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The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  111 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The Guru Papers demonstrates with uncompromising clarity that authoritarian control, which once held societies together, is now at the core of personal, social, and planetary problems, and thus a key factor in social disintegration. It illustrates how authoritarianism is embedded in the way people think, hiding in culture, values, daily life, and in the very morality peopl ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published May 20th 1993 by Frog Books (first published 1993)
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Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book useful when I was attempting to understand how I had gotten myself involved in a cult-like group. The authors are very thorough in their deconstruction of the dynamics of authoritarian relationships both in spiritual groups and in society as a whole. In reading it, I gained a great deal of insight as to my own relationship to those tendencies.

Nov 29, 2010 marked it as to-read
I have to read this book... some quotes of it:

"True healing can be accelerated by understanding the deep mechanisms of what happened, and of authoritarian dynamics in general. Then people can be more confident they won’t be taken in again."(p.154)

Being a guru "...creates a feedback-proof system where the guru always needs to be right and cannot be shown to be wrong - which is where learning comes from." (p.107) (No it´s not about people in management positions...)


"Why would even the mos
Joel Friedlander
Oct 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a very unusual book that is aimed at pretty much only one audience: people who have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by an authoritarian group. Sometimes these groups are called charismatic sects, sometimes they are called new religions, and sometimes they are called cults.

Through the arguments in the book the authors, experienced writers and yoga practitioners, show the fallacies that lie at the basis of coercive authoritarian relationships. In fact, this book is a powerful cura
Veronica Torina
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book inclusive. It did explore the dynamics of cults but it went deeper into the dynamics of indoctrination itself and suggested that we have all been indoctrinated in one way or another. Moreover, it realistically questioned such sacred concepts as unconditional love. If some of the more vociferous atheists and evolutionary biologists have left a void, this book fills it in the sense that it recognizes our selfishness but it also recognizes our desire to find a sense of morality an ...more
Dana O'brien
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life - after reading this I was finally able to let go of all my Christian guilt over my questions and doubts and move on.... what a relief it was and still is!
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Mysterious or supernatural powers have always been used to validate religious authorities. Even today many people operate under a basic assumption that the ability to perform some act that defies ordinary explanation means the person who does this has an inside track to truth, or “higher” truth. Should anyone be seen floating (or believed to have been floating) over the ground, many people would take this person’s words and opinions on other things very seriously. [...]
For us the real mystery i
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
I sought out this book based on a recommendation from an Author who was a survivor of physical, psychological abuse from a guru and who found its insights helpful in understanding what they went through.

A curious set of essays that outline the authoritarianism present in religion but also (and of more interest) outline how this is not only present but present in a more severe form in Eastern Religions traditionally perceived as far less so in the West. Now discussion of the above takes up most o
Kylie Sparks
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
For anyone who has been in a cult, or worries that they might be in a cult, or has family members in a cult this is an important book to read. Also important for people who are interested in philosophy and religion. And really--for most people, as we are seeing the rise of authoritarian governments around the world. This book really made me question a lot of my beliefs and thinking. It is logical, clear, and concise. You can read it cover to cover, the way I did, or just read the chapters that p ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
There are some ideas worth exploring in this book but it spends most of the book refuting straw men to backup the authors opinion. The book is extremely self referential and cites no research outside of its own pages. Not recommended.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, political
Interesting general philosophical concept, though perhaps lengthy and drawn out in order to reify the idea. Applicable to many situations, but perhaps it would have been more interesting to hear more case studies where it can be applied.
Aug 13, 2020 marked it as to-read
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book that I always come back to. The way they handle the really weird things about guru rhetoric is amazing. Just brilliant. Easy and fun to read too, with every chapter being short but bold.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommended this book to everyone before you get involved with any religious community. It is important to examine yourself and the group.

I became involved in a Buddhist group that turned out to be a authoritarian cult and know people who were sexually, physically, psychologically and economically exploited.

This book assisted me in seeing what my motives were being involved in the first place.

I will try to write more later.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wish it had bibliographical references. Not having them detracts from an otherwise great book.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: magic, cult
Some interesting insights with some more questionable parts e.g. quasi-satanic panic stuff, speculative psychologizing on the historic development of religious thougth.
Mar 23, 2007 marked it as to-read
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Book Study 1 8 Jul 24, 2013 05:51PM  

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Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
67 likes · 31 comments
“Buddha initially excluded women from his monasteries. When pressed, he made their entry conditional upon perpetual subservience to the lowliest (newest) male monks. Was this an example of unchanging wisdom? Or were some of his ideas not so enlightened, but rather a function of his place in history? His agenda to end suffering has had millennia to test itself and has failed. Are people just not good enough or smart enough? Is there something wrong with people or is something wrong with the agenda? His methodology for ending suffering was tied to the concept of enlightenment, which involves renouncing both the self and self-centeredness. So as an essentially renunciate religion, Buddhism is also essentially authoritarian, with Buddha being the absolute authority on what to renounce and how to go about it. Some modern Buddhists would bristle at calling Buddhism renunciate. They would say that through dis-identifying or detaching from the illusion that there is a self, self-centeredness effortlessly leaves. We view this as their illusion.” 0 likes
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