The Guru Papers : Masks of Authoritarian Power
by Joel Kramer
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Conspiracies against autonomy, September 16, 2004
Reviewer: John Landon "nemonemini" (NYC, NY United States)
This sensitive counsel on the dangers of the guru phenomenon is a key text and good as far it goes, but in the wake of the New Age generation we need more detailed information on the nature ofthe problem. A work such as this quite naturally picks up the case of Jim Jones and his cult, and while that is both understandable and appropriate, is that case really the crux of the problem? It is so extreme that it deflects attention from the more insidious types that prey on their cultic disciples with sufficient cunning to never get caught. One problem is that many who fall into guru traps are aware of a dimension straight deprogramming texts filter out and the warning never registers. Those confronting the legacy of Indic guruism spreading globally need someone to level with them on the terms of that world in itself, instead of the usual cliches about cults. Cults are a side issue. The real issue is the unstated denial of freedom in the great traditions of Christianity and Buddhism, and the occult conspiracies that back these up. We are fighting all over again the battle remembered in Kant's essay, What is Enlightenment? a text every New Ager should read before they sign their life away to Shri so and so or some sufi shark.
Platitudes about authoritarianism aren't enough. These gurus are mixed in a strange mafia we never see. Gurus are always careful to coach 'surrender'. NEVER agree to anything, and proceed at your own risk. Steal a buddhist sutra and work alone in your basement. Check out Rudranandra' Spiritual Cannibalism to start figuring out why noone is much interested in your liberation and very interested in your surrender.
One of the most important books for the 21st century, , March 31, 2005
Reviewer: Mr. Ford Greene Esq (US)
God. The God of Science, The God of Papal Infallibility, The God of National Security, The God of Family Values, The God of Buddhist Selflessness, The God of Unconditional Love. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing.
The Guru Papers elegantly identifies the masks that power uses to hide its abuse of others. Authoritarianism is the exercise of authority which, presuming an unquestioning obedience, can tolerate neither question nor challenge, meeting either with disregard or punishment. Assiduously distinguishing the everyday exercise of authority - living life and making choices amongst the propositions it presents - from the bullying domination intrinsic to the type of power unwilling to recognize an equal, the authors carefully dissect the threads which, woven together, comprise the cloth of abuse. Whence abusiveness flows, certain features are invariably present.
When a "leader" sets up an ideological standard of perfection or purity that no human being can attain, and our consequent failure of such attainment becomes the raison d'etre for a double standard of treatment whereby the leader gives orders and we obey them, we have lost our freedom, particularly if we believe it is for our own good.
Whenever one pole of a duality is identified as essential to good living and the other pole leads to evil, behind that mask an authoritarian moralist weaves his tale positing that which he believes is most important, that which he says is God. Gurus and religions, politicians and governments, educators and schools, parents and families, and lovers and spouses frequently equate evil with selfishness and goodness with selflessness and sacrifice. They say if I am sufficiently sincere and pure of heart, I will sacrifice what I want for what they tell me is best. Thus, I will be a better man.
There is little difference between the cult leader who demands allegiance to the unproven presumption of his godliness, and the lover who, crying "let me be myself," claims his imperfections should be accepted without limit in the name of unconditional love. When a moral demand for sacrifice is made in the name of something sacred, be it the Immaculate Conception or an Idealized Lover, one best be brave and ask one's questions. If such courage is met with punishment or disregard, one better run. If one does not, one's conduct will communicate that there is something wrong, and it's not with the other guy.
The essence of authoritarianism attacks the inner certainty of individuals by claiming that it knows a superior, more moral path. It not only condemns an individual's assertion of self as selfish and wrong, but also is unwilling to engage in dialogue which does not adopt an unquestioning regard for that which it deems sacred. If an individual adopts this moral dichotomy, he can only mistrust himself as inferior. This, Alstad/Kramer say, is the purpose of authoritarian control: to generate internal self-mistrust which makes the individual available to imposition of control by an external authority.
