Double Talk — Double Standards

— The Search for Better Questions in the Glory of Doubt
By George—03/2007
Nobody questions New Age philosophy as perceptively as By George, a truth-seeker who has found living with uncertainty more enlightening than living with spiritual dogma.

"Doubt, although it can be destructive, is rarely anywhere near as dark or dangerous a force as certainty… Strangely it seems to be at its most potentially poisonous when it's married to spirituality. Nothing does more damage than an absolute insistence that right is on your side… that you know exactly how everything needs to be… and you can see where everyone else is going wrong."

from Cosmic Ordering by Jonathan Cainer
Published by Collins (an imprint of Harper Collins)

IDON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT ANYTHING. When my 7-year old son asks: Why the sky is blue? What keeps us on the ground? What happens when we die?… I confess to shrugging my shoulders and having no real answers that will make sense other than asking him, what do you think happens? Sure I know the theory, the science and most of the dogmas, but in the end none of us really knows anything.

So, I cop out and assure him that it is probably best to just keep asking questions and listen inside of himself for the answers that work best and, most importantly, put his mind at ease.

What a blessing doubt is.

I wish someone had said it's OK not to know everything when I was 7. Instead I was shoved into a traditional protestant upbringing, rebelled (clerical child abuse contributed) and rushed from western to eastern dogmas of all kinds looking for Truth. After 4 years in a Jesuit University, countless more spent studying Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others looking for Truth, all I found was disappointment and the belligerent extremist insistence by the group's leaders that I needed more time because I did not know the real Truth as each trail hit its dogmatic dead-end (and they all do).

In the movie Rounders, Martin Landau plays a wise old law professor to a young and restless Matt Damon. He talks of growing up with the Talmud.

"For generations, the men of my family have been rabbis. It was to be my calling. I was quite a prodigy. The elders said I had a 70-year-old's understanding of the midrahs by the time I was 14. But by the time I was finished with my studies I knew I could never be a rabbi."

"Why not?"

"Because for all I understood of the Talmud, I never saw God there."

There is an old editorial cartoon showing a blackboard filled with complex physics calculations. In the middle of this board a clouded dialogue box appears with the words, "And then a miracle occurs" to help the scientist get a known answer amidst the vast unknown.

Why is it we generally seem more interested in defending the known parts on either side of the equation than simply shrugging and saying, I'm not sure, I just don't know and letting that be OK?

That sums 10-years of Truth Seeking 601 (doctorate level study) where I found many uplifting teachers and lessons that resonated deep within me and… an ice cold water bath to my face when a teacher's personal behaviour ran counter to their message.

I would just try to ask more questions. Instead of them saying, "I don't know," the normal reply was very much like the answer one receives about the current Iraq quagmire… "anyone not supporting the President does not support our troops and therefore supports the terrorists"(?!?).

Now I find most circular logic that always points the finger back at me (even, sometimes a middle one) as the chief cause of my misery… to be off-putting at best and criminal at worst.

So a key question, what happens when someone following a dogma decides to stop 'drinking the KoolAid'? What makes this person now so dangerous to the teachers and can the search for capital 'T' Truth co-exist in a world of SPIN? It seems today much more difficult to convince a sceptical media and public on any subject. Show me! Prove it! Live it! are today's mantras. And yet in one arena, the Mind, Body Spirit market, strength of personality seems to trump all logic… until it no longer does.

Watching this industry the last 12 years, could Truth finally be stirring even inside this arena? Are some of us becoming modern-day Totos as our friend Dorothy stands trembling before the flashing lights and smoke of these wizards? What would happen if we walked over and pulled back the curtain to see a scared little man (or woman) trying desperately to become something much bigger and keep everything under control?

There is much to love and loathe in this industry. The uplifting messages are crafted to portray freedom at hand, a deity in our image and life long peace. And could the beginnings of a shake-out, symptomatic of the growing pains every industry faces be upon this one?

Could it at heart be that our profound desire to believe every truth spoken gets caught up in a blizzard of SPIN that obscures the very 'Truth' everyone says they speak? For that matter, having recently watched a 60-Minutes segment on Internet jihad recruiting, what is capital 'T' truth if everyone believes they (and only they alone) speak or know THE Truth?

That certainty has driven our world apart and been proven over the millennia since the Crusades to be a powerful and frightening aphrodisiac for those with skill to manipulate a people, room, dialogue or agenda.

Why is it that two weeks after the first US presidential candidates announced their intention to run 2-years from now, the far right cranked out whispers about front-runners Senators Clinton and Obama. Senator Clinton was (in one 7-year old bogus claim) part of a '60s Black Panther slaying(!) As Senator, she refused to meet a group of mothers of veterans who lost their children to war." (After having done so two years before and sponsored legislation to increase their benefits!)

