|Journeys: Keith Simons|
|Date: October 12, 2003|
Unlike many who have entered their "journeys" here, I was in my early thirties when I became a premie/received Knowledge. By then my search for meaning had already undergone many other journeys. As a child growing up in East London I sometimes experienced unusual things. Such experiences left an imprint. I knew that there was more to life than met the eye. But I was also fiercely anti-religious. The hypocrisy and superficiality of my jewish upbringing created an atheistic mind-set despite having paranormal experiences. Through my teens I poured my energies into the few passions I had. Fishing, soccer, and then later, girls and travelling. I married my first wife when I was 21 (1971). And one year later we set sail for Australia, which was to become my adopted homeland.
My first foray into altered states of perception were via hallucinogenics like hash, grass, magic mushrooms and once lsd, between the years 1973-80. I was only really a dopehead for about three of those years. This overlapped with the opening out of my mind to certain teachers, philosophies and practices. In 1975 I met a young woman (who was to become my second wife) who introduced me to the writing of Carl Jung. I had already recently encountered Plato's Socratic dialogues and Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra", which I carried around with me like a Christian might a Bible. These influences had a profound awakening effect on my mind. I got involved with Scientology for a while. I also changed career. I joined an experimental mental health project referred to as a “therapeutic community”. This involved working with mentally disturbed and often handicapped adolescents. It was during this phase that I first heard about Guru Maharaji. About 1976 a co-worker suddenly began talking about this “knowledge”. Over the next two years many of my closest friends and co-workers became premies. I was not interested. I believed they were all brainwashed and told them so. They tolerated my ignorant appeals to reason but were unswayed. It was still a few years too soon for me. I separated from my wife in 1977. Our son was two.
I travelled to Switzerland where I lived for a year and a half before returning with my Swiss wife (my second wife) to Australia. We had met in 1975 when she was on a work permit for 6 months. Our relationship was far more “spiritual” than my first marriage. We both spent some time with Jiddu Krishnamurti, who we had a strong attraction and affection for. I entered into Primal Therapy. In 1979 we returned to Australia and set up home in a semi-rural area surrounded by rolling green hills and lots of pets. I was by now using a “talent” I’d discovered. Tarot, Astrology, I Ching, Kabbalah; mixed with getting stoned. I was increasingly living on an altered plane of consciousness and being. Between 1979 and 1980 I co-owned two spiritual/psychic centers. Life was expanding. I was the Tarot writer for a new age magazine, an article about me appeared with my photo in a national newspaper. I was feeling powerful. I was getting stoned a lot. I was losing the plot. Then something happened that radically changed the direction of my life. It was about September 1980.
Within a 36 hour period my entire life shifted, transformed. I gave up drugs totally. Two strangers entered the scene and profoundly affected my entire world view. I may tell that tale another time but suffice to say that I left the Centre for good as well as the drugs and began living a simple life. Slowly, slowly I de-toxed and began to realise what my wife had been trying to tell me all along. That there was a natural high without drugs that was even better. I was still about 8 months away from M and K. There were still a couple of major events before my premiehood began.
The outstanding event some 6 months prior to M and K was far more significant in many ways than M and K. GM was literally beaten to the job. I found a Guru. And he initiated me. And I was absolutely blown away by his meditations and satsangs. His name was/is Swami Krishna Guatum. He came first. I’d seen his ads in the new age mag that I’d contributed to. He had been announcing his imminent arrival in Australia. When he finally arrived I went to the local University to hear him give a talk. I felt drawn to him and soon after visited him at his first Ashram, a two storey house near the beach close to Melbourne. This was about Sep/Oct 1981. During the following months I became a regular visitor to the Ashram. And the techniques that Swamiji passed onto me were so powerful that I was in an almost continual altered state of consciousness. I could write a book just about this phase of my journey, and indeed these experiences were relevant to the whole spiritual journey that soon merged with M and K. Another time perhaps. My full autobiography beckons; perhaps this can be the catalyst!
