Customer Reviews: The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on December 16, 2002
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. They seem to bank heavily on the belief that once humans are fed the proper data they will adjust themselves into rational, humanistic oriented beings who are willing to allow �no one gets hurt� and �the survival of the human race� to stand as their authoritarian guides to conduct. Given the number of people who already don�t seem to care who gets hurt or if humans are around after their own death, I don�t seem to be able to raise much faith in this. Also, I�m not convinced they understand the inner spiritual and moral dynamics of either Buddhism or Christianity as well as they try to make themselves appear to. Knowing people in both communities, I felt that at many points Kramer and Alstad were dealing in the fantasies of their own stereotypes and straw persons about these beliefs. They don�t seem as widely read as they claim, or you would think they would have run into prominent authors, like John Piper, who advocate a self-needs aware compassion that seems to echo what they call for from a tradition they seem to think could never generate it. In fact, their entire understanding of what they call �Christianity� seems to really be Moralism, a view many, if not most, Christians would also reject.
This book is a series of excerpts from a larger promised work, called �Control,� which, going on ten years later, is yet to appear. Hal Blacker has posted online his meeting with the authors a few years after this work was published. Look it up. You might feel like I did: I wouldn�t want the authoritarian people described in this book in control of my life, but, know what? I don�t think I�d want people like Kramer and Alstad running things, either.
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on June 2, 2007
For the most part, the authors of The Guru Papers do a masterful job of unmasking authoritarian power. I first read this book about twelve years ago shortly after completing A Course In Miracles (CIM) at a new-age church. After doing the Course, I attended CIM group discussions for several years and I started to attain somewhat of a guru status. I was tempted to accept the power and perks available to a guru, but my conscience told me there was something morally wrong with being worshipped as a spiritual authority. So I turned the gig down and stopped doing the Course.

After reading The Guru Papers, it became clear how adversely authoritarians had affected me throughout my life. Prior to doing A Course In Miracles, I did Werner Erhard's EST Training and his cult-like Seminar Series. And, in my early days, I was raised as a Missionary Baptist where the Christian authorities (with their authoritative Bible) informed me that I was a sinner in need of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. I came to despise oppressive authoritarians of all kinds and my resistance to them led me to these "personal growth" disciplines. But ultimately I found that there was an ideological authority behind every supposedly "personal" discipline.

The Guru Papers did help me cut through the fog that surrounds authoritarian power. However, when Kramer and Alstad shifted into their prescription mode in the chapter called "Epilogue: Where to Go from Here?" they demonstrated their own brand of authoritarianism. The "paradigm shift" that they advocate is really a masked version of global socialism, which is currently being presented in the guise of environmentalism. Even though environmental socialism is based on secular beliefs, it has all the traits of fundamentalist religion: Predictions of a pending doom due to "our self-destructive nature," salvation for "humanity" and "the planet," and a feeling of moral superiority for the true believers of the environmental "progressive" flock.

I recommend you read The Guru Papers, but pay special attention to the way the authors do a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn and start preaching their version of social justice and environmental religion. If you want to know why it is that people can seem to be enlightened authorities on certain issues and then flip flop when it comes to advocating what "society" should do in the future, then I recommend you read about "constrained" and "unconstrained" worldviews in Dr. Thomas Sowell's book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice.
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on March 4, 2016
I read this book and initially was very impressed with the author’s point of view. I agree to most of the points presented here. This is very powerful writing which can have huge impact on your understanding on authoritarian power. The writing is very clear and there are no contradictions. It clearly opens the closed doors and expand your awareness and empower you to understand and manage toxic relationships. I have all good words for this book and I also consider this as one the best reads of my life which has impacted me considerably and to review my life to make changes. It deserves more than 5 stars and all accolade for only if one area which it failed to address completely and which is very essential to balance the Guru-disciple relationship perspective. Below are my points where the book failed:

1. The author assumes all the Guru-Disciple relationship as toxic and which is not the case in reality.
The Indian tradition focuses on Guru-Disciple relationship as the key to attaining spiritual knowledge and further spiritual evolution and final "Nirvana" (Final Liberation of Soul from birth-death cycle as believed in Hinduism).
All the Hinduism sacred texts describes this relation as the key to attain "Moksha" (Enlightenment & final Salvation) . It is said that the path to spiritual practice is very tough and no one can walk it alone as it is "Maya" (Worldly Illusions) which hinders, block and hide the true path and the seeker is lost in it. This is so much firmly rooted in Hinduism that "Guru" is considered as essential for advance spiritual evolution and practice and without whom it is not possible.
I understand the new age fake Gurus are misusing the belief to their advantage and is the cause of suffering and misery to all.
But the tradition has been so, and it has come through some wisdom only which cannot be denied. All the ancient Sages, Master, Yogis, Saints who have come out from India and shown the true path of Love and Happiness to the world including "Swami Vivekananda", "Swami Shivananda", "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi", and these were very familiar to west and many others like them have been shown this path by their Gurus only who contributed altogether to their spiritual development through guidance, support and knowledge sharing. All of these great saints of India have acknowledged the great role played by their "Guru's" in their Life without whom they would have lost the way.
So I don't agree that all Guru-Disciple relationship is toxic and based on manipulation and other evils.

