Sunday, March 7, 2010

Parallels in Red

March 6, 2010

Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Raised as Scientologists, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.

They signed a contract for a billion years — in keeping with the church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of $50 a week, at most.

But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents, siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication with them.

“Why did we work so hard for this organization,” Ms. Collbran said, “and why did it feel so wrong in the end? We just didn’t understand.”

They soon discovered others who felt the same. Searching for Web sites about Scientology that are not sponsored by the church (an activity prohibited when they were in the Sea Org), they discovered that hundreds of other Scientologists were also defecting — including high-ranking executives who had served for decades.

Fifty-six years after its founding by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, the church is fighting off calls by former members for a Reformation. The defectors say Sea Org members were repeatedly beaten by the church’s chairman, David Miscavige, often during planning meetings; pressured to have abortions; forced to work without sleep on little pay; and held incommunicado if they wanted to leave. The church says the defectors are lying.

The defectors say that the average Scientology member, known in the church as a public, is largely unaware of the abusive environment experienced by staff members. The church works hard to cultivate public members — especially celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of the cartoon scoundrel Bart Simpson) — whose money keeps it running.

But recently even some celebrities have begun to abandon the church, the most prominent of whom is the director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash.” Mr. Haggis had been a member for 35 years. His resignation letter, leaked to a defectors’ Web site, recounted his indignation as he came to believe that the defectors’ accusations must be true.

“These were not the claims made by ‘outsiders’ looking to dig up dirt against us,” Mr. Haggis wrote. “These accusations were made by top international executives who had devoted most of their lives to the church.”

The church has responded to the bad publicity by denying the accusations and calling attention to a worldwide building campaign that showcases its wealth and industriousness. Last year, it built or renovated opulent Scientology churches, which it calls Ideal Orgs, in Rome; Malmo, Sweden; Dallas; Nashville; and Washington. And at its base here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it continued buying hotels and office buildings (54 in all) and constructing a 380,000-square-foot mecca that looks like a convention center.

“This is a representation of our success,” said the church’s spokesman, Tommy Davis, showing off the building’s cavernous atrium, still to be clad in Italian marble, at the climax of a daylong tour of the church’s Clearwater empire. “This is a result of our expansion. It’s pinch-yourself material.”

As for the defectors, Mr. Davis called them “apostates” and said that contrary to their claims of having left the church in protest, they were expelled.

“And since they’re removed, the church is expanding like never before,” said Mr. Davis, a second-generation Scientologist whose mother is the actress Anne Archer. “And what we see here is evidence of the fact that we’re definitely better off without them.”

‘Bridge to Total Freedom’

Scientology is an esoteric religion in which the faith is revealed gradually to those who invest their time and money to master Mr. Hubbard’s teachings. Scientologists believe that human beings are impeded by negative memories from past lives, and that by applying Mr. Hubbard’s “technology,” they can reach a state known as clear.

They may spend hundreds of hours in one-on-one “auditing” sessions, holding the slim silver-colored handles of an e-meter while an auditor asks them questions and takes notes on what they say and on the e-meter’s readings.

By doing enough auditing, taking courses and studying Mr. Hubbard’s books and lectures — for which some Scientologists say they have paid as much as $1 million — Scientologists believe that they can proceed up the “bridge to total freedom” and live to their full abilities as Operating Thetans, pure spirits. They do believe in God, or a Supreme Being that is associated with infinite potential.

Ms. Collbran, who is 33, said she loved the church so much that she never thought she would leave. Her parents were dedicated church members in Los Angeles, and she attended full-time Scientology schools for several years. When she was 8 or 9, she took the basic communications course, which teaches techniques for persuasive public speaking and improving self-confidence and has served as a major recruiting tool.

By 10, Ms. Collbran had completed the Purification Rundown, a regimen that involves taking vitamins and sitting in a sauna (a fixture inside every Scientology church) for as much as five hours a day, for weeks at a time, to cleanse the body of toxins.

