Category: Self-Realization Fellowship

Sex Was Death

The celibate monks were to avoid all thoughts of sex. Imaginary or real sex was strictly forbidden.

bedchamber

Sexual-Spiritual Romanticism

By my mid-twenties I’d dated and been heartbroken with women. The usual, garden variety issues–I got attached, cheated on, or dumped. In a word, disappointment–such is the lot of idealism of romantic relationships. A convenient solution–celibacy, giving up sex, avoided emotional hurt and could make me spiritual–in one fell swoop!

bildeThe seeds of desire for controlling sex energy were planted during my teens. I’d discovered a book in my Dad’s library, Think and Grow Rich1. This is not the place to discuss the impact this influential text had on my life. We are interested in only a single detail, the chapter on “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation”1. Controlling the sex force would, I thought, fuel my intuition, my sixth sense, and bring me success as a creative artist. I was a musician in the years before I became a monk.

Spiritual Sexlessness

The seeds of sex transmutation eventually grew into my vow of celibacy. The ordained monks were required to abstain in thought and deed. But, no one knew my thoughts–or did they? I feared the advanced monks (siddhas) or the guru would read my mind and discover I had dirty thoughts! Sometimes I’d be rudely awakened from deep sleep to discover my hands on my genitals or shaken awake from nocturnal emissions. Pleasure and shame were simultaneous, humiliating. After realizing my “sins”, I’d sit up in bed to meditate on forgiveness or go down to my bedroom floor on my hands and knees. Prostrate in front of my dresser-top photo of gurus, I’d utter over and over:

Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti“I want to transmute sex energy into spiritual energy. I want to turn it Godward to create spiritually.”2

Sex Was Death

The fellow monks and yoga students of Self-Realization Fellowship were “trained”:

“Evil thoughts are the most powerful of man’s interior enemies. Remember that control of the sex impulse should begin with its spiritual transmutation within.

Everyone who finds his self-control waning should remember that yielding will hasten his flight toward the pitfalls of disease, premature old age, mental dissatisfaction, loss of ambition, boredom, unhappiness, and premature unhappy death”.2 [emphasis mine]

The above memories of my celibate days were triggered when I read this below in Men’s Health magazine:

SATURN V, APOLLO 6 (AS-502) LAUNCH FROM CAPE. PAD 39A. REF: 116-KSC-68PC-59 “A UK study found that folks who have frequent orgasms from sex also have greater resting-heart-rate variability, which is linked to longer life. Sex strengthens your parasympathetic nervous system (the brakes on your heart rate), allowing it to better counter your sympathetic nervous system (the gas pedal)”.3

Contrary to Hindu traditions and yogi mythology, sexual activity can lead to health and long-life3,4

Footnotes

  1. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation, Think And Grow Rich. Hill, N. Ballentine. NY: NY. 1960. Ch 11. Print.
  2. Transmutation of Creative Energy Into Spiritual Energy, Self-Realization Fellowship Lesson #71. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, CA. 1991. Print.
  3. How To Live To Be 100: Break the Bed. Men’s Health (Jul/Aug 2014), 24. Print.
  4. Smith, G. D. et al, (1997) Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study. BMJ (British Medical Journal). Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/315/7123/1641

The Postulant House Cat: Queen Nefertari

Nefertari Merit-en-Mut,  (nefertari mon amour), Photo : Dario J. Laganà, Model: Erika
Nefertari Merit-en-Mut,
(nefertari mon amour), Photo : Dario J. Laganà, Model: Erika

Tari, the postulant monks’ house cat, was treated like a queen. Tari was short for Queen Nefertari. The postulant monk in charge of Tari’s care and feeding was kind-of a pet of the pet Tari and of Brotherji.

Brotherji was the respectful short name for Brother Premamoy, the esteemed House Brother of the Postulant ashram or monastery. Brotherji was a real Count from Slovenia. Some people called him the Prince of Yugoslavia. For he was indeed from a royal family, and was a most gracious host and deeply caring person.

Monastery legend, or rumor depending on your perspective, was that Brotherji was the reincarnation of King Ramesses II, the great Egyptian Pharaoh and husband of the historic Queen Nefertari.

We monks rumored over other legends about which great world-leaders and poets were now reincarnate as the spiritual directors and leaders of the Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. Yogananda was Charlemagne and Shakespeare, as SRF folklore went.

Tari (aka Nefertari), the postulant house cat.
Tari (aka Nefertari), the postulant monks’ house cat.

The real and historic Brother Premamoy (1910 -1990) was, according to Winter 1990 Self-Realization Magazine, imprisoned in three concentration camps for his participation in the Resistance movement during the Nazi occupation in WWII. After immigrating to the U.S., Brother Premamoy joined the SRF Monastic Order in the 1950s. Many other real and speculative stories, coupled with Brother’s noble personality, drew us monks into reverential awe of him. Perhaps that lent more credulity to our legend that he might be the reincarnation of the Pharaoh King, Ramesses II?

