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The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power Paperback – May 20, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Frog Books; 1st edition (May 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883319005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883319007
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Easily the most comprehensive, erudite, and timely book … to explore authoritarianism in religion, institutions, power, the family, intimacy and sexual relations, and personal problems such as addiction.… Argue[s] persuasively that any system of values that places tradition and the past above the imperative to question the present is destined to become increasingly lethal.” —San Francisco Chronicle Book Review 
 
“A thorough, wide-ranging analysis of the way power has historically been maintained.… A diagnosis of what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it … Its thesis is elegant and nearly unlimited in its ramifications.… [Shows that] authoritarianism is … part of the way we think.” —The New Mexican (Santa Fe)
 
“Don’t be deceived by the title. The Guru Papers is about much more than cult groups. A profoundly important critique of the covert authoritarianism of most religions … and of such cultural values as unconditional love, addiction, and 12-step programs … Thought-provoking and radically important …Extraordinarily rich and complex … An important contribution to changing [old paradigms].” —Liberty 
 
“Spells out … the dangers of becoming addicted to another’s authority in any sphere of life.” —Times Literary Supplement (London)
 
“A breathtakingly profound analysis.… One of the most deeply insightful works of our time … Nearly every page crackles with statements that … provoked one ‘Aha!’ after another as I saw elements of culture, history, and my own experience from a new perspective that made immediate sense … A magnificent contribution … The most reasonable and coherent picture of the evolution of religious ideas to date, and brilliant sections on love and control, and … addiction … A vision of spirituality beyond authoritarianism … [and] tremendous contribution to our collective understanding.” —Richard Heinberg, author of Blackout
 
“Provocative and thorough.… Unmask[s] the countless manifestations of authoritarianism in our contemporary culture. Cover[s] vast territory … rais[es] all the vitally important questions …It should definitely be placed in the hands of anyone who has been, or is, or contemplates becoming involved with a guru.” Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
 
“Expands the concept of authoritarianism and gives a new slant on the human condition … Shows that to overcome our staggering problems, we must learn to think non-authoritarian … The convincing arguments will make readers re-sort their thinking.” —John Irwin, sociologist, author of The Felon
 
“Answers a host of questions about the source of recurring problems.… Unmasks the insidiously pervasive nature of authoritarian values that permeate society … Without awareness of how authoritarianism operates below the level of awareness, we too are likely to become its victims …Perceptive guidelines for detecting hidden authoritarianism and intervention strategies for self-empowerment …Deals with the most fundamental aspects of the Yin and Yang of human nature and the meaning of social community.” —Philip Zimbardo, author of Psychology and Life
 
“The questions raised by it are so profound … that they can never be put out of one’s mind.” —The Humanist
 
“Don’t let the title fool you … A more apt title would be “Masks of Power” as the book has great relevance for a secular audience as well … [Can] shift readers’ minds in a deep way. [They’re] onto something big … Elegantly articulates many of [our] … unformed thoughts” —Synapse
 
“Laser clarity.… Fascinating insights into the leader/follower relationship … [and] the usually veiled authoritarianism embedded in world views and values …One of the most compelling, ‘can’t put it down’ books I’ve read in a long time, [it] offers challenging concepts for egalitarian communities” —Communities Magazine
 
“With x-ray analysis and laser precision it discloses authoritarian structures. It expands consciousness of the consciousness journey itself, exposing its ever present darker side … Even offer[s] a flashlight guide through this darkness. Uncompromising in its thesis, sparing no current idol, it is a poignant attack on the illusions of our times.” —Mike Arons, professor emeritus of psychology, West Georgia College
 
“Undertake[s] the monumental task of reforming the very basis of civilization.… Step[s] on … nearly every sacred cow …Offers both affirmation and optimism.” —Creative Loafing  (Atlanta)
 
“For those … who prefer to have their world grounded in comfortable, familiar dogmas, this book will make their hair stand on end … Dissect[s], with the best scientific rigor, many old standards of belief.” —Fate Magazine
 
“Offers new insights for restructuring a more functional and caring society by exposing the cultural authoritarianism that undermines democracy.” —James Austin, criminologist, coauthor of It’s About Time 
 
