Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

for concern over cult-related damage, institutional abuse & psychological problems.
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ex-l

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Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post12 Jun 2009

Social stickiness - or 'the paradox of groups'

This relates to a book recommendation Experiences in Groups by Wilfred R. Bion and both the development of this website, and our BKWSU experience. A wise old friend of mine once said, "life is a classroom where the tests and are given first and the lessons afterwards". I am thinking about the question asked elsewhere on this forum often ... what makes a BK stick to the BKWSU even after the point they have realised that it is all bollocks, corrupt, a lie whatever. I suspected that it was not something conscious ... that those inculted BKs were stuck by something they could not see but felt; part of basic human pre-programming.

The psychologist Bion was a well qualified and highly experience individual who hosted group therapy with groups of neurotics. He discovered that the neurotics in his care were, as a group, conspiring to defeat therapy.

There was no overt communication or coordination but he saw that whenever he tried to do anything that was meant to have an effect, the group would somehow quash it. He asked the question whether these individuals were taking action on their own or was this coordinated as a group?

It is said he never resolved the question. So he decided that was the answer. Are groups of people aggregations of individuals or a cohesive group? His answer was, "hopelessly committed to both". Humans were fundamentally individual, and also fundamentally social. Every one of us has a kind of rational decision-making mind where we can assess what's going on and make decisions and act on them. We are all also able to enter viscerally into emotional bonds with other groups of people that transcend the conscious intellectual aspects of the ourselves. "Group think" or "hive mind".

You join a religion and it start to fail at meeting some threshold of value or interest that you have ... but you don't leave. Why not?

For example, if you were in a shop and you said "I am finished shopping," you would leave. If you were in a cafe and said "I am not hungry now", you would walk out. This inability to leave is the exactly kind of "social stickiness" that Bion was talking about.

But ... something else also happens in life. e.g. you are at a party and one person stands up to gets their coat and leave. What happens?

Suddenly everyone gets up and takes their coats. All at the same time others leave meaning that everyone had decided that the party was not for them ... but no one had done anything about it ... until finally a triggering event let the air out of the group and everyone kind of felt okay about leaving. I pray to God the same thing happens amongst the financiers of the Investment Property Portfolio Acquiring Brokership called the Brahma Kumaris.

This effect is called 'the paradox of groups' - there are no groups without members but there are no members without a group

The coming together of a group, where enough individuals for whatever reason agree that something worthwhile is happening is a very complex moment. The decision they make is approximately, "this is good and must be protected". At that moment, even if it's subconscious, group effects start.

Bion decided that what he was watching the neurotics in his group defend themselves against his attempts to make the group do what they said they were supposed to do. The group was created to "get better" but they were defeating that. He proposed there are very specific patterns arising in societies.

The most basic pattern that groups can always devolve into, away from the sophisticated purpose was;

    "sex talk" ... a group met for pairing off ... the hosting of flirtatious or salacious talk and to allow emotions to pass between pairs of members.
The second basic pattern that Bion detailed was;

    "The identification and vilification of external enemies" ... rather than make things better, work on the list of things to do, people would just start to get angry and attack an external enemy. Nothing causes a group to come together like an external enemy (as cult leaders and politicians well know and practise). Even if there is not a real enemy, identifying someone as an enemy causes a pleasant sense of group cohesion.

    Groups often gravitate towards members who are the most paranoid and make them leaders, because those are the people who are best at identifying external enemies.
The third pattern Bion identified was;

    "Religious veneration" ... the nomination and worship of a religious icon or a set of religious tenets, something individuals nominate as something that's "beyond critique". Question it and you will be attacked because you're interfering with that religious belief. (This does not have to be a religious or even religion as many cults show, just something to be adopted religiously ... vis-a-vis the Brahma Kumaris claiming "not to be a religion".)
Bion went on to identify the possibility of groups sabotaging their sophisticated goals with these basic urges but accepted that group structures are necessary for human being, e.g. constitutions, norms, rituals, laws etc.

Group structure is necessary to defend the group from itself ... to keep a group on target, on track, or focused on its own sophisticated goals and to keep a group from sliding into the basic patterns above.

    Group structure defends the group from the action of its own members.
Learning from experience is the worst possible way to learn something. Learning from experience is one up from remembering. The best way to learn something is when someone else goes through something and figures it out, you are able to assess and learn from their experience ... and avoid the experience. What is seen over and over again in large and long-lived social systems is that constitutions are a necessary component of large, long-lived, heterogenous groups.

