-Ghey, and now practices ex-Ghey therapy. Surely this candidacy is going absolutely nowhere, praise the Lord.
Trying to be ex-Ghey is sort of like a black person using skin whiteners. You may think you look different, you may even think you white, but you still black, honey chile (snap, snap).
Cults and cultish behavior rear their warped heads frequently. Few societies are safe from their insidious attacks. The US is particularly prone to all types of fanaticism and weird worship because the country itself was founded by radical religios, the Puritans, who were so fundamentalist they were basically booted out of a Protestant country, England.
It appears that swami Prakashanand Saraswati, head of the sumptuous Barsana Dham temple outside of Houston, Texas, was convicted of child molestation and is now on the run. During his trial, he just sat there impervious to the goings on, as if he were above it all; indeed, apparently Saraswati is a living god and is treated as such by his devotees, and is therefore contemptuous of all mortals and our foolish laws. The court allowed him to have a Barcalounger because of his back, so he took naps in it and pared his nails while they were convicting him of being a sleazebag. Now he’s pulled a Polanski.
In link-hopping through Saraswati’s history from The Daily Beast article linked above, I came across some colorful stories, including one where devotees at his first ashram in Philadelphia would sit satsang for two hours every day in silent meditation while the swami ate. Then, once he’d left, the disciples would dive in for the crumbs from the table, like me after Rain Li’s dumplings. They believed that because the guru, a living god, had touched the food, it had become prasad, sacrament.
Saraswati used the threat of karmic retribution if girls didn’t sleep with him, specifically that they would spend endless lifetimes as cockroaches. I wonder what brought that particular insect to mind? Probably looking at himself in the mirror, sighing, and realizing the only way he could possibly get laid was through elaborate brainwashing and psychological torment, which reminded him that he was, indeed, himself going through yet another lifetime as a cockroach. Then he brushed that Kafka-esque thought aside, farted, and waddled off for a crumb-spewing lunch.
What was interesting in that Daily Beast article was to read about the definition of a cult by the Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults. There are three criteria that a religious or spiritual organization must meet to be considered a cult: an authoritarian leader with no accountability; a thought-reform process that hampers members’ ability to make independent decisions; and harm done to the group’s members.
Why is this interesting to me? Because for years I have wondered on and off if I’ve been part of a cult.
Just as former gay activist Michael Glatze became an extremist anti-Ghey Christian, I was once a fervently ‘spiritual’ person who converted to orthodox atheism. But my process seems to have been more intellectual and gradually experiential than Glatze’s St. Paul-like revelation, when he sat in front of a computer one day and typed three magical words, “I am straight,” and embarked on his current odyssey of denial and delusion. His was a psychotic break, mine was the inevitable conclusion of the spiritual instruction I was receiving, the final thesis of a twelve-year course of study under a great Sufi master.
What is the difference between religion and spirituality? None, really. In my copious experience both in India and as part of an ancient, established Sufi order, deeply spiritual people, who are on esoteric, ‘mystical’ paths, can be just as bat-shit meshugana as religious folk involved in exoteric organizations, i.e., mainstream churches and the like. The main difference is cosmetic and behavioral: spiritual folk are more folksy, more granola, less prone to violent outbursts of militancy and hate-mongering.
As the esoteric branch of Islam, and therefore constantly on the brink of heresy in a part of the world under the sway of a modern Muslim Inquisition, Sufism is by necessity a heavily encrypted spiritual path, just so the guards of that particular theocratic prison — the mullahs, the ayatollahs, and the imams — don’t catch on to what is really being said and taught, or don’t have recourse to charges of blasphemy. But in retrospect, the keys breaking that encryption are given to you right at the beginning, when you enter most Sufi orders as a dervish, or postulant.
The first key relates to enlightenment. As the Sufi saying goes, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a dervish to attain enlightenment.” In other words, it’s impossible. This is because there is no such thing as enlightenment. But the conclusion to the camel/needle analogy is that, “you will be a better person for trying.” And that is the real point.
Indeed, enlightenment is the mirage carrot dangled before the dervish donkey to keep him moving forward, the cardboard bunny that spiritual greyhounds chase around the track until they either get it or die from exhaustion. But it is the process, not the conclusion, which is the goal, exactly the way it is in Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism and Sufism might as well be the same, except that Buddhism is overtly atheistic, Sufism covertly, again by necessity.
The second Buddhist-Sufic key they hand you right at the beginning of the Path is the renunciation of dualism and multiplicity, of the existence of an “I” and a “You,” to encourage you to attain of the ‘unity of being,’ or oneness with everything. Because Sufism is under Islam, under the oppressive thumb of Allah, you must renounce your Self and become one with the Beloved, but if you love yourself enough, you become your own beloved. If you don’t live under the oppressive thumb of Allah, then it is easy to renounce duality by simply renouncing God and becoming an atheist, and starting to date your own inner boyfriend.
The reason I dabbled with the notion that I might have been part of a cult is because the foundation of all Eastern spiritual practice is surrender to the Master of the Path, and in Sufism in particular the emphasis is on renunciation of the self, the ego, which is very hard for Westerners to do. It’s a dangerous concept, and clearly one that can be abused; Saraswati is hardly the first guru to abuse powers given to him by his disciples. He just so happens to be in Texas, and therefore noteworthy to The Daily Beast; India is riddled with these guys like fleas on a Mumbai street cur.
Why do I still use the present tense when I refer to my participation in the Sufi order? Because a true Sufi path is not unlike Hotel California: you can check in any time you want, but you can never leave. They warn you of the perils before you ‘take zekr,’ or before you are initiated and given a mantra. They try to dissuade you. Lifting the veils of delusion is an endless process, and what lies behind might not as comforting or pretty as you imagine when you first embark on a path like mine.
And that is why I can never leave: everything I do, even renouncing God, even typing these words, is part of my particular path, and is accepted as such by the Sufis because that is what the unity of being is all about.
Am I part of a cult? Emphatically not. My group doesn’t meet the criteria, any more than a university or any higher learning institution does. While certain dervishes do behave as if the master is divine or supernatural, this is their own interpretation. I think a master should be respected and listened to, but not worshipped, like any teacher. But, again, if another dervish wants to interpret the master that way, that’s his path. A true master will never admonish him, unless the disciple gets so out of hand with the bat-shit loony behavior that he needs to be packed off to The Bin.
Doesn’t mean I can’t pass judgment. Amen.