Confidential to "s":
I want to thank you for a comment you recently wrote which rings very true to me in light of recent personal developments. You said"
"I personally would not want to work in an office or teaching situation (both of which I have experienced)when there is a basic ethical problem that is not being addressed."
I recently considered applying for a job at the "Best Friends" no-kill animal sanctuary in Utah, but when I did a little research I learned that the founders of the shelter are the same people who founded the Process Church of the Final Judgment cult in the 1970's. The shelter was even incorporated as an off-shoot of the cult was it was set up with the IRS. In recent interviews these founders downplay every aspect of the former cults teachings and practices as "youthful enthusiasm" or naievete.
These are the same people who started out by establishing the Church of Scientology in England, before decamping to the US to get a cut of the lucrative American market by setting up their own outfit. Their 'religious' philosophy which equated Christ with Satan was also stolen and used to spectacularly destructive ends by Charlie Manson--who named his group "the family" after the first order of initiation in the Process Church hierarchy.
Needless to say, I'm no longer applying for work at "Best Friends". They may have gone on to do great things for animals, but I can't imagine what late night conversations must be like out in the Utah desert with no one but that bunch of lunatics to talk with.
November 3, 2010 10:28 PM
I applaud you for not taking this at face value, researching and uncovering information which gives you much more to consider. It seems that many of us who graduated from SY now like to dig our heels into research and investigation before making a leap into a committment. I like to consider this the field work of self inquiry.
In 1996, a book was published locally (in Forres) that documented the fate of several dissidents.
The Foundation responded by suppressing the book to a notable degree.
Staff members ignored the contents, and in 2002 the prohibited work was declared on the web as being not worthy of a review. The Foundation management instigated this questionable development, and in the face of favourable reviews appearing in more responsible quarters (including ICSA).
The book was entitled Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, and the British author was ex-member Stephen J. Castro. Amongst other matters, Castro documented the problematic phase of Holotropic Breathwork, which was conveniently forgotten by the management. See further Findhorn Foundation: Problems (2009).
The alternative philosophy of the Findhorn Foundation was superficial in the estimation of critics, despite the elaborate partisan attempts to portray all criticism as being a purely subjective matter, a projection of the critic’s own mind. Alternative therapy ignored criticism and dissidents, and instead gave lip service to the meaningless theme of “conflict resolution.”
Observers noticed that for many years the American “channelled” book known as A Course in Miracles was conspicuous in the activities of Cluny Hill College, the Foundation therapy centre in Forres. A major sentiment was forgiveness, which never applied to dissidents. Unconditional love was another of the unconvincing themes in circulation.
The more literate subscribers to this curriculum were known to read books by Ken Wilber, Stanislav Grof, and Fritjof Capra.
The general partisan consumption was fed with numerous fads and doubtful menus varying from Aleister Crowley magic to the discourses of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The Foundation bookshop was criticised by a female dissident who was not permitted to gain any democratic hearing.
Influence and The New American Wing
Robert Cialdini's book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, describes many of the ways in which people influence each other. At first glance, I thought the book was about marketing, and about the techniques used by sales professionals to cause people to buy their products. However, a friend of mine repeatedly praised the book as a great tool for understanding some of the dynamics within cults, and so I finally broke down and read it. I was not disappointed - the book is excellent, and it illuminated many different aspects of my own cult experience.
From 1991 to 1994, I was an active member of The New American Wing (NAW), a consciousness cult based on the ideas of G.Gurdjieff and P.D.Ouspensky. After having been a fan of Ouspensky's "Fourth Way" books for a couple years, I was excited when I first discovered this group, and began by attending meetings twice a week. After about a year of increasing involvement, I moved into a house with other "students". After another year, I moved to the NAW's headquarters: a small farm outside Lexington, Kentucky. My responsibilities within the group had steadily increased with time, and by this point I was spending all my available time (outside my day job) with this group. I lived with them, paid them a great deal of money, believed in much of their dogma, and participated in various recruiting activities. My mental and physical life was consumed with their ideas and practices.
But my commitment was not complete. In fact, this was very clear to me throughout those years because I saw it as a weakness, as a failure to devote myself entirely to the one thing in my life which really mattered. Now, looking back, I cannot be more grateful for this "weakness", because I know recognize it as the voice of reason that finally allowed me to leave. There were others who were more completely devoted to the group and its leaders, and I wonder what kind of drastic miracle would be needed to shake them from their dream now.
The NAW is a "cult" in the truest sense of the word. Even though many dictionaries define "cult" as a religious community, it is coming to be understood in terms of a particular kind of group behavior rather than in relation to any professed dogma. In other words, a cult does not necessarily imply some kind of mystical or spiritual orientation, although the NAW certainly has its share of these. The NAW can be called a cult because of the nature of the relationships between everyone involved, particularly the relationship between the "teachers" and the "students".
This is where Influence becomes so valuable. A participant in such a cult is constantly under pressure to align their thinking with the group ideals, and Cialdini's book shines a light on many of the subtle forms used in this process of persuasion. In the following sections, I will discuss a few of his insights and how they relate to my experience in the New American Wing.
Commitment and Consistency
You can use small commitments to manipulate a person's self-image; you can use them to turn citizens into "public servants", prospects into "customers", prisoners into "collaborators." And once you've got a man's self-image where you want it, he should comply naturally with a whole range of your requests that are consistent with this view of himself. (page 74)
This sums up the key technique in the process of cult indoctrination: the more I define myself in terms of the group, the more complete is my devotion to the cause. And once this occurs, it is requires no further effort on the part of the group - I will do whatever is asked precisely because I see myself as the kind of person who is committed to these sorts of things. Cialdini describes several ways in which this shift in identity occurs.
