|STRIPPING THE GURUS||
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ONE OF MY DEAR, late mother’s most memorable expressions, in attempting to get her children to behave, was simply: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
It may take a minute, an hour, a day, a year, ten years or more, but eventually the details of one’s behaviors are likely to surface. Whether one’s public face is that of a saint or a sinner, ultimately “the truth will out.”
This book, then, concerns the alleged sins which have been concealed behind the polished façades of too many of our world’s “saintly and sagely” spiritual leaders and their associated communities, with a marked focus on North America over the past century.
Why, though, would anyone write such a book as this? Why not just “focus on the good,” and work on one’s own self-transformation instead?
First of all, one hopes to save others from the sorrow inherent in throwing their lives away in following these figures. Even the most elementary bodhisattva vow, for the liberation of others from suffering, would leave one with no moral choice but to do one’s part in that. Likewise, even the most basic understanding as to the nature of “idiot compassion” would preclude one from ignoring these reported problems just to be “nice” or avoid offending others.
As a former follower of Carlos Castaneda eloquently put it, in relating the depressing and disillusioning story of her experiences with him, amid her own “haunting dreams of suicide”:
[I]f some reader, somewhere, takes a moment’s pause and halts before handing over his or her free will to another, it will all have counted for something (Wallace, 2003).
Or, as Margery Wakefield (1991) expressed her own opinion:
As trite as it may sound, if I can prevent even one other person, especially a young person, from having to live through the nightmare of Scientologythen I will feel satisfied.
Second, I personally spent the worst nine months of my life at one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s approved southern California ashrams (i.e., hermitages/monasteries), and have still not recovered fully from that awful experience. I thus consider this as part of my own healing process. That is, it is part of my dealing with the after-effects of the “wisdom” meted out in that environment by its loyal, “God-inspired” participants.
Third, with my own background in Eastern philosophy, we may hope to do all this without misrepresenting the metaphysical ideas involved. With or without that, though, it is not the validity of the theoretical ideas of each path which are, in general, of concern here. Rather, of far greater interest are the ways in which the leaders espousing those ideas have applied them in practice, frequently to the claimed detriment of their followers.
Fourth, the mapping of reported ashram behaviors to psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s classic prison study, as presented in the “Gurus and Prisoners” chapter, yields significant insights into the origins and pervasiveness of the alleged problems cataloged herein.
Fifth, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, if we eliminate everything which is impossible, then what is left, however improbable it may appear, must be the case. Becoming aware of the reported issues with our world’s “sages” and their admirers, then, eliminates many pleasant but “impossible” hopes one may have with regard to the nature of spirituality and religion.
This book will not likely change the mind of any loyal disciple of any of the spiritual figures and paths specifically addressed herein. Indeed, no amount of evidence of alleged abuse or hypocrisy on the part of those leaders could do so, for followers who are convinced that they have found “God in the flesh,” in their spiritual hero.
This text may, however, touch some of those devotees who are already halfway to realizing what is going on around them. And more importantly, in quantitative good, it may give a “heads up” to persons who would otherwise be suckered in by the claims of any particular “God-realized being”as I myself was fooled, once upon a time. And thus, it may prevent them from becoming involved with the relevant organization(s) in the first place.
Ultimately, the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach to life simply allows the relevant problems to continue. No one should ever turn a blind eye to secular crimes of forgery, incest, rape or the like. Much less should those same crimes be so readily excused or forgiven when they are alleged to occur in spiritual contexts. That is so particularly when they are claimed to be perpetrated by leaders and followers insisting that they have “God on their side,” and that any resistance to their reported blunders or rumored power-tripping abuses equates to being influenced by Maya/Satan.
To say nothing in the face of evil, after all, is to implicitly condone it. Or equally, as the saying goes, “For evil to triumph in this world, it is only necessary for good people to do nothing.”
In the words of Albert Einstein:
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
The alert reader will further note that, aside from my own relatively non-scandalous (but still highly traumatic) personal experiences at Hidden Valley, all of the allegations made hereinnone of which, to my knowledge, except where explicitly noted, have been proved in any court of lawhave already been put into print elsewhere in books and magazine articles. In all of those cases, I am relying in good faith on the validity of the extant, published research of the relevant journalists and ex-disciples. I have made every effort to present that existing reported data without putting any additional “spin” on it, via juxtapositions or otherwise. After all, the in-print (alleged) realities, in every case, are jaw-dropping enough that no innuendo or taking-out-of-context would have ever been required in order to make our world’s “god-men” look foolish.
As the Dalai Lama (1999) expressed his own opinion, regarding the value of such investigative journalism:
I respect and appreciate the media’s interference.... It is appropriate ... to have journalists ... snooping around and exposing wrongdoing where they find it. We need to know when this or that renowned individual hides a very different aspect behind a pleasant exterior.
As to the quantity of reported “sins” covered uncomplimentarily herein, please appreciate that I myself am, in general, in no way anti-drug, anti-alcohol, anti-dildo, anti-secret-passageway-to-the-women’s-dormitory, anti-whorehouse or anti-orgy, etc. It is simply obvious, by now, that any of those, when put into the hands of “god-men” who have carved islands of absolute power for themselves in the world, only make an already dangerous situation much worse.
Of course, all such protests to the contrary, it is the very nature of the gathering and publicizing of information such as this that one will be regarded as being either puritanical or shadow-projecting for doing so. Why else, after all, would anyone object to guru-disciple sex, etc., in situations where the “non-divine” party too often is a psychological child in the relationship, unable to say “No”?
The guideline that “all’s fair among consenting adults so long as no one gets hurt” is reasonable enough. So then simply ask yourself as you read this book: In how many, if any, of the environments covered here has no one “gotten hurt”?
Finally, with regard to the use of humor herein, the late Christopher Reeve put it appropriately: “When things are really bad, you have to laugh.”
P.S. For this “eleventh anniversary” edition, of a book first published in the spring of 2005, I have updated all of the hyperlinks to point to accessible pages. In the time since the initial publication, amazon.com fatally changed the query string for calling the “search inside this book” feature, and the former www.rickross.com cult-debunking site is now “Rick’s Picks,” i.e., a gaming-odds site ... which, in the context of the guru game, is oddly ironic. For, in the latter, the odds of finding a non-abusive guru are roughly 1000-to-1 against. So, bet only as much as you can afford to lose.
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