"Spiritual Doublethink"
the basis of denial of reality through indoctrinated belief

When there arises a conflict between facts we perceive and ideas we hold, "doublethink" often comes into play. Spiritual teachings often require a lot of such double-thinking, for they deal with an alleged transcendental reality which cannot be perceived and which often seems to contradict what 'mere' worldly conditions imply. Doctrines have mind-disciplining features very similar to those of Russo-Soviet communism - such as Arthur Koestler analysed and described it so brilliantly after he had finally broken the chains of USSR Communist ideology. "I had eyes to see and a mind conditioned to explain away what they saw. This 'inner censor' is more reliable and effective than any official censorship." (The Invisible Writing, p. 64). The coinage "doublethink" is from George Orwell's famous novel '1984', where the term is used to describe the way people have to think under despotic suppression - they have to have a mental "double-accounting" system - one account states what they know within to be true, the other is for outward dissemination so they will not be dragged off as an enemy of the State. The process of indoctrination was described very incisively by George Orwell , who coined the term 'doublethink':-

"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it... and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce nconsciousness. and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one‘s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of ~them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of cbjective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies- all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word ‘doublethink' it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

The kind of indoctrination I call 'spiritual doublethink' applies equally to nearly all religions, for it requires that what the senses perceive and we normally interpret on the basis of our accumulated experience and common sense is re-interpreted on the basis of the particular transcendental or other-worldly doctrine. What one has experienced is understood in different terms to those of unclouded observation and common sense to fit in with the particular doctrine. Once the doctrine has been 'internalised' sufficiently by a follower, perception itself becomes distorted in that events are pre-judged out of hand according to set patterns of explanation by the indoctrinated mind. (In communism, the terms 'bourgeois' and 'revisionist' pinpoint this kind of prejudgemental attitude. In some religion terms like 'heretic', 'pagan' or 'demonic' also epitomize the indoctrinated negative and biased approach to people and ideas.

No one can wholly avoid interpreting what the senses tell us, according to each our experience and knowledge. It is necessary for our normal functioning that we can assume a lot of things and take for granted in advance certain experiential lessons. One's world-view always colours how one perceives people and events etc. However, it is only a rigid world-view - a doctrine or system of thought and sentiment - that is truly problematical. Spiritual doublethink involves pre-interpreting everything in terms of a supposed sphere of non-tangible reality. The mind well-trained in some such 'otherworldly doctrine' that is set up to explain the true meaning and relationships of all that is - distorts events, often even before they are actually observed or investigated. The aim is to make certain events seem other than they are by applying a complicated sets of beliefs about the nature of things to make what seems to be better sense of them, at least to those who have already taken the requite leap of faith. There are many such, from Catholicism to theosophy, scientology to Advaita, not forgetting the many warring religious sects: Mormonism, Shiite Islamic fundamentalism, Talmudism and so on.

The Sathya Sai Baba doctrine and movement

Many examples of such doublethink is the so-called 'teaching' of Sathya Sai Baba. 'Spiritual doublethink' is widely observable in the Sathya Sai movement, which draws heavily on the age-old and often sophisticated Indian guru-disciple tradition for much of its content.

The famous dualism between the 'profane' and the 'divine' (analysed by Mircea Eliade) crops up constantly, where the profane has to be reinterpreted in terms of the divine. Such a dualism exists in the avatar concept and reality itself - Sathya Sai Baba is divine but also human. If he shows any human traits that we would normally regard as failings, limitations, mistaken ideas and predictions, it all has to be 'explained away' in terms of an inscrutable and mysterious divinity that we have 'no hope in hell' of ever understanding.

Similarly, Sai Baba often makes definitive but contradictory statements on the same matter. One can quote him warning against blind faith, but equally so supporting it as superior to the foolishness of learned people. He has sometimes supported the idea of human free will (though limited in scope, of course, but in his view extremely limited) and he has yet more often denied that there can be any free will at all (except for him - but which statement he has also refuted elsewhere!). In the same discourse even he both praised and berated the value of doing service for achieving self-realisation! It is just the same with devotion, repeating a holy name or singing praise of the divine... they are essential, the only way etc., but then he will point out that the goal can never be achieved by such 'spiritual kindergarten' efforts. All this is a recipe for doublethink and the resultant confusion of most devotees is quite evident in much of what they discuss and write.

