There’s no way Cutting Through gets published on Trungpa’s steam alone. So let’s think about this in relation to his published output of dozens of books, and the fact that his alcohol and drug use only increased over time, which means that his daily hours of lucidity dwindled, even as his fame and the free labour available to him increased.
Not comparing myself here, but without drinking and with no secretarial or research support, it takes me three years of almost full-time labour to finish a non-fiction book, and I’m not exactly slow. It takes Michael Ondaatje about seven years to complete a good novel.
So how did Trungpa publish? From the very beginning, he had a small army doing most of the work, which involved the careful sense-making of his students. Their job was to take the entranced group experience and make it work on the page, because it was through the page that they would attract more recruits to the group experience.
While the group looked to Trungpa for sense, the group itself made Trungpa make sense.
The notion that Trungpa carried an untouched root of medieval Tibetan Buddhism into the postmodern world is not the whole story. The notion that he was a lonely gardener of that same root is not the whole story. What’s closer to the truth — in terms of his published output — is that he was the charismatic focal point of a collaborative movement that was quickly monetizing itself.
But it goes deeper.
The manufacturing and editing process of charismatic literature is inseparable from the manufacturing and editing process of the leader’s image and the group’s self-narrative. Baker and Casper hunker down with the leader to co-produce a book that attracts people to the group. Their focus is on the message, the message, the message — but not what he’s saying so much as what they can understand, come to an agreement about, concerning what they need, or want. They edit out the nonsense, and focus on what the finished page will look like.
Meanwhile, a larger circle is telling a story about the leader and his inner circle — including people like Baker and Casper. That ring is faithful, they’re tuned in, they’re recording the messages coming from the inside with perfect fidelity. What gets left out is the alcohol, the cocaine, the sex with countless students.
For the entire article, go here:
Cult Classics vs. Cult Survivor Literature: What Will Your Spiritual Reading Be Now?