Author Topic: Ruminating on Gurus  (Read 1637 times)

TheAudience

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Ruminating on Gurus
« on: June 04, 2021, 02:48:45 pm »
My relationship to the concept of gurus is complicated. I wish I could say I unilaterally hate the concept and the actuality of gurus from beginning to end. I feel like that would somehow be easier then my actual feelings.

First the negative, and there is a lot, so sorry. I grew up in a religion that could be adequately described as a hierarchy of store-brand gurus. It was customary or expected that for every major decision or doctrinal question that arose in your life you would first study the issue, think about it a while, pray about it, and if you didn't get clear feelings or an answer one way or another about the matter, then you could always go to the next guy (and it was always a man) up the chain for council on the matter. On the surface this could look innocuous in a "it's just an org chart" sort of way. But because it is associated with the church I left for a host of reasons and negative feelings, those negative feelings also glom onto it and bias me to seeing any potential problem.

For example, someone you might not actually feel close to often ends up involved in decisions that they likely don't have any right to be involved in. This rando was selected to their position by no other qualifications than "The next guy above him got good feefees about it". So why should I feel culturally conditioned to give this rando any say about a difficult business decision that could affect my family's financial well being, or who I should marry, or whether or not I should move across country for a job opportunity... etc. They haven't been specially trained for any of this. It is literally a roulette game in regards to the quality of their advice and reactions to your issues. Confessing your perceived failings to one of these individuals could result in anything from honestly good encouragement and perspective adjustment, to social disfellowship and enduring the shame of being barred from participating in public rituals that signify your personal worthiness/righteousness. But I digress. I just wanted to show that I mostly see the problems with this system, and that the negative bias I've developed towards the church leadership has also colored my view of guru's in general.

At least with the knock-off gurus of my church, most of the time they didn't get completely wrapped up in it and go off on some power trip (I've not experienced a severe case of this myself, but I have heard of instances where some congregations end up noticeably more cult-like because the leader really ran with their position. But that could all be cautionary folk lore, I'll never know). But there are plenty of individual operators who I could name that make a living off of their guru status. With these I've noticed a few recurring failure modes which cause me to be extremely wary.

Concept X
In programming, there is the concept of a God Class, which is where you have one object class that just does too much, it clogs up schedulers, modifying it becomes a nightmare because it is tied into too many other processes. To me, Concept X feels like a God Class problem. It is the one sized fits all "Secret" thing that you personally need in your life that will "Fix all your problems", and it is impossible to figure out on your own, and so powerful it's actually dangerous if you aren't properly trained to implement it in your life, so you'll need to sign up for a whole series of courses so you can be correctly shepherded into this enlightenment. And if it doesn't work out for you, well, that is an expected outcome as well because it's super hard to grasp and even harder to master Concept X. Not many people actually manage to master it, but you could be one of them! It's fine, we have a Money Back Guarantee if it doesn't work out for you. Non-Refundable fees may apply.

Most of the time Concept X is a blatant grift. There is nothing at the core. It's not even bullshit at the center, but it has several layers of very expensive bullshit surrounding it to keep you from seeing that there was nothing there. The promoter is just trying to keep the show going and the money flowing, It's smoke and mirrors and improvisation that only unintentionally helps enough rubes to keep the testimonial page stocked, and exhausts or bankrupts the rest so they leave blaming themselves. Occasionally the promoter actually does have something in mind for their Concept X. It is usually the same microwave re-heated folk wisdom you could have gotten for far cheaper from somewhere else, but you had to work for this one so maybe it sticks. Other times it's more bizarre, like an obsession with something random. More then likely it is what fixed a problem in the promoter's life, but it isn't likely to help you and your problem in the slightest.

The real problem with Concept X, is that it often can feel, or even be, real. We're a bunch of flawed poo flinging hominids that are capable of breaking in novel and interesting ways. I'd guess it's a somewhat common experience to look at your own life, find something you don't like about it, look at someone else's life (or at least the halfway curated bits they'll show) and think "they've got their shit together" and wonder, "what am I not getting?" Thus Concept X is born. But the difference between the real ones, and the ones pushed by gurus, is that there isn't just one, there is one for every problem that everyone has, and they are all slightly different keys for different locks. It genuinely is the thing you don't get, it often lies in your blind spot, if you could truly internalize that thing, you'd be able to finally fix that thing you don't like about yourself or your life (while simultaneously breaking some other shit in your life and dropping that into your new blind spot, you know the one, that crevice under the bookshelf, the one you thought you saw a large roach crawl into last Tuesday night.)

