How to Test a Lodge or Sect or Tariqa
It might be asserted that one must be a servant of others in order to burn off one's bad karma or sanskaras and thus learn to serve God.
Please consider that most Westerners who are spiritual aspirants tend to be kind people. Very few become aspirants because they have had happy, joyous lives. Most have already endured a lot of hardship that has led us to ask
big questions about God, justice, why so many suffer.
And, just to earn a living and pay rent, many of us already submit our egos just to get jobs and then stay employed. At work we submit to the whims of others. We already struggle to stay sane - or at least stay courteous -- when in gridlock on the freeway.
We clam up when someone loud and confrontational shoves through the subway car and tries to start a fight. Or when an intimidating group sit in the back, turn up their boom boxes and scream greetings and cuss words out the windows at friends.
There is already a shameful wealth and privilege gap between the upper 1% and the rest of us - gap that is growing larger by the day.
Ask yourself if this Sufi lodge you so want to join could be a replica of the unjust society and economy that is already mauls and coarsens you. You have every right to find out their actual stance on money, property and prestige before you risk your own privacy.
And, if you should by some remarkable fluke, happen to have access, whether earned or inherited, to money and privilege, subjecting yourself to humiliation and abuse will not equip you to handle your resources benevolently.
Please note a group may seem uninterested in your money or social background. But they may do this to reassure you. Some gurus have been known to refuse offers from wealthy disciples, making sure this is done publicly so that stories are told of this. But later, that same guru will find ways for wealthy disciples to give support. But -- it is always the gurus initial refusal of large sums of money that will be remembered and talked about.
Look around. If you see expensive buildings and gardens, perfect complexions, elegant clothes, perfect hairdos and perfect teeth -- the guru or sheikh is getting support, no matter how many tales are told of Lady Poverty.
If you are tricked and conned into giving your wealth to an oppressive leader and hierarchy, that will assist the lodge or tariqa to extend the oppression yet further. Your prestigious presence might make a
a covertly exploitative fiefdom appear attractive and benevolent.
Before joining any
group or sect, find out its actual history. Do not
go by what you are told in its approved literature. Get outside sources.
Find out how the ordinary members are treated. Find out if anyone has left this lodge or tariqua
, how they were treated before and after they left.
Do your reading outside of the literature published by the sect. They may
be using literature that is based on out of date sources.
Do some research and find out if there are any other sects besides this one. You have the right as a citizen, as a human being, to do this. You show respect for your own life, your own dignity as a human person, by doing this. .
If you profess Islam you
have a special responsibility to see that a lodge will make you a better Muslim and help you serve the entire Muslim community, not cause you to
isolate from the larger community and merely be an inmate of the lodge and just one more servant to its living leader.
Conversion to a sect is similar in some ways to dating someone.
If you know or suspect you have grown up in a secret ridden
family, you will re-enact your suffering if you unknowingly enter
a church or lodge that is full of its own 'family secrets.'
The vibe may feel homelike and familiar, but that is because it
matches the unconscious landscape of your internalized taboos.
Begin by finding out who its leaders have been. All of them
. If there
are gaps in the leadership record, find out why. Was a leader kicked
out in disgrace and then scrubbed from the group history?
Was a genuinely wise and saintly candidate rejected for succession with an egregiously unfit person being chosen as sheikh?
What properties does the group actually own? Do these have unnecessarily
expensive features that could be a drain on resources, both financial and human? If you are expected to give substantial donations of time and money,
ask if you want to be care taker of a vanity palace. The earliest proto -Sufis were Islamic renunciates who were troubled by the urban wealth of the Abbasid Caliphate. (Sufism: A Global History
2012 by Nile Green and Sufism: The Formative Period
2007 by Ahmet T Karamustafa)
A further consideration if you are expected to give donated labor (aka 'sweat equity" -- suppose you sustain an injury while doing this? Twist an ankle while
taking care of the lodge garden, skid on a marble pavement while rushing to do something or other. How is your medical care going to be paid for? How will this affect your outside job? Who will take care of you if you have trouble managing a cast, getting in and out of your shower?
If you are expected to pay for any injuries you sustain while donating labor to care for a lodge's property, and that property just happens to be large and especially if that property is luxurious and high maintainance, ask what this has to do with love and with God?
