The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive


I’ve recently been watching the HBO documentary series, The Vow. It’s one of those weekly installment things that I always find a bit annoying as you have to wait until next week to see the next episode. For the people who watch it at a later date I guess this won’t be a problem as once it is On Demand I am sure you will be able to binge it if you want. The doc is a bit filler-heavy and it would have been nice to cut it down to like an hour and a half. But, I get it, some filmmakers want to provide as much inside info as possible.

This doc is about NXIVM and it leader Keith Raniere and all its players and how they got to where they got be. First of all, I have no personal experience with NXIVM and I do not believe that I’ve ever personally known anyone who did. But, that is not what this piece is about. This piece is about power—the way some people attempt to unleash it, hold onto it, and how some people fall prey to it.

From my early years forward, I was drawn to spiritual teachings and making one’s self and life better. So, throughout the years, I have interacted with a lot of spiritual teachers. I was a close member of Swami Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga Institute and the Sufi Order in my teenage years. About this time, the whole Jim Jones, Jonestown thing took place and people started talking a lot about cults. As I have said before, in all of my years with Swami Satchidananda the only money I gave the group was a $10.00 donation when we were buying Gurudev a new blanket for the Los Angeles Integral Yoga Institute. In terms of time, I was happy to give it. These people were my friends and we were doing things together—doing things for the greater good. This is the same with martial arts, in all the years I professionally taught martial arts at a studio I never took one dime for myself. It was my donation to the greater good. The point? Spiritually does not have to be about a cult, power, getting people’s money, and hurting people lives.

You can watch the HBO doc or read about the goings on of NXIVM if you want to know the kind of things Raniere and his people did to other people. But, that kind of behavior has nothing to do with spirituality! In fact, if anyone initially knew this kind of stuff was going on, they probably never would have walked through the door. And, that’s the problem, people either do not know or they are forced into situations of surrendering their personal power and from there people have the ability to gain more power over others and tell them they must relinquishing their personal wholeness for some spiritual something. But, it’s all a con. Spirituality and psychological betterment is never about giving some unenlightened individual the keys to your mind, your wholeness, and/or your wellness: spiritual, psychological, financial or otherwise.

In this doc, you see the kind of things the powers-that-be did to hurt the lives of those who left the group. You also see how parents think they know better than their children and they attempt to put the power play on them. But, no one is absolutely right and/or holy. Some people just think they are.

In life, I have witnessed this kind of power-based behavior a lot. For me, it never happened in spiritual groups. When I was ready to leave, I left. Everyone wished me all the best. In business, however—in the martial arts, in the film game, people truly hurt my life all as a means to attempt to show that they possessed power over me. Hell, even trolls on the internet, even reviewers, hoped to express their power over me by falsely judging me and bagging my creations.

In terms of parents, my father died when I was young but my mother totally fucked with my life attempting to hold onto power over me. For others, I have watched as their parents attempted to keep them from becoming all they could and all they wanted to be with whom they wanted to be with. In regard to Swami Satchidananda, many years back this one female devotee apparently met one of Satchidananda’s swamis, they feel in love, he left the order, they got married, but her parents actually put up a website blaming their love on the Cult of Satchidananda. How is that finding of love his fault? How is finding love a bad thing?

As far as this doc goes, it shows the case of this one time kinda famous actress doing all she can to get her daughter out from under the influence of Raniere. She eventually provided the New York Attorney General with all kinds of evidence, including against her daughter. She says, “If she has to go to jail, I guess that's better than her being with him.” What kind of mother says that? What kind of mother does something like that? What kind of mother puts her daughter in harm's way like that? What kind of power trip is that? Whatever the outcome, who is she to think for her daughter?

To understand some of the subtleties of what I am taking about you may have to view the doc. But, I think we can all understand power. The way some people try to exhibit it over others to control them, what people do to maintain it, and the damage it can cause to the lives of people who are forced to deal with the power plays of others. How about you? Have you been dominated by the power of someone else? How about you? Have you attempted to dominate someone else with your power? Why? Why to them and why to you?

If we look at the exhibition of power, it comes from a very low level of human consciousness. It arises from a position of insecurity. Why does anyone want to have power over someone else? Answer, because they are not whole in themselves and they need to feel the drug that they are something more than that someone else.

I am sure Raniere and his cronies (and/or anyone else from any other group or just a solo person) were/are in denial about why they were doing what they were doing; just as most people who seek power over others are. They can make up excuses, they can tell themselves (and others) lies, they can gain a feeling of empowerment, raised adrenaline, and even false holiness by exhibiting power over others. But, all that is a lie. It is one of the ultimate deceptions of life. Sure, maybe you win the fight but if you hurt someone’s life evolution in the process what are the consequences to you, your destiny, and to all of those you lured into playing in your game? In the case of Raniere, potentially the rest of his life in prison. For his disciples, long prison sentences. Power is a bad thing. Think before you seek it.