By 16, she was recruited into the Sea Org, so named because it once operated from ships, wearing a Navy-like uniform with epaulets on the shoulders for work. She fully believed in the mission: to “clear the planet” of negative influences by bringing Scientology to its inhabitants. Her mindset then, Ms. Collbran said, was: “This planet needs our help, and people are suffering. And we have the answers.”

Christie and Chris Collbran were married in a simple ceremony at the Scientology center in Manhattan. Although she and her parents were very close, she said they had spent so much to advance up the bridge that they could not afford to attend the wedding.

It was in Johannesburg, where the couple had gone to supervise the building of a new Scientology organization, that Mr. Collbran, who is 29, began to have doubts. He had spent months at church headquarters in Clearwater revising the design for the Johannesburg site to meet Mr. Miscavige’s demands.

Mr. Collbran said he saw an officer hit a subordinate, and soon found that the atmosphere of supervision through intimidation was affecting him. He acknowledges that he pushed a 17-year-old staff member against a wall and yelled at his wife, who was his deputy.

In Johannesburg, officials made the church look busy for publicity photographs by filling it with Sea Org members, the Collbrans said. To make their numbers look good for headquarters, South African parishioners took their maids and gardeners to church.

But the Ideal Orgs are supposed to be self-supporting, and the Johannesburg church was generating only enough to pay each of the Collbrans $17 a week, Mr. Collbran said.

“It was all built on lies,” Mr. Collbran said. “We’re working 16 hours a day trying to save the planet, and the church is shrinking.”

‘It’s Everything You Know’

The church is vague about its membership numbers. In 11 hours with a reporter over two days, Mr. Davis, the church’s spokesman, gave the numbers of Sea Org members (8,000), of Scientologists in the Tampa-Clearwater area (12,000) and of L. Ron Hubbard’s books printed in the last two and a half years (67 million). But asked about the church’s membership, Mr. Davis said, “I couldn’t tell you an exact figure, but it’s certainly, it’s most definitely in the millions in the U.S. and millions abroad.”

He said he did not know how to account for the findings in the American Religious Identification Survey that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.

Marty Rathbun, who was once Mr. Miscavige’s top lieutenant, is now one of the church’s top detractors. The churches used to be busy places where members socialized and invited curious visitors to give Scientology a try, he said, but now the church is installing touch-screen displays so it can introduce visitors to Scientology with little need for Scientologists on site.

“That’s the difference between the old Scientology and the new: the brave new Scientology is all these beautiful buildings and real estate and no people,” said Mr. Rathbun, who is among several former top executives quoted by The St. Petersburg Times in a series of articles last year about the church’s reported mistreatment of staff members.

When Mr. Collbran decided he wanted to leave the Sea Org, he was sent to Los Angeles, where potential defectors are assigned to do menial labor while they reconsider their decision. Ms. Collbran remained in Johannesburg, and for three months the church refused to allow them to contact each other, the Collbrans said.

Letters they wrote to each other were intercepted, they said. Finally, Ms. Collbran was permitted to go to Los Angeles, but husband and wife were kept separated for another three months, the Collbrans said, while they went through hours of special auditing sessions called “confessionals.” The auditors tried to talk them out of leaving, and the Collbrans wavered.

They could not just up and go. For one, they said, the church had taken their passports. But even more important, they knew that if they left the Sea Org without going through the church’s official exit process, they would be declared “suppressive persons” — antisocial enemies of Scientology. They would lose the possibility of living for eternity. Their parents, siblings and friends who are Scientologists would have to disconnect completely from them, or risk being declared suppressive themselves.

“You’re in fear,” Mr. Collbran said. “You’re so into it, it’s everything you know: your family, your eternity.”

Mike Rinder, who for more than 20 years was the church’s spokesman, said the disconnect policy originated as Mr. Hubbard’s prescription for how to deal with an abusive spouse or boss.

Now, “disconnection has become a way of controlling people,” said Mr. Rinder, who says his mother, sister, brother, daughter and son disconnected from him after he left the church. “It is very, very prevalent.”

Mr. Davis, the church’s current spokesman, said Scientologists are no different from Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amish who practice shunning or excommunication.

