Manipulation Techniques of Meditation Peddlers

Thesis: Meditation peddlers often use manipulation techniques to gain follower disciples

Meditation itself is not manipulative, but many guru-teachers are. For example, it is not the act of watching the breath that many Hindu-Buddhist-styled meditators do that is manipulative. It’s what the Guru-Teacher of meditation may promise and claim that is often manipulative.

Trusting saviors or holders of special wisdom as a way to enlightenment, to save humanity or oneself is actually a form of self-doubt that gets peddled as a path to self-realization or salvation.

Here are three key points about the manipulation of meditation peddlers:

1) Vague, unchallengeable, non-falsifiable meditation claims

By making vague and unchallengeable claims, gurus and yoga meditation peddlers avoid both scrutiny and the possibility of falsification.

2) Claims of special revelations: again, unchallangeable

Claims of special access to “truth”, to revelations or special dispensations from supernatural sources that are supposedly beyond material dimensions are inscrutable.

3) Instilling self-doubt and guilt in followers

Instilling self-mistrust is the easiest way of controlling people. Meditation gurus or religious authoritarians indoctrinate their disciple followers in self-doubt. “Once people do not trust themselves, they are subject to easy manipulation” say Kramer and Alstad in The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power2.

Concluding thoughts and concerns:

It seems to me to be a mistake, a misconstruction, to take meditation peddlers, religious authorities and texts at face value3.

There may or may not be nirvana (attainment of release from suffering existence and from the cycle of rebirths (samsara)). There may or may not be samadhi (attainment of meditative concentration as total absorption in absolute truth). There may be chakras, kundalini, or yogic subtle energies. I don’t know. I doubt anyone will ever know.

So why do so many people take meditation peddlers, religious authorities and texts at face value?

Notes

1 White, David Gordon, Yoga, Brief History of an Idea, Princeton University Press
2 Kramer, J. and Alstad, D., The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, Frog Books, 1993
3 Lincoln, Bruce. Interview. Religious Studies Project podcast. 2015

10 comments

  1. Sabio Lantz

    @ Scott,

    Fun to delineate more of the control that you allowed in your life for 14 years. I read many blogs of folks who have deconverted from a religion that they surrendered to but eventually left. Recognizing how they were duped is always a big part of the story. Some get out sooner, some get out later.

    Below is some feedback on this particular post.

    Two points first about the Title:

    (A) As I wrote here, I think the use of the word “cult” (and thus here, “cultic”) is not informative but instead unnecessary pugilistic rhetoric.

    (B) And as I wrote here, you and I agree that “authority” is often a good thing, and not necessarily bad. Thus using “authoritarian” to sound critical.

    So instead, I could see your thesis as refined below and see only 3 main points you are really making:

    Manipulation Techniques of Meditation Peddlers

    1) Vague, unchallengeable, non-falsifiable meditation claims

    2) Claim of special revelations: again, unchallangeable

    3) Instilling self-doubt and guilt in followers

    (4 & 5) [these seem a bit repetitive of #3]

    (6) [similar to #2]

    (7) [repeat of 1 & 2]

    I also see the 3 main points (1, 2 &3) above used by other religious (and political) leaders to squash freedom, instill guilt and pray on the vulnerable.

    I would suggest that it is important to phrasing things to show that it is not Meditation that is manipulative, but it is all the other stuff that leaders/gurus do. For example, it is not the chanting (for instance) that Shin Buddhists do that is manipulative, but what a Shin Buddhist teacher may promise and claim that is manipulative.

    BTW, what the heck does “Metaphysics are beyond human knowledge3.” mean?

    BTW #2: I studied with Bruce Lincoln at the University of Minnesota. 🙂

  2. SkepticMeditations

    @Sabio: Thank you for your constructive feedback. I’ve incorporated much of your suggestions into a revised version of the post. I think the post was improved as a result.

    That’s cool you studied under Bruce Lincoln. I heard him speak in an interview and read one of his books. He is keen and incisive in his critique of religious scholarship.

    Thanks again

  3. Sabio Lantz

    Wow, Scott, you did re-write that. Seems much clearer.

    By the way, in your last sentence you ask:
    “So why do so many people take meditation peddlers, religious authorities and texts at face value?”

    A December 1st article in the Washington Posts asks, “Who Falls for Bullshit
    and in the article we are given this link to a program which generates pure New Age Bullshit. I am sure a similar generator for meditation bullshit could be built.

    Thought you’d enjoy.

  4. Uwsboi14

    You guys are a great team. This post is clearly written. It was good before, but now it’s very strong and hard to argue with. 🙂

  5. Uwsboi14

    Here’s my own new age bs, inspired by the online generator, which is fantastic, btw. Open your minds, dear ones, and prepare to be enlightened:

    Not knowing what you know is the nexus of true coherence. The wise take the fool’s journey blighted by the cosmic night, daring to stumble into the pit of wisdom, for failure is only success in disguise. Therefore, make yourself an empty shell. God loves empty people.

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