Cults and Authoritarian Control: 
More Insights from The Guru Papers
by Corey Donovan

The following excerpt from The Guru Papers helps us to understand the psychology underlying Cleargreen’s current communications (or lack thereof). It also goes a long way toward explaining the behavior of certain "true believers" I have encountered lately.

Since, as a member of the Tango and Tigre mailing lists (mailing lists established primarily to discuss Tensegrity and material discussed at the workshops) up to about early September, I had noted that Tigre was being used for over a month primarily to attack Sustained Action—list and website—and its authors, I finally decided to respond to some of the less-informed assailants (ignoring most of the ad hominem invective, and the three posters who each shared with the list their entire private correspondence with me).

I lasted about three days at that task. Apparently my big mistake was to "admit," in one of my responses, that I was "not practicing Tensegrity at the moment," because of the unpleasant connotations that the movements currently brought up for me, while indicating that I was exploring other kinds of movement practice, including yoga and dance, to see if the sensations produced were similar. A day and a half later, I ceased to receive any postings from Tigre or Tango (of which I had been co-founder in 1995). I received no notice for this sudden removal, and when I wrote to the anonymous list moderator inquiring about this development, I failed to receive a reply. Several days later, however, a curious new "policy" statement appeared on Tigre, which suggests that my subscription fell "victim" to the "ex post facto" application of a new, ad hoc policy.

Tigre’s new policy reads as follows:

"In keeping with the commitment discussed at the end of the last Tigre Charter update, this is to inform you that action is already being taken in response to the persistent posting of personal taxonomy by some subscribers. These actions will continue, and they may vary from individual suggestions and reminders to unsubscription.

The main purpose of this list is to promote impersonal discussion between practitioners of Tensegrity. If one does not consider him-herself a practitioner, then this person has simply no place at Tigre. As a matter of fact, such person has no place at Tango either. This is not an issue of oppinion [sic] as much as one of Intent. It is precisely out of respect for those people's intent that one should also stop considering them practitioners of Tensegrity and act accordingly. To those practitioners who have expressed their concern with the discussion of other practitioners' personal history at Tigre: please rest assured that the purpose and focus of this forum have not changed at all.

From its beginning, the Tigre Mailing List was marked by one quality: patience. If the first event in a series of events is a blueprint which defines its ulterior course [now that’s an interesting slip ?"ulterior" for "ultimate"], one could say that the success of this experiment will be determined by the patience of every one of its contributors. Hopefully, we all will be able to steer this list in the right direction and keep it sailing that way.

Best wishes,


Well, it looks like the anonymous moderator still needs to smooth out his or her "jargon" a bit, but that their "explanation" is nearly up to Cleargreen levels of obfuscation and high-but-narrow mindedness. And boy was their response "marked by that one quality: patience"! It took them all of three days to delete my subscription without prior warning, or any explanation or response to me as an individual. And, despite the new "policy," the personal attacks and judgments on the list regarding me and my presumed personal history have continued.

With this little recent background in mind, I give you another excerpt from The Guru Papers, from a subchapter entitled, "Recognizing Authoritarian Control":


"Surrendering to a guru brings instant intimacy with all who share the same values. In a world where traditional values are crumbling, bringing brittle, hedonistic ways of relating, many feel alone and disconnected. Acceptance by and identification with the group induce a loosening of personal boundaries. This opening consequently increases the emotional content of one’s life, bringing purpose, meaning, and hope. It is no wonder that those who join such groups rave about how much better they feel than previously. But this quick, one-dimensional bonding is based solely upon a shared ideology. No matter how intense and secure it feels, should one leave the fold, it evaporates as quickly as it formed.

Surrender is the glue that binds guru and disciple. Being a disciple offers the closest approximation (outside of mental institutions) to the special configuration of infancy. Surrender is a route that enables disciples to experience again, at least partially, the conflict-free innocence that is the source of their atavistic longings. . . . .

This dependent state satisfies other longings that stem from infancy. Once again, one experiences being at the center of the universe—if not directly (the guru occupies that space), at least closer to the center than one could have thought possible. The guru also puts out the image of the totally accepting parent—the parent one never had but always wanted. So disciples believe they are loved unconditionally, even though this love is conditional on continued surrender. Disciples in the throes of surrender feel they have given up their past, and do not, consciously at least, fear the future. In addition, they feel more powerful through believing that the guru and the group are destined to greatly influence the world. Feeling totally cared for and accepted, at the universe’s center, powerful, and seemingly unafraid of the future are all achieved at the price of giving one’s power to another, thus remaining essentially a child.

