POLEMICS WITH BORIS FALIKOV
Anatomy of a Myth
Achievement by a completely worthless means leads to its substitution
Alexander Dvorkin. Cultology. Totalitarian cults. Attempt at systematic research. Publishing House of Brotherhood of Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky. Nizhni Novgorod. 2000.
I'll start with the good news. The second edition of the book by Alexander Dvorkin contains fewer factual inaccuracies than the first. In the preface the author expresses gratitude to his attentive readers whose remarks he took note of. Alas! Not all of them. Otherwise he would not have ascribed the honor of organizing the World Parliament of Religion in Chicago to an "occultist cult of Swedenborgians." (p. 49). In fact, it was done by the Unitarians. I am sure that Dvorkin has an abusive nickname in store for them.
To the good of the book are a couple of chapters on Hinduism written by Anatoly Mikhailov. By the way it would do no harm to do recognition to a successful coauthor by mentioning him in the preface ... To our regret, Dvorkin preserved in his new publication his chapters on Krishnaism and Transcendental Meditation, which come across as utterly strange next to the pithy text by Mikhailov. I think Krishnas laughed in abundance when they found out that their sacred chanting "Kirtansi" was this "dance dedicated to Krishna," but sankirtansi (honoring Krishna with the help of a "kirtansi") was "collecting money on the street" (pp 288 and 279).
However, there is no sense enumerating the factual inaccuracies of the book. The list of them is too lengthy and the essence of the problem is elsewhere. One would not try to list factual mistakes of the "Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion." Myth was created through its laws, which had no relationship to ordinary reality. So, let us study the anatomy of a myth.
The fundamental message of Dvorkin's book remains the same. Although words "Attempt at systematic research" appear in the sub-title, the book has nothing to do with either theology or science. However, the author did not conceal this, but stated that his goal was not theological polemics, but reducing the number of the victims of "religious totalitarianism." He does not think very highly of the secular religionists, but considers them paid allies of "totalitarian cults." Corrupted villains do not even recognize that this term has a right to exist.
The genre in which Dvorkin is fighting with this would have had to have been called the "court of law satirical story" if not for one "but": he wrote for the most part not about criminals processed by the courts, but about religious organizations, officially registered in Russia.
The pathos of the author for defending Orthodoxy from the "cult plague" is clear. Well, all this "perversion of religion" is offensive to him and there is no control of them - they creep out of every possible hole. There is a type of religious consciousness for which a different religious faith, especially if it is dressed in an exotic garments, causes squeamish fear. The heart of the matter is elsewhere. Would it be to the benefit of the Orthodoxy to perform wholesale defamation on all new religions without an attempt to give distinct religious and theological information about them? It seems to me that it causes harm and rather substantial.
On almost 700 pages of small print of chapter after chapter (the Mikhailov chapters will have their own paragraph) flows a simple trick: "cult" leaders - horrible criminals against humanity - in the manner of the Nuremburg tribunal condemnations, are opposed to the common "cult members" - silent victims. Consequently the main task is safeguarding the latter from the former. Orthodox missionaries, having armed themselves with the book of Dvorkin have to convince them that they had fallen into the hands of awful reprobates. And also frighten off potential victims.
Let us imagine ourselves in the shoes of these victims. Supposing you fell in for the teachings of Reverend Moon, the Moonies give you tons of good feelings, you find yourself among your own people and the sense of closeness helps to overcome difficulties in life. Missionary Dvorkinito comes up to you and says, "Stop this, they are cheating you, they call this 'love bombing.'" What is the matter what they would call it, if it makes the life easier?
Or the loyal Dvorkinito comes to a religious youth who has not yet made his decision, and he begins to pour out tubs of filth about Krishnas, Moonies and Scientologists. Afterwards he beats himself on the chest and says - "all the fullness of truth are with us, the Orthodox, come to us for guaranteed salvation." I don't think that spreading the dirt [about other religions] would help a missionary to get a wavering person on his side. There is a large probability of another reaction. Just what kind of Orthodox are you if you revile your neighbors that way? It is not a Christian way, anyhow.
The "victim of criminals" diagram does not work in the realm of religion. This does not mean that nobody profits from the religious quest of others. I bet, they do! But from my observation, it is done not by the calculating hunters for profit, as Dvorkin attempts to represent all "cult" leaders. If they are in error, then they made a completely honest mistake. In the opposite case, they would not have attracted as much of a following. Pyramid schemes may be built on the premise of those who want to buy a nickel for two cents - greed blinds. Truth, as a rule, aspires to selflessness.