“These are common religious tenets,” he said. “The very survival of a religion is contingent on its protecting itself.”

The Collbrans went back to work for the church in Los Angeles, but Ms. Collbran found the atmosphere so oppressive, the staff members so miserable, that she likened it to living under “martial law” and again resolved to leave.

So she intentionally conceived a child. She knew that the Sea Org did not allow its members to have children, and she had known women who were removed when they refused to have abortions. She waited until her pregnancy had almost reached the end of the first trimester to inform her superiors. It still took two months before the church let the Collbrans go, in 2006, and not before making them sign affidavits.

“All of the auditing that you do, there’s files kept on it,” Ms. Collbran said. “All of the personal things you ever said, all the secrets, the transgressions, are all kept in there. They went through that file, wrote this affidavit as if I wrote it — and I never wrote this affidavit, the church wrote it — and made me sign it.”

They were also handed what the church calls a “freeloader bill” for services rendered, of $90,000, which they later negotiated down to $10,000 for Ms. Collbran’s portion and paid. They now had a child and no money, but they thought they were still in good standing with their church.

Mr. Davis, the church spokesman, said the Collbrans’ exit was not unusual. The Sea Org is a religious order that requires enormous dedication, he said, and leaving any religious order can be a lengthy process. He said the church does require departing staff members to pay freeloader bills and to sign affidavits drawn up by church officials, but he contends that the affidavits never contain confidential information drawn from auditing sessions.

“We have never violated that trust,” Mr. Davis said. “We never have. We never will.” The church in Johannesburg is thriving now that the Collbrans have left, Mr. Davis said.

‘Suppressive Persons’

In 2008, organizers with the Internet-based group Anonymous began waves of protests outside Scientology churches in many countries. Anonymous said it was protesting the Church of Scientology’s attempts to censor Internet posts of material the church considered proprietary — including a video of Tom Cruise, an ardent Scientologist, that was created for a church event but was leaked and posted on YouTube.

“Since Anonymous has come forward,” said Marc Headley, who belonged to the Sea Org for 16 years, “more and more people who have been abused or assaulted are feeling more confident that they can speak out and not have any retaliation happen.”

Mr. Headley, who wrote a book about his experiences, is suing the church for back wages, saying that over 15 years his salary averaged out to 39 cents an hour. His wife, who said the church coerced her into having two abortions, has also filed a suit. The couple now have two small children.

The church acknowledges that Sea Org members are not allowed to have babies, but denies that it pressures people into having abortions. On the pay issue, it says that Sea Org members expect to sacrifice their material well-being to devote their lives to the church.

Scientology parishioners interviewed in Clearwater seemed unperturbed by the protests, headlines and lawsuits.

Joanie Sigal is a 36-year parishioner in Clearwater who promotes the church’s antidrug campaign to local officials. She said the defectors’ stories were like what you would hear “if I asked your ex-husband what he thought of you.”

“It’s so not news,” she said. “It’s a big yawn, actually.”

The Collbrans, despite their efforts to remain in good standing in the church, were declared suppressive persons last year. The church discovered that Mr. Collbran had traveled to Texas to talk with Mr. Rathbun, the defector who runs a Web site that has become an online community for what he calls “independent Scientologists.”

The church immediately sent emissaries to Ms. Collbran’s parents’ house in Los Angeles to inform them that their daughter was “suppressive,” Ms. Collbran said. They have refused to speak to her ever since. Recently, Ms. Collbran received an e-mail message from her mother calling her a “snake in the grass.”

Ms. Collbran says she still believes in Scientology — not in the church as it is now constituted, but in its teachings. She still gets auditing, from other Scientologists who have defected, like Mr. Rathbun.

Mr. Davis said there is no such thing: “One can’t be a Scientologist and not be part of the church.”

Mr. Collbran, for his part, wants nothing to do with his former church. “Eventually I realized I was part of a con,” he said, “and I have to leave it and get on with my life.”

