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...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is not a cult

Below is a post by `corboy' from the rick ross forum topic `what is not a cult'.

I reproduce it for general benefit. It is a different way of looking at certain pitfalls, and it might in its brevity help to determine quickly if a spiritual movement is cultish or not.

What is not a cult (by corboy)

* The group generates courteous behavior and does not produce a high percentage of trolls. Discussion venues that are independent of the group are left unmolested.

*If people complain about incurring harm, the group uses this as a sign to clean up its own act, not vilify and shame the people reporting this information.

*You do not sign any document in which you waive your legal right as a citizen to sue or mediate for damages in case you are injured during an event run by the group.

You are not pressured to go past your boundaries or disclose intimate or traumatic information. Your confidentiality is respected. You do not live in fear that any intimate disclosures you have made will be used to shame or control you.

** The leader and group tell the full truth about their origins, their finances, methods and you are able to give full and informed consent before deciding to participate. Methods are not kept secret.

*Your car keys, your phone, your laptop are not taken away from you.

*You are ensured 7 to 8 hours of sleep and breaks during events and you can bring your own food or have a choice of food options available. You are allowed to go sit by yourself at lunchtime or breaks if you need a privacy break.

*The leader and group are capable of reciprocating the loyalty they demand from you. In cults and bad relationships, the loyalty flow is always in one direction--to the leader and group. The few times the leader seems to reciprocate loyalty, a huge deal is always made and the many other times the leader is a selfish person are ignored.

*Actions match words.

*Principles before personality. You don't get all caught up in the leader's specialness or the group's specialness.

*The group does not claim endorsement by the scientific or medical establishment unless studies have been done by outside entities with no personal investment in the group and that material has been published in peer reviewed journals.

*The group and leader trust in attraction not promotion. They do not use the workplace, the client caregiver relationship and do not push people to use their friendships as sources of new recruits.

*A group that does not constantly change its doctrines or methods, forcing you to buy endless series of books, CDs, tapes.

*Doctrine remains stable--it doesn't get so complex that only its leader can understand it and the rest are left confused.

* Older editions of a groups books or literature are not destroyed or suppressed in an attempt to re-script the group or leader's history.

* The amount of money, time and attention you are expected to offer a group is clear in advance.

*You are never pressured to cut off friendships or associations with persons outside the group or who disagree with its teachings.

* A non cultic group does not encourage you to patronize a small network of 'recommended' businesses. You can consult therapists, doctors, contractors, yoga teachers, who are not in any way involved with the group.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quakers in the UK embrace same-sex marriage

Writing on the issue of homosexuality in earlier posts (click on pitfall 12: Woman & man), I am happy to repeat some news from the UK earlier this month:

(from the Guardian, 31 July 2009):

The Quakers today agreed to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples and said they would ask the government to change the law to allow Quaker registering officers to register same-sex partnerships in the same way as marriages.

At their annual meeting, held at the University of York, 1200 members gave their unanimous approval to revise relevant parts of Quaker Faith and Practice to treat gay marriages in the same way as heterosexual unions.

Michael Hutchinson, of Quakers in Britain, said: "Many of our meetings have told us that there are homosexual couples who consider themselves to be married and believe this is as much a testimony of divine grace as a heterosexual marriage. They miss the public recognition of this in a religious ceremony."

Following the Civil Partnership Act of December 2005, same sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland who share Quaker beliefs may opt for a blessing or commitment ceremony after entering a civil partnership.

While legislation allows same-sex partnerships to be registered as civil partnerships in law, the registrations cannot take place in the context of religious worship. Civil partnership is not recognised as marriage, although registered civil partners share almost the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

During this week's meeting, Quakers spoke about their personal experiences and said "whereas there was a clear, visible path to celebration and recognition for opposite sex couples" the same was not always true for those in same-sex relationships.

Quaker spokesman Anne Van Staveren said she did not foresee a surge in membership numbers following the decision.

"Anyone is welcome to attend a Quaker meeting but to become a Quaker, to understand the ways we live and worship, takes a little longer," she said. "Marriage ceremonies are for Quakers, but we are open to people to come and belong."

Resolving the hotly disputed issue of homosexuality in the church has not been as easy for other religious groups. This week the archbishop of Canterbury conceded the matter had caused an irreparable division in the Anglican communion.

I'm really happy that one spiritual movement has come out like this. And in fact they are ahead of the UK legislation, which still discriminates same sex couples. They are also far ahead of my former Sahaj Marg guru P. Rajagopalachari who said in a recent speech that homosexuality is unnatural and against the wish of God. Hopefully one day, spiritual leaders like him will be seen for what they are doing: adding to the division of humanity, instead of uniting humanity.