So-Called Ancient Hindu spirituality concealing American LGAT 'tech'
This is mostly based on material shared by persons who were in SYDA/Siddha Yoga during the period of time (1970s--1996) who have published accounts online. Matters may since have changed.
But for those in SY still struggling to recover and who berate themselves for being weak of will...do ask if possibly it is time to examine LGAT (large group awareness training) 'tech' for its un romantic but powerful methods may have been concealed beneath the seemingly ancient Hindu trappings, incense and silk brocades.
“LGATs (Large Group Awareness Trainings) were all the rage when I was growing up in the 70s. They include Werner Erhart's now-defunct est, its successor The Forum (aka Landmark Education), Lifespring, and many spin-offs. I've never attended these, though the many Intensives I experienced with Swami Muktananda were heavily influenced by Werner, and gave me a strong taste of the group dynamic. The Truth about Human Potential Seminars is a blog covering the LGATs; The Awareness Page offers many links they say will help Awareness consumers make conscious informed decisions; and Rick Ross' site has the video Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus, a 2004 French TV report with hidden cameras inside an actual Landmark training.”
This statement caught my attention.
“though the many Intensives I experienced with Swami Muktananda were heavily influenced by Werner, and gave me a strong taste of the group dynamic”.
First, it does appear that a very enterprising American, Werner Erhard, founder of EST, played a crucial role in the history of Siddha/SYDA Yoga. This is from a website that celebrates the life of Muktananda, founder of SY.
"Westerners began to visit Baba’s ashram Shree Gurudev Siddha Peeth…Baba’s ashram took on the quality of an emperor’s court, with a steady line of faithful coming for spiritual advice, to make offerings of flowers and fruit….
"His reputation as a meditation master had spread throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. Werner Erhard’s EST Seminars were a phenomenally popular personal transformation process throughout the U.S. He came to meet Baba in Ganeshpuri in 1973, and invited him as a guest to visit the US. Baba accepted and was introduced to huge audiences in the west...."
Doing Google, I found the following that indicate how pervasively LGAT’s were bundled into SY. This seemingly ancient Hindu practice path was like chocolate covered ants. The Hindu guru theatre was the chocolate. The LGAT techniques were the ants.
Subj: SYDA style brainwashing & est
Date: 96-04-11 07:49:42 EDT
From: Howie Sm
Dear AOL readers,
It was said that the Siddha Yoga intensive format was directly borrowed from est. The following quoted material shows that est and Siddha Yoga use the same techniques of verbal abuse and public humiliation to induce altered states and to brainwash. These cults have important points of similarity.
The following est participant's narrative could be titled "a Siddha Yoga
course," or "the making of a Vedanta-style sociopath," or "brainwashing
narcissists," or "inducing altered states through cult pressure," or "a
spiritual seeker gets his money's worth."
BEGIN QUOTED MATERIAL<<< (begin participant's narrative) "The physical
discomfort and badgering left me horrified, and feeling very weird. Time had stopped running in any usual sense, and I was having unexpected feelings of all kinds. At one point, when the trainer called my friend a TOS for trying to console a woman who was crying, I got enraged; I wanted to see the trainer dead. I realizd that I was beginning to lose any sense of where I was in the real world, and even who I usually was.
And then suddenly it came clear! I was the prisoner of my own compulsion to help everyone and be kind to them. The trainer was right; I didn't have to be tied down by this attitude.
I was free to choose what I might think and feel, independent of forty years of programming.
Then the whole room seemed to slip away, and I no longer cared about eating, peeing, or how long the whole damn thing would run on. I felt liberated, released from a long prison term." (end participant's narrative)
(The AOL correspondant continued)In one sense, this represented a transition to a full-blown "culture of narcissism" in which the individual owes allegiance only to the self. Participants in the est program often feel released from the commitments born out of fidelity to their fellow humans, allowing them to indulge themselves without guilt.>>>END QUOTED MATERIAL
Date: 96-04-11 16:45:50 EDT
I am soooo thankful for the internet. ......The fact that I was in SY for 13 years and knew little is very telling of what kind of society exists there. This type of discussion would be possible if the parties involved had to meet by chance. What I myself saw was enough to make me stop going to the ashram. It wasn't enough to make me question the validity of SY as a whole.
But now knowing about the sex, violence and EST like morals of the central people has really done it. It's just too much to rationalize away.
I am sure I would have gone on thinking that was inadequate and a fallen yogi for the rest of my life. Never questioning the appalling circumstances that put that kind of gibberish into my head.
This has all happened in just the last 2-3 months so I'm still kind of raw
and blistered. I remember reading Howies posts and thinking "what a jerk. I
just will not read this!". Dissent scared me. Now it makes sense....(edited for brevity C) …
Subj: Re: ManyThanks
Date: 96-04-11 17:57:58 EDT
Raj, I congratulate you on freeing yourself. I also spent about 13 years
under the spell. Please don't be scared of me - I'm a nice guy, just need to
be anon so as to avoid law suits. It's not quite 2 years since I made the
break, and I'm still working on getting myself back together. I lived and
worked there most of those years - of course on a small stipend, no benefits,
no IRAs or 401(k) -- but plenty of abuse. It was just great reading
Outrageous Betrayal, about Werner Erhard, because these gurus are all the same - it could be the story of GM. They lie about their identity, abuse those close to them, live for power and money, are paranoid, obssessive compulsive, and incredibly seductive.
Subj: Landmark Forum
Date: 96-04-12 06:44:56 EDT
Someone wrote me asking about Landmark Forum - here is my reply:
Thanks for the note. The Landmark Forum is the remains of the Werner Erhard empire. Erhard himself, the founder of est, and then the Forum, is in exile. ...
Very few of his disciples remained loyal to him, but those who did are now
the heads of the Landmark Forum. They minimize their connection to Erhard, but he is their God. It is a watered down version of the old est training.
The program is a sadistic, confrontational blend of scientology and Dale
Carnegie and Napoleon Hill and a few other really crackpot old mind training schemes. The program pretends to shock people into letting go of all their "stuff", fast, badda-bing, badda-bang, badda-boom. By the end, you're supposed to "get it." What you get is intense sales pitches and extreme pressure to recruit other people, and continue to spend more and more money on endless follow up courses.
All this is detailed thoroughly in "Outrageous Betrayal." Many SYDA people, in New York and Oakland, participate in the Forum.
As if being exploited in one destructive cult isn't enough.
Thanks again for writing…
(This reflects the situation as of 1995-1996 at the time the AOL thread was written. Again...why were that many SYDA people involved with Forum? Was it a cheaper way to get a shaktipat like buzz than doing a SYDA intensive that reputedly incorprated the same tech but cost more? Only some insightful SYDA alums can answer that.)