The crucial ‘test of faith’ in religions, sects and cults
Posted by robertpriddy on May 28, 2012
Self-proclaimed masters, gurus, swamis or avatars understand what a ‘test of faith’ is all about, and this is one of their most subtle and entrapping methods of defending themselves against any failing, error or suspicions by those who became their supplicants or disciples. Those who finds reasons to doubt the ever-claimed truthfulness, good will, helpfulness, purity or knowledge of those they have taken on trust as examples, guides or teachers all too easily accept that the doubt was induced in them as a “test of their faith”. If it leads to the devotee doubting and falling away, they are said to have failed the test, and this can be due to ‘spiritual immaturity’ or worse. There may sometimes be a case for this in some respects: some so-called tests of faith may be designed effectively to further development of a naive person, a weak mind or people whose self-importance or selfishness needs correction, but more often it is simply a smoke screen to deceive everyone.
Doubts brought on by tests of faith – doubts which are consolidated by proper inquiry and prove justified - put a person in impossible dilemmas (such as that between knowledge and faith or head and heart). All sorts of argument, rationalization and flip-flop contortions may defend tests of faith, but if the article of faith is genuine, one asks, why should doubts need to be provoked at all? After all, it is hard enough to reach any kind of constant faith in the first place (other than inherited, unquestioned beliefs)!
Tests of faith are a part of all traditional religious views and doctrines and are invariably supportive of a priesthood, guru, church or religion. They are a very subtle means of manipulating the minds of guru-followers developed over many centuries, often embroiling people in mental networks of uncertainties and strivings, which most likely bear no other fruits than keeping the ‘spiritual master’ in his fortunate, revered and comfortable position. This applies to most Indian gurus who promote themselves and have an above-average material lifestyle, like Sathya Sai Baba certainly had (even though he and his minions flatly denied the obvious fact). His many and endless test of followers’ faith acted to separate the ‘ewes from the rams’ , the gullible from the critical. Whether one’s faith in all he said and did was sound enough as a follower or how unquestioning and obediently gullible. He chose and ‘privileged’ such persons for his propaganda tasks, his money-getting schemes, his autocratic control of followers’ words and deeds and the cover.up of his many alleged criminal activities, not least sexual abuse.
The Waiting Game test: This is a second most subtle test of aspirants, suppliants, followers. For example, if Sathya Sai Baba did not respond to one’s prayers, private questions to him or various others ways in which a person tried to contact him and obtain his assistance in some matter, it was taken to mean that the time was not ripe. One of Sathya Sai Baba’s most repeated ‘instructions’ is known to all who have visited him… “Wait, wait”. And DID people wait! Hours and more hours on end, and mostly he just walked past unconcerned! They also waited for the fulfillment of their prayers, projects, intense needs (like healing) and any kind of personal desire… Not having heard Sathya Sai Baba actually say the word ‘Wait!’ to them, or its equivalent, it was often enough for the indoctrinated to HEAR him say it to someone else, taking it to heart in their own case. So what then?
When one’ specific request was not fulfilled or answered, the disappointed believer often accepted this non-answer as a rebuttal of their wishes because they are not ‘pure’ or otherwise satisfactory. So by changing whatever they prayed for and waiting again for some kind of response (however vague or imagined) the increasingly anxious person searches for all kinds of possible reasons for everything. The blanket believer will tell us that Sathya Sai Baba always responds (another of Sathya Sai Baba’s claim ‘I always respond’). However, I have met countless people who have, over very long periods of time, waited and waited without his responding to them or their aims in any likely observable way. In time, people doubtless often simply gradually forgot what they wanted. Half-mindless followers console themselves with “Sai Baba works on levels no one can see. He has told us he cares for everyone’s smallest problem. The Lord knows what’s best. He always does what is necessary!” This applied also – or yet the more – when the very opposite of what one hoped and prayed for happened. One has almost to admire such people for their unquestioning determination willingly to deceive themselves with such vague and improbable hopes… but it were ever thus.