(quote) 'If you're recovering from opium addiction, it's best to steer clear from groups of opium users who have left the den, because they're not recovered addicts, they just think they are since they've managed to pull themselves out of the den. They're still compulsively stuffing opium in their pipes, so they still have a serious problem.'
You've nailed it.
People may get pissed off and leave a particular abusive guru.
But if they've left that one guru's cult , but still cling to their personal cult of the Perfect Guru Who is Waiting for Them Out There Somewhere--- they're still hooked, still in the spiritual rat-race.
They've given up on a particular guru, but are still hooked on the Guru Archetype, the Guru Ideal.
They're still hooked because honestly, they dont yet know of any other way to access their own talent, their own vitality, except by using a Magic Daddy/Magic Mommy myth that requires them to be children and put themselves at terrible risk of exploitation by spiritual crooks who specialize in targeting and molesting 'adult children'--persons who are adult in calendar years, but who, without realizing it, are still trapped in a child's level of development, usually because of unexamined trauma.
Until seekers can question their addiction to perfect spiritual parenting, they'll still looking for the right dealer, who always comes through with the dope and who will be smart enough not to get arrested like the other guy did.
A big part of recovery is not just the process of weaning oneself from the drug; we have to stop romanticizing addiction itself, and the pseudo-romantic lifestyle around addiction. That includes questioning the glamour of New Age/Dharmic/spiritual addiction.
Alcoholics tended to feel ashamed of their addiction and often would drink alone; drug addicts often romanticized their addiction and had entire friendship networks centered upon addiction.
So part of the recovery for addicts to street drugs was they had to stop romanticizing addiction and the lifestyle around it. A man who ran a recovery house told us that he personally screened every movie or CD before letting the residents watch it; he banned all entertainment from the facility if it romanticized drugs or celebrated outlaw mentality.
Another venue where addiction may be romanticized is the Seeker's Circuit, or what John Horgan has called 'The Enlightenment Industry.'
Gurus would not exist without the yearning we already have. A true guru would make us conscious of our yearnings, assist us to grow up, put himself out of business as soon as possible. He would not exploit us in such yearnings. The crooks are the ones who tap those yearnings and exploit our vulnerability. The crooks are the ones who molest adult children--appeal to our adult sophistication, but molest us in the areas where, emotionally and psychologically, we are still children--[i:afc1f20921]and where the crook has encouraged us to remain childish.[/i:afc1f20921]
People blame their ashrams, forgetting that the guru they venerate is the one who sets the tone for the organization. When people are desperate to cling to their notion of the guru as Perfect Mommy or Perfect Daddy, they'll do everything they can to make excuses for the guru, and blame the problems on everything and everyone else--except the one person who has all the authority in the set up--the guru.
Ive heard it said that the definition of a dysfunctional group or guru is the group or leader takes credit for all the good stuff. Meanwhile, responsibility for all the bad stuff is foisted onto the people who dont have the actual authority. Its the trap of feeling responsible with out having actual authority.
A variation on this theme is when the guru designates certain favored disciples to be the 'bad cops'--enforcers of discipline. That way the guru gets to remain perfect, and all the resentment for the abuses of power get deflected onto the enforcers. But the guru is actually still responsible; he's the puppet-master who hides behind the curtain, making the puppets dance. Rajneesh did this--when all hell broke loose at his Oregon facility, devotees blamed Rajneesh'es lieutenant. They refused to see that Rajneesh had orchestrated the entire context in which people regressed and became puppets in relation to him. Some of the puppets were mean, but it was still Rajneesh who put them through their paces.
([i:afc1f20921]A variation is a guru who claims not to be a guru, while still behaving as one, and still being venerated as one. In that variation, the guru is keeping the power while pretending not to have power; all thats happening is he's playing games, abdicating responsiblity for the authority he acutually has. Krishnamurti claimed not to be a guru, but Lawrence Shainberg gives an unforgettable description of how the audience hung on Krishnamurti's every word--the 'anti-guru was still a guru!' --you can read this in Ambivalent Zen [/i:afc1f20921]by Lawrence Shainberg
--Shainberg gave his power away to one Magic Daddy after another until he finally got worn out and gave up on that particular game.)
In cultic situations, the guru enjoys all the authority but always ducks out of the way when the shit hits the fan. Takes 100% credit for the good stuff and shifts 100% of the blame for the bad stuff to others. Thats a great definition of a cult set up, and happens just as much in non-religious organizations as in religious ones.
Deep Throat told the Watergate investigators 'Follow the money.'
When investigating whether something is cultic, look for power imbalances. And, look for myth-making and a refusal to fact check.
The person with the actual authority dodges accountability
The people who dont have authority are stuck with more than their fair share of accountability. The shit never sticks to the leader or guru, but has to go somewhere--usually by rolling down-hill and sticking to us.
(A seminary professor of ours once said, 'Responsibility is shared. It is extremely rare for one person to be 100% responsible for either a good or a bad situation. If someone is making you feel 100% responsible for everything that is going wrong--question it.')
Leaving a bad ashram or organization is not enough to ensure recovery. Leaving will give you short term relief by removing you from a disorienting, confusing situation. THat part is very good.