One idea is that we generally judge people by how they act, even ourselves. And therefore, if we repeatedly find ourselves acting in a particular role, we will gradually come to identify with that role and will eventually see it as a natural and immutable expression of who we are. Experiments have shown that this process can occur even while we consciously subscribe to beliefs opposed to the role we are playing.
There are various ways to encourage a person to take on a new role, and one involves writing. Cialdini describes how this technique was used by the Chinese against prisoners captured in the Korean war:
Writing was one sort of confirming action that the Chinese urged incessantly upon the men. It was never enough for the prisoners to listen quietly or even to agree verbally with the Chinese line; they were always pushed to write it down as well. So intent were the Chinese on securing a written statement that if a prisoner was not willing to write a desired response freely, he was prevailed upon to copy it. ... But, oh, those "harmless" concessions. ... Not only was it a lasting personal reminder of his action, it was also likely to persuade those around him that the statement reflected his actual beliefs. (page 76-77)
Writing was also very important within the NAW. During formal meetings, each student was absolutely required to take written notes. The rationale was this: by writing down the information, I involve both my mental and physical sides, and therefore have more of a chance of acquiring the knowledge because I am attempting to assimilate it with my whole being. However, even while my intellect may have retained some sense of critical thinking, I was also experiencing myself as "a person who finds these ideas important enough for written notes".
Our writing did not stop with simple note-taking. We were also required to make written "observations" throughout the day, as we attempted to "verify the ideas". (Notice the presumption of truth in the phrase "verify the ideas", as though the only thing stopping me from accepting them was my own lack of effort - it does not allow the possibility that the ideas themselves may be flawed.) Most of the students carried small, pocket-sized spiral notebooks for these observations, and I personally went through about fifteen or so over my three-year stay.
Every few months we were required to write an essay concerning some aspect of "the Work" (a somewhat grandiose but popular name for our studies). Generally, this report (officially called "a pondering") would be several pages long, typewritten, and eventually presented orally to the rest of the group. Unlike the prisoners of war described above, the other students and I were actively trying to learn these ideas and apply them in our lives. Thus, these essays invariably presented some idea or another as absolute truth, backed by various anecdotal evidence.
This brings up another issue, the public presentation of one's "beliefs". By standing up in front of the group and reading such an essay out loud, I was publicly declaring my approval of the group ideology. After this, I would feel a greater need to live according to the ideas professed in my essay, to avoid the unpleasant feeling of being a hypocrite.
In other words, like everyone else, I want to see myself as a consistent personality, someone who acts in accordance with my words, a person without conflicting attitudes or behaviors. This acts as yet another force shaping my identity towards the ideal advertised by the cult dogma. Cialdini describes it like this:
Once an active commitment is made, then, self-image is squeezed from both sides by consistency pressures. From the inside, there is a pressure to bring self-image into line with action. From the outside, there is a sneakier pressure - a tendency to adjust this image according to the way others perceive us. And because others perceive us as believing what we have written (even when we've had little choice in the matter), we will once again experience a pull to bring self-image into line with the written statement. (page 76-77)
Of course, at the time, I interpreted this pressure as "additional force to carry out my aims". How naïve! Cialdini further describes many experiments which show that "the more public the stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it." (page 80)
The Inner Choice
Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won't get us to accept inner responsibility for the act. Consequently, we won't feel committed to it. The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment. (page 92-93)
The NAW did not simply have psychological rules, it also had rules which dictated certain outward behaviors. Many of these behaviors became habitual after a while, and, similar to the mandatory-note-taking rule, gradually produced a shift in my identity. Although I occasionally remembered that the behavior originated with a rule, my conscious experience was one of choosing to act that way from my own free will. What had originally been forced upon me was now being seen as my own choice.
For example, there were one or two formal group meetings each week. They would begin with stretching exercises and other physical movements, followed by a more cerebral discussion period. Usually the teachers would lecture on some esoteric subject, and then the rest of the meeting would involve student questions. We were supposed to bring deeply personal issues to these meetings, and ask the teachers for help. (These questions were almost always self-deprecating and felt like confessions of inner shame and failure, but that is the subject for another essay.)
This scene, repeated twice a week for years, had several interesting psychological side-effects. Students were required to ask these questions - not every week, but if we let more than a couple meetings pass without questions, we would be strongly encouraged to find something to ask. It was considered a "weakness in aim" or a "lack of valuation of the school" to not have questions for the teachers. When I first joined the group, I was full of questions, but over time, the ideology took a back seat, and our daily life was dominated by the teachers themselves and the activities going on within the organization. It is almost as though the Fourth Way ideas were a mere backdrop, the setting which provided the justification for the cult-like social structure. And yet the problem remained - I needed to continually invent questions. And because of the incredibly intense peer pressure, I struggled to find questions which would demonstrate the strength of my inner efforts and (ironically) my sincerity. We all eventually came to this. Looking back on those days now, it seems hilarious; all these people asking deeply personal core questions, yet all for show, because it was required, because no one wanted to look as though they weren't "working on themselves". For those who are still stuck there, I don't find it very funny at all.