“Filled with insight …Deconstructs the authoritarianism of modernity … The Guru Papers can help change agents reconceptualize what they are trying to do and how they are trying to do it” —Journal of Organizational Change Management
 
“The chapter on addiction presents an exciting and provocative new concept about the origin and process of addiction. A must read for therapists and addiction counselors.” Ann McKain, past President of The American Academy of Psychotherapists
 
“A tour-de-force … Fascinating model of the psychology of addictive behavior … Profound and compelling account of the endless battle between warring aspects of our being—and how we might become whole … Their writings are an indispensable resource in my clinical work.” —Jeffrey Rubin, author of The Art of Flourishing
 
“Ambitious treatise [on] the foundation of our social and self-control mechanisms … [The addiction chapter] take[s] on the disease model … and also … ‘responsibility models’ … As a long time researcher … of addiction, I found [it] a refreshing analysis of predominant theories of substance abuse. [Their] own model of the divided psyche and ‘why it feels good to be bad’ was not only original but resonant … Particularly useful regarding the futility of the drug war/punitive approach …” Marsha Rosenbaum, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
 
“Anyone who reads The Guru Papers will be profoundly changed. Its ideas are like a medical laser beam vaporizing cancer cells with the power of truth.” —Steven Hassan, author of Combatting Cult Mind Control  
 
“Delivers what it promises … Describ[es how] …  overt and covert authoritarianism can intrude into social, political, and religious beliefs and interfere with normal personality development.… Part II explores subtle, indirect forces in values and beliefs … concealed in what people assume and take for granted …Merits wide readership … highly recommended.” —Cultic Studies Journal
 
“Crystal-clear.…  [Goes] deeply into the inherent paradoxes in … world religion … Explain[s] with blistering clarity why we get seduced.” —Whole Earth Review
 
“A bold, timely, important book. It can teach us to think responsibly about ‘spiritual’ questions.… Deserves to be a basic text in comparative religion.” —Abraham Levitsky, coauthor with Fritz Perls of The Rules and Games of Gestalt Therapy
 
“A contribution of the highest order … Of immense and immediate consequence” —Brain/Mind Bulletin
 
“A brilliant book inspiring new insights with each re-reading. Opening it randomly, I’ve received just the wisdom I needed for my next step toward freedom.” —Susan Campbell, author of Getting Real
 
“Very important … Simply and elegantly written … One of the most helpful books on psychological oppression of the decade.” —Creation Spirituality
 
“Brilliantly analytical, always probing … this adventurous book offers an unflinching view of the structure and psychology of reality.” —John Tytell, author of Naked Angels
 
“Explores [how] the struggle for independence … is countered by deeply embedded structures within every aspect of society … and within the individual psyche.” —Noetic Sciences Review
 
“Elegantly identifies the masks that power uses to hide its abuse[s] … Hard-hitting practical logic that rips the guts out of sacred cows that have fed too long in pastures provided by a naïve … population.” —Point Reyes Light
 
“Alarming, enlightening, and riveting … Eminently readable … Powerful tools for building a more humane society.” —Merrill Joan Gerber, ...

About the Author

Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad are co-authors of The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power. They have written and taught together since 1974 on evolution, spirituality, relationships, values, awareness, yoga, and social issues. Their Web site is www.joeldiana.com.Joel Kramer, the author of The Passionate Mind, did post-graduate work in philosophy and psychology and was a resident teacher at Esalen Institute (1968-1970). He is a pioneer and legend of modern American yoga whose evolutionary vision of yoga freed it from its authoritarian roots, re-visioning it for the West.Diana Alstad, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, received a doctorate from Yale University in 1971. She taught in the humanities and initiated and taught the first Women's Studies courses at Yale and Duke. She envisioned the Yoga of Relationship and developed it with Kramer.