Meanwhile, find out if the group has a governing board. Are family members of
former Masters members of that board? If so, ask if these DNA board members have access to the group's finances and if so, whether their use of group funds
is transparent, or kept a secret. Is board membership electoral by all members? Or is it a closed shop? Find out which.
Are disciples expected to give free labor to take care of houses, gardens belonging to board members and relatives of former Masters? Drive them to the airport? Run errands? Give them haircuts? Do their laundry?
Do these board members and relatives of former Masters get fancy lodging in buildings belonging to the tariqua? Are disciples expected to wait on them, cook for them, be servants?
Your time and life are valuable. You don't know how much longer you have to live.
You deserve to know if by entering a lodge, you are serving God, or being
conned into becoming wait staff for a bunch of people who, merely by getting there first, or by sheer luck of DNA are high rankers.
Two, what if you go on to marry and have children while in this tariqa or lodge?
You want your kids to grow up in a situation uncluttered by secrecy, where
any disputes about money property and prestige are honestly and openly
documented and discussed, rather than being unspoken secrets.
What if you've been told that the sect is the only one of its kind, and you do independent research and learn that the sect is actually a splinter group that
split off from an older sect.
What was the history behind this quarrel? A dispute over money, property, prestige? Concern that leadership was going in an increasingly dictatorial
direction? Board membership becoming a closed corporation based on wealth rather than merit?
A sect that fails to disclose its full history makes it impossible for us to make a fully informed decision whether to join -- or to remain a member.
A disciple has the *right* to test a teacher or group by doing these things.
First, because discernment is important when assessing spiritual matters.
All too often a teacher or group may be on best behavior when courting you, and during the early stages of your participation.
Doing this kind of research is not negativity. It is respect for yourself
and based on humble knowledge of your vulnerabilities, the ways you know you are malleable. Recognition of your specific areas of vulnerability is actually the best form of personal empowerment. Knowing where you are "For Sale." .
Disagree. Do Take breaks. Do research.
Especially if they expect you to report to a minder or mentor.
If you are worried about a a friend or family member, ask,
"How do they treat former members?
"How do they react when you disagree?
"Have you ever voiced a disagreement---and have refused to back down?"
If your friend or relative gets upset with you, or goes chilly, all you
can do is say, "If you feel this way now, you may feel much more this way
"You can always call me."
Another test -- and a good test.
"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes
H.D. Thoreau"Beware any sect or group if you cannot tolerate their taste in clothing, visual arts, music, decor."
Ask yourself if you actually **like** the aesthetics of a group or sect.
Especially if this is a situation in which you may spend years of your life.
Be honest and own recognize what you actually enjoy and what aesthetics turn you off or make you squirm. This is a link to your true self.
Ignore any claim that you should be 'tolerant' and subject yourself to an aesthetic environment and dress code that you just cannot stand.
If you detest the aesthetics of a sect, you will vandalize your inner life.
Remember, you have to tolerate a lot of annoying stuff if you share work space and make allowances if your kids adore art or cartoons that you just don't like.
Society pressures us to accommodate. Don't sell out your actual likes and dislikes when it comes to art, clothing, interior decoration. .(BTW: Never, ever select a dog or cat or other pet based on dictates of a guru or sect. Never get rid of a beloved animal if some guru pushes at you to do so.)
Suppose you get a new Master who happens to be allergic to animals?
Will you give your beloved pet away to accommodate this person?
If you are repeatedly invited to their events or orientations and you
notice a uniformity of dress or favored color, wear something out of kilter, or slightly out of kilter. If they all seem to favor white, beige, or pale 'ethereal' shades of colors, wear darker versions of those same colors or a different color altogether.
You want to find out how they treat dissidents now, not after you have been in for years at a time.
The old stories are replete with examples of teachers testing the disciples' loyalty.
IMO, the testing process should be reciprocal and remain that way.
So long as you are docile and go with the flow, you can never learn
whether love is genuine or just theatre, whether the smiles are genuine or
Here's how to do it. Or have your friend do it.
If they try to talk you out of it, run guilt trips, give you hell when you return -- they want to own you.
