More from the Guru Papers – on sexual abuse
Posted by robertpriddy on October 27, 2009
‘The Guru Papers’ by Joel Kramer and Diane Alstead is a major work exposing the exploitation of authoritarian power by gurus.
All this is particularly relevant to the study of Sathya Sai Baba, who fits the bill for such a guru:-
“When abuses are publicly exposed, the leader either denies or justifies the behaviors by saying that ‘enemies of the truth’ or ‘the forces of evil’ are trying to subvert his true message. Core members of the group have a huge vested interest in believing him, as their identity is wrapped up in believing in his righteousness. Those who begin to doubt him at first become confused and depressed, and later feel betrayed and angry. The ways people deny and justify are similar: Since supposedly no one who is not enlightened can truly understand the motives of one who is, any criticism can be discounted as a limited perspective. Also, any behavior on the part of the guru, no matter how base, can be imputed to be some secret teaching or message that needs deciphering.”
“A particular form of seduction that the group participates in with those flirting with joining is similar to sexual conquest. The group pours an enormous amount of focused energy and attention into potential recruits until they surrender to the group’s authority, which of course has the guru and his belief system at its center. When someone does surrender, everyone celebrates the new bonding. This is a bit like a new marriage, and for the recruit, it is the honeymoon phase. This lasts as long as it does, and then the focus of the group shifts elsewhere. (This also happens in romantic love, for after the conquest the wooer’s interest and focus often move somewhere else.) When the honeymoon is over, the new converts must shift roles – from being the wooed to being the wooer.” (p.79)
“But a cult in decline has more trouble selling itself. . . Members and the guru become withdrawn and the focus gets more internal, insular, and isolating. . . The fun is over. The rewards are now put into the distant future (including future lives) and are achievable only through hard work. This not only keeps disciples busy and distracted, but it is necessary because the flow of resources that came with expansion has greatly diminished. This glorification of work always involves improving the leader’s property (the commune or ashram), increasing his wealth, or some other
grandiose project.” (p82)
“People are especially vulnerable to charismatic leaders during times of crisis or major life change.” (p.87)
“People don’t want a second-rate guru; they want the one who seems the best. Since purity is the standard measurement
– the gold or Greenwich meridian time of the guru world
– each guru has to claim the most superlative traits.
This is naturally a breeding ground for hypocrisy, lies, and the cultivation of false images of purity. Gurus are thus forced to assume the role of the highest, best, the most enlightened, the most loving, the most selfless, the purest representative of the most profound truths; for if they did not, people would go to one who does. Consequently, it is largely impossible for a guru to permit himself real intimacy, which in adults requires a context of equality. All his relationships must be hierarchical, since that is the foundation of his attraction and power.” (p.88)
“Since adulation from any one person eventually becomes boring, gurus do not need any specific disciple – they need lots of them. Gurus do give special attention to those with wealth and power.” (p.89)
“Gurus likewise do many things to ensure that their disciples’ prime emotional allegiance is toward them. In the realm of sexuality, the two prevalent ways control is exerted are through promulgating either celibacy or promiscuity. Although seemingly opposite, 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)
“. . . sex scandals go with the occupation of the guru because of its [the position’s] emotional isolation and eventual boredom. Disciples are just there to serve and amuse the guru who, after all, gives them so much. The guru’s temptation is exacerbated by the deep conditioning in many women to be attracted to men in power.” (p.93)
“Gurus, like fathers, are in a context that gives them enormous power because of their disciples’ needs, trust, and dependency. One reason incest is a betrayal of trust is what a daughter needs from her father is a sense of self-worth not specifically linked to her sexuality. Sex with the guru is similarly incestuous because a guru ostensibly functions as a spiritual father to whom one’s growth is entrusted. Having sex with a parental figure reinforces using sex for power. This is not what young women (or men) need for their development. When the guru drops them, which eventually he does, feelings of shame and betrayal usually result that leave deep scars.” (p.94)
“Fostering promiscuity, impersonal sex, and interchangeable sexual partners accomplishes the same agenda as celibacy. It trivializes sexual attraction and undermines coupling. Casual, disconnected, modular sex eventually leaves people satiated, jaded, and often hurt. They become fearful of forming deep relationships, which fits neatly into the guru’s need to have disciples detached from everything but him.” (p.99)
Here is an index of links on the SAI BABA ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSES – a documented overview of the history and extent of the alleged sexual abuses by Sathya Sai Baba and examination of questions they raise.