Here's some additional correspondence that I've received from "Unknown," who sent along previously-posted (from January 12-28, 2009) material that can be found in the Radha Soami Satsang Beas category of this blog.
The theme of this submission is why people accept so uncritically a guru's claims of divinity, or special access to God, when either positive evidence is lacking or negative evidence is present.
I wasn't familiar with one of the cited books, "The Guru Papers." It looks interesting. I decided to order a used copy from Amazon -- 408 pages of anti-cult prose for $6.99, that's the kind of cost-effective churchless reading I go for.
Click below to read on.
From my email correspondent, "Unknown."
Around 10 years ago when the ex-satsangi site was first established, many of its core group all had remarkably similar accounts of being asked, as satsangis traveling to Dera, to pack consumer goods and luxury items in their belongings and take them undeclared thru Indian customs with explicit instructions on how to avoid scrutiny of customs officials. The items would then be retrieved at the traveler’s Delhi hotel for delivery to Charan Singh and his family members. One ex-representative (not Waking Now) had a remarkably detailed story (can be transmitted to webmaster if requested) of an entire room filled with Charan’s London shopping spree items which needed to be muled through customs.
Back in the 80’s, when the group of Westerners visiting Dera was small, this practice was somewhat common knowledge. Also in those days, Charan Singh was provided with discreet (to promote the illusion he was intimately connected with all his initiates) background briefs on his interview subjects in advance, usually pulled from correspondence files, and sometimes awkwardly acknowledged the ‘special seva’ of basically sneaking items thru customs -- putting the traveler at risk for punitive action or exorbitant duties in what was then, highly restrictive customs.
I was aware that the organization engaged in these practices with the full knowledge of and benefit for Charan Singh and his family very early in my 20 year life as a Satsangi, and yet it did not raise a red flag as an enormous contradiction. Why?
Whether the substantive accounts presented in the exposé are accepted as actual or not, it begs a personal question of any religious cult member: What if you were presented with evidence that the organization lucratively exploits its followers and the doctrine of Godman/God Incarnate was a fraudulent charade?
(A) Find alternative explanations based on ‘magical thinking’ while regarding doubt and re-evaluation a breach of faith and dismiss the evidence?
(B) Add the evidence to your growing sense of disillusionment, but unwilling to disconnect from years of investment in the organization and its social structure, emptily continue going thru the motions of being a follower?
The vast majority of followers choose A or B.
Why do followers have such low standards of evidence for the extraordinary claims of an organization and Supreme Being authority figure where one invests his or her entire life? Why do even sophisticated individuals become mesmerized by simplistic mental illusions such as group psycho-dynamics?
A classic work addressing the latter is called ‘The Crowd’ by Gustave Le Bon. “One of the most influential works of social psychology in history, ‘The Crowd’ was highly instrumental in creating this field of study by analyzing, in detail, mass behavior. The book had a profound impact not only on Freud but also on such 20th century masters of crowd control as Hitler and Mussolini… Among the topics covered here are general characteristics and mental unity of the crowd; the crowd’s sentiments and morality; it’s ideas, reasoning power, and imagination; opinions and beliefs of crowds and the means used by leaders to persuade…”
Here are excerpts from another fascinating book ‘The Guru Papers-Masks of Authoritarian Power’ authored by Kramer and Alstad that address this perplexing question about our human psyche with chapters like ‘The Seduction of Surrender’, ‘The Assault on Reason’, ‘The Attractions of Cult Hierarchy’, ‘Narcissism and Adulation’, ‘Guru Ploys’, ‘Healing Crippled Self-Trust’, ‘What is Unconditional Love’.
Excerpts: The Assault on Reason
Gurus undercut reason as a path to understanding. When they do allow discursive inquiry, they often place the highest value on paradox. Paradox easily lends itself to mental manipulation. No matter what position you take, you are always shown to be missing the point: the point being that the guru knows something you do not.
Paradox can also be used to justify any behavior [my insert-I have frequently seen paradox used for evasive answers] by saying there is a hidden meaning that is part of the paradoxical nature of things, which of course, only the guru adequately understands.
Excerpts: The Attractions of Cult Hierarchy
Participation in an authoritarian hierarchy is an easy route to purpose and meaning that also offers security, if one follows the rules. Moving up the rungs brings power and respect. All this, however, is totally dependent upon accepting the ultimate power of the leader. This of course, brings a deep attachment to and dependency on both the hierarchical structure and the leader on top. Religious hierarchies often put out a message (sometimes covertly) that position on the hierarchy is related to spiritual advancement. With gurus, this is measured by the depth of the disciples’ surrender, [my insert-fascinating chapter on our imbedded predisposition for surrender ‘The Seduction of Surrender’] which translates to willing obedience and self-sacrifice. Deeper devotion to the guru is prescribed as the fast track not only to spiritual goals, but also to moving up the hierarchy.
Note on previous reference:
The previously provided link to Sawan Singh’s 1937 Will ‘Origin and Growth’ is not operable. However, this link will take you to a copy of the publication.
As refresher, this was the foundational financial structure for The House of Sawan including primary principles: All religious offerings become the personal property of the guru and all those persons who build dwellings on Dera lands (consistent with the injustices of feudalism) have no rights and may be ejected at any time and may only take their potable belongings. Later codicils refers to selected properties being put in the form of a trust (how generous considering it was all publicly donated to begin with) aka RSSB ensuring a platform for a continued family religious business generating untold wealth funneled into myriad private interests and family financial entities some forensic accountants would conclude.