The politics of self-help groups

Now for a little digression and speculation. I(Bill Savoie) have given a lot of credit to Charles Berner and I do it with some mixed emotions. During the later half of the 1960s I was fortunate to be a member of "The Institute of Ability," led by Charles Berner. This was a group of some 100 to 250 people who operated self-help workshops in Southern California. One-third of the people were ex- Scientologists who followed Charles when he was a leader in Scientology. One-third were hippies like me, and one-third were not classifiable. When other groups were into drugs and music as a way of "blowing the mind", Charles stressed individual responsibility, and got us to focus on our relationships with others. Unfortunately, the Institute of Ability was not a long-term sustainable process. Charles set himself up as the greatest knower of knowledge and the final judge of all truth, and in short a cult dictator. The language was correct in stressing individual responsibility, but the leadership was not allowed to be democratic. As a result, the Institute of Ability no longer exists.

The Institute of Ability followed a form of government that was at least 5,000 years old, and that is the Charismatic Leader with Dictatorial Powers. This system is simple, one person makes all the decisions, and it is based on a family system of the strong father as leader. While this paradigm has yielded much of the transmission of truth and knowledge in the Eastern countries, it stifles creativity and initiative. The Western countries use a more distributed system of money, coupled with one person one vote. Money has a bad reputation, but it has provided the West with a system that can bring about change faster than those in the Eastern countries. The real question is distributed control verses centralized control.

Note, The Charismatic Leader with Dictatorial Powers is a system that tends to destroy its leaders. I think you might get the point better if you think about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, a system that Charles was involved with for many years. In 1966 Charles knew that Scientology was both good and bad. Scientology has much good, as Charles was always willing to own up to, but Scientology also had something stinking at the core. Scientology used secrets and a hidden control structure to kept Hubbard holding all the power. Charles knew there was a better way, but he took the path of calling their knowledge wrong, and neglected their system of government.

There are some very basic and yet very complex issues here, since we are all concerned with our own "inner space", and we accomplish much of our progress through our own intention. There is a hidden positive feedback path in this process. In other words, we use "Certainty" to boot strap ourselves into new states of being. This explains the contradiction in how Charles was always "certain," yet always found to be changing. Anyone who puts themselves out on the edge of knowledge will find themselves with the same condition. You will be "absolutely sure" and yet two years later find yourself in contradiction and yet be "absolutely sure." This is just the nature of the beast we are all struggling with. Our perception is not a passive activity, we see it one-way today and later another, yet we know it has not changed. This certainty, that directly comes out of the territory that we all work in, just makes it difficult for us to compromise, or reach any larger perspective than the one we already have.

Unfortunately, there is another complication, and, yes, stay with me now, this is an important concept that needs to be addressed to resolve the improvement of any self-help group dynamic. This complication is that since "Certainty," as mentioned in the last paragraph is so important for our state of being and our perception of Truth, we have a tendency to "climb on the backs of others" and use their knowledge to get us into higher states of being. We "borrow" their certainty and add it to our own intention and lift ourselves up into higher states of being. On the down side, this makes us all followers, limits our understanding to superficial surface effects, and puts tremendous consequences on our inflexibility. When we step away from our false high, we tend to fall a greater distance. These effects are all a direct result of our form of government, a Charismatic Leader with Dictatorial Powers. It was not good for L. Ron Hubbard, or Charles Berner, or you and me. We need a new way, that is more like science.

I am not suggesting that we can eliminate charisma. Science has many great leaders with charisma, but the process of science does not rest on who said what. Science rests on measurement, it rests on "Publish or Perish," and it rests of the judgment of others. We need to do some "Reality Checks" and we need to publish and make as much of this information available to the outside world as we can. This does not mean that we must all become writers, we can produce videos, or hold seminars, or just talk to friends.

The Institute of Ability has long ago fallen, but the "Master's Training Course" is still being taught with the same handout created by Charles Berner 20 years ago. So let's return to this idea of our government, which is now a Charismatic Leader with Dictatorial Powers. How do we fix that model? I think there are seven useful approaches.