To my understanding the author has done a good job in describing only one side of the relationship but failed to balance it with the "WHOLE" reality. So this can be really confusing for a true seeker and can destroy the pure relationship due to misunderstanding and one sided ideologies present in this book.

I request the author to get back to me for further discussion on this review. I am extremely thankful to Mr Joel and Diana for writing this book which can help the individual to save himself or herself from toxic relationships. Thanks.
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on June 14, 2016
This book seems to lack the chutzpah to tackle specific cases and instead floats on generalized assertions about cults and the dynamics of power. The vagaries undermine this book unfortunately because the conclusions tend to be somewhat sound if a little watered down.
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on January 8, 2015
My name is Collette, and I bought this book from Amazon.

I agree with much of this book and am glad it has helped many to break free of cults and abusive religious practices. But overall it's not what I had hoped for.

There is a Christian book I like much more, called Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue. I am not a fundamentalist Christian per se, as I believe that Jesus, like Buddha and Krishna, was not a Savior but a Wayshower, an Avatar. However, Healing Spiritual Abuse really spoke to me in every other way -- it's the same message as The Guru Papers, but is much shorter and more concise and to the point -- and the points this small book makes are excellent!

I appreciate the way Healing Spiritual Abuse makes it clear that the early church was NOT hierarchical, while The Guru Papers emphasizes the necessity of "hierarchy" (on page 18, The Guru Papers mentions building a house, which indeed may require hierarchical procedures, but Ken Blue makes it clear that hierarchy has NO PLACE in churches and religions, a point The Guru Papers seems to have missed. The "servant leadership" Ken Blue describes is about nurturing and upbuilding others and is NON-hierarchical, and is not about "tasks," which has an impersonal ring to it. The Guru Papers is primarily concerned with spiritual groups, yet flips between two terms to describe such groups: "task-driven" (positive) and power-driven (negative). Perhaps a third term and concept should be employed with regard to spiritual groups, such as "care-oriented" or "human-oriented," where the idea of nurturing behavior with regard to others is thereby emphasized.

Ken Blue is a long-time pastor, and has had much experience and success regarding non-hierarchical religious concepts and practices. He speaks from his own personal experience.

I also disagree with page 288 in The Guru Papers: ..."It is possible for love to be an ongoing element in it" (with reference to traditional marriages, in which the man is head and the woman more subservient). I beg to differ! I agree with what Black feminist author bell hooks wrote in All About Love: New Visions. From page 40, she states: "Many people believe men can dominate women and children yet still be loving. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung insightfully emphasized the truism that 'where the will to power is paramount love will be lacking.' Talk to any group of women about their relationships with men, no matter their race or class, and you will hear stories about the will to power, about the way men use lying, and that includes withholding information, as a way to control and subordinate." On page 98, bell hooks concludes with, "Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. Jung's insight, that if the will to power is paramount love will be lacking, is important to remember. When love is present the desire to dominate and excercise power cannot rule the day."

The Guru Papers, to my mind, doesn't take it far enough, when it comes to sexism and patriarchy. Ken Blue's book doesn't excuse patriarchal oppression of women by men, and I am more aligned with this book than I am with The Guru Papers.
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on January 31, 2009
As I finished reading The Guru Papers", I asked myself how would I rate it from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest score.It seemed to me that 6 was fair.I think the book is not as good or as original as one would expect after reading the comments in the first pages by those who recommend it.
The Guru Papers as I see it, is an excellent warning against ways people are exploited by others, and how easily we are willing to deceive ourselves when we look up to others as authorities in spiritual or even psychological matters, yet as I read through , I couldn't avoid a feeling of having already heard most of the points made in the book.I even wondered if it was not a case of unconscious plagiarism, as the more important points of the book can be found in the writtings of the late anti-guru guru Jiddu Krishnamurti.
But I appreciated that the authors tried to go even beyond Jiddu Krishnamurti , when they point to a possible trap in statements such as "Be a light into yourself". (which is a typical statement coming from Krishnamurti).
If I compare their book with Krishnamurti's books, I find it less focused on where the problem really is, as it takes up other issues not so important in my view, sort of beating around the bush with some issues that allthough interesting , didn't seem really to belong to the main subject of the book which is about control, authority, self deception, creation of double binds, and exploitation of others.( even if well meant).
Inspite of all this , I think everybody who has been involved with gurus, psychotherapies or any other kind of religious authorities, should read this book.It will work as an antidote against all those who think they know better than yourself "what is good for you".
On the whole, the authors seem to me to be doing their best to be honest and free from illusions.
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