Falling in love with gurus?

I’m reading a book by a journalist, consisting of interviews with Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish sect leader, together with her fawning commentary on Gülen.

It’s quite embarrassing really. Gülen speaks in banalities and produces shallow “spiritual” platitudes. He does some hamfisted punditry and generally demonstrates that he has, well, let’s say intellectual limitations. His main theme is a kind of combination and reconciliation of Islam and Turkish nationalism. (He does some Arab-bashing.) Nothing surprising here; I’m already familiar with Gülen’s “thought” from his entanglements with Islamically-flavored pseudoscience. But the gushing-schoolgirl attitude of the journalist caught me by surprise, I have to admit. She treats Gülen like some sort of intellectual Superman.

I shouldn’t be too surprised. Bookstores are full of books by best-selling New Age authors who offer up spiritual blather with less depth than a wading pool. And people swear by their wisdom.

But it does tempt me to speculate. I wonder how similar the phenomenon of people falling for a guru, spiritual teacher, or sect leader is to falling in love. At the least, it seems in both cases there’s an emotional high associated with brain processes underlying a critical attitude shutting down.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University


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