Before the meeting, I would desperately try to find my question. It should have been an obvious clue that these were not my true "teachers" at all - their answers would always repeat the old clichés, and deep inside, I didn't need their advice at all and even knew what they would say ahead of time. But at the time, I was deaf to that inner voice, or at least it was inaudible in the presence of the overpowering influence of the group. I would go weeks without thinking of something to ask, and each week the others would look at me like some kind of impostor, as though I didn't deserve to belong to such as serious and dedicated group. The funny thing is that although I was painfully aware of their pressure beforehand (when fabricating a question), by the time I asked it in the meeting I had forgotten all that. It felt as though I was asking it for myself, as though I really wanted their opinion.
In other words, I had taken personal responsibility for the action, even though I was really doing it in response to powerful group pressure.
... compliance professionals [i.e. gurus] love commitments that produce inner change. First, that change is not just specific to the situation where it first occurred; it covers a whole range of related situations, too. Second, the effects of the change are lasting. So, once a man has been induced to take action that shifts his self-image to that of, let's say, a public spirited citizen [or a guru's disciple], he is likely to be public-spirited in a variety of other circumstances where his compliance may also be desired, and he is likely to continue his public-spirited behavior for as long as his new self-image holds. (page 97)
There were other requirements placed on students. We were required to watch other students for behavior that seemed to be "mechanical" - that is, lacking conscious intent. If we saw another student breaking a school rule, or behaving in a way that seemed "not useful to one's work", we were required to verbally describe the infraction to them. This was called "giving a photograph", the idea being that we were giving the person an opportunity to see themselves from another's point of view, and also to remind them to redouble their "inner efforts". In fact, the effect this actually had was to greatly intensify the pressure to conform. Thus, if I acted differently than the group norm, I would be explicitly encouraged to bring my behavior in line with their expectations. These "photographs" were almost always negative and delivered with an air of superiority, although people gave lip-service to the concept of "giving the photograph as a gift". Like the forced questions, this behavior became habitual and, in the moment, we usually forgot that we were really doing it because it was required of us. We felt that we were doing it from our own will, to help the other person.
In this type of environment, is it any surprise that people become both incredibly sincere and, at the same time, phenomenally unaware of their own motivations?
The appearance of authority [is] enough. This tells us something important about unthinking reactions to authority figures. When in a click, whirr mode, we are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance. There are several kinds of symbols that can reliably trigger our compliance in the absence of the genuine substance of authority. Consequently, they are employed extensively by those compliance professionals who are short on substance. Con artists, for example, drape themselves with the titles, clothes, and trappings of authority. (page 220-221)
The teachers were experts at producing the impression of authority. There was absolutely no doubt who was in control.
At first, I noticed that they knew a lot more about "The System" than me. Supposedly, they had been studying it for decades. They made large posters with diagrams and special terminology. They read the books during their spare time. They were the ones that determined when we were ready for new information. Since they knew more about the system, and the system attempted to describe the psychological condition of mankind, it was natural to infer that they also knew a lot about themselves. Soon I learned that they each claimed to be a "Man #6", a degree of enlightenment that suggested their spirit had attained some degree of immortality and omniscience. We were always reminded to "verify this for ourselves" but, of course, that remained impossible, and soon enough we would act as though it were true anyway.
It was nearly impossible to find a crack in their certainty. No matter what the circumstance, they always acted as though they knew exactly what was happening and where we had goofed up. They always knew a better way to accomplish something, be it self-observation, chopping tomatoes, or building a greenhouse.
To a student, this was incredibly intimidating, because we, on the other hand, were becoming less and less sure of ourselves. In every moment of our lives, we were constantly bombarded with criticism, being told how to do things differently, more efficiently, with more "consciousness."
These two processes worked together to form one profoundly unhealthy relationship. I became more and more passive, looking to others for guidance and expertise. The teachers became increasingly active and self-confidant, with a league of followers hanging on their every word as if it were some kind of divine nectar.
Supposedly, the longer one was involved in this system of study, the greater was one's level of psycho-spiritual insight. There was a clear system of rank, and everyone knew where they stood in the ladder of spiritual authority. We learned to obey orders from above, and to give orders to those below, all under the guise of "authority."
But, strangely enough, we had no way of really proving to ourselves that someone above us had a greater degree of understanding. There were vague suggestions of unusual powers, subtle hints of supernormal senses, mysterious clues dropped here and there all resulting in the overwhelming question in my mind, "do they really have something?"
I never knew, but the possibility alone was enough to keep me on my toes.
This was one of the biggest justifications for following their orders. I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for the opportunity to work with true spiritual guides; it would be stupid to not heed their advice. Perhaps they really did know something. And, more than anything else, I desperately wanted it to be true, I wanted to be involved in something truly miraculous.
The principle of social proof ... states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. (page 116)
Although the teachers were charismatic indeed, the biggest strength came from the league of already-devoted followers. They set the example for how to behave in every situation, how to interpret events, how to follow. These rules never had to be given out explicitly because they were obvious simply from watching the others.
When the teachers spoke, everyone listened. When they called a meeting, everyone came as fast as they could, sometimes even sprinting to get there. When they criticized a student, the student would never defend himself or describe another side to the situation. When they gave a student an instruction, he would immediately stop all other activities and begin the new task with gusto. When they made a joke, everyone would laugh, or at least smile. When they came home, we would try "to be as present as possible" psychologically. Over time, even our style of dress came to mimic that of the teachers.