It is possible to convince such people by only one method to show that the teachings you profess bear real fruit, and that is that you yourself are a good example. Wickedly defaming the competition, using lies and distorting facts - is not a good method and it hardly can inspire anybody.
But the follower of a "victims-criminals" scheme "victims cannot but lie. He has unintentionally hit upon a vicious circle. If yer gonna have victims, ya gotta have criminals. Look, here they are, hurray, sic'em ... He goes about dishing out compromising material, basically by plagiarizing from the Internet, where, as is well known, nobody is accountable for the authenticity of the information. But if criminals are not arrested, it means the authorities are not showing the necessary vigilance and need help. The genre of the court satirical story is substituted by the genre of slander and informants.
"Mormons tread silently, but very actively: in the recent news everyone seems to be communicating (who? - B.F.) about their buying up Russian industrial enterprises ... and real estate. Through communicating (by whom?) these operations are conducted in violation of the tax legislation." (p. 133)
"Isn't this persistent wish of the Krishnas to be present in the so-called 'hot spots' (places in the former Soviet Union where there was a war going on) where there is huge exchange of goods. having in sight very specific commodities. not controlled by anyone, and the financial streams)?" (p. 304)
Now about the chapters written by Anatoli Mikhailov. He was able to perform an uneasy task - to give a concise and competent outline of the history of Hinduism, classifying its basic direction and showing the process of the origin of neo-Hinduism. But the accusatory pathos of his coauthor is so unruly that it has a shattering effect even on these fair pages. For example, after the clever description of the essence of Yoga, there jumps out like the devil out of a snuffbox, an enigmatic phrase like this: "Professor Aargaard (Denmark) calls traditional Yoga the art of dying, the thermonuclear weapon of Hinduism in its war on life." (p. 253). The professor likes to shot from the hip.
Neurosis interspersed in quite reasonable text possibly would be considered as an odd thing, but unfortunately the matter is much worse. The "victims - criminals" mindset forces the author to contradict himself. Scientific conscientiousness pushes him to admit that certain contemporary neo-Hinduistic movements are acknowledged by traditional Hinduistic masters, which places them within a frame of normative Hinduism (p. 261). But on the other hand they are headed by "criminals," and thus they cannot be called anything other than "pseudo-Hinduists."
The most complicated problem of Hinduism turning into a world religion that unavoidably involves overcoming caste barriers and a mission to non-Hindus will not become more understandable if one considers it a part of a world conspiracy of the forces of evil against the fortress of Orthodoxy. And Christianity would not able to adequately answer the challenge of Hinduism, if it will be relying upon paranoia.
Dvorkin's work brings to mind the banal truth. Achievement of the goal by an unsuitable means leads to its substitution. That is the result is contrary to the original idea. I am afraid that the book rather than turning young men, seeking for Truth, away from the "evil of cults", will avert them from the Orthodoxy.
("NG-religii" No. 7 (78) April 11, 2001
Alexander Dvorkin, Anatoli Mikhailov
Polemics with Boris Falikov
Hubbard's Adventures in Russia, or ideology instead of science
In his time, journalist and teacher at St. Filaret's senior Orthodox school Boris Falikov, wrote a rather intelligible book about neo-Hinduism (Neo-Hinduism and Western Culture: Nauka, 1994), but afterwards he joined the ideological battle and since then, like the hunter from the Schwartz story, left his principal career to join the fight to introduce mandatory dialogue everywhere, by all and with all (but only not with opponents who were critical of the points in question).
His written review of the book, "Cultology: Totalitarian Cults" (Anatomy of a Myth // NG-religion. No. 7(78). April 11, 2001) was in exactly the same tenor. The principle behind such review is straightforward - to present any two conflicting sentences of a critical work, state that a gross error had been committed with the announcement that "By the way, there is no point in enumerating the factual inaccuracies of the book, as the list would prove to be too long ..." Consequent to this avoidance of any observation of fact, one may confidently cross over to the general argument about the reviewing author's incompetence.
To demonstrate the unsoundness of this method, we would consider Falikov's findings in the text of the book of "errors."
1. Falikov regards as inaccurate the passages in the book that report that the World Congress of Religion in Chicago was convened on the initiative of the Swedenborgians, and he asserted that the "Unitarians did this, although they were not alone." From just the journalist's own words it is obvious that credit for convening this notorious gathering back in 1893 was the work of several groups. Of course, it could be argued about which if them play the most active role of the bunch. But, at best, this line of discussion may be about differing opinion, but not about a factual inaccuracy.
