Site Map
Dilemmas of Leaving One's Old Group
Section › 15   Set    Search  Previous Next


Reservations   Contents    

The Group of Cooperation-and-Competition

Cooperating and competing, more will follow. Different group climates are built when slight envy or slight tolerance gains momentum. A good leader also manages processes toward the sort of group climate that helps members and does not hurt a lot of them.

A group

In social psychology, a group is a dynamic entity of a certain duration. Beyond this there are some broad classifications of what groups are. There is a chance this knowledge may eventually serve you.

Several dilemmas go together

One may leave one's group or fellowship for many reasons. Some problems appear before leaving, and some afterwards - perhaps. There are some things that could be helpful to know of at least before entering a group, and perhaps before leaving it, if that is doable. Arne Sjølund wrote a book on group psychology with conclusions that may still help our understanding.

A person's behavior is determined not only by his orher psychological build or make-up, but also to a high degree by relationships to other people. (Sjølund 1992, 11)

In a group the runs well, there is no conflict between the parties or members. (Sjølund 1992, 30)

Group dynamics may eventually be built up and controlled by educational means, if one has knowledge of group dynamics and is aware of what goes on in the group. If we abolish an authoritarian leadership (tyranny) and avoid adding harmful pressure on the group, and if we abolish harmful forms of competition, and replaces such things with group-oriented leadership, cooperation and a common, all right goal to work towards, then authoritarian pecking may be replaced by members recognising one anothers on quite equal terms - if the setting makes for it. Thus single members may better recognise and accept individual differences without exerting pressure to conform. (Sjølund 1992, 31, 36.)

How groups are governed, differ. A long series of studies and observations have shown that "the psychological climate" in a group depends, among other things, on the kind of leadership that the group is influenced by. Three extremes are sorted out here: (Sjølund 1992, 24)

  • Authoritarian groups and what they do to people. Some groups have distinctive "top figures" and a pronounced hierarchy, even "scapegoats". Under an authoritarian leadership, where the leader decides everything and group members get dictated what to do, a pecking order will be firmly established among the group members, with some resulting distance between them too. Authoritarian leadership is associated with dictatorship, which presupposes permanent places for people in the social order. The security of members in an authoritarian group depends on pleasing leaders or others in prominent positions. Pleasing "upwards" can reinforce a tendency to look down on those who are ranked below them in the pecking order. This tendency tends to "scapegoating". The more group members are concerned with battles for ranks and positions in the group, the less tolerant they are against each other, and the more they look down on each other. Also, the more pressure that is put on a group, the firmer its ranking-order and the more "pecking", and the less tolerant one can afford to be towards others. (Sjølund 1992, 23-26, 27-28 passim)

  • Laissez-faire groups may breed insecurity or nervousness. Groups where the group members' assessments of each other are more "alike", can have a lot freedom from being told what to do, that is, freedom from the management, and up to a random interplay of forces or influences. Such a group does not have any organised leadership, with the result that members are more or less uncertain, and nearly anarchic conditions prevail.

  • Groups with group-oriented (also called democratic) leadership. Such groups are neither strictly managed nor non-managed. The leader(s) and the group members speak together about things, they seek to make each person involved, understand what the group is about, realising what makes it legitimate and needed. In such groups, members regard one another more as equals. The more equal or like one another people in the group are, the more tolerant they get towards "those who are different." The more tolerant can differ from the less tolerant by a greater need for independence, along with less need to dominate others. They show more kindness, and feel a need to be socially useful, are more accepting, There is a pervading us-feeling, a feeling of fellowship, among members, a feeling that authoritarian groups sully, dwarf, or corrode. (Sjølund 1992, 25, 26, 29, passim)

Group life

  1. Members share motives or goals, which determine the direction the group is moving.
  2. Members develop a set of norms that mark the limits of the mutual relations (interpersonal relations) that can be established and what may be done.
  3. If the interaction goes on, a set of roles is stabilised, or several of role sets, and the group stands out more than before from other groups.
  4. A network of mutual attraction develops, based on whether members like each other or not. (All: Sjølund 1992, 36-37)

Opposing forces (interests and a lot else) in the group may keep it moving nowhere. (Sjølund 1992, 37)

A group may also swerve from one or more of its original goals, and be mismanaged, as the case may be (Sjølund 1992, 37)

The overriding purpose of a group determines how it is structured, its goals and leadership. (Sjølund 1992, 37)

Primary and secondary groups

The groups that usually mean the most to a person, the groups that characterise us most, are the small groups where everybody knows each other, the so-called primary groups. They are marked by more or less continuous and direct contacts between members. The social interaction is marked by intimacy and reciprocity - close relations and intimate cooperation, often face to face.

