Issue 99 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Steven Hendlin responds:

This is in response to Bo Lozoff’s letter regarding my article, “Pernicious Oneness in Spiritual Thinking and Practice,” in Issue 96 of THE SUN. There are a number of comments Lozoff makes that do not accurately reflect the content of my article or my intentions which I would like to briefly answer. While I’m glad to know that my article stirred up enough feeling (along with the interview of Robert Bly) in Lozoff to respond, and am appreciative of the fine work he does with a long-neglected population — prisoners — I find his acerbic comments begging for a response.

To begin with, I did not make a “sales pitch” for my “own orientation” of psychology. I simply suggested that spiritual thinking and practice need to be considered in the light of the very real ego distortions that undermine authentic spirituality. I am not, as Lozoff believes, “heading toward the simple straight message of, ‘Hey there’s nothing new going on; we’ve all got to grow in our natural ways; feel free to explore with the self-confidence and integrity of our own best hunches.’ ” I was and am “heading toward” wanting as many spiritual seekers as possible to honor and respect ego growth, so that we may gain the “self-confidence and integrity” which Lozoff apparently assumes everyone has already developed! Where do “self-confidence and integrity to follow our best hunches” come from? From the balanced, fully developed egoic integration of rational mind and emotion, that’s where! If we all were already at this place, there would be little reason for me to write this type of article to begin with! Certainly, many of the prisoners Lozoff works with would not be in prison had they picked up this “self-confidence and integrity” along the way.

Lozoff confuses what he calls “psychology” with what is more accurately ego development. It is not that I have an attachment to Western psychology or psychotherapy but that my training and study in these areas has alerted me to the need for honoring ego development before dismantling egoic translations through intensive spiritual practices. It is unjustified to state, as Lozoff does, that “his eloquence is nowhere to be found in slashing apart the incredible distortions, failures, and shortcomings of Western psychology.” Had he taken the time to read the original article in Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Lozoff would have noted a number of references to other articles in which my “eloquence” may be found on exactly these topics.

To be critical because I did not pack a book’s worth of exploration into one article (“it’s tacky to present the con of one [spirituality] and the pro of the other [psychology] pretending to provide us with objective insight”) is to miss the point. I am not “pretending to provide objective insights” but attempting to outline, in a brief, tentative, but hopefully helpful way, issues that make for confusion and misunderstanding for many spiritual seekers.

Lozoff is correct in stating that I am biased in favor of psychological development. I continue to observe the negative consequences of seekers who believe they can jump past ego to nirvana. The sequence of pre-egoic-egoic-transegoic, which Ken Wilber has so penetratingly concerned himself with, is not at all “absurd,” as Lozoff claims, but very real, very apparent to anyone taking the time to look closely at the nature of their own mind. It appears that Lozoff has done this, and in doing so, developed a rational mind (although somewhat sloppy in his thinking) that is able to pick apart and dismiss with the stroke of his pen rather sophisticated concepts. I only ask that he allow others to reach the point of ego strength that would encourage them to do the same!

I have been informed that the article has stimulated more comment than anything ever published in THE SUN. Perhaps a nerve in the collective SUN-mind has been touched. If my article promotes thinking, discussion, and even uproar, what else could I ask for?

I’m writing about three off-the-wall references to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Issues 96 and 97 of THE SUN. In his article, “Pernicious Oneness in Spiritual Thinking and Practice,” Steven Hendlin both falsifies a fundamental tenet of Rajneeshism and ignores well-known foundational work in his own field — the integration of Western psychology and Eastern meditation. Hendlin puts Bhagwan among those who say that “thought itself [is of] little value.” I’ve been a disciple for nearly ten years, and that’s news to me! Here at Rajneeshpuram we’re putting the final touches on Rajneesh Mandir, a giant hall for meditation and satsang — silent communion with the Master. A mandir is a temple designed for transcending the mind through the mind, which, as Bhagwan has often said, is the only way to do it. Bhagwan has always taught us to use our minds, to use them with diligence and awareness, but always to avoid being used by them — an important distinction. Hendlin somehow manages to avoid any discussion of the ground-breaking work by Rajneesh therapists under Bhagwan’s guidance in the synthesis of psychotherapy East and West. This synthesis has been reported in detail in therapy journals; it is available through courses and programs here and in many places, including Laguna Beach, where Hendlin has his practice. Why the blind spot?

