The Perils of Personal Pride, fed by compartmentalization, spin, and willing, if ignorant, accomplices

imgres-2Last night I happened to catch a Netflix flick, “Holy Hell,” about a young, pretend guru who seduced a group of several hundred idealistic young people to follow him on his increasingly deluded trip over more than two decades. The filmmaker, Will Allen, who was entranced by this “Buddha Field” guru for 22 years, was also its dedicated recorder of events through film; so this documentary is the real deal. A fascinating look at how the secrecy of compartmentalization enables total control.

Here’s one review of the movie:

Holy Hell: chilling documentary that reveals the truth about life in a cult

I very much appreciated Will Allen’s evident affection for and appreciation of the individuals in his former guru’s group, as their stories through time flash by. Likewise, I appreciated his and others’ capacity to harvest the gold from otherwise “bad” experiences.

Much the same kind of lesson might someday be gleaned from the fascinating story about the narcissistic female founder of Theranos, in Vanity Fair.

How Elizabeth Holmes House of Cards Came Tumbling Down


Once again, we see a charismatic leader with a bunch of followers who try to look the other way when irregularities emerge. Why? Again, there is group mind control at work, as shaped by a single individual. And in this case, because her workers would lose their jobs. Whereas the fallout shown in Holy Hell was the giving up of an increasingly weird theology that hid the usual, unspeakable, sexual lies, the fall out from the Theranos decapitation was purely material, having to do with, you guessed it, money.

Interesting that both these “gurus,” one spiritual and the other secular, are currently seeking to rise up from the ashes —  and do the same thing all over again? Both seem to be busy collecting new followers, spinning new tales to seduce.

Is narcissism impossible to overcome? Can those who exhibit the drastically self-centered qualities of narcissism recognize, at some point, that they are stuck at a developmental level in childhood, that of the two-year-old child, governed by the planet Mars?

Mars has a two-year cycle; the first return of Mars to its natal place ushers in the “me,” “mine,” and “NO!” period of the “terrible twos.” Mars helps us encase ourselves in an ego,  compartmentalize self as separate from the Other; we then identify with, or attach to, that “self-identity,” which though it may morph over time, remains the cover that protects us from encroachment; and if this “self-image” is deemed all-important, then we never even begin to turn around to face the mirror. Too bad; once we do so, our fear of what we might find inside ourselves turns into fascination.

I was once married to a narcissist. And as much as I was learning to face the mirror myself, and wished for him to do the same; as often as I begged him to go into counseling with me, he refused, said I was crazy. Now we call this “gaslighting.” We didn’t have a word for it back then, in the early ’60s.

May we all learn to identify and recognize the narcissistic tendencies in ourselves, that when allowed to run amuck, undermine trust and destroy the world. 


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