Building Modern & Inclusive Spiritual Traditions – Episode 45

Building Modern & Inclusive Spiritual Traditions - Episode 45This week on The Missing Conversation we continue to penetrate into the dangers of exclusive teachings and the benefits of inclusiveness and unity. Gain insight with Robert and Dave as they open up about some of their early experiences with the charismatic guru archetype. They discuss the risks of blind faith in leaders who do not hold themselves to the integrity of their teachings and how seductive it can be to let yourself believe fully without any healthy doubt. If I just surrender here, all else will be taken care of for me.

This podcast attempts to clarify for you the importance of looking at whatever spiritual approach you are most involved with and to notice the potential limitations of exclusivity that might leave out those of different orientations. You may also notice that you need to open yourself to apply these teachings considering others in a more universal, accepting, and inclusive way. Also recognized here are non-religious and spiritual traditions that have a greater integrity and encourage a life that is caring for all of our brothers, sisters, and humanity as a whole.

Mentioned in this episode
Buckminster Fuller Institute
Roots of Plenty (The Farm)
Stephen Gaskin Books & Biographies (at Amazon)
Viktor Frankl Institute
The Global Bridge Foundation

Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast

Announcer: (00:01)
The Missing Conversation, Episode 45.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
We’ve also made a distinction between faith or beliefs and what we actually really know, and that distinction being important because if we put a hundred percent of our energy into faith or belief, it has a guarantee that we’re gonna be suppressing a human part of ourselves.

Speaker 1: (00:31)
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.

Robert Strock: (01:10)
I wanna thank you again for joining us at The Missing Conversation where we do our very best to address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and where we look for the most as practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today we’re going to continue to penetrate into the dangers of exclusive teachings and the benefits of inclusiveness and unity. And I’d like to start off by introducing my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and best friend for ages, Dave.

Dave: (01:58)
Thank you and, uh, I really look forward to continuing this Missing Conversation streak and, and, um, let’s get right to it.

Robert Strock: (02:10)
So, I hope by now the recognition of the dangers inherent and blindly believing are heartfelt and brilliant teachings, as well as some that are more on the fringe, have a great underbelly of dangers that we have included so far. And just to give it a brief overview of what we’ve gone into, we see how limited and how incongruent it is, often when teachers and ministers, leaders of any faiths don’t share any of their own challenges and how this has a tendency to idealize the teachers or ministers, and the students or congregants are left feeling more inadequate and not like they can really learn from the example of their leading teacher, guiding them how to live through the challenges of life. We’ve also specifically gone into Buddhist and Christian traditions with the teachers and students and the issues, both of transparency, on the part of both the teachers and the students and generosity, and how often it’s limited.

Robert Strock: (03:42)
And that isn’t a kernel or a key part of the teachings. We’ve also made a distinction between faith or beliefs and what we actually really know, and that distinction being important because if we put a hundred percent of our energy into faith or belief, it has a guarantee that we’re gonna be suppressing a human part of ourselves. That is what’s happened throughout history and been such a source of projecting our doubts onto other faiths, onto other religions and other fields in politics and any of that kind of suppression in any kind of leadership we see is perilous for our world. We also have looked at the limited amount of addressing the issues of America and much of the Western world’s greatest attachment, which is to money and wealth and how not dealing with that is a great disservice and limitation. Where, where else are we gonna turn to actually find a sense of balance and genuine caring for humanity, if our spiritual and religious leaders, aren’t helping us deal with a balanced relationship to money and wealth. And lastly, at least so far what we’ve covered there.

Robert Strock: (05:25)
So often isn’t a deep respect for other religions, spiritual traditions, or people that have integrity and are living a life of spiritual values and that lack of joining other faiths, other understandings, other people that are living integrity, is creating a massive amount of separation and worse yet that separation results in violence, in alienation. And doesn’t allow these crucial teachings to be a source of uniting the world. It seems pretty evident as we’ve stated over and over again, that the core of all teachings, of all major teachings from the source is that our brothers and sisters on the planet, and the planet itself, is the center of the teaching or the ministry. And yet, even though this is emphasized at multiple levels, so often in the congregations, churches, temples, synagogues, this is not emphasized. So the importance of this is that we as individuals, you, as a listener can carry certain amount of your own wisdom to see that as you are in your own congregation, Church, temple, or as you have been, and you look at it in the past, you can see that all of these elements need to be considered so that we aren’t just reliant on those that are leading us, but we’re helping the leaders lead ourselves by bringing this up and, and gathering and gaining courage to, to do that. And at the very least to be able to carry that inside of ourselves.