And speaking of blind spots, what a shame when one of our best poets distorts a Master’s basic teaching as utterly as Robert Bly does in the interview, “Going Against the Dragon.” Bhagwan has honored Bly by using his translations of Kabir for Bhagwan’s series of discourses on this great mystic. And yet, Bly has apparently failed to read a single book by Bhagwan all the way through with attention. Otherwise, he could not lump Bhagwan with the Maharishi as one who recommends “skipping over pain and suffering.” Bhagwan teaches that no one who seeks the ultimate can avoid suffering; rather, he tells us to go into it consciously, gracefully, and gratefully, but without developing a Judeo-Christian “pain is gain” fixation on the negative. Bly’s false generalization shows me that he just does not want to come to terms with what Bhagwan is saying.

Bo Lozoff, in his letter in Issue 97, gets off a gratuitous cheap shot at “Rajneesh with his opulence and arrogance.” Is Bo perchance carrying around that rotten old Gandhian idea of poverty as virtue, and have we Rajneeshees pushed his button? Would Bo recognize a living enlightened Master if he had the great good fortune to be bitten on the leg by one — or would he call the Master “arrogant” and go back to worshipping his monkey-god? No matter. We here at Rajneeshpuram have gotten used to this sort of thing. Whether it comes from rednecks or so-called “spiritual” types, it’s nothing but bigotry.

Indirectly related, Sy, is your remark in your editorial in Issue 97 about those who “make their flesh-and-blood guru a god.” This is a frequent theme with you. I would hope that by now you’d seen that no genuine Master, from Lao Tzu to Ko-Hsuan, from Buddha to Gurdjieff, ever allows his disciples to fall into this fatal mistake. “Don’t cling to my finger,” Bhagwan always tells us; “look where I’m pointing!” The Master enters your life as a great shock, a great awakening. He is just the opposite of the priests and politicians who encourage garbagey dependence and security-seeking. His message is always total independence, total individuality, total freedom.

Thanks again for everything THE SUN is.

(Swami Anand Bodhisattva)
Rajneeshpuram, Oregon

I’m a journalist and editor struggling to maintain my sense of humor in the world of corporate public relations publishing. Here’s what I like about THE SUN: its clear English, its blend of humor and seriousness, its revolutionary insistence that faith and a questioning mind are not mutually exclusive, its graceful use of limited resources, its breadth. Discovering your magazine has been like making a valuable new friend.

This is the “letter to the editor” that I’ve always wanted to receive, but I’ve never edited anything worthy of it. Please accept my gratitude and green envy.

Karin L. Armstrong Austin, Texas

I don’t know if you’ve seen or even printed the following, but it occurred to me as the kind of thing your readers, me included, might like. I got it from a woman in California, who got it off a college bulletin board:

Once there was a small bird that decided not to fly south for the winter. But as the cold came on, the bird changed its mind and began a flight. Unfortunately, it was too late: ice began to form on the bird’s wings and the winds howled. The little bird grew more and more weak as it faced the elements. Finally, reaching extremity, it plummeted to earth, convinced that this was the end. As it happened, the bird fell to earth in a barnyard. As it lay there, waiting for the end, a cow came and crapped all over him. The manure warmed and thawed the little bird. The bird was so joyful in its newfound life that it began to sing. A cat passing by heard the noise, cleared away the manure, found the little bird, and promptly ate him.

The morals of this story are three:

1. Not everyone who shits on you is necessarily your enemy.

2. Not everyone who gets you out of the shit is necessarily your friend.

3. And, if you’re happy in your own pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

Adam Fisher New York, New York
Free Trial Issue Are you ready for a closer look at The Sun?

Request a free trial, and we’ll mail you a print copy of this month’s issue. Plus you’ll get full online access — including 50 years of archives.
Request A Free Issue