Of all the rules in this group, these were the ones that were the most pervasive and rigid. These were the patterns that everyone immediately learned, without having to be explicitly taught. These were the forces that maintained the group's cohesiveness and rigid cult hierarchy.
And, of course, these are exactly the behaviors to which we were most blind.
Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests. (page 167)
New recruits were treated very kindly. Since they brought new life and energy into our stale and monotonous uniformity, everyone liked them, and we all tried to be nice and compassionate with them. After all, they were stepping into a new and intense environment which was entirely foreign, and we could remember being in their shoes. This warm welcome made it easy for the new student to form emotional bonds with the others, and eventually to consider themselves as part of the group.
Most of the members of the cult were also relatively lonely at the time of their initial involvement in the group. It has been well documented that loneliness and the need for social contact are among the most powerful forces that drive people into these kinds of groups. When I joined, and suddenly found myself with dozens of new and interesting friends, I was much more willing to suspend critical thinking because my loneliness - my most powerful and persistent suffering - had been eliminated, at least temporarily.
By the time this exaggerated friendliness had dissolved, I had already become one of them.
We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style. Consequently, those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in any of a wide variety of ways. (page 173)
If there is one word that describes the members of a closed spiritual community, it is probably the word "similar". The infamous Heaven's Gate cult is an excellent example, so similar they even attempted to become the same neutral gender! We were not quite that extreme, but the overall trend was the same. We lived the same lifestyle, ate the same food, spoke the same jargon, and obsessed about the same pseudo-spiritual ideas all day long. The teachings encouraged us to think of ourselves as existing outside "ordinary life", but our similarity was so complete that we already felt that way regardless.
And in this kind of environment, imitation and blind allegiance to the group becomes the unconscious norm.
Contrast and Scarcity
Like many other Eastern and New Age cosmologies, the Fourth Way suggests that we live multiple lifetimes. But unlike most other religions, we believed that individuals generally repeated the same life over and over, without significant change. The aim of a student, therefore, was to escape this cycle by becoming "conscious" and breaking out of the wheel of "recurrence". Further, within the NAW, it was taught that once we had entered a school, we had at most three lifetimes with which to complete our Work. In theory, the teachers were presumed to be "conscious" and outside this repetition, and they would not intentionally waste their efforts on a student who was unable to learn within three lifetimes of Work.
Once accepted, this belief was the foundation beneath many of the otherwise illogical commitments I made to the cult. Much its strength came from the two principles of contrast and scarcity.
There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference in two things that are presented one after another. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is. So if we lift a light object first and then lift a heavy object, we will estimate the second object to be heavier than if we had lifted it without first trying the light one. The contrast principle is well established in the field of psychophysics and applies to all sorts of perceptions besides weight. If we are talking to a beautiful woman at a cocktail party and are then joined by an unattractive one, the second woman will strike us as less attractive than she actually is. (page 11-12)
If our lives continually repeat, it makes one think of this individual lifetime as expendable, disposable - who cares what happens to me now if I'm going to live a million more lifetimes? If this life is just a drop in the bucket, I become much more willing to commit my life to the school because the relative cost is very low. If I have only one live to live, I will probably be very hesitant to give it up to just anyone, whereas if I believe I have an endless supply to spend, I will be much more willing to sacrifice one or two in the name of some higher cause.
... the scarcity principle [states that] opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited... The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. (page 238)
According to our ideology, I had at most two more chances to "awaken", to become "conscious" and escape the endless repetition of lifetimes. But, because I was young, the teachers suggested that I'd probably "been in The Work before," thus interpreting my early involvement in the group as a by-product of successful efforts in a previous life. Now, I no longer had an endless supply of lives with which to goof around in The Work - if I'd been involved before, this might be my last chance! With renewed dedication, I had to use this life to its fullest and devote myself entirely my own conscious evolution.
These two principles combined to form a powerful one-two punch. First, my valuation of this lifetime was drastically reduced by the belief that I had a limitless supply to spend. So I became much more willing to pay this small cost in the interests of higher consciousness. Next, in this vulnerable mindset, the final blow was dealt by suggesting that this might be my only chance. If I didn't act now, I might never again get the opportunity to develop, in any lifetime.
In the end...
Even now, years after leaving the NAW, I still wonder whether the teachers actually understood what they were doing. With so many adoring students, it is very possible that they came to believe in their own facade of authority, and actually acted with a clean (although buried) conscience. Judging from my own experience, I was certainly unconscious of my own role in influencing new recruits until long after I'd left.
In all likelihood, the teachers (Jim and Carolyn Kuziak) were probably not aware enough to have devised these rules intentionally. Evidence supports the idea that they learned how to run their organization from their teacher (James Randazzo), who, in turn, learned from his teacher (Robert Burton), and so on. This makes good sense from the perspective of the theory of natural selection: the groups that survive are the ones that make the best use of persuasion techniques and produce the most true believers, regardless of whether they are aware of these techniques or not.
As Cialdini's book demonstrates, these practices pervade society already. We do not need to join a cult to experience them, they are already all around us. But the first step in regaining control over these pressures is to become aware of them, and Influence provides an excellent starting point.
It is my sincerest wish that the existing and ex-members of the New American Wing begin to look at their experience from the new vantage points made possible by this book. For them, I want to pass on this advice, once given to me by a friend - the true learning in "school" does not begin until you leave!
An objective of subsequent malamatis at Nishapur was to conceal saintly accomplishments, even if they were in this manner misconstrued as being ordinary men.
