Strings Attached

Strings Attached, Lessons Learned in My Ill Spent Youth, Part Three

Several weeks ago we looked at psycho-spiritual organizations, their lifespans, and how they sometimes come to an end in a seemingly mundane way.  Those who remember the period of the 1990s know that it was very active in the New Age and psycho-spiritual marketplace, and with it the need for a strong “caveat emptor” attitude.  A lot of snake oil was being sold along with promises of serpent power and kundalini.

While the ‘Satanic Panic’ of the 1980’s had lost its steam, there was renewed concern over non-traditional spiritual movements, much of it focusing on events in Europe. The Order of the Solar Temple (October 1994) would come to public attention with the suicide of over thirty-five of its members. There were slowly emerging scandals with Tibetan Buddhism. Numerous ‘flame wars’ would become the daily activity of the emerging internet, with sex, fraud, and even the occasional kidnapping and murder making it to the forefront of revelation, discussion, and attack/counter-attack.

The fact is that while the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the mid-1980s was a political agenda masquerading as a legal one, where there is smoke there is fire.  This fire, more of an ember than a blaze, was something the occult, emerging neo-pagan, and New and Emerging Religions communities were very good at denying and ignoring. Although it was nothing quite as exciting as a worldwide Satanic network the media was hoping for it did have its moments of exceptional stupidity.  Things have changed considerably since then, and some of the community’s members are now a bit too quick to publically point out the actual or perceived failings of others – criminal or not – rather than ignore them.  The reason for this is simple:  whenever we get involved in esoteric practices there are “strings attached”.

Even my beloved ‘Psychosynthesis’ founded by Roberto Assagioli, and to which I was introduced to by Professor Peter Roche de Coppens, one of Assagioli’s students, and the subject of my Master’s thesis had its problems.  These problems a Wikipedia entry under “Psychosynthesis” describes as follows:

In the December 1974 issue of Psychology Today, Assagioli was interviewed by Sam Keen and was asked to comment on the limits of psychosynthesis. He answered paradoxically: “The limit of psychosynthesis is that it has no limits. It is too extensive, too comprehensive. Its weakness is that it accepts too much. It sees too many sides at the same time and that is a drawback.”

Psychosynthesis “has always been on the fringes of the ‘official’ therapy world” and it “is only recently that the concepts and methods of psychoanalysis and group analysis have been introduced into the training and practice of psychosynthesis psychotherapy”.

As a result, the movement has been at times exposed to the dangers of fossilization and cultism, so that on occasion, having “started out reflecting the high-minded spiritual philosophy of its founder, [it] became more and more authoritarian, more and more strident in its conviction that psychosynthesis was the One Truth”.

A more technical danger is that premature concern with the transpersonal may hamper dealing with personal psychosynthesis: for example, “evoking serenity … might produce a false sense of well-being and security”. Practitioners have noted how “inability to … integrate the superconscious contact with everyday experience easily leads to inflation”, and have spoken of “an ‘Icarus complex’, the tendency whereby spiritual ambition fails to take personality limitations into account and causes all sorts of psychological difficulties”.

However, the schism that rocked the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC) to its core in the early 1990s was by far the worst of the affairs for me, and while I stayed in for nearly a decade afterwards, it was never the same again. After examining the reasons for my severing of formal ties with a host of organizations the common denominator I discovered can be summed up in the words above from Roberto Assagioli, “The limit of psychosynthesis is that it has no limits. It is too extensive, too comprehensive. Its weakness is that it accepts too much. It sees too many sides at the same time and that is a drawback.”

And with it, the analysis as well:

“As a result, the movement has been at times exposed to the dangers of fossilisation and cultism, so that on occasion, having “started out reflecting the high-minded spiritual philosophy of its founder, [it] became more and more authoritarian, more and more strident in its conviction that psychosynthesis was the One Truth.”

A more technical danger is that premature concern with the transpersonal may hamper dealing with personal psychosynthesis: for example, “evoking serenity … might produce a false sense of well-being and security”. Practitioners have noted how “inability to … integrate the superconscious contact with everyday experience easily leads to inflation”, and have spoken of “an ‘Icarus complex’, the tendency whereby spiritual ambition fails to take personality limitations into account and causes all sorts of psychological difficulties”.

This is where the strings come in. Strings that pull us into ‘Never, Never Land’; strings that keep us down to earth; and strings that when pulled unravel the ball of yarn we call a mind.