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Customer Reviews

If you are at all a critical thinker, you should read this book.
John Noble
I owe the authors much gratitude for expanding my mind's abilities to think abstractly, thoroughly, and more objectively and creatively.
Chad M. Walling
They say if I am sufficiently sincere and pure of heart, I will sacrifice what I want for what they tell me is best.
Mr. Ford Greene Esq

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 1997
Format: Paperback
In this logical and stunningly common-sense work, the authors examine human beliefs systems from the perspective of language and authoriatarian hierarchies. 12-step, Satanism, Fundamentalist Christianity, Course-in-Miracles, the systems of "enlightened" eastern gurus... without mercy, Kramer and Alstaad break EACH ONE DOWN to its ROOTS and show that ALL human belief systems are the result of a subtle conceptual dualism in which a behavior or viewpoint is taken as a spectrum, polarized, and then one side is valued over the other. A must read for anyone who suspects they might have been brainwashed, very popular among ex-cultists and guaranteed to make a hardline skeptic of you. "The Guru Papers" is probably my favorite book!
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52 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Ford Greene Esq on March 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
God. The God of Science, The God of Papal Infallibility, The God of National Security, The God of Family Values, The God of Buddhist Selflessness, The God of Unconditional Love. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing.

The Guru Papers elegantly identifies the masks that power uses to hide its abuse of others. Authoritarianism is the exercise of authority which, presuming an unquestioning obedience, can tolerate neither question nor challenge, meeting either with disregard or punishment. Assiduously distinguishing the everyday exercise of authority - living life and making choices amongst the propositions it presents - from the bullying domination intrinsic to the type of power unwilling to recognize an equal, the authors carefully dissect the threads which, woven together, comprise the cloth of abuse. Whence abusiveness flows, certain features are invariably present.

When a "leader" sets up an ideological standard of perfection or purity that no human being can attain, and our consequent failure of such attainment becomes the raison d'etre for a double standard of treatment whereby the leader gives orders and we obey them, we have lost our freedom, particularly if we believe it is for our own good.

Whenever one pole of a duality is identified as essential to good living and the other pole leads to evil, behind that mask an authoritarian moralist weaves his tale positing that which he believes is most important, that which he says is God. Gurus and religions, politicians and governments, educators and schools, parents and families, and lovers and spouses frequently equate evil with selfishness and goodness with selflessness and sacrifice.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book has completely changed my life and way of thinking. I can't say enough about it. I'm reading it for about the fifth or sixth time now. This book contains the seeds of a real awakening for some people. If you have an interest in spirituality, gurus, etc., as I have, then you may be surprised by what you find here! I am forever grateful for having accidentally found this book!
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80 of 100 people found the following review helpful By James S. Taylor on December 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Since the authors are against people living divided lives, they would likely be concerned that I feel divided about their book. On the good side, there is a lot of insight into how authority can be used illegitimately by both ourselves and others for manipulative ends on both ourselves and others. As they have been involved in authoritarian groups teaching various Eastern views, they make quite a few points about the totalitarian nature that can be bred by both the gurus and worldview that emanates from that source; points I have seen others make, as well. Having been hurt by some alleged friends over the past few years, I felt personally helped and enlightened by their chapter on how love can be used as an abusive tool. Overall, the work is for someone who wants to think at length about the relationship between self-guidance and authority over a wide range of issues, and is well worth reading.
On the other hand, there are some real problems here. Kramer & Alstad don�t document a single thing they say, other than to refer to their other equally undocumented essays. Thus, ironically, this screed against authoritarianism must be accepted as the raw authoritarian assertion of the authors� views. It functions just like the type of revelation they condemn. One also wonders what in the world they would build after tearing everything down? The impression is left that, despite throwing a bone to recognized authorities in specific fields, one should be free to do whatever one wants and not feel guilty about it, as long as no one gets hurt and the human race is assured of survival.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rev/Dr.David H.Lindley Jr on March 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
The guru papers are well written.The authors who were gurus and spiritual leaders explain the trap of all religions and their danger points.This is invaluable for faith leaders and followers of ALL faiths.It is not an easy read but it could save you years of trouble.It makes leaders missions clear and is invaluable advice.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I do think this is a wonderful book. What other readers haven't mentioned is that it offers a lot of help to anyone who is a sincere spiritual teacher or administrator of a spiritual center. Dear friends, it's difficult for a teacher to keep on the straight & narrow, despite real & deep spiritual attainment & a true desire to help others. The Guru Papers could be a handy guide to see whether you are fooling yourself -- as a teacher. Listen you guys & girls who are out there teaching: Let your students grow up. That's what you're here for.
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