Their code of self-criticism was inverted and abused in later centuries by nominal malamatis who merely liked to draw attention to themselves by bizarre actions or unconventional behaviour.
The original ideal was discernibly very different, and evidently required a high degree of self-control and a determination to resist the limelight and attendant distractions. The aim was to reduce egotism and pride in imagined spiritual advancement.
The subject of malamatism becomes complicated when it is understood that early exemplars at Nishapur gave different twists of meaning to the "path of blame."
There were both "extreme" and "moderate" malamatis, and at least among the latter, there were differences of emphasis between exponents. Hamdun al-Qassar (d.884) represented the "extreme" approach, his circle rigorously emphasising the programme of malamat al-nafs ("incurring blame on oneself"). The "moderate" party were inspired by Abu Hafs al-Haddad (d.c. 874-9) and his disciple Abu Uthman al-Hiri (d. 910).
Qassar was not only averse to the patched robe of the ascetic, but also to the subject of spiritual practices, which he is said to have criticised and denounced, his reason being that such exercises could create deceit. Whereas Haddad encouraged his pupils to undertake such exercises, although in a malamati context that apparently differed from the standard ascetic routines. His successor Abu Uthman al-Hiri taught a "middle path" between the two apparentlapparently contradictory forms of malamati teaching. "Both ways are correct; each, however, in its right time." (12)
According to Hiri, the disciple was initially to be trained in "the path of practices," as a result of which an attachment ensues, making the disciple dependent upon the favoured practices. The trainee had then to be shown the shortcomings of his pursuit, until he becomes aware that his spiritual practices have left him far from completion. (13)
any of the external trappings of conventional Islamic asceticism. He did not dress as a zahid, did not give the popular sermons that attracted credulous crowds, and nor did he undertake the constant pilgrimages which filled the agenda of many professional ascetics. Yet the details are so sparse that different interpretations are possible. Many, or even most, of the men described as malamatis in ninth century Nishapur evidently lived in the artisan and mercantile milieu of the Nishapur bazaar. It is possible to view Haddad as a blacksmith who became a malamati, but there is no certainty that he severed his link with the bazaar, especially if his own disciples were artisans and merchants in many instances. His name al-Haddad means "ironsmith."
There was an extension to this factor. Early malamatis seem to have identified with the attitude of altruistic self-sacrifice that marked the tradition of futuwwa - the name given to the system of crafts and professions in Khurasan, a system which promoted strict ethical standards and awarded precedence to fellow members of the fraternity rather than to oneself. There is here the complexity that the social futuwwa was given a mystical complexion by malamatis, a feature which persisted in later Sufism. The malamatis are thought to have adopted the term futuwwa (chivalry, literally "youth") as a code-name for a mystical stage, possibly meaning a novitiate prior to reaching the stage of "manhood" (rujuliyya)
“Despite the fact that there is no shame attached to following a pir (Sufi leader), it is the practice in some areas for disciples to keep secret their involvement with pirs. The reason for keeping this attachment a secret is difficult to ascertain, but it seems at least in part to keep the moral worlds of honor and Islam separate and thereby avoid the kinds of contradictions that ensue when the two overlap.
‘An alternative explanation is offered by an informant from Paktia Province who explained the practice as follows:
“Most disciples do not want to reveal that they are followers of a pir. They think that [revealing this fact] would be a way of projecting yourself as a good person, which is [an attitude] that Allah wouldn’t like. Basically, one becomes a disciple to seek guidance on the right path to Allah. One doesn’t do it for any other reason, and it should be kept secret as much as possible.
“In the case of our family, it happened so many times that one of our family members became a disciple without our even knowing about it. Because of this attitudeon the part of the disciples, it is difficult to know how many have accepted the tariqat.”
Much of Gurdjieff’s outrageous behaviour and acting might seem strange toWesterners conditioned to believe that a spiritual teacher must always act in a truthfuland pious manner.
However, there is a long history in many Eastern esoteric tradi-tions of teachers deliberately behaving in unexpected or bewildering ways in orderto facilitate the learning and growth of their sudents:The behaviour of the teacher may appear at times bizarre, unpredictable or meaningless; he may act in ways that are flippant, domineering, cold,manic or tyrannical, he may scream as though gripped by fury, sit in disapproving silence or set the disciple a flurry of apparently inconsequen-tial tasks.