Then for 5 days at the end of January 1982 I camped at an alternative festival (down to earth fest). I had my 33rd birthday here. I wore a big clay pendant around my neck with the words “Swami Egonanda” inscribed. This was my experiment in Apprentice guruship, sending it up at the same time. But many did not see the “joke”, bliss through the Ego. So I played the role. And guess what? I felt so powerful this time! By the time I returned to family and home I felt ready to begin my own movement. Only problem was the “High” didn’t last. And as is said “the higher you climb , the further you fall”. I fell in a heap. Then recovered, moved out of home (for some 4/5 months) into a small but cosy flat nearby. A very close friend and her daughter moved in with me, (she had been evicted from her house for being behind in the rent), and she was a very keen Premie. There I was going often to Swamiji’s Ashram, and there she was going a couple of Km’s way to M’s satsang hall. Predictably, we were curious about each others “paths”. We made a deal. I would go with her to the Satsang hall if she came with me afterwards to the Ashram. Ah, the ways of the Lord! So sometime around feb/mar 1982 I found myself sitting at the back of a well lit, spacious and austere hall in River Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. What impressed me more than the satsang (can’t remember a word) were the auras I witnessed around the speakers and others in the audience. Michelle then came with me to the Ashram. Swamiji really blew her mind but she never returned. Whereas I soon became a regular double dater. I asked Swamiji about having two guru’s and he said it was fine. “Just tell me what is happening” he said. So began my path of 15 years of merged pathways. I know M said that is like having one foot in each of two boats moving in different directions. But I’ve always been a rebel, I wasn’t going to stop now. I received Knowledge in April 1982 from an English Instructress named Jane. The knowledge session was quite beautiful. Lots of flowers, Jane singing and playing guitar, nice food laid on, Johnny Young (an Australian icon) gave some preliminary satsang. During the “light” technique, when Jane passed her fingers gently over my closed eyelids I saw bright flashes of light; like lightening strikes; brighter than a thousand suns? Well, not that bright, but certainly impressive. My journey was really building up a head of steam.
So from April 1982 to early 1998 I was a Premie. But certainly a renegade one. I broke all the rules. I maintained two Masters. I merged two sets of techniques. I read many books from other spiritual teachers. I still followed Jiddu Krishnamurti, who for me was the purest of them all. And yet I meditated on M’s Knowledge almost every day. And went through spells of doing service. I also divorced my second wife, who is still a very close friend to this day. I entered into a long term relationship with another woman and we had a son (almost 16 at this time of writing). My general experiences of M during these years were mostly positive. Sometimes I did perceive him as “a very unique incarnation”. He moved me to tears of joy. He was my inspiration. I felt as if in the presence of Divinity. I liked “practicing” Knowledge, but my more powerful experiences were generally via Swamiji’s techniques. Although I often blended them. During 1984 I went bush with my new partner, who had by then also received Knowledge, and we were out of social circulation for the next two years. When I returned to civilisation it was close to the end of the community Satsang era. I felt very disappointed about this and to this day believe it was a very retrograde step in M’s declining mission. There were times during these 15/16 years when my emphasis was more towards Maharaji than Swamiji, and other times it was other way around. It was rarely a huge conflict for me. They seemed to compliment each other. My spiritual journey was complex as seen from the outside. Some may have viewed it as chaotic, but it worked for me. I was increasingly playing the role of a Mini-Guru myself. Despite my natural scepticism and questioning nature I was using Tarot and Astrology as mediums of guidance. I developed my own style of using these aids. I also taught and lectured about spiritual and metaphysical topics. Therefore, I never had the type of inner divide between my “Teachers” and myself. For me they were “Mirrors” of what was inside me already. In Swamiji I had regular access to an “up close and personal” involvement with a Guru, his family and devotees (inner circle). In Maharaji I had a distant mythic figure who I could project my needs for someone less human and more perfectly divine.
The 1990’s saw a slow shift in my perspective. Amaroo really inspired me at first. I was present in Brisbane when Maharaji announced the purchase of his land. He spoke with great enthusiasm about his vision for this new phase of his mission. I felt a deep and sincere desire to be a part of this. So in 1992 (I think) my partner, our 4 year old son and I began a trip from Melbourne towards Queensland by car. We drove slowly around the southern and eastern coastline, settled along the Sunshine coast in Queensland (Noosa) for 6 months. I taught meditation (including Knowledge) before we moved onto a caravan park close to Ivory Rock. Our intention was to find a house to rent close by and be a part of the evolving “heaven on earth” that Amaroo surely was going to be. The first big event was coming up and I conveniently contracted chick pox, and spent most of the event watching from a distance, looking like some alien from another galaxy. Our plans were thwarted because we couldn’t sell our house in Victoria, so some weeks after the Event we returned to Melbourne. Things then meandered along for a few years. I got very sick at one stage and thought my time to join the Real Lord of the Universe was close at hand. But after hospitalisation, an urgent operation, a full blood transfusion and some painful recuperation I recovered. I somehow valued life more after this brush with death, but I was also experiencing bouts of depression that meditation kept at bay but didn’t eradicate. Then, what was to prove my “swan song” phase begun. The year before I walked away from M and K; and Swamiji.