An an aside and interestingly ... groups often gravitate towards members who are the most paranoid and make them leaders, because those are the people who are best at identifying external enemies.

(Adopted from ~ Clay Shirky's Writings About The Internet).
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lokila

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post20 Jun 2009

The coming together of a group, where enough individuals for whatever reason agree that something worthwhile is happening is a very complex moment. The decision they make is approximately, "this is good and must be protected". At that moment, even if it's subconscious, group effects start.

This makes me think of the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. Prof. Zimbardo wanted to investigate the power of social situations to overwhelm individuals. He would test peoples responses to an opressive regime. Would they accept it or act against it? He selected students. Each was randomly assigned to the role of guard or prisoner. They where paid 15 dollars a day. A few conclusions about the experiment by Prof. Zimbardo:

    "The study shows that power corrupts and how difficult is is for people who become the victims of abuse to stand up and defend themselves."

    "There were a few guards who hated to see the prisoners suffer. They never did anything which would make the situation of the prisoners worse. The interesting thing is none of the good guards ever intervened in the behavior of the guards who gradually became more and more sadistic over time."

    "The evil place won over the good people."
Some scenes:

    Prisoners become frustrated because they are controlled by superiors. At some point the guards are going to punish the group because one person in the group (who developed as the leading rebellion) refuses to obey. Now the group decides to cooperate with the guards to avoid further harrasment.
Sounds human, not? Sounds also as familiar behaviour in a BK group.

    The "leader" of the prisoners is isolated. When he's about to leave the experiment, he hears the others shouting repeatedly (they are instructed by the guards): prisoner such and such is a bad prisoner! He starts to cry and changes his mind saying I cannot leave beacuse I do not want hem to think I am a bad prisoner.
Sounds so familiar too!

    Another prisoner is telling afterwards "I began to loose my identity, I became prisoner number 416" !!!
In some threads on this forum, I stumbled upon the word "weakness". It appears to be that some think that if one does not act at a solitary individual level, is a sign of weakness. But ... we are humans, social beings, the one and only living beings at this planet capable of living in incredibly large groups. This can only be done if those individuals act like one big organism. It's also part of the theory of evolution (in order to scare the predators away, the ancestors of humans behaved like one organism, like flocks of birds and fish do). It is a matter of survival. How to survive in a group? if you cannot beat them, join them.I

Instead of considering individuals as "weak", maybe some more awareness of mass psychology and deep rooted human behavior, is worth trying.

Terry

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post21 Jun 2009

There was a German feature film made in 2001 called "The Experiment (Das Experiment)" based on the Zimbardo / Stanford University experiment - a dramatisation of it. It is a very good film, and the lessons are as harrowing as they are important.

It is available on DVD (German - with subtitles).
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ex-l

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post21 Jun 2009

Lokila wrote:Instead of considering individuals as "weak", maybe some more awareness of mass psychology and deep rooted human behavior, is worth trying.

You make a good point. Instead of seeing collectiveness or impressionability as weaknesses, perhaps we have to see them as human 'needs'; or at least 'preponderances'. And, in some cultures more than others.

Unlike the Brahma Kumaris, I make no claims over my divinity or enlightenment whatsoever ... but surely the first thing any responsible group of the size and nature of the Brahma Kumaris should do is examine such scientific evidence and then reflect whether they are indulging in it in any way whatsoever and protect followers for becoming victim to it? Not exploit it. And look responsibly at how the organization projects itself in various cultures and aspects of society, e.g exploiting their naivety, gullibility and likelihood to become submissives.

I am think here especially of the 'pressure pots' of small centers where they may be one dominant psychopath ... erm, I mean sister in charge ... who is systematically "empowered" by her relationship with the Seniors beaming messages through her from time to time. Very much like the Standford experiment.

Who can give examples of Shrimat given to them by the Seniors that they had to perform without question? "without question" is very much Dadi Janki's line.

starchild

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post21 Jun 2009

Dadi Janki advised me to give up my college studies to dedicate myself to meditation.

I was in the Honeymoon Period so I gave up my studies.

I went back to her a number of years later when I was becoming disillusioned with various aspects of Gyan, she told me to go
("if I must", was the tone) but that it should be to let everyone see that I was a special person, not for reasons of ego.

As it happened, it took me quite a long time to get back.

