The following was posted in a forum that I occasionally frequent. The focus of this forum is the development and support of an ideological and philosophical perspective that is related to both Gurdjieff’s Work and at least the symbolism often associated with the “Left-Hand Path”. While what was written was meant to express frustration with this organization’s leadership and activity (or, more pointedly, the lack thereof), it is a commonality of many Internet-based expressions of religion.
I have scrubbed the text of anything related to or that might identify the organization being addressed /with my own text being inserted in-between slash-marks/. This statement has a much wider application than just one organization.
Dearest (Would-be Philosophical/Theological Leaders, Teachers, and “Masters”),
This is precisely what I’ve been wondering about, or worrying about, etc. I’m afraid that exhortation rubbed me the wrong way, and brought to the surface a number of issues lurking in my psyche. To some it may seem like a reminder of little significance, but to me it was one example of a larger trend, indicating an over-arching failure of approach. /The writer was responding to an email request for more participation in the organization’s on-line forum/.
People are looking for the experience of religion. A web forum is not a religion. We don’t have the personal touch. My vision of 4th Way initiation is quite similar to the life coaching thing which you offer as a paid service, separate from the religion. Sorry to spurn a potential source of income, but you seem to be doing okay (considering how everyone else is doing). Maybe you should consider making it part of your ministry as /a/ leader. To take a hands-off approach to initiating someone into Awakening is to not initiate them.
You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink…but then again, the personal touch of actually walking to the water alongside the horse is a lot more evocative than just telling it that there’s water over there some ways.
This would be the core of my issue, the rest merely being an unfolding therefrom:
Malcolm Gladwell (speaking politically) said that social media can create big flashes of protest, but what creates a sustained movement are in-person groups and relationships which meet on a regular basis (or in some rare cases live together). An online group can succeed, but only if it is centered around a network of in-person clusters. At the very least, one-on-one attention by phone can be a weak but somewhat effective substitute for in-person interaction.
If I were you, I would forgo most of your attention to the Internet and divert focus to building up an in-person group in your area. Lead by example. The problem is, if anyone succeeds in establishing a grotto or /other real-world group/, our local folk will see us as more authoritative than you, because we’re actually getting our hands dirty making an in-person group happen. People will ask, oh, so you have this faraway leader. Does he have a grotto, how big is it? And we’ll have to say…eh, there isn’t one. And they will see it as a joke, and I will wonder if they are wrong.
Joiners will look at the situation like this: given that the religion is a webforum and not a network of in-person clusters, their unofficial-but-in-practice religion is actually not the webforum which you oversee. The actual religion which they consider themselves part of is their own grotto, and will regard its leader as their actual leader, having very little to do with you or your sites.
If you have thousands of registered members, but only a dozen people posting, maybe that should make you consider what a member really is, or what your expectations and focus should be. Sure, the socialist group I’m in will get thousands of people to put their name on something. But we only count the people who show up, pay dues, and take part in the work of our routines as members. We only focus our efforts to further integrate people on members and people who aren’t yet members but are participating in some of the way that members do.
This method has worked brilliantly in creating a lasting, growing organization, where we know who our members are, rather than merely hoping that everyone who jots a name down actually means something. Consider it a political form of building a magnetic center, as opposed to concerning ourselves with every passing, impulsive “I.”
In the absence of in-person proximity, phone calls are good. They eliminate the impersonality of text and create a one-on-one focus, rather than the blanket of mass communication which, in attempting to focus on everyone, focuses on no one. Hitler was right on one point — spoken communication for the win. There may be text-only visionaries, but no text-only messiahs. But not just spoken word — *targeted, personal* spoken word.
I myself am going to seek to apply the ideas offline more, I’m going to have to post less in order to live it. It’s just an issue of limited free time. Perhaps there are other people like me out there, non-posters who are living the path very well. But you have no way of knowing it without some regular system of staying in touch, and analyzing and encouraging each others’ Awakening.
Not only do *you* not know what the real shape of the /organization/ is, but */the members/* know even less than you, making a lull in forum activity appear to be a collapse of the religion! (And would such a perception even be wrong?) In the absence of a real organized, mutually-assisted initiation, spinning my wheels writing more essays seems futile. We have all the mental material we need; we need to give it a corporeal body.
You mentioned that Occupy Wall Street is going on. True, but why would people want to discuss that on the /organization/ forums? In their eyes we have virtually nothing to do with that world, we have no effect on it at all. Without any kind of structure, it is impossible for the (organization) to be relevant to major events, or to even fulfill its core religious purposes.
Overall, though, if you claim to be the consciousness of the /organization/ machine/organism, the core it needs to avoid running aground, the person you should be asking about the lack of activity is not us, but yourself. Scolding the membership is not leadership, it is helpless flailing, and a projection of your own lack of a practical plan onto your followers. It’s not taking orders that I object to, it’s this futile wheel-spinning of thinking that the Internet is going to solve the problem of building a group. It won’t.
I like some of the philosophies, and had hope in the beginning that these organizational problems would be taken care of with time. I have seen zero progress on that front, but from what I can tell, there has been no progress on that front in eight years besides /a prominent member’s/ grotto. I pushed for the council-centered chain of initiation. For a while I was maintaining it on my own end, but there was no point of continuing with it if the (organization) leader himself was not maintaining or even remembering it, since the group won’t stick with it if you don’t.
Until you make the sacrifices necessary to establish an in-person following, you lack the moral authority to ask such from anyone else. The way I see it, you either have to commit to that goal and succeed reasonably soon, or hand off supreme leadership to someone else for the good of the /organization/ so that it ceases to stagnate. That is not a joke. You may say, “That makes no sense, I came up with this, I lead it.” It’s an interesting consideration — would you rather see the philosophy you invented remain tiny under yourself, or expand under someone else?
Wistful and well-wishing,
a recently-restored-to-the-Dark-Side /member/
The two points I take away from this statement are simple.
1) The Internet, for all its power and wonder, is ultimately a tool used for gathering and sharing information. For the growth of the self, nothing beats human-to-human interaction. A religious movement’s Internet presence should be a means to support and highlight its real-world efforts, not the primary focus of the organization.
2) You cannot wait on a leader to come take you by the hand. Ultimately, if you want to see something happen, you have to at least start by doing it yourself. You will become the leader you seek if others see your example and emulate it, or you will be better prepared when you discover a leader worth emulating, and will hold that leader to a higher standard.