1996/7….Years of spiritual struggle.
Swamiji had been borrowing M’s videos secretly from me for some time. Can you imagine? One Satguru spying on another! I was beginning to question Swamiji’s authenticity in new ways. He had moved into a rented house (more like a large country estate) with acres, and called it THE ASHRAM. But this forth ashram (he is still there now) didn’t have the spiritual intimacy of the past. Not only that, but Swamiji seemed to be only a shadow of his former self. He had been drinking spirits (another type of spirituality?) for years. He looked burnt out. He still played the role of Satguru sometimes but it all seemed like a bad performance. And I began to object to how he treated others. The visits became less. In the mean time I was getting more into M’s videos and started buying as many as I could afford. I still have them…some 100 or close to it. Then during 1997 we were informed about the upcoming Amaroo event. The expense was beyond us, but an unexpected small inheritance from a deceased American uncle seemed to be “Grace in action” and we booked our tent on the hallowed ground and also decided to go one week early and do service. This was to be our last Event. The cracks would really begin to occur, but at the time I was more than ever before open to Maharaji being the Satguru of this Age. This Amaroo event really was the Journey’s End for me, even if it would take another 6 months to really begin to “see” that. There were so many glaring inconsistencies and Ego games, insensitivities and pure BS going on, but I was still blaming the hierarchy around M and not M himself. I was on a very big high though and only needed very little sleep. At this point I will reproduce a post I sent to a premie, Carlos, recently about one aspect of my experience/mind set at this time.
“Amaroo 97. My partner at the time and I arrived 1 week before the event, to do service. Even before the event began I was on a "high". My experience was very profound. I felt increasingly in the "zone". In an expansive flow that felt centered everywhere. So by the time Maharaji entered the stage (literally) I was already flying high. It was in this mode that I heard M informing the thousands present that there would be darshan. We were split into groups with colour coding to determine the order we would proceed. I was in the first grouping. I had mixed feelings about this unexpected invitation. My only other darshan with M had been in 1983 and was quite uneventful. As I queued my mind was powerfully active. The queue snaked its way through many twists and turns, through a number of buildings, until finally (some 1 hour later) one reached the hallowed place where M sat. A part of what was special about this "tour de force" was my mental process. It was as if my innermost voice was communicating to my receptive ego-mind. The first question my EM (ego mind) asked was, "how shall I approach M?" To begin with I went through a few imaginary scenarios. But each scenario seemed artificial and ego based. Then I decided to simply say "thankyou". I certainly had no intention to kiss his feet. And then the "big insight "occured. 'M is the same as me. It is the same energy keeping us both alive. It is fear that separates us. And illusion.' By the time I got close to M my mind was almost empty. I felt the "force" keeping me alive. I looked into M's eyes, and with folded hands, said "thank you". M smiled and seemed to whisper something to the aide standing next to him. That smile seemed a total recognition to me. And that recognition felt to be the very essence of Satsang. It was timeless. It transcended anything I could understand analytically. It satisfied me. It was more than I expected. It was absolutely personal and beyond any words that could describe it. Ironic then that I am typing about this. But peak experiences are always like that. The words only point.
These days such experiences are special memories. I don't have to be a premie to retain this as one memory among many that have helped to expand my world view. During the last week I have listened to a few M cassettes whilst driving in the car. This has been a part of allowing myself to be receptive to all input about M (and from M) from both his lovers and haters and everyone in between. I desire to come to an inner reconciliation in my feelings and thoughts. I feel I have moved closer to that goal. Between the extremes in views there is a "view" borne of my own endeavours, experiences and insights. And M has an important place in my journey. But I am both alone and connected to everyone. I am non aligned and a part of a vast community. No construct put together by thought or by group identity can contain the freedom of the Spirit. The One Truth is, as Krishnamurti said, is a pathless land. What one is then left with is a moment by moment living. And there is an inner knowing that guides ones conduct if one allows this to occur. Carlos, thankyou for indulging me. Communion is always possible if one shares from the heart.“
Amaroo 97 was a turning point in many ways. The gross commercialism. The heartfelt letter I wrote to M, that no one would pass on (I asked Charnanand) and that I had to put in a box that was not even collected until after M had left, and I never received a response to. The complaint from the restaurant staff about the superior aloofness of premies. So we returned to Melbourne intent on helping Maharaji like never before. We wanted to create video events in our part of the world, (there were none close) but were told by the local EV honchos that we couldn’t just do that. There was a process. And so we became a part of the EV process. This is where the cracks really started to open. The priorities seemed to really be skewed. And after a couple of “special weekend trainings” I began to have some really uncomfortable questions that no one seemed able or willing to answer. The questions were not so important in themselves but what was occurring to me was that there was a conspiracy of silence; a kind of smug, all knowing (wink, wink, say no more) mind-set operating. I still believed this was a problem mainly to do with the “organisation” and only superficially related to M. So I decided to do a search on the internet for a Maharaji-related site where I could air my grievances and ask my questions. For instance, the Amaroo experience had left me with some obvious questions. So did this EV process, that felt altogether stifled and petty. But much to my surprise the only site I could find was EPO.