Any outsider might well conclude from his behaviour that he is mad; even the novice himself may realize only long afterwards what the teacher's true intentions were. (18)
The teacher hides his or her real self behind a mask of behaviour to deliberately shockor challenge students. John Bennett believes that to advance his teaching mission Gurdjieff consciously used this technique, sometimes called the ‘Way of the Trickster’ orthe ‘Path of Crazy Wisdom.’ (19)
In the Sufi tradition it is known as the ‘Path of Blame’or ‘Malamati’ behavior: The Path of Blame is known in Persian as the Rahimalamat. Althoughcalled a ‘Path’ it is in fact a phase of activity, and has many applications.The teacher incurs ‘blame.’ He may, for instance, attribute a bad action to himself, in order to teach a disciple without directly criticizing him . . . . Many people follow Malamati (blameworthy) behaviour, even making themselves out to be wrongdoers, in order to highlight theseMuch of Gurdjieff’s outrageous behaviour and acting might seem strange toWesterners conditioned to believe that a spiritual teacher must always act in a truthfuland pious manner. However, there is a long history in many Eastern esoteric tradi-tions of teachers deliberately behaving in unexpected or bewildering ways in orderto facilitate the learning and growth of their sudents:The behaviour of the teacher may appear at times bizarre, unpredictable or meaningless; he may act in ways that are flippant, domineering, cold,manic or tyrannical, he may scream as though gripped by fury, sit in disapproving silence or set the disciple a flurry of apparently inconsequen-tial tasks. Any outsider might well conclude from his behaviour that he is mad; even the novice himself may realize only long afterwards what the teacher's true intentions were. (18)The teacher hides his or her real self behind a mask of behaviour to deliberately shockor challenge students. John Bennett believes that to advance his teaching mission Gurdjieff consciously used this technique, sometimes called the ‘Way of the Trickster’ orthe ‘Path of Crazy Wisdom.’ (19) In the Sufi tradition it is known as the ‘Path of Blame’or ‘Malamati’ behavior: The Path of Blame is known in Persian as the Rahimalamat. Althoughcalled a ‘Path’ it is in fact a phase of activity, and has many applications.The teacher incurs ‘blame.’ He may, for instance, attribute a bad action to himself, in order to teach a disciple without directly criticizing him . . . . Many people follow Malamati (blameworthy) behaviour, evenmaking themselves out to be wrongdoers, in order to highlight thesecharacteristics in others. The reason for this is that when a person sees someone saying or doing something, he will tend to judge him by himself. This is what Rumi and others call ‘Holding up a mirror to oneself and callingthe image the other person’ . . . Malamati behavior can only be used with great care.
One of the ways that Gurdjieff seemed to be using Path of Blame behavior was withhis appearance and personal habits, including his table manners and eating habits, use ofalcohol, foul language and hygiene.
(Corboy--this contrasts with the earlier statement that Malamati behavior can only be used 'with great care.'
Let me tell you that I now wish that when I was a kid, I could have defended my messy room by telling my parents, 'My room looks like a mess but the mess is for a noble cause. I dont have to clean my room. I am a student of the Fourth Way and am practicing The Way of Blame'. But..I digress.)
Gurdjieff began gaining weight in the late 1920s andby the end of 1932 he was obese and, according to some students, looked “terrible.” Rather than being concerned about his looks and image, Gurdjieff drew attention to hisappearance in his later years by passing out unflattering photographs of himself in profile.
Although at times Gurdjieff could dress with great taste and elegance, on many occasionshe appeared seedy and unkempt, dressed in cheap, food-stained suits, or dressedinappropriately in public, such as the time he attended a posh restaurant in pyjamas,dressing gown and slippers. His table manners were atrocious by Western standards andhis personal hygienic habits were considered disgusting by some of his personal assistants. (21)
(Corboy--this is an excerpt from a longer talk. Listening to Rajneeshes tales of Gurdjieff's strange behavior might have set his listeners up to accept Rajneesh/Oshos bad behavior. And Raj/Os's talks went on and on and on. Ugh. Probably a form of trance induction--tiring and confusing. Corboy)
Osho on Gurdjieff’s Strange Methods
Ouspensky remembers that they were traveling from New York to San Francisco in a train, and Gurdjieff started making a nuisance of himself in the middle of the night. He was not drunk, he had not even drunk water, but he was behaving like a drunkard ― moving from one compartment to another compartment, waking people and throwing people's things about. And Ouspensky, just following him, said, "What are you doing?" but Gurdjieff wouldn't listen.
Somebody pulled the train's emergency chain, "This man seems to be mad!" ― so the ticket-checker came in and the guard came in. Ouspensky apologized and said, "He is not mad and he is not drunk, but what to do? It is very difficult for me to explain what he is doing because I don't know myself." And right in front of the guard and ticket-checker, Gurdjieff threw somebody's suitcase out of the window."
The guard and the ticket-checker said, "This is too much. Keep him in your compartment and we will give you the key. Lock it from within, otherwise we will have to throw you both out at the next station." Naturally Ouspensky was feeling embarrassed on the one hand and enraged on the other hand that this man was creating such a nuisance. He thought, "I know he is not mad, I know he is not drunk, but." Gurdjieff was behaving wildly, shouting in Russian, screaming in Russian, Caucasian he knew so many languages and the moment the door was locked, he sat silently and smiled.
He said to Ouspensky, "How are you?"
Ouspensky said, "You are asking me, 'How are you?'! You would have forced them to put you in jail, and me too because I couldn't leave you in such a condition. What was the purpose of all this?"
Gurdjieff said, "That is for you to understand. I am doing everything for you, and you are asking me the purpose? The purpose is not to react, not to be embarrassed, not to be enraged. What is the point of feeling embarrassed? What are you going to get out of it? You are simply losing your cool and gaining nothing."
"But," Ouspensky said, "You threw that suitcase out of the window. Now what about the man whose suitcase it is?"
Gurdjieff said, "Don't be worried it was yours!"
Ouspensky looked down and saw that his was missing. What to do with this master! Ouspensky writes: "l felt like getting down at the next station and going back to Europe... because what else would Gurdjieff do?"
And Gurdjieff said, "I know what you are thinking you are thinking of getting down at the next station. Keep cool!"
"But," Ouspensky said, "how can I keep cool now that my suitcase is gone and my clothes are gone?"
Gurdjieff said, "Don't be worried your suitcase was empty. Your clothes I've put in my suitcase. Now just cool down."
