Look Into My Eyes

June 23, 2012

I am currently under a book deadline, so long blog posts will probably be few and far between until the end of the year. The working title of the book is Waking Up: Science, Skepticism, and Spirituality. This title could very well change, but this should give you some indication of what I’m up to. My goal is to write a “spiritual” book for smart, skeptical people—dealing with issues like the illusion of the self, the efficacy of practices like meditation, the cultivation of positive mental states, etc.

Writing this book has forced me to revisit the work of gurus and spiritual teachers at every point on the spectrum of wisdom and crackpottery—which has been a lot of fun.

One behavior that you can readily notice in many gurus, as well as in their students, is an unusual commitment to maintaining eye contact. In the best case, this behavior emerges from a genuine comfort in the presence of other people and deep interest in their well-being. Given this frame of mind, there may not be a reason to look elsewhere. But maintaining eye contact can also become a way of “acting spiritual”—and an intrusive affectation. Needless to say, there are people who maintain rigid eye lock, not from an attitude of openness and interest—or from a desire to appear open and interested—but as an aggressive and narcissistic show of dominance. (Psychopaths tend to make exceptionally good eye contact.) Whatever the motive behind it, there can be tremendous power in an unwavering gaze.

Most of you know what I’m talking about, but if you want to witness a glorious example of the grandiosity that a person’s eyes can convey, watch a few minutes of the following interview with Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh). I never met Osho, but I have met many people like him. He was by no means the worst that the New Age had to offer. He undoubtedly harmed many people in the end—and, perhaps, in the beginning and middle as well—but he wasn’t merely a lunatic or a con artist as many other gurus have been. Osho always seemed like a genuinely insightful man who had much to teach, but who grew increasingly intoxicated by the power of his role, and then finally lost his mind in it. When you spend your days sniffing nitrous oxide, demanding fellatio at 45-minute intervals, making sacred gifts of your fingernail clippings, and shopping for your 94th Rolls Royce… you should probably know that you’ve wandered a step or two off the path.

In any case, I find the way Osho plays the game of eye contact in this interview simply hilarious. This is what the Internet is for… Enjoy!