Then, for a few months I posted and argued and discussed and soul searched with Jim Heller and his merry gang. It was not an easy time. I still wanted to believe that Maharaji was innocent and that the blame rested with the egos of the sychophantic inner circle and the ignorant bliss ninnies amongst the faithful. This process of re-examining, challenging and being challenged, made me aware of one vital “FACT”. At least I was expressing myself more or less freely even if many X’s hated what I was saying (as some still do). And the topic of free speech and free mind became the single most important issue for me. I promised some of the X’s online that I would take their main grievances to EV and especially any of the higher beings that might pass through Melbourne, and was mostly greeted with a cynical “sure you will”. But I was very intent on seeing this through. This led onto the famous “last stand”. It was another “special premies only all day seesion”. My partner and I were of one mind by this time to openly confront if the opportunity arose. We took our seats. My heart was pounding. I knew that this was the opportunity. Something had to happen. I had to say something. The presenter was presenting. All was very quiet, except my bursting feelings and long surpressed thoughts. But then suddenly something amazing happened. Talk about synchronicity! A lady in the back row stood up and began talking. The presenter and then one of the visiting honchos tried to stop her, but she was going to have her say and she did. And to my astonishment, she was saying so much that I wanted to say. She stole my thunder! But I really didn’t mind. I had been so nervous. When she finished, there was deadly silence. And then I seized my moment. I looked around at this woman who I’d never seen before, and clapped and clapped. And when I finished my partner stood up and had her say. Then a premie who had recently arrived from the UK had his say. And finally the hijacking concluded by me having my say. The following video session was a blur. I inwardly knew things were coming to some kind of conclusion. I now knew I wasn’t the only one with real questions that required honest answers. When I returned after the lunch break, Derek Harper asked me how I was, and I said something to the affect that I was still very disturbed; I think I made a sarcastic remark that would have left him in no doubt that I was deeply troubled by aspects of EV and perhaps M himself. So he took me outside and we spent the next hour or so exchanging views. The crack became an open schism when Derek asked me “Keith, could you imagine what it would be like if premies were encouraged to express themselves. It would be chaos.”. I responded by saying that I could not support the idea that freedom of expression should be controlled”. I told him about EPO and I believe soon after he began posting there. Or it was someone he told. I’d expressed the view that he should engage Jim Heller and others on EPO and try to answer some of their questions. He then said, “ Keith, perhaps it would be best for you to walk another path” or words to that affect. This I agreed with. I did view the final video. And ironically it was a “closed session premie video” in which M was comparing the “premie community” to a Swiss watch. “If one part of the mechanism is working out of sych with the rest, then the watch will malfunction”. The message was clear. Shape up or ship out! I shipped out.
That was 5 years ago. I am still a very spiritually oriented person. But as I said recently, the Truth can amply stand alone without the packaging. I do not regret my years of involvement either with Maharaji or Swamiji (or anyone else). It’s all been a part of my journey. These days I feel life is more open, freer, more real, raw, honest, sensitive, creative and less co-dependent, delusory and stifled. May whoever reads this account take heart. There is life beyond Satguru or Prem Rawat, the inspirational speaker. That life is your sacred heritage. Your real birthright. God bless!
The last few years.
After spending considerable time during 1997 through to 98 participating in forum threads I let go and re-focused on re-shaping my life. My relationship of 15 years ended and I moved to the suburbs for the first time in most of those years. It was not so difficult to walk away from M. To my surprise I also naturally stopped “practicing Knowledge”. And it didn’t seem to bother me. I did meditate spontaneously when I felt to. I realised my close friends were not premies, except for my ex wife. Eighteen months later, in October 1999. I moved back to the country, mostly so that my son could be close to his mother. I found a house to rent with views that I fell in love with at first sight. 360 degree views of the mountains. And really private. My son and I are still here at this time of writing (October 2003). For the first two years here I operated a small book and music shop in the local town. For the last year I’ve been researching a book I want to write.
WHERE I STAND NOW?
