Sexy, Cultish Power, Yoga & Healing.

Via on Mar 3, 2012

The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

“…we deepened our understanding of how authoritarianism in its varied guises has been and largely still is a primary mode of social cohesion—and also how it has now become a major factor in social disintegration.”
~Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, ‘The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power’

My relationship with yoga has been a tumultuous love affair.

I have experienced the vicissitudes of elation, letdown and equilibrium. The process first included buying into authoritarian styles where I practiced accepting and absorbing the teachings I received, and then started to feel a lot better. I experienced disappointment with teachers, and have inquired within to try to understand. I think I’m still discovering how to learn and grow on my own terms.

“’Guru’ is a metaphor for anyone who manipulates under the guise of ‘knowing what’s best’ for them, whether leaders, mothers, or lovers.”
~ Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, ‘The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power”

I just didn’t do it with John Friend and Anusara yoga.

When I first heard about the scandal concerning John Friend, I was completely stunned. It was hard for me to believe, at first. I had taken a weekend workshop with Mr. Friend about 10 years ago in Evanston, IL, and had been impressed. I bought into what he was teaching at the time, and had even considered studying further with this man. I had believed that his teachings were good, and was impressed with the exponential growth of this style of yoga over the years. But as the story continued to unfold with teacher resignations , the awareness started to sink in that there must have been some truth to the news. It was sad to discover that someone with so much power and influence was no longer appearing to be whom I had once believed he was. And my heart went out to friends in the Anusara community.

When Diana Alstad contacted me and we talked about her and Joel Kramer’s book, The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power, I realized that this book may be of help to people seeking to understand and heal from this. Reading from this book has helped me in my own healing too.

The book speaks out on the dynamics of authoritarian power. The fact is, a lot of us were raised in households that used authoritarian parenting techniques where we were trained to look to others to tell us what to do—even as we got older. Many of us emerge from our childhood homes believing on some level that someone else has the answers that we need. In other words we may not have matured into self-determining adults, but instead are seeking our answers from leaders, lovers and/or doctrines. Or some of us might have given up hope that there are answers. Most of us, I venture to say, are crippled by self-mistrust.

“Not all people obey blindly. Moreover, if people are forced to obey, they will tend to force others to obey, given the opportunity. If children are taught to mistrust themselves (a prerequisite for the authoritarian personality), as adults they will have little option other than looking for someone else to trust, especially under stress. What this shows is that whatever the genetic base, much of authoritarianism is taught. Until children are taught to trust themselves, and social forms reward not punish this, there is no basis for making nature the cause of authoritarianism in arenas of power.”

~ Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, ‘The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power”

Since methods of control may be hidden, I found it helpful to discover this excerpt that includes questions that help to determine if a group is dedicated to maintaining or growing the power of those in charge or driven by tasks to fulfill a different purpose.

In determining this and in judging whether a hierarchy is essentially authoritarian or not, one faces the following considerations:

1. What is its purpose?
2. Who decides if it’s purpose is being fulfilled and how is this decided?
3. How free are the members of the hierarchy to enter and leave it? That is, how much coercion is involved in getting people to belong and stay?
4. How responsive is it to change from within or without, and how open is it to internal and external feedback? This includes who determines what is even considered relevant feedback.
5. In what direction does power flow? Does it only flow from top to bottom, or are there mechanisms within the structure of the hierarchy that give the lower rungs a say in who the higher rungs are and what they do?

In the current state of things, even question #1 becomes cloudy when we consider that yoga is a business, a business is set up to make money, which represents a kind of power in itself. Is a yoga business set up to help people or make money? Can it reasonably do both? How is the business set up to ensure that both objectives are met? Does it work? Or do we become slaves to the money coming in?

Is it really possible to have a spiritual business with integrity? In Anusara yoga spiritual teaching is definitely an aspect of the system. Some yoga businesses can claim they are “only physical”, but my sense of it is that Anusara has always had a spiritual thrust in the teaching. When does a spiritual group become a cult-like situation? In ‘The Guru Papers,’ “…the word “cult” is used in a specific way to refer to groups with an authoritarian structure where the leader’s power is not constrained by scripture, tradition or any “higher” authority.” I have a lot of questions here, and think that there are many angles on what we might constructively think about and discuss with each other that will inform how we are going to handle yoga and spiritual teachings going forward.