Robert Strock: (07:39)
So, we’re gonna start with an example of a very exclusive teaching of which Dave and I were together, very involved in. And this was one of the more brilliant teachers. And I would actually say on an intellectual level, the most brilliant teacher that both Dave and I have ever experienced, and he integrated psychology, poetry, philosophy, politics, and on and on of fields and was able to articulate spirituality from teachers throughout the ages in ways that were really mind blowing. And when you really looked at just the mind, you would really believe that you were dealing with a modern age Jesus or a Buddha, if you just listened to the mind. But as we got to learn more about it, we saw a great split between what was being presented and what was being lived. In this community there were also the best therapy groups I’ve ever been a part of, which is saying something given that I’ve been around for 50 years, but there, there was no transparency between the teacher, no sign of humanness.

Robert Strock: (09:05)
Most of the group leaders were not really acknowledging their transparency and this subconscious, this not really seeing the, the dangers of believing of the claims of this teacher, that he was an enlightened master and that his path was the path of all paths. Now, this was relatively in our younger years when we were a little bit more naive, but we were really taken in by the brilliance and still to this day, really value so much of the teachings, but there was such a split that really now would be a great tip off because of the extreme claims of enlightenment and being really a new presentation of prior wisdoms through the ages. So this kind of authority, or this kind of exclusivity, this lack of unification with other teachings is such a danger, and a sign of potential destruction, a lack of grounding, a superiority. So oftentimes, and in this case was very much so not being a good neighbor, even being willing to injure others for the greater good of the community.

Robert Strock: (10:35)
Now, this was much more subtle than it would seem because even as I say this, it would sound like, boy, we were really stupid to follow such a teacher, but if you were really adept at really studying spiritual teachers throughout the ages, you would have a great appreciation for how articulate he was and how much he was able to apply it to the world of psychology in a very real, uh, modern way. Now, I was actually miserable because I was caught between the brilliance of the teachings and the lifestyle that we were living in this community, which was a 16 hours a day work, 365 days a year. And it was really viewed in, in that community being a form of worship and devotion and commitment to being awake. Now, it, it wasn’t until I was asked to research AIDS at the time and, and find out what the truth was that I actually was catalyzed to see the contrast between a tangible truth of what I had discovered, which was that AIDS was not contagious and that we were doing a disservice to compartmentalize the 15 people or so that, that had AIDS in a separate community, in treating them like lepers that had absolutely horrified me to where I left the community.

Robert Strock: (12:13)
Now, when I was there, I was really, what I would call a spiritual schizophrenic. I was protesting through letters that I never had answered. I was asking questions like why the antagonism toward neighbors, why idealizing sexual openness and not talking about sexual superficiality. And I’m mentioning these things because these are the type of quirks that many of the teachers that claim exclusive enlightenment are in danger of transmitting to their students, or they’re the disciples or their followers. So, this was something that hopefully many of you will see as a warning sign that when someone claims to, to be enlightened, which is the extreme example, the most extreme example of what we’re gonna be talking about, that it’s very inevitable that they’re gonna be blind spots. Uh, at least in my experience, there are no exceptions so far. Now there was another American teacher that was extremely popular in the Buddhist tradition.

Robert Strock: (13:26)
That was very revered, was a prolific author and still has a great following. And it became clear after he died. And maybe to those that were in the community itself, that he was an alcoholic that he was, had ongoing sexual misconduct drug use and he was another example of claiming to be enlightened. And again, just wanna highlight for those of you that have visited this kind of extreme end of spirituality, that it’s a complete danger sign. He carried this forward with his protege. Again, someone that carried on some of his brilliant teachings and, and, and he truly was one of the brilliant teachers of the 20th century that he actually passed on AIDS and felt like he, he was immune from ordinary rules and that anyone that got AIDS through his own sexual contact, he claimed it was their sexual, it was their karma.

