I once knew a woman who worshipped, as a living god, a guru called Babaji. The author of the book I've been reading, Dionysios Farasiotis, was at least curious to know if Babaji were really a god, so went to visit him, in an attempt to find out. Here's some of what he has to say.
From The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, by Dionysios Farasiotis (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California, 2008, pp. 154-156):
We then began to gather in an old building which had a roof supported by large pillars, but which did not have walls, being open on three sides. I was among the first to enter … Soon, everyone else gathered and the pavilion was packed. Then Babji made his entrance with his entourage, the five or six yogis who made up the tight circle of his closest disciples. Interestingly enough, they were all Westerners.
At this point, Babaji reclined on his dais, and the others began to pass in front of him to worship him and offer him gifts. There was something so uncanny about him that I couldn’t take my eyes off him … and I tried to come to some conclusion about this baffling creature. I was engrossed in his every movement and expression, hoping to find some clue to his identity. I could see him incessantly practicing much of what I had read about in books about witchcraft. On the wall behind hum hung a large embroidered tapestry portraying three mountain peaks and a peculiar depiction of the sun. I had seen this symbol before in a book on witchcraft I had read in Greece, which presented it as the secret symbol for high magic, and I recognized it at once. …
Three times I was approached and urged to worship him, but I didn’t budge. I simply tried to look at him straight in the eyes. Babaji’s eyes roved around the room and at a certain point our eyes did in fact meet, although he wasn’t looking at me purposely. As soon as this happened, I lost all contact with my surroundings and fell into an ecstasy. It was as though I were looking into my chest, and in that inner darkness I saw my own heart in the most lurid colors and engulfed in flames. The very next moment I regained consciousness and realized what had taken place. I was quite impressed and continued to watch him carefully.
Again, someone approached me and told me to go before him, but I didn’t reply. … I couldn’t figure out just what Babaji was, and the idea that I was required to worship him without knowing why was frightening. It was obvious he had power – great power – but I would not bow down to him only for that. I wanted to know: Was he humble, did he speak the truth, did he love?
Suddenly, Babaji become tense, straightened himself up, and sat in the lotus position. His acute concentration and vigilance were obvious. His eyes became as dark as coal and as piercing as lightning. A man was in front of him worshipping him unreservedly with a deep devotion that could be seen in his whole demeanor… He had also offered Babaji many precious gifts. Babaji fixed his powerful eyes firmly on the man, who suddenly folded his hands together in front of his chest, as though giving a traditional Indian greeting, and moved his legs together. Although the man’s body became as rigid as a stone column, he began to tremble where he stood and to leap up and down in a most unnatural manner, as though he had springs attached to his heels. He began uttering the most deafening groans and moans, like a wounded cow or an enraged bull. Babaji kept the man in this state for about a minute. He then let him go for a moment, but, before the man could come to, he seized him even more vehemently, so that the man began to vibrate like a jackhammer and wail at the top of his lungs. We were all flabbergasted by the shocking spectacle taking place before us. Babaji then released the man, relaxed a bit, and laid back to watch the rest of the people pass in front of him.
A woman standing next to Babaji spoke to the crowed, informing us that the guru had just granted the man illumination.
The ritual was basically the same as that of the day before. Babaji … was again the central attraction. … I watched him, struggling to find some sign that would uncover his identity.
In the middle of the line [of people waiting to pass before the guru to worship him], there was a couple from Australia with a four-year-old boy. Suddenly, Babaji asked them to bring the child to him, and one of the yogis in his entourage went and took the child from his mother. The child was peaceful as the yogi held him in his arms, but as soon as he came close to Babaji, he began screaming and bawling with the most heart-wrenching cries. He even hurt himself while desperately struggling to get away from the guru. The parents just stood there, making no objection at all. Babaji then took the child in his arms and put his thumb in the boy’s mouth and his index finger in be3tween the boy’s eyebrows. Abruptly, the child feel into a deep sleep, or perhaps he was simply hypnotized. In any event, Babaji kept the child in that state for the entire duration of the ritual.
I believed then and still do that small children have better instincts than adults, because they’re so innocent. Their intuition springs from the fact that they use their heart to directly experience the world, without the mind interfering and confusing the heart with various speculations that may have no basis in reality. The child’s negative response and fear made an impression on me, especially when I recalled how the children mentioned in the Gospel embraced Christ with trust and joy.
Again, they approached us and urged us to go and worship Babaji, but neither Noni nor I moved an inch. … After everyone, except us, had passed in front of him, we dispersed. In a short while, our hosts told us to leave the ashram, because they were not pleased with our behavior. What had we done wrong? We hadn’t worshipped Babaji.
My friend was relieved and cheerfully started to gather her belongings, but I felt torn. How could I leave without coming to a definite conclusion? … I decided to request to see the guru. They went to ask the proper party and shortly thereafter led me to Babaji.
As I entered the courtyard, I made the sign of the Cross and asked God to help me. As I drew near to Babaji, I felt as though he were influencing my mind, causing it to no longer function properly. When I was within about six feet of him, I looked around for a place to sit, because I thought we would have a conversation. Babaji gave me a dirty look, as though he both feared and loathed me. He had been sitting comfortably, but now he shrank back in his seat, turning away from me in disgust. He loudly shrieked, “Get out!” I was flabbergasted by this response and looked at him in disbelief. He shrieked even more loudly, “Get out!” I said, “Only one question.” “No questions here,” he bellowed, “Get out!” I made an about-face and left in a daze. I was astonished – what was I to make of his behavior?