Despite all they have been through together, Ms. and Mr. Collbran are getting a divorce. The reason, they agree sadly, is that they no longer see eye to eye on Scientology.


22 comments:

Anonymous said...

No concept has been more abused and used to manipulate good people for fun and profit than the idea of 'service' for the good of humanity, particularly when linked to a particular path, leader or set of teachings.

Stuart said...

My Zen teacher spent his life talking about the importance of helping all beings. But he was also known to say, "Helping other beings is the #1 bad idea."

I think the point is that it's wonderful to actually make a moment to moment effort to help, to actually do something for others. But holding onto some idea about helping, some dogma about what others really need... can be profoundly counter-productive.

Stuart

Anonymous said...

While living in SF To my surprised I noticed that Gurumayi did not go to any Gurugitas in the mornings, never went to any activity of the daily schedule. In my three year stay G went to one Gurugita and a couple of noon chants, she gave very few speeches, one Darshan and a few events that were recorded for distribution worldwide. We did have staff meetings with Her and chanted very lively. I remember commenting with other devotees that I wanted to become a Swami, I was repeatedly told that G would never name any more Swamis. I also said I hoped to be in a Dancing Sapta with her, but it turns out she did not attend those either even though there were several during my stay. But still that did not create any sense of distance or separation because she was all around ( or at least that what I was made to beleive) I was surprised to notice not only G's absence but everybody's absence as well. In the ashram at that time there where over 500 residents but there were never more than 20 people in the Gurugita, The morning Arati was atended by 2 or 3 devoties and perhaps a lone visitor passing by for a day or two. Rarely where there live chants, most of them were recorded The evening Aratis had perhaps 30 or 40 attendants and the night chant was usually empty with one lone person turning on a tape and lighting the candles. Everybody lived at their own will, no practices were imposed at all. Attendance was voluntary. You would think, how cool, but in fact this contributed to an atmosphere of abandonment and laziness. I was shocked by the lack of interest in following the daily schedule and the lack of guidance in that respect. One day I was invited by some devotees to go outside the Ashram, I couldn't understand even why, but it was a friendly offer so I agreed. To my surprise we went to a Bar-restaurant and ordered beers and other spirits and ate meat and pork. I never even imagined that could happen, they all seemed so vegans in SF, but they were Tamasic instead. In other escapades I witnessed irregular and promiscuous sexual behaviors in bars in New York city and elsewhere, accompanied with smoking pot and drinking. Hey don't get me wrong that’s all fun It just seemed as if no one really cared about the teachings or the practices, but even worst is when I found out, after many conversations, that there was a general understanding that all these attitudes were considered legitimate spiritual endeavor’s, because there was no need for repression and self control since our inner self was the guru and that anything we did was somehow sacred. In SY there is no need for guilt, nothing you do can ever muddy the purity of the Self within you. So very comfortably you do whatever you want with no restraint or self control. According to this twisted line of thought you could deepen you experience of the self equally by attending never ending chanting sessions or in a party in a bar in Manhattan. Immorality was as good as morality. All this came about through a series of misunderstandings of G's teachings, but mostly because her absence and therefore complicity or carelessness. It is well known how Baba would personally wake everyone up to make them go the morning chants. He gave us the daily schedule that we neglected. In the Ashram people made love in all sorts of circumstances and places in many cases not to pursue a relationship but rather to enjoy the pastimes of Shiva. I think I witnessed the decadence of SY during those years from 2001 to 2004. After that the ashram was closed for visitors, all programming ceased and G finally totally disappeared from the public. Today a new group of youngsters is discovering the same generous path and making the same stupid mistakes faraway from our eyes to witness. I certainly feel this is a failed path because it leads to the same disappointments of a secular and ignorant life; desire, attachment and suffering.

cobra said...

You killed the blog with this dude!

SeekHer said...

Cobra:

If so, so be it. Was on life-support for a long time!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the anonymous who said of April 2, 2010: "In SY there is no need for guilt, nothing you do can ever muddy the purity of the Self within you. So very comfortably you do whatever you want with no restraint or self control. According to this twisted line of thought you could deepen you experience of the self equally by attending never ending chanting sessions or in a party in a bar in Manhattan. Immorality was as good as morality."