I had turned into an imbecile who was asking permission to make my life decisions.

She did give me wise advice one time. The above was not the right advice for me, but I obeyed!!
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ex-l

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post22 Jun 2009

starchild wrote:Dadi Janki advised me to give up my college studies to dedicate myself to meditation. I was in the Honeymoon Period so I gave up my studies. She told me to go ... ("if I must", was the tone)

In truth, you probably were not that important to her business interests ... especially if you were starting to question the facade. Why were you becoming disillusioned?

It strikes me that part of the con is getting people into that insecure, imbecilic state you talk about in, within which one can appear like some wise sage. Dadi Janki is a self-important and dishonest idiot who has traded for 30 years on a lie that she is "The Most Stable Mind in the World". If she had any integrity as the organization's leader, she was address all these issues we raise here. The inside information I am given is that things are not changing because of her.

Why do people go to university? Just "to let everyone see that one is a special person, and reasons of ego" !?! Oh, the all fearful 'BK ego' ... I wonder if 'ego' is defined as anyone not surrendering to Dadi?

I think we have to remember that her caste, the Bhaibund, was traditionally anti-education. They were a business class. That is their model. Arithmetic to do count the money and work out the profit margin, and then some languages to help business expand. That is it. What more do you need? The Amils of Sind were the ones that got educated to get a position within bureaucracy, and even they were quite low in the pecking order.

When one gets stuck in their group, one gets stuck with the group's baggage too. No one tells you about that.

I mean, look at it logically. Is going to university 'nothing' to do with self-development, improving one's position in life, learning about the world, serving society better, earning more, finding more job satisfaction and security?

It strikes me the BKs would not want individuals to be satisfied and security outside of their system. Dissatisfaction and insecurity are far more useful to them. And, from a business point of view, elders that have already been processed are worth more to them than young people who require investment. Have they ever sent one of their slave Kumaris to university to become educated as, say, a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer? I don't think so. No, they will take the benefit of someone else's investment, an adult adherent, and use the Kumaris for housework and menial evangelism.

Yes, I too was one who was encouraged to give up my education. How could I not ... Destruction was coming in two or three years. Everything else was futile and body-conscious! No one thought of me, asked how I was, saw any other potential in me ... I did not think about the future - because there was none - or the difference in wage earnings and security between a professional and an untrained person.

How many more of us are there?

Terry

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post22 Jun 2009

An interesting discussion ...

I always questioned this contradiction in the Brahma Kumaris - they love to use people with qualifications for service, yet discourage their own from getting those credentials. Possibly if you said you were going to study medicine, that might be understood and encouraged, but if an acolyte says they want to, for example, go and study geology, anthropology, art, or gender & cultural studies; well, I don't think someone like DJ can understand what those disciplines are, how anyone could see any interest, or be 'fulfilled' by such nonsense. I would love to hear from anyone who had the opposite experience, that is; advised by their Seniors to go deeper into their studies and specialisations. Those who have, and I know of a few, I would put wager they did it without asking advice or "permission".

On my first trip to India in '76-'77, we toured around "doing service" - stand up testimonials at public programs. We were among the first foreigners in Gyan, so we were a novelty & marketable - to show how BKs were now being recognised "in foreign". One person was a hospital orderly/assistant, and they were regularly introduced as a medical doctor! Another person made a living as a craftsperson who made & sold leather goods at markets. Now a leather worker is close to the bottom of the heap in the caste system, so that person was told never to mention it. I had just graduated from film school, so was touted as a famous Australian film maker!

ex-l mentions the Baibund and Amils of Sind. It occurred to me last night as I watched a brilliant nature documentary on TV - one of those awe-inspiring works with incredible photography that displays the majesty, beauty and interdependence of life on earth in all its glory - that all of the founders, elders and leaders of the BKWSU are town dwellers, most are barely educated, as has been noted, and barely experienced in anything outside of the religious and social environment they were born into. Their knowledge of nature is limited to agriculture and everything else is "the jungle". The attitudes to nature were nearly always revealed as negative when discussed in the particular.

I remember a response in Madhuban when in a class it was mentioned, jokingly that in the Golden Age there'd be perfect waves every day for surfing. The teacher stated that salt water was dirty, that deities may wash or splash in the pure rivers but not really go in for swimming; partly because it entailed near nudity.