Interesting historical side note: The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, including the lion-goddess Mafdet and the cat goddess Bast or Bastet. Archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of Egyptian mummies of cats and humans. Entombed, mummified bodies were preserved for the “afterlife”. So the legends go.

Question to readers: Are humans gullible enough to worship anything or anyone as a god or goddess? What else do we deify that may not be considered a “traditional” god?

Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?

I Was A Monk

For 14 years, I lived in the ashrams of a Worldwide Eastern-Religious organization, Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. Everyday, I practiced silent meditation an average of 4 hours, studied holy scriptures, and followed the ancient traditions of yoga mysticism. I’d never imagined I’d be, but here I was, a Western kid, raised Catholic, a yogi monk!

Br. Scott, in the yellow habit "smock" of Self-Realization Fellowship monk
Br. Scott, in the yellow habit “smock” of Self-Realization Fellowship monk

I was known at the time as Brahmachari Scott and was ordained in the ancient Order of Swamis of India — yellow smocked, celibate, $40 monthly allowance in my pocket and determined to find God, Self, Enlightenment. For reasons that are as complicated as life gets, I realized 14 years later that I really didn’t belong in the monastery (the abbreviated story’s here if you’re interested). That wasn’t the end, though. In the most important ways, my story only started to unfold (or unravel) when I fell back into the world.

To say that I’d given up the purpose why I became a monk in the first place would be false. My quest for knowledge and truth continued, out in the world, in my business, in my relationships with self, others, and the universe. I’m highly skeptical of religious authorities claiming they have or can give us enlightenment, truth, and supernatural experiences. Perhaps, you also may consider that science and the scientific method are the most reliable way of understanding reality. Not perfect, but most reliable. 

I am, today, a nonbeliever. I don’t believe a god exists, but I admit I don’t know this as a fact. But there’s just no convincing evidence, and I’m looking. Gradually I’ve been coming to terms accepting that I was a monk, a believer in the supernatural. I don’t regret my past choices.  But, rarely, if ever, have I talked about my past as a monk or revealed that I turned out a nonbeliever. Perhaps, my silence has been from fear of being judged, shamed, or shunned by friends, family, and coworkers.

One of my favorite quotes is from the 1978 movie, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Gillenormand confesses, “I’ve been a fool”. Compassionately, Jean Valjean responds, “Oh sir, we’re all fools for most of our lives. It’s unavoidable”. That brings us to why I am talking with you now.

Why this blog?

Skeptic Meditations is about climbing over walls and outsmarting gods. It’s about being OK being a fool, about authenticity and honesty, about challenging belief in the supernatural and questioning religious authorities. Ultimately, this blog is about exploring the world — within and without — using hearty reason and the most reliable methods to understand reality — science and critical thinking.

By reading this blog’s weekly posts, you will find provocative views, reviews, humor, and commentary exploring the extraordinary claims of religious mystics, yogi-meditators, and New Age gurus and their religious followers.

This site is where I’ll collect resources for healthy, skeptical examination of supernatural beliefs and claims of the mystical. What do you think? I encourage you to share your comments in this blog and contribute to this conversation.[comment policy

Tell me what you think, or what you’d like to see in this blog by adding your comment below, by sending me an email, or sign up to receive new posts via RSS feed or by email.

The Open Road

I was a monk. Now, I’m a heretic, a nonbeliever.

Or, whatever labels you could give a doubter, skeptic, and explorer. Rarely, do I tell anyone I was a monk, or that I’m no longer a “believer”.  Yes, I lived for 14 years in the ashrams of Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order, a Worldwide “church of all religions” (Yogananda), founded by Indian Swami, Paramahansa Yogananda. According to Self-Realization Fellowship, their teachings are a blend of original Christianity and the Yoga Meditation traditions of the East, namely Hinduism. I was ordained as Brahmachari Scott and vowed to follow the disciplines and doctrines of the ancient Swami Order of India. [More About me].

You’re probably wondering, like me: Was the monastery, where I lived for 14 years, a cult? What IS a “cult”? Are Catholic priests in a cult? Or, you have some other valid or wild questions. I won’t try to answer these questions here, but plan to in future blog posts. But, back to what led me to start this blog…

During 2013, I stumbled upon a column in Scientific American magazine. I don’t remember that article’s title or topic, but I clearly remember the author, Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine. While reading Michael’s article on my iPhone that night, I realized I’m a skeptic and nonbeliever of supernatural claims. That moment started me on a journey.

Since my aha, “I’m a skeptic, nonbeliever”, moment I’ve been exploring and questioning:

  • Were my 14 years as a monk, meditating 4 hours a day, a waste of time?
  • What are the redeeming aspects of meditation, mysticism, and yoga? Any good come of it?
  • Will my family, friends, and society shun or embrace me as I come out as a former yogi monk? And/or, as a nonbeliever?

In a nutshell: This blog is where I will share, with everyone who may be interested, my journey and discoveries from exploring these kinds of questions.

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road…”, Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road