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Dangers for Spiritual Groups

One thing a spiritual group cannot do for you is provide the experience of not being in one.

A previous post on the dangers for seekers in spiritual work is analogous with the 'dangers for spiritual groups' as a group acts collectively like an individual seeker - the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, and vice versa.

 

'Groups' have their own personality, essential nature, imperfections, and movements and circulations of energies like any individual. The consolidation of the cumulative intermixing and balancing of all the elements gives us a sense of 'culture' - that is, what this group of people have really cultivated as opposed to what they portray themselves to be.

 

What follows are some additional, common dangers for spiritual groups:


1. Group think

A group must be constantly questioning itself, constantly trying to move deeper within to avoid being 'fixated' on anything through the natural tendencies of 'group think' - that is, the propensity of a single or set of ideas that take root at the expense of all else, leading to 'cult-like' behaviour. But this doesn't mean that there is not a hierarchy of ideas and practices (a relativity of perspective) that the group can re-explore again and again.


2. Arrested renewal

A group, at one level, is a physical organism. Like all organisms, it needs nourishment and requisite excretion, and this is supplied by new entrants mixing with existing seekers, older seekers making room and opportunities for others, and senior seekers either withdrawing or exiting to allow a natural movement of forces. A lack of entry or exit means inevitable stagnation or at least a significant difficulty in allowing the critical circulation of energies needed to sustain a healthy group.


3. Keeping up appearances

A constant search brings disruption at one level and harmony at another. Sometimes this can manifest as outward 'chaos' to allow the opportunity for an inner silence. At other times, a forced outward silence can disguise an inner chaos. In either case, concern must always be with the 'inner life' of the group above its outward appearance. If there is preoccupation with external things (pageantry, fashion, language, ritual), the inner work of the group suffers accordingly and things become far worse than if the group did not exist at all.


4. Nothing is permanent

Every role that seekers have in a group must be temporary for energy circulation. For example, one must know when to lead, when to follow, when to be supportive, when to be antagonistic, when to be the teacher, when to be the student. More formal positions, like President, Treasurer, etc, are only roles that are played-out, and must be discarded when needed. Those seekers who get fixated on any one role or position inevitably reduce opportunities for others to play them, and reduce the possibilities for themselves to explore alternate ones.


5. Group relations

The interaction between groups reveal those groups' inner attitudes, and can seldom be hidden. Does the group isolate itself from other groups or integrate itself in life? Does the group warmly receive others, placing themselves at their service, or does it expect to be served itself? Do they promote themselves as superior in knowledge and practice or humble themselves, accommodating to the needs of the other group? How does the group relate to the general public, authorities and the rule of law?


For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 KJV

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