Going Off the Deep End into Cultism

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: You include several techniques for working on the personality in your intermediate meditation courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program. How can I be sure I’m not fundamentally altering my personality, like what happens in cults?

A: We can characterize seven major levels of work on the personality, together with the methods that are used to access each layer. These are briefly described below.

  1. Your actual experience – this is your moment-to-moment experience in the present time—what we call the zone of the Conscious mind. Mindfulness, being present and observing your mental activity objectively, taps this level. The deeper form of mindfulness, Vipassana, in which you actively process and release the material arising in the present time, also operates at this level.
  2. Your story about your experience – this is your ego’s attempt to show itself to others in a favorable and positive light. At this level, you seek to appear logical, right, and acceptable in the eyes of others; you may present yourself to them as successful, competent, and expert, even though you are not. This is the layer in which you encounter your defense mechanisms. Psychodynamic therapies interface with your ego at this level, accessing both your owned personal narrative and your disowned “shadow.”
  3. Your emotional reactions – This includes your emotional “conclusions” about what your experience means. This influences your self-image. This layer is the emotional truth that you feel beneath the false impressions you convey to the world through shaping your appearance, what you disclose to others, and what you tell others about yourself. Humanistic therapies tap this level.
  4. The network of beliefs associated with your emotions – This makes up your essential “programming” that colors your mindset. This is the perceptual set through which you view the world and what seems possible to you. You can change this programming through autohypnosis and affirmation. Cognitive behavioral therapy works with the limiting, self-sabotaging, and misery-creating beliefs you harbor at this level, and attempts to reconstruct them. As you uproot this conditioning that separates you from your Soul, you can begin to align your personality with your authentic Self and connect with your Soul’s creative expression and purpose.
  5. Changing selected beliefs to conform to a doctrine or philosophy – Cults and mind-control groups use this method to control your personality and to make it obey a set of moral or ideological principles. This might take the form of living up to ideal behavioral standards, obeying the commands of the group leader, or conforming every aspect of your life to a prescribed lifestyle. You may be indoctrinated to hold beliefs acceptable to the doctrine of the group. You may be “brainwashed” to re-identify with a new sense of personal identity. You may be manipulated to give up your personal life entirely and live only to carry out the leader’s agenda and the group’s mission.
  6. Spiritual detachment – At this level, you enter an altered state of consciousness in which you re-identify with a spiritual essence—nucleus of identity, spirit, or ensouling entity—and regard your personality as unreal or dream-like. Here, you detach from your life entirely and pursue spiritual development. In some groups, receiving a new spiritual name, taking monastic vows, or abandoning personal ambitions and dedicating your life to spiritual practice accompany this new state of identification.
  7. Dissolution of your personality – In some spiritual traditions, you may be trained in practices that actually turn off the personality and interfere with its ability to function. The aim of these practices is to dissolve the ego and personality so that you ultimately realize your Oneness with the Divine.

Cults co-opt many of the methods used at layers one through four—such as focusing on issues, hypnosis, affirmation, and shaping beliefs—to establish you in a new state of identity. They indoctrinate you in their belief systems and philosophy with an aim to control you. They may have you remain in a trance-like altered state of consciousness to have you separate and disidentify with your personality.

In Mudrashram®, we teach methods in our intermediate meditation courses to allow you to interface with levels one, two, and four. We show you these methods to enable you to connect with your authentic Self and your Soul, to express and actualize your unique gifts.

Once you adopt modalities that move you into zones five through seven, you enter the territory where you begin artificially controlling the personality to follow another’s agenda. This occurs in cults and spiritual groups where you learn your personality is flawed, evil, or an illusion; you are urged to conform to an ideal lifestyle or live in an altered state of consciousness.

If you steer clear of shaping your personality according to religious doctrines and other people’s values, you will avoid going off the deep end into cultism and fanaticism. Honor what is actually within you and work with this. If you complete this inner process, your personality will become an instrument of your own Soul—not a slave to someone else who controls you.

If you are exiting a cultic group and you are trying to make sense of what happened to you—and you want a structured way to approach this—you may wish to consider signing up for our Cult Recovery Program.

