Learning from the bizarre case of Sai Baba
Posted by robertpriddy on August 29, 2011
Today I am promoting an excellent blog with the views of an independent source -(i.e. someone never a devotee) called Julian Walker. My acknowledgement to him, his constructive and sensible writing is worthy of wider dissemination. The following is a very foreshortened version of the ten points which the author makes at www.elephantjournal.com entitled 10 Things We Can Learn From The Bizarre Case of Sai Baba. (A Manifesto On Reality-Based Spiritual Empowerment!)
Sai Baba lived in the extreme opulence one would unfortunately expect given the history of famous charismatic gurus like Maharaji, Osho, Adi Da, Muktananda and others (all of whom he eclipsed) while those around him starved in squalor.
1) We are suckers for a good magic trick. There is a child in all of us that WANTS to believe, a child that is enchanted by the possibilities of magic – and when spirituality taps into this vulnerable, gullible, innocent self we have faith again in the impossible, and we believe we have found a special loophole in an otherwise difficult and challenging world.
2) Everyone is looking for the perfect daddy (or mommy.) When we are very young we believe our parents are perfect. When these needs are derailed by trauma, disappointment, harsh reality, they often lie dormant in us, waiting to be satisfied by charismatic lovers, rock stars, actors, teachers, and, yes – enlightenment-claiming gurus. This too can be within reasonable limits, or powerfully imbalanced and obsessive.
3) We will fight anyone who criticizes our perfect magic daddy (or mommy.) Once taken in, we cannot be talked out of it rationally and we will fight with passion to protect what has now become a part of our psychological identity.
4) Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Absolute power centered in one idealized individual is a recipe for disaster. This is bad for the community, AND bad for the guru. It creates an environment in which what Carl Jung called “the shadow” is completely ignored and so can flourish like a cancer. It is no accident that in most organizations founded with the best intentions to be spiritual and pure, the power abuse and shadow manifestation of very dark secret behavior is usually rampant.
5) Denial is not a river in Egypt. Though the stories of Sai Baba molesting young boys are rampant, and many long-term high-up members of the organization confirm it – there is a typically widespread denial. How could that be possible, he is a holy man – they must be making it up.
Or else: Perhaps he did it, perhaps he was a pedophile, but we must separate the man from the divine spirit he embodied, or we must separate the teacher from the teachings
6) Extreme relativism kills critical thinking and authentic spirituality. There are (I am told again and again) no facts, no objective truths, science is out of style, everything is a relative perspective, your thoughts create your reality, who is to say what is healthy or unhealthy, true or false, and what constitutes psychological trauma or abuse, hasn’t quantum physics proven that this is an illusion? BUT
Whatever your “perspective,” being suddenly (and then repeatedly) made to perform fellatio or lingam worship via oil massage on the man you (however erroneously) believe is god constitutes a trauma
7) Letting go of the fake magic opens us to the magic of reality. The more we heal from our early wounds, and relinquish our unreasonable childhood needs – the more our spirituality can be an expression of growth, health, grounding and integration. Take the leap, let go of the plastic baubles, real jewels are all around you!
8) Part of true empowerment is facing our powerlessness. We are vulnerable to manipulation. We have complex and deep psychological patterns. We do not and will never have power over everything, nor should this be our goal, nor should we seek out magical figures who we believe have attained this goal through some magical or divine means. Its just not part of being human.
9) Behind all of this is our deep-seated fear of death. My sense is that human beings who have spent some time making peace with death are much more grounded, more open to life, and less vulnerable to fantasy-based, destructive or at the very least unskillful and fragmenting spirituality.
We really can create a new paradigm. We really can learn from the past and move this spiritual developmental line to a new level /stage. We really can learn from the mistakes and madness of old world religion that still has so much of the planet in its grips, from the failed experiment of the “enlightened guru” trip