One often may hear eckists parroting that such
outer initiations matter little, yet privately, most eckists seem to
feel very strongly about the initiations they are awarded.
This isn't spoken of very much out in the open in eckankar, but people
such as the woman in the example can become quite disillusioned and
depressed over not keeping up with their peers, feeling left behind,
unwanted, and forgotten by the Mahanta. They see others who are
seemingly less deserving receiving initiations, whereas they, despite
being very devoted to eckankar and the associated disciplines, seem to
fall hopelessly behind.
Due to eckankar's policy that one not ever
request initiations, many suffer in silence, sensing justifiably that
something isn't quite right, yet fear to even ask about the possibility
of an error. In many cases, even when they do ask, they face a stony
silence from the org, or are told they are being "tested" spiritually,
when all that is needed is a quick check of the record.
This is one of
the way's such a system can inflict undue pain upon its members, and is
one reason I am taking the time to write about this in detail.
Soon doubts about our decision arose but they seemed superficial. I ignored the ever mounting references to cosmological forces, the zodiac, and other peculiarities, indulging myself that certain individuals were overtly "New Age."
Our new Waldorf school required participation from parents, and I threw myself into service with much enthusiasm working for what I believed to be a good cause. I volunteered to be on the school store committee to help raise funds. As an artist appreciating aesthetics and color, my first attempt at improvement was to transform the existing store into something with more pizzazz. I had hoped to use children's illustrations as part of the new decor, but I found it not to be acceptable. Not understanding what was wrong with my lovely collection of drawings, I put them away assuming that people just could not imagine the final effect.
So, instead, using my assortment cans of paint, I went to work transforming the blank walls with color. Soon, I received notes, phone calls, and a visit from one of the faculty who asked if I had permission to paint the walls as I had done. I answered that the store committee had given me the go ahead. Despite the disapproval, I thought the store looked much better than it had and was happy that sales increased.
During this time, I came up with a fundraising idea.
To help the store reach its financial goal, I designed a T-shirt to be printed with a small self-portrait drawn by each student in the school. I couldn't imagine a parent being able to resist buying one! Bundles of small squares of paper and black markers were distributed to teachers with instructions that each child should quickly draw a picture of themselves. These would be collected for me to have silk-screened.
My idea met with great opposition! I found out that markers were not permitted in Waldorf schools, no exceptions. I passed this off thinking that crayons and pencils were probably more environmentally sound, and I suggested that dark pencils could be used instead. The teachers were aghast; pencils were not allowed in the kindergarten.
After negotiation and hours at the copy machine reducing the large block crayon self-portraits and redefining the lines lost in the process, the T-shirts were eventually printed. They raised a nice sum for the school, but what was wrong with pencil line drawings? Along with these indiscretions, I had apparently inadvertently broken other rules and an inquisition took place before the faculty, accusing me of being "irreverent" and "nonsupportive".
As a member of a committee, I had been pressured to study the work of Rudolf Steiner but had rejected the imposition, intuitively equating Anthroposophy study with bible study. Apart from a photograph of Steiner that hung on the faculty lounge wall and the constant references to him, I hadn't a clue about the man. I assumed that he was indeed the scientist, educator and philosopher that the school purported him to be....
