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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Trouble With Gurus

My pagan identity was already fully formed when, in 1988, I visited New Vrindaban, a rural Hare Krishna community in West Virginia, so I never had any intention of joining or staying. I went, rather, to learn about temple ritual and Indian cooking, and I did. This learning turned out to be formative and, years later, I'm still grateful for the experience.

I learned a few other valuable things too.

While I was there, I heard a lot about the NV guru, Kirtanananda Swami ( Keith Ham).

Guru-ji stands in the place of 'God.'

Guru-ji knows everything.

Guru-ji knows you better than you know yourself.

I saw people prostrate themselves when KS drove by. I saw them kiss his 'lotus' feet.

During my visit, I stayed in the men's dorm along with the other unmarried guys of the community. One day I went with them to a meeting at Guru-ji's office. There I learned something interesting about Kirtanananda.

While describing the community's next building project, he was eying me over.

He wasn't just noticing a fresh new face, that much was obvious. Every young gay guy gets this look from older men, and knows what it means.

Well, I thought, and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Keith Ham liked young guys, and later got in trouble with the law over it. I'm sure that he had some sort of religious excuse justifying his exploitation of all those young men, probably along the lines of Krishna's love-play with the gopis. Some guru.

Pagans don't do gurus. Guru-ship, along with its accompanying lack of accountability, is a system crying out—pleading—for abuse.

Pagans have teachers; we have elders. They don't stand in the place of the gods; they don't know everything. They certainly don't know you better than you know yourself.

Over the years, a few have tried to give me the guru treatment. I've always been careful to throttle such attempts at birth. Any pagan leader with any integrity will do the same. Nobody deserves that degree of trust. Nobody.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Sharing Some Wisdom

          A visiting teacher who had come to a weekly yoga class I attended shared his personal mantra: "I know nothing, I want to learn." At the time this seemed a negative way to approach life. I now understand this to mean what the Buddhists intend by "beginner's mind." If I think or believe I know all about something, my mind will be closed to learning more. I have learned much from the many spiritual paths I have studied, and I appreciate what I have gained. I've stored up the most helpful teachings and incorporated them into my life, using them to live by.

Stephen and I were celebrating my birthday with my daughter and her fiancé. "Can you share some wisdom," she asked, "things you have learned over the years?" I thought about it, and nothing came to mind just then. Later that evening I realized she had given me a fine theme for my latest love note. I told her and she agreed. I began to think what I wanted to share with my readers. As I went to bed that night my mind continued to whirl with thoughts.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Seer, What Do You Want?

Hey, I'm a storyteller. Ask me a question, and I'll tell you a story.

My students keep telling me: Posch, you can never die.

Well, thanks, I accept the compliment. I've been around the maypole more than a few times, I'm good at what I do, and I know my stuff.

But I keep thinking about the poor seer who, when granted a boon by the gods, made the mistake of asking for eternal life. Unfortunately for her, they granted her request.

Alas, not even the wisest can see all ends.

Eternal life without eternal youth: who would want it?

Down the long years, she just got older and older, but she could never die. Eventually, she shriveled up like a cricket. Finally they hung her in a jug from the ceiling, and the little shits from the local village would come to the temple to taunt her.

“Seer, what do you want?” they would ask. “Seer, what do you want?”

Her answer was always the same.

“I just want to die,” she'd tell them.

So when they ask me (not entirely jestingly), How could we ever replace you? here's the story that I tell.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Kool-Aid & Amrit

 

In the last several weeks I've seen links and posts buzzing around in the Pagan social media realm related to the topics of dishonorable leadership, the warning signs of a bad magickal group, cult awareness, and so forth. This is nothing new and indeed at least once a year there seems to be a flurry of this kind of interest. One of the earliest Pagan writers on this topic was Isaac Bonewits, founder of Ár nDraíocht, who in 1979 created the first version of his Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. It was quite good and updated versions of it are readily available online. Certainly wherever human beings are involved, there is the potential for all manner of dysfunctional behavior. I certainly think that we should be vigilant and on guard against systems, groups, or individuals that make the fulfillment of their needs paramount over our personal spiritual development. On the other hand, and this is where this blog post is headed, our fear over the potential for exploitation has its own unhealthy cost.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gwendolyn Reece
    Gwendolyn Reece says #
    Let me start this comment by saying that I agree with the primary sentiment that we ought not to be overly afraid of having teache
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    This is exactly the sort of discussion that is needed. Thanks Gwendolyn! I think it is important to create formal relationships i
  • Jae Sea
    Jae Sea says #
    The amount of mis- and dis-information out there does make it more difficult to parse out informed teachers for one's chosen path
  • Leanne Pemburn
    Leanne Pemburn says #
    From my typical position of naivety, I can't recall ever having been warned away from working with a teacher. This attitude expla

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