Mistakes Meditators Make

By George A. Boyd ©2018

I have taught Integral meditation since 1983, and have published 16 books on this topic. I have observed the following mistakes meditators make:

  1. Meditating without a clear objective – if you meditate in this fashion, you will simply slip into a state of reverie. While this is relaxing, it effectively wastes your time. Every meditation needs to be done with a purpose.
  2. Not going beyond preliminary stages of meditation – while many people can reach the stage of mindfulness and begin to become aware of what they are experiencing in the present moment, this is only the first layer of meditation—the Conscious mind. Meditators need to reach the Superconscious mind to do the deepest work of meditation.
  3. Jumping ahead to practices that are not keyed to your current stage of spiritual development – This all too common blunder has people meditate on a spiritual essence other that your own Soul. If meditators practice powerful transformation techniques along with contemplating this higher essence, it can liberate powerful energies in the mind, and create dangerous splits in identity and perception. You can lose your motivation to pursue your personal goals; you can begin to sense that the world and your life are unreal; you can begin to hear visions and voices that tell you to do odd things.
  4. Get involved in a spiritual cult – While there are many reputable schools of meditation, there are a number of groups that, in exchange for teaching your meditation, expect you to let the leader of this group  completely reprogram and control your mind and your life, and have you dedicate all of your labor and money to him or her. I would strongly advise that those seeking meditation instruction have some knowledge of the dynamics of cults and if you start getting warning signs, get the heck out of there![We have articles about cults in our Library, and those of you who may like to understand this subject more deeply may benefit from reading our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing?.]
  5. Having only one technique – If you call a handyman to your house, he won’t show up without a whole toolbox. Many schools of meditation teach just one technique. It’s important that you have a whole tool box of methods to use to work on the issues of your personality, to lift your awareness into your Soul, to transform your Soul, to get guidance from your Soul’s intuition.
  6. Remaining in an altered state of consciousness – Some schools of meditation that cultivate the experience of enlightenment encourage their students to remain fixed in this altered state of consciousness 24/7. This is not a good idea. You can become narcissistic, believing that the whole Creation revolves around your needs. You can become arrogant and grandiose, believing you are a superior all-knowing god-like being. You can become delusional, believing you are a Christ-like being, and expecting everyone to recognize how enlightened you are.
  7. Not understanding the context or big picture of why you are meditating – It is important to have a long term goal of what you are seeking to achieve in meditation and have the appropriate techniques to help you achieve this. Many meditators get excited when someone does a “guided meditation” and takes them somewhere, but they no clarity about what is the purpose of meditation and how they truly actualize their spiritual potentials. The objective is not to take visionary journeys into the higher mind; the objective is that your Soul will accomplish the Great Work that it was destined to do.

We have developed our Integral meditation system to help you avoid these common meditation mistakes. Those of you who wish to learn a complete system of spiritual development that steers you away from these spiritual detours, you may wish to investigate our intermediate meditation classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and they by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.

Why Religion Drives Some People Crazy

Why Religion Drives Some People Crazy

Leading to Political Strife, Fanaticism, and Terrorism

By George A. Boyd © 2017

Religion influences people at multiple levels. It conditions:

  • Identity – who they believe themselves to be
  • Volition – what choices they are allowed to make, and which choices are labeled as wrong or evil
  • Cognition – what they think and believe about selected topics, which shape their political and social opinions
  • Morality – how they decide what is right and wrong behavior
  • Affect – how they react emotionally to ideas or objects
  • Behavior – what they allow themselves to do, as their beliefs and values direct them
  • Motivation – what desires are acceptable to fulfill and which are not
  • Perception – what mindsets they adopt and which they abandon
  • Cosmology – what mythological world they perceive their spiritual essence dwells, which contains the narrative of how Creation occurred, the spiritual beings that inhabit this inner world, and what is the form of the Supreme Being

This multi-faceted, multi-modal influence that religion has over human beings can completely take over their autonomy, and turn them into instruments for the agenda of the leaders of the faith. People no longer discover who they are; know their genuine thoughts, feelings, and motivations; or make independent choices—they are shaped and molded into who they should be, according to the doctrinal vision of the religion.

When we examine the eight stages of alternate perceptions of the world that can be generated through prayer, hypnosis, and meditation, we find that religion emphasizes two parts of this internalization process. Understanding these stages sheds light upon what is happening to people who come under the sway of religion and how this occurs.

Stage One – You believe in or remember a form of God. You may do some type of activity to praise or worship this Being. You typically make requests to this Being through prayer or supplication. As you practice prayer for some time, you may begin to receive guidance or teaching from this being through intuition. This is called invocation.

Stage Two – You collect your attention and become present. You may be able to focus your attention on feelings that arise in the present time in your body and work them out. This is called mindfulness.

Stage Three – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness you access selected centers of the Conscious mind to relieve stress, lower your anxiety, and gain clarity on what you need to do. This is called practical meditation.

Stage Four – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness into the Subconscious mind, which allows you to travel through the temporal-mnemonic strata of your mind, and to access the system of chakras and your astral body, using hypnosis and meditation. This is called liminal meditation.

