Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Money & Power: the Spiritual Movement's Pyramid

frank waaldijk, money & power: the spiritual movement's pyramid

Money & Power, the Spiritual Movement's Pyramid (own work, 2008)

Some important posts on this blog are on the pitfalls associated with Money, Power, the Spiritual Leader, the Pyramid (by which I mean the pyramidical organization of the Spiritual Movement).

After writing these posts, I changed an older sculpture of a bishop figure (I'm a visual artist) into a more disturbing comment on the way that spiritual movements (including religions) tend to function. Because a picture sometimes speaks a thousand words, I'm putting up a photograph of this sculpture.

In the sculpture one sees the Spiritual Leader (or perhaps his Manager?) on top of a dark, mostly opaque Pyramid, which in turn is based on a pedestal/dais-like elevation. The Spiritual Leader is dressed in full regalia, with a silver staff and other attributes of his position. As in the previous post, there is no real humility, here we have the CEO of the Money & Power machine.

If one looks closely, one sees that the Pyramid is filled with Money.

frank waaldijk, money & power: the spiritual movement's pyramid (detail)

detail of Money & Power, the Spiritual Movement's Pyramid

There were several recent newspaper articles reporting on financial malversations and lack of transparency in a variety of spiritual movements. (To mention one: a long article in a leading Dutch newspaper on the complete lack of transparency regarding the wealth of the Vatican and the catholic church. Wealth which is conservatively estimated in the billions of euros. Yet churchgoers are asked time and again for their financial support, and catholic missionary posts keep asking money for all sorts of projects in the developing world.)

That these issues crop up again and again could cause occasional posts on this blog, even though the main analysis was completed already last September.


ashok said...

money and power have nothing to do with true spirituality.

frank waaldijk said...

thank you for your comment, ashok. practically everyone will agree with you, including me.

that is why it can be so bewildering to see money & power playing a leading role in spiritual movements.

from my own experiences in sahaj marg, i have gleaned how these pitfalls are denied the most by those who have fallen into them.

but also the `dedicated followers' turn a blind eye. they become angry when someone questions the need for a trust fund. or when someone says: well, why is everything decided by just a few people from the inner circle of the Leader? why this insistence on obedience of the Leader?

so, superficially everyone in a spiritual movement gladly agrees with you: money & power have nothing to do with true spirituality. the questions then become:

1) why does the spiritual movement involve itself in trust funds, in board of directors, in a pyramidical power hierarchy?

2) why do followers of the spiritual movement not question these money & power involvements?

i have tried to analyse the workings of these pitfalls in the previous posts, perhaps you would care -and you are most welcome- to comment on that also.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

It seems to me there is more of this than ever in the blogosphere - the idea that spirituality is basically a quest for good stuff. Just believe good things will happen and never think a negative thought and you'll prosper materially and never have health problems.

I don't know what's happening to the capacity for critical thought in this country...

frank waaldijk said...

thank you paul for your comment. i agree, and not only for your country.

there is a widespread tendency to advocate `positive thinking'...which in itself wouldn't be a problem.

the problem is, that people join `positive thinking' with `no criticism'.

to any person who spends a little thought on it, such an association is most likely too absurd for words.

without criticism, without the drive to change things which are obviously harmful, we would still be living in caves...that is, if humanity would even be around.

true criticism comes from the -to me positive- commitment to make things better. in order to cure a patient, this patient must first acknowledge that (s)he is sick, that there is something not quite perfect in the state of things.

apart from that, there is a strange metaphysical blindness in people who advocate `only positive thinking'.

because without the negative things in life, how does one appreciate the positive ones? in other words, if everything is positive, then the word `positive' loses its meaning altogether.

then there is another blindness: who decides what is `positive' and what is `negative'? we do. so in almost all cases it concerns a value judgment, often a value prejudice of the person proclaiming something to be positive or negative. with groupthink, these value judgments tend to take on the character of absolute truth...

and without critical thought, there is no way to escape from this groupthink stranglehold.

this is why i believe that true spirituality embraces critical thought, and embraces the voicing of criticism.