Andre Van Der Braak, Andr Van Der Braak, Andra(c) Van Der Braak
Is the charismatic guru a liberator or pied piper? Psychologist and guru expert Andre van der Braak analyzes the dangerous aspects of the relationship between the guru and his students and explains their appeal. He then uses examples to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy charisma. The last part of the book guides the reader to more healthy forms of discipleship and concludes with a quick guide for knowing whether your guru is leading you down the wrong track. Andre van der Braak, PhD, lived in the spiritual community of American guru Andrew Cohen, as documented in his compelling memoir Enlightenment Blues.
If you haven't seen Unmistaken Child I would highly recommend it. There are parts of that movie that touch on what Mr. O'Neill is referring to in this article in terms of the not-so-calm-and-peaceful aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.
There are a few scenes wherein the four year old that has been chosen as the reincarnation of a deceased Lama is basically abducted by the monks so that he can fulfill his destiny. There are clearly mixed feelings present among the parents as the child is taken away, for several reasons. Obviously they are "honored" that their child has been chosen, but the father talks of how this means they have one less man in the fields to help feeding the village and mother is clearly upset about losing her child. One gets the feeling that the family is not entirely down with the program, but due to peer pressure has to go along with the whole thing.
The movie definitely does a good job of making you question the omniscience of the monks themselves.
The Gobbler|7.28.10 @ 2:19PM|#
" But what is striking, and what caused me to be so startled by the weirdness, is the way in which this religion has come to be viewed in Western New Age circles as a peaceful, pure, happy-clappy cult of softly-smiling, Buddha-like beings."
I would contend that this is because the bulk of "Buddhists" in the US are influenced by what author Meera Nanda calls neo-Hinduism "the brand of Hinduism that is taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Deepak Chopra, and their clones, not Tibetan Buddhism.
Think the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi circa 1968.
AnaV|3.20.14 @ 7:55PM|#
Women are treated VERY badly in Tibetan circles. They have no place, in a room, in a house, in a temple. Many have to carry the babies of so-called celibate lamas, also nuns. Imagine the impact! There are also those who pose as the sister of a so-called celibate lama (very high ones) but are, in fact, the hidden wife! Some of these also have to sleep with other lamas, get pregnant, and have to give away their babies (I had a very famous one in my house in India begging me for the pill). Preferable to be a moslem?
“They were so spiritual — she was not supposed to get sick,” ....X said, who attended the couple’s workshops in California and Costa Rica. “He was her rock. They are the last people that deserve something like that.”
Spiritual theologies, even if encouraging benign practices such as meditation, can in some instances be viewed as spider webs where the naive disciple gives credit to an exterior belief system and not to his own consciousness. Thus instead of achieving liberation he ends up creating a situation where his desired moksha is conversely entrapped.
This procedure creates within the disciple a persistent tendency to take his or her experiences and filter them within the interpretative nexus that is provided by his/her spiritual path. But in so doing the student all too often ends up trying to relate what transpires in meditation to the expectations or desired aims of the religious matrice in which he is grounded. And in other instances, the disciple begins to justify or legitimize a given spiritual paradigm by injecting it with his own internal elevations. Such a dyadic loop can literally tether the aspirant to a given theology and lock him or her into a set series of bounded interpretations.
The danger, of course, is that this two way intersection tends not to be open to alternative explanations (which might be more viable) and also prevents a more free form of exploration.
A more concrete, even if a bit odd, example of this type of behavior comes from surfing contests. In a subjectively graded sport such as surfing, it is oftentimes the case that the surfer contorts his style and his maneuvers to what he expects the judges will score highest. In other words, he is riding the wave with the judges foremost in his mind and thus invariably adjusts his bodily motions with what he thinks will please them most. He is no longer “free” surfing. He is, to the contrary, “image” surfing with the ultimate goal of correlating what he does with what the judges expect and desire.
It is little wonder therefore that modern contest surfers look like clones of each other.
In the same way, those on an inner mystical quest will often reframe what they experience in light of what they believe best correlates to the desired aims of their path.
My argument is that we are putting the cart before the horse. Instead of a free voyage to unexplored lands, we are sabotaging our quests by trying to measure what we encounter with preconceived cartographies. Our meditation gets hijacked and we end up trying to make our mystical encounters correlate to our chosen traditions. If anything new happens we don’t recognize it as such and thereby attempt to ideologically spin the discrepancy between the map and the real territory away.