I just thought how naive and parochial that response was.

starchild

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post22 Jun 2009

ex-l wrote:Why were you becoming disillusioned

There were loads of things. The questions I had that I had managed to ignore for a long time, were there all along, added to other doubts coming from my observations of the behavior around me. Living in a bhavan was awful for me. No privacy. Some people I got on with, others I did not "click" with. Every time there was an event, hundreds more people came to stay. It was London.

I had a very good friend. I am still in touch with her. She decided to do A-levels. I was helping her with her study. It was announced from the stage in Global House, "Dadi never had friends!! It is not good to be doing lokik studies". My friend did well in her A-levels, got a place in college and left.

I had begun to see very childish, petty carry on among the "angels". Even spiteful, malicious carry on.

Favoritism; there was a serious lack of equal treatment.

I got sick of cleaning. All the more creative jobs were given to the favorites. I felt stifled.

My meditation, which still to this day was the most amazing experience, was not working for me. Where the experience had been light, cool, peaceful and happy, it turned the opposite way? I felt I was being psychically invaded.

I went to the Seniors to express the distress I was going through. They did not seem to understand what I was talking about. Dadi asked me if I knew I was a giver of visions!! I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown ... and she"s talking about visions. Then Sudesh wanted to send me to a centre in Wales. I refused.

I am interested in ex-l's regular exploration of the psychic phenomenon within the BK meditation experience. I would like to find an explanation. It was a terrible time. That is why I decided to go back to college.

Unfortunately a family tragedy occurred. I stayed about another year. I had wanted to go to Madhuban but was not allowed. Was not in good enough state. In hindsight it was probably better I did not go. But I did not trust that their motives were in my interests. And if they noticed, I was in a traumatized condition. They did nothing to help. I was like someone with a disability that others are uncomfortable around.
Terry wrote:Their attitudes to nature were alway negative ...

I noticed that after a few years beauty did not move me the way it previously had. Or music ...

My appreciation and love of beauty and music has returned. It was a big loss. I noticed in various situations, Going on service tours etc. that the Seniors and others were totally disinterested in the beauty of nature. Of course why would you care, its all going to blow up. But hey, its one thing to believe destruction is inevitable, its another thing to want it to happen. What kind of music are they going to have in the Golden Age?

I am at last working in my chosen field. I am very uncomfortable in groups. I very quickly see the politics involved and move away. Even if I like the individuals, I do not like the blurring of edges that group endeavors seem to bring up, power struggles. etc. Do you all remember that they used to teach that those who leave will come back, they have no where else to go!! Would we?

Also that if the Seniors get it wrong, Baba will put it right? Any thoughts.

Has anyone continued with the meditation without being involved in the group. What is the importance of the "gathering" to meditation?
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lokila

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post22 Jun 2009

ex-l wrote:I did not think about the future - because there was none - or the difference in wage earnings and security between a professional and an untrained person. How many more of us are there?

Now I am thinking of a slightly different perspective which I guess is typically Indian. I left (for the second time, but now finally) 8 years ago. So it must have been 10 years from now that I got to know an Indian BK Brother and Sister. I was still very naive about the BK organisation and its history, but it gradually started to change, listening to their stories. I felt privileged to be able to listen to their experiences.

They told me they did not know any other life than BK life. They grew up as BKs from childhood because their parents and grandparents were BKs. Their parents forbid them to attend biology classes because this was too much body consciousness. Both were in their late twenties when I talked to them and they had no idea how children were conceived, nor how a women would give birth to a child. They have never been told, and were never allowed to go to this classes in school.

When the boy grew up, he wanted to go and study. He was very clever and eager to learn. And although money was not the problem, he was not allowed, nor was his Sister. They both saw their nephews and other family members of their age becoming students, even going abroad for study (no poor families!), but the two kids were supposed to surrender (highest goal: becoming a Madhubaniwasi). No choice. So they did and became trapped, knowing nothing and no one but the BK family.

So, I think here in the West there were (still are) many of us who gave up studying and just 'surrendered'. We just followed a senior advice, strongly believing that Destruction would come soon. How different this story was. These young people really wanted to go school, study and have a normal life, but got stuck due to circumstances; their young age and dependency of their parents.

For me, this was a real eye opener at that moment. Never had thought of the fact that it could be completely the other way around!
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ex-l

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post23 Jun 2009

starchild wrote:I was helping her with her study. It was announced from the stage in Global House, "Dadi never had friends!! It is not good to be doing lokik studies". My friend did well in her A-levels, got a place in college and left.