“Successful gurus, rock stars, charismatic leaders of any sort, experience the intensity of adulation amplified beyond most people’s ken. This can make ordinary relationships pale in comparison. Being the recipient of such adulation and devotion is exceedingly addictive…Adulation has powerful emotions for the sender as well, and can be easily mistaken for love. It is likewise addicting for the sender, as it is an easy route to feelings of passion. Since adulation is totally a function of image, should the images crack, adulation disappears, demonstrating that it was essentially empty of real care.”

~ Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad,  “The Traps of Being a Guru.”

Oh, it is so intoxicating to admire someone! It is a pleasure I have allowed myself. But when I consider the above excerpt, I think that I should consider modulating this energy. Adoring someone without expecting anything back can seem like a harmless activity. But I believe myself to have been addicted to the feelings of passion connected with adoring a teacher. To consider that it could be stirring unhealthy, yet feel-good, emotions in the idolized teacher is another reason to approach such situations with restraint.

I’ve had a teacher who described this situation of transference of power as an opportunity for healing (for the student), but I am suspicious because it also seems to assume that the teacher “knows what’s best” for the student—a red flag for an authoritarian interchange.

“Using lofty ideals to mask self-interest is common, but when this is melded to images of purity, corruption is guaranteed. The myriad scandals around sex, money, and power that have tainted so many gurus are not surprising, given the structural corruptibility of the role. In political realms, where the corrupting tendencies of power are legend, we are often warned that constant vigilance is needed to insure freedom. Authoritarian ways of relating undermine vigilance so that both sides have unconscious vested interests in the unquestioned power of the leader. In spiritual realms, the power is so absolute that it can lead to extreme excesses.”

~ Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, “Gurus and Sexual Manipulation”

A way for healing presented in “The Guru Papers” to strengthen the integrity of groups and institutions is to build self-trust of individuals in our society. The book does not suggest that the concepts of hierarchy, authority or power are in themselves bad, but they have been deeply misunderstood and abused throughout time. When we can trust our own perceptions we can communicate what we see, because we can actually see for ourselves. And this might really help to change the situation. But if we have been taught to believe, and continue to believe blindly in what others have seen for us, we might just continue on in the same cycles of abuse and destruction that we, the human beings, have been acting out for some time.

I wish healing for everyone touched by Anusara yoga. I wish healing for everybody who’s never heard of it.

* Find more information and excerpts from ‘The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power’ by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad here. *

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.

4,659 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

72 Responses to “Sexy, Cultish Power, Yoga & Healing.”

  1. bflatbrad says:

    Thanks for the article. The Guru Papers, I feel, should be required reading for all yoga teacher training curriculums.

  2. matthew says:

    i agree with bflatbrad. it's good to see kramer and alstad dusted off to fight the good fight, once again. well done, brooks.

  3. liz says:

    Awesome article!

  4. Kitty says:

    Well done! It is encouraging to see that this episode is causing introspection. Here in Eugene, we are seeing similar episode play out with respect to the Sikh community and a business founded by followers of Yogi Bhajan. A small group took over the business and it strayed from its root mission of supporting the community to one of maximizing profit. It is truly sad to see the community in crisis over the actions of a few.

  5. JoeC2K says:

    The word guru has been abused, misunderstood and misused in the Western culture. And to speak of the business of yoga or a yoga business is just a Western profane perversion of the sacred…

    • Yes, but what about the long tradition of corrupt gurus in India (and elsewhere)?
      Ironically, there's nothing more "Western" that the romanticism that says East=pure and spiritual, West=corrupt and materialistic.

      • JoeC2K says:

        Well, what about corrupt gurus in India? They really weren't gurus then… but I'm not asserting that corruption doesn't exist in India or elsewhere. You do infer a good point… yoga can also be perverted and turned into a business in India too. It's naive to think that all people from the Orient are pure and spiritual. The veil of Maya lies heavy…Thanks :-)

        • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

          The words from the comment "yoga can also perverted" seems to assert that yoga in itself is pure. I question this aspect of the comment because "yoga" refers to a real practice people do, and in many cases it refers to a business, or even an industry (has the yoga-industrial complex been coined already?). Anyway attempting to project images of purity is what ends up getting a lot of leaders in trouble, so I think we need to take this into account. Referring to the realm of experience as "Maya" (illusion) doesn't help if we believe it wholeheartedly because then life can't be taken seriously enough. I might just give up trying to understand or do anything if I think it's all "just a dream." *perhaps this is a self-disempowering belief*