In larger groups, so-called secondary groups (cultural circle, sport group, etc.), relationships are quite random and often result from some particulal tasks or interests rather than from long-lasting bonds. Such larger groups influence members less than their primary groups; the members are not as close to each other. Still, the feeling of belonging to a group like this, may be a decisive influence for the single member. (Sjølund 1992, 38)

Formal and informal groups

We also sort groups according to how formally they are organised.

A formal group has a specific purpose, and as a rule is somewhat impersonal. It is equipped with rules and regulations for the group function, the choice of leaders, etc. Management is established and functioning in accordance with more or less detailed rules and laws. In such a group individuality does not count for anything. Group members are merely cogs in the machine and can be replaced.

Informal groups are formed spontaneously by two or more persons out of a common interest or a mutual personal dependence. In such groups the individual's position is not determined by rules and regulations, but result from individuality and interaction with the other members. Such groups are for friendships and companionships. Individuality matters too. Such groups change with changing conditions and member bonds. The degree of intimacy between members can also vary. (Sjølund 1992, 39)

A formal and the informal group formation may coincide where the real goals and norms are not different.

Reference groups and membership groups

For understanding of the behavior of a given group member: Although a single member of a group is usually strongly influenced by the group, this is not always so. This shows a need to distinguish between reference groups and membership groups. The reference group "stamps some mark" on a person's behaviour; is something he or she identifies with or as it aspires to.

The reference group is often a group one is a member of, but it could also be a group one aspires to be a member of, a group with norms he or she therefore seek to live up to. If so, the groups delivers norms, and are normative. A reference group that one does not try to get assimilated in, but is used for comparisons, has what is called a comparative function. (Sjølund 1992, 40)

On Guard

It pays to be on guard, in some cases like little Ole:

The teacher was writing some sentences on the blackboard when she dropped her chalk. As she bent over to pick it up, little Arnie piped up, "Teacher, I can see two inches above your knee."

Outraged, the teacher said, "Arnie, for your impertinence you are expelled from school for one week."

Shortly, the teacher dropped the chalk again and bent over to pick it up. This time little Ralph spoke up, "Teacher, I can see four inches above your knee."

Infuriated once again, the teacher ordered little Ralph to be expelled for two weeks. Ten minutes later the teacher once again dropped the chalk; and again, stooped over to pick it up. As she raised up, she noticed little Ole grabbing his school books and heading toward the door.

"Ole, where are you going?" asked the teacher.

Answered Ole: "I'm going home teacher, my school days are over." (Stangland 1995:115)

To study something opens for decisions the world over.

From bad to worse - a possibility

Suppose you have been misled into an underling position, and you wake up too late, after being sworn in as a member against "Do not swear," by Jesus of the gospel - Jesus, a claimed figure among Christians, although he said his teachings and ministry, salvation and Kingdom were for Jews only And then you find that the Missionary Command at the end of Matthew very, very likely is a later-added piece of forgery in the early church. Junk! (Matthew 5:1-9; 15:24; Vermes 2012.).

If you were a Christian when being sworn in as a member of some group and felt you could enter since Jesus was said to be in it, and you later study his words in the gospels against having other masters than Jesus, and warnings against false messiahs (christs), and that the teachings of Jesus were for Jews only - then you may come to see you have been fooled and maybe tied too. Not only tied for one life, but perhaps for possible future lives.

Grave things may have a different coating.


Closer to a Showdown

A major SRF problem: The group you are in, may say you are free to leave - they could get known as law-breakers against Human Rights laws otherwise. Still they hold and have published as a belief: "you will have to come back sooner or later". An example:

Paramahansa Yogananda teaching "There is only one guru uniquely the devotee's own. But if you turn away from the emissary of God, He silently asks: 'What is wrong with you, that you foolishly leave the one I have sent to help you learn the divine science of the soul? Now you shall have to wait long, and prove yourself, before I shall respond again.' He who cannot learn through the wisdom and love of his God-ordained guru will not find God in this life. Several incarnations at least must pass before he will have another such opportunity."

