Sex, Lies and Guru Ploys: Insights from The Guru Papers, continued

The next excerpts are from an enlightening chapter entitled, "Guru Ploys":

"A guru, to be a guru, must know how to move people into a psychological state of surrender and keep them there. Gurus know that those who show any interest in them rarely do so out of mere curiosity, but want something they are lacking. What many people crave these days is a sense of connection or union with something they consider sufficiently profound to give their lives meaning. The very act of surrender initially brings this about.

Inducing Surrender

Psychological authoritarianism is based on manipulating desire and fear. Hence the motivational techniques utilized to induce and perpetuate surrender are the usual promises of rewards (worldly or otherworldly) and threats of punishments. Getting people to surrender leans more heavily on the reward side [e.g., immortality, or traveling in infinity with a band of powerful sorcerers], while keeping them there depends more on emphasizing the dire results of leaving the guru [e.g., "I’m her only chance," and "it’s one minute to midnight"].

[The authors then note that these control techniques are sometimes unconscious on the part of the guru, especially if they themselves were trained in a tradition and are simply "repeating what they were taught and what was done with them by their own guru."]

. . . . Aside from the more tangible rewards, they reinforce devotion with attention and approval, and punish its lack by withdrawing them. Though some gurus say that doubts are healthy, they subtly punish them. Doubt is not the way to get into the inner circle." . . . .

In the initial seduction phase, the potential disciple becomes the focus of the guru’s or group’s attention and is made to feel very important. Then enticements are dangled in the form of testimonials, promises of extraordinary experiences, and offers of unqualified friendship and care—heady stuff. A convincing persuasion is that devotees not only claim to feel so much better now than before, but to those who have known them previously, they do in fact appear happier. Once an initial commitment has been made, techniques geared at disorientation come into play. This is done through undermining both self-trust and one’s previous attachments and support systems. Critical thought and relying upon previous experience are made to appear the source of one’s past or current problems. One spiritual leader claims to be the real parent, while labeling the biological parents the ‘devil parents.?/p>

The most enticing message to induce surrender is that only in this way can one achieve true spiritual advancement [e.g., "the only way to hear us properly and to make the needed personal changes is by ‘suspending judgment.?quot;].

. . . .

At some point, disciplines or techniques are given that have a specified goal and predicted end result. For example, people are told that through meditating in a specified way they will eventually experience blue lights or see the guru’s face, or some other internal occurrence. What the promise is matters little because the mind can eventually construct any image it focuses upon. One is also told that regular practice will eventually bring higher states of consciousness and possibly even enlightenment, though this can take years or lifetimes.

Once a disciple has had the predicted experience, the guru and group reinforce belief in its importance. The first mini-experience (say of blue lights) is presented as a significant step on the spiritual path. Having a mini-experience gives hope that grander ones will eventually occur. The experiences derived from the practices are then used as verification of both the guru’s power and the truth of his worldview. But all this actually proves is that these experiences can be mechanically induced through mental techniques, and thus are predictable. People are often further conditioned to look at the guru as the fount or source of their newfound positive feelings." Pp. 61-64.

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

"[S]urrendering to any leader or ideology can bring powerful feelings and an instant new identity. The feeling of renewal often includes believing that one has wiped one’s moral slate clean. The power of conversion experiences lies in the psychological shift from confusion to certainty. The new beliefs become essential to hold and defend lest all the good feelings that come from certainty vanish." P. 65.

"After the newness of conversion wears off, some doubt may return. To maintain allegiance, a support system that reinforces people’s new identity is crucial. Power within the group is gained by deepening surrender to the guru, and members reward each other for making the group the priority. Deepening surrender does feel like letting go of ego and is defined by the guru as spiritual progress. Secrecy and arousing desire are important parts of the seduction. The guru dangles carrots of esoteric knowledge that he will transmit when he deems the disciple ‘ready.?Waiting for each new piece of hidden knowledge not only keep devotees around, but receiving pieces of it (one never gets it all) confirms their worthiness and specialness. Now they, too, have knowledge that others do not." [My Sunday group colleagues and I, I think, can confirm the truth of this paragraph.]

"Any conflict disciples have about submitting to the guru’s authority is defined perjoratively as resistance to a higher truth, the intrusion of ego, or a sign of unwillingness to give up attachments. Since surrender initially alleviates conflict and brings extremely good feelings, it is a powerful form of conditioning. If people end up feeling good and more open, they mistakenly conclude that whatever promoted it must also be true and good. Thus ‘feeling good?and opening boundaries are erroneously equated with truth. Conversely, anything that contradicts the guru’s point of view is labeled ‘negativity? so information that runs counter to accepted beliefs is repressed and punished. This ploy conveniently prevents negative feelings from being used as feedback that something might be amiss.

