Crazy Wisdom & New Age Narcissism
Crazy Wisdom & New Age Narcissism
2007/01/30, By Andrew Paterson | energygrid.com
Honouring our collective narcissistic shadow
A ramble through the world of crazy wisdom, New Age narcissim, spiritual teachers, psychological & physical abuse, our collective shadow and malignant self-love.
I love Tony Blair and George Bush. No, really do! I like them because they have been so appalling in government, so wicked in their foreign policies, and so corrupt with their erosion of human rights and democratic freedom, that people are waking up to the bankruptcy of our current political system. As a result, never before have so many of us been united into creating a new world for ourselves, and bypassing government. We realize we can no longer afford to keep asking permission for things to change because the very "democratic" system itself is hardwired to maintaining the status quo. It only gives us the illusion that we are being listened to, and at this critical period in our history, when so much is teetering on the edge of the abyss, we can no longer afford illusions, no matter how "democratic" they seem to be.
So I do love Bush and Blair because they have shown us the way. They are the light-bearers for the new world, in the same tradition that Lucifer was and is. Synonymous with "Satan", Lucifer's name means "light-bearer" and he was said to be the very brightest in the heavenly host before he assumed the status of a fallen angel. Could it be that it wasn't hubris that toppled Lucifer from his high perch in Biblical mythology, but service? After all, some amongst us need to assume roles that help the collective play out their shadow. As Jung said: "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." And so in this vein, Blair, Bush, Lucifer and every other evil-doer on the planet share a tradition of giving us opportunities to make the darkness conscious.
When tragedy happens, we often see the best of human spirit, because tragedy shakes us from lives of complacency and routine. We glimpse our vulnerability and our humanity, and in so doing we naturally come together to comfort and love one another. The modern Western life is, however, in direct opposition to this coming together, with countless barriers to human co-joining: we compete for jobs, live in containers, drive containers, get lost in media illusions, use sex to avoid intimacy, hanker after the chimeras of fame and fortune, and live practically our whole lives behind the ego's mask. Tragedy cuts right through these barriers, so that we glimpse once again our innate unity, before the momentum of Western society has a chance to resurrect the barriers on which its dysfunction depends, separating us out again into competitors and waring factions.
This glimpse of our innate unity is our greatest grace, and it is something that we all pursue under many different guises. Formally, it might be known as spirituality, religion or community; but everybody is looking for unity to some degree – we try to get it from the "tribal" buzz of supporting a sports team, from the ephemeral ecstasy of the sexual embrace, and from alcohol's comforting inebriation. The Holy Grail has always been that place beyond barriers, where we can collectively flow free.
Recently, a survey was done by journalists to determine which city-dwellers were most polite to strangers. Surprisingly, New York, with its reputation for rudeness, turned out to be the politest city in the world. Ex-mayor, Ed Kock, explained that, "Since 9/11 New Yorkers are more caring. They understand the shortness of life." This is the power of darkness… it can show up the light in blazing contrast. But it raises an interesting question: does this mean that the plane hijackers who crashed into the towers were in any way themselves "bringers of light"? Their actions, although most terrible, most certainly catalyzed some positive changes across America, and the rest of the world that initially united with America in the face of such tragedy (before it was eroded by the American-led invasion of Iraq).
Of course, most people's would be outraged by such a suggestion. Bringers of the light indeed! Does that mean that we should be grateful to Hitler for his unspeakable crimes because in committing them he united the whole world in taking steps to stop this level of evil happening again? Hitler certainly made the darkness conscious for the rest of humanity… but does this therefore condone his actions? Perhaps in the bigger picture a soul like Hitler's was doing the ultimate service by playing out an extreme of evil, and in the process giving us all a place to project our own darkness or shadow, until, as a society, we become strong and conscious enough to face it in ourselves? (Although, just because his actions might be doing the rest of humanity some service in the long run does not imply that he does not face the karma from his actions, or that those destructive actions were morally justified.)
It would be true, from a psychological perspective, to say that when we find we have less monsters in the world it is an indication that we have learned to accept more of the darkness within rather than needing to project it externally. Darkness is only dark because it is unconscious, not because of any labels of "bad" or "negative" that are usually placed upon it. Integrating this darkness, which means accepting it and preferably expressing it harmlessly, can be an enlightening experience. But it takes courage because of our own and society's predilection to owning it as little as possible.
