The page numbers (after 1) are clickable, for convenience.
1. The twelve pages in this collection or book, go into some sides of the false and hollow fare that is typical for bad Loki, the wily trickster and enemy of gods and men in Norse mythology. Will he get away with it? And what to do with his offspring? Is there much hope for their victims, if any? [Norse mythology] Here we go:
2. On the second page is a look in the rearview mirror. SRF in America goes over three generations back already. Some things have changed in SRF during this time. There is perhaps more talk about gurus and stuff and far less spreading of meditation techniques than when Yogananda was at it. Besides, the climate in the larger society has changed, so that Asian meditation teachers are treated with less hostility open than Yogananda was met with by the Miami police in early 1928. Th Some have also become widely popular due to research findings and many celebs ◦practicing TM.
Also, there are American gurus that have started to Americanise things. Little by little American values and norms surface, like American twists of English language and some formal habits were generations in the coming. Are there books about these subtle changes and theorised stages? You bet there are. [Ref]
3. On the second page of this series it stands out that we lack statistics about how many SRF members kill themselves as compared to the general population. And we lack reliable figures on how they fare after death too - SRF members as compared to traditional Christians, and so on. It could be that some that become guru disciples benefit from it, others hardly so, and still others go downwards. Options are many, and a balanced view based on facts or even statistical probabilities is hard to find; that has to be accepted.
It is possible to be happy in a closed religious group, since all such groups are not alike, and further, some groups may correspond quite well with the personality structures of members, according to "Birds of a feather flock together" or similar.
Some leave groups anyhow. How they fare depend on the degree of their previous involvement and how damaging it was to them. But if they put their hearts and souls into it, it may be awfully hard to break with the group or its founder. This happens to some.
There is too little focus in SRF on members' rights and Human Rights. Cult leavers may need much help and lots of time to get a good life outside of the cult.
As for SRF, some testimonies tend to be reliable, and a few are clearly not. It is possible to sift such information somewhat, even for an outsider, but it works better for former insiders, presumedly.
That there are cult-troubles in the kriya-church founded by Yogananda, is not always welcome news to members.
4. The third page says there are different management forms, just as there are different leader styles. It is not as simple as either this or that - many forms and overlapping forms are possible.
A cult is defined by cult hallmarks. By knowing in advance of the hallmarks and doing some investigations, it could be far easier to avoid terrible or bad cults.
5. On the fourth page there are some personal questions that may give further help as to your role in the group you feel tied to. Self-contradictions in the teachings and over-bossy dictates may signal the group is a trap, at least to some.
Stick to your previous assets and seek to increase them, in order to get better odds to get a good life outside of the cult, or within in, if breaking with it seems too demanding or impossible. Seek a laxer fare, in that case. Generally speaking, we may be free to build the good life that we want, within or outside of the cult, if you we about it systematically and carefully throughout. It is also possible to learn to inspect things better. There are books on that, for example, and a page here and there. Greed for power, for dominance over others, and/or for wealth and splendour on the backs of others, often innocents, mark some charismatic leaders or cult leaders. It may take years for these factors to surface, though.
6. The fifth page in the series deals with the great problem of shyness. Shy, young adults who do not thrive in a community, may more easily be enticed to enter such groups as sects and cults. Too bad, for hard sects are not marked by thriving. One should bear in mind that one can work for getting it better. Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo tells about how it may be done [Shd].
Dr Zimbardo finds that emotional needs of belonging are played on by cults and their various plays and displays, and insecurity too. But cult deals that appear initially to be win deals, may turn sour around the bend. It is better to be forewarned than rudely disappointed after being taken in.
A way to lessen the impact of cults is to make the society nicer, suggests Zimbardo.
There are other books too that go into self-assertiveness, self-esteem and similar vital sides to living. The alternative to this work might as well be some sort of submission with repercussions to come also.
7. On page six three ways of leaving a sect or cult are sorted out, and coercive cult deprogramming after abduction or better, is among them. Deprogramming may in itself work as a form of corky mind control, but has proved somewhat successful, particularly with religious cult members. Deprogramming can mean the freeing of someone (often oneself) from any previously uncritically assimilated idea; or some intervention.
A former SRF member who had tried to deprogram herself, writes, "I discovered that I was seething with resentment over the years of self-abasement, and humiliated by the fact that I had aided my captors." It one should leave deprogamming to analysts, as there are many risks involved. It seems better to me to try something above coercion, for example cognitive therapy or friendly enough counselling. There is literature on that too.
One problem with SRF is that its founder, the guru Yogananda, was an orator that came to talk big. I have brought documentation on several other pages that the guru has other skeletons in the cupboard too: self-contradictions, idyllisation, praise of dictatorship, huge claims that are largely unproved, and so on. When young persons in sensitive and vulnerable life stages come across such great-looking assertions, they may reap problems according to how firmly they believe in him. It is better not to put all one's eggs of trust in one poor basket, but keep one's reserve and enough distance to see things for oneself.
For example, SRF, to be sure, is a Hindu society and is led by members of a Swami Order, but it presents itself as Christian too, and includes Jesus among its gurus, its Christs. This presentation does not conform to central ideas of neither Jesusism (as found in gospels) nor Christianity (as founded in Acts and old Letters too). A Catholic professor, "Father Matheo", concludes that SRF teachings contain heresy as compared to Catholicism.
8. On page seven some basics of handling stress are laid bare. Changing one's basic orientations in life - and they may involve faith in gurus, adherence to core beliefs an group belongingness - is plausibly one of those deep-going and hardest things for mortals to work with, especially if alone. I suspect this issue warrants inclusion among the major stresses that life can offer, but it is not in the Life Event Scale of Holmes and Rahe. Psychology books offer suggestions on how to deal with stress more proficiently.