So where do I stand now in regards to Maharaji and Knowledge? Where do I start? I still regard Prem Rawat as a “human being” with something important to impart. But, and there are a number of buts, I do view his “package deal” as a part of a cult. As a giver of Knowledge he is one of many who have passed these techniques on. But Prem is not just a meditation teacher. His complex history is full of change; different phases. Therefore perceptions about M are so controversial. How one perceives M seems largely to depend on two things. When one was involved; and to what degree one was involved. Plus all the varied “baggage” we all bring to everything we encounter. I realise I can’t be objective. My subjectivity is intimately a part of my particular experiences. No matter how open I try to be; for instance, reading as much of other peoples experiences and thoughts from both sides of the fence (including Prem Rawat) I am still left with a strong dose of my own subjectively influenced experiences. So after years of twisting this way and that; trying to look at things from every possible angle, I still feel as if in between extremes; and feel my position is one of attempting to form an informed and balanced perspective. This is not just about M but M and K are representative of the entire subject of Guru’s, Spirituality, Cults, Religion, Meditation and other Spiritual techniques (sadhana’s) and Authoritarianism. When all is said and done, we as individuals can only tell it like it is for us. Journeys are our own.
There are still many questions that are hanging in the air, for me. In trying to get a handle on this complexity brings me to ask myself, “what is the core topic?” I know what that is. But framing it into words is challenging, to say the least. It is the Essential topic. Maharaji and many, many others have tried to convey a message. This message is true regardless of all other factors. Meaning even the most “evil” person in the whole world could convey this “message” and the message itself would still be true. In this case I could accept the message and dismiss the messenger. I’m certainly not suggesting that M is evil. What I’m saying is that I have felt it to be of primary importance to create a distance between the messenger and the message; or the giver of a gift and the gift itself. To begin with, this is an important distinction. Later in the process of analysing the parts that make up the whole, bringing disparate factors into relationships becomes important too. But not at the beginning of the process, if I am to remain clear. Because to get a “big picture” it seems necessary to begin in the centre of the “mandala” and work outwards; rather than literally “getting lost in the trees and not seeing the forest”.
So what is the message? To my ears the message is that there is a “place”, a “state of Consciousness”, “an experience”, a “way of Being” a “way of Knowing”, a “Divine sense” or however one tries to express appropriate words for “That” which is by its very nature is beyond the realm of intellect and thought. This message is for me absolutely and undeniably true. And this message I find compellingly important for human beings to tell, hear, remind each other about and explore experientially. As a messenger of this I appreciate M as I do all other messengers of this. But this message alone does not define what M or any other such messenger is. And yet, without giving due credence to the vital importance of this message I cannot then go on and be openly critical of the package surrounding It. So point numero uno. I totally appreciate the essential message now as ever I have for some 30 years; long before M and K entered into my life. The message is the focusing of the searchlight onto the existentially most important issue I know of. Who am I really?
If it was that simple. But human existence is consciously multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. The message comes with the messenger. And the messenger does more than just convey this message. From the very beginning of M’s mission, he packaged this message into a structure of initiation processes, cultural icons, living directives, hierarchic systems and self definition. This cult-ural structuralism changed often as the years passed, but to this day the packaging remains as an integral part of the process of becoming a premie and remaning a premie. This “packaging” then involves everything else besides the essential message itself. I have no issue regarding this message. I only question the package surrounding it. Knowledge itself as a way to connect to this “state of Consciousness” is kind of ok. But even here there is packaging involved. M’s insistence that Knowledge as he reveals it and the way he implies its very special status, is very misleading. The presentation is dogmatic. There is double-speak. M deconstructs the layers of secondary phenomena that obscure the underlying Reality, but he then constructs his own secondary mythos and dogma. This amounts to just another body of religious tenets. All religions and cults (mini-religions) establish “so called” holy structures and scriptures. The slow indoctrination is not obvious at first. Trust must be gained first. And the message is the hook that resonates and opens the doors of trust. The package is therefore secondary but it is promoted or propagated as if it is vital. This is the “catch”. Only the Truth is primary and vital. The “élan vital” is only that Consciousness. That “spark”. The rest is potentially an obstacle or just another secondary structure. To project onto the icon powers that it doesn’t deserve is the trap. And this includes unrealistic and exaggerated claims about the Messenger.
So, this is my position. If premies are satisfied with the structures surrounding the essential message, so be it. I long ago rejected religious structures. And I now make no exception with M’s version, no matter how much he claims it isn’t another religion. But I will always honour and pay homage to the Essential “élan vital”; the Living Truth; the Divine Consciousness; the Universal Love and Compassion.