In the last few posts I’ve examined the human dynamic that often takes place under the umbrella of Christian community. Model leaders often draw followers into their desire field only to later perceive their once welcomed disciples as threats to their leadership position. Such a perception eventually leads to one of the parties leaving the group, albeit the odds are stacked heavily on the leader’s side, with them often maintaining control in the desire wars.
In this post I wish to look at the predicament of the disillusioned disciple, the one emotionally ejected by the leadership and sent into the religious wilderness. If they haven’t taken a group of followers with them and immediately set up a rival religious group what becomes of them?
Disillusionment is the first strong emotion to settle on the departed follower’s psyche. So much of their self-esteem had depended upon their closeness to the Model leader in the hot-house environment of the religious community that on ejection their sense of identity takes a big hit. How come they could be in the center of the model’s desire field one moment and then banished to the desert wastelands the next. The disillusionment usually revolves around three persons:
1) The Leader
Once seen as a reflection of the Divine itself, the disciple’s view of their previously beloved leader has now hit the level of reality. The almost angelic messenger and mediator of the Divine Will is now seen to be human after all, with most definite and brittle feet of clay. The illusory nature of the Model-disciple relationship has been shown for what it is, a utopian pipe dream birthed by their joint egos. Now in the cold light of day, and outside the court of the adored leader, the ex-follower wonders how they could have been infatuated with the Model for so long; why the flaws in the mimetic, imitative game weren’t obvious much sooner. The leader Model has now become someone who the disciple does not want to be around.
So where was God when the mimetic dance of desire had drawn the disciple into the Model’s gravitational field of control. Were the experiences of Divine Love experienced during the heady days of the group’s rise also delusional? Was God around at all and, if so, why didn’t He bring things to Light much earlier? Why didn’t He blow-apart the Model’s little desire- kingdom and herd the flock back to Himself as soon as things started to go off the spiritual rails? maybe He doesn’t care, maybe He isn’t there? ‘ God, I think I need my own space for a while so I’ll be seeing you’, is the common reaction to the whole traumatic affair. No more religious attendance, no more prayer, no more Bible reading.
Most significantly of all is the ex follower’s disillusionment with their own Self. The person whom they imagined themselves to be has let them down big time. Perhaps the Model is correct, maybe they are unworthy of Divine love and need to shape up. Maybe they are selfish and a disloyal, rebellious, position seeker. Perhaps the group and the leader’s spin on things is the Truth. The whole idea of Divine calling and vocation lies tattered in the ruins of the doubting psyche. In such Self disillusionment that fragmented psyche falls headlong into a dark pit of aloneness, A little religious boat floating on the sea of psychic isolation.
Following the inflow of disillusionment comes its sister emotion, that of intense anger. Again it sets its sights on the same three targets:
1) The Leader
Eventually anger boils up at the very thought of the model and their remaining loyal followers. The only way to avoid this is to keep out of the sphere of the leader’s influence. Religious circles are dangerous spaces in which to dwell for they only reinforce and trigger flashbacks of sacred hierarchy that seemed so right for so long. But not know. The ex-disciple interprets all authority structures as those of their ex-Model often hitting out in anger and psychic pain. Whenever the ex-Model is mentioned in conversation the ex-follower’s fight or flight mechanism kicks in, usually fueled by a deep internal anger that wants to hit out and scapegoat their previously scapegoating mentor.
The ex-disciple demonstrates their deep anger at God by having nothing to do with Him. A stubborn non-attendance of alternative faith groups and the disappearance of all religious disciplines reveal a decision to ditch the God who cannot be trusted. Such was the zealous psyche’s identification of the Model Leader with God Himself, that neither can be trusted any longer, with anger at the Model projected onto the Divinity that allowed the dysfunctional relationship to develop. The scapegoat’s understandable but mis-targeted anger pushes the Divine to the back of the psychic queue. ‘Thanks, but no thanks!”, is the angry ex-disciple’s snappy response to suggestions that God is the answer to all their new-found problem’s. Can one blame them?
The anger that dwells within the disillusioned, departed ex-follower is ultimately targeted at Self. This Self within fell for the old skewed mimetic desire trick in the guise of religious devotion and therefore deserves the full frontal assault of the wounded psyche’s anger. ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ becomes the whipping mantra of the internal judge and jury. It appears to the disillusioned soul that they’d invested all their psychic energy into following the vision of their ex-religious Model only to see it all go down the proverbial toilet. The sense of intense waste only fuels the anger towards the Self who so easily gave away their precious psychic energy to feed the ego of another. It is not unusual in such circumstances for the anger of the jilted ex-disciple to manifest itself in both physical and seemingly mental illness. The anger needs a target and the body or foolish psyche seem as good as any.
The scenario that I have painted above is I’m afraid all too common in the wastelands of religious enthusiasm. Many wander around its desolate landscape for the rest of their lives. Some find a solace of sorts in a newly found militant atheism, or a passive and impotent agnosticism that is deeply suspicious of any ‘God Talk’. Others just wander in the ordinariness of life bumping from one set of circumstances to another with no hope of a better Way.
So what of Divine Love?
A tear is shed from the All-Seeing Eye. From its vantage point of omnipotence and omniscience, Source comes looking for us in our brokenness. If Spirit Breath can revive a disillusioned, angry, burnt out, ex-religious junkie that would be a true miracle!
In my next post I’ll look at how Divine Love sneaks back into the tragic life of the religious casualty.