Here are some more interesting links from a young man you grew up in Butler's cult. While he is never explicit in identifying what group he was born into or what 'guru-ette' declared him "enlightened", he reveals the powerful damages wrought on both followers and leaders in the cult. He also does not go into much depth about the specifics of the philosophy or practices of his youth in any of his writings. I would hope that in future writings that he would expand upon this. He generally glosses it over with a varnish of generalizations, perhaps to protect family members still in the cult or to protect himself from litigation. At any rate, in spite of deftly handling the specifics, he still allegedly received death threats for his book Wet Hot and Wild American Yogi: A Memoir
Thanks to both of his parents, Shyam Dodge was exceptionally well educated for a kid in Butler's cult. He has become infinitely more educated than his former guru and most of his followers. It is surprising because classic education was frowned upon by the cult.
His parents at first followed Chris Butler and then moved on to Kathy Hoshijo aka "Katyayani". Butler declared Kathy Hoshijo a pure devotee early on and groomed her for both a failed political career and to be the vegetarian promoter in her PBS natural foods cooking show "Kathy Cooks Naturally".
"Katyayani" went on to follow Butler's methods and set herself up as a guru in Southern California. Shyam Dodge's parents became her devotees. Years later, Katyayani declared Shyam "enlightened" which was the catalyst for life altering events documented in his book Wet Hot & Wild American Yogi
Here are his thoughts. My additions are in square brackets. On Being A Guru
I was once a guru. But before that I was a monk. Raised to be a prophet from birth by devout parents of the Eastern Wisdom traditions. [A reductive branch of ISKCON/Gaudiya Vaishnavism led by one of AC Bhaktivedanta's Goswamis, "Siddhaswarupananda" aka Chris Butler] I was a masochist for enlightenment. I had many followers, disciples of my every word and gesture. Then, in my earliest adulthood, I was crowned with spiritual enlightenment by my master [Katyayani/ Kathy Hoshijo]. The declaration of my enlightened sainthood dispelled a long-held illusion,
and not the one expected.
I had lived my whole life in a panoptic* community with my master sitting in the high tower, the invisible all-seeing guru, my every innermost thought a knowable object in the transcendent sphere that she (my master) resided in. Yet, I knew something she didn’t: I was nowhere near the myth of the Buddha [actually "Krishna" and the myth of the "pure devotee"]. I was addicted to the idea of perfection, but my body, my genitals, my quivering flesh kept getting in the way. This lack of insight, on the part of my master, was a disruptive force.
The master, I had idealized, now conferred upon me the imperial cloth of the guru, but it was invisible, I couldn’t grasp it. In that moment I saw her nakedness and my own. We both fell short of the myth.
I have three things to say:
My life as a guru was a constant violence to my humanity.
My life as a disciple of a master was a constant violence to my humanity.
My life as a guru was a constant violence to the humanity of my disciples.
It is the myth of enlightenment, of supernatural wholeness, that produces this destructive idealism. The guru tradition is an industry of illusion and coercive dupery, which fragments, erases, and replaces our humanity with an impossible ideal of perfection.
* the word panoptic is an excellent description of the Butler cult. From Wikipedia: "The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman."
In order to teach my students, on the path toward perfection, I had to invalidate their shadows, their imperfections, so that they could realize an impossible ideal. I was in a constant process of deconstructing, negating through fierce Jnana, their essential embodiedness, their fully human psychology, and replacing it with an idea. They, on the other hand, had to ignore my essential imperfection, in order to continue idealizing me as a master.This circular delusion and co-deception constructed a community entirely disconnected from the world our bodies resided in.
As a guru I was a sadist.
Thesis: Guru-Masochism underpins the dynamic of master-student. Some experience their interiority, their own minds, as a kind of tyrant; as if they were a subject to a punishing inner despot. In anguish and desperation they seek out an external tyrant, a guru, to subjugate the internal master. Suicide can be averted via a kind of spiritual masochism, the bending and submitting of the will to a dominatrix of the psyche.The myth is that the spiritual master has transcended their subjectivity, their own discrete skull-sized kingdom, and is now capable of liberating others.To submit to such a guru is a deep form of masochism, for the idea of spiritual liberation is unattainable, and so the effort to escape the inner jailer is forever frustrated by subjectivity itself–or at least as long as the person is alive.In my role as a sadist, my humanity was slowly being replaced with an archetype, an idea of an autocratic master of the spiritual domain. And my students were being dehumanized through my psychological tortures. Symbols are symbols; human beings are human beings.It was for this reason I left being a guru. A few weeks after being declared fully “realized” I couldn’t rationalize my own suffering or the suffering I was inflicting on others. I was done with enlightenment.
“For many years I was known as a monk. I shaved my head and wore robes and got up very early. I hated everyone but acted generously and no one found me out. My reputation as a ladies man was a joke. It caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.”
From Setting the Table for the (Imaginary) Feast of Knowledge
I know firsthand what it is to be addicted to the idea of perfection, but my body, my genitals, my quivering flesh keeps getting in the way. I know what is to have one’s personhood replaced with a fantasy of spiritual perfection, but, again, my humanity keeps getting in the way. I know what it is to have profound experiences with no good explanations. Spirituality devoid of psychological coherence is crazy-making. It is the price one pays for adopting an archaic metaphysics that remains resistant to modernity. I know what it is to prefer a dream of enlightenment over the tenuous, often difficult, reality of being human.