Stage Five – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness into the Metaconscious mind to unite with the Self. Through this means you empower you will and activate the executive faculties of your personality to take charge of your life and personal destiny. This is called centering meditation.

Stage Six – You focus your attention upon your three immortal essences of consciousness—your attentional principle, your spirit, and your Soul—to awaken your ability to do conscious, inner spiritual work. This is called awakening meditation.

Stage Seven – You focus your attention upon a center in the Superconscious mind that is in proximity to the form of God to whom you pray and whom you worship. In many religions, this is an integration center in the Superconscious mind, which we call a nucleus of identity—though in some groups, they will have you focus on the spirit or an ensouling entity at another level of the Continuum, other than where your Soul dwells.

After keeping your attention merged in this essence for prolonged periods of time, you come to identify with it. As you contemplate this band of the Continuum and receive teachings from those who are established in this cosmology, it begins to shape your perception, thinking, and beliefs; influence your emotional reactions, attitudes, and moral beliefs; and ultimately, how you act.

Since this is an altered state of consciousness in which your reality testing mechanisms of the mind are temporarily suspended—like being in a hypnotic trance—you can be programmed to believe almost anything, accept it as true, and act on it.

This state of mind is called unitive meditation. In different traditions, it has been called being reborn, gaining Realization, awakening of true faith, recognition of original mind, experiencing Gnosis or Divine Knowledge.

Stage Eight – You use the attentional principle, spirit, and Soul to work on the issues of your personality from a detached perspective, activate the full operation of the faculties of your Superconscious mind, free your spirit to return to its Source, travel in full consciousness as the attentional principle through every band of the mind, and unfold the spiritual evolutionary potentials of the Soul using transformational meditation. This is called transcendence meditation.

Religions typically emphasize stage one and stage seven—invocation and unitive meditation. They have you believe in or remember God to establish a relationship. Then they use some modality to alter your awareness so you can enter into mystic union with the spiritual essence that dwells in proximity to that Divine Being. This might take the form of singing or chanting, sacred movement or dancing, using a mantra to focus your attention on this essence, or doing special breathing methods.

There certainly is not a problem with visiting this nucleus of identity or other spiritual essence in meditation. Where it becomes a problem when you begin to operate from this higher center and you become fully identified with it: in this scenario, your religion begins to program you and gradually takes over your life.

Many religions and spiritual groups focus your attention on a nucleus of identity, or the spirit or an ensouling entity outside of where your Soul dwells, and then lock your attention in this state. [We refer to this to doing spiritual work outside the cutting edge of spirituality.]

They use role authority, e.g., the sacred leader, the Guru or Master; sacred text authority, citing scriptures and other holy books; and instill fear, guilt, and shame to indoctrinate you—these methods eventually start to control you. They condition your lifestyle; inculcate their approved doctrine to shape your beliefs, values, and behavior; and have you engage in regular religious rituals to continually remind you of your identification with this religion.

The other forms of meditation of stages two through six and eight—mindfulness, practical meditation, liminal meditation, centering meditation, awakening meditation, and transcendence meditation—operate under your control. You may be initially guided in doing these meditations to learn them, but after you are able to practice them proficiently, you direct where you focus your attention and decide what inner work you do.

We teach you mindfulness and practical meditation in our Foundations of Practical Meditation Program. We show you liminal and centering meditation in our Introduction to Meditation Program. We train you in awakening meditation and transcendence meditation in our intermediate courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.

To do this conscious inner work, you must shift from belief and faith to knowledge and direct verification; you must move from being a believer at stage one to being a mystic knower, who is capable of independent inquiry, contemplation, and actively transforming your spiritual potentials.

Moreover, you must break out of the bubble of programmed hypnotic belief at stage seven to do this. This commonly requires you to deconstruct the perceptual filters and scaffolds of belief that lock you into a remaining in continual union with a spiritual essence. This allows you to settle into your own nature—untrammeled by the hypnotic influence of religions that attempt to mold you into an ideal pattern of their design—and actualize your genuine personal and spiritual potentials.

We discuss in greater depth how you shift from faith to knowledge and how you deconstruct the mindsets and beliefs that lock you into an altered state of consciousness in our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing? We encourage you to read this book if this is a topic that interests you and you would like to learn more.

Uncovering Conscious Experience

Uncovering Conscious Experience beneath Ideas, Beliefs, Opinions, and Values

By George A. Boyd © 2017

One of the challenges of the modern seeker is discovering what is their actual conscious experience apart from the ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and values that create a secondary conceptual and perceptual filter over their inner witness. The first thing the seeker must do is to differentiate the content that is arising in the mind and to recognize it. The thought things of ideas, beliefs, opinions, and values need to be identified for what they are—as you withdraw your attention from these cognitive layers of the mind, you are able to awaken as the conscious witness of mental content, and achieve mindfulness and conscious presence.