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

Surrendering to an authority who dictates what’s right is a quick, mechanical route to feeling more virtuous. It is a fast track for taking on a moral system and to some extent following it. But more, that act of surrender itself can feel like giving up or at least diminishing one’s ego, which is presented as a sign of spiritual progress. All renunciate moral systems have as prime virtues selflessness and obedience to some higher authority. If confused or in conflict, conforming to programming can make one feel immediately better. Obedience itself can feel selfless. . . . .No matter how much better one initially feels, anything that undermines self-trust in the long run is detrimental to becoming an adult.

Disciples usually become more attached to the psychological state that surrender brings than to the guru, whom they never really get to know as a person. Repudiation of the guru (or even doubt and questioning) means a return to earlier conflict, confusion, and meaninglessness. The deeper they surrender, and the more energy and commitment they put into the guru, the greater their emotional investment is. Disciples will thus put up with a great deal of contradictory and aberrant behavior on the guru’s part, for doubting him literally means having their world fall apart.

This is why many who are involved in authoritarian surrender adamantly deny they are. Those who see the dissembling in other gurus or leaders can find countless ways to believe that their guru is different. It is not at all unusual to be in an authoritarian relationship and not know it. In fact, knowing it can interfere with surrender. Any of the following are strong indications of belonging to an authoritarian group:

  1. No deviation from the party line is allowed. Anyone who has thoughts or feelings contrary to the accepted perspective is made to feel wrong or bad for having them. [E.g., the insincere suggestions that, "You really should drop your senseless anger and find another, different path with a heart."]
  2. Whatever the authority does is regarded as perfect or right. Thus behaviors that would be questioned in others are made to seem different and proper.
  3. One trusts the leader or others in the group to know what’s best.
  4. It is difficult to communicate with anyone not in the group.
  5. One finds oneself defending actions of the leader (or other members) without having firsthand knowledge of what occurred. [E.g., one of the more thoughtful Tigre posters dismissed as irrelevant the Sustained Action information, claming that he would "follow Martin Bormann" if the deceased Nazi propagandist had come up with something as "useful" as Tensegrity.]
  6. At times one is confused and fearful without knowing why. This is a sign that doubts are being repressed.

The age-old inquiry that asks ‘Who am I??looks inside for self-discovery. The process of digging deeper into oneself reveals there are self-images constructed out of the past that are part of one’s identity. The true meaning of spiritual surrender involves letting go of self-defining images that limit who one is and can be. Within this inner inquiry one also comes to realize that one is part of a larger context. Surrendering to those who present themselves as a better or more real representative of that larger context perverts the true beauty and meaning of surrender. On the contrary, surrendering to another as the gateway to salvation keeps people dependent, childish, and living second-handedly. Surrender as an adult encompasses realizing that all of us are an interwoven part of a larger process that both creates and is created by its components. This involves being able both to control life and to surrender to what life offers. It does not involve giving up one’s power or identity.

The only way any living system works well is to have information flowing freely between its parts and its environment. This is particularly essential with human beings, in order to counteract the inbuilt nature of subjectivity and the biasing filters of self-interest. The guru/disciple relationship, which is inherently authoritarian, cuts off the necessary flow of information for both, creating a feedback-proof system. If any degree of objectivity can ever be obtained, it is only through open minds that change with changing information.

The thoughts in this book could always be written off as unspiritual, egotistical, and coming from a lower plane of understanding. Ultimately there is no way to prove whose perspective is more accurate. What can be shown, however, is whether the process involved in establishing a given worldview is authoritarian, and what the implications of this process are. The tragedy that all authoritarian structures breed, particularly so-called spiritual ones, comes from giving absolute priority to another’s viewpoint. This involves mistakenly identifying as spiritual [or "sorceric"] the (usually temporary) conflict-free emotions and passions that come from surrendering to an authority. The tragedy is compounded in our times because our survival as a species depends upon adults coming to the fore who can break the shackles of old authority and tradition, creating new forms of relating to each other and to the planet we live on. In order to do this, we must use all we have: our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and all types of information from the world around us. Blind surrender to authority is an emotional indulgence and illusory security the species can no longer afford." Pp. 55-59.