          • JoeC2K says:

            Hi. Thanks for your comment on my comment ;-) When I speak of the perversion of yoga, yes, I'm speaking about a pure yoga as the highest goal as discussed in the Yoga Sutras. This yoga is in itself pure as evidenced by the lives of countless real people. Specifically I'm thinking of sutras 1.2 and 1.3. Sure, I agree that yoga is a real practice people try to adopt in their lives, but that doesn't change the purity of the underlying yoga. I don't agree that yoga refers to a business or industry… yoga-industrial complex, lol… Projection of an image of purity? If the projection is a fake then eventually the light of truth will uncover this falsehood and, yeah, there will be trouble as evidenced by the countless scandals in all aspects of life, not just yoga. The last part of your comment, speaking of Maya and believing it wholeheartedly, well, we're getting into some deep discussions there… I was just making the point that the temptations of Maya exist also in places that Westerns regard as holy and sanctified.

            Thanks… good discussion. I hope I elaborated on my thoughts a little better ;-)

    • integralhack says:

      You raise a good point, Joe. Hopefully the thesis of the Kramer and Alstad's book doesn't boil down to "guru = bad" in a dismissive fashion. All power structures can be abused (and it appears from the excerpts that they touch on that). I think it is good for everyone to maintain a healthy skepticism, but it is also important to recognize that you may not have complete understanding of a particular spiritual tradition if you are outside of it and/or possess little knowledge of it. It's sort of like saying all forms of social welfare are bad because, you know, the Nazis also engaged in a little social welfare too! It's another form of Reductio ad Hitlerum. Unfortunately, I have witnessed that fallacy on Elephant (reductio ad guru . . . um?).

      Holy crap, did Hitler do yoga?

  6. There is a wide chasm between absolute belief in one's ideas and self doubt. Most vacillate between the two and life is largely a process of finding the place of steady and strong and also flexible. A teacher's job is to facilitate that learning and asana is the most understandable experience of that since it deals in what we can see and feel.

    Many of us have raised our children to trust themselves, we have not overly imposed authority on them. Many of us are also seeing that the effects of that can be a lack of respect and discipline so again, the human endeavor is to be neither one extreme or the other but to be intelligent. Intelligence requires instinct and reason and experience. Should we bypass any of that to obey another dictum we have ceased to be intelligent.

  7. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Thanks for the comments!!

  8. [...] Sexy, Cultish Power, Yoga & Healing. [...]

  9. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Great article, Brooks. Posted to Spirituality – Popular Lately.

  10. shivani says:

    Good Article. I think its important for all spiritual seekers to read this book. I had an Indian guru for over a decade years who mainly taught bhakti-yoga and guru-bhakti. It is very difficult to explain, without sounding crazy, how quickly an intelligent educated person can so quickly get brainwashed and give all their authority over to an "enlightened" master. And their behaviour is often justified as "spritiual training" to help you "overcome your ego". Just last year I left the guru after sex-abuse and power-abuse came to light. It has been traumatic and hard to leave and realise that I gave my authority and power away for so long.
    YES – healing does come from building self-trust and self-confidence.
    The organisation founded and dictatorial ran by my ex-guru is "Yoga in Daily Life" and is mainly known in Europe and Australia. the website for ex-yidl recovery and healing. http://www.beyondorange.org.
    For those who have or have been involved in authoritarian relationships I would also recommend the work of Stephen Hassan http://www.freedomofmind.com/ and http://www.fake-guru.com/ and http://www.culthelp.info..

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks, Shivani! 'The Guru Papers' does a good job of explaining how intelligent people can give authority to a guru. And you've offered some of the control methods in your comment!. Thanks for the resources. I wish you well!