Everything has strings attached. In spirituality the first string is the one that pulls us into the ideals of ‘Never, Never Land’. Here, the dream is big, powerful, and fueled by an army of emotional needs and psychological repressions that directly or indirectly suggest that as part of this movement you are now part of an elite group that is at the cutting edge of collective human evolution. Through your membership in this select group all of your unmet needs and desires will be realized.  Of course there is little to back this up other than the fact that it is said to you.  Even for those movements that do not have an eschatological event that will usher in ‘the New Age of Peace and Love’ there is an implied event that is just over the horizon. When it arrives, you will be elevated in status and power and your sacrifices will have been worth it.  Everything will be revealed.  It is like being Frank Black from the 1990s television series “Millennium” wherein the ‘Millennium Group’ that he is increasingly brought deeper and deeper into tells him to be patient and in time everything will be made clear.  Only it never is. Instead, one is left chasing clues and taking promises on faith, and in the end, one loses out on both heaven and earth.  At this point you are in so deep that either wake up from the dream, or it becomes a nightmare. This is often known as ‘the dark night of the soul’ and it is a crushing experience wherein we are left feeling alone, possibly betrayed, and powerless. Yet, successful traversing of it leaves us more self-confident and self-aware, maybe even with a profound psychic experience or two. Failure can leave us bitter and discontent about life and spirituality, or everything really, until it is resolved.

The way to avoid some of this is to have strings that keep us “down to earth”, rooted in regular activities. Surprisingly, these strings of hearth and home which can keep us sane are often portrayed as an obstacle to the spiritual path – particularly by the marginalized and socially discontented that are attracted to the ‘utopian’ and ‘superman’ ideals of spirituality. It is often these same people that politicize spiritual practices in an attempt to force others into bringing their vision into reality.

That aside, a strong middle class has always been the basis for all social progress, and the ease with which it is dismissed by many in ‘spiritual movements’ demonstrates their ignorance rather than wisdom. “The family that prays together stays together” is more than a slogan it is a truth, and spirituality should help us in our daily life not make us dependent on others while dedicated to a false ideal no matter how beautiful it may be.

Modern spirituality is also a path too often wherein the ideal is portrayed as the true believer being a social drop out who either politely or very aggressively rejects standard social behaviors; or, where one is expected to be at the top of the social-economic pyramid – St. Germain or Cagliostro for example – bringing about the ‘great transformation’ behind the scenes. Since few people fall into either of these categories it is often believed, if not actually stated, that somehow the spiritual group to which one might belong will be the mechanism that allows someone to attain to their preferred role of either “hermit” or “international man of mystery”. But in reality members are often simple transformed into the emotional and financial food that encourages what are often foolish and narcissistic ideals of senior members.

We can also look more closely and see where in some instances the Grand Masters or leaders of several groups have themselves become food for the egregore or psychic entities they once served and sought power from. Watching leaders fall into delusion and fantasy, bordering on psychotic because of the powerful ideals they are championing, is too easily dismissed as ‘a mid-life crisis’ or the ambiguous term, ‘a spiritual crisis’. It is however more than that, it is a representation of failure at the highest levels and must be recognized as such.  At other times leaders may simply carry on a public façade while in private having given up, as was said to me years ago about a prominent Grand Master of one movement, “His wine cellar is bigger than his library.”

Over the coming week take some time to examine your relationship to the various spiritual movements you have participated in. What was your motivation for joining? Were your expectations realistic and were they met? If you are no longer a member ask yourself why not, and, would you join again?

Next week, we will show you how to navigate the labyrinth of occult orders and spiritual groups so you can achieve your personal goals and get a life from your spiritual practices instead of losing it to the dream.

7 comments

  1. Reblogged this on D. M. Hutchins and commented:
    This questions is simple for me, in terms of what my motivations were, and remain to be. I didn’t get to witness the Satanic Panic of the 80s, as I was born in 81. Having been born to a horrible family of culturally-Christians (meaning Christian in name alone), their hypocrisy and abuse drove me to seek something genuine and truthful, thus I naturally delved into all sorts of Witchcraft, Luciferianism, Satanism, CoS, JoS, ToS, ONA, et al, as well as 1990s New Age nonsense you mentioned. I also entered into street gangs, drug abuse, and anything lending an escape from the pain and trauma of my first 13 or 14 years of life.

    My early twenties involved attempting to actually get away from those associations, not because I had recognized the error of my ways, but rather because I had exceeded their knowledge and ambitions. The pseudosatanist I was involved with no longer impressed me, and you might say that Thoth was driving me insane with notions of “Higher Meaning”, Higher Will, and “Justice for all” which my satanic and Luciferian friends mocked.

    I was into my thirties before the actual GOD of this Cosmos, The ALL, took hold of me, drove me into myself in order to face the horrible and vulgar things which I continue to battle even now… I am not great, though I have taken upon myself the Great Work, or rather it has been thrust upon me whether to endure whether like it or not.

    I will never join groups again, I will not be impressed with rank or praise, and while I am pleased to see through that illusion, I am yet baffled by GOD, curious just exactly how it is that I am to challenge the Evil on this Earth… I have hardly began to kill the dragon within myself, and I am yet charged to slay all dragons…. ? I am distraught, confused, overwhelmed, and yet dedicated, driven, and unrelenting.