Yes, knowing what I know and having read what I have about the Brahma-kumaris, probably some other BK "snitched" on her and you to Jayanti or Janki, for "getting too close", and then it came up in the next days morning class. Its ultimate mind and milieu control.

There is little magical and mystical ... they operate an internal spy ring and have plenty of voluntary shills willing to go behind people's back and sneak on other BKs. I know this for a FACT. It happened to me more than once. The funny thing was, they were so stupid they did not even know what was going on and reported it all wrong - which is how I found out.
Lokila wrote:So it must have been 10 years from now that I got to know an Indian BK Brother and Sister ... They told me they did not know any other life than BK life ... in their late twenties, they had no idea how children were conceived, nor how a women would give birth to a child. They have never been told, and were never allowed to go to this classes in school.

When I read this, I feel how much we as "educated" Westerners failed these people, and other Indians such as the Ranjana Patels of the BK world (the attractive, talented, intelligent London Sister that committed suicide). When I say "educated" I do not necessarily mean college or university taught, but I am respecting "The Western Tradition", the path Western civilisation has taken throwing off the ignorances of religion, questioning authority, encouraging individuals to think for themselves etc.

This introduces a different kind of reason to get stuck in the BKWSU, the Indian and the cultural. For me, I am questioning how for a certain class of Indian and let's be frank, not that high class or educated, being a "Madhubaniwasi" (an unpaid worker, a monastic serf at the Indian headquarters) has usurped "being a doctor, accountant or a pharmacist" in the social register. "My child is a Madhubaniwasi ... my daughter is a sevadarshi?" (what is the word for a Senior Sister's personal assistant?) must be the ultimate pride for these people.

    How many Indian kids, especially girls/women, are trapped by their mothers and aunties?
Of course, this is equally ridiculous from the spiritual point of view. If their hearts are not in it, if their souls are not ready for the spiritual path ... what are they doing in it!?!

It is no better than the parents putting the child up for slavery on the blind faith that doing so will improve their and the family's "karma". The child's hopes and potential being clubbed to death by ignorance and submission to an illusion.

Terry

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post23 Jun 2009

ex-l wrote: being a "Madhubaniwasi" (an unpaid worker, a monastic serf at the Indian headquarters) has usurped "being a doctor, accountant or a pharmacist" in the social register. "My child is a Madhubaniwasi ... my daughter is a sevadarshi?" (what is the word for a Senior Sister's personal assistant?) must be the ultimate pride for these people.

Many a child has had their individuality and real personality quashed by parental grooming and expectations.

Again, I do not blame these people directly. They are as much victims as they are perpetrators of this generational and cultural heritage. I would point the finger at the teachings themselves, which took a (caste and religious) value system and, instead of overturning it, merely twisted it to serve its own ends.

OK, some people do take some benefit from Raja Yoga and the Gyan. But that is all the more reason that it is a wrong, misplaced, incomplete (call it what you will) teaching. It refuses to see and work to its own inconsistencies and limitations, and disregards the harm it causes. Any harm is viewed as the fault of the harmed, or deflected toward other individuals, not accepting that such a culture breeds all kinds of viruses and bacteria.

To not see society as a whole, with all roles and all personality types as valid and valuable, to try to turn every person into a monk or a yogi is delusional and harmful. For every person who suits that personality type and role (and it does suit many), there are probably 100 it doesn't. That is being ignorant, not "knowledgeable"; it is foolish, not wise. It sure ain't "spiritual knowledge".

starchild

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post24 Jun 2009

ex-l wrote:No one thought of me, asked me how I was ... saw any other potential in me

Well, there is where there is something very wrong with this system. That advice is given, and then the person is left to get on with it. It's inhuman really.

Funnily enough, they seem to be very handy at giving advice about giving up careers and studies and so forth, which should not really be their forte. But when they are asked about the meditation and why a person is feeling upset or confused instead of peaceful and happy, they blank out. One person told me that she went to Jayanti to tell her she felt she had gone through a nervous breakdown and that Jayanti looked petrified. She did not know what to say.

It is also in my opinion important to know, that if after being given the advice not to continue with one's career or studies, and a choice is made to give it up, that that choice was the right choice, given what you believed at that time.
To make a choice to put soul, spirituality and God before career and work, even if the outcome was not what was wanted, it was a choice made for the right reasons. Ultimately we probably need to take, or make something positive from it.