They correctly expose the deception that such externally imposed control is benevolent. According to Kramer/Alstad, authoritarian persons are never benevolent because such persons use others for their own selfish purposes while lying about it, saying they are not, if they are saying anything at all. "Do as I say, not as I do; and if you dare question what I do, you are questioning what all good people know is beyond reproach. You, too, would have respect if only you were a good person. Since you are not, you must do as I say. It is for your own good." Such is the circle of authoritarian ideology.
The language of authoritarianism is the language that Orwell named double-speak. There's no Orwellian double-speak in this book, just hard-hitting practical logic that rips the guts out of sacred cows that have fed too long in pastures provided by a naive and idealistic population. Such a populace, wanting to be good, denies that someone who directs their focus on great and beautiful-sounding ideals could be ripping them off, as was one of Hitler's more notable tricks.
Thus, the book shows how both the willingness to psychologically dominate, and to surrender to such, are embedded in one another. The dominating and the dominated persons both believe in an unattainable and essential purity which requires extreme sacrifices, both in its name, as well as for its attainment. One person makes the sacrifice, after the other has convinced him he must, erstwhile he would be morally condemned as selfish and self-centered for having disobeyed the other who claims to know best.
The Guru Papers recognizes that both self-centeredness and selflessness exist - you cannot purge the self of selfishness - and must work together in oneself in balance. It forcefully argues why intelligent negotiation is life-affirming whereas dumb submission invites death. It meticulously dissects the myriad protean tricks authoritarianism employs to maneuver its subjects into place and keep them there. Access to information and accountability for one's conduct are essential for the brave new world that might emerge if the reptant strain of authoritarianism in humankind does not destroy this world first in the name of knowing better.
The book says listen to yourself and if you are degraded or expelled for asking questions, recognize that the inadequacy lies with the authoritarian character, not with you. The Guru Papers makes the authoritarian predicates accountable and exposes them when they are not. It's about time!
Understanding the Forces of Control at Work in Our Lives., November 25, 2002
Reviewer: John Noble (Flagstaff, AZ USA)
If you are at all a critical thinker, you should read this book. It offers a challenging and insightful look into the authoritarian constructs that have been created and continue to be promoted in our world at large and also within ourselves. If you wish to break any bonds of control over you that you feel threaten your happiness, this book offers an insight into why you may be submitting to them and how you may be able to opt out of that control. The ideas expressed in this book may very well change your life for the better; it has mine! Give it a read.
Taking Responsibility, September 8, 2001
Reviewer: Kelly L. Leeper-Eisenhower (Dana Point)
Refreshing truth on what has been my argument for over 10 years of how people in our society are looking for someone else to take responsibility for their lives. Being a spiritual aspirant and rebirther I have repeatedly found all spiritual groups entrenched in these dynamics of Authoritarianism. This book has nothing to do with being a rebel or creating arguments with authority, but ultimately taking responsibility for ones evolution, enlightenment and devotion. If one has not had valid spiritual experiences apart from a spiritual authority/Guru, it is quite easy to take the information in this book at face value as well. The readers need to keep their own discernment when reading this book and engage some serious self-analysis as to what they are doing in these group dynamics/peers or with a teacher/Guru. This is a great read for all teachers, Guru's to help their students/disciples become responsible spiritual adults and to stop the dysfunctional dependency that is ultimately created in the womb and early infancy due to ignorant parenting (the first guru).
If anyone has a hard time taking responsibility for their own enlightenment, this is must read for daily inspiration. No one's going to do it for you - not even your Guru. The Guru cannot take responsibility for you and if you wait for them to - it's to your evolutionary disadvantage. One last comment: There ARE valid Guru's in every religion who are willing to serve, but you have to help them by taking responsibility. It's unfortunate that the authors did not give credibility to those sincere Guru's who are at times very hard to find, but do exist. Even then, one must take responsibility. Other related reading would be books by Leonard Orr, Sondra Ray and ISPPM (International Society of Pre and Perinatal Psychology). They have a spiritual approach to dissolving Parental/Authoritarian Disapproval by diving deep into conception, birth and infancy related trauma's which are at the core of dependency dysfunctions..
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