In the America of the 1970s we are all too familiar with the religious cult, which has been proliferating in the last decade. Characteristic of the cult (from Hare Krishna to the "Moonies" to EST to Scientology to the Manson Family) is the dominance of the guru, or Maximum Leader, who is also the creator and ultimate interpreter of a given creed to which the acolyte must be unswervingly loyal. The major if not the only qualification for membership and advancement in the cult is absolute loyalty to and adoration of the guru, and absolute and unquestioning obedience to his commands. The lives of the members are dominated by the guru’s influence and presence. If the cult grows beyond a few members, it naturally becomes hierarchically structured, if only because the guru cannot spend his time indoctrinating and watching over every disciple. Top positions in the hierarchy are generally filled by the original handful of disciples, who come to assume these positions by virtue of their longer stint of loyal and devoted service. Sometimes the top leadership may be related to each other, a useful occurrence which can strengthen intra-cult loyalty through the familial bond.
The goals of the cult leadership are money and power. Power is achieved over the minds of the disciples through inducing them to accept without question the guru and his creed. This devotion is enforced through psychological sanctions. For once the acolyte is imbued with the view that approval of, and communication with, the guru are essential to his life, then the implicit and explicit threat of excommunication – of removal from the direct or indirect presence of the guru – creates a powerful psychological sanction for the "enforcement" of loyalty and obedience. Money flows upward from the members through the hierarchy, either in the form of volunteer labor service contributed by the members, or through cash payments.
It should be clear at this point in history that an ideological cult can adopt the same features as the more overtly religious cult, even when the ideology is explicitly atheistic and anti-religious. That the cults of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao are religious in nature, despite the explicit atheism of the latter, is by now common knowledge. The adoration of the cult founder and leader, the hierarchical structure, the unswerving loyalty, the psychological (and when in command of State power, the physical) sanctions are all too evident.
The Exoteric and the Esoteric
Every religious cult has two sets of differing and distinctive creeds: the exoteric and the esoteric. The exoteric creed is the official, public doctrine, the creed which attracts the acolyte in the first place and brings him into the movement as a rank-and-file member. The quite different creed is the unknown, hidden agenda, a creed which is only known to its full extent by the top leadership, the "high priests" of the cult. The latter are the keepers of the Mysteries of the cult.
But cults become particularly fascinating when the esoteric and exoteric creeds are not only different, but totally and glaringly in mutual contradiction. The havoc that this fundamental contradiction plays in the minds and lives of the disciples may readily be imagined.
A demagogue, in addition to hypnotic glibness, must also be intellectually inconsistent, sometimes boldly so. This eliminates challenges to authority by weeding out clear-thinking young people from the flock.
To equate one’s selfishness, vanity, and egotism with one’s integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.
For many young people, hearing that it is “moral” to care only about oneself can be intoxicating, and some get addicted to this idea for life.
'Recruiters mash up fantasy with news footage and idyllic scenes. One boy Bouzar has dealt with was captivated by characters from the Assassin's Creed game; others have been drawn by figures in the Lord of the Rings.
Recruiters have multiple profiles in mind, she says, and use keyword searches to seek out personality types. Among fantasies they promote are girls seeking a protector, chivalrous would-be heroes, "Call of Duty" characters, and risk-takers who want to rule the world.
For Lea, as Bouzar calls one young woman who was preparing to attack a synagogue, compassion was the key.
Her Facebook profile made plain she wanted to do humanitarian work. Recruiters then showed her videos "saying I could do humanitarian work in Syria," she says on a film produced by Bouzar's center. "The videos showed the Syrian population being gassed ... bombed, and women taken to hospital in such a state, even without their veils." The sights were so terrible, she said, "I wanted to be forgiven."
In this volume, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, Daniel Shaw presents a way of understanding the traumatic impact of narcissism as it is engendered developmentally, and as it is enacted relationally. Focusing on the dynamics of narcissism in interpersonal relations, Shaw describes the relational system of what he terms the 'traumatizing narcissist' as a system of subjugation – the objectification of one person in a relationship as the means of enforcing the dominance of the subjectivity of the other.