The Guru Trap
You ever wanted to unlock your creativity? Want to take your Business to the Next Level! You're poor, want to become fabulously rich? If you pay for this book, or this course, you can learn all my life coaching tips on how to Become the Best You!

I have less to say about the Guru Trap. Have you ever met a guru who claims to help everyone else get their business off the ground, but the only business that they've ever personally successfully operated is the business of being a guru? How about one that guru's so much helping others unleash their creativity, that they just don't have the time to make any art or anything creative at all?

The Guru Trap feels less common now a day. But I still see hints of it now and then. The Guru Trap is the pyramid scheme of fail states. It's inside network sales that never make it outside. It is people making money telling others how to make money doing the thing that the guru isn't doing anymore. Presently this pops up most prevalently in "Hot new money making ideas", like crypto currencies, or dropship sales, or affiliate marketing, or the classic literal MLM's. The only ones making the real money are the ones selling the shovels, maps, and instruction manuals to desperately hopeful, mostly talentless rubes who dream of striking it rich in them there hills.

Creeping Cultification
Don't worry! Follow my directions and things will go alright! Life is a messy affair. There are no two ways about it. There are plenty of bedraggled souls out there who often have been dealt a mediocre hand in life. Many seek oblivion whether or not they recognize it, the seductive abdication from responsibility and consequence. Don't believe me? Ask yourself, does this not rhyme with many a layperson's depiction of heaven? To dwell with a source of absolute authority, to forever bask in that glory, in restful peace for eternity. Oblivion by any other name is still just as empty.

There are gurus who are nave and do not grasp this truth, they "Just want to help others". Along comes a follower, willing to sacrifice much to be absolved of the messy affairs of life. They seek direction in as much as the guru is willing to advise. And each bit of advise is but a bandage on the crumbling dam. And the guru either learns and drives off the seeker of oblivion, or they don't and exhaust themselves on problems they do not grasp. I pity and laugh at these.

There are gurus who are sociopaths, and definitely grasp this truth, and seek those who seek oblivion, and offer such absolution in exchange for devotion. And they have sick harems, and leave human wreckage in their wake, and burn bright and fast, and sometimes (but not often enough) get chased to foreign lands by the authorities, and on a rare occasion get thrown in jail forever. I openly despise (and maybe a little bit secretly envy) these. (Damn You Scruples!)

There are the extremely rare gurus who are not so nave, and know this truth, and do their best to distinguish between those who seek oblivion, and those who seek life, and they do what they can to drive off those who seek oblivion and try to help those who seek life. They do so knowing full well that this is no easy task and that they will still frequently fail. Once they die though, they are no longer there to drive off seekers of oblivion, who will deify the guru, bastardize their teachings, and likely fuck shit up in the name of the guru. These are the source of my complicated feelings. I hate that.

Finally there are gurus, who are only gurus to themselves exclusively. And they beat off any seeking followers with sticks and terror and flung poo. These I openly admire cause they never waste too much oxygen thinking about this shit. They have real problems to fucking deal with, and deal with it they do, and deal with the consequences they will.

Now for the Complicated Bits.
Confession time. In my nave youth, I was taken by the siren song of helping others. To this day I cannot completely shake the positive feelings I have with the concept of "helping others to help themselves". I firmly believed in the powers of mantras and positive affirmations and a rudimentary understanding of meme magic. I hoped I could be capable of forcefully injecting a virulent positivity into the world like one could inject a Cajun marinade into a turkey (Pro tip, it generally works out better if the turkey is already dead). When my grand ambitions smashed up against the grim realities, I'm sure by now you can guess which one survived. The fragments of those ambitions still linger about, complicating things. Thank <insert higher power here?> YouTube de-listed all my old videos. Thankfully, I didn't accrue any followers for my efforts.

Now I view that time in my life partly as a temptation to folly, and partly with a bit of longing. In my current state where I've ceded so much to oblivion's pull, I can see in those fragments bits and pieces of my own personal concept X, I can see the patterns that helped me to deal with the messiness of life head on rather than seek shelter from it. I saw in it some strange mentality that felt better than the mundane. But they are fragments at best now, the memories are not quite as clear. So back into the forge it all goes, maybe I can make something better next time, something that can survive an encounter with the grim realities for a little longer. But first I need to make some real things away from this so I'm not just a Guru Trap myself.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 02:56:44 pm by TheAudience »
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Cramulus

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2021, 04:19:21 pm »
This is a good post, a lot of good thought in there.

