Our world has recently been shocked by a mass suicide associated with a spiritual community led by Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. Many of us have been examining our own feelings about this event, and many Workers have brought up their fears of being associated with our spiritual community in the light of this tragedy.
The Guide: Let us first of all distinguish what is a spiritual community and what is not. A group of people may call themselves a spiritual community, but this by no means implies that they really are a spiritual community. Has it not been said that many false prophets will appear? The fears that have arisen about your community, by dint of this terrible abuse of power in the group you are referring to, stems from a great deal of inner confusion and disconnectedness.
You all know that the spiritually and emotionally immature person fears and rejects self-responsibility, in the narrowest as well as in the widest sense – from fending for one’s daily needs in the world, to the most subtle levels of moral accountability, including areas that no one sees and knows about. The constant quest for the inner, real truth of every single issue one has to deal with in life, with the self, others and the universe, establishes a direct channel to truth in which your only authority becomes God and his will.
For those who fear this road and wish to postpone it – for one day all must travel this road – there are also several stages of development. To simplify somewhat, let us begin with the lowest level, which is an outright refusal to grow and to be independent. Those will seek human leaders with power.
The more those leaders abuse power, the more they appeal to those who desist selfhood. The leaders make promises and the followers blame those who are supposedly the cause of their personal suffering. This is very appealing to people who refuse self-responsibility.
Next on the scale are those who already strive for a more independent state, for a certain autonomy, but who do not know how to reach it. Because another part of them still desires to have the powerful authority giving them all that their self-will and shortsightedness desires. This aspect is active inside them without their conscious awareness. This attitude leads to a constant rebellion against authority, a constant fear and distrust of it. This syndrome is spoken about in Lecture #46 Authority.
The gauge for this conflict is to expose that part of you that resists autonomy and craves for an omnipotent human authority figure who automatically protects you from your karma; from the difficulties of your task; from the normal difficulty of coping with the reality into which you have been born; from the consequences of your imperfections; from the need to go through them in order to understand, connect and transform them; from the labor to do so; from the existential fear of dying, of illness and of pain.
In that hidden part, like those on the first level, you wish for a powerful ruler who promises easy answers and blames others for your suffering, which deepens as you resist the flow of life. Such rulers do not only exist in spiritual, or quasi-spiritual communities – they can often be found in real or concealed political movements.
Your own fear and distrust of leaders and authority figures stems from your half-sensed need to abdicate autonomy to an untruthful ruler. This is then felt as a deep resentment for the leader who precisely guides you on the road toward autonomy and brings you face to face with all those aspects of self-responsibility mentioned earlier.
In other words, if you are divided within yourself between yearning for selfhood and also yearning for a ruler who promises an easy panacea, you will distrust both parts. You rightfully distrust the latter, and you project your childish illusory desire on those who can be trusted, and you resent and distrust them precisely because they wish to lift you out of your dependency and weakness.
No spiritual community is truly safe from error and some kind of distortion or danger if they do not probe to the depths, if they do not put a great deal of weight on purification processes, if they do not foster autonomy. Is autonomy not the constant goal of this Path? Are you ever encouraged to blindly accept any dictates?
Are you not constantly encouraged to ask, “What is the truth?” in any matter that you encounter in your daily lives? Is there any other way to find out God’s truth, to give up the stake of your self-will, and to surrender to God’s will and truth? Is this not the only way you can establish self-reliance, integrity, autonomy, and your own channel to the divine?
If you think logically about this, you will have to come to the conclusion that there is no other way, whether you live in a community or by yourself. Your confusion in this regard needs to be confronted for what it really means, for there need be no confusion. It is all very clear.
As to the general lesson that all spiritual communities – as well as the world in general – could learn from this event, the outlook is not too bright at the moment. The conclusions drawn here are so superficial, so off the truth, that it is at times astounding.
The general consensus is to distrust all spiritual groups, to distrust all leadership, rather than going just a little bit deeper and looking at specific goals and practices, as well as at their results. But human beings do not want to think for themselves. This brings us around full circle, right where we started from.
The lack of clear thinking, of independent effort to draw logical conclusions, is part of the laziness that leads to a neurotic need for abusive power structures, that is then simultaneously feared and distrusted, of course. The lessons that should be clearly seen are precisely what I expounded here in this answer.
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