Losing your persona may mean losing your status as a person. It can be like having your citizenship revoked, only for the whole human race.
In a conversation I was having with a reader on the role the mind plays in what and when we eat, he recounted a story he read about an Indian guru named Neem Karloi Baba. NKB would ask his disciples if he had eaten his meal for the day, and they would intentionally lie and tell him yes, when he hadn’t. He was satisfied with their answer and didn’t eat that day. His disciples would do this for days and sometimes weeks on end and he wouldn’t eat. They would also reverse this deception (because, really, watching someone not eat is pretty boring after a while) and tell him he hadn’t eaten when he had, the result being that he would take several meals in a day, eating many times more than he intended to. They even put arsenic and other poisons in his food to see if it would affect him, and it did not.
Of course, the reader only focused on how amazing this guru was, how indifferent he was to physical conditions, to the point where poison did not affect him. And that’s what nearly all people focus on when they read stories like this. How amazing the guru is, with his superhuman mutant siddhi powers. While that is interesting, I’m stunned by the fact that no one seems to wonder at all about the psychopathic behavior of his disciples. When confronted with the direct presence of an enlightened person, this is the best they can do? “Let’s starve him and see what happens! Let’s force feed him and see what happens! Let’s poison him and see what happens!”
People are dangerous, in general. Spiritual seekers even more so. If you read this story and the detail of the victim being a guru was omitted, you would immediately wonder how it was that a group of people could conceive to do such things to a man who never lifted a finger to harm them. It would be shocking to hear that a single person was willing and capable of doing these things. You’d think that others would notice and stop him. Instead, remarkably, when someone proposed this plan, his fellow seekers responded, “Brilliant idea, John! When do we start?” And at some point someone suggested to up the ante by poisoning NKB, and that was somehow accepted as the obvious next step.
This is the companion post to What to do When People Start to Worship You. It is intended for the newly enlightened, to help you deal with the world of People Post Enlightenment. This is the yang to the previous article’s yin, both of them are extremes you need to navigate with care when they present themselves.
Obviously, this is an extreme case, but the fact that these stories are told and retold, and that otherwise normal people don’t even take notice of how shocking it is that people who purportedly loved, revered and followed this man in a quest for spiritual enlightenment would do these things, demonstrates how acceptable and natural this kind of behavior really is.
Enlightenment can bring with it a profound passivity. Things happen. Life happens. People happen. Without the concept of personhood at the center of your being, you can end up without much motivation to do anything about it, per se. You may find that people around you will take this passivity as license to treat you in ways that they, themselves would be shocked at, and deny if confronted. They become deeply unconscious, and do these things from that space.
On a mundane level, a person who is always punctual will be chronically late in keeping plans or appointments with you. A person who always repays loans will forget their debt to you entirely. A person who is normally discreet and keeps confidences as a matter of principle will feel completely at ease sharing personal details about you to others.
Why does this happen? Why do people behave so badly? I can’t say for sure, but my working theory is that they unconsciously sense your lack of personhood. Their good behavior only applies to people, and unconsciously they have put you into a separate category. If you are not a person, all bets are off.
In my experience, it has gotten to the point where people actually talk to me in ways they would never speak to a real human being. If I recorded the things they said to me and replayed it for them, they would be shocked and embarrassed, because they don’t think of themselves that way, this kind of behavior is not part of their self image. They speak to me as if no one was listening, as though I was some kind of AI program.
“I’m a terrible friend, I only call you when I need something. I’m just using you for therapy.”
“Could you read my aura and tell me what you see?”
“I’d pay you back, but I know you don’t care.”
“I got an invitation at the last minute from a friend, so I need to cancel our plans for Christmas tomorrow. I know you won’t mind.”
“You should come live at my house. I’ll let you work for me for room and board.”
“Your husband died? Well, you’re lucky because you’re not affected by such things anymore. Can I host my bachelor party at your house?
“I told her all about you, and now she’s dying to meet you.”
“Thanks for offering to drive me all the way out here. I feel like I’m always taking, but I know it doesn’t matter to you.”
These are things that people who claimed they loved me have said to me. Some of these people are the same ones who previously started worshiping me, so I’ve seen people bounce from one end to the other. These are mundane examples, not nearly on the same level as being poisoned, surely. But it’s a spectrum. When people become totally unconscious of the fact that they have moved you into the inanimate category, anything is ultimately possible. I’ve also found that once you have been moved into the inanimate category, their bad behavior escalates over time if you don’t respond to it.
Find a cave, stay there
One option is to leave the world of people behind, live a reclusive or semi-reclusive life. Limit your interactions with people to what is necessary and never reveal yourself in any way, not even online. I’m sure there are plenty of people who do end up taking this path, but of course, we are not likely to hear from these folks.
Give them what they need
Another option, for those of us disinclined to take our leave, is to approximate personhood just enough to keep from getting shifted into the inanimate category. This sounds easy, but you know it is not. It means you have to switch out of your effortless flow into a kind of friction mode. You need to throw a little friction and drag into your interactions with people. Just enough for them to continue to see you as a person and not as a sophisticated personal AI friend/therapist/ATM/assistant. In other words, a blow up doll.
If you actually “come out” about your condition, things can get very strange indeed. I’m not sure why, but enlightened people are often seen as belonging to humanity, as if we came here to serve and are no longer due consideration or privacy. People feel perfectly comfortable taking the most amazing liberties.
On the other hand, it is very interesting to observe this in action, how people react to a lack of personhood in someone who looks just like a person. Some of these people will even have known you when you were a person, and now they may treat you very differently, though they probably have no idea why. It’s interesting to note that people want others who will be there for them unconditionally, yet it is the very unconditionality of an enlightened person that causes them to stop seeing them as a human being, causes them to not really be able to value what is given. They value what is given conditionally. They understand and value the quid pro quo, the accounting that underpins most human interactions, even with those who are most loved.
Learn to balance your indifference with wisdom. It’s an ongoing dance, and one that you may feel the need to withdraw from on occasion.