9. On page eight we look into another side to SRF's work - how they edit and re-edit Yogananda to be pleased with his output, to suit their maya - their current tastes. The unanswered question so far: "How far did the guru's gargles or hints end up as phrases through elaborate editing?" Better be aware of how secretaries carried him along. Swami Kriyananda divulged this!
10. On page nine Yogananda's claims of having been Shakespeare in a past life is explored, and also some information about Sir Henry Neville - heard of him? What if he was the one that Yogananda had in mind he had been?
Past lives you dream of, were they real because you dreamt or told about them? I hardly think so. Better evidence than mere claims is called for.
11. On page ten it is shown that Yogananda's claims on members ("spirit serfs") extend beyond the grave and into future lives. And leaving that guru is not welcome by him, to say the least, but will be the cause of colossal sufferings, his teachings resound.
His teachings and practice could conflict with the Human Rights laws in many countries, and they do not quite match up with general teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, as shown.
Some who have left Yogananda's fellowship, SRF, seek counsel or therapy. And some that are in the fellowship, could need it or need it more in the light of certain beliefs they uphold, contrary to good and tall evidence. That is also the opinion of some SRF monastics who left the SRF premises more recently - about one third of its monastics left between 2001 and 2005. "Between 2000 and 2005 more than fifty monks and nuns are reported to have left the organization," writes attorney Jon Parsons about Self-Realization Fellowship. [◦Source] Many of them contributed on the SRF Walrus discussion board, which is now defunct (after 2010) and wiped almost clean. A 2006 backup site exists for those who would like to learn about the problems of some of them.
One could say by using a figure of speech, that the leaving monastics were not satisfied in SRF, and did not get satisfied by reading and writing about their SRF experiences on the Walrus Board either. It should be no surprise, as:
To know food only theoretically is to always remain hungry. You must eat to satisfy hunger. - Paramahansa Yogananda, East West Magazine, No. 2
12. After being fooled and fallen, the time comes for therapies that work better than clutching at straws. There are many sorts of therapy based on "First consultations and talks, diagnoses, then something - even sedative pills, membership in various groups. It the suggested therapies do not look wise, if they are costy and you end up feeling like some "payware" in the nets of others who become millionaires, one should try other solutions - or complementary ones, if that is more appropriate. There is a lot to choose among. And if you still don't want others to squeeze your money out of you, you could learn the basics of non-invasive therapies and try some of them carefully, hopefully under full supervision and knowing what you are doing. It often takes years of training to be good at it. Have that in mind, please.
At one point you are better off trying other legal treatments than sitting pennyless under a bridge and slowly die while hoping death will be merciful. Yogananda first said he came to teach Americans how to die ('Die' is Norwegian for breast-feed, of course), but also told of a guru said to have lived for hundreds of years, if not longer, who had sent Yogananda to America and help Americans to become gods! (Apotheosis is Latin for it).
Life by life, each man progresses (at his own pace, be it ever so erratic) toward the goal of his own apotheosis." [Ha 473] "Yoga, through which divinity is found within, is doubtless the highest road". [Ha 136]
Are you getting confused? That is a thing cults could profit from - "first enthused, later confused", methinks.
13. The afterword dips into similarities between the Jotun Loki, who is the trickster giant in Norse mythology. The sex-changing Loki father-mothered monstrous offspring, and a Siva Purana story about a wilfully deceptive guru of old, one who formed a destructive sort of cult by false teaching and veneration gone astray. Beware, it says, for there is much good in life outside the cults, and there may be too little good inside them, as time goes by.
Interested in sectarians or sects? There may be something to learn from literature and maybe be spared from hard knocks thereby.
Brown, J. Operation övertalning. Reklam. Propaganda. Hjärntvätt. Stockholm: Prisma, 1965.
Butler, Gillian. Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. Paperback ed. London: Constable and Robinson, 2007. ⍽▢⍽ Helpful. After social anxiety is defined, the author lays out several proven cognitive strategies. Hassan, Steven. Combatting Cult Mind Control. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1990.
Lewis, James R. Cults: A Reference Handbook. 2nd ed. Oxford: ABC-CLIO, 2005. ⍽▢⍽ The book contains an in-depth look at brainwashing and the issue of alternative religions and violence. Movements that have made the headlines are also examined.
Martin, Walter, and Hank Hanegraaff (ed). The Kingdom of the Cults. Rev. ed. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1997.
Mathison, Richard R. Faiths, Cults and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. New York. Bobbs-Merrill, 1960. ⍽▢⍽ Self-Realization Fellowship is described on pages 188-95 in it.
Zellner, William W., and Marc Petrowsky, eds. Sects, Cults, and Spiritual Communities: A Sociological Analysis. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. ⍽▢⍽ American society contains a variety of religious denominations, sects, cults, and self-help groups. The nine groups subjected to sociological study here are Heaven's Gate, Jesus People USA, the Love Family, The Farm, Amish Women, Scientology, El Nino Fidencio, Santeria, and Freedom Park. The number of US sects, cults, and spiritual communities has doubled during the last fifty years or so, and study of them has grown as well.
Zimbardo, Philip G. Shyness: What It Is. What to Do about It. London: Addison-Wesley, 1977. ⍽▢⍽ The American Psychological Foundation has honoured him for his teaching and writing. Through his book he wants to help shy people remove barriers to greater freedom and fuller participation in life, and to a personal sense of worth and mastery" (p. 120). Some say it is dated now, others think it helps a lot. Other books may have more recent findings incorporated. Regardless of that, this is one of the best rated works in its field.
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