(Our Good Doctor told me I ought to share this on the front page. Some musings from the last comment thread. Doctor’s orders.)
My mother has told me stories of when she was in her guru group, how she and others would drunkenly dance in the streets and play in traffic, in her heart believing her guru was protecting her– and she wasn’t alone! This kind of literal thinking is obviously very, very dangerous. People in Art of Living have a mystical belief that no harm can come to them as long as they’re in RS’s presence in a similar way. Again, it’s the inability to think metaphorically that kills the sense in most scripture I think.
In a very short amount of time I came to think and believe that Guruji was always looking out for me. Indeed I sometimes felt he knew everything I was thinking. It’s the kind of confusion that occurs when the metaphor of the guru as the gate becomes confused with a literal idea of Him as Godhead— which Sri Sri encourages constantly. If he didn’t, I would have been more than happy to take the blame myself for getting carried away with magical thinking and would have worked hard to discipline myself into remembering the myth as metaphor not as literal Truth– but when I realized just how completely central to that myth-making he was, I couldn’t pretend it was my fault anymore.
The more I read up on cults the more shocking it is to me how little the content matters at all. I’m reading Alex Stein’s book now, “Inside Out” — her story of getting sucked into and breaking out of a political cult in the midwest, and if you substituted “revolution” for “enlightenment”, and “cadre” for “seeker” it’s basically all the same stuff!
Cults in general evolve over time into the same formula, because it’s the same ingredients going into the same oven. I honestly believe that most gurus start out as mostly genuine, hoping to help others and also enjoying the attention. But the likely sociopaths among them start believing their own hype, believing in themselves AS The Attainment, The Godman, IT– and slowly the cult mentality grabs hold of them as deeply as their followers.
I feel sorry for cult leaders. it might seem like they lead the high life but can you imagine never being able to be completely honest with anyone, even yourself? Having to perpetually perform, to receive mindless adulation and call it love, to remove yourself from all real intimacy and crown yourself king of your deluded band and call that eternal glory?
I feel sorry for him, I truly do. I see pictures of him when he first started out and my heart still leaps into my throat– I still think he was astonishingly beautiful. Maybe that’s just his charisma, I don’t know– but maybe he had something precious and delicate, and maybe it died when people first called him “master”.