People whose power is based on the surrender of others develop a repertoire of techniques for deflecting and undermining anything that questions or challenges their status, behavior, or beliefs. They ridicule or try to confuse people who ask challenging questions. Throwing the question back at the questioner is a common, easy-to-use ploy. This is done by attempting to show how the question displays some lack in the questioner. . . . .

Another ploy is calling whatever seems to be problematic a ‘test of faith.? As these tests become more extreme, the release that passing the test brings is also more intense. This is why it is possible for the leader to get his increasingly bizarre behaviors accepted. Anything can be looked upon as a test of faith. Once reason has been undermined, there’s no way logically to refute this system—that’s why people who are ordinarily considered highly intelligent can become involved in believing, doing, and justifying just about anything.

. . . . Still another ploy is parceling out, or taking away, power over others in the group.

Mysterious or supernatural powers have always been used to validate religious authorities. Even today many people operate under a basic assumption that the ability to perform some act that defies ordinary explanation means the person who does this has an inside track to truth, or ‘higher?truth. . . . .

Special powers people are reputed to have include healing, transmitting energy that gives others special experiences, and feats of magic such as materializing objects. . . . . With such phenomena, the usual concerns involve what’s really going on. Are these powers magical, or some kind of ESP, or chicanery that depends on people’s gulliblity and readiness to believe? Is the source of energy transmissions in the guru, or within a relational matrix where the receivers have a particular openness to receive? Is experiencing intense energy a sign of spirituality, or is the experience in the same vein as young ladies who swoon in the presence of rock stars? And then there is the question of whether special traits are necessarily an indication of special wisdom.

Our interest is not so much in explanations of the nature of these phenomena, but in how they are used by those who claim to do them. The reality and source of magical events can be endlessly debated. What can be easily seen, however, is whether they are being used to gain dominance, bolster credibility in other areas, make people worshipful, and create a context where the ‘miracle worker? becomes an unchallengeable authority. When magic lies at the base of authority, no matter how elevated the people appear, they are engaged in perhaps the oldest ploy of authoritarian mind control.

Whenever powers are utilized as credentials to disarm reason and make people blind followers, there is little wisdom there. The idea that wisdom is justified by magical ability is even questioned within traditional Eastern thought. Trying to cultivate or being enthralled with special powers is considered one of the great dangers of the spiritual path. The major use of the miraculous has been to impress. For us the real mystery is why people display their purported powers in so many irrelevant or even trivial ways. . . . . Bottom line, those who use anything seemingly out of the ordinary to get others to bow down to them should be held suspect.

The guru’s specialness is presented as the result of many lifetimes of purification. So it is tacitly implied that one’s advancement can never approach the guru’s exalted state—at least not in this lifetime. It is far easier to surrender to a projection of perfection than to someone who is essentially like you. Thus gurus routinely take on images that people have been conditioned to associate with divinity: all-wise, all-good, all-powerful, or some approximation thereof. They all claim to be able to lead people to salvation, enlightenment, bliss, self-knowledge, immortality, peace, an end to sorrow, and ultimately being one with God. These states are conveniently as difficult to reach as they are compelling. Gurus also claim to bestow unconditional love [or at least "sorcerer’s affection"] on those who surrender to them, while actually whatever emotional connection exists is conditional on surrender and obedience. They cultivate images that cater to the disciples?preconceived ideas of spirituality as selfless purity. In short, gurus basically tell disciples what they want to hear, including how special and wise they are for surrendering to them.

The deceit underlying most ploys is that the guru has no self-interest at all. The traditional ideal of enlightenment allows this deceit free reign because the guru is placed in a category beyond the knowledge and judgment of others. From here gurus can rationalize any contradictory behavior. The traditional idea that once enlightened, one can do anything is also attractive to disciples who secretly hope this is where their sacrifices will eventually lead them."

. . . .

To be thought enlightened, one must appear not only certain that one is, but certain about most everything else, too. Certainty in areas where others are uncertain and have strong desires automatically sets up the guru’s dominance. . . . . In addition, to get followers what is needed is a message promising desires will be realized, and facility in handling people’s challenges and confusions. . . . . Problems arising from individuated life can be made to appear trivial, and a sign that the questioner has serious ‘ego problems.? Deflecting everything back to others?lacks is a simple, age-old ploy of anyone in a position of unchallengeability.

Another related ploy is placing high value on detachment . . . . The message is ‘You can’t become enlightened if you’re stuck on the material plane with attachments.?To be attached is presented as being ego-bound. Preaching renunciation and self-sacrifice is by definition authoritarian—it means an authority telling you what you’re supposed to renounce. If a person buys this ideology, then detaching from possessions, relationships, and even one’s identity can at first make one feel better because they are the usual sources of pyschological pain.

Taking on beliefs because they alleviate conflict is part of the unconscious code underlying authoritarian control." Pp. 66-71.

To Cults and Authoritarian Control: More Insights from The Guru Papers