The other extreme exists OUTSIDE the ashram. People who still push themselves to do as many practices as possible in order to be a "worthy disciple". Meditation, chanting, journal writing, contemplation, scriptural study, seva, ad nauseum.

I have left SY but am married to someone who is still in, and never feels that anything they do is ever good enough to reach "self-realization" (whatever that means anymore). Push and push harder, it's never good enough.

My point is, that the opposite extreme, of people who deny themselves real lives, and the kind of openly enjoyed fun that you discuss that the ashramites engage(d) in, denied for spiritual pursuit. A case of hyper-morality and self-denial of normal human needs to avoid "sense pleasures" evolves.

IMHO, BOTH extremes are just that: extremes. Neither is a healthy, balanced outcome.

Lord curse the founders and current leaders of SY, who have wrought so much damage to so many.

Anonymous said...

Whoever did the casting (and possibly the writing) for the TV series 'V' must have had some contact with SY. The resemblance of the lead alien 'Anna' to GM, not to mention the beatific (and manipulative) expressions and general MO, is positively unnerving and disturbing. Add to that her use of 'bliss' to control her followers, and, well....wow.

SeekHer said...

ANON 4/28

INTERESTING! I will have to check it out. Years ago I noticed that there were very minor allusions to SY in Will & Grace---Molly Shannon did a guest spot where she played a character who wore someones bath water in a vial around her neck viz Baba

Nancy Leigh-Smith said...

I noticed that V resemblance as well. I love the show, but the "beaming down" videos from the underside of the spaceships with very specifically controlled expressions and bliss light - eerie and evocative. I'm going to IMDB to check out the writing and production staff.

cobra said...

Glad I am not the only one who noticed that about "V"

Anonymous said...

Dear Seeker,

Back in Sept of last year I sent you a reply countering your characterization of ex-SY as “full of nothing but vitriol,” and suggested rather a portrait of levelheaded and thoughtful posting at the site, interrupted with just a spattering of vitriol. Well I must now amend my earlier remarks having since been tossed out of ex-SY for questioning the appearance of inauthentic quoted material posted by a VIP member, and informing the moderator that the definition of hearsay covers all stories and conjecture related second hand, without exemption for moderator status. As it turned out I was correct in both instances and paid the price for being right with loss of membership, and suffered the innumerable slings and arrows of trash talk in the process.

When a moderator can suppress honest requests for citation to copied material while the original poster does nothing to alleviate the problem for weeks as other members heatedly debate the veracity of what had been posted to the forum, no longer is that a place for the levelheaded and rational discussion. Actually that makes it a place for copyright infringement, hysteria, and continued obedience to authority.

So while “nothing but vitriol” is harsh as it’s an absolute value, excessive vitriol, or an overabundance of vitriol are certainly reasonable alternatives. Of course, if primal screaming is what’s called for then, at least there’s a place available for that catharsis. But the halfway house rulebook isn’t intended for everyone.

I tried my best to counter some ill-conceived hate mongering, holding my earlier comments to you in the forefront, but the powers that be were beyond my control and so I have been set free - and probably for the best.

Regards,
MBG

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh reading the comment from the poster at April 28, 2010 10:22 AM about the villainous woman in V. I had exactly the same thought--saw the show only one time and that woman's similarity with GM jumped right out of the TV.

This scientology post, though, it really is a conversation killer. Somebody, write something provocative!

older but wiser (the original one, not the person more recently using this alias)

Anonymous said...

MBG,

Anyone on EXSY who openly challenges the moderator/site owner (since they are one and the same) is unceremoniously shown the door and their membership is typically cancelled.

This typically happens under the guise of "protecting those who have been hurt by SY" (my words in paraphrase, not those of the moderator/site owner), but there have been many times I have wondered if the reaction had to truly be as heavy-handed as it was.

The moderator/site owner will undoubtedly be reading these posts at Rituals of Disenchantment, but so be it. None of us is likely change his/her mind or modus operandi.