Jack Kornfield tells the myth in one of his books of the Devil meeting the Buddha, and as they walk arm in arm the Devil complains how hard it is to play his role of darkness, to which the Buddha replies, "Do you think it is easy being a Buddha?". Light and dark; dark and light… two sides of the same coin of wholeness… the place where we can flow free from duality.
The question still remains whether this means that there are no wrongful acts, no matter how cruel, destructive and unkind, because such acts have the potential to stir things up, crack the container, and let in the light. Are classic evil-doers let off the hook, their actions merely misinterpreted service to humanity, playing out the shadow for the rest of us? Is murder therefore justified in some cases? How about genocide? Or if these are too extreme to contemplate, how about deliberately hurting someone because we know it is "good for them"? Can we beat a child to instill discipline, or kick our dog to show who is the leader of the pack? Are we justified in acting unkindly if that unkindness leads to greater overall kindness? Can we experiment on animals because we are helping so many human beings in the process? In other words, does the end justify the means, and does the end therefore excuse the person enacting those means if that end is ultimately regarded in a positive and constructive light?
There are several mythical illustrations of beings who committed murder because they were so evolved they were beyond karma… the laws of wrong doing. In Tibetan mythology, Padmasambhava (Dorje Trollo) murdered a man so that he could stop living the life of a king and fulfill his spiritual destiny which was to found the dhama in Tibet. And the old Testament of the Bible is full of murders and wars justified because they were part of God's plan. But myth is myth, and whilst it has great value in speaking to us symbolically, it may never originally have been intended to be taken literally.
So let's look at something a little more factual and contemporary — the life of guru Franklin Jones (called variously Da Free John and Adi Da) for example. Jones lives with his community of devotees on an island in Fiji, although he has many other devotee communities around the world. He was originally a member of the Church of Scientology back in the '60s before he branched out and declared of himself, "I am He", and started his own church.
Jones is an advocate of "crazy wisdom", a term coined largely by Chogyma Trungpa to refer to someone whose spirituality is supposedly so developed, free-flowing and detached from "expected" behavior that they will often throw up the unexpected — they act crazy. This can be valuable because, in bringing up the unexpected, their followers are continually discouraged from building up concepts and masks of spiritual piety. Crazy wisdom challenges the ego big time. An example might be a teacher of a vegetarian spiritual community who suddenly eats meat to break down the concept in her disciples' eyes that vegetarianism is spirituality. After all, true spirituality is supposed to be the free flow of the heart and pure being beyond all concepts (at least in the Eastern traditions — crazy wisdom in the West is just labeled hypocrisy).
So Franklin Jones, an advocate of crazy wisdom, acts not in a way that you would expect a spiritual teacher to behave. However, even from the point of view of the tradition of crazy wisdom, Jones takes it to excess. Ex-followers of his have told stories of a guru that practiced sexual excess, used illegal drugs, drunk to excess, ate meat (whilst forbidding others to), presided over beatings and rapes, and who demanded absolute obedience in all things. He would hold mock trials for his disciples, hit them, seduce them. Everything in his community has become centered around himself and his demands, under the claim that everything he does is for the good of his followers. For example, a woman who admitted she had been molested as a child was ordered by Jones to publically perform oral sex on three men, before having sex with Jones. Ex-follower, Mark Miller, explained that, "Once he had our trust, he exploited us for whatever we were worth. As sex slaves, or laborers, or whatever it was we had."
That is crazy wisdom for you, taken to the extreme. Jones would claim that in acting in the way he does, he destroys the ego of his followers, for they are unable to form a concept of spirituality because their guru keeps breaking any concepts by his erratic behaviour. (Actually, I am sure they are forming concepts of spirituality anyway, but rather negative and destructive ones.) But where is that dividing line between teaching spirituality and exploitation. Perhaps there is none: maybe exploitation itself leads to spiritual development? I have little doubt that Jones is sincere in his actions, and that he genuinely believes that he is helping his disciples when he forces such outrage and excess upon them.
A more secular example of crazy wisdom is demonstrated by Richard Bandler, one of the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is now used extensively in the personal development world, and few would deny that Bandler has genius. But there is another side to Bandler that few who walk the halls of sanitized NLP workshops know about. An article entitled, "The Bandler Method" featured in Mother Jones Magazine in 1989, described Bandler as a disturbed individual at odds with the world: a heavy cocaine user; an alcoholic; a wife-beater; a man who has threatened to murder on many occasions; a man who thinks nothing of drawing a gun in a therapeutic session to "encourage" change; and a man who strongly implicated in the murder of prostitute Corine Christensen who one morning was shot in the head at close range, having been told by Bandler just eight hours before, "I'll blow your brains out." (Bandler was never convicted for this, despite his blood-spattered shirt and inconsistencies in his account, because his story of events that morning mirrored that of his friend who was also at the scene of the crime and who also told an unconvincing story, and so the jury had to reluctantly let both men walk away because they could not decide which one of the two had actually killed her.)
