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Re: Art group prject I & II

Sep 23, 1995 10:09 AM
by John R Crocker

On Sat, 23 Sep 1995 wrote:
> "As we become more centered, stronger, knowledgable, doesn' t
> the need/desire for outside authority atropy? I think it does,
> when you're talking of your own evolution & spiritual growth,
> but how about in an organizational setting? Do you need a
> hierarchy there? Someone to be the boss? Attempts have been
> made that I've read about, to give everyone in the organization
> a voice, but there was still always a boss at the top in the
> material I read..

Say, did you ever hear Oscar Wilde's opinion about socialism? He
said the only thing wrong with it was that it took up so many free
evenings (-:).

I've been involved in several activist organizations that
attempted to operate purely by consensus, with everyone's opinion
presumed to equal ... but this worked with only mixed results. There were
some in which Wilde's quote was absolutely true ... I remember once
spending nearly two hours on an *agenda* for a meeting - the meeting
itself lasted close to 6 hours and accomplished very little, but everyone
*felt* as though they were acknowledged and recognized. Certainly wasn't
a format capable of getting a lot done. I've also seen consensus groups
that did seem to work, but almost inevitably the surface "equality" had
just driven the hierarchical structure into the group subconscious, and
in fact there seemed to be more power games operating than there are in
overtly hierarchal structures - where at least the power games are out in
the open.

I think one of the problems with spiritual and religious
organizations (and Theosophy is no exception) is that most are founded by
either one individual or a small group of individuals who do have
virtually unlimited authority while alive, but after they go, their
spiritual descendants then institutionalize that original authority (or
at least attempt to) - but the personal magnetism of the founder(s), from
whence their authority derived, is not present. Several different
foundations are then generally claimed as a replacement.

1. The personal link: In which the founder is claimed to have
directly given authority to another, who passes it down ... this is the
grounds for the claim of "Apostolic Succession" in the Catholic Church
(for instance), and operates in Theosophy as well. Problem is even in the
first generation after the founder several claims may be made, and each
succeeding generation sees those claims branching exponentially.

2. The pure interpreter: In which the claim is made that the
writings or sayings of the founders(s) are the sole grounds upon which
authority can rest, that the founder's definitions of the organization
are absolute (as far as the organization goes), and that these should be
followed precisely and questions about virtually anything should be
answered by refering to the original writings. Christian fundamentalists
attempt to do this, and there are Theosophists who do this as well.
The problem with this is that it often becomes kind of narrow and
domineering, boundaries are carefully drawn, and even many within the
larger circle of the organization are seen as being "less than" the
purists (as Daniel's recent posts in which he continually refers to people
as being "twelve inches off", and has harshly critiqued even a number of
branches of the Christian community itself as being simply "wrong" because
their interpretations do not match his).

3. The "inner" descendent: In which a person or small group
claims to have access to the same inner source that motivated the founder(s).
In Christianity, the Pentacostals (for instance) claim direct contact
with the Holy Spirit, and (to take it to an extreme) there was the case
of Oral Roberts, several years ago, claiming that God had told him that if
he didn't raise a certain sum of money by a certain date (for a medical
facility) he would be "taken up to heaven". Many Theosophists also
believe, perhaps to varying degrees, that the "Masters" speak to them, or
overshadow them, or somehow guide them, and now and then in Theosophical
history some have believed this strongly enough to try to claim authority
over the larger organization based on this foundation. Problem with this
is not so much the personal belief (as, after all, belief in the "source"
is to some degree required for membership - even in Theosophy the vast
majority of the Secret Doctrine must be taken purely on faith ... as most
of it is of a nature that defies anything like empirical testing) as it
is any claim that this personal contact with the "inner source" is a
strong enough claim to achieve authority over the direction of the
organization. Generally the people who go for this are those that miss
the personal magnetism of the founders, and are attracted to another who
also seems to have this magnetism. This claim, more than any other,
is most likely to cause schisms in the organization.

4. The "non-authority" authority: This is the pure consensus
perspective, in which either consensus or democracy of some sort is
settled upon, because it is believed that after the death of the founders
no one has any claim to authority. Most obvious problem with this is that
it opens up that immense Pandora's box of power struggles and
behind-the-scenes machinations that composes the messy business of

5. The "humbly wise" authority: A sort of partial democracy,
a partially democratic (and alledgely benevolent) authoritarianism, in
which an inner circle "humbly" believes it knows what is best for the
organization, and uses its control over the resources of the organization
(including publishing & control of information flows, control of voting
mechanisms, etc., etc.) to functionally choose leaders. (There may be a
surface appearance of "voting" or some such thing, but if, [as a for
instance using the TS, but similar things happen in many other groups]
one candidate seems to have an article in every other issue of the AT and
Quest, and suddenly goes on a nationwide "national lecturer" tour - paid
for by Headquarters - in the months prior to the election; if bylaws are
passed by the Board severly restricting the number who can run for the
higher offices, etc., etc., then "voting" sort of loses its meaning.)
This form of authority usually seems benevolent, as it generally doesn't
claim either direct authority or inspiration and hence must preserve the
appearance of openness, and will often be quite open to *individuals*
expressing opinions at odds with the dominant ideology - so long as the
individual doesn't start affecting the larger power base (see the
interesting response out of Wheaton to KPJ's book, for instance).

The most basic problem with spiritual organizations is that none
of these foundations for authority really has enough power to be
compelling, each is shaky in its own way, each is insecure in its own
way, and each must continually fend off those for whom authority is based
on the other foundations. And in this age when individuals are becoming
stronger and stronger, *no* leader or ideology is above question any longer.

In fact, authority may be one of the single most vexing problems
to resolve as spirituality moves into the 21st century.

 Just musing (I certainly have no solutions (-:)-


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