I'm with you in that I am immediately on guard when someone says they have all the answers, or that they have this great shortcut / life hack which will only cost you $19.99, etc etc. When I started reading about Gurdjieff, I was on high alert against being subsumed by cult dynamics.

But I also know that there are certain things out there -- often they are abstract spiritual topics, like meditation, or techniques that are best transimtted by example -- which I cannot necessarily figure out all by myself. Words you read in a book fall short. I need someone to lead me to the place. This requires trust. This trust can be abused. Intentional inner change is always risky (or else it is worthless).


To navigate this dangerous terrain, there are two pieces of armor I keep polished:

-Verification. A good teacher doesn't ask you to take anything on faith. You have to do your own work to verify what's given to you. (I think - most things you haven't verified yourself should be regarded as empty until proven otherwise) This raises a deep question though -- How can we verify the intangible? What does it mean to KNOW something? To have a real understanding of the cosmos and the self? (This mystery is the essence of gnosticism.)

-Discordianism. Eris has a powerful weapon in her arsenal: laughter. The Principia Discordia is not fucking around when it presents laughter as the highest tier of magical tools. Laughing at someone blunts their authority. Laughing at yourself can jailbreak you from your trajectory. With the flip of a mental switch, you can reevaluate what you're doing and go "ehhh most of this is probabably bullshit, lol". If we can see ourselves as a cosmic shmuck, then the banana peels that the cosmos lays for us are no longer dangerous, but part of this slapstick routine. Fundamentalism and orthodoxy crumble as soon as you stop taking them so seriously. And sometimes we need to take things seriously, we just also need to remain flexible, to not get trapped.


rong

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2021, 04:37:16 pm »
those perceived as gurus are in a unique position in that it enables them to easily preserve their status as gurus.
"he was a smart feller who felt smart"

Lord Batwing Candlewaxxe

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2021, 06:25:19 pm »
And sometimes we need to take things seriously, we just also need to remain flexible, to not get trapped.

Laughter is the most serious quality that exists.
You know those days when things keep getting worse faster than you can lower your standards?" - Carrie Fisher


Perhaps the damned horse can fly.

TheAudience

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2021, 07:56:39 pm »
This is a good post, a lot of good thought in there.

I'm with you in that I am immediately on guard when someone says they have all the answers, or that they have this great shortcut / life hack which will only cost you $19.99, etc etc. When I started reading about Gurdjieff, I was on high alert against being subsumed by cult dynamics.

But I also know that there are certain things out there -- often they are abstract spiritual topics, like meditation, or techniques that are best transimtted by example -- which I cannot necessarily figure out all by myself. Words you read in a book fall short. I need someone to lead me to the place. This requires trust. This trust can be abused. Intentional inner change is always risky (or else it is worthless).


To navigate this dangerous terrain, there are two pieces of armor I keep polished:

-Verification. A good teacher doesn't ask you to take anything on faith. You have to do your own work to verify what's given to you. (I think - most things you haven't verified yourself should be regarded as empty until proven otherwise) This raises a deep question though -- How can we verify the intangible? What does it mean to KNOW something? To have a real understanding of the cosmos and the self? (This mystery is the essence of gnosticism.)

-Discordianism. Eris has a powerful weapon in her arsenal: laughter. The Principia Discordia is not fucking around when it presents laughter as the highest tier of magical tools. Laughing at someone blunts their authority. Laughing at yourself can jailbreak you from your trajectory. With the flip of a mental switch, you can reevaluate what you're doing and go "ehhh most of this is probabably bullshit, lol". If we can see ourselves as a cosmic shmuck, then the banana peels that the cosmos lays for us are no longer dangerous, but part of this slapstick routine. Fundamentalism and orthodoxy crumble as soon as you stop taking them so seriously. And sometimes we need to take things seriously, we just also need to remain flexible, to not get trapped.

I'm glad you thought this pile was good. It felt a bit too long, I was wondering if I should've chunked it up into smaller works. What's done is done.