When a person is not fully indoctrinated, or has unavoidably reached an impasse in trying to make the particular doctrine fit certain unavoidable or observable facts, the mind conceives ways of re-interpreting them with some kind of positive ‘spin’, putting them in a different and rosier light – or as a last resort by simply ignoring them - so that the main body of doctrine still seems firm. Some would see this as creative spiritual seeking, others regard it as systematic self-deception. Sai Baba warmly recommends always wearing 'rose-tinted glasses', that is - seeing the world only in positive terms as good and divinely ordained. However, surely clear vision without distorting 'glasses' is preferable?

Giving any kind of airing to negative allegations that may cause doubt and distress is NOT recommended by Sathya Sai Baba, though he does on occasion refute imputations against himself and his various institutions. Even reporting or discussing anything negative about Sathya Sai Baba is taboo within his ashrams, colleges and various organisations. While it does reduce tensions and disharmony within the fold, it also makes for a kind of 'double-accounting' and Janus-faced behaviour by followers. It becomes repressive and unjust when conspiracies of silence and secrecy arise to cover up major injustices. For example, it has lead to wholly baseless attacks on victims of Sathya Sai Baba’s sexual molestations by Sai Organisation leaders in Denmark who evidently cannot stand the pressure against their pet beliefs without hitting back, and below the belt too!

Sathya Sai Baba speaks of 'His organisation', sometimes 'our organisation', and gives his name to it while also claiming that he really has nothing to do with it! On 24/10/1987 , Sathya Sai Baba announced that the World Council of the Sathya Sai organisation would cease from that day. He also said of the organisations "Truly speaking I have nothing to do with the organisation. There is a close relationship between you and me. No one can posit any distance between us. This is not created by someone in the organisation." and "The direct individual relationship between each of you and myself will remain always. If our relations can be strengthened through the organisations, I shall feel happier." (Jan 88 Sanathana Sarathi p. 15). Meanwhile, being in a group belonging to the organisation is in actual practice one of the chief channels for getting an interview with Sathya Sai Baba. The interview is a worldly meeting, the 'inner view', however, is held to be the real encounter at a supra-mundane level.

When 'spiritual doublethink' becomes financial!

Gurus are notorious for also having a 'double-accounting system' in financial respects. This occurs in the mega rich Sathya Sai Central Trust, where Sai Baba proclaims in public discourses that he signs every cheque personally - yet elsewhere he often claims not to have anything whatever to do with money, to own nothing whatever. This double-accounting aims to make him seem like a true renunciant (in the revered sannyasin fashion), while benefitting enormously personally in many ways from the cash and properties! Similarly, Sathya Sai Baba lends his name to some project and yet the next moment denies that it is his - or that he is actually connected with it. He praises his own efforts in getting hospital built and is praised by his own officials and many others for donating two hospitals, a college, water schemes, cottages, tools and so on... but at the same time he claims to have no properties whatever (except - he repeatedly comments - for his students, his 'only property'). This is indeed confusing, and it also opens a way for people to go on believing things which any person who relies on observations, common sense or reason would soon see through.

Looking at this more from the viewpoint of those beguiled by the Sai Baba 'fork-tongued' doctrine, one has to have some sympathy for them. They are usually people who have sacrificed a great deal of their time and money, believing that their efforts are part of a divine plan that can only serve the good. Once they, and invariably their entire families, have made Sathya Sai Baba the No. 1 priority in their lives for many years, they find themselves mostly isolated from other people who do not share the same faith and have little by little become more and more encapsulated in the entire mental and emotional behavioural scheme for a devoted believer, unable to think beyond the doctrine they hear from all sides all the time, and themselves have usually preached for years. They spend much money and time commuting to their small apartments in one or another Sathya Sai Baba ashram and can soon by no means envisage a life without Sathya Sai Baba and the abstract promises he has made to them. It must certainly seem to them, whenever they might contemplate leaving, that they have nowhere else to go, no other life to live. This is the extent to which Sathya Sai Baba has dominated many followers. Such was the position of all of the four families of the young men murdered in Sathya Sai Baba’s apartment in 1993. The shock can only be imagined when they had to realise that Sathya Sai Baba was not looking after them at all, and they were excluded from all ashram activities and all hope of any recourse to justice!

Aspects of 'spiritual doublethink' are found in many connections in the Sathya Sai Baba movement, some of which can be further investigated here:-
Hear, see, speak no evil         Misinterpretation involving 'spiritual doublethink'

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