A pity.

Anonymous said...

Responding to anonymous April 6: I do understand the excesses on both sides, those either to worried with following a path and “doing” practices with rigor and discipline and the other side those enjoying life and having fun with no commitment to changing anything in their lifestyles, but what, may I ask, leads us towards a particular spiritual path? Isn’t it the lack of something? If to become a realized being it is enough to just be who you are, then what are we looking for? This has been taught in many ways by G and Baba, you don’t have to starve yourself, and you don’t have to sacrifice your sleep. You don’t have to feel bad about yourself. Forget about the guilt that has been deeply rooted in our minds and does not allow us to feel whole, Purna, perfect. That is all true, and that is what I refer to as the generous path of SY where you start at the goal, so there is really nothing to be accomplished because all is there at once. But on the other hand the teachings also explain how the path is like the two wings of a bird, one wing is Grace, the other is Self discipline. You may have abundance of Grace but if you lack discipline, the bird cannot fly. I am talking of discipline is the sense that G teaches us in the Yoga of Discipline. Not as something strenuous or hard to accomplish but as something close and accessible. But in fact there has to be some kind of transformation. If before starting the path you were struggling to correct behaviors and thought processes that left you empty and unhappy, and after several years of practice you continue to struggle with the same issues, and the only transformation in you has been that you accept yourself, and you don’t blame yourself anymore, that is really not a great acheivement. Doesn’t everyone in a way do the same without spiritual teachers? You simply learn how to accept yourself? But if you continue to feel empty and continue to repeat the same mistakes you always did, you are still tied up to your samakaras and you are not free. You may have the illusion of being free, which is a good step forward but you are in fact still in bondage and you know it. For that reason the spiritual path has “spiritual practices”, these are designed to help you in the process of Recognition of your own inner greatness. I am not suggesting that one should be all day long chanting and meditating and doing seva, because all acts of life are in a way a “practice”, but if while living in the Ashram, a place designed for spiritual transformation, you continue to live like you did at home, and don’t put any effort into removing your obstacles, and you go party all night, drinking, smoking, having sex with anyone, and never attend a chanting session or meditate at all, you are simply losing your time. And that is precisely what happens in many cases in SF. The discipline has been substituted by Faith and we count only with the Grace to guide us, like birds with one wing. It’s great to start at the goal! To receive Shaktipat before even starting the path! but if our efforts are not directed to maintaining that high level of sensitivity and understanding, we fall, and you know what they say, the higher the fall the more painful it is…

Anonymous said...

To Anon 5/16,

This is Anon 4/6.

You have NO earthly idea WHY I left SY. I simply said that I left. My leaving was not connected with my spouse's excessive attempts to be a "good devotee" and do practices in order to fill his/her heart where he/she feels it's lacking.

I left SY because a FRIEND of mine was sexually abused by the man I thought was a positive, enlightened, miracle-working teacher. In fact I thought he was God incarnate. His successor sent people from the foundation to HER HOME to persuade her to NOT go public with the truth. In other words, GM attempted a cover-up.

I left because I realized BM was NOT what he was purported to be, and neither was GM. I would never choose "teachers" who behave in such manner to be my spiritual mentors.

Please spare me your thoughts about shaktipat and about grace and self-effort being the two wings of a bird. I'm no longer receptive to such talk. Save your breath, it is wasted on me. You wrote something that was utterly off-topic to the point I should have made on 4/06: My shame over having supported people who could harm others and/or covet their power and wealth enough to cover up such harm, drove me to leave. I simply wish my spouse had the internal courage to care enough about other people's victimization to make the same moral and ethical choice.

SeekHer said...

Anon 5/21 wrote:

"You wrote something that was utterly off-topic to the point I should have made on 4/6 "

Say what?!?

No one here is a mind reader: either state what you mean clearly or don't become upset if others misread you.

To Anon 5/16:

We've all heard the two wings story! Most of us can no longer make sense of a path that teaches us "we start at the goal" and then demands we develop a rigid discipline to arrive at that same goal. Sorry, this is a contradiction that can't be rationalized away but only accepted on faith, which, in case you haven't noticed, is in short supply these days.