Tackling Steiner's Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom, I waded through his endless injunctions to try and fathom the "wet-on-wet" technique and found many clues:
"In painting, the line is a lie; the line is always part of the memory of life before birth. If we are to paint with a consciousness that extends across into the world of spirit, we must paint what comes out of the colour." (p. 68)
The wet paper, liquid paint, and large brushes are used to frustrate the possibility of line. Along with logical thinking at a young age, line is believed to affect the health in later life. But what of the paper with its cut, rounded corners and the "blobs" of color? According to Steiner, the astral body is a perfect circle. Perhaps that is the connection! He instructed that only liquid paint in pots could be used - in order to make the color shine inwardly. He explains his reasons in Colour:
"You will see that a yellow surface with definite boundaries is a repulsive thing; it is quite unbearable to artistic feeling. The soul cannot bear a yellow surface which is limited. We must make yellow paler at the edges, then paler still : in short the yellow must be full in the center, shining out into a still paler yellow. If we are to experience its inner nature we cannot imagine yellow in any other way." (p. 33)
As perplexing, is the added mystical significance of liquid paint:
"The `I' itself is within the colour. The human `I' and astral body are not to be separated at all from the colour; they live in colour and inasmuch as they are united with the colour they have an existence outside the physical body. It is the `I' and the astral body which reproduce colour in the physical and etheric bodies. That is the point." (p. 54)
It is impossible to go into detail concerning Steiner's heirarchies and decrees on color due to their sheer complexity and quantity, but it is important to note that contemporary Anthroposophists like McAllen endorse his views: "The colour sequence works as a cleansing-reorientation of the soul, helping the individuality to accept the present incarnation in a physical body." (p. 40) So, these wet-on-wet pictures are actual moral exercises exposing pupils to the healing influence of color. For instance, the use of yellow and blue in the kindergarten is a mystic weaving of the soul with the hereditary body, until the growth of secondary teeth, when the etheric body enters. On and on it goes. A rather bizarre benefit concerning the years spent experiencing these color exercises was more recently expressed in Drawing: From First Grade to High School: "It should help protect them from being sucked out altogether into the physical world." (p. 165)
Another idiosyncrasy I found in Steiner's book Colour is that "The soul lives in the actual colour of the skin ...Of all the varied colours in the world around us peach-blossom is the colour we would select as being the nearest to that of the human skin..."(p. 24) From reading Art Inspired by Rudolph Steiner, I discovered that the classroom walls must be painted with a transparent wash so that pupils can see through them into the spirit world. ( Now I understand why my paint job was such a shock!)
Just as the liquid paint had a mystic mission in preparing the well-reincarnated for the new world order, so too do all the myths, legends, and fairy tales Steiner adopted in his Anthroposophical pantheon and Waldorf curriculum. This was born out in Colour where he expresses his doctrine:
"Until we have thoroughly overcome the habit of inquiring in terms of symbols and allegories and of interpreting myths and legends allegorically and symbolically, and start sensing the breath of the spirit that weaves throughout the cosmos and feel its life in the figures of myths and fairy tales - until we do this we shall not have attained real spiritual knowledge." (p. 68)
Of particular interest is Albanese’s attention to the hermetic background of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other founding figures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The idea of buried plates of revelation requiring magic to be discovered and understood is derived, she believes, from Native American beliefs, and other key Mormon teachings are heavily indebted to the strains that flowed into the tradition of Hermes, notably the enormous influence of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth-century Swede of Lutheran background who impressively joined undoubted scientific learning to prodigious flights of metaphysical imagination. Mormon concepts such as the coequality of matter and spirit, the eternal covenant of celestial marriage, and the ultimate destiny of human godhood, she suggests, are all drawn from the fusion of Hermes and Christianity going back to the Italian Renaissance.
There is no doubt, she contends, that Joseph Smith and others in the nineteenth-century religious world of upstate New York were intimately familiar with, and engaged by, this centuries-long history of hermeticism. “Swedenborg, in effect, had articulated in one form or another a number of the major tenets of Mormon theology as Joseph Smith put it forward through his revelations.” Joseph Smith’s heavenly realm “was inhabited by a God suspiciously similar to Swedenborg’s Divine Human and to the Hermetic vision in general.”
Mormonism was of a piece, says Albanese, with other movements that were not so much post-Christian as moving Christianity in strange directions. Universalism, for instance, “evoked the mystical boundary where Christianity touched Hermeticism and where, in its 19th century embodiment, a progressivist Romantic vision came to dominate numbers of American spiritual quests. The God who loved humans and sought to ‘happify’ them was also the God who beckoned along a road to ever-increasing perfection and so ever-greater spiritual power.”
What I would warn you about is that their meetings are set up to induce a trance state - the purpose of the chanting and recitation at the beginning is the same as the singing, praying, and recitations at the beginning of a Christian church service. Those create an endorphin release, which relaxes the audience and renders them suggestible by disabling their critical thinking. Once lulled into that trance state, people are far more likely to accept unquestioningly everything they're told.
Most of the people you'll be meeting in SGI have a raging endorphin habit going - they're endorphin junkies, so they won't want to go too long between the extended chanting sessions that provide them their "fix". There are a lot of WAY healthier ways to get an endorphin boost - going for a walk or a run, doing a favorite hobby (like painting or playing a musical instrument), going out with friends, even seeing a movie (BLACK PANTHER this weekend!!!!!!!!).
Some of the isolation techniques to watch out for - they use a private language that "outsiders" don't understand, so when you start learning this private language, if you want to discuss ideas that incorporate those concepts, you'll have to discuss them with another SGI member. Nothing unusual there. However, that's one step to getting you to isolate yourself.