This article came out of a dialog I had with my Higher Self in two separate sittings. The first question and answer session drilled down on defining what are ideas, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and values. The second session focused on the difference between facts, opinions, and conscious experience.

Here’s the dialog:

Q: What’s the difference between on idea and a belief?

A: An idea is an image that encapsulates meaning. It combines visual models, verbal statements, and a written explication that describes and supports the idea.

A belief is an internalized verbal statement that:

  1. Makes a judgment about truth or falsity of an idea
  2. Give arguments why something is true or false
  3. Stores information related to the belief that reifies the contention why the statement is true or false

Q: How is an opinion different than a belief?

A: An opinion is a belief you express verbally—you state your belief aloud or communicate it through writing.

Q: How is belief different than attitude?

A: Attitude is the physical and emotional expression of a belief. What you believe often becomes charged with emotions, and shows up as certain facial expressions or postures that communicate the belief non-verbally. For example, people who are self-righteous—who believe they know the final and absolute truth, based of their reading of a scripture or other authoritative book—will hold their body in a certain way; and they’ll express their beliefs arrogantly and condescendingly.

Q: How is a belief different than a value?

A: Values assign rules or standards for making judgments. Values commonly condition beliefs. For example, if you hold a value that sex outside of marriage is wrong—if you believe in that value, you will affirm it, and you will attempt to act in consonance with that value. When your behavior matches your values, you will experience integrity; if you act counter to that value, you will experience inner conflict.

Q: What is a fact?

A: A fact is something that our senses and reason determine are objective reality—something that exists whether we believe it exists or not. Facts are objects you can detect through your senses or instrumentation: for example, you can extend your physical senses to view extremely tiny objects through a microscope.

  • Facts are measureable.
  • Multiple witnesses can verify them.
  • They exist at a specific location in the physical universe.
  • They can be observed at a specific time.
  • They are documented through written accounts or photographic, audio, or video recording.
  • The person experiencing the fact has intact and normal sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functioning—for example, a person under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug could not be said to demonstrate intact and normal sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functioning.
  • It can be represented as data that can be analyzed, calculated, computed, and communicated to others.

Q: In our modern contentious political environment in the United States, there seems to be a discounting of facts based on beliefs in a certain political ideology. Factual reporting of statements of witnesses is labeled fake news. Facts are ignored or cherry picked to support a particular agenda. Facts are discredited if they do not agree with political or religious orthodoxy. What creates this phenomenon?

A: The facts are what they are—regardless of whether someone chooses to consider them or not. Science attempts to uncover facts and verify they whether their hypotheses about these facts are accurate.

On the other hand, these political actors hold strong beliefs that support their values, which they express as opinions. These values and beliefs are primary; they will cling to their beliefs even if the facts do not support them.

Opinions appear to operate in several ways:

  1. You form opinions about what facts mean, and what they imply.
  2. You decide whether a fact is real, or whether it is an artifact or optical illusion.
  3. If you have political or religious beliefs, you may decide not only if the fact is real, but also if it is right or wrong, or if it is good or evil.
  4. You may decide whether a fact is relevant, or whether it can be ignored. For example, a biochemist detects glucose in a cell, when he is searching for the presence of a specific protein. He may note the glucose is there, but he will ignore it, because it is not relevant the protein he is seeking.
  5. You decide if a fact fits into mental category, schema, or classification, or not. You decide whether a fact should be included in a discussion of a topic or not, or whether or not it is germane to a dialog you are having.
  6. You decide if a fact fits into an ideological, political, or religious belief system’s doctrine or not.
  7. You decide whether a fact is important to you personally or spiritually, and whether or not you need to take action.

Typically, opinion type 6 heavily influences these political actors. Their doctrine is primary, and they reject any facts that do not fit in with it. This system of beliefs filters their perception, and forms a mindset through which they view reality.

These perceptual filters, or mindsets, operate in most people. These mindsets may not be founded upon political or religious beliefs, but they do lock people into a particular perception about what is possible and who they can become in the future.

Q: How is it possible to become conscious? It seems most people are completely entrenched in their mindsets and belief systems, so they cannot see any other viewpoint.

A: To become conscious, to become aware and mindful, you have to transcend the field of mindsets, of the nested array of values, beliefs, opinions, and ideas that form them, and collect your attention.