Robert Strock: (14:38)
Now I actually happened to have been on a community that was evaluating it as a number of Buddhist traditions were deciding, were they going to censure them for this horrible behavior? And in the end, they decided it was not their job to police other Buddhist, uh, traditions, which I very much disagreed with, but I was, uh, in the minority. Now, a more common example, which is followed by millions and millions of Americans are the evangelists where they’re believing in a, a Lord or believing in the Lord without sharing their challenges or looking at themselves or looking at their relationship to money. And they’re presenting it as if Jesus is the only son of God. And obviously that is a common belief throughout the world, but that belief is so extreme that it basically disses all other approaches and really leaves the, the sort of a much more common experience of isolation and quantity of people because there’s millions, tens of millions of people that are following evangelists throughout our recent history in America and beyond America.

Dave: (16:17)
I’d just like to ask you to distinguish something and, and you’ve, you’ve gone over three areas. The first two of which, of course I’m intimately familiar. And one of the things is that the teachings themselves did really encourage the followers largely, and particularly the first one, to explore their humanness. And the disconnect was there was a guru master relationship where there was zero transparency into the humanness, um, which for me, crashed and burned in a big time way when I, I firsthand learned of that humanness, but that’s different than of course I’m, I, I’m not speaking from personal experience as far as other things like evangelists, where there is for denying your humanness as opposed to encouragement, even if there’s no transparency, even if, uh, there is a, a very huge pedestal that the person’s putting themselves up on, but still you, you, you, the proletariat down there is encouraged to look at their own.

Robert Strock: (17:36)
Exactly. Well, one of the uniquenesses of this first teacher, which was a big part of the seduction for you and I was that not only was he a brilliant teacher, but the therapy programs were the best therapy programs I’ve ever been in. And so, the students actually received great therapy. Now, there were certain approaches that were not, would not be condoned today, uh, including naked groups, et cetera. But the seduction was, there was a learning on both of our parts in great ways about a number of areas of psychological blind spots. And it was very ironic. And I will not say paradoxical. Uh, it was very ironic because as much as it, you really reinforced psychological work on the part of the students, it was equally absolutely zero on the part of the head teacher. As matter of fact, he was actually living a secret life.

Robert Strock: (18:42)
So, it was not only that he wasn’t transparent about ordinary emotions. He had a, a, a vast secret perverse life as well. So, whether it’s the evangelist or whether it was this teacher, the danger of this exclusivity in these claims, this sense of authority, the sense of rightness and the sense of being chosen, you know, even as a Jewish person, which I am of being the chosen people, all of these things lead to a sense of separation in the name of finding God or finding realization or being true to the only son of God. And all of these are red flags. And unfortunately, we’re talking about close half the earth when we include all the Christians that really view it in that kind of extreme way. It’s probably close to half the earth. And so this is not a small thing, and it really, in some ways, perhaps even helps us understand some of the politics of what’s going on in our day, which I won’t elaborate on much, but this black and white thinking, like I’ve arrived at the source of God.

Robert Strock: (19:58)
And if I just surrender there, all else would be taken care of and no respect whatsoever for other approaches, other brilliance, other brilliant traditions, other brilliant religions. And so this is not a small thing. This is a crucial understanding. And hopefully as you look back at your past, if you are someone that’s been a seeker, you will see signs of this. It may have been in more relative scales rather than, than the starting off here with these extreme scales. You’ll see that there’s a sense of superiority, a sense of knowing a sense of lack of inclusiveness, a sense of true exclusivity. That is really another word for ego. And so, the spiritual ego is really dominant in these traditions, but it, it’s utterly hypnotic because who doesn’t wanna be connected to God, who doesn’t wanna feel like they have a main line to the source, and it’s security from the future and the present for yourself and anybody that you’re a part of.

Robert Strock: (21:11)
But this is a certain kind of naivete that is often covered in some of the psychological traditions that have analyzed the psychology of looking for a father figure, looking for someone to feel, make you feel safe. And that’s something that we all need to take a close look at, which is one of the draws to these traditions. Uh, these exclusive traditions are, we now have an authoritative parent that knows it all. We can just sit under their wings and be taken care of. And it’s particularly difficult if the teacher themselves is profoundly articulate and helps you explore your psychology. Now that’s rare, which is again, part of why Dave and I, at least I hope why we were seduced, why we aren’t completely in shame because we did get a lot of value from it. But we also paid a deep price. Now, people that have a sense of integrity and caring like we’ve been talking about in prior episodes are naturally more inclusive.