  11. Chills says:

    Thanks. I've spent some time following this mess. It's not so much John Friend who's the problem now, it's his psychotic disciples. The more anyone tries to talk to the AY Inc.-heads about basic concepts of ethics, accountability, and character, the more they spout pseudo-spiritual babble about love compassion forgiveness shri metta nonjudgment grace brightness — I mean, you could just string all those words together and do it for them. They are unthinking fembot Stepford wife yoginis, mostly, and they quickly get vicious when challenged rigorously. They are disturbed, disturbing people. As a yoga student, I never, ever wanted to go near AY b/c of how these people act. This is truly having a chilling effect on the yoga world.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Idunknow, chills… I think that different individuals are processing their pain differently. Sometimes that means denial. And other times it can mean different responses…

      • Chills says:

        (Smile). You say that in such an understanding, value-neutral way. It's not just "pain" they are dealing w/ but thwarted status, position and disrupted career plans. Some wish to continue their private-owned studios and traveling yoga workshop circuit careers based on the AY brand and want the corporation to continue. People are "dealing with it" by getting up on FB etc and "Get their Kali on," calling eachother "fuckers," accusing those who left the cult, whom they call "resigners" of being only out for their own gain. Then these same preach love love love. It's a crazy contemptible meangirl scratch and snarl and hair-pull-fest. I'm not interested in psychologizing all this and making it all about "feelings" to the point where no one raises an eyebrow anymore about grown women acting like sixth-grade bullies. It is these people, not just JF, who are ruining Anusara asa practice for everyone else. Who wants to be associated with that? Where cults meet profiteering is a sick snake-pit.

  12. Janice Lodato says:

    Great article, Brooks! I'm often surprised by people who ooh and aaah over "celebrities." Even people who don't seek the limelight and yet are put there by others. I was in a yoga class once when the owner of the yoga studio was participating as well. He is a real unassuming sort of guy and I thought nothing of it other than feeling empathy for the teacher who was being evaluated. However, as I walked to get a mat, another student said to me, in a awestruck breathless manner, "The guru is joining us today." I couldn't believe she even uttered the word, "guru." And I remember thinking to myself, "So what. It's still MY yoga."

  13. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    its a fantastic book! great article exposing new potential readers… joel and diana are amongst the smartest and sanest spiritual intellectuals around.. :)

  14. While power and authority may not be inherently bad, the linkage to spirituality makes the demand for respect, obedience or deference fraught with the potential for abuse. Spirituality can't be quantified. It can't be proven. Maybe Swami I'mSoHolyananda really does have a trunkline to the AllThatIs, but lots of people make that claim. How can you tell the difference? Lots of people will tell you they know what's best for you, and have messages from the Beyond just for you.

    One thing only is for certain – you will never know the truth. The clumsiest of grifters knows the key is to get the mark to buy in and sell his or herself. Of course you feel something special in his or her presence. You're supposed to.

    In the end there's only one person you can really trust. Yourself. It's hard enough sometimes sorting out the truth of what we tell ourselves in our own heads. It is a ridiculous pointless exercise to try to decipher the words and intentions of others. Sure other people say lots of interesting things and have fascinating insights to offer, but ultimately you are responsible for yourself.

    Be your own guru. Take responsibility for your own beliefs, feelings and experiences. This doesn't mean discipline or respect is unnecessary, on the contrary, they go together. What it means is if having considered it in detail you can't question the party line on a practice or idea without being labeled or personally criticized – RUN. And don't forget your wallet.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      I like this: "It's hard enough sometimes sorting out the truth of what we tell ourselves in our own heads." It's true, and I think it's important to do that work! Thanks for your comment!

  15. integralhack says:

    Thanks, Brooks. Thoughtful post about an unthoughtful–or unmindful–topic (giving it up to the guru).

  16. timful says:

    But, let us remember that many of us do not always behave as we would wish, whether it is to control our addictions, eat healthier, exercise more, be more sociable, compassionate, creative, industrious, or however we seek to improve ourself. We know what we should do. We just can't seem to move ourselves to do it. The fact is, a little brainwashing might help. The same dynamics that allow gurus to exploit their disciples can surely be used for positive effect. I know some will claim that change driven by some fake guru can never be real. I would like to know what facts there are to back that up. Or, if in fact, these occasional abuses are the exception.

    • Uh-huh says:

      I think there's a difference though between choosing to allow some one's authority to help you in your own endeavors — which is a personal decision — and giving most or ALL of your will and decision-making capabilities about EVERYTHING to that person or that system or school. Anusara and yoga in general both claim to not just be about physical asansas, but "your whole LIFE." (GOD do I get sick of hearing that! What a pious, imperialistic load of shite!) Also, trends in self-help and psychotherapy also favor "programs" and "paradigms," steps and systems that do seem to want to take over your entire like so you'll buy all their products, whether it's a weight-loss program that entails buying all their food or whatever else. So always — caveat emptor.

