Quotes from
The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power
by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

"One of the longest experiments in history">

Quotes from
The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power
by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

"One of the longest experiments in history, the approximately 3,000-year-old Eastern ideology of Oneness, was first developed in the Upanishads. . . . The failure of its renunciate morality to diminish self-centeredness is a powerful statement that something is amiss. . . . It is our contention that this morality has failed not because there is something wrong with people, but because the framework constructs ideals that are impossible to achieve, thus setting people up for failure and self-mistrust."

"The ideal of enlightenment at first blush seems completely innocent of human corruption because it is defined as being totally selfless. Yet it is this sacrosanct concept of perfection that allows authoritarianism to manifest, and indeed flourish."

"Monotheism with one God on top is obviously authoritarian. The authoritarianism embedded within the Eastern ideology of Oneness is less obvious. . . . Whereas monotheism makes the revealed Word of God sacred, Eastern religions make presumed enlightened beings sacred. Thus the concept of enlightenment brings authoritarianism at the personal, charismatic level (gurus, masters, avatars, and buddhas)."

"Accepting selflessness as the highest value is where the insidious authoritarianism of the old order unwittingly seeps into many modern paradigms that attempt to be new."

"Are gurus...filling deep needs and thus inadvertently pointing to trouble spots and lacks in the fabric of our culture, as well as revealing the depth of our conditioning to want authorities and mistrust ourselves?"(p.32)

"...Behind much of the appeal of such authorities lies the primitive and essentially childish hope of an external and magical answer to the existential problems and fears around living and dying. The guru/disciple relationship is a formal structure of extreme authoritarianism. It thus offers a quintessential exemplar of control and surrender, displaying mechanical processes that reinforce predilections toward submission."(p.32)

"THE GURU PAPERS critiques the guru/disciple liaison because it is a clear-cut example of the old, no longer appropriate paradigm of spiritual authority. It is not that we doubt that some who are considered gurus have deeper insights than their followers. Yet even with the best intentions, assuming the role of spiritual authority for others sets in motion a system of interaction that is mechanical, predictable, and contains the essence of corruption. Another purpose of this book is to show that corruption is not simply the failure or weakness of a specific individual, but is structurally built into any authoritarian relationship, and less obviously, any renunciate morality."(p.35)

"...Asserting that one human being fundamentally knows what’s best for another is authoritarian. If this is accepted, it sets up a chain of inevitable relational patterns that are detrimental to all players of the game."(p.36)

"Now through media images, leaders of all sorts can charismatically control far more people than ever before, without having any personal connection with them"(p.43)

"The need to appear right when presenting oneself as a spiritual knower is greater than in any other arena because knowing is what makes one essentially different from seekers. Admitting any fallibility not only removes one from that exalted place, but makes it difficult to compete with other presumed knowers who do claim infallibility."(p.47)

"The ostensible reason for fostering surrender is it detaches followers from certain deep conditionings presumed to be obstacles on the spiritual path. But it does not detach them from one of the most insidious and powerful conditionings of all- the predilection to look for an authority that one can trust more than oneself." (p.50)

"A number of gurus have made statements to the effect that disobedience or disrespect
of the guru has...severe negative spiritual consequences...One even said that such disrespect can bring thousands of lifetimes of pain and suffering. Whatever else is involved, it should be obvious that fear and threats are being used here for control."(p.67)

"When magic lies at the base of authority, no matter how elevated the people appear, they are engaged in perhaps the oldest ploy of authoritarian mind control." (p.68)

"To maintain mental control it is necessary to undermine self-trust. This is insidiously done by removing the ways people can build trust in themselves."(p.73)

"Cults need a continuous stream of recruits and potential converts to reinforce the belief that they’re "where it’s at"- the vanguard of spirituality on the planet."(78)

"What most proselytizing groups face is how to sell their beliefs without appearing to do so. Recruiting is therefore always done in the name of helping or doing some kind of good....to care about others is to get them to join."(p.79)

"When dealing with others who are less certain, simply having certainty gives dominance." (p.80)

"When the popularity and power of the group plateaus and then begins to wane...the apocalyptic phase enters and the party is over..."(p.80)

"The attitude of benign superiority toward outsiders characteristic of the expansionistic phase dramatically shifts when the group turns apocalyptic. It is the outsiders who will receive the brunt of whatever cataclysm the guru claims will come." (p.81)

"The glorification of work always involves improving the leader’s property (the commune or ashram), increasing his wealth, or some grandiose project."(p.82)

"The potential for violence and abuse in an authoritarian cult is always there, not only because whatever the leader says goes, but also because outsiders are made into "the Other," which has always been used to justify violence."(p.83)

"Both gurus and disciples use hierarchical relationships for power. Everyone on the hierarchy gets their feelings of power and specialness from where they are positioned." (p.85)

"authoritarian hierarchies are propped up with an authoritarian worldview and morality. No matter their stated rationale, their main purpose always becomes self-perpetuation, which inevitably corrupts them." (p.86)

"...proselytizing and advertising are cut from the same cloth. The enormous attention given to appearance leads to a concern for packaging rather than what’s inside the package."(p.88)

"Gurus do give special attention to those with wealth or power; having celebrities in one’s entourage increases coffers, influence, and membership."(p.89)

"In the realm of sexuality, the two prevalent ways control is exerted are through promulgating either celibacy or promiscuity...both serve the same function: they minimize the possibilities of people bonding deeply with each other, thus reducing factors that compete with the guru for attention." (p.92)

"Celibacy does allow one to maintain a certain kind of control of one’s energy and emotions. It also conforms with images of purity. Therefore, it is far easier for a guru to gain and maintain power if he is celibate - or pretends to be."(p.92)

"Gurus who preach celibacy while secretly engaging in sexuality present sex as an esoteric initiation ritual or advanced spiritual exercise that must be kept hidden... But it is the lie, not the sex, that’s the real issue. The lie indicates the guru’s entire persona is a lie, that his image as selfless and beyond ego is a core deception."(p.95)

"The standards of purity necessary for the role of guru must bring unconscious repression and filtering mechanisms that ensure deceit and hypocrisy around self-interest,"(p.106)

Being a guru "...creates a feedback-proof system where the guru always needs to be right and cannot be shown to be wrong - which is where learning comes from." (p.107)

"Why would even the most realized of beings want people to become reliant on his wisdom instead of their own?" (p.108)

"The myriad scandals around sex, money, and power that have tainted so many gurus are not surprising, given the structural corruptibility of the role." (p.113)

The..."guru role makes it extremely difficult to escape the traps of power - the ultimate trap being in the end, gurus lose their humanity." (p.114)

"...The ex-disciple’s world has turned on its head: What the guru and group presented as unconditional love was conditional upon accepting their authority; the egoless guru was found to be on a manipulative, even crass, power trip. For people who surrendered totally to a guru and thus experienced passion more deeply than ever before, seeing "The emperor wears no clothes" can be devastating. So it’s no wonder people have tremendous resistance to anything that causes them to doubt the veracity of the authority." (p.152)

"The most extreme form of mental control occurs when the authority is trusted completely and becomes the center of one’s identity. Sadly, society and parents insidiously put out messages from childhood on that others know what’s best. Many people are deeply conditioned to expect and hope some outside agency, power or person will solve their problems. Letting go of expectations or even wanting this is difficult, partially because what one is left with is oneself and all of one’s limitations."(p.154)

"True healing can be accelerated by understanding the deep mechanisms of what happened, and of authoritarian dynamics in general. Then people can be more confident they won’t be taken in again."(p.154)