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Re: Belonging

Jun 02, 1998 07:55 PM
by Pam Giese

Your post sent me running for an old issue of Parabola (Summer 1995).
Here's the cover page quote from Satish Kumar:

"When you accept the state of being a stranger, you are no longer a
I have been an exile when everything around me seemed strange and everybody
was a stranger.  Once I accepted that I didn't have to belong and I didn't
have to
be part of the world, then I was free to be part of it.  There was a
paradoxical release of the spirit.  The world became mine when I was no
longer holding on to it."

Finding that ideal group is like finding the ideal mate--some will swear
that it's happened for them, others are convinced that it's just around the
corner (or up in the Himalayans), and the rest of us scoff it off as just a
romantic notion.  Like relationships, our expectations of groups can be too
high:  passionate discussion without negative emotions; hotly defended
arguments without judgements or slurs.  Groups get disfunctional just like
relationships and damaged groups, like relationships, can be salvaged with
work and love.

my $.02


"Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light..."

> From: "K Paul Johnson" <>
> Subject: Belonging
> Date: Tuesday, June 02, 1998 2:15 PM
> Lately I've been thinking about several senses of the term
> "belonging" and the relationships among them.  This is inspired by
> my Theosophical karma, Kym's recent comments about it, and the
> impending publication of the Cayce book.
> The literal sense of "belonging" is simply membership in a group.
> But behind that is the figurative meaning of "having a sense of
> belonging."  That implies being welcome, at home, among friends,
> secure.  The worst part of certain reactions to my books about
> HPB was the implicit message of "You don't belong."  Meaning,
> from the POV of the person expressing rejection and hostility,
> "You are not welcome here, this movement is not your home, you
> are not among friends."  Even though the deliverers of this
> message were not the ones who had ever given me a sense of
> belonging in the first place, it was still wearing after a
> while to get such regular doses of unbrotherly sentiment.
> Particularly since the better part of 20 years has been spent with
> Theosophy as my primary nexus for a sense of belonging.
> Behind that positive psychological sense of what it means to "belong"
> is the dark side.  That is "to be owned by."  While most people
> would indignantly deny that they yield their independence to
> conform to a group's pressures, we all do so in different ways.
> These are usually invisible, with people not seeing what they're
> giving up in autonomy.  The people who take the most pleasure in
> "belonging" to a group are also those most likely to yield
> autonomy, to have their values and principles determined by group
> norms.  It's only when a person stops belonging in that sense--
> stops thinking the way "all x are supposed to think," that the
> dark side of belonging manifests.  It's as if the moment one
> clearly expresses "You don't own my conscience" to a group and
> its leaders, one is also saying "I don't belong to you."  And
> that quickly can merge into the other meanings; figuratively, when
> such mental independence brings about an unwelcoming, rejecting
> reaction from the group, and sometimes literally when "heresy"
> leads to formal expulsion.
> It therefore seems to me advisable to seek groups in which the
> senses of belonging are not so intertwined.  Where being welcome,
> at home, and among friends does not require conformity to a belief
> system or behavioral code.  This is an ideal type, not
> perfectly manifested in any concrete example.  But the ideal is
> one that the TS Founders clearly held, and one to which the
> various Theosophical groups give lip service.
> Cheers,
> PJ

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