Consecutive Days Riding: 17 Consecutive Days Blogging: 18
Today’s Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 169
As I ride today I find my thoughts returning to last week’s newspaper report written by AP reporters Felicia Fonseca and Bob Christie entitled: Deaths cast negative spotlight on guru.
It told the story of James Arthur Ray a “motivational guru” who runs a “self-help empire” that promises “Harmonic Wealth – on a financial, mental, physical spiritual level.” However, disaster struck when “two of his followers died after collapsing in a makeshift sweat lodge.” The article notes “the sweat lodge experience was intended to be an almost religious awakening for the participants.” It mentioned some critics who describe Ray as “a charlatan who is not to be trusted,” and as exhibiting a “godlike complex.”
A week ago I commented on the roadside attractions along our life journey. I noted how they could act as simple distractions, or provide us with valuable experiences, but might also represented dangers. These dangers include people and experiences that use our energy and good intentions in way that ultimately harm us.
I don’t know all of the facts surrounding the tragedy in Sedona AZ. I know from my previous readings that sweat lodges are an important part of the Native American spiritual tradition. They acted as a ritual of purification and were at times undertaken to induce spiritual visions which might answer questions and/or provide direction to the seeker.
On any journey where you accept guidance or advice you must be on guard! First determine that the guide knows what they are doing, and has the proper training to recognize the dangers of the techniques they use. Secondly, even if they are properly trained, the motivation behind the guide’s advice and guidance must be questioned: is it both healthy and helpful?
MSNBC cable news has been running “October Cult Sunday” a series on deadly cults such as Jonestown, the Branch Dravidians, and the Manson family. In all three cases the group was being directed by a leader who’s ego and mental processes placed their followers in extreme danger. When group members are used as sexual partners, soldiers in some perceived war, or as financial resources, I believe that the “spiritual path” has been corrupted. Dangerous roadside attractions are probably not as extreme as these cults. However, they can still cost people dearly, in time, resources and sometimes even their lives.
It is natural that we seek spiritual guidance, whether from one of the Holy Scriptures, a religious leader, self-help books and seminars or our own personal mystical experiences. This is a natural urge many Psychologists describe as a healthy drive towards Self-Actualization, Integrity, and Wisdom. However, it leaves us open to potential danger that we might be taken advantage of by those to whom we turn.
How should we protect ourselves? First, don’t disown negative feedback, check with others, seek out the opinions of others on the internet. Often there are former group members (survivors) speaking out about problematic groups.
Cults are not defined by the sources of their beliefs, there are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, even atheist cults. A cult is defined by how it recruits members, usually with deception and enticement, and how it retains members, often using isolation bordering on imprisonment and social banishment. If they seek you out and move too quickly beware!
In addition, the old grandmotherly advice about sales pitches fits for accepting guidance. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If it offers total solutions and easy fixes, one size fits all answers, a drug or a single experience that propels you too enlightenment, beware!
Walking the river bank
Picking up walnuts
Off the forest floor
Several lie at the edge
Where a slope plunges
to the water
They entice me
But I pull back
from their siren voices
the footing is treacherous
And yesterday’s rain
lies hidden beneath the leaves
I’ll pick up those
Away from the edge
That present little danger