Sunday, July 01, 2007

Taming of the true

My favorite reading of "The Taming of the Shrew" depicts it as a psychological study in which the restless, questioning mind only finds peace in absolute surrender. Katherine finds fault in everything, and her "taming" requires that she accept Petruchio's assertions that day is night and night is day. Modern audiences are appalled by Katherine's abject capitulation to gender roles, but, as it was originally staged, with men and youths, it was perhaps easier to see the play as a spiritual allegory than marital advice.

Working with Shakespeare's fundamental insight, I would argue that a spiritual guru's assertion of supernatural powers -- far from being an embarassing symptom of the narcissistic flooding that results from meditational techniques that pare away the barriers between the parts of the soul -- can sometimes be the "special sauce" that helps their followers. This is not to deny that the core psychological issue that drives people into the guru relationship is usually encouraged rather than diminished by belief in the guru's super-human powers: it is a wryly amusing paradox that people seek out gurus because they feel strangely superior to the bleating herd of humanity, and that rather than helping their followers find happiness by putting aside their isolating and unjustifiable condescension, the same medicine that cures their followers of their debilitating critical natures simultaneously exacerbates their insufferable exceptionalism. At the same time, there are always a few followers who manage to filter the good from the bad, and who are genuinely helped by the entire experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are all sorts of gurus, all sorts of techniques for teaching and enlightening followers. The infantile identification with a powerful, super-serene or revved up super human guru is clearly about bridging the relationship one once had with father and mother. The more evolved follower(the one for whom the relationship is more transparent) is seeking something a little more elusive in the guru. It might be that the super human thing, the miraculous thing they offer is the undoing of a few simple patterns and habits of thought. Let us say, envy, fear, murderous rage against one's father.

The 'sauce' the guru offers might be conferred in the form of charisma, of a certain aura, an ability to speak simply and elegantly of the human condition. Later though, more is asked. Koans, contradictions, trickster methods are used. A nigh and day statement as boldly contradictory as Petruchio's is pointing to something very different about facts, words, trust and the seeker's expectation. It might be that the seeker/follower goes in wanting corroboration that every little thing they believe is true. The guru cuts through it with one absurd statement. Or the guru uses some other technique like telling you to get the hell out of their sight, to move stones from one pile to the other, dig and fill a ditch a thousand times.
A good guru picks the technique that works for that follower.
My experience with friends with gurus is that in general they don't condescend to non guru following friends. They don't prosealitize. They seem to have a pretty grounded to sense of the guru as a spiritual evolved person who guides them through basic forms of practice. I see them generally, made more humble, more empathetic to others.
BUt of course all this depends on the guru. A good guru would never produce a follower who would malign a fellow human and tell them they needed to stop and re-examine everything they are doing because obviously they were on the wrong track. Even if it were as clear as night and day that it were the case.
But a guru might do that.

7:33 AM  

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