But later, when he was in the Caucasus and Ouspensky was in London, Gurdjieff sent Ouspensky a telegram: "Come immediately!" ― and when Gurdjieff says "Immediately," it means immediately! Ouspensky was involved in some work, but he had to leave his job, pack immediately, finish everything and go to the Caucasus. And in those days, when Russia was in revolution, to go to the Caucasus was dangerous, absolutely dangerous.
People were rushing out of Russia to save their lives, so to enter Russia and for a well-known person like Ouspensky, well-known as a mathematician, world famous.... It was also well-known that he was anti-communist, and he was not for the revolution. Now, to call him back into Russia, and that too, to the faraway Caucasus.... He would have to pass through the whole of Russia to reach to Gurdjieff who was in a small place, Tiflis, but if Gurdjieff calls.... Ouspensky went.
When he arrived there he was really boiling, because he had passed by burning trains, stations, butchered people and corpses on the platforms. And how he had managed ― he himself could not believe that he was going to reach Gurdjieff, but somehow he managed to. And what did Gurdjieff say? He said, "You have come, now you can go: the purpose is fulfilled. I will see you later on in London."
Now this kind of man.... He has his purpose ― there is no doubt about it ― but has strange ways of working. Ouspensky, even Ouspensky, missed. He got so angry that he dropped all his connections with Gurdjieff after this incident, because this man had pulled him into the very mouth of death for nothing! But Ouspensky missed the point. If he had gone back as silently as he had come, he may have become enlightened by the time he reached London ― but he missed the point.
A man like Gurdjieff ― may not always do something that is apparently meaningful, but it is always meaningful.
(Corboy to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a tyrannical jerk is just that--a tyrannical jerk, but with a great cover story)
In my workshop at CIIS, “Tibetan Buddhist Practices and the Trick-ster,” I introduce the notion of “crazy wisdom,” a phrase that got on the map thanks largely to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In Tibetan the words are yeshe cholwa, with yeshe meaning “wisdom that’s always been there,” and cholwa meaning “wild or uncontainable.” Trungpa Rinpoche said you might as well just say “wisdom crazy.” It refers to someone who seems to be intoxicated with an un-bounded, luminous, loving energy. What we call crazy is only crazy from the viewpoint of ego, custom, habit. The craziness is actually higher frequency enjoyment. Besides, the great spiritual adepts, the mahasiddhas, don’t decide to be crazy. Crazy wisdom is natural, effortless, not driven by the hope and fear machine of the ego.
Yes, there was plenty of undressing. At the Halloween costume party during an annual seminar in the autumn of 1975, for example:
A woman is stripped naked, apparently at Trungpa’s joking command, and hoisted into the air by [his] guards, and passed around—presumably in fun, although the woman does not think so (Marin, 1995).
The pacifist poet William Merwin and his wife, Dana, were attending the same three-month retreat, but made the mistake of keeping to themselves within a crowd mentality where that was viewed as offensive “egotism” on their part. Consequently, their perceived aloofness had been resented all summer by the other community members ... and later categorized as “resistance” by Trungpa himself.
Thus, Merwin and his companion showed up briefly for the aforementioned Halloween party, danced only with each other, and then went back to their room.
Trungpa, however, insisted through a messenger that they return and rejoin the party. In response, William and his wife locked themselves in their room, turned off the lights ... and soon found themselves on the receiving end of a group of angry, drunken spiritual seekers, who proceeded to cut their telephone line, kick in the door (at Trungpa’s command) and break a window (Miles, 1989).
Panicked, but discerning that broken glass is mightier than the pen, the poet defended himself by smashing bottles over several of the attacking disciples, injuring a friend of his. Then, mortified and giving up the struggle, he and his wife were dragged from the room.
[Dana] implored that someone call the police, but to no avail. She was insulted by one of the women in the hallway and a man threw wine in her face (Schumacher, 1992).
And then, at the feet of the wise guru, after Trungpa had “told Merwin that he had heard the poet was making a lot of trouble”:
[Merwin:] I reminded him that we never promised to obey him. He said, “Ah, but you asked to come” (Miles, 1989).
An argument ensued, during which Trungpa insulted Merwin’s Oriental wife with racist remarks [in return for which she called him a “Nazi”] and threw a glass of saké in the poet’s face (Feuerstein, 1992).
Following that noble display of high realization, Trungpa had the couple forcibly stripped by his henchmen—against the protests of both Dana and one of the few courageous onlookers, who was punched in the face and called a “son of a bitch” by Trungpa himself for his efforts.
“Guards dragged me off and pinned me to the floor,” [Dana] wrote in her account of the incident.... “I fought and called to friends, men and women whose faces I saw in the crowd, to call the police. No one did.... [One devotee] was stripping me while others held me down. Trungpa was punching [him] in the head, urging him to do it faster. The rest of my clothes were torn off.”
“See?” said Trungpa. “It’s not so bad, is it?” Merwin and Dana stood naked, holding each other, Dana sobbing (Miles, 1989).
Ken Wilber Quote
from the foreword to Andrew Cohen's new book
What is it in you that brings you to a spiritual teacher in the first place? It's not the Spirit in you, since that is already enlightened and has no need to seek. No, it is the ego in you that brings you to a teacher. When it comes to spiritual teachers, there are those who are safe, gentle, consoling, soothing, caring; and there are the outlaws, the living terrors, the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization, the men and women who are in your face, disturbing you, terrifying you, until you radically awaken to who and what you really are.
