Thursday, January 21, 2010

Darren Littlejohn Replies, and my Rejoinder

Darren Littlejohn replied to my earlier post here with a comment here:

The act of judging judgment is in itself judgment - even if hiding behind a label of compassion. Some may disagree with the choice of words or interpretation of the Dharma. That's OK. No one has to believe a word of it. We all have issues. It's Samsara. How's that for an issue?

"Buyer Beware" would fit if someone were selling the ideas. I share freely what's worked for me. Sure you can argue that we're selling books. But they don't print themselves. Perhaps you'll read the book before being so non-judging and compassionate. But if you hate the 12 Steps please don't use them. They too are free and for people who want them, not people who need them. The "guided meditation" podcasts are also free.. Please don't listen if you don't like them. Thousands of people do like them and continue to ask for more.

Just in case my reply doesn't get past the Huffington Post moderator (been known to happen when folks have been highly critical of Deepak Chopra and other folks; it's nothing on Mr. Littlejohn) here's my reply (with a couple of typos fixed):


To each their own, of course. I'm just reporting what I see. Of course, your book aside, let's be honest here: you anticipate, based on your belief in 12 Step programs, that indeed there is a quid pro quo for "sharing freely" what's "worked for you" because the 12 Steps imply precisely that - "Spiritual Awakening."

BTW, I don't "hate" the 12 Steps; that's kind of odd, if you think about it; kind of like a "War on Drugs." I also don't "hate" the use of mummies for medicinal purposes, supply side economics, or Calvinism.

As far as guided meditations are concerned, they likely have their place in therapeutic settings, but I stand by my words, and you shouldn't take offense. Ever hear of Roy Masters?

So, I really do mean it, please be at peace, but, as with any proselytizers, please don't be shocked if people actually consider what you say.

I think your practice of Buddhism is right for you, and might be right for other people, but if you take umbrage at people scrutinizing your words, how open minded is that?

I really do wish him peace and, uh, serenity.

Perhaps, though, he doesn't like the "Spiritual Hucksterism" label on that post and this one. However, I must confess, I do find 12 Step groups in that category, simply because they make the fundamental mistake of creationists and Scientologists: as part of their dogma, they make claims that are testable via the scientific method, and when such claims are tested, they are found to be false, and the adherents persist in upholding the false claims. [On Edit]: However, on further reflection it does seem that there are other aspects that fit the bill:

  • They tend to encourage thinking resistant to questioning and criticism; I think the proof is given in this post.
  • They tend to use fear ... as in "You'll die if you don't continue to be in a 12 Step progam." Needless to say, this particular claim is not borne out in the data.
  • And, in particular, they don't seem to like caveat emptor - a healthy skepticism when it comes to their religious practices and beliefs.

Sorry 'bout that. But the world of phenomena is not going to not behave as the world of phenomena simply because you wish that your spiritual path were true.

But otherwise I think his response speaks for itself.

If one finds comfort and help in a 12 Step program, good for them, just as if one finds contact with god in a church or in a coven, good for them. But if we can't have a policy of "Let's talk about everything" (a calligraphy in the Zendo I attend) then something's not quite right.


Kyle Lovett said...

I meet Darren when I was In Phil attending a show with my GF. I went to one of his book signings, which had a lot of addicts and such there...and while Darren's approach isn't religious or too indepth, he did seem to contact with a lot of the addicts there. If that gets them interested in the dharma great, if they find comfort in that, great. If they are looking to Darren for a formal path per se, I think they'd do better elsewhere.

He's a good introduction IMO, at least to a certain segment of the population.

Mumon said...

Yeah, I can see that; and that's basically what I meant about him as Dharma Teacher.

"Darren as Recovering Person" isjust fine with me, and it's not my place to tell him or anyone how to do the Dharma or Recovery or what-not.

But I think, as you know, that "Buyer Beware" is a useful maxim for life both in and out of the marketplace.

And, as I've already said, given my experience and understanding of Buddhism of Zen variety, and of the 12-Step flavor of Frank Buchman's movement, I have to say they're hard to reconcile.

And I do think that if someone portrays 12 Step programs as anything other than spiritual and religious programs, claiming therapeutic benefits for them beyond what any other religious/spiritual program would have, then that's not quite true.

Kyle Lovett said...

I agree with you.