- Paramahansa Yogananda, SRF magazine, Spring 1974, p 6. From a talk at Mother Centre, 8/17/39

Such a way of treating other people goes against the handling that Yogananda himself got by his guru, Yukteswar: Yogananda was told he could leave if he found it fit.

To leave with skill may be difficult. Reasons to leave could be many:

  • He often said he/we was crazy. Some crazy folks are be dangerous to be with. [Yogananda's "We are crazy" talk].
  • Yogananda also hailed dictatorship in his own magazine (1934). Yogananda hailed Mussolini and dictatorship in the 1930s.
  • Past lives may be there be studied and problems along with it in need of being solved. In and around SRF there are quite a number of sayings circulating, where Yogananda tells he was this, he was that, and shivered much (Dasgupta 2006, 112)

A sleeping student helped Yogananda to sleep . . .

The guru-founder of Self-Realization Fellowship was troubled by seeing ghosts, tells his biographer: After he saw a horrific being on a cot one night, a student would sleep in a separate cot in Yogananda's room, for if Yogananda slept alone, he saw many different beings, and some of the times he woke up in fear (Dasgupta 2006, 112).

A ghost on a cot scared Yogananda a lot, the later world guru.

Screaming "Ghost! Ghost!" could be a sign of an imbalance, but whose imbalance would it be?

Babaji: Promise-Shifter

Is it sure that the kriya oath will work if Babaji shifts his promise once again? Some who brood over Autobiograhy of a Yogi may discover that Babaji changes a wondrous promise he had given, and why? Because of a trifle, he said. (1998, 277-78) In the book it is further told that Babaji " assumes life-after-life responsibility for the spiritual welfare of . . . Kriya Yogis . . . initiated by . . . Kriya teachers. (1998, 276n).

What Babaji reportedly calls a trifle, was perhaps not really so in the light of Yogananda's: "Distinctions of "important" and "unimportant" are surely unknown to the Lord, lest, for want of a pin, the cosmos collapse!" (1998, 94).

It stands out that Babaji made a promise and later changed it. The guru that Yogananda tells assumes supreme responsibility for many kriya yogis, also breaks his word, even over a trifle. Hm.

Yogananda's biographer Sailendra Dasgupta writes that "Yoganandaji was a many who lived in the world of imagination and spiritual [?] feelings. Towards the end, he often did not perceive a difference between the two." (2006, 99)

"Towards the end" means the years that Yogananda was helped to write and edit his autobiography, notably the latter half of the 1940s and into the early 1950s.

The Autobiography is teeming with undocumented stories. Undocumented stories may serve ulterior motives.

It may be wise to document past lives well if one makes claims of them. But advance still better.

Wearing group masks

'Mask' refers to conduct, clothing, body stances, ways of grimacing and speaking too, if it is not genuinely "from oneself".

In psychoanalytical theory there are many mental processes and formations that make the mind able to reach compromise solutions to problems that it is unable to resolve. Such largely unconscious compromises tend to involve hiding from oneself such internal drives or feelings that threaten to lower self-esteem or provoke anxiety. The psychoanalyst views defense mechanisms as part of every neurotic structure. But defensive activity is in itself considered no sign of pathology. [EB, "defence mechanism"]


- suggests one is sustaining a wrong notion that a situation is pleasing or good (idyllic), while it is not. Attachment of a non-beneficial kind can be hard to combat. The Bhagavad Gita (2.47; 3.19 etc.) suggests that attachment can hinder freedom.

In the large society one can come across differences of opinions and a materialistic, tough go that is too hard on many.


Gleanings Centred on Moving On

Moving on has many meanings. If we move on from moving on, we may stay.

A cult may cause or aggravate many problems for members who hardly adapt completely in the cult setting.

Alfred Adler proposes that a person is mentally healthy if he is able to function well in a society (in Sirnes 1968:11). Put differently, allowing for more facets of it, "the Adlerian approach can be categorized as cognitive, systemic, existential, and psychodynamic. More recently, . . . some Adlerians have begun describing it as a constructivist or constructionist theory and therapy." (Carlson et al, 2007, 269)

Implied in Adler's bottom line that frictionless adaptation to society is a good thing and sign of a healthy mind, is that the society is good. But that view is way too too naive. Abraham Maslow points out that the so-called average person is not the paragon or example of health in every way either. At markets of fools, few are winners.

