Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Guru Papers

And The “One-ness” Experience

I highly recommend "The Guru Papers~Masks Of Authoritarian Power" by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad regarding religion, cults, one-ness experiences, the split in modern people between "good" and "bad" selves, the futility of trying to eliminate the "bad" self and how trying to do this feeds susceptibility to things like cults, drugs and other so-called addictions.

For instance we are all capable of having what the authors call a "One-ness" experience, where we experience the interconnectedness of everything, the "all is one" moment. We are, of course, equally capable of experiencing our separateness. Where this split exists in a person, the kind of split which says that love, one-ness, whole-ness, etc.. is "good" and separate-ness, ego, personal enhancement are "bad", then it naturally follows that one should live all the time in the "good" or One-ness experience. It further follows that it's possible to do this, that there are people who do, and of course, one should surrender to these people and do what they say in order to arrive there ourselves. The problem of course is that ego, selfishness and self-enhancement are deeply wired parts of us have major survival value and will not just go away, no matter how hard we try to banish them. The stage is then set for endless inner conflict, purges, true believing, etc.

The authors advocate for a more balanced approach, one that jives well with my Taoist leanings. It's fairly simple really. We all have selfish as well as loving impulses, One-ness as well as separate-ness experiences, competitive as well as cooperative natures. No one part of our natures is where we should live all the time. Rather let each kind of experience or aspect of our nature's manifest as it does, when it does, and embrace the whole of our natures. I find this true of so many aspects of life. Not black or white, or even gray, but black AND white in a dynamic exchange. It's not easy though. It's much easier to see the world as Good versus Evil than to embrace the ambiguities and tensions between the different sides of ourselves.

The authors apply this dialectical approach to all kinds of life arenas, including addiction treatment, religion, cults, etc.. I liked the book a lot and plan to re-read it down the road.

I'm not a purely scientific or spiritual person, nor am I purely reasonable or intuitive. I don't trust any particular model to bring me to some absolute Truth. I think there are many valuable and useful lenses to look through in this life and some of the ones I look through contradict each other. But surely the scientific, logical one is extremely valuable and I always, at the very least, find it interesting. Again, to me it's not a question of being totally materialist or totally spiritualist, where one is "true" and other must be banished. I think the "Truth" is an unknowable mystery, but the more points of view I try on and understand, the better a sense of it I get. And when people start to frame what I consider crackpot ideas "scientifically", I think they should be held up to the very standards they themselves evoke.

I don't believe in the whole enlightenment project either, the idea that a person can reach a place where they "live" in the "one-ness". And, even if it were possible, I don’t think it’s desirable or healthy, and I certainly don’t think being able to do it means you know how to take or lead me or anyone else there. One of the phrases of the late J.Krishnamurti's that I especially liked is: "The *truth is pathless land. No one can lead you there."    *Meaning here spiritual truth, the ultimate nature of reality.

I do think one-ness experiences are real. I've had some myself. I do believe in a kind of ultimate one-ness or interconnectedness of everything. I do think there is a mysterious wholeness that permeates everything. But I also believe in separarate-ness, at least relative separate-ness.

I think a good actor or a charismatic leader isn't doing something supernatural. And yet I also think there is something miraculous, mysterious and magical in a good performance of any kind. And by magical, I don't mean unexplainable, I mean magical in the sense of seeming to have more energy than the sum of its parts. People used to say about The Beatles that something happened when all four of them were in the studio together that didn't happen with any other combination. People said it was palpable the minute the fourth one showed up. I'm sure there's a neurobiological explanation for this that I would not fault, and I still think it's magic or magical too.

("A line from my fabulous song, "Digeridon't": "It's true on some level when you say, 'We're all one', but it's not on the level where any work gets done..")

I don't think I can live in the "one-ness" or that someone else can show me how to. I don't believe that it's even desirable. It's like having an orgasm and deciding that because that was wonderful, I should "live" in "orgasm-ness" all the time. Orgasms are like peak experiences or one-ness experiences to me. They're to be tasted and enjoyed, not held onto or willed into being.

I don't believe it's good to be anything "all the time". I think life is a mysterious movement that is always throwing us for one loop or another as the waves come and go. Many different responses to these waves of life seem to be needed if one is to survive very long. I like having a range of responses available to me, from anger to one-ness to selfishness to altruism to laughter to competition to love to hate to indifference to awe to sadness to cooperation to whatever. If I want to meet the next thing that happens fully, I think the only way I should characteristically be is ready. I do try to cultivate as much readiness as I can. But I can't see being any other way all or even most of the time.

I think we as a species are longing to escape from the human condition, what with the awareness of death, and the endless task of resolving the contradictory aspects of our beings: animal/civilized, feeling/thinking, competitive/cooperative, selfish/giving, the whole raft of consciousness/free-will side effects.

It's very attractive to surrender this impossible-to-resolve tension into the "certainty" of a mass movement, or cult group, since to accept the unresolvable-ness of life means to accept our ultimate lack of control. To do this is a kind of surrender too, but it's a much harder kind that involves constant attention and work, like walking a tight rope. So while I do think that there are people who are very seductive and skilled at weaving certain "spells", I also think they are exploiting a deep human weakness that lives in all of us.

Personally, I've benefitted a lot from owning up to this weakness and gradually cultivating more and more tolerance for being a human being, with mixed emotions, mixed motives, mixed thoughts and a mixed nature. The more I can live with the unresolvable tension of being human, the happier I feel. The more I cross the line between seeking resolution and forcing resolution, the less happy I feel. And in general, I feel less interested in escape, and therefore less susceptible to the "spells" that I encounter people trying to weave.

1 comment:

  1. In general I agree with you. Thanks for taking the time to spell it out.