"Behind the Scenes"

Out of the Labyrinth

For Those Who Want to Believe, But Can't
by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)

This book deserves for two reasons to be listed first. To begin with, this was the first book I worked on after I'd been forced to be on my own, after my separation from SRF. The second reason is that this book was the first I felt inspired to write specifically in fulfillment of my Guru's command to me that I share his teachings through the written word. It was the first book I wrote with a real sense of mission, in the specific hope that it would change people's ways of thinking.

Many years had to pass before I could complete this book. What first inspired me to write it was an article that I read in June 1962 in "Span," the magazine put out by the United States Information Service in India. The article was by the head of the philosophy department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It gave an over-view of fundamental trends in modern thinking which, the author claimed, were necessarily consequences upon the discoveries of materialistic science. The writer claimed that thoughtful people everywhere believed life to be meaningless, since science has shown us a universe wholly irrational. People nowadays, reported the author as if delivering the morning news, nowadays accept that the universe is an entirely material phenomenon. Consciousness itself, therefore, is nothing but the movement of electrons through nerve circuits in the brain. Evolution, as a consequence, is a pure accident; mankind, in producing a brain, has accomplished nothing more meaningful than has the elephant in evolving a trunk. Evolution, in other words, should not be defined as progressive. It demonstrates nothing but endless change.

This was a fairly depressing over-view of modern thought! The only reason, as far as I could see, why people held to it and even promoted it was the pride they took in their own "scientifically objectivity." Otherwise, what would be the point in even living? Indeed, might not the sharp increase in teen-age suicides be due to the hopelessness "inspired" in the young by the so-called authorities?

I myself saw nothing depressing in the facts modern science has discovered. It was only people's interpretation of those facts that had led to the conclusion that everything is meaningless. I could see clearly that my Guru's explanation of the yoga and vedanta teachings provides the strongest reason for seeing meaning everywhere. Armed with this vision, and realizing the depth of people's misunderstanding on the subject, I decided it was my duty to show the way out of these woods where so many wandered, lost.

I therefore decided not to dismiss these concepts as "nonsense"; sneers would have been of use to no one. What I had to do was address the issues fair-mindedly. That meant I must show respect for the people with whom I disagreed, and demonstrate within that context that the same facts which had led them to negative conclusions could just as well be shown to demonstrate a universe full of meaning!

Out of the Labyrinth (as it is now called) has not so far been the best-seller I would have liked, considering the large number of people it could help, but it has reached an important audience, and has been applauded by thinking persons who want to believe in moral and spiritual values, but who don't see how they can do so honestly.

A Pause for Reflection:

During the period when I was researching Out of the Labyrinth, I lived in San Francisco and taught at Dr. Haridas Chaudhury's Cultural Integration Fellowship. Ousted from my Guru's organization, I was feeling lost and bewildered, not knowing what I should do with my life. Had the time perhaps come for me to follow my Guru's instructions and write books? Ought I to lecture? My faith in myself had been shaken. Could it be that my Guru was displeased with me? I couldn't believe it. The work I'd been able to accomplish in India seemed to me—and seems so even now—a miracle. My fellow SRF directors, most of them senior to me, had not spoken a single word that corroborated with the instructions he himself had given me. Was their opposition to the work I'd done in India only an affirmation of the doubt that I myself had expressed to him, on the occasion when he'd told me to write? What I'd asked was, "What more is needed, beyond what you yourself have already written?" It should not have surprised me, therefore, that they too imagined that what he'd done was definitive, and that to go beyond that would be presumptuous. If this was their reasoning, the anger they expressed was at least understandable—and perhaps also, in a sense, excusable. Nevertheless, what he'd said to me in answer to my query had answered my own doubt. As I've said already, his words were, "Much more is needed!"

Dr. Chaudhuri did his best to persuade me that my Guru wanted me to keep on teaching and lecturing. He insisted also that he sincerely felt that my Guru wanted me to do these things. Indeed, had I remained with SRF I would never even have been allowed to write books. Nor would SRF ever have published them.

Thus I began—tentatively and with extreme apprehension—to teach in San Francisco and its environs.

I had always hoped also someday to found a spiritual community in my Guru's name. For he had spoken fervently many times of "world brotherhood communities." My fellow disciples were "running the show," and now declared that, since his attempt to start a community in Encinitas had not been successful, he had "changed his mind." To me, that lack of success meant only that people weren't yet ready for the idea. To claim beyond that, however, that he'd "changed his mind" was absurd. It would imply that he never really meant it when expressing so feelingly—as he'd done all his life—the need for communities. Once, when actually declaiming on the subject, he actually cried out with great fervor, "I am sowing my words in the ether, in the Spirit of God, and they shall move the West!"

See Also: Contents  Intro  Sample Chapter  

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