Maslow sought to identify better humans and termed them plus variants (deviatons from the average on the positive side of the Gauss curve). His findings in the matter are incorporated in Motivation and Personality as its chapter 11, "Self-actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health" (Maslow 1987, 125-49).

Further, in what is held to be a landmark study of American character,The Lonely Crowd (1950), David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney identify and analyse three main cultural types: the tradition-directed; other-directed; and inner-directed. The authors say that society changes from a tradition-directed culture with social types obeying fixed rules to the present one, which is more challenging. Consumer "culture" and material abundance in the United States were accompanied by a shift away from traditional forms to keeping up with the Joneses somehow in things consumed, ways of spending time, and so on. Riesman and his co-workers found that such "other-directed" people would accommodate others to gain approval, and that large organisations preferred this type of personality, in America. And large parts of the world have copied Americans widely and also oddly, without considering the risks involved.

By the 1940s, the other-directed guys were beginning to dominate society. This type of social personality dominates the large society, and may be rather easy to identify as restricted in knowing themselves. Thereby their autonomy is also compromised. The Lonely Crowd also holds that an other-directed society faces profound deficiencies in leadership, individual self-knowledge, and human potential.

Thus: Being or looking like "all the others" one compared with and competes with, may not really suggest the full measure of success. It may also lead into being successless. It depends on one's potential too. In somewhat congenial conditions, autonomy can grow out of being outer-directed, the authors hope.

(Riesman, Glazer and Denney, 1961, 260 etc.)

Now, conformism may be good up to a level, so-so, or bad and very dangerous and ruinous. It depends in part on how the society is.

Health concerns mind, body, and adaptations in the environment. The planet is not well run by and large. It suggests that mankind is footlose and needs a sound, inner foundation.

The same argument is valid for spiritual retrogression and degradation too.

Maslow sees it fit to "produce the good human being, to foster the good life and the good society. Renouncing this is like renouncing the reality and the desirability of morals and ethics (Maslow 1964, chap. 8)."

You have to matter to be heard, most likely. Yet be as classy as you can. It can amount to something.

Without honesty to oneself, how can self-knowledge be? Drowning in one's group is not the ideal.

Drop unsound leader attachments and gauge the odds also. That is, try to understand beforehand the chances of this and that.


Dilemmas and problems, Leaving group behind, for example Self-Realization Fellowship and SRF gurus, Yogananda, Literature  

Ansbacher, Heinz L., and Rowena R. Ansbacher. The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A Systematic Presentation in Selections from His Writings. New York: Basic Books, 1956.

Carlson, Jon, Richard E. Watts and Richard Maniacci. Adlerian Therapy: Theory and Practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2006.

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. ⍽▢⍽ Also: Google Books, partial view.

Fadiman, Clifton, general ed. The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1985.

James, John W., and Russell Friedman. The Grief Recovery Handbook. 20th Anniversary Expanded ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Kriyananda, Swami. Living Wisely, Living Well: Timeless Wisdom to Enrich Every Day. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2010.

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987, chap. 11, "Self-actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health" (p. 125-49).

Maslow, Abraham. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1964.

Riesman, David, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. London: Yale University Press, 1989. (or reprint ed. 2001)

Satyanananda, Swami. Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya: A Biography. Tr Amitava Chaterjee. Portland, Maine: Yoganiketan, 2001. ⍽▢⍽ The biography has since been included in a book of four biographies, A Collection of Biographies of 4 Kriya Yoga Gurus (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006)

Sirnes, Tollak. - at vi skal elske hverandre. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968.

Sjølund, Arne. Gruppepsykologi. Oslo: Ad Notam Gyldendal, 1992.

Stangland, R. C. Red Stangland's Norwegian Home Companion. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.

Vermes, Geza. "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. (13th ed. Los Angeles: Self- Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1998:276n).

⸻. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980.

Yogananda, Paramhansa. Whispers from Eternity. Ed. Kriyananda. 1st ed. Paperback. Nevada City: Crystal Clarity, 2008. Online. ⍽▢⍽ Yogananda's 1949 edition.

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

Dilemmas and problems, Leaving group behind, for example Self-Realization Fellowship and SRF gurus, Yogananda, To top    Section     Set    Next

Dilemmas and problems, Leaving group behind, for example Self-Realization Fellowship and SRF gurus, Yogananda. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2003–2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]