      • timful says:

        Agreed. But, I also think there is a bit of a myth of self-reliance lurking here, as if we are all prospering by our own devices but for those who fall under the spell of these authoritarian leaders. I do not believe these dynamics are fundamentally abusive, though the ego likes to imagine it can do better by itself.

        • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

          I agree that people can help each other, and we may do well to consult an authority—if this means a knowledgeable person and not a dictator—in many cases. The concept from the comment, "those who fall under the spell of these authoritarian leaders" seems to suggest that some individuals might be perceived as weak or suckers to a powerful person, or even sucked in or spellbound. And I don't find that to be the point, at all. Self-determination to me means trusting one's own faculties to make choices in relationships.

          • timful says:

            But, I think that passing of knowledge is often not enough, that it is this sense of being spellbound that can drive dramatic positive change. Think of how you blossom when you are in love; it is just easy to eat right, be kind to others, stay energetic and sleep well. Perhaps this is false and always comes to a bad end, but I think it can often jump start our own momentum. We like to imagine that life is like driving a car, with our own hands on the wheel. It is probably more like riding a horse.

          • Prof says:

            I've taught for twenty years. Eros in the student-teacher relationship is piss-poor professionalism. The romance, if any, should be between the student and the material — or, between the student and his/her own practice, NOT between the student and the teacher. The least harmful thing it can do is cause all kinds of transference and Oedipal or Electra bullshit. The worst harm it can cause is for both the confuse the romantic feelings with getting into an actual sexual relationship. It's just a bad, bad business. Save yolur romantic horse metaphors for a different kind of relationship.

          • timful says:

            Well, yes, it's easy to see what is wrong with these relations. But stamp it out and what have we left? 1 in 10 Americans on anti-depressants, rampant alcohol abuse, couples locked in emotionally abusive co-dependent marriages. Evidently, people are not able to think their way out of all of their problems. Dramatic change requires powerful emotional motivation. That is not without risk, but the stakes are high in any case.

          • hhmmm says:

            that's crazy. Gurus cannot save the world. People are on meds b.c of big pharma, and alcoholism and bad marriages have existed since time immemorial. "The ego" is not always what drives individuals towards taking initiative for change. People do not necessarily need the intense emotional bonding with a guru to motivate for change. What motivates human beings for change is vast, complex, and varied. Sometimes it can actually be the most detached curiosity. Sometimes it's very much about sacrificing for the next generations. Humans have been doing this since humans have existed.We don't "need" gurus. Gurus are NOT the answer.

          • timful says:

            I did not mean that charismatic leaders are the only answer. Just that they are an important one, and we will not be ahead if we so armor ourselves as to make these abuses impossible. At any given moment more emotional damage is being inflicted within the culturally proper relations of matrimony than John Friend has accomplished in a life time. I don't mean to defend the man; I know next to nothing about him. I just know it is always easier to point out problems than to come up with solutions.

          • hmmmmmm says:

            No. will never agree. Critical thought and self-reliance are what often lead people forward, as well as many other things. Charismatic leaders are not necessary. And the "point out problem" argument is silly and pious. The solutions are everywhere in American history and culture. Look around.

          • timful says:

            "Silly and pious?" I point out that 1 in 10 Americans are on anti-depressants and your answer is that's just "big pharma." Yes, that is a good critical thought, but you would have nothing to criticize if big pharma had not tried to come up with a solution. Alcoholism and bad marriages? Well, we always have those. Good answers. Like I said, solutions are hard.

  17. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Now if someone has done this in the past, including a past life, then this person has a NEED for it to happen to them. Reading a book will not stop it. If someone has no need for this to happen, then it will not happen. Life gives us what we need to learn. It is called karma in the east but in the west it is called things like "As you sow, so shall your reap."