  1. Find a friend who is willing to work in a dyad, and explore the inner world with ourselves as the "Coach." See the information at this and other web sites and just go for it. Learn what works directly from original effort - be your own expert.

  2. Publish what you learn and understand, so that the information is available in libraries or as Web sites. Everything should be articulated, the "Truths" of life, whatever they are, and the training of Enlightenment Coaches. We don't need to hide and keep secrets, we can see the difference between real understanding and mental images.

  3. Refuse to call the leader of an Enlightenment Intensive the "Master" and use instead the respectful term "Coach" or "Facilitator".

  4. Adherence to an "Enlightenment Process Participant Bill of Rights". To minimize abuse when participants are re-forming their inner space, they need very clean boundaries of responsibility, between the Enlightenment Coach and the team of helpers, and the Enlightenment participant. EI Rights and Responsibilities.

  5. Collectively we can fix the Enlightenment Intensive coaching training process with democratic government; if we create a system where the students judge each other. See the section that explains this idea. EI_Training.

  6. We need objective data to protect us from incompetent coaching. There are several ways to achieve this. One way is to use a participant questionare. Participants are asked to fill it out before the intensive, and then fill it out again when one is mailed to them two weeks later. The difference between the two questionares then is turned into a score. All active Enlightenment Intensive facilitators would then have their scores published on a web site. This could be done by an outside agency.

  7. Currently we are without any association with any existing religious organizations. This leaves it up to individuals acting alone to make decisions. Bill Savoie wants to associate this work with Unitarian Universalists. This is a religious association that is open to a variety of personal religious experiences. There are many UU Buddhists and UU Hindu members, and their 7 principles are examples of a gentle way to organize people together. They also have a history that goes back hundreds of years.

I enjoy going to Enlightenment Intensives where there are 50 or more people all working together to help each other. I have never been to a bad Intensive. That may in part be due to my personality, and it may be due to the fact that I personally know so many of the old-timers who are leading Intensives as "Masters". Still, I am concerned about the quality of the Enlightenment Intensive process. I am also tired of seeing the same old faces, and I want the Enlightenment Process to grow. I would like to see President Clinton at an Intensive, and I think it could happen. To bring more people into this process, we need to de-mystify it, and we also need some "Reality Checks". In short, we need an open system of government, using distributed individual control, modeled after democracy. (See attachment nine for my approach to a better form of government for the Intensives, the workshops and the training of new coaches.) We need some way to ensure that "Masters" do not become power hungry dictators. My personal way is to start the de-mystification process by using the descriptive word "Coach" for the more autocratic word "Master."

If you are going to your first enlightenment Intensive or Workshop, I would suggest you have a sit-down conversation with the Coach offering the enlightenment process. You do not need to like this person, but you must trust him. Be sure that you will emerge from his process the same person who went in. There is an element of brain-washing involved with enlightenment work. This cannot be avoided, since you are re-programming your own inner space. You need to be aware of the dangers and take appropriate care in selecting your Coach, especially if they need to be called the "Master."

There are two dangers in going to an enlightenment process. First you may learn the truth - something that you may now be avoiding. Second you may be brain washed at the hands of an incompetent "Master". Still, you should not be afraid to start. Right now, you are already programmed, you are just not aware of it! Fire is also dangerous, but we hide it in steel, and it makes our car cruise down the freeway. The power of fire is confined by steel in such a way as to turn the wheels. In an enlightenment Intensive, or an enlightenment Workshop, the power of interpersonal relationships is confined to the direction you want. To have that happen, you need a clear intention, and you need honest help from others.

Let's clarify our understanding by a review of what we said about "help" in the footnotes - - Help - - There is a lot of confusion about what help is. The problem is when "Help" is given to avoid communication. In other words, I give you help, as I define it, rather than as you define it. I can be selfishly motivated to avoid listening, by giving you false help, so that you are more like me and less like you. People thus get into trouble giving help, since oftentimes the person does not ask for it, and does not want it, and after receiving it, is worse off. Real help occurs when both parties understand one another, and then engage in some action that benefits the person asking for help. You don't have to consciously ask for help, you can ask for help unconsciously, but the desire for help must be there. You cannot get help unless you want it.

On to Questions to an Uncle.

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