2. Falikov wrote, "I think the Krishnas would laugh hard enough when they found out their sacred "Kirtansi" hymns were referred to as this "dance dedicated to Krishna" and to the "Sankirtansi" (honoring Krishna with the help of Kirtansi) to "collecting money on the street." In contrast to the majority of other cults, Falikov has indeed studied somewhat about the "Society for Krishna Consciousness" in the past. Therefore it is surprising that he is so ignorant of the meaning of the expressions most used in this cult's jargon which, in fact, do vary widely from the normative Hindu vocabulary. This is only one of the many ways that shows how far "Society for Krishna Consciousness" departs from traditional Hinduism. So the merry laughter in the Krishna Ashram upon Begovaya Street, promised by Falikov, will not take place.
We are still waiting for the allegedly long list of other "factual inaccuracies in the book" to be published. It seems that the waiting period will last indefinitely. Meanwhile, let us note that Falikov himself recently gained some notoriety by reporting that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard "several years ago visited Moscow ... and quite officially met with readers in a book store" (Scientology and the Spirit of Capitalism // "Vremya MN." Oct. 27, 1999). If one takes into account that Hubbard died in 1986, and for several years prior to that shut himself off from the outside world in a remote ranch in California, not only was he never in Russia at any time during his life, but not even in eastern Europe, then the report related by Falikov merits special piquancy.
The reviewer is no stranger to the not quite correct interpretation of the text in order to find imaginary contradictions in it. Thus, Falikov wrote that on p. 261 of "Cultology," it spoke of the recognition of several current neo-Hindi movements by traditional Hindu teachers who allegedly included them in the fold of normative Hinduism. If we open our Cultology textbook, then we will see that the discussion is not about traditional teachers, but about fundamentalists. The difference between traditionalism and fundamentalism in religion generally, and in Hinduism in particular, is discussed in "Cultology" in more detail in the same chapter, beginning on page 263. For Hindi fundamentalism, which itself typically offers a variant of neo-Hinduism, denial of the caste system is what aligns it with pseudo-Hindi sects and brings it to abrupt departure from traditional Hinduism, in which one of the basic principles is the doctrine about varnashramas. Besides, fundamentalists recognize several pseudo-Hindu sects for reasons not having to do with religion, but with ideology (based on the idea of Hindi messianism and chauvinism) and of financial-political motivation.
Falikov's statement that the majority of the material gathered for "Cultology" came from the Internet is a distortion of the truth. Not seeing anything wrong in citing material webbed on the Internet (that being a generally accepted practice nowadays), not only was that done, but an extensive circle of sources was also used. This can readily be seen by skimming through the book where it can be seen that for every reference to an Internet page there are 20-30 references to print material, including material from the cults, critical literature, journalistic investigations, court records, decisions by governmental agencies and more.
Unfortunately, there is really nothing to answer in Falikov's review, which reads like a completely ill-defined, ideological text. Perhaps it would be more rewarding to consider the ideological premise of such material. For that the most clearly expressed source would be an article by Falikov called "New Religions and Changes in Russia" (Dia-logos. Religion and Society, 1998-1999, M:"Truth and Life," 1999. p. 172-182).
Personally, Falikov has rejected the term "totalitarian cults" as being unscientific, emotionally charged and implicitly carrying a negative charge. He has suggested that any discussion about them begin with a "presumption of innocence," using the term "new religion." This assertion is very typical, and is significant in that it projects an obvious prejudice by the author. The notion of a "presumption of innocence" for organizations that, to put it mildly, already have a ragged reputation in society and theology, is rather conspicuous when used by lawyers whose goal is to gain legitimacy for dangerous recidivists. We also remember that many cults have struggled in many countries for a long time in vain to prove they are "religions." The purpose of this is to attain a status that turns on many privileges for them. Thus a person who calls cults "religions" under the pretext of objectivity is foisting upon the readers an emotionally charged pre-made judgment, only from the reverse direction.
What we have before us is a typical swindle in totalitarian cults and new religious movements - although they may intersect, they are not identical. The "Cultology" book, by the way, is about totalitarian cults (that follows from the title alone); it is about authoritarian, idiocratic organizations, the leaders of which strive for authority over and exploitation of their own adherents, concealing their intentions under religious, philosophical, psychological, health improvement, academic, political and other guises.
Totalitarian cults resort to trickery, suppression and coercive propaganda to attract people. They use information censorship to manipulate and retain their people, and also resort to other unethical methods of control over individuals, such as psychological pressure, intimidation and others. In this manner totalitarian cults infringe on human rights with freedom of information, selection of worldview and life-style. In various cults they violate various human rights, but they violate without fail; this is their basic trait.