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      It sounds like the stated opinion here is that everything happens for a reason, and it appears that this belief offers satisfaction like a tit-for-tat style of moral justice—across "past lives" even…(eliminating the potential for understanding particular events), while also restricting any sense of empathy as everybody deserves what they are getting. I disagree and feel strongly that reading a book can change someone's life. Please read this book. *There may be hidden self-disempowering dynamics in sway here.*

  18. doug says:

    Thanks you, Brooks, for bringing this special book to the attention of ej readers. Often, when I read all the mindlessly positive comments after ej articles I feel like I'm visiting a cult. I read the Guru Papers about twelve years ago after having spent years in more than one spiritual group / borderline cult. The current John Friend scandal comes as no surprise. I no longer trust Gurus, spiritual group dynamics, or proclaimed authorities. But I've still managed to cultivate a spiritually rich life for myself in spite of that. Spirituality is an individuals choice and journey, and can certainly be paramount in one's experience without having to think positive, belong to a group, or associate with a charismatic leader.

  19. Pam says:

    Excellent article Brooks. I've never read the Guru Papers – will have to make a point of it. Sounds like a book I'd really relate to.

  20. trueayurveda says:

    You rock Brook, thanks for sharing. Good article, good book.

    No, what is being sold out there is not yoga, it is just capitalism once again. Spiritual business is the new green. Lots of money to make there. Along with authenticity, coaching and all the other stuff that used to b only in books. Is it a sign of the times? And then we say but isn't that good?

    Go back to the original texts. Yoga is not a lifestyle that can be lived by most everyone in this day and age. Householders are what we are mainly except for the select few and they are not out teaching and showboating. They are silent, humble and most likely you would not even know that they were a yogi if you saw one.

    The rest are really sad. Not living what they are preaching because we don't even know what yoga is. It isn't what is being taught, that is for sure. Look at the aftermath.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks, I'm glad that you like this article! It sounds like you don't think that yoga can ride the wave of capitalistic attention, and at the same time it is monetary support that has helped to fuel a veritable explosion of yogic interest. So I think it might be complicated, and I have hope that minds and actions can be applied in ways that can help. That's why I wrote this!

      • trueayurveda says:

        Brooks. It always amazes me how we take stuff, change it and sell it. Yoga is inward, not outward. If we go to the original texts of yoga we see this. We arrogantly have thought that although this wisdom has been the same for thousands of years, it needs to change now and we are the ones to change it . Can you see the ironic side to this? It is not yoga. Asana doesn't make you spiritual. Yoga hasn't ridden the wave of capitalism because what we have out there, except for a few and I mean a handful of people, is people turning yoga into whatever they like. Paddleboard yoga has a certification now. The mass intrest isn't for yoga, but a new way to be in shape and supposedly find peace. It is all a real joke. Sitting still for five minutes may be a big step for some people, I give them that. But….Not yoga. nivritti marga is the path of yoga. So I love your open stance to everything and i loved the book and their ideas. Thanks for the post and keep it real. By the way, drop into the upanishads and see if anything that is taught there is actually understood by our mass modern yoga.

  21. Beautiful piece, Brooks. So well done.

  22. Robbie Sheppard says:

    Thanks so much, Brooks! The quotes are great and also your sharing about how the book helped you heal from disillusionment – a personal endorsement. I'm so happy The Guru Papers is getting the attention and recognition it deserves. It can help people understand the dynamics of cultish leaders and followers more deeply and thoroughly than any other book I've seen–and I can say from experience that the deep understandings it offers deepens and speeds healing, making it more complete.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks, Robbie! 'The Guru Papers' definitely helped to define power mechanics that previously just "didn't feel right." It's amazing how much defining something can speed healing.

  23. simmonj says:

    I met Joel Kramer in Ojai Valley and his talk was very negative. It was very strange talk he gave and when I met him at the end there was no light in his eyes or joy in his heart.

    Authentic yoga is pyscho-spirtual practice to quote Georg Fuerstein and involves initiation into teachings by a qualified teacher.

    Please read Devatma Shakti by Shivom Tirth for the real truth about yoga and the meaning of the word Guru.

    Teachers that fall from grace should not be associated with the teachings. The teachings themselves are pure and the actions of a few do not represent the reality or truth of the teachings.

    This goes for religion as well or any wisdom tradition.

    Even Kishna had a teacher named Sandapani. Just because Joel had a negative experience thirty years ago does not diminsh the neeed for a qualified teacher. (guru)

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      Simmonj: thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ll take it at face-value and share a link to my post about seeing Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad speak in November 2010 http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/11/how-transcendent-ideals-might-limit-us/ . My perception differs from what you’ve shared. It almost sounds like you had expectations of falling in love when you note, “there was no light in his eyes or joy in his heart.” I doubt he was trying to be that for you. I also wonder about that perception: you claim to have seen into his heart.