If they spit out their tea and jump, when you mention what you learned
after doing outside reading on the groups' background -- you remain at your peril.
Better, far better to learn this early in the relationship than to discover this after ten plus years
If you feel afraid to do any of this, this fear is a signal that something is amiss.
Being required to attend each and every meeting or class and being scolded, glared at, if you do not - that is beneath one's adult dignity.
So be concerned if you are expected to report to the equivalent of a probation officer. After all, you are most likely not a criminal; most American
spiritual seekers tend to be nice people.
(If you do have a heavy past, have done things you are now ashamed of,
be careful whom you take into confidence on these matters.
You do not want to make yourself vulnerable to shaming or blackmail.
Any group which demands total confession as part of
its initiation process should be regarded with caution.
(What if the guru's favorite minion (or teenaged son) sneaks into disciple files and reads your their intimate disclosures?)
So before you go too far into membership, demand to know about confidentiality and get it in writing.
Don't back down on this.
Finally, there is no reason for someone else to know about your finances or your sex life. Any set up that claims you must tell them about these matters
is robbing you of the inner privacy needed for true spiritual development.
Drug use should remain your own business, unless you are living in a
residence where house rules forbid ETOH or drugs on premises.
If a spiritual tradition forbids or discourages alcohol or drug use, disciples should be trusted to follow guidelines on their own without any need to submit to interrogation from mentors or the guru.
A genuine spiritual community will not keep files on members.Signs of Emotional Inbreeding, Social Inbreeding and Loss of Autonomy
* Does nearly everyone have a similar psychological profile --such as being offspring of abusive or addicted families? It is all too easy to share the same
fear of conflict, and this can lead to a high degree of group submissiveness. This could be called 'emotional inbreeding.'
* Member's children have the same small network of care providers and babysitters. This can make it difficult to entertain doubts or to leave. You've
become dependent on childcare provided within this community; your kids
are friends with other member's kids. All too easy to swallow one's
misgivings and stay in for the sake of these amenities.
* Instead of hiring outside help for gardening and house repair, members
get these services from other members. Its all convenient, but it can
serve to keep things secret. To leave the group means re-learning how
to take competitive bids for painters, contractors, etc.
* Similar décor in members' houses. Similar taste in music, similar
modes of dress.
* Most members consult the same small group of therapists, florists,
interior decorator, massage therapists.
* Members patronize the same small cluster of restaurants.
* Members socialize with each other and tend drop or distance from friends outside the group.
This close social support and mentoring may feel very sweet and nurturing at first. Like the bar at Cheers
"where everybody knows your name."
But without a tight guarantee of confidentiality to ensure your privacy and autonomy, things can go off kilter.
Here are some fear and bondage tactics:
The leader has such a high rank in the cosmnos that he or she
is targeted by bad energies or malign forces and that doubts
and bad thoughts from disciples will make the leader sick. This can
replicate a small child's terror that bad thoughts make Mommy or
Allegations and hints that former members have all suffered misfortune.
A lengthy indoctrination period in which you are forbidden to take
breaks without permission. Makes sense during military basic training.
But -- boot camp takes place by schedule. There is a designated end - point
for basic training. Boot camp does not go on for ever.
(And, you can find out what happens in boot camp before you sign up. Plenty of veterans will gladly tell you all about it.)
And in the military, there is a Uniform Code of Military Justice - justice is supposed to take place by rule of law, not the egotistical whim or favoritism
of the commander.
Officers do not presume to know what
God wants or what is best for your soul. They tell you they're there to train your asses, not your souls.
In the armed forces, you choose your chaplain - or none at all.
But -- we are not talking about boot camp.
We are talking about spiritual growth that is compatible with citizen
These are questions consider right now instead of waiting ten or more years,
when you may be so embedded that you cannot get out. (As in getting married
within the group, having kids, then discovering you dare not leave for
fear of losing visitation of your children.)
Reasons to ID an end point for apprenticeship.
The period of submission to a minder may go on for so long that
you forget where the exit signs are. You become docile.
You risk becoming used to supervision.
This is analogous to what happens when women spend too much time in high heeled footwear. Without those spike heels, they find they cannot walk comfortably. That footwear gave them glamour yet robbed them of physical stability and mobility
Let us look at the effect that emotional and social inbreeding may have on you - you become compliant in ways you cannot easily recognized.