Senator Obama's whispers are nuttier, due to his Muslim (gasp!) father, having been taught in a Muslim primary-school (double gasp!) – CNN visited it and found to be quite normal and his middle name… (cue sinister music) – Hussein! It was lampooned on The Daily Show's Obamania! – where John comically changes the 'b' to an 's' and… voila he is the terrorist king!

When the senders of these e-mails are shown the obvious falsehoods, their reply is… "you just don't know THE Truth like we do! Huh?!?"

There's that unmistakable whiff of certainty in the air again.

When you add in the incense, bliss, free love and mantras, what a funny industry it has become. An intentionally oblique one as well, instead of being told I don't know 'their' truth the line is, "Denis if you would just o-p-e-n then you would see Truth." Okaaaayyyyy… and which scalpel shall I use? And how come only the devotees closest to the leader determine when and if I am open enough?

Plus I was never good with circular logic. If I can't get MS Excel to accept a circular calculation in a formulae, how can I cope with logic that spins in circles? Or more succinctly, if Bill Gates won't let me, why is it I must blindly accept everything I am fed to be in this business?

Gangaji is contestant number one. She seems mostly to have wise things to say. Her videos are very compelling. It's just that she would do well to hire a good PR firm, jettison the philandering husband or perhaps both. The audio tracks on her website talk about (but not really…) her husband Eli's sexual exploitation of a female devotee/instructor, now the subject of the inevitable lawsuit. She forgave him though and together they will host an expensive "The Jewel in Disillusionment Retreat." What?!?

Why is it no one inside the organization understood how this might add to the controversy or imply they were so insulated from the real world by their disciples to even know how to handle this? The early web strategy was to be open (somewhat) and invite comment. Then the website apology was lifted "under advice from our attorneys…?" Or is it simply a case of, "if we just ignore it, it will go away?" Perhaps we can just whistle a chorus from the cross of Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life…?"

While heartened the public seems ready for change, will they really apply the same critical eye to the soothing double talk/double standard balm of the Mind Body Spirit marketplace? Is the same silent majority that demanded political change in the US and the recent Big Brother bullying furore in the UK, showing some may be ready for Truth vs. SPIN?

We have personal experience looking behind the wizard's curtains. My wife and I were directors of and ran the business operations of a spiritual seminar group as a labour of love for almost three years. Then last year we felt uncomfortable about the direction of the organization. When the leader's behaviour morphed into a remake of "The Devil Wore Prada," it was clear the principals were not walking their talk and… it's their business. We also knew from the circular logic of our training that if we felt that way, it was a reflection on us, so how were we not walking our talk? Ouch. It was an ugly reflection coming back complete with the lament, "how could we have been so stupid?"

The work is very good, just over-hyped and oversold with images of the founder. It was used in many places and has elements of teachings handed down in various forms over the ages. Our problem was the principals, like many in this industry, felt they alone invented the work from whole cloth (even the parts they lifted directly from est, TimeLine Therapy, Lifespring, the ancient Enneagram and others).

They therefore owned it and slapped (quite literally sometimes against "infringers") trademarks/copyrights on everything (whilst also ignoring other copyright holders music and video/DVD rights during seminars) and behaving as if only they had this knowledge and would determine who was worthy to use "their" materials, where and when to "control the quality of the work."

If this sounds familiar, ask Bandler and Grindler how successful they were in keeping the Nuero-Linguistic Programming or NLP genie tightly in the bottle and under their control.

Everyone uses NLP because it works. People use this other method because it works. The problem is the last original idea occurred in April of 1939 and so controlling it is futile. Indeed the market has rewarded people who find a way to spread a message broadly with open access to all (note: that does not mean give it away). It then becomes a household name, widely known and used. If you make it dependent on the founder's personality or drive it to cult-like extremes, unless you are a marketing machine like Tony Robbins, it contracts, withers slowly and eventually dies.

Feeling out of integrity, we left and for the longest time afterwards, I didn't know what or whom to trust in the industry. Jed McKenna in his work – Spiritual Enlightenment, The Damndest Thing, alludes to those moments where yesterday's knowledge is the cause of today's embarrassment. "If you can laugh at it, you are on the road to enlightenment." Well Jed let's find us a Bohdi tree to sit under!

While most have a true heartfelt desire to do good and follow Gandhi's example of "being the change they wish to see in the world," it's the mass market performers making it difficult for others to do well. Most want to earn a living and, like in any business, problems begin when money takes over.