      Joel Kramer spoke passionately when I saw him.

      I wish you well on your unfolding yoga journey!

  24. Robbie says:

    To simmonj:

    Ad hominem attacks on the person are so much easier than refuting that person's ideas, especially in the case of The Guru Papers. I too have attended talks by Joel Kramer and totally disagree with your take and hominem attack on him.

    Since you cite Georg Feuerstein respectfully, this excerpt of Feuerstein's Yoga Journal book review of The Guru Papers might surprise you.
    “Provocative and thorough….Covers vast territory…raises all the vitally important questions….It should definitely be placed in the hands of anyone who has been, or is, or contemplates becoming involved with a guru or cult.” (This excerpt is in the front 4 pages of The Guru Papers–along with many other rave reviews.)

    • simmonj says:

      My impression of Joel is not an attack but simply my experience which is authentic.

      My focus will always will be on the teachings first and not personalites. The teachings of yoga are very real and people tend to lose sight of this. Also initation by a qualified teacher is definitetly helpful.

      I studied the ansuara method and am qualifeid to comment on the teachings. It is defintely not a cult and not even close by a long shot.

      Of course recognizing the signs of a cult are important and students should be empowered to study and choose wisely the organization they associate with.

      Since this is an open forum it is only a fair an alternate opinion be offered.

      If you have experience in deeper aspects of iniation in to the subtle aspects of yoga I would love to hear about that.

  25. This is required reading for anyone who is considering teaching Yoga, cultivating a consistent yoga practice, or planning to visit any ashram… As an active Yoga teacher (and Student of Yoga) this book more than any other book has been instrumental in me being able to navigate this path in a healthy and graceful way. Without this book and and without my specific teacher training which insisted we teach from an authentic place and to encouraged others (students) to find and claim their own authentic selves, I would likely be stumbling my way through this path that I have chosen as a teacher and a student.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks, Carlos! I wish it was required reading for people involved in yoga. Our yoga might be so much better, and the attendant relationships so much more consciously lived. It can just be so easy to love the "love" without healthy discernment or sucked into the seduction of ones own adoration, if my stumbling path can serve as an example.

  26. Not Impressed says:

    Last time I checked mainstream media, the governement, advertising and televions were all subtle forms of manipualtion of the sub-conscious.

    In fact all your beliefs and ideals in reality are based on conditioning of your experiences in the ascension of your ego.

    Time to take ownership for what you know to be true and stop projection that the problem is out there in the world. When in fact it is al happening at the level of your own mind and projections.

    It i easy to bash the guru but few have immersed themselves in the deeper waters of that tradition. They stand on the shore with one toe in the water crying foul.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      To the one who chooses to be called “Not Impressed”:
      I believe that we are all making meaning for ourselves all of the time, and seeking to understand. I believe there are valid understandings beyond what I personally think. Community, including friends, offer ideas and contribute to what I think. Scientific understanding also contributes to what I think. There are many factors and complexities to the situation—including manipulations. The way I see to best take ownership of the situation of myself is to employ what I understand to the best of my ability, and to trust—not a guru, or someone who claims to know what’s best for me. I trust my self, and am pretty sure that my steps will not be perfect because I am learning as I go.

  27. Akbar and Jeff says:

    I'd also recommend visiting Rick Ross' website on cults and manipulative behavior, false gurus and how some groups are able to brain wash vulnerable people so easily.

  28. [...] Sexy, Cultish Power, Yoga & Healing. (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  29. Diana & Joel says:

    What a splendid, personal, multi-faceted, thoughtful piece! You cover a lot of ground.
    We're so glad our book was meaningful to you–and through you, it could be to others too.

  30. B81 says:

    I agree with True Ayurveda above. There are some humble saints out there and real yogis / teachers with something spiritual to offer but they are few and far between and will pop up in the most random places and humblest demeanors. Unfortunately in the west people like Friend and mass media have given the role of an authentic guru a bad rap. Obliterating your ego is a difficult process and I would really suggest trying to find a real teacher if you indeed want to do this with your life, otherwise accept that you are going through some karma, not that enlightened, and like your ego more than the truth for the time being which is a hard pill to swallow for those who feel their "progressing" on some path by getting certified or taking a workshop.

Leave a Reply