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...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cults - faith, healing and coercion (a book by Marc Galanter)

Since I seem to be in the mood to refer to other sources of information on `pitfalls of spirituality', let me mention a rather scientific book by Marc Galanter called:

Faith, healing and coercion

Marc Galanter is a well-known psychiatrist. From Wikipedia:
Marc Galanter, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry at NYU, Founding Director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at NYU, and Director of the NYU Fellowship Training Program in Addiction Psychiatry. He is also a Division Director at NYU’s World Health Organization Collaborating Center, and Director of its national Center for Medical Fellowships in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. He is Editor of the journal "Substance Abuse," the annual book series “Recent Developments in Alcoholism,” and author of the books, "Network Therapy for Alcohol and Drug Abuse" and “Spirituality and the Healthy Mind: Science, Therapy and the Need for Personal Meaning.” His NIH and foundation-funded studies have addressed family therapy for substance abuse, pharmacologic treatment for addiction, self-help treatment for substance abusers, and spiritually-oriented recovery.

So, do I recommend his book above? Well, I do, if you are not deterred by a scientific approach, and if you are willing to read what is perhaps not so easy English.

Because the book contains a very interesting mix, based on 15 years of research and personal experience:

* A very good and detailed description of various relevant issues around `cults', `religious groups' and the surrounding society

* A more or less scientific analysis of many of these issues (not always really possible though)

* An account of Marc Galanter's personal experience as a counselor with members of various spiritual movements


In the book, I came across two remarks which merit some additional posts on this blog. One remark is about cognitive dissonance (to be explained later). The other about `boundary' issues between a spiritual movement and general society.

To be continued, therefore.

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