Robert Strock: (22:18)
They don’t have these beliefs in something independent of their own integrity or their own caring for at least in community. They aren’t necessarily caring for the whole world, but they aren’t as subject to grandiosity just by the nature of being caring and having integrity. It means they’re not dominantly narcissistic. It means that they’re not drawn to these kinds of, these kinds of extreme understandings. It’s obvious to these people to love and be loved is a commandment in a very informal and frequently, very familiar way. The rigidity in this group can be at times that they’ll be very anti-religion or very anti-spirituality, which is the same kind of exclusivity that they can’t see that, of course there are many, many people of all faiths that are living spiritual values, that are living balanced lives, that, that really are open to other traditions. It’s just that it’s not a significant majority.

Robert Strock: (23:30)
So, as we wind down this episode, I think it would probably be a bit relieving to talk about a couple of examples of teachers that were really phenomenal examples that really led to being open to all traditions. And in this case, I will mention their names because they are people that are really reverential. You know, the first one, which was a massive hero from college on was Buckminster Fuller. Now he was not a formal spiritual teacher, but those that really studied him well, he had spiritual teachings in very simple ways, without ever claiming to be a spiritual teacher. He had humanitarian principles that bar none I know of no one that was more inclusive of every approach. He would be pro every religion that was caring for humanity as a whole, and his life purpose was to help the earth. So, he was naturally vastly inclusive.

Robert Strock: (24:41)
Another one was Stephen Gaskin, who, who had a community started off in San Francisco and moved to Tennessee. And there were 3,000 people that lived in the community and they happened to move right in the, in the KKK farm belt. And one of the ways that he demonstrated his lack of prejudice, which is almost another version of Victor Frankl, was that there was a famine that occurred in Tennessee in a number of the KKKs, farm belts. And Steven put out a message that he had 3,000 people to help out if any, any of the neighbors wanted any help. And they went, they were disoriented and hesitated, but then they decided to say yes, cuz it was a do or die time. And they completely immersed the community with support and showed that even people that they would’ve considered the most dangerous people to them because Steven had long hair and they were sort of like hippies and beatniks.

Robert Strock: (25:50)
But, but, and naturally, if they were seen in the street, they could have been mugged, but they basically blew the image of the KKK with them and the KKK had it out and the word was, hey, these guys are cool, protect them. So, they became protected by the KKK, which is one of the, one of the great ironies of all time that, that I’ve seen. And Steven also had a project called Project Plenty, and Project Plenty was prepared to fly people to any natural disaster anywhere in the world, no matter what country it was in, no matter what, what race it was from, it was just basically viewing the world as a place that needed compassion. And even though he was a very developed teacher and he had certain orientations, he never claimed to have his orientation be more important than anybody else’s orientation. So, there are some great examples of inclusive teachers of which these are just a couple, but it’s so important to highlight this contrast between a teacher that actually not only respects other traditions, but actually would attempt to work with them or would attempt to say, well, if that’s more true to you go that way or if they needed help, they’d offer help.

Robert Strock: (27:18)
So I, hopefully this really clarifies for you the importance of looking at whatever spiritual approach you have. And even if it’s only minor seeing what kind of limitations there might be of the exclusivity, it may not be heinous in any way, but you might notice that you’re not highly encouraged if you aren’t to just pursue whatever’s true to you. And if you are then, you know, you’re in a tradition that is inclusive and that’s a great sign. So, hopefully as you take in this episode, you gonna see that we’ve taken it from the very extreme of people that are claiming enlightenment and the ultimate exclusivity to more moderate people who and moderate leaders that just believe that, but are not necessarily corrupt or fraudulent, but are just simply not part of being inclusive of humanity as a whole or other religious or spiritual traditions as, as a whole.

Robert Strock: (28:33)
And also even non-religious and spiritual traditions and respecting those that have integrity and are living a life that is caring for brothers and, and sisters. So, my hope is that this will be both a, a warning for those that need it, uh, a reassurance for those that are in a tradition or in a non-tradition where you feel inclusive, but you can see the importance of religions dividing themselves amongst themselves and spiritual traditions, not dividing themselves within themselves. And for that matter, those that just live a life of integrity, not being self-righteous about eliminating the many, many millions, and maybe billions of people in various traditions that are good people and that are inclusive. So, I wish this sense of inclusiveness for humanity that so badly needs support for inclusiveness in today’s world.

Robert Strock PhoitoJoin The Conversation
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