Berating ourselves for being so stupid is being abusive towards ourselves in some way. We were attracted to making the world a better more peaceful place, and developing positive virtues in ourselves and seeing the good in others. These are aspirations to be proud of. And because we met people who had lost their way, who showed no love or compassion, but were corrupted by power, like those in the group experiments, does not make it wrong or bad to have had those aspirations.
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ex-l

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post24 Jun 2009

ex-l wrote:No one thought of me, asked me how I was ... saw any other potential in me

In truth, that statement should have gone further to involve the 100 little 'put downs' or 'put offs' that are used, shared and brainlessly repeated within the movement to direct adherents' lives ... if you let them. And it is not just 'the them', as in the Seniors, but any half-baked older BK or god-empowered member of the middle management that comes across your path.

The question "why one allowed them to do so for so long?" is a question that perhaps might go back to both personal psychology but also to historic human group psychology, as we are talking about here; e.g. the need for the sake of survival to conform to the dominant group, ancient fears of being outcast or victimized by elders etc.

Such theories do seem to carry some weight scientifically (Stockholm Syndrome) but I do not know.
starchild wrote:Well, there is where there is something very wrong with this system. It's inhuman really. Funnily enough, they seem to be very handy at giving advice about giving up careers and studies and so forth, which should not really be their forte. But when they are asked about the meditation and why a person is feeling upset or confused instead of peaceful and happy, they blank out.

One person told me that she went to Jayanti to tell her she felt she had gone through a nervous breakdown and that Jayanti looked petrified. She did not know what to say.

Ha! 'Giving up' (education, careers, family etc) and 'thinking nothing' is their leaders only forte ... undercut by a hidden and usually unspoken ruthlessness to survive which has evolved in a complex facade and web of artifices designed to earn money indirectly. Its all that they did in life; giving up any career, family or a life ... and living off other people's money gained from a few religious tricks. Psychologists talk of passive-aggressives, the BK are aggressive-passives (that is a joke).

Yes, its strange but for 70 years of mental and psychic manipulation, and all those million of dollars, they really have no wealth of knowledge of the human psyche. We talked elsewhere of;

    a) when some students DID have mental breakdowns, real, live, psychotic, 'take-them-to-the-hospital-now' breakdowns and the Seniors just shrugged their shoulders obvious clueless at what to do,
    b) having even more mental communion with their holy ghost prescribed as a cure for mental illnesses, and
    c) where some Senior Sister stood on some adherent, who was probably having a simple epileptic episode, and cursed the evil spirit that was in them until it and the adherent left the centre. Alleged "possessions" (beyond, of course, the "acceptable" Shiva, Krishna, or other gods and goddess), are quite common in Indian centers. What is that all about?
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gotmylifeback

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Re: Why we get stuck in groups and why groups fail

Post19 Jul 2009

Once Nirmala Kajaria said at one of her classes for "teachers", to encourage people not to give up their studies. Ever practical, Nirmala said that if they give up their studies, and then give up Raja Yoga, they have nothing. So, we would encourage newbies to keep going with whatever they were doing.

DJ might have pushed a different line in London but Nirmala did things her own way. Group behaviour was a fascinating subject in Sociology at University and the point about picking the most paranoid leaders - as they will most clearly recognise threats to the group - would explain why often the worst people end up in positions of power. The public service in any country is where people rise "to their greatest level of incompetence" - if you have someone who's useless, you encourage them to apply for promotions outside the department, and then do a snow job on the references to get rid of them. And the biggest threat to any group is the non-conformist, the creative one outside the bell curve, often driven by personal ambition, who will inevitably work towards steering the group to his or her own agenda.

So, in Australia, we witnessed so many highly capable and creative people undermined and eventually left with no alternative but to leave the group, often frustrated and very bitter, all because they tried to "improve" things. Eventually, what you're left with is the lowest common denominator, the least skilled, imaginative and creative people running things, which is exactly what the group needs to stay exactly the same.

Lekraj's biggest failing was to establish absolutes in the doctrine of the Brahma Kumaris, that events will take place at such and such a time, The Cycle is 5,000 years, it repeats identically, and Confluence is 100 years long. So, here in 2009, the game's over ... we've had extra time ... the penalty shootout has long past ... everyone's gone home and the lights have been turned out; but poor old Joe BK is still standing out there in the dark in the middle of the field waiting God to tell him that it's the end of the game.