The larger question that hangs in the air over your comment is: what is enlightenment and why should we strive for it in any case? Speaking personally, I was a blissed out shakti junkie who loved the highs of meditation and chanting and never really cared for the "goal" of enlightenment, because I never understood it. I defy anyone to explain it to me today. We were taught so many vague and contradictory things about the state of enlightenment in SY, e.g. it's natural state that we all have tasted during peak experiences, it's a mystical state that bestows magical powers like omniscience and omnipotence, it either comes in an instant or after lifetimes of searching, etc. I remember hearing G say Baba told her that after attaining enlightenment he would always first perceive a bluish light that would then coalesce into the people who came up to him in darshan. I mean really, WTF was that all about? And how about G being treated as a goddess until suddenly she wasn't anymore in the late 90's, when we were instructed that our previous understanding of her state was wrong and that she really was more like just a very special person? And how about that dill-weed Ram who wrote the correspondence course for years before he bad-touched a devotee, explaining that maybe, just maybe, everyone in SY was enlightened except you and me, and they were all secretly waiting for us to "get it"? I repeat, WTF?

Oh, and let's not forget the gossip about which swami had attained enlightenment. Odds were on Kripananda, but Shantananda was a favorite too. Strangely, no one else in the global SY sangham was really ever suspecting of having reached "the goal". Fact is, the closer to G you were the more of a complete shit you seemed to be. But that was explained away too, G needed to keep the bad seeds close to keep an eye on them, like a teacher who seats the troubled students in the front row. Remember G's story about the ticks that suck at the tit of the cow but despite being so close never get any milk? (That one was trotted out whenever she needed to take the ashramites down a peg or two, perhaps when they were lobbying for a day or two off after years of free service.)

Let's face it. No one has a frickin clue what enlightenment is or why we should devote a substantial portion of our life searching for it. There is no THERE there. It seems rather obvious in hindsight that neither Baba nor Gurumayi had attained anything remotely resembling a god-like state. And if the guru hasn't got there, she sure as hell ain't dragging our asses there after her.

PS Stuart, feel free to post your Zen nonsense about enlightenment in reply. Just know that no one can figure out what you are going on about either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, bravo Seekher. It seems that in the post-SY era the measure of our spiritual attainment lies in how willing we are to accept the explanations that merely serve to explain away -- the more convoluted the explanations, the deeper our insights into the workings of the universe and of grace.

Paradoxically, while checking into your blog I was also listening in online to a recorded discussion of 'tantra' at a Yoga Journal Conference, featuring speakers including Sally Kempton. The spin on tantra introduced by SY, which hid as much as it revealed, as metastasized in our culture as a cotton-candy spirituality (lots of sugar and lots of air). Truth-telling about the nature of this path, in which abuse of power sits very close to the powerful nature of the path itself, is very hard to come by. What we have now is a lot of jaw-boning among a vastly larger population all too willing to naively soak it up. At present it's relatively harmless because the major proponents keep it on the feel-good superficial level, because they are selling it, more than looking deeply into it. Such is the legacy of the GM era, which put more effort into throwing a blanket over the truth than into revealing it. At this point, none of us knows what we're talking about, especially as we have twisted ourselves into such confusion.

D

Stuart said...

Anony/May 11:
Anyone on EXSY who openly challenges the moderator/site owner (since they are one and the same) is unceremoniously shown the door and their membership is typically canceled.

On this "Rituals of DisEnchantment" forum, the moderator allows open discussion. So this is a place where people can express diverse views about topics related to SYDA. This is important, since in the ashram, it was difficult or impossible for us to openly talk about any opinions that didn't follow the group mind-set. So some free speech is welcome.

The Yahoo exSY forum is entirely different. C (the owner/moderator of the group) writes on the exSY home page that the group is unmoderated and open to diverse posting. This is a lie. In fact, C imposes his own dogma on the group by personally attacking or banning anyone whose opinion contradicts his own.

