STAGES OF CULTS- Which Stage is AOL at?
I invite all AOL members to read the extracts posted below from the book: “The Guru papers” and see the similarity with AOL. In my opinion AOL is foremost a cult, well into the second stage of its cult existence.
Extracts from the book: “The Guru papers” by Joe Kramer & Diane Alstad (A must read by anyone who wants to gain a deep understanding into cults and false gurus).
STAGES OF CULTS
….first stage is messianic with the message being that all labors of the organization, including the guru’s are aimed at a higher purpose beyond the group, such as saving mankind. During this phase the guru is confident that he will eventually be acknowledged as the one who will lead the world out of darkness. The major emphasis is on proselytizing to bring in new converts. The continual increase in numbers satisfies the guru’s need for power and adulation…he remains happy and relatively benign in his treatment of those who have surrendered to him….the way he exercises power is through rewarding the enthusiasms of his followers with praise and positions in his hierarchy. He also whets and manipulates desire by offering “carrots”…Within the community… a celebratory, party-like atmosphere often reigns. Everything seems perfect…The guru is relatively accessible, charming, even fun.
The energy and excitement of proselytizing, conquest, gaining public attention, and of newcomers flocking to the group are what makes a cult feel vital and prosperous. Cults need a continuous stream of recruits and potential converts to reinforce the belief that they’re “where it’s at”–the vanguard of spirituality on the planet
…Feeling in the vanguard fuels moral superiority and cuts insiders off emotionally from outsiders, which binds them more deeply to each other. Because cults are relatively closed systems, proselytizing is their main form of communication with the outside world. New members are also a needed source of revenue.
…What most proselytizing groups face is how to sell their beliefs without appearing to do so. Recruiting is therefore always done in the name of helping or doing some kind of good.
..New recruits attend testimonial sessions with older members as part of the indoctrination. They are treated very specially and made to feel important, and then are typically pressured to “share their experiences” with others.
What such sharing really amounts to is a more oblique form of proselytizing that cleverly accomplishes several things: It obviously can bring in more new people, but less obviously, the more new or potential members share their experiences with outsiders, trying to explain and defend why the group attracts them, the more they themselves identify with the group. New members have great enthusiasm, but are often not yet emotionally tied to the group. In this context, proselytizing itself is a subtle kind of indoctrination, as the very act of “sharing” moves one to identify more with the group.
…Second stage…. Apocalyptic Paranoia
A time inevitably comes when the popularity and power of the group plateaus and then begins to wane. Eventually it becomes obvious that the guru is not going to take over the world, at least not in the immediate future. When the realization comes that humanity is too stupid or blind to acknowledge the higher authority and wisdom of the guru, the apocalyptic phase enters and the party is over….in order to attract more people the guru makes increasingly extreme promises and bizarre claims that offer occult powers, quick enlightenment, or even wish-fulfilment in the mundane sphere around wealth, love, and power.
….Any member who leaves threatens the cohesiveness of the whole group. …The Transition from optimistic expansionism to the paranoid doomsday mode involves a heavy turnover of people. Those not really “serious” leave, and others begin surreptitiously to question leader’s omniscience. in an attempt to counteract this, the group becomes more militaristic, demanding even greater obedience. Even when a cult is no longer expanding, some recruiting of new members still occurs to balance off the losses of old ones during the turnover of this phase. But a cult in decline has more trouble selling itself. It no longer looks that enticing or special.
Members and the guru become withdrawn and the focus gets more internal, insular, and isolating. Internecine squabbling and power struggles replace external conquest. When the guru realizes that most people are not going to acknowledge him, he often compensates (if he can afford it) by building monumental edifices that proclaim his greatness. This includes monuments or temples, buildings, model communities, and “learning centres.” The fun is over. The rewards are now put into the distant future (including future lives) and are achievable only through hard work. This not only keeps disciples busy and distracted, but it is necessary because the flow of resources that came with expansion has greatly diminished. This glorification of work always involves improving the leader’s property (the commune or ashram), increasing his wealth, or some grandiose project.
Whenever a guru’s power needs are not being satisfied by expansion, he generally seeks more adulation from and control over those who have surrendered to him. He does so by dictating more directly how they spend their daily lives…Though the guru needs his disciples even more attached to him, he becomes more remote, sending his dictates down the line. Subtle or not so subtle warnings proliferate about the disastrous consequences of disobedience and of trusting outsiders. Statement like this become prevalent:”Disobedience to the guru brings countless lifetimes of suffering.” “How can you expect enlightenment or salvation if you are not obedient and do not work hard for it?” “You must not pollute yourself by associating with those who are not spiritually developed.”
Although the guru usually preaches the unity of all humanity, he becomes increasingly more separate. His message is of love, but he shows little concern for those under him, as they have become mere tools for his ambitions. Often he consciously or unconsciously blames those around him for failure of his messianic aspirations. As the group’s isolation increases, so does its paranoia toward outsiders, which can trigger violence. Those who drop out are often threatened, violently punished, or sometimes even murdered. This stage commonly results in scandal and tragedy.
Authoritarian groups with a leader who has few constraints(our definition of a cult) derive their intense feelings of loyalty and unity from erecting huge walls between insiders and outsiders.(We define cults as a group where the leader is unchallengeable and considered infallible. The term “guru” is used generically for any such leader.)