With no concept of enough, the siren song of cash makes too many forget why they chose this path. And they need to generate a lot of cash to feed the lifestyle. All industries go through business cycles. This one though stubbornly clings to and continues to do "what we always did," exactly the same way and expecting a different result. When that doesn't work they raise prices and rely on promotion and packaging to get their blend of Truth across.

John Smith (www.realitymaps.com) asks many good questions on this subject. There is a section on his website called "The False Guru Test". Visit and giggle through the first questions then, if you dare, turn the focus on the person whose teachings you most admire. I stopped laughing when I realized how many of the qualities applied to so many teachers I admired over the last ten years and… how deeply I was hooked into the spirituality game.

What is true? What can be trusted in an industry generating nearly £5 billion pounds a year?* Where can one find someone speaking and living the capital 'T' Truth?

Icons in this business are struggling with ego gratification issues. Aside from our experience and the Ganagji furore, the Conversations with God author Neal Donald Walsche, came clean last year in a confessional e-mail apologizing for his behaviour (ahead of the release of an ego stroking feature film about his talks with God). Behind the curtains, whispers persisted about his Foundation and divisions on the board indicate trouble may still continue in Paradise. Besides, God already changed his mind once when he told him in 1998 to write three books. He now hawks a dozen or more titles and related merchandise. It seems pretty reasonable to think that God will speak again to him and bail him out on this issue.

The off-stage behaviours by personalities without culpability or a whiff of personal responsibility is quite shocking or is it? Even if caught with a smoking gun in their hands whilst standing over a dead body and their pockets stuffed with cash… their lawyer and other SPIN doctors will get them off as they insist they did nothing wrong.

Even when we hear the tearful mea culpa as they dramatically drop to their knees begging for forgiveness from the always forgiving flock of doe-eyed followers, could they really believe acting contrite is more important than real contrition? Why else is it so quickly "business as usual" from a new line of penitent titles… (Why I'm So Grateful God Bitch-Slapped Me Back to His Side?) retreats and media appearances creating a new revenue stream?

Or is "The Truth," they know how to get and keep us hooked?

If so, when will we wake up?

When will we stand up and say stop, no more?!

Instead of wanting to "be like Mike," when will we wake up and smell the herbal tea (and "you can get this special CD collection, operators are standing by so please have your credit card ready…") and see it all for what it really is?

They will sell to us as long as we are willing to buy salvation in a book! Hope in a seminar! Healing on a website! Enlightenment in a bottle!

It's our call folks.

Indeed it's always been our call.

Can we pretend it doesn't matter and join the parade of lemmings wandering from booth to booth or look inside ourselves where we know the answer always resided and ask the hard questions, get real and face facts?

Yes, we're all damaged to some extent by our past.

Yes, we get attracted, infatuated, addicted and our hearts broken.

Yes, our parents probably could have done a better job and they did the best they could with what they had to work with.

Yes, some of us were abused as children.

Yes, we co-create much of the stuff in our lives so it's time to take responsibility and understand that no amount of trying to process it, analyse, ritualise it, wave crystals, burn incense or explain it will fix us!

Yes, shit happens in our lives.

We have the power to fix ourselves if we just believe it!

In the 2nd season of Aaron Sorkin's brilliantly written The West Wing TV programme, the President's key advisor Josh is diagnosed on Christmas Eve with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after being hit by a stray bullet during an assassination attempt to end Season 1. The psychiatrist tells him that for some reason, music is a trigger. In his head he equates it with the police and ambulance sirens heard during and after the shooting.

As Josh realizes this he asks, "so whenever I hear music, this is going to happen?"

The doctor replies, "no."

Josh asks "why not?"

The doctor says simply, "Because, we get better."

And you can see that in this crazy co-dependent, I'm so wounded world we live in, that that is not a good enough answer for poor Josh and he calls after the doctor now convinced he is really sick and needs help. The doctor promises to send him the name of a good therapist and simply leaves wishing him a Merry Christmas.

We get better and we also get over it.

It is everyone's duty to stop taking everything at face value and be like my son Chris and ask lots of questions. I'll never get tired of answering his.

I wonder if these folks will feel the same way?

 

*         *         *

Footnotes:

* Reference is $8.65 billion dollars from the Self-Help, Actualization and Motivational industry from the book SHAM by investigative journalist Steve Salerno, © 2005, Nicholas Beardsly Press, UK and USA.

 

Text of Gangaji letter:

Link to Gangaji letter

(this link still temporarily functions although not mentioned anywhere on the leela.org website)

Dear Gangaji Foundation Community,

It is possible that you have already heard about a heartbreaking disclosure within our community. As the Executive Director and a Board Member of the Gangaji and Leela Foundations it is essential that I share with you, in brief, what has happened and the response that is emerging.