If you happen to be an adult child from an alcoholic family, you may
be adept at becoming a psychological chameleon, mimicking social context
but losing oneself in the process. If a large number of ACA's are recruited
into a sect, this chameleon phenomenon may be pervasive. Feels deeply intimate
but this is a matching of coping strategies, it is not true communion of soul.
Over time, you may
become accustomed to answering to someone and, without realizing it,
become submissive, become an inmate. You subconsciously avoid deeds and
reading matter that you sense your minder and sect friends would disapprove of.
Your first mentor may pass you on to a new mentor, and it may be framed as an honor, if that person has prestige in the group. But...you're still
answering to an authority figure, albeit a more prestigious one. .
Or, you may be punished by assignment to a less prestigious minder. You go
into a funk and become more eager to please and succeed in regaining approval.
You forget that you once lived quite competently without needing to answer to
Without a clearly designated end point where you graduate from needing a minder, months, then years go by. You risk becoming used to asking permission, answering to an authority figure. Worse, you risk becoming used to scolding, admonishment, and come to distrust your own judgment.
Over time, you may lose ability to enjoy being on your own. You may become
afraid of freedom.
Another way you may be trapped.
If you let yourself remain submissive to a minder, you maybe targeted
for subtle promotion -- you're invited or ordered to become a mentor to
someone newly arrived or a prospective recruit.
You're likely to feel flattered and also eager to please.
You continue to report to your own mentor, about your progress and your
behavior, and at the same time report on your own protégé.
Your genuine friendships with outsiders may, without your awareness,
be turned into recruitment. Your minder may ask you about these friends,
ask if they show any openness to spiritual matters. This is how
you may be shaped to become a recruiter.
Without realizing it, you have spent years adjusting to life in a network
of tightly monitored relationships. You lose ability to enjoy freedom.
You may even tell yourself this is good for you, that its character building.
Without realizing it, you've become an inmate in a set up where your
training was supposed to be time limited. You've forgotten where the exit
signs are. You've been kept busy, precisely so you will forget.
If writing letters is part of the group's practice, how will confidentiality
be maintained? Who will read your letters? Demand clear answers and a guarantee in writing. What happens to your letters when the present guru dies?
If you've written a lot of intimate letters to your mentor or the guru, you
may subconsciously feel afraid. You've given over a large part of yourself and
cannot stand to admit that you entrusted all these letters. You may shut down
doubts because you feel intolerable fear if you face that your letters are
now in the hands of people who may be unworthy of your love and trust. Your
letters, once so trustfully written, may contain disclosures that could
hurt people you know and love.
So, that is why one must ask questions about confidentiality at the start of
So, after all that time answering to a minder, you forget you've not had a vacation by yourself and that you used to enjoy
a lot of things you've abandoned doing so as to adjust to this subtly
demanding, ever smiling group.
New scenario. Someone in the group goes out of line. Reveals secrets, or
aroused the Master's unconscious hangups.
You get called in. You are told to describe what you saw and heard X say and do. You may be asked who sympathizes with X.
You may be asked, even ordered to disclose what someone has said.
What if your report to a guru leads to punitive banishment/expulsion of
a group member who trusted you?
How are you going to live with that? Face your conscience, or stuff it
all and trust that Master Knows Best?
If you answer to minders, you may be trained, without even knowing it,
to become a henchman, even part of the surveillance network through
which a seemingly benign and loving group actually exerts inner
domination through submission, fear, erosion of boundaries and
Best to think about this now
, and test what kind
of a society this is.
Ask yourself what is so freaking important that you must answer to someone
for a period of months and years with no clear finish point?
Most spiritual traditions allow for people to go home for holidays, with
no requirement to answer to the monastery or ashram, apart from being
expected to return by a set date.
Be wary if required to sign promises of multi incarnation contracts or non disclosure clauses on pain of damnation or rebirth in some hellish place.
So, be cautious about being required to accept supervision from someone
and especially if you must not only disclose your thoughts, your conversations, your reading, but especially if you must get
permission to take breaks or go out of town.
A more robust test is to take a break. After a few days out of town, send
a message that you're doing fine and that you had to take care of business.
