Responsibility

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.

Victim-think

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Victim-think is a strategy for denying all responsibility. “Since I have no power, it’s not my fault, and you can’t expect me to deal with it.”

Total responsibility

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The delusion that you are, or can be, totally responsible for “your” reality is prevalent in some religious and psychotherapeutic circles.

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