Cult Leaders & Psychopaths: Power Beyond the Grave
An estimated two million American adults are involved in cults. While the definition of what a cult is ranges—some claim all religions to be one—it usually involves a charismatic leader who serves as an intermediary between divine knowledge and those willing to follow him or her. Unlike the traditional teacher-student relationship in which the student is eventually on the same ground (or even surpasses) the teacher, cult leaders allow no one beyond them.
Instead of focusing on what makes a cult leader, however, I've found another question intriguing: why do some people revere ethically questionable figures that have been elevated as spiritual guides after their death?
Chandra Mohan Jain is a case in point. The Kuchwada native spent his entire life attempting to overcome stigmas attached with a small village upbringing. Renaming himself Acharya Rajneesh a few years after his supposed enlightenment at age 21 in 1953, the university lecturer became known as a dynamic and intelligent speaker, a trait that led to trouble with the Indian government. Besides his open-minded take on Tantric philosophy—he became known as the ‘sex guru’—Rajneesh railed against Gandhi, who he bitterly criticized for celebrating poverty. The idea of purposefully living in squalor would prove antithetical to Rajneesh’s entire philosophical system.
Today you’ll find Osho quotes plastered across yoga studios and social media all over the world, but during his American life he was known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, yet another incarnation he assumed before moving to Oregon in 1981. He decided to move straight to the source of the income he was pulling in at his ashram in Pune. In short order he acquired an entire fleet of Rolls Royces, preaching the prosperity gospel. Let the Gandhians spin their loincloths, Osho had expensive cars to be chauffeured around in. Ninety-three in total.
Rajneesh’s American vacation was short-lived. Four years later he was deported, being detained on the east coast after attempting to flee the country. His followers had planned to poison the food supply of the surrounding region, the Dalles, as well as attempted to assassinate a local politician (as well as kill each other). Rajneesh’s early love of socialism had given way to a fond appreciation for capitalism. The locals who were giving him problems taking over the entire region for his compound would have to be forced out. He also ran into trouble for not paying property taxes.
Osho was the name he assumed near the end of his life, shortly after 21 countries denied him entry. Today you’ll find his many books, lectures, calendars and tarot card decks front and center in New Age bookshops and yoga studios, a testament to the man who wanted to stick it to the man. Free sex, a love of profit this prophet would never be ashamed of, the rebel to inspire liberal rebellions: Osho was the ideal counterrevolutionary whose life few would ever literally follow. So much easier it is to post two sentences from one of his talks than investigate his actual life.
Still, it is those talks that survive, not his reported addiction to nitrous oxide and Valium; not his advice to euthanize children born deaf, dumb or blind; not his anti-Semitism and his feelings that gas chambers quickly bring you to God; not his announcement that homosexuals created AIDS and had fallen from dignity; not his cult's engineering of mass poisoning, attempted murder or land takeover, nor his badmouthing all-things American when returning to India in 1985. Osho died at age 58 of heart failure, sending his followers on witch hunts for the person sickening him with black magic. His yoga of rebellion and abundance is what loyalists cherish about the man today, even if his actual life was antithetical to pretty much every ethical code imaginable.
The gurus that have appeared on these shores mostly arrive with carefully tailored messages that appeal to American sensibilities. Never would the asceticism of meditation and breathing techniques attract legions of liberal middle- and upper-class followers, the very crowd they need to support their travels and exceedingly lavish lifestyles. Claiming to have risen above materialism is a fantastic way to acquire objects, as well as have sex with pretty young acolytes.
Joel and Diana Kramer, authors of the influential The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, are experts in the deception propagated by gurus. These men (and women, sometimes) are masters of exploiting character traits in would-be followers. One of the most important qualities is self-trust; without it, the Kramers write, people are ‘subject to easy manipulation.’
This power continues beyond the grave. Today his followers forget the man for the words and bolster the legacy of a lunatic. I won't argue that it's impossible to have some sort of insights while sniffing nitrous. I just wonder what those reading his calendar every morning are sniffing.
Image: wikimedia commons
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The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
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Quarantine rule breakers in 17th-century Italy partied all night – and some clergy condemned the feasting
17th-century outbreaks of plague in Italy reveal both tensions between religious and public health authorities.