Sai Baba – personal experience vs. learned facts
Posted by robertpriddy on February 1, 2009
Speak only from your direct experience, never rely on any other basis. Part of his so-called ’Sai teaching’ is to rely entirely on your own experience in all matters. But most perceptions are influenced by the subject’s preconceptions and many interpretations of them are at least partly pre-programmed by what one has been taught, which came very largely from others. Unless one has developed a well-balanced and healthy reservation in judgement and the techniques of self-reflection, criticism and more.
The nature and degree of reliability of personal experience varies very greatly from one instance to another, and from person to person. Personal experience is actually often equivalent only to subjective experience. Perception of the same events differ tremendously between those who have ‘personal experience’ of them, depending on their position, their foreknowledge, their ingrained attitudes and so forth. Independent observers often diverge radically in their accounts from engaged participants. That said, we do build some considerable part of our own valid convictions on deep personal experiences. Yet we necessarily build by far the greater part of our knowledge and world-views on received information – such as through upbringing, education, the workplace and a wide circle of influences from friends to the media and so on. This might be considered to be ‘hearsay’, but it is very far from being only what one hears and reads. The range of ‘hearsay’ under that tendentious usage stretches, say, from the Encyclopedia Britannica to envious and untrue slander over the fence. Such an attitude makes a mockery of the institutions of society as a whole and raises the individual to a supreme status as the knower of fact and truth.
Tendentious appeals to ‘personal experience’
To refute public facts, the argument from personal experience is used by propagandists, demagogues and cultists of all kinds. There are many cults in which the master or guru’s view is that only personal experience is the basis for all truth. Now, if it is reported that a boy was sexually abused by him, those blind believers who wish to suppress the report and cover it up have responded by: ‘ have you personally experienced sexual abuse, and if not, you cannot know it happened’. This has occurred even when it was reported by a doctor and confirmed by an independent doctor.
The perception of devotees that they experience divine love from the guru – such as when he merely looks into their eyes very briefly – is pre-programmed through what others have glowingly reported and the consequent massive expectations are held over a very long time before they get to see him thus. The projection of ones faith and longings is the most likely result. This mostly speaks of lack of previous experience of charismatic persons, or of clever manipulators and psychopaths for whom everything they do is an act calculated to control and manipulate others, so ingrained that their charm seems entirely natural.
Vicarious ‘experience’ and living through the perceptions of others In a cult which is large enough to hinder anything but the most fleeting direct contact with the figurehead most long-term followers do not leave it after the exposure of major lies and crimes by the guru. Having built their lives around it all, they are cocooned in a form of delusion known as cognitive disorder. It is very far from first-hand experience of Sathya Sai Baba, except at best for short periods, and is based on reliving and regenerating the perceptions learned from the massive literature, films and personal stories from others (hearsay, not experience). When it that boy were being sexually abused by Sai Baba, the accusers were often asked ‘ have you personally experienced that sexual abuse, and if not, how can you know it happened’. This has occurred even when it was reported by a doctor and confirmed by an independent doctor. Deciding guilt depends on all kinds of evidence, its extent, consistency, quality and many other circumstances.
In Jesus sects, for example, charismatics speak as if they knew Jesus personally, could tell what he really though and wanted, despite his having lived long ago and far away… and the historical record being fragmentary, contradictory and the gospels being shown to have been manipulated through misplaced zeal, mistranslations and misunderstandings. Still, thousands flock to the preacher and believe in his ‘testimony’ which is even called ‘witnessing’!
Further highly relevant reading:-