Authority

The toxic power dynamics of Oneness

The Guru Papers

The title is misleading. Kramer and Alstad started writing a book about problems in guru-disciple relationships. However, they realized two things: such problems are partly due to common “spiritual” misunderstandings of meaningness; and guru-disciple power dynamics are similar to other relationships of authority, with many of the same problems.

So they wound up writing a brilliant analysis of popular spirituality, which comes to many of the same conclusions as Meaningness. Their book also has many insights into authority in general. They intended to expand those into a much larger work titled Control; but it got out of control and they abandoned it.

In the 1970s, young Americans were naive about gurus. They also deliberately suspended disbelief, because they were desperate for solutions to the disintegration of the Western systematic mode of meaning. By now—probably even by 1991 when The Guru Papers was published—everyone understood at least the basics of the power issues in the guru-disciple relationship; so maybe the title aspect of the book is no longer as relevant. Mind you, gurus keep blowing up in sex/power/money scandals, which still seem to take many people by surprise, so maybe not. Anyway, the book is pretty good on guru problems, but that’s not the reason I got it.

I got it because it contains the best discussion I’ve encountered of contemporary American spiritual monism (“All Is One!”). A large chunk of that is available online, and I recommend it highly. But the book turned out to be relevant and interesting on lots of other topics, and I recommend reading the whole thing.

Illuminatus!, Voegelin, and the politics of SBNR monism

Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin, 1901–1985

Ah, the magical connections disclosed by Wikipedia abuse!

I’ve just discovered Eric Voegelin by clicking through to him from the wiki’s Illuminatus! article.

I read Illuminatus! in 1978, and it had a lasting psychoactive effect on me. I was reading its wiki page just now because I keep hearing references to the book by people who weren’t born yet then. Illuminatus! is indescribable, but the wiki describes it as

a satirical, postmodern, science fiction-influenced adventure story; a drug-, sex-, and magic-laden trek through a number of conspiracy theories, both historical and imaginary

The book was written around 1970, and was dismissed as amateurish junk by science fiction readers when it was finally published in 1975. It should have immediately disappeared forever, but apparently it’s going strong four decades later.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Perhaps its prescient postmodernism is why it has aged well? Postmodernism wasn’t yet really a thing in 1975.1 Illuminatus! is more a forerunner; and it has more of the disjointedness of an acid trip, or paranoid-schizophrenic hallucinations, than the elegant re-order of Serious Postmodern Fiction. Serious Fiction is mostly fashionable rubbish, and seems quaint after a decade or two.

So, Eric Voegelin. (This blog post is going to have a point; just you wait and see!)

Freedom

This page is unfinished. It may be a mere placeholder in the book outline. Or, the text below (if any) may be a summary, or a discussion of what the page will say, or a partial or rough draft.

Value social order as a resource; satirize it as an impediment.

Romantic rebellion

This page is unfinished. It may be a mere placeholder in the book outline. Or, the text below (if any) may be a summary, or a discussion of what the page will say, or a partial or rough draft.

I have a fair amount of text completed, but not a clean version yet. The following is from the 2007 draft of Meaningness. It draws heavily on Camus’ The Rebel.

Authority

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General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays, not part the book.

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