On Wednesday night, in genuine search of spiritual enlightenment, I made my way to Warren Street, and a dinky little block of flats that squats, rather like an unpleasant brickwork Buddha, right on top of the tube station. A (perhaps mischievous) friend had given me details of an evening to be spent in the company of a man called Sabbir Muslim. I had sent an email and he was expecting me. I rang the buzzer. A woman's voice answered. 'Hello,' I said. 'I'm here for the enlightenment.' She gave a little laugh. I wondered why. I was quite serious.
Muslim is an unusual surname for sure, but as I climbed the stairs I reflected that this was no reason not to trust the man. After all, had I not many years ago quite happily accepted Terry Christian into my heart? Well, no, I hadn't. I had in fact sent him an unsolicited piece of hate-mail. And received no reply.
Regardless, I shook these superfluous and distracting thoughts from my head, pushed open a door from the stairwell and was met on the first floor by a large bespectacled smiling woman whoa sked me if I wanted to go to the bathroom. I thanked her but declined and was then led into a tiny brightly-lit room, maybe six foot by ten. There I was introduced to Sabbir, who sat in a leather swivel chair, resting a damaged foot. A crutch rested forlornly against the window-ledge. He offered me a limp hand which I shook. I then introduced myself to the only other person in the room who had never been there before, a young woman called Annie.
The large bespectacled woman was a regular. She seemed very enamoured of Sabbir. I took a seat and Sabbir began. And I have to say, apart from the humming and hawing and stammering, he started quite well. He asked myself and Annie, the newcomers, why we were here. Annie answered first, saying that she suffered from a mild form of a particularly nasty illness and was hoping to learn some techniques which may help her to train herself to overcome it. Sabbir was onto this in a flash, explaining how he had cured himself of an illness four years ago - this in fact was how he first fell into the whole enlightenment business.
Which is not to suggest that he was lying. On the contrary, he seemed
touchingly sincere. He seemed to genuinely want to help.
Then he turned to me. Why was I here? I told him the truth. I told him I had cynicism issues. I told him that I found it all too easy to hate everything and everybody and that I didn't think it was good for me. He found this very interesting. I was glad.
The large woman meanwhile, could partially empathise, for while she loved everybody else, she hated herself. I tried to make her feel better by explaining that I hated myself too. She giggled.
Then Sabbir, who incidentally is a fully certified hypnotherapist and something of a spiritual Jack of all trades, got properly started. This week was going to be more structured than usual, he said. He was going to begin with a talk which would last around 30 minutes, but we were welcome to interrupt if we had questions.
Unfortunately, he wasn't a very good speaker. Despite the minuscule size of the group, he seemed very nervous, and, despite the amount of times he must have spoken these exact same words over the last four years, he seemed somehow unprepared. But I was desperate to give him a chance, and so I forced myself not to hold his complete lack of charisma or basic communicative skills against him. After all, is it not the case that the smoother someone is, the more likely it is that they've got something to hide? Well, maybe not, but I was determined to be tolerant.
I knew I was never going to be enlightened if I paid any attention to the voices in my head as they screamed 'charlatan' and 'fool' and 'just look at the state of his hair'.
"Have you heard of a man called Dr David Hawkins?" he asked. Then he began to outline Hawkins' basic philosophy, and I for one sighed inside as I realised that there was to be no enlightenmentthis evening. If you don't know of Hawkins, he is, according to his publishers, 'a nationally renowned psychiatrist, physician, researcher and lecturer, as his listing in 'Who's Who in America' amply attests.' If that's not enough to put you off, he is also the author of books entitled 'The Eye of the I' and 'I: Reality and Subjectivity'. Here is a copy of his groundbreaking 'Map of Consciousness', from his seminal self-help blockbuster 'Power vs Force'.
This apparently is what it's all about. Myself and Annie were asked to examine it and say where we thought we fell on the map. I placed myself around the 125 / 150 mark - somewhere between the levels of Anger and Desire, an emotional combination of Hate and Craving. Sabbir informed me that even if that were the case, I was apparently still more evolved than Hitler, which was good to know, but less so than your average elephant. Oh well.
Over the next hour or so, Sabbir spoke of Karma, of consciousness calibration and at some length of kinesiology (kinesiology as in muscle-testing, that is, rather than biomechanics). He spoke of Hawkins, of Ghandi and of Mother Theresa; and he spoke of Hitler, of Osama Bin Laden and most disappointing of all, he spoke of God. He spoke like a child. And not in a wholly positive way. As the evening wore on I found myself slipping down the Map, my Life-view changing from Disappointing to Tragic to Hopeless; my Process sliding from Aggression to Despondency. Elimination suddenly seemed only minutes away.
All in all, Sabbir, in my most humble and hateful opinion, offered nothing more than a delicious cocktail of the blindingly obvious and the clinically inane; a higgledy-piggledy hodge-podge of Christianity and Buddhism, with a sprinkling of various New Age notions for good measure. Nothing you haven't heard a million times before and at the base of it all, the recommendation to submerge the ego and accept the Love of God. Acceptance. It kept cropping up. Again and again. Acceptance was the key. In the end I decided to take it on board.
As I made my way outside and gave my goodbyes and best wishes to Annie, who had incidentally decided to return next week and maybe pop along to the large lady's house for an open meditation session, I accepted that cynicism and hatred and desire and all those other so-called negative emotions are actually probably rather good for me. Or at least, if not good, they fall well within what someone who's written books about such things might call my 'comfort zone', and for better or for worse, they make me who I am - *and*, although I may be far from enlightened, I'm not nearly as unenlightened as Adolf Hitler.
Then, remembering that as well as hating everything, I also kind of love it, I smiled hopelessly to myself and slipped quietly back underground.