Although I’ve covered this a bit in other posts, I’m still finding this topic on my mind lately. For that reason I wanted to give some of my personal thoughts on group dynamics and the individual, and how I think that they are always incompatible establishments.
Clarity of Focus
For clarity sake, I want to be precise on what type of group I’m referring to. I’m not talking about guilds, or schools of science and the like. In such worldly institutions an individual isn’t opening up their core being for exposure, as such the taint of others isn’t as pronounced. This is my opinion of course.
It’s quite another thing to join a spiritual group, where your core of YOU is exposed and expressed. Due to the intimate nature of spirituality, by opening up to a group the individual exposes themselves to a greater depth of influence. Influence, that I believe to be contrary to the role of individuality and a process that often ends in disaster.
The Spiritual Quest
Within the spiritual quest an aspirant either knowingly or unknowingly is truly seeking their own inner truth. Their own identity is being sought and this process of seeking truth can be found in the tapestry of almost any organization or religion.
Ironically, it is the organized thought patterns teaching the tapestry of self, that ultimately condemn the self to predisposed boundaries. These boundaries curtail a person’s growth and direction through some mechanics of control.
Control with Force
It’s not hard to find an organization that utilizes force to control the membership. Look for groups that have strong central leaders, and strict boundaries of belief. Sometimes society calls such groups, cults.
Such groups will demand adherence to rules or dogmas. Once I was being initiated into a magical order. I was requested to do the “sign of the enterer” (a symbolic gesture of the arm, that represents a dividing of the veil between one reality and another). I made the gesture, only to be criticized on the spot for not having my elbow at the exact 45 degree position. Rather than a spiritual working, it felt like I was training for a stage performance.
In all cases of overt control, the one being controlled is being enticed to fit the mask of the leader or established creed. While there might be some spiritual gain, or phenomenon (non-natural events), these elements are not the true Self of the Initiate. Instead the Initiate becomes someone else, taking on their successes and failures.
Some verbal examples of control: “The master doesn’t allow this,” “you need to vote this way, it’s what the guru said to do… our society must go in this other direction,” “Your pose and posture is incorrect, look at me,” “this is how you summon the being, you state these words in Enochian, pronouncing them exactly like me,” “Do not study enochian magic, it is far too dangerous and forbidden,” “I want you to give 100% of yourself to this exam, although I will only be able to review it at my leisure,” “Have you listened to any negative information about our group this week?” “Do not read any negative information about our group….”
If one is serious about the spiritual path, I think that a deep resonating call for Individuality will assert itself, and cause the individual to rethink this type of group mind.
Control via Surrendering
Not all groups control through overt means. Sometimes members have a fancy for being noticed or acknowledged by a VIP in the organization. This could be a leader, a teacher, someone who wields power.
The obvious example is the suck-up or flatterer. The less obvious are those who unknowingly hide their true feelings, masking off their sense of self in order to echo back what the leadership wants to see (or hear).
I see this a lot in public forums where a member modifies their personal values, in order to seemingly align with the leadership. This type of behavior modification requires energy and in time the burden of the energy required will become too much. Such a person suppresses who they are at that moment (and a person is free to change, what I refer to here is not being true to what we know our nature to be in the moment now) to pretend to be something else.
Spiritual groups may use the word “egregore,” which represents an idea of the group-mind’s power center. It’s rather like a corporation. People come together and form a corporation. A board of directors, a CEO, and others may form the construct of the corporation. They create the bylaws and standards. Then teams are formed to bring in workers to empower the corporation’s goals via their work.
Egregores are similar to this, except they operate as a spiritual entity. The Rosicrucian group AMORC claims such a theme. They refer to their egregore going back many years. As people don the mask of an egregore (taking on the egregores goals and mechanisms) they empower this spiritual thought-form to exist.
Magic egregores will align to the work of the founders… it may use grimoires and sigils of entities. These are not discovery’s of the Individual members, but rather the discoveries of the founders. As such they have little in the way of Individual contribution, except in the narrow band of pushing one’s energy back into the collective.
When Individuality Reasserts Itself
I have recently heard someone say that the difference between a collective and a “tribe” is in the use of control. As an example, they described a punk rocker who shaves their head because all their friends are shaving their heads and they want to fit in at the concert. “This,” said this person, “is not a control. The person is doing it willingly, and therefore is more akin to the tribe.” In other words, this is fine.
I disagree about the notion of such behavior not being a collective. It most certainly is collective thinking. While there is no one standing over the person holding a razor to their scalp, the person is choosing to suppress their Individuality so they will “fit in.” It may well be their choice to look this way, but in the way it was described, the act of “fitting in,” simply lends to the idea of self suppression.
This case of fitting in with fashion is not as big a deal. All of us fit in to some degree. We have to work a job, we have social arrangements we need to work with in order to get by. But when we get to the degree of our spirituality, this is a different matter altogether. Fitting in spiritually is the embodiment of giving up on the Individual path to Gnosis.
The spiritual teacher, guru, instructor they might make demands that one stay within boundaries… or perhaps it is the Individual themselves who suppress their identity in order to pretend to be something else. In either case the member is attempting to gain something, by giving up who they really are.
Much like the Star Wars depiction of the Sith’s rule of two, “one wields the power and another craves it.” This is a dangerous relationship, as the one wielding the power becomes idolized and the other craving it will put on a mask of appearances. They will appear to echo back the beliefs and teachings, so long as they get some gain. Perhaps they want to be promoted within the order, or have some authority over others… At some point the goals of the Individual will become realized and they will take off the false identity (or mask) and walk out (usually with others behind them).
This is where I believe group expulsions and explosions come from. I think it’s often that the Initiate doesn’t realize their real goal is their Individuality. They start out trying to be like the group wants them to be. They may dress, act, do the rituals a certain way… when they venture out, they might be reeled back in to the group boundaries. At first this is acceptable to the member, as they want something. They want to be elevated, or they want “secret knowledge,” or some other asset.
In time the member will start having internal conflict come up. This happens in meditation and self-analysis. They start to have the friction and stress of their inner promptings war against the force applied by the group.
Suppression or Sovereignty
For some, they will further suppress and further suppress until they become automatons, no longer with any free will. This is similar to cult members. Others will resist. That resistance will start with inner questioning, then perhaps open bickering and finally it boils to an explosive end.
This is when the trusted ranked official walks out of the group (often taking others with them) and oddly, either joins yet another group or forms their own! I did this for years (except I didn’t take people with me), I would have this inner conflict with the group mind and ultimately leave… I was still not understanding my real goals and would resort to yet more groups to help guide me and tell me what to do. This pattern repeated for 12 or more years. Always pay attention to a repeating pattern.
In 2019 I came to the conclusion of something I always knew but didn’t want to admit: My goals can’t be found in groups. No matter the group, or how grand the goals of the egregore, it always ends up being founded on some level of control. No matter how hard they try to grow Individuals, there are always GROUP BOUNDARIES that are not allowed to be crossed… otherwise the membership can become something akin to another group. I began to realize my goals are found only in the work of the Individual gnosis.
Individual gnosis has a problem… a lack of tools. Groups provide tools. Much like joining a woodworkers guild, you learn how to do things. You learn how to meditate, or breath control, or some form of magic or barrier building. I suppose I’m lucky that in my travels I did learn a variety of tools. For people just starting out, I don’t know what advice to give… other than keep an open mind, always remember who you are and be open to change, leave and go on your own at any point in the venture.