    Your post are meaningful to me, Sir. They serve as evidence that I am not enduring this alone, and that others have managed to slay their dragons, and that my dragon can indeed die. Honor to you and yours.

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  2. Really fantastic, Mark. I could tell all sorts of stories related to this from my own life, but it’s enough to say that it’s only been fairly recently that I’ve put much effort at all into my “mundane life”. It’s incredible how real effort at striking the balance between inner and outer, or vertical and horizontal, brings such strong rewards in both directions. As I get more and more on my fiscal feet I find myself better able to devote time and resources to my spiritual life, and as I place more attention on my personal relationships I am grounded enough thereby to bring my A game in teaching and presenting. And this is all without even going into my experiences with various teachers and organizations; knock on wood, but I seem to have found my way to a “spiritual home” which makes the most reasonable demands of its students while promising nothing but what it offers and offering nothing but what it actually provides.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is always so much to learn from Mark’s writings. I feel fortunate that he makes himself available to the student and community for advice regarding the various pitfalls that one might encounter on the spiritual path.
    Usually mindfulness is in the foreground these days, but one of the qualities that the Buddha encourages us to develop is Wise Discernment.
    This seems to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of what Mark writes about.
    I for one am grateful.

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  4. Egregores – The Perfect Pyramid Scheme

    As a result of my recent post on some of my experiences with various organizations over the decades and my comments on egregores, or those psychic entities that many in the esoteric community are so proud of, I have been sent copies of the teachings of several groups.
    In examining one set of lessons, and in particular to compare it to earlier editions I have seen, what struck me was constant mention of the word ‘egregore’ and how this is a beneficial thing that will protect its members, bring them spiritual experiences, and provide them with material assistance – in times of need of course – and need apparently is defined by the egregore.

    What was amusing to me as a reader is the meditation members were to perform to ‘attune themselves with the egregore’ as what came into my mind immediately upon reading these instructions and seeing the symbol to be used: visualizing a pyramid with the organization’s symbol on top.

    Egregores are the perfect pyramid scheme.

    You see, a pyramid scheme is hierarchical racket in which only those at the top benefit the most, with those in the middle benefitting to a lesser degree, and those at the bottom providing the benefits while being promised of rewards in the future – when they climb the pyramid. Of course, climbing the pyramid consists of ‘service’ to the organizations which is translated into bringing in new members, making donations, and providing the essential psychic energy for the egregore to exist through meditations such as the one above.

    As I looked through more of the lessons I saw that the word egregore was used at least once in everyone I read, and always as a protective, beneficial, and positive entity that was the real source of power and success behind member’s experiments and practices. This of course may in part be true, as that is the reason egregores are sought after, but is it also a damning statement about the methods involved, or the members after years of practice, if the only way they succeed is in the psychic isolation of the hive mind.

    Coupled throughout the lessons was the notion that all of this ‘spiritual evolution’ puts its members at the forefront of humanity, preparing each of them for their place wherein at some unspecified date they would help usher in a Golden Age of – and you guessed it – One World Government and One Universal Religion. It would almost be knee slapping funny if there were not the liberal uses of the title ‘Illuminati’ involved, and guidance from invisible Masters well known to readers of Theosophy.

    Now, of course, the leaders of this group, guardians of the egregore, are hand chosen by their karma and destiny by these perfect invisible Masters to lead the organization, its members, and with that by implication humanity as well. Who better to whisper in the ears of world leaders than the Illuminati guided by the invisible brotherhood? I mean, what can go wrong with that? Look how well that model worked for the Tibet.

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  5. Nicholas R. Venceil · · Reply

    Gratia Laude Ave’~ amazingly made Brothair Stavish!
    🔺♣♣♣🔱🔱🔱🔺✖⭕🔱
    Remind me to review this every week please…

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  6. Nice article Mark. Personally, I have never found any use for those claiming to be Cosmic Masters. Titles are just titles. I have met a few individuals, who succeeded in making a permanent soul and were worthwhile sharing time with. Overall, I have been disappointed with most persons seeking Salvation. They want it for free and for egoistic reasons. Most seekers are unworthy of the name. Myself, I just share the knowledge I have and try my best to bring some love and caring to others.

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  7. David Burnet · · Reply

    The notion of such strings sounds useful, and would make a good addition to the materials used to bring people to a group. Maybe more realistically, made more generally available so people can run across these insights. Before they are needed!

    Uncommon sense, is what an understanding about strings is.

    It’s hard for me to imagine how these insights will attract lots of attention, or make huge amounts of money for a speaker or writer. Which may mean that this is esoteric wisdom.

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