When you are established in conscious experience, you observe:

  • Your body position and movement in the present time
  • The environment around your body and become aware of what your senses are experiencing in the present time
  • The physiological activity of your body and your experience of your muscles, organs, and other tissues in the present time
  • Your feelings and emotional reactions in the present time
  • Your thoughts arising in the present time
  • The different identity states of the ego and the thoughts, feelings, actions and perspectives each identity state embodies
  • The memories that arise in response to different stimuli

As you go deeper in meditation, following the thread of consciousness to deeper strata of the mind, you eventually encounter the three immortal principles—the attentional principle, the spirit, and the Soul. When you reach these essences and come to identify with them, it shifts you out of the mindsets and belief systems that captured your attention. You wake up within. You experience that you are separate and independent from these gossamer palaces woven from belief and you are the conscious witness of all that occurs in the mind.

We teach the method to isolate your conscious experience and direct it along the thread of consciousness in our beginning class, the Introduction to Meditation program. We teach you how to awaken your conscious essences in our intermediate classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—and how to use them to transform your spiritual potentials.

We encourage you to reflect deeply on these different elements of the cognitive strata of your mind, and learn to isolate your attention from the ceaseless cascade of thought things that separate you from your naked awareness that exists behind this river of thought. Then you can shift from being locked in the hypnotic absorption of mindsets and belief systems and become a conscious being.

Benefits and Limitations of Mindfulness

By George A. Boyd © 2018

Q: It seems everyone is promoting mindfulness. Is this a valuable technique for me to learn?

A: Mindfulness is a kind of Swiss army knife for beginning meditators. For example:

  1. It is a tool for presence. It teaches you how to collect your attention in the waking state of awareness.
  2. It provides a way for you to process the material that arises in the present time, and to fully experience it.
  3. It enables you to perceive the content of the unconscious mind, which promotes insight.
  4. It allows you to release tension. It promotes relaxation. It can temporarily relieve pain.
  5. It lets you make a breakthrough the blockage at one level of the mind and lift up into an altered state of consciousness. An instance of this is, if you do present-time contemplation of the deep sensations in your physical body, when you complete processing your experience at that level, your attention will be drawn up into union with the Voidness of Being beyond the Self.
  6. It helps you work out painful and shameful emotions through fully witnessing them and experiencing them.
  7. Mindful focusing on the breath can lift your attention up to enlightened states of mind, into the wave of the present time on the Akashic Aether, and the presence of the Soul.

While mindfulness is a useful and versatile technique, there are many meditation tasks that it cannot accomplish. For instance:

  1. It cannot transform the Soul to a new nodal point.
  2. It cannot open the Path of the spirit.
  3. In most cases, it does not awaken the energy of awareness that opens the potentials of all levels of the mind.
  4. It does not specifically direct attention to focus on discrete focal points of the mind or on the immortal essences of consciousness, but instead contemplates present-time experience.
  5. It does not specifically tap intuition for guidance.
  6. It does not activate the powers of the Soul or activate its ability to send the Light of Attunement. It does not promote reception of the Omnific energies of Light Immersion.
  7. It does not establish a spiritual connection with a spiritual Master or guide in the inner Planes of the Superconscious mind.
  8. It does not normally uncover your core sense of truth, or Dharma, which guides you to right activity in your daily life.
  9. It does normally not lead your attention to experience the Self, the Soul, or God. This has led those who practice this meditation to deny that there is a Self, or a Soul, or that God exists.
  10. It does not set any objective or goal for meditation other than experiencing what is arising in the present time. As a result, meditations can simply be sessions of monitoring the stream of consciousness and remaining in a state of reverie—it produces no concrete change, nor does it lead to the accomplishment of any spiritual development objective.
  11. For many beginning meditators, it may restrict their experience of the levels of awareness to the bands of the Conscious mind. It does not give them a tool to move to discrete levels of the mind beyond this level and to explore the content there.
  12. Those that practice mindfulness in every interaction may be actually functioning in a light state of trance. While this is less stressful than operating automatically and reactively—plus it generates an enhanced quality of life—it may paradoxically restrict attention to narrow parameters, instead of taking in the full picture of what is happening around them.
  13. We encourage aspirants to learn these different beneficial uses of mindfulness described here, and to utilize this helpful method to enable them to relax and gain insight. But we point out that mindfulness is a beginners’ practice of meditation, and it would be valuable for them to acquire additional techniques to accomplish some of the other spiritual objectives that mindfulness practice does not address.

    We teach these additional methods in our intermediate classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program. We invite aspirants to build upon the auspicious foundation of mindfulness and to acquire the additional methods that will enable them to fully activate their personal and spiritual potentials, and to make conscious spiritual progress towards Mastery and Liberation.