Rushkoff On Gurudom
File under: Gurubusting and Notable Quotes
One of the ways the Mother has blessed us is to put us into orbit with some exceptional bodies of influence. Doug Rushkoff is one of these. He's the cultural critic we've always wanted to be, if we'd written over 10 well-received books and lectured all over the world about them. A few years ago he offered his comments about gurus in Arthur, worth repeating today:
The path of devotion offered by gurus is also a natural fit for those of us who are fed up with the relativistic haze of a world where there are no discernible rules, yet equally disillusioned by institutional religions that appear to have sold out to American consumerism. The guru offers absolutism. Certainty. A point of focus.Thus is described the beginning of the end for almost every big-time guru who has ever seen his/her sense of self inflated to the size of a football field. It's that constant supply of positive reinforcement – being blindingly mirrored by hapless devotees convinced you are God – that hooks you to the buzz like it was the purest heroin. Big-time gurus are addicted to your adulation, making you as complicit in their addiction as they are in yours.
As one slick guru, chronicled on Guruphiliac explains on his website: “When you meet a master, you have two choices. Transform or walk away. You cannot be in his presence and remain the same.” Uh, yeah. In other words, conform to his reality or scram.
The guru is the starting place from which all other decisions are to be made. You start with the guru as the one perfect point in the universe, and from there everything else can fall into place. If the guru has instructed you to eat a certain food or do a certain practice, then – according to the logic of gurudom - everything else you have to do for this to happen is part of the perfection. Slowly but surely, surrender to the guru requires you to reject pretty much everything that doesn’t fit whatever model of the world he’s offering you.
But, honestly, that’s what the devotee was after in the first place. An excuse to do or not do all that other confusing stuff in life like encounter people with different ideas, wrestle with the questions of existence, and accept that nobody really knows what happens when we die.
Most of us who have had gurus eventually see something awful – like sexual exploitation, financial abuse, or faked magic – that turns us off. (If we see the guru as perfect, then those blowjobs and false claims get justified: perhaps the guru is testing us, or breaking our hang-ups, At least for a while.) Or we decide that this guy is just too much of an asshole to really be enlightened. Or we simply tire of the idea that “enlightenment” is around the corner, and decide that life is just fine without enlightenment. And getting to that point is a beautiful thing in itself. If an experience with a guru really teaches one the futility of aspirational spiritual quests, then it can even be worth the time, money, and humiliation.
The biggest spiritual victim in the equation is the guru, himself. He’s just a person, after all, who probably had a profound spiritual or psychedelic experience and began to speak or write about it romantically. Charismatically. And this invites admirers and would-be devotees. The guru-in-waiting may not even mean to attract this sort of attention – at least not at the beginning. It’s just the kind of positive reinforcement that naturally comes to a person who speaks passionately about something.