I leave it to our readers to give the corresponding examples from AOL. The signs are all there for everyone to see. The existing members and teachers will do well to get out while they can, as those left behind will be the ones to bear the brunt of SriSri’s increasingly megalomaniac ambitions and they would be expected to compensate for the lack of revenues from newcomers. Already they were asked to dish out for the church building in Washington DC, then for his birthday celebration and Gurupurnima and for SriSri university, etc. And when it comes to the courses, it is existing members who are expected to fill up the coffers by attending Part3 courses with the master, Blessing course with the likes of our Swamiji, Guru Puja TTC and Sahaj TTC with Guru’s sister, Regular TTCs, SSY TTC and so on.
I don’t know if any of you remember that few years back SriSri was telling us (his teachers, in intimate settings) that “soon the closest you will see me would be from a helicopter”, meaning there would be so many people in AOL that he could only give darshan to everyone from a helicopter hovering over the crowd of his devotees. Even though SriSri uses helicopter often, it is not due to necessity or large numbers of devotee, rather a way for him to flaunt his wealth (wasting money donated for charity) and behave like celebrities.
But as reality sinks in further, we are well into second stage of AOL cult. Judging by the extreme, and at times violent, reactions of Yezdi and Sad. Swami and Ewald and Mr.Sumeru and few other AOL top men to the mere existence of our blog (no doubt all ordered to the front by the cult leader himself ), they believe our blog to be behind the rapid decline in the number of devotees (free slave labourers that is). As much as this is very flattering to our blog, has it occurred to SriSri and his henchmen that the decline could be due to SriSri’s bizarre behaviour in public (e.g. Ashram’s shooting incidence?) or the news of AOL land grabbing getting out? or perhaps that more and more people are realizing that Art of living is a scam? Our blog only gives a forum for ex-members to voice their opinion and perhaps confirmation that their unpleasant experiences are not isolated to a particular centre or country. If the issues raised in this blog were not true, no one, esp. members and devotees would take notice of us.
In last few months, to counteract our blog (and Klim’s blog), not one, but THREE AOL counterblogs were created, one by the Indian Ashram, second by the USA AOL board and the latest by Guru’s nephew. In the latest blog, testimonials were sought from AOL members worldwide. To date, in spite of repeated requests, only a dozen “paid” AOL teachers have come forward with their testimonials. As a result, the form below has now been sent to all AOL teachers worldwide and they are all required to complete it and send it to Alex Luthra, Communications Co-ordinator, International Web team, Bangalore Ashram. In this way, not only AOL is hoping to get much needed testimonials to put on AOL website, but also perhaps some promotional value from any project initiated by any of the teachers (Zero cost to the AOL corporation!).
The knee-jerk reaction of AOL to our blog is absolutely astounding. Those teachers who are filling this form are in risk of being associated with a cult, displayed on internet for the rest of their lives.
As reiterated many times before in this blog and explained in particular in the post “Original Sin”, it is very important to emphasize, spiritual experiences, no matter how powerful, should not be used to enslave people or trap them in a cult. Nor these experiences can be the answer to issues raised in this blog and elsewhere, re financial and moral and ethical discrepancies in AOL. Good experiences are not, for example, an answer to questions such as “where the funds donated for charity projects go to?”.
If you look at the responses of AOL PR agents who frequent our blog, nine out of ten times, they try to respond to any allegations by reverting to “good experience” fallacy. One has to remind them that people’s good experiences completely belongs to them and that they have already paid for any courses they did. No one owes anything to AOL or SriSri for any good experience, certainly not their lives, nor their careers, nor their health nor their freedom.
By creating a blog and emphasizing “good experience” testimonials instead of replying to the issues, AOL only confirms its cult nature and that indeed it doesn’t have any response to numerous allegations raised against its conduct by its ex-members all over the world.
I also would like to warn the existing AOL teachers that as SriSri’s paranoia increases, he will exert even more pressure on his senior teachers and this will be passed down through the ranks. The form below is only the beginning.
Many people on our blog have commented on senior AOL teachers extreme anger, hatred and at times violent reactions. These can be better understood in the light of the huge pressure exerted on them by SriSri to bring more people and revenue and fame and glory (and NPP) to him. As AOL cult gets more into its second stage, these kinds of pressures will be passed down in bigger doses to teachers down the line, then to volunteers and even to ordinary members. So if there is an ideal time to leave this cult, it is NOW.
You don’t owe anything to anyone just because you did a course and you had a good experience. So what, you paid for it in cash (and some of you also with your time and free seva).
This is for a new section on the Art of Living website called ‘Our People.’ This section aims to showcase teachers and volunteers – our seva warriors who work on the ground.
We would like a brief write-up of about 300-400 words, based on the following questions. (Please note: the questions could be answered or you could write a brief write-up based on these points)
• City & Country:
• How long have you been with the Art of Living?
• Project(s) involved in: ~ How long have you been with the project? ~ What is your role?
• A brief background about yourself.
• Are you fulltime with the Art of Living? If yes, then what were you doing before this?
• What has inspired you to commit yourself to the seva?
• Would you like to share any experience from the project you’re working in?
• Any comments that you wish to add. Please send some of your pictures:
• Profile picture
• Taking a course/with participants of the course or project beneficiaries.
Anything that you would like to share- this would be great!