Say nothing else.
If you catch flak, these are people who want to own you.
If your therapist happens to be a member of the group (bad sign -- that is a dual relationship, which is forbidden by professional ethics guidelines) -- if your therapist is a member of the group, don't even tell the therapist you are taking a break. He or she may try to talk you out of it.
Instead, give plenty of notice prior to the next appointment, state you'll be back, by X date, then ignore your phone and emails.
Then, see what they do to you. If you feel afraid to do this -- that in itself is a bad sign.
One only knows a relationship is toxic when one exercises autonomy - by disagreeing, by taking a break and not asking for permission to do so.
If they exile you or kick you out -- good.
You've dodged a toxic bullet.
A note on sufi colors and clothing.
Contrary to the modern stereotype, white is not an especially sufi color.
Rumi's Mevlevi Sufis wear white robes in their dances, but this order was wealthy and had brick and mortar lodges (tekes)-- and Rumi lived nearly two centuries after Hujwiri's time -- when very many Sufis and Sufi orders had become wealthy and supporters of the Establishment. White garments are only feasible if one has housing and laundry facilities.
Here is what Hujwiri in his 11th century manual on Sufi praxis (Kashf al-Mahjub
)wrote. Hudjwiri gives many anecdotes which illustrate the range of clothing options, but most of the descriptions are of woolen and patched frocks, and that the travel costume was often blue.
"The Wearing of Patched Frocks
"Now, as to their garments being mostly blue(kabud), one of the reasons is
that they have made wandering (siydhat) and travelling the foundation of their Path, and on journeys a white garment does not retain its original appearance, and besides, everyone covets it.
"Another cause is this, that a blue dress is the badge of the bereaved and afflicted, and the apparel of mourners, and this world is the abode of trouble, the pavilion of affliction, the den of sorrow, the house of parting, the cradle of tribulation......one wears blue for the death of a dear friend; another for the loss of a cherished hope."
So one could be whimsical and in modern idiom suggest that the sufi wanderers were "blue collar" workers in God's service.
Corboy. White garments are easily soiled and result in laundry expenses. It is a hardship to demand that workers use white uniforms unless both the company both pays for the uniform and the laundry costs.)Full text of Nicholson's translation of
Kashf al Madjub here:
If anyone like this showed up at a white clothed gathering, would
they be recognized as salik
-- or would someone call 911?
Later versions of the patched frock could be flamboyant.
Down to basics:
Sufism is part of the Orthodoxy and is not distinct from it, it is the heart of Islam. Haqiqah and Shariah come together, they both go hand-in-hand. There is no tasawuff without laws, nor there is any merit in adopting the laws without tasawuff. This video tries to show that the likes of our masters Jalaluddeen ar Rumi, expressed the non significance of Shariah, which is a distortion of what he truely meant from his proses/poetry.
Jalaluddin Ar Rumi spoke of haqiqah and shariah in such terms ," To be a real Sufi, is to be to the Prophet Muhammad sallahu aliye wasalam just as Abu Bakr was to him, peace be upon him."
Shaykh al-Akbar Muhiyuddeen Ibn Arabi mentions,"When we see someone in this Community who claims to be able to guide others to Allah, but is remiss in but one rule of the Sacred Law - even if he manifests miracles that stagger the mind - asserting that his shortcoming is a special dispensation for him, we do not even turn to look at him, for such a person is not a sheikh, nor is he speaking the truth, for no one is entrusted with the secrets of Allah Most High save one in whom the ordinances of the Sacred Law are preserved "
Corboy: If a group calls itself sufi but actually spends most of its effort teaching members about reincarnation and dares offer therapies on past life regression, please wait.
Instead, look up some professors of Islamic and Sufi studies at reputable universities.
Ask them if this stuff has anything to do with sufism and tassawuf.
If you are going to spend money, attention and years of your life,
at least give it to a genuine tradition, not a jumble sale of
doctrines thrown together at someone's fluctuating whim.
The last thing you need is to become one more member of some guru's private
court, one more purveyor of emotional supplies to a guru who is an imaginary monarch at some gimcrack Versailles or Petit Trianon.
Edited 21 time(s). Last edit at 10/20/2015 09:16PM by corboy.