Thursday, June 5, 2008

When the Guru holds us spellbound, how can we ever truly be free?




Were George King's disciples tormented slaves of his "mastery"? Even he had to promise that "You will not be put out of the Society" for simply being unable to pay annual membership fees because of the fears that existed, whether he was responsible for the creation of those fears or not. In other words, a dividing layer had been established at some stage by the Society's Directors and 'inner circle' who were somehow dominating or intimidating the ordinary membership.

A further layer was eventually introduced to construct a kind of platform to support the power clique that was thus formed by enforcing an annual report on each member's individual performance and subsequently downgrading membership to merely a "friend" of the Society if all observances and obligations weren't dutifully met. Then the exclusive "Temple Degree" initiation was introduced for the most sycophantic followers after a minimum period of membership.

The effective result was to marginalize and disempower the majority of the Society's long-term members who had given years of unselfish service and had sought no reward. They were slowly replaced with a more self-seeking kind of disciple who coveted paper qualifications and position above spiritual development or service to mankind. The more inept but wily managed to climb aboard their band wagon.....

What punishment is the most dreadful of all? I believe it is the withdrawal of love and human connectedness. Such withdrawal is an immensely powerful weapon in the hands of those who are in a position to dominate and control others. When this withdrawal has been traumatic early in life, as it was for..... (they) who stood by helplessly as they saw their families torn apart by divorce, the search for love that will never be withdrawn, for perfect, miraculous love, becomes desperate......

In a religious cult, the leader is perceived as a deity who is always divinely right, and the devotee, always on the verge of being sinfully wrong, comes to live for the sole purpose of pleasing and avoiding displeasing the guru/god. The leader's displeasure comes to mean for the member that he is unworthy, monstrously defective, and, therefore, dispensable. The member has been conditioned to believe that loss of the leader's "grace" is equivalent to loss of any value, goodness, or rightness of the self. As the member becomes more deeply involved, his anxiety about remaining a member in good standing increases......









...I am defining a cult largely on the basis of the personality of its leader. In my definition, a cult is a group that is led by a person who claims, explicitly or implicitly, to have reached human perfection; or, in the case of a religious cult, who claims unity with the divine..... speakers and members present various kinds of misinformation about cult leaders.....

Not to say that there is anything wrong with aspiring to high ideals, or taking inspiration from those whom we idealize. I believe, with Kohut..... in the necessity, throughout the lifespan, for sufficiently idealizable significant others who provide self-object functions for the initial development, and later maintenance, of a cohesive sense of self. There is, however, an important distinction to be made between idealization and idolatry. Idealization that goes well enough functions to build a strong sense of self, and leads to the capacity for effective self-regulation and satisfying interrelatedness and mutuality. Idolatry, the ultimate form of defensive idealization, always implies submission and enslavement to one who dominates, controls, and possesses.

Let me clarify my use of the words "enlightenment" and "perfect." To be enlightened can simply mean to become wise, but it also means, especially in mystical traditions, east and west, that one has attained ultimate wisdom, the state of permanent oneness with God. The state of enlightenment in this sense refers to spiritual perfection. As for the word perfect..... I mean it to suggest absolute, total, immaculate perfection, that which would be ascribed to a Platonic ideal, or to the divine. Normally, we don't expect ourselves, human beings that we are, to attain this kind of ultimate perfection, but rather to be awed and inspired by it, and perhaps humbled. If, however, we are determined to ignore our human limitations, demanding absolute perfection of ourselves, we enter the realm of pathological perfectionism.

Idolatry and pathological perfectionism can be readily observed in some spiritual paths led by self-proclaimed "fully enlightened," or "perfected" masters, who are worshiped within their communities as perfect, living embodiments of God. This premise, that the master and God are one, sets a standard within the group for spiritual perfection which only the master has achieved. Any and all efforts of the followers must be judged by the standard the master sets.....



The problem of pathological perfectionism has its roots in parental failures in managing healthy omnipotence in the developing child. Traumatic misattunement, unresponsiveness and impingement by parents leads to the development of pathological forms of omnipotence, and the child must then seek an antidote to unbearable impotence. This may be externalized, as in cases of spiritual submission to others who are perceived as perfect, or as in the search for the perfect lover, who turns out never to be perfect enough; or internalized, where an internal masochistic slave strives desperately to fulfill insatiable demands for perfection from an internal sadistic master.....

Daniel Shaw, L.C.S.W. - from The Dark Side of Enlightenment: Sadomasochistic Aspects of the Quest for Perfection and Traumatic Abuse in Cults: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

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