You can shift the goal posts a few feet, play a little injury time, but the fact is that absolutes lock you in and ultimately will lead to all credibility being lost by the Brahma Kumaris - once Janki, Gulzar and the last few old ones go, who's going to run the show? Jayanti? Nirmala? Nirwair? Sudesh? New York Mohini? Or those well-known vegetarians, Hogg and Bacon? Then who replaces them, when all your capable people have long since moved on to greener pastures? That's entropy and the fate of all dynasties. And Raja Yoga is a Sindhi dynasty.

So why did we join the Brahma Kumaris? How did we get so caught up in something that ideologically won't stand up to even the most cursory test? I can only speak for myself. Personally, loneliness was a key factor, looking for that special group of people that I could resonate with. Most of the BKs I've met have abuse factors in their background - usually there's one or two skeletons in the family closet. In my case, there was whole cemetery!

The Cold War was a major factor - virtually since the mid-sixties I was sure that we would eventually blow ourselves off the planet, and nothing anyone did made once scrap of difference. Of course, we prided ourselves in bringing an end to the Vietnam War, but by the mid-seventies, the economic rationalists had regained control and the war machine was continuing on as if nothing had happened. I lost hope at that time, until a BK said to me," Yes, there's going to be a nuclear war but that's not the end, rather the beginning", it was like a doorway had opened to the future. Despite being a lifelong atheist I was hooked. I thought, I'll deal with this God thing later, but for now I want to be part of this.

All of us have that Walter Mitty inside us, that we're somehow secretly something really special just waiting to spring out on the world. So, when the BKs said you're actually an ancient Hindu God who's just passing time now until you again reincarnate as a Hindu God. As incredibly stupid as it now sounds, I lapped it up. I conveniently ignored parts of the "knowledge" that did not gel, and I took up Raja Yoga with a vengeance. I became very active in service, and dreamed of the day when I'd be invited to move into a Centre, and eventually be able to give up work and do service full time.

Over time, I revisited parts of the "knowledge" that I couldn't swallow, and worked to reinvent science to accommodate them, and wrote many articles for those icons of Raja Yoga publishing, Purity and The World Renewal. (My Sister, bless her heart, when she became a BK about five years after me, took out subscriptions to "Purity" for all the members of my family. She left the BK's about six years later, after selling her house and giving a significant portion to the Yagya, and is now a happily married born-again Baptist). Everything after that would one day be explained in Avyakt Murlis and I had found an explanation for God that was able to sit in my mind without too much incredulity.

I look back now and think, you demented, deluded, lonely fool, you were an accident waiting to happen! But the essence of this is that I wanted it all to be true, that God had come to collectively change our dirty nappies, and that soon, the daily grind would be replaced by sitting on floating carpets sipping mango nectar and smiling a lot. (Exactly what do the deities do? They'd hardly talk about the weather).

Then there was my role as a teacher, bringing others in to the organisation. One thing I learned was that you could never spot the Brahmin. You'd be sure someone was one, they'd be so enthusiastic about everything, then they wouldn't come back. Whereas BK Joe in the corner did not ask much, did not say much, but just kept coming back, and then started coming to Murli. I took literally thousands of individuals through the course to create perhaps ten BKs - we thought of them as "diamonds" but the truth is they probably had to have just the right blend of childhood trauma, etc, to be grist for the mill. Once in, particularly after a year of celibacy, Madhuban, etc, the programming was complete and we had become institutionalised, or at least on our way.

Who can forget Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption talking about what institutionalised meant. "These (prison) walls? You start off hating them. Then you become used to them. Then you reach the stage where you depend on them." We voluntarily and willingly stepped into the golden cage of Raja Yoga, and as time went by, we actually thought we were free and the rest of the world was trapped in the cage. It's no different to why people stay in abusive relationships. The reference to the famous psychology experiment in the seventies in California shows just how quickly we can become programmed. And we were willing participants in the programming.

Ultimately, the BKWSU will fragment and decline, just as ISKCON, TM, Divine Light, Ananda Marga and so many others did. But you still see a few purple robed Rajneeshies around, and the odd Hari Krishna, so there'll be remnants of BKWSU around for probably at least the next fifty years, particularly in India. They can try to reinvent themselves, by the ideology by its very nature ensures the ultimate disintegration of the group.

Back in two weeks.

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