So, if Falikov considers totalitarian cults to be new religions, that is obviously an indication of his own lack of experience in field work into cults. In reality, of a large number of totalitarian cults, some may be more, so to say, religious while others are less so. However, the majority of totalitarian cults can be called rather pseudo-religious. This is evident from the interviews of a large number of former cults members, who relate that their motives for joining could not be properly called religious. They were not seeking God or His divine truth, nor were they thinking of religious philosophy or ethic problems. They were, rather, striving for emotional support, more success and less personal responsibility, socialization or good health. They wanted to develop their natural capability and obtain supernatural ones, etc. That which they received in totalitarian cults also has little relationship to religion: emotional dependency and anxiety, loss of identity and possessions, transformation into a means of solving their psychological and financial problems by cult leaders. Moreover, those who seek truth and go about it sincerely will eventually find strength to leave totalitarian cults.
Naturally it may be stubbornly asserted, as it seems, that Scientology and Moonism are new religions and that they have adherents, but - if we are consistent - the same could also be said about La Cosa Nostra or the Red Brigade. These also have similar traits: superhuman status for the leaders, a organizational hierarchy, secret teachings, dogmatic, mythological ideology, tradition and rites, a homegrown system of ethics ... We still prefer to call such apparitions totalitarian cults.
Getting back to Falikov's legal stance. How does he further develop it in the article in question? In his opinion, new religions cause displeasure in Russian society because they are too liberal for the conservatives ("rejection of religious traditions and freedom of choice for new forms of religion", p. 177), but too conservative for the liberals (" ... appeal to past ideals that should protect or revive, promotion of a simplified mythological scheme in reply to the complexities of contemporary life and voluntary subordination to their charismatic leaders, p. 177).
His poor "new religions," however, choke on these internal discrepancies and gravitate toward one or the other pole - liberal (those religions that "hope for evolutionary transformation of the world") or conservative ("anticipating its catastrophic end").
In spite of all the facts, Falikov further asserted that "generally the "evolutionist" emits from abroad while here at home we create the "apocalyptic" (p. 178).
The good "evolutionist" Jehovah's Witnesses then await a quick and bloody end to the world, the Brahma Kumaris await "impending global catastrophes," the extreme apocalyptic Church Universal and Triumphant ("Violet Flame") repeatedly prophesy a violent end to the world, along with the "Family" cult, various neo-Pentecostal groups and others! But, as happens in such things, as soon as theory starts to contradict the facts, it is the facts that suffer!
Even foreign "new religions," asserted Falikov, have already been naturalized in Russia. "Today practically all leaders of foreign new religions in this country are of Russian descent (p. 178). But here, of course, he does not mention that these Russian leaders have been newly appointed, that they hold figurehead positions, and that foreigners control everything as they have been, without duly informing the responsible governmental agencies. Isn't Falikov aware, for example, that the "Society for Krishna Consciousness," for example, had never had one Russian guru in all its thirty years of existence on Russian soil?
But these are just insignificant details to him. The main thing was to get across to the readers that now all these harmless organizations are completely ours and that "Russification" has already occurred in them at the deeper ideological levels (p. 72). And thus one must not be afraid of "new religions": they remain in the fringe area of culture in Russia, no matter what large number of them the call fighters would name" (p. 182).
In addition, summed up Falikov, those few Russians who chose their cultural self-identification in the form of non-traditional religion prefer "evolutionist" "liberal" religion that offered a method of participating in the this change [happening in this country] (no matter how odd it would seem to a side observer), than escape from them in expectation of the end of the world (p. 182).
What about the famous "apocalyptism of Russian consciousness" of the prophet-philosopher Berdyaev? The reply to this self-posed question came easily to Falikov in the finale of his legal discourse: "Actually, it's not out of the question that the Orthodox fundamentalists themselves try to take the role of the prophets of the future apocalypse, and in this case, it may be said about this change that the dread of the secular world takes the shape of the expectation of the end of the world in a different form" (p. 182).
So there we have the crux of the matter! Here is the really destructive villain for whom no presumption of innocence is to be afforded! Here is what needs to be fought by the progressive forces of mankind! Because of the opinion of the ideological group to which our journalist belongs, and a large number of ROC (Russian Orthodox Church) belong to the "fundamentalists," the target of his diatribe is more than obvious.
And then it becomes crystal clear to which goal the "impartial and objective researcher" longs to bring us, toward considering the surrounding environment through the prism of "methodological agnosticism" with its "non-evaluative" position (terms are from English pro-sectarian religious sociologist Eileen Barker, who Falikov deems a prominent and authoritative researcher of new religious movements). Further comment is, so it seems, superfluous ....
("NG-religii" No. 11(82) 14 June 201)
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