Long term, leaving a bad set up will [i:afc1f20921]not [/i:afc1f20921]address the needs and yearnings that attracted us to these unbalanced power set ups--[i:afc1f20921]and will not help us understand what made the mind fuck feel thrilling rather than chilling.[/i:afc1f20921]
There are some gurus out there who are over the top bullies. They'd be kicked in the butt if they dared behave this way in normal society, but in thier own communities, thier bad behavior is celebrated as crazy wisdom. Their disciples come to believe that they need to be abused in order to make any progress. Anyone who has misgivings is written off as wimpy, not serious about 'the path' or accused of being 'touchy-feely.'
Most people walk out of their lectures and never return--persons who are disgusted by bad behavior. But--a few people stay, and become disciples to these bully-gurus. They tolerate a level of suffering that cause most of us to run the other way. For them to recover, they have to investigate what led them to stay in that room with that bully-guru, when so many other people walked away.
Its not something to be ashamed of---shame doesnt solve this.
You need to feel curious, to investigate this with a kind of friendly curiosity. What was it about that power imbalance that sparked my hope, energized me, made the abuse seem a worthwhile price to pay?
Bad gurus are not universally appealing. But they get their devotees by skilfully recruiting in such a way as to attract and keep the few who are thrilled by power and by power imbalance and by quickly repulsing people who are revolted by power abuse and game playing and would disrupt the guru's game playing if permitted to join the ashram!
Unless we dare to examine our own secret craving for a Magic Mommy or Daddy, we will go through one failed Wizard of Oz after another.
Some of us may crave intensity and equate it with spiritual power.
In an off-line discussion a couple of us speculated that high energy people with bipolar disorder might gravitate to gurus who have untreated bipolar disorder and create wild, crisis ridden ashrams, and call this 'crazy wisdom practice'
Or we just dont know how to energize ourselves and feel hope unless we have a myth--something to crave, some goal to meet.
Mark Miller examined the sitaution around Da Free John and noted it wasnt just a crazy guru who was the problem; it was that people clung to the whole process of mythologizing the guy.
(Mark Miller wrote,)
'The community is at root [i:afc1f20921]a society devoted to glorification and myth-making in relation to DFJ[/i:afc1f20921], who is truly the ultimate example of "Narcissus", the mythical figure DFJ uses to describe those who are unenlightened. This supreme Narcissist requires the constant adoration of not only himself, but also of everything associated with him -- his properties and possessions (including the "holy sites"), and the "murtis" (pictures) of him, etc. These inanimate objects serve as extensions of his huge ego, and the construction of them and/or worship of them serve to usurp huge amounts of devotees time and money.
''... Once people leave the group, there is no guarantee they will stop the "esoteric practice" (ha ha) of DFJ mythologization. That is just one reason why some people you've met who leave the group still believe in all kinds of nonsense about DFJ. [i:afc1f20921]It can be difficult to see all of the ways in which [u:afc1f20921]habitual mythologization [/u:afc1f20921]is operative and to understand the full range and scope of its influence. [/i:afc1f20921]Waking up can take time. Many can't seem to develop much insight into their delusions and commitment to myth-making about DFJ, beyond identifying the crudest and most obviously "cultic" level of it. This is why some of the group's beliefs and assumptions are retained indefinitely by many people, even long after they leave. '
In other words, you can leave a group, [i:afc1f20921]but still retain the myth-making mindset that made the group and guru so appealing[/i:afc1f20921]. Unless you examine your own craving for an energizing myth, you'll remain recruitable by yet another Magic Parent.
You can reject a particular guru, then walk around with a 'guru-shaped hole' in your psyche.
Eventually someone will come along who matches that outline, and the game resumes.
[b:afc1f20921]The habitual mythologization described by Mark Miller is itself the drug. If a particualr guru-dealer turns out to peddle bad shit, or gets arrested, you're without a dealer but are still an addict. You'll then look for another dealer who sells better dope, has a myth that cannot be punctured. Until you question your own addiction, you'll keep looking for the perfect guru-dealer[/b:afc1f20921].
Bruce Warner comments:
'No guru or Zen Master can give you anything other than what you already have. If you ever start to feel that you need your teacher's blessings, his approval, even his passing you on some koan or any other such nonsense, that is the time to run screaming out of the temple like someone had set fire to your panties.
All authority must be torn down. ([i:afc1f20921]That's Warner's way of saying 'Question your addiction to seeking, the addiction that makes a guru seem so necessary[/i:afc1f20921])This goes for my authority every bit as much as anyone else's. There is no Enlightenment. Enlightenment is nothing more than shared illusion. Enlightenment is for pussies who can't face reality.'
'It's one of our fantasies that there is some kind of Eastern mind which is fundamentally different from the Western one. There is not. The guru system, the Zen Master system and every other variation on that theme is just as horrible and destructive to folks with amber skin and almond shaped eyes as it is to folks with white skin and blue eyes. It didn't work 2,000 years ago in Rishikesh, India any better than it works right now in Racine, Wisconsin. Sure it's lasted a long time, but sure has gastrointeritis.
'The only teachers who've really kept the decent traditions alive are the ones who did not play those kinds of games.'
Bruce Warner's review of [u:afc1f20921]Enlightenment Blues[/u:afc1f20921]
(this guy's website has a great collection of articles. His book, [i:afc1f20921]Hardcore Zen [/i:afc1f20921]is a terrific read.)
A meditation buddy had this on her bulletin board: 'One sign of spiritual progress is you lose interest in the games of submission/domination that are on offer in various theatres of cruelty.'
In other words, you're making progres when power imbalances no longer feel thrilling but instead give you the creeps.