The chanting practice is also isolating - even when you're doing it with others, you're not interacting with them in anything approaching a healthy social scenario. The practice - morning and evening - will isolate you, because you can't be both interacting with someone and chanting single-mindedly, y'know?
BlancheFromage 2 points 10 months ago
I asked a friend that meditates a lot why I feel better when I chant, she replied that I developed a habit over the years.
This is something we have analyzed in some detail - here are some links if you want to see the material for yourself. Long story short - if your SGI connection told you to "Try it for 90 days and you can see for yourself whether it works or not", that person did not tell you that's how long it takes to get a habit established. If that person had said, "Try it for 90 days (or 100 days) and by then it will have turned into a habit you'll have trouble breaking", would you have been willing to try? That's the standard invitation into the cult, BTW - I don't know if they're still doing that, but there it is. Do ANYTHING for 90 days and it becomes a habit. And you're more likely to continue with something once it's become a habit.
Chanting is an unhealthy practice that can create an endorphin dependency habit that can be difficult to break, just like any habit. The life of the person chanting the magic chant is passing him/her by just as surely as the life of the opium addict lying on a couch in thrall to beautiful drug-induced visions. We do not condone that sort of time-wasting here. Source
The time a person spends chanting is time that is forever lost. This is bad for several reasons:
1) Spending that time further isolates the person 2) Spending that much time alone within one's own thoughts, especially chanting to bend reality to one's will, simply reinforces one's own attachments and delusions 3) Being isolated and within one's own mind will cause one's social skills to atrophy and degrade
It is in a cult's interests to isolate the members within the cult and its practices. SGI is no different.
All that time chanting, all that time going to activities - this leaves less time for outside interests and outside friends.
People who have been SGI members for any length of time will likely have no friends at all "on the outside" - this serves SGI's purposes wonderfully. When all your friends are inside the cult, that raises the costs of leaving for you, because you know you're going to walk out alone.
What passes for "friendship" within SGI is "we see each other at SGI activities". You KNOW that without your shared belief in SGI, you have nothing in common to serve as a basis for a friendship. And you've heard how they talk about people who leave, so you know what they're going to be saying about you after you're gone.
No one will be willing to risk being seen with such a "bad apple".
Chanting produces an endorphin addiction
Chanting meditations not recommended
There's a reason that SGI meetings all start with gongyo and chanting. It's the same reason church services always start with hymns and shared recitations/call-and-response style segments. The music/singing/chanting and recitations serve to induce a trance state, in which the person being thus affected unawares "feels better" and is rendered more suggestible, more gullible, more open to accepting whatever the speaker is then going to pour into his/her consciousness. It's a tactic to disable critical thinking. And it works.
When you stop doing something that has become a habit, you will inevitably feel an empty space in your psyche. RE: SGI membership, I refer to this as a "cult-shaped hole".
For example, let's suppose you get laid off from work. You go home, go to sleep, wake up the next morning - and you automatically start your routine of getting ready for work! But you don't have a job to go to now! Sure, you can get busy looking for work and filling out applications, but it's going to feel weird and awkward - you're suddenly aware there's a job-shaped hole in your psyche.
And you may well feel anxious and stressed until you find some other similar job that fits into that hole.
When a person leaves SGI, they suddenly have a lot more free time because no more activities, particularly if they see no reason to continue with the personal practice. What I recommend is to try a breathing meditation instead. It's something you can do anywhere. What you do is to start taking deep, slow breaths and focus entirely on the sound of your own breath, the feeling of the air coming into your nose and down into your lungs, the feeling of your chest expanding, and then the sound and feeling of the air being expelled.
It's very relaxing, and will provide you with a different way of calming yourself/relaxing until you've managed to break your chanting habit.
The longer you don't do something, the less you'll feel driven to do it. When people leave a cult, they often feel "I must find a different religion to do instead." Unfortunately, having just left a cult, the hole is cult-shaped, so it's VERY likely this person will end up diving right into another cult. The longer this person can hold off on joining a religion, the less likely s/he will end up saddled with another cult.
Now that you have all this time freed up, think about all the things you used to enjoy that you didn't have time for because SGI. Think of the things you might have enjoyed trying, TV shows you kind of wanted to watch but didn't have time. Now you can get caught up! One of the first TV shows I watched post-SGI was HBO's The Tudors. I'd wanted to see it years back, but we didn't have HBO and besides, I was too busy with SGI. Really enjoyed that one.