How to Find the Truth
About a Religious Movement


Finding out the truth about any particular religious or spiritual movement is a complex affair that has at least the following four aspects:

1. Get the OBJECTIVE facts straight James Beckford's article argues that the mass media (fed by anti-cult movements and/or disgruntled ex-members) is a rather poor source of objective information, in comparison with the more impartial view of academic scholars.
James Beckford   The Mass Media and New Religious Movements

2. Understand our cultural biases and blind spots — Such biases unconsciously skew our own view, as well as the commentary of other members of our culture. Chris Tong's article on "do-it-yourself spirituality" identifies "spiritual anti-authoritarianism" as a major cultural bias that originated in the Protestant Reformation, and that skews us toward "do it yourself" spirituality and away from any movements involving spiritual masters, spiritual directors, spiritual realizers, and the like.
Chris Tong   A Critique of "Do It Yourself" Spirituality

3. Get the SUBJECTIVE facts straight The primary reason why people become members of new religious movements is inherently subjective: in almost all cases, they perceive a (potential) subjective benefit, now or in the future — whether they call it happiness, peace of mind, nirvana, heaven, or Divine Communion — that they find very attractive; and they deem that subjective benefit to be worth the subjective costs of membership (primarily in the form of a practice). The people who are in the best position to fully flesh out these subjective facts are those who subjectively participate in the process. An outside commentator, however well-intentioned, can say relatively little about it, as is also the case with someone who only "window shopped", or "dropped out" after only a few weeks or months. Those who can speak best on the virtues of marriage are not the permanent bachelors, nor those who jump from relationship to relationship, but never truly commit. Rather it is those married couples who "stay the course" for their entire life that best communicate the virtue of marriage. Just so with practioners of an esoteric way.

Adi Da Samraj's articles elaborate on this matter of who is actually in a position to provide accurate subjective facts about a new religious movement. His article, "Beware of those who criticize but do not practice religion" could be said to make an analogy between "comparative religion professors" and "permanent bachelors" whose lifelong habit is permanent promiscuity: they are each endlessly fascinated with (and therefore often sympathetic with) their subjects, but most of them can't make a lifelong commitment to any one in particular. (There are exceptions, of course.)

Chris Tong's article on "Getting the Subjective Facts Straight" provides a set of key subjective facts on which to focus.
Adi Da Samraj   Beware of Those Who Criticize But Do Not Practice Religion
Adi Da Samraj   Be Informed by Direct Experience
Chris Tong   Getting the SUBJECTIVE Facts Straight about New Spiritual Movements

4. Have grounded expectations about what kind of practices are capable of which kind of realizations For example, once you understand what "enlightenment" is, and what kind of process is necessary for "being enlightened", you immediately know that "weekend enlightenment" is not possible, and that it's not even worth the effort of looking into spiritual movements that offer it. How can one develop a standard by which to make such assessments? Read Chris Tong's article, "Why Weekend Enlightenment is not Worth Shopping For".
Chris Tong   Why Weekend Enlightenment is not Worth Shopping For: A Pragmatic Standard for Evaluating Spiritual Paths and Realizations

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