On Sunday, October 1, 2006, Eli Jaxon-Bear, founder of the Leela Foundation and Leela School as well as Gangaji¹s husband and partner, revealed to the entire Board of Directors that he breached the sanctity of the teacher/student relationship by initiating an intimate relationship with one of his students, who is also a teacher in the Leela School. This relationship lasted for three years.

Eli told Gangaji about the relationship in October 2005. At the student¹s request, neither Gangaji nor Eli disclosed the relationship.

Recently, Eli encouraged the student to disclose the true nature of the relationship to people in our community.

What was initially seen as a matter between adults is now recognized to be a betrayal of the teacher/student relationship and an abuse of power. A trust with the larger community also has been broken. This is an important revelation as real harm is being experienced by the student and is being fully acknowledged. The repercussions of this betrayal are reverberating in ways that were never imagined, but are very painful.

Eli takes full responsibility for his actions and the harm he has caused. In response, he is willingly stepping down from teaching immediately.

The student is receiving qualified professional support. We are heartbroken by the transgression she has suffered and her healing is of utmost importance to all.

Since hearing this news, the Board of Directors has met intensively coming together in earnest, offering full support. The desire and intention of the Board is to serve the healing of this community to the best of their ability, and to see what must be seen.

In this spirit, the Board accepted Eli¹s resignation from all formal roles in the organization.

The Board also determined that the Foundation will offer professionally facilitated meetings, with Gangaji and Eli present, to support healing in the larger community. These meetings will create a space in which questions can be asked and answered. There will be an opportunity for anyone to speak and express their feelings and experience. We will announce by email and on the website when and where these meetings will take place.

Gangaji and Eli will write a letter directly to the community addressing their roles in this situation. These letters will be sent out to our email list as well as posted on the website.

The Board intends to create a Foundation code of ethics, or similar document, to address the teacher and student relationship, as well as other pertinent issues.

The deepest truths do not excuse or justify our failures and betrayals as human beings. Gratefully though, without minimizing or spiritualizing the damage done, love remains and sustains all. It is only in love that we can truly meet the pain that comes with being human. Ever more so, we can commit ourselves to the compassion that love provides and to tell the truth more clearly and honestly to others and ourselves.

My prayer is that all the hearts affected by this including the student, the staff, the community, and Eli and Gangaji can heal the pain that is present and over time rebuild the broken trust. As students, we can all come together as beginners, to expose the betrayals and to see the heartbreaking consequences of our actions. We have the opportunity to share our true feelings, experiences and realizations, to meet our own and others¹ pain and humanity, and to offer and receive our apologies, condolences, and gratitude. In the realization of our true silent nature, we can gather with compassion for all the harm we received and all the harm we have caused, and then see what comes from that meeting.

May we all be blessed with courage and honesty. As always, I look forward to meeting with you in satsang.

In deepest gratitude and love,

Barbara Denempont
Executive Director

The Board of Directors approved this letter. To write to the Board please email: boardofdirectors@gangaji.org. Your correspondence is welcomed.

The Gangaji Foundation
2245 Ashland St.
Ashland, OR 97520

News from The Gangaji Foundation
The shadow strikes the Gangaji world.

 

30 November 2006

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all your emails concerning the recent revelations in our last Leela Update. The Board of Directors has reviewed all the responses received to date and appreciates the wide variety of concerns, questions, and insights as well as the gratitude and loving compassion offered.

In our last letter, we shared our desire to hold community meetings as well as sending out letters from Gangaji and Eli. We did hold a community meeting in Ashland, and have been in the planning stages for additional community meetings.

Recently however, the Foundation received communications from the student's legal counsel. It has now become necessary and appropriate for the Foundation to retain legal counsel. Having done so, we are choosing to follow the advice of our counsel to not publish letters from Gangaji or Eli, nor to continue scheduling community meetings. We are truly sorry that we are unable to follow through on that commitment, but we must now allow the legal process to take its course.

While Gangaji, Eli and the Foundation will no longer discuss the specifics of the story, there is always the opportunity to be in satsang and to see what can be realized in the face of these circumstances.

Earlier this month, Gangaji held a public satsang in Ashland. We invite you to listen to an audio clip from this meeting or read the edited transcript of Gangaji's opening monologue by clicking on the quicklinks to Gangaji's website.

Always in gratitude,

Leela Foundation Staff

If you would like to respond to this email please write to boardofdirectors@gangaji.org