Although Bandler may have this dark side, there is no denying that her has helped thousands of people reprogram their minds over the years with the NLP techniques that he was instrumental in developing. And there is no doubt that his "crazy wisdom" approach to teaching has made him a very memorable teacher and a high-profile proponent of NLP (whether his confrontational style makes him an effective teacher is open to question). But does the fact that he has also helped people mitigate his unsavory and immoral behavior over the years?
The writers of the Mother Jones article on Bandler, Frank Clancy and Heidi Yorkshire, have a very perceptive take on this. They write: "Bandler's story is, in a sense, a parable of the New Age. Having rejected many of the boundaries that govern relations among people, he was like a sailor without anchor or sails, adrift in a peculiarly New Age sea. Here the individual was sovereign; problems were solved easily and self-examination was denigrated; the past could be reimagined at will, and morality was relative. Here Bandler could deny not only guilt, but all responsibility for the death of Corine Christensen." Maybe that is a display of effectiveness of his NLP techniques – the ultimate reframing – so that even the most heinous crimes can be deleted from the mind?
Whether Bandler is a con man and/or a psychology genius (NLP is a method of conning ourselves into accepting a new brain pattern), and whether Franklin Jones is an exploiting predator and/or a spiritual teacher, actually doesn't make a lot of difference to their followers. Whatever the truth is about their inner psychological states and motives, both are undeniably powerful catalysts for change. The question for their followers is whether that change is in the right direction and long-term, and whether it could have instead been achieved by less confrontational and extreme means. Otherwise, any abuse is just not worth it – the teachings may be crazy but they only lead to long-term trauma.
If the change in the followers is life-enhancing, then do the means by which it came about become irrelevant? If Bandler stops an alcoholic drinking by holding a gun to his head and threatening to blow his brains out if he doesn't stop, or if Jones helps an abuse victim get over her past by forcing her to participate in public sexual acts, are these acts then justified because of their "healing" context? Can threatening to kill someone or raping someone be recontextualized so that these acts are seen as desirable under certain circumstances? Does this mean that morality becomes entirely relative, dependent upon circumstance and context? If that context is just a matter of perspective, then with the correct mental juggling we can hold ourselves with impunity under any circumstances.
Many believe that despite the outcome of our actions, our motivation for those actions determines the personal moral debt or karma we will need to pay off. And as we can never really judge another's motivation without being inside their skin. But even motivations are not clear cut to ourselves — there can be many conflicting motivations mixed together in the same person. We may want to genuinely help someone, but at the same time we may be attracted to them and want to help them rather too intimately. Or we may genuinely want to heal someone whilst denying to ourselves that the excessive fee we are charging for this help is not part of our motivational factor. Often, we are not even conscious of our motivations as they are buried in the subconscious. But then karma is not usually conscious either, so we can certainly pay for motivations that we are not consciously aware of.
But how do we get out of so much relativism and call a spade a spade? Are we therefore doomed to letting individuals like Jones and Bandler continue in ways that most of us feel are not right? Perhaps it is the heart we have to appeal to if we want to see these situations more clearly. As St. Exupery says in his book The Little Prince, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eye." And yet both these men, especially Jones, have followers who deeply love them. Does that mean their hearts are deluded? Probably not. The heart looks for a different kind of truth — connections. And it will find these even in the most hellish of circumstances. But just because someone who perpetrates "evil" actions is lovable to some people does not automatically condone his or her actions. So the heart is the glue that connects us all together, and its strength is that it can deliberately overlook the most hideous of actions and motivations because that is its nature: it sees only what is essential — connection.
But feelings are more than just the heart. And I think it is here that we can most successfully appeal for a more solid framework with which to have discernment in situation such as these. We feel with the full spectrum of our energy centers (chakras), not just the heart, and this includes intuition and mind. And from this feeling place most people would instinctively recoil from the Jones' and Bandlers of this world. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. But that may also uncharitable because some individuals need these types of maverick teachers in order to learn their lessons. They are not fools, but may intuitively recognize that this level of "abusive" behaviour is the only thing that is going to shake them into making fundamental changes in this lifetime, such is the stuckness of some people.
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