And may I suggest?: choose your teachers carefully.
If you want encouragement, soft smiles, ego stroking, gentle caresses of your self-contracting ways, pats on the back and sweet words of solace, find yourself a Nice Guy or Good Girl, and hold their hand on the sweet path of stress reduction and egoic comfort. But if you want Enlightenment, if you want to wake up, if you want to get fried in the fire of passionate Infinity, then, I promise you: find yourself a Rude Boy or a Nasty Girl, the ones who make you uncomfortable in their presence, who scare you witless, who will turn on you in a second and hold you up for ridicule, who will make you wish you were never born, who will offer you not sweet comfort but abject terror, not saccharin solace but scorching angst, for then, just then, you might very well be on the path to your own Original Face.
Most of us, I suspect, prefer our spiritual teachers to be of the Nice-Guy variety. Soft, comforting, non-threatening, a source of succor for a worn and weary soul, a safe harbor in the samsaric storm. There is nothing wrong with that, of course; spirituality comes in all sorts of flavors, and I have known some awfully Nice Guys. But if the flavor tends toward Enlightenment instead of consolation, if it drifts away from soothing dreams toward actually waking up, if it rumbles toward a God realization and not egoic fortification, then that demands a brutal, shocking death: a literal death of your separate self, a painful, frightening, horrifying dissolution a miraculous extinction you will actually witness as you expand into the boundless, formless, radical Truth that will pervade your every cell and drench your being to the core and expand what you thought was your self until it embraces the distant galaxies. For only on the other side of death lies Spirit, only on the other side of egoic slaughter lies the Good and the True and the Beautiful. "You will come in due course to realize that your true glory lies where you cease to exist," as the illustrious Sri Ramana Maharshi constantly reminded us. Your true glory lies on the other side of your death, and who will show you that?
Not the Nice Guys and not the Good Girls. They don't want to hurt your feelings. They don't want to upset you. They are here to whisper sweet nothings in your ear and place consolation prizes in the outstretched hand of the self-contraction, balm for a war-torn weary ego, techniques to prop it up in its constant battle with the world of otherness. In a sense, it's very easy being a Nice-Guy teacher: no muss, no fuss, no wrestling with egoic resistance and exhausting confrontation. Be nice to the ego, pat it on the back, have it count its breaths, hum a few mantras.
Rude Boys know better. They are not here to console but to shatter, not to comfort but to demolish. They are uncompromising, brutal, laser-like. They are in your face until you recognize your Original Face and they simply will not back off, they will not back down, they will not let up until you let go radically, fully, completely, unhesitatingly. They live as Compassion real compassion, not idiot compassion and real compassion uses a sword more often than a sweet. They deeply offend the ego (and the greater the offense, the bigger the ego). They are alive as Truth, they are everywhere confronted with egos, and they choose the former uncompromisingly.
Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, used to say that nobody comes to a therapist to get better (although they always say they do); they really come to perfect their neurosis. Just so, nobody comes to a spiritual teacher to get Enlightenment (although everybody claims they do); rather, they come to a spiritual teacher to learn more subtle and sophisticated egoic games in this case, the game of "Look at me being really spiritual."
After all, what is it in you that brings you to a spiritual teacher in the first place? It's not the Spirit in you, since that is already enlightened and has no need to seek. No, it is the ego in you that brings you to a teacher: you want to see yourself in the presence of the spiritual game, you want to meet yourself tomorrow as a realized being in plain language, you want your ego to continue into a spiritual paradise.
And what's a poor teacher to do, confronted with such egoic cunning? Everybody who comes to a spiritual teacher comes egoically motivated. And teachers have two choices in the face of this onslaught of the separate selves, this conference of the self-contractions: they can play to the audience, or they can blow the entire building up.
Andrew Cohen is a Rude Boy. He is not here to offer comfort; he is here to tear you into approximately a thousand pieces...so that Infinity can reassemble you, Freedom can replace imprisonment, Fullness can outshine fear. And that simply will not happen if all you want is consolation, soothing prayers, ruffle-free platitudes, "It will all be okay." Well, it will not be okay if you want Enlightenment. It will, in fact, be hell, and only Rude Boys are rude enough to tell you that, and to show you that if you can stand the rudeness, stay in the fire, burn clean as Infinity and radiate as the stars.
“Most disciples do not want to reveal that they are followers of a pir. They think that [revealing this fact] would be a way of projecting yourself as a good person, which is [an attitude] that Allah wouldn’t like. Basically, one becomes a disciple to seek guidance on the right path to Allah. One doesn’t do it for any other reason, and it should be kept secret as much as possible.
“In thecase of our family, it happened so many times that one of our family membersbecame a disciple without our even knowing about it. Because of this attitudeon the part of the disciples, it is difficult to know how many have accepted the tariqat.”
It has been said, "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the
things you have started and have never finished."
I looked around my house to see all the things I had started and hadn't finished,
and before leaving the house I finished off:
*A bottle of White Zinfandel
*A bottle of Tequila,
*A package of Oreo's
*The remainder of my old Prozac prescription**
*The rest of the cheesecake
*A box of chocolates.
You have no idea how marvelously great I feel right now...the INNER PEACE is like WOW!!!!
**(Corboy: All this is a joke. A JOKE. Dont combine RX medications with alchohol--you could poison yourself up and perhaps die. Two, that amount of alcohol might kill someone. All the above is just a joke. Dont try this at home)