It's only a small pity, as there are other places available for anyone who wants an open discussion, such as this forum, and the truly open Yahoo group:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LifeafterSY/

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Responding to Seekher 5/21
It’s always nice to read your comments as moderator, and I think you clearly understood what I meant with the well known analogy of the bird and its wings on anon 5/16. In no way was I preaching about the abundance of grace, what in SY they call Shaktipat, nor was I blaming us of lacking the self effort to get “there” which in reality is nowhere.
I was just trying to point out the contradictions which are every day more evident in the teachings and in the actions of GM and the leaders in SY. In fact there is no goal, there never was, how can someone teach you “you are perfect” and then propose to you to follow method on how to “become perfect”. Why doing anything to acquire what you already have? Why travel to go to where you already are? I don’t even know how we ever followed these lies, fell into the trap. Shaktipat is a self illusion created by collective suggestion combined with a carefully designed atmosphere of lights, silence, positive reaffirmation and breathing techniques in which you are convinced by a group of fanatics and your own need to belong and to believe in something that something Great just happened. You are even encouraged to write your “experience” and with this you put in own words not what happened, but what you deeply wished would have happened and somehow you were led to think it did. During intensives you give the best of yourself and you expect the best of the outcomes, in commercial terms it is a conspicuous consumption. You recommend to others what you bought to justify your own decision making. SM nor GM were never illumined beings, because there is no such thing as that. The proof is in their behavior, the abuse, the pride, the mistreatment of followers, the real purpose of all of this was to look for a livelihood, to make a living, to make money. But it became too big, the lie was too good and it became a religion unintentionally perhaps, but now you just hide the contradictions and abuses of the leaders, because saintliness cannot be faked indefinitely and we now see the truth.
Thanks for the blog

Anonymous said...

Jun 4 2010:

"Shaktipat is a self illusion created by collective suggestion combined with a carefully designed atmosphere of lights, silence, positive reaffirmation and breathing techniques in which you are convinced by a group of fanatics and your own need to belong and to believe in something that something Great just happened."

I believe that the phenomenon of Shaktipat is real, and I believe it's very different from the "shaktipat" being sold at SY intensives today.

I believe that in the original intensives (the ones where people sat for hours in Muktananda's company and eventually received a specific kind of touch from his hands) some but not all people experienced a dramatic shift of awareness that allowed for a lot of change in their lives. I consider these experiences completely authentic - the work of a Divine energy working through the hands of Muktananda.

I also believe that Muktananda the man was a complicated and somewhat troubling individual who abused his ability to access this fundamentally divine energy.

For a long time SY fed on the legend of his ability to produce the shaktipat experience. GM was able to produce the same experience in her followers in the beginning, but over time her ability diminished and may have vanished entirely.

But still, I believe the original shaktipat experiences were real. They changed some people for the better. Others suffered, over time, from the infusion of this kind of energy into their bodies and psyches.

As a separate issue, many of Baba's devotees suffered because Muktananda lost control over his health, his mind and eventually over the movement he spawned.

I see Baba's loss of control over himself and his movement as the unfolding of his personal human karma. The shaktipat experience - to me that was evidence that a God energy exists in the universe and can be made available to human beings.

K.

Anonymous said...

***

Whoever did the casting (and possibly the writing) for the TV series 'V' must have had some contact with SY. The resemblance of the lead alien 'Anna' to GM, not to mention the beatific (and manipulative) expressions and general MO, is positively unnerving and disturbing. Add to that her use of 'bliss' to control her followers, and, well....wow.

***

If this were a yahoogroup instead fo a blog I might have pursued this discussion more thoroughly. I found the parallels between Ana and GM to be positively ghostly.

The orange robe... the bluish cast to some of the ship's corridors...

Weird to say the least.

K.

Anonymous said...

SeekHer

Maybe we need a new post/subject thread to inspire more discussion?

I'm sorry I didn't post a letter to GM earlier this year. You did such a good job with yours that in the end I didn't see the need to publish my own.

K.