Daniel Shaw illustrates the workings of this relational system of subjugation in a variety of contexts: theorizing traumatic narcissism as an intergenerationally transmitted relational/developmental trauma; and exploring the clinician's experience working with the adult children of traumatizing narcissists. He explores the relationship of cult leaders and their followers, and examines how traumatic narcissism has lingered vestigially in some aspects of the psychoanalytic profession.*
*Corboy note: Unlike Ken Wilber's Integral community, and unlike Andrew Cohen and the other gurus endorsed by Wilber, psychoanalysts are questioning and openly discussing these very patterns of abuse in their teaching communities. So, time for KW to evolve to a higher tier and admit to his many errors of endorsement.)
is worth mentioning that the "cult" Shaw was part of for 10 years (the Siddya Yoga group around its original guru, Swami Muktananda) is the same cult in which Marc Gafni's most loyal defender, Sally Kempton, was a leading member and public apologist, even after Muktananda's sexual abuse of students had been brought to light (see O Guru, Guru, Guru, an article the originally appeared in The New Yorker [pay-walled] and is fully reprinted at Leaving Siddha Yoga
There has been some recent discussion how certain Guru systems, carve some type of projection of themselves into the psyche of their followers, they get their followers to fuse with their Guru identity, using all sorts of techniques.
So then if a person does not deal with that damage, they will jump right from one bad Guru, to the next bad Guru.
But they might make the mistake that it was just a bad Guru wearing robes and a bad teaching.
So they jump to a smiling Love-Bomb Guru wearing a pantsuit, using different language....[forum.culteducation.com]
"the relational system of what he terms the 'traumatizing narcissist' as a system of subjugation – the objectification of one person in a relationship as the means of enforcing the dominance of the subjectivity of the other."
Chapter 2 footnote 5. "Mme. Blavatsky's later descriptions of life in Tibet bear more than a
coincidental resemblance to classic travel texts of the period; she herself admitted resorted to contemporary travel guides when writing her Indian travelogues in the late 1870s and early 1880s and probably did the same for her Tibetan "adventures". Her narratives include no unique experiences or descriptions that would indicated that she had in fact penetrated or even reached Tibet, which at that time permitted no foreigners, and no white women, to cross its borders.
Footnote 6. "The spying accusation possibly has foundations in fact. On December 26, 1872, Mme. Blavatsky wrote from Odessa to the Director of the Third Section offering her services as an agent:
"During these twenty years I have become acquainted with all of Western Europe, I zealously followed current politics not with any goal in mind, but because of an innate passion; in order to better follow events and to divine them in advance, I have always had the habit of entering into the smallest details of any affair, for which reason I strove to acquaint myself with all the leading personalities, politicians of various nations, both of the government factions and of the far Left."
After recommending herself to the Director by referring to her Fadeev connections, she went on:
"As a Spiritualist, I have a reputation in many places as a powerful medium. Hundreds of people believed and undoubtedly believe in spirits. But I, writing this letter with the aim of offering my services to Your Excellency and to my native land, am obligated to tell you the entire truth without concealment.
"And thus I must confess that three-quarters of the time the spirits spoke and answered in my words and out of my considerations for the success of my own plans. Rarely, very rarely, did I fail by means of this little trap, to discover people's hopes, plans and secrets."
Blavatsky followed her offer with a list of all the military secrets she had managed to discover while in Cairo the previous year. The Third Section did not accept her kind offer, although she quite accurately told them:
"I have played every role, I am able to represent myself as any person you may wish."
(TsGAOR [Central State Archives of the October Revolution],MS# 109;3;22;cited in
literaturnoe obozrenie6;111-12.) Probably genuine, this letter which is alternately boastful and obsequious, is suggestive of her personality
love my best friend, but I don’t always agree with her. Recently, she’s been meandering through yoga in search of the spiritual. After she speculated that my recent cancer was the result of some terrible karma, we’ve had a friendly debate over the idea of karma.
The idea that whatever happens is a consequence of karma is not a priori truth. It’s a religious belief. It is no more or less rational than a belief in the return of the twelfth imam, or that bread and wine become flesh and blood. I’ve noticed that believers in karma often take pride (in the worst sense of the word) in the rationality of their belief. Their confidence in their intellectual superiority is unfounded.
Lets return for a moment to what my best friend said. She told me, in essence, that I deserved to have cancer. I don’t hold it against her — I know she is a caring person who has gotten caught up in some dubious beliefs, and I’m not all that broken up about having cancer (I could think of an infinity of things I’d rather do, but, things happen).
Still: telling someone with cancer that they deserve it is the behavior of an asshole.
She also passed judgement upon me based upon a religious belief about a past no one can indisputably remember and for which there is, and probably cannot be, any certain evidence.
Of course, lots of ideas are exploited by uncaring individuals to make themselves look good. The problem with karma is that it encourages caring individuals, like my friend, to behave badly, too