The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstead
Quotes from major and seminal book which has received the most positive press reviews from across the press and from professional journals
“Easily the most comprehensive, erudite, and timely book in print to explore authoritarianism in religion, institutions, power, the family, intimacy and sexual relations, and personal problems such as addiction…. Argue[s] persuasively that any system of values that places tradition and the past above the imperative to question the present is destined to become increasingly lethal.” — SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW (complete review)
“Spells out…the dangers of becoming addicted to another’s authority” — LONDON TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
“A thorough, wide-ranging analysis of the way power has historically been maintained…. Purports to be no less than a diagnosis of what’s wrong with the world and how, not merely to fix it, but to save it. Its thesis is elegant and nearly unlimited in its ramifications…. authoritarianism is not merely a political phenomenon. It’s part of the way we think.” — THE NEW MEXICAN (complete review)
“An exciting and provocative new concept about the origin and process of addiction. A must read for therapists and addiction counselors.” — Ann McKain, past Pres. American Academy of Psychotherapists
“The potential to shift readers’ minds in a deep way….onto something big—possibly even the root of human error. It can actually change the way one views the world…. Elegantly articulates many of [our]…unformed thoughts” — SYNAPSE (complete review)
PLEASE NOTE: Even though the following quotes may seem to ‘say it all’ about the book, this if far being from the case. The actual book contains a much greater wealth of insights and crystal clear descriptions that instruct all who relate to persons of authority, especially religious and ‘spiritual’ gurus. All kinds of mysticism and sectarian or cultist behaviour is analyzed with clinical accuracy and becomes more recognizable for what it is to those involved, both the sufficiently liberated and those who are still ‘learning the ropes’ that bind. The thoroughness of the description of every element of guru-disciple relations from purity, oneness, love, service, surrender, chastity to all the doctrinal ideals and the most varied and abstract religious and theological themes – whether Hindu or other are fully explained both as to their value and their functions in manipulation of people and power. Get the book and it will become a treasured helper in understanding mysticism most exhaustively!
When we came over this book the Sai Baba exposé was already well advanced. Having virtually completed writing most of my web pages about guru entrapment and Sathya Sai Baba’s abuses of faith and power etc., one can see, for example from my paper on ‘The Fundamentalist Guru Trap Exploitation‘ that his was a very common pattern of behaviour among gurus. The detailed nature of such authoritarianism has been shown and analysed par excellence by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. They cover almost his entire behaviour, though they do not even mention him! (Some of his more characteristic ploys and explanations have, however, only been explained by yours truly). This proves how completely unoriginal his teachings, claims, behaviour and movement are. Kramer and Alstad derived most of their experience from Buddhist teachers, and the similarities to Sathya Sai Baba are striking throughout. Nothing I have come across shows more clearly how little uniqueness there really is to Sathya Sai Baba or to anything he said or did, it all having been forestalled by many so-called godmen and gurus, whether in whole or in part. There are many current bogus claimants who use exactly the same methods, and a good number copy him slavishly (as he had such financial and power-grabbing success).
SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY? The Guru Papers criticizes 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)
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) “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)
SURRENDER, OBEDIENCE ”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)“Successful gurus, rock stars, charismatic leaders of any sort, experience the intensity of adulation amplified beyond most people’s ken. This can make ordinary relationships pale in comparison. Being the recipient of such adulation and devotion is exceedingly addictive…Adulation has powerful emotions for the sender as well, and can be easily mistaken for love. It is likewise addicting for the sender, as it is an easy route to feelings of passion. Since adulation is totally a function of image, should the images crack, adulation disappears, demonstrating that it was essentially empty of real care.” (p. 112)
“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)“Successful gurus, rock stars, charismatic leaders of any sort, experience the intensity of adulation amplified beyond most people’s ken. This can make ordinary relationships pale in comparison. Being the recipient of such adulation and devotion is exceedingly addictive…Adulation has powerful emotions for the sender as well, and can be easily mistaken for love. It is likewise addicting for the sender, as it is an easy route to feelings of passion. Since adulation is totally a function of image, should the images crack, adulation disappears, demonstrating that it was essentially empty of real care.” (p. 112)
“… the guru can never be wrong make mistakes, or be self-centered, or lose emotional control. He doesn’t get angry, he “uses” anger to teach.” (ibid p. 53.)
Pretending that the guru’s anger is not real anger, because he cannot feel anything negative, is simply another form of manipulation to hide the guru’s human weakness when he gets angry. That it is simply to teach the devotee something is wrong, to stop behaving in some way or to behave otherwise is not so, it is punishment, withdrawal of love. It is said to be ‘for their own good’, but we have heard that one before from many a disciplinarian and it has become highly suspect as a true motive! One exchange between a visitor, Dr. John Hislop and Sai Baba shows this: See how Sai Baba does this – click on the thumbnail image right!
LOVE “Many people want to keep love and control separate, perhaps because they have experienced being controlled in the name of love. Parents give and withhold affection as reward and punishment, as do adults with each other. Traditional religions have God give love for obedience, and make obedience the proof of loving God. … Examples abound of utilizing the power of love to control.” (p. 259)“Gurus also claim to bestow unconditional love on those who surrender to them, while actually whatever emotional connection exists is conditional on surrender and obedience (p. 69)
“When the ideals that surround love cannot be lived up to because they negate or demean vital aspects of being human, what results is more than merely disappointment. The internalization of unrealistic values inevitably creates serious personal and relational problems. Insofar as people try to embody unlivable values, they must either knowingly fall short or delude themselves. (p. 262)
“…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)
See also on the mystical experience, enlightenment from an illumined viewpoint ‘Oneness, enlightenment and the mystical experience’ by Kramer and Alstead