Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Some years ago I was complaining to a friend about the inordinate amount of unfairness that I saw in an organization I belong to. She recommended that I read a book by a Jungian analyst called "Up From Scapegoating," the author is Arthur D. Colman. It was an eye opener about how organizations really work. In the book he uses a story from Ursula LeGuin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” It is the story of a perfect society, one in which everyone is completely content. But there is a catch. Here is a description from a web site I found:

"This society is founded on the misery and degradation of one child, imprisoned in a dirty, dark cellar room furnished with a bucket and two mops, kept from human contact and sunlight. (A number of critics have seen Christ-like symbolism in the description of the child). What is worse, everyone in this “joyous city” knows about the child; they are complicit in its inhumane treatment."

Here is the url if you want to read the rest of the synopsis:

The point Mr. Colman was making in using this story was that every association, organization, company or non-profit, apparently requires one or more scapegoats in order to pretend that it's existence is valid. As I read his book I began to see the parallels between what he was speaking about and the behavior I had observed in my own organization. And I felt sad. But then I read something that he wrote that gave me a lot of encouragement. He said that the one most important aspect of scapegoating that people often miss is that the one who is assigned the role need not accept it. In fact this person, who does not accept the role, will often turn out to be the teacher of the group that had once thought of him/her as inferior. I do not expect that but I can certainly understand saying NO.

Spiritual groups seem to be ripe for scapegoatism. I have a theory about why that is. Such groups tend to attract fairly intelligent people who do not do well in normal society. Since they have little chance to be given kudos in contemporary culture, they will look for it within this very limited group. I know this because, at one time, that was my motivation. When I realized I was doing that it was a great shock. And I found myself withdrawing more and more from the center of things. I got angry at people; I told them what I really thought of them and their actions. I ended up being branded an iconoclast, which made me feel good. And now, I know how to say NO. No, I will not support you in your insistence on a doctrine that turns away from Universality and needs the solace of…………..well that is another blog. Whew, that was close, I almost fell prey to anger again.

So, I say to you, all you scapegoats and all of you who scapegoat people, this is not the way. If we cannot find another way then the Universe will grow tired of us and replace us. And we will have earned our fate. If we cannot listen to the voice of creativity; if we demand that all conform; if we limit our experience to what is safe then we have not fulfilled the vision that was set out for us. Otherwise we are no better than that fictional culture that kept the little girl in the dungeon, mindless, ridden with sores, in a constant state of pain.

As I wrote in another blog, there is an arrogance of knowledge that we are subject to. I have seen it and, to my shame, I have participated,. But there is hope. There is an exercise that we can do to stop the arrogance and begin to see what is really important. We can listen. No matter how mundane, no matter how sad, no matter how depressive the content of the statements of the person before us, listen. Within all of that pain is a message, all this person really wants is a friend. Esoteric knowledge is nice, friendship is ever so much better.

I searched a program I have of the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan and was amazed at the number of times he mentions friendship as the most important thing. It isn't spiritual accomplishment or any of those nifty things, just friendship. The following is just one example.

"There is outer expression and inner expression, and we do not always know which is which. We may think many people are far removed from the God-ideal while they are much nearer to God than ourselves. It is difficult for anyone to judge who is near to God and who is not. It is difficult to know even in our own lives what pleases our friend and what does not please him. The more conscientious we are in wanting to please our friend, the more we find how difficult it is to know what will please him and what will not. Not everyone knows it, but then the light of friendship has not been kindled in everyone. Sometimes it remains a word in the dictionary. One who has learned friendship has learned religion. The one who has learned friendship has attained spiritual knowledge. The one who has learned friendship need learn very little else; morals in Persian are called friendship."

And another:

"It is in this way that self-denial is learned; not always by fasting and retreating into the wilderness. A man conscientious in his duty and in his obligations to his friends is more pious than someone sitting in solitude. The one in solitude does not serve God, he only helps himself by enjoying the pleasure of solitude; but the one who proves trustworthy to every soul he meets, and considers his relationships and connections, small or great, as something sacred, certainly observes the spiritual law of that religion which is the religion of all religions."

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Heather Ferraro said...

I wonder if people know when they are scapegoating someone... I imagine probably not. Another way that I think of a scapegoat is as "the fall guy"... the one who will be blamed and take the fall for what went wrong. Whenever we overtly or subtley hold one person responsible for larger,more complex problems, we are scapegoating.... It's interesting that people have such a psychological need to do this, to simplify complex problems and rid themselves of responsibility by blaming someone else...

Anonymous said...

This archetype seems to be so dominant in our global village that I have no clue if we could live without it.