Gurdjieff was one of those I had in mind for the third type of guru. Not nave and still striving to help those who strive to live. From reading your experiences it seems like you have found a group that isn't overridden by the seekers of oblivion. Congrats on that. I'm still trying to decide if I should continue attending the cabal meetings, and the above post was my attempt at sorting through some of that. The fact that much of the discussion revolves around the works of Gurdjieff raises difficult concerns for me because of my bias and past experiences, because I see him as having the role of a guru. For now I'm leaning towards sticking around because at the very least it gives my mind something to chew on during the quiet hours at work.

As for verifying the intangible... I guess I could go stare at that topic for a bit. I've got an unpublished post about the ugly bits of epistemology and that damn near everyone constantly fnords out of their minds so that they can function. It's a turd that still needs several coats of lacquer to make it presentable, but next week is going to be unbearably slow so I might as well. The TL;DR is that you can't verify intangible stuff in any way that is conclusive, so you just give certain concepts a ride around the block and kick the tires and see if it is useful or not. If you're brave/stupid/thorough, you could also try driving it full speed into a wall and see where/how it breaks.

An excerpt from my unpublished notes cause it feels relevant. I dunno, hungover + boredom is probably not the best state of mind to be composing words in. Fuck it and I'm sorry.
"I am a crock of shit. In my view, Discordianism is this. It is seeking to fulfil that which novelty cannot. It is a bottomless striving. It is endless seeking. It is self deception where necessary, and where possible it is staring at the naked reality, no matter how unpleasant. It is ritual for the biological urge for ritual. It is gathering and dividing. It is hooking objective reality to subjective value, winding up the springs, and marching disorderly into the unknown. It is clear as mud, mystery that requires pickaxes, and likely always poop at the core."
« Last Edit: June 07, 2021, 08:20:14 pm by TheAudience »
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Cramulus

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2021, 08:36:36 pm »
I like what you said about seeking oblivion vs seeking life.


Gurdjieff was one of those I had in mind for the third type of guru. Not nave and still striving to help those who strive to live. From reading your experiences it seems like you have found a group that isn't overridden by the seekers of oblivion. Congrats on that. I'm still trying to decide if I should continue attending the cabal meetings, and the above post was my attempt at sorting through some of that. The fact that much of the discussion revolves around the works of Gurdjieff raises difficult concerns for me because of my bias and past experiences, because I see him as having the role of a guru. For now I'm leaning towards sticking around because at the very least it gives my mind something to chew on during the quiet hours at work.

Do what's needed!
Gurdjieff is not for everybody. If it's not your thing, don't sweat it. For real.

Our cabal is exploring his thought together, but we are not a "4th Way" group. We're a "5th Way" group.  :fnord: That's our own thing.

Our way, which we're creating as we go,
is about breaking into the temple and trying on its regalia.

We owe nothing to Gurdjieff himself. The old mage has been dead for 70 years.
We're like vikings cruising down the fjord looking for a temple to raid. But we don't want the gold.



all that being said, remember there are two different meetings, which alternate weeks. This coming Wednesday is actually the Potluck Cult.
We'll be talking about The Art of Memetics. We'll be joined by the illustrator and one of the authors.





 
Quote
"I am a crock of shit. In my view, Discordianism is this. It is seeking to fulfil that which novelty cannot. It is a bottomless striving. It is endless seeking. It is self deception where necessary, and where possible it is staring at the naked reality, no matter how unpleasant. It is ritual for the biological urge for ritual. It is gathering and dividing. It is hooking objective reality to subjective value, winding up the springs, and marching disorderly into the unknown. It is clear as mud, mystery that requires pickaxes, and likely always poop at the core."

what a crock of shit!!  :)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2021, 09:22:04 pm by Cramulus »

TheAudience

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Re: Ruminating on Gurus
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2021, 01:13:07 pm »
I regard most of the stuff that comes from my mind as utter bullshit. The top post is no different. The dichotomy of Life vs. Oblivion is a lovely crock of conceptual crapola and likely doesn't hold up under modest scrutiny. c'est la vie. I use it cause it's a fun lens to look through and if you hold it just right you might be able to set fire to some loose kindling or insects. It was an effective tool I carved out of the mormon faith which I subsequently used for getting out of the mormon faith. How's that for raiding the temple  :lulz:

I could try and polish it up for presentation if anyone wants a show and tell. Passing around spoils is half the fun.  :)

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