Posted on January 24, 2018

Someone asked me on Facebook: How do you know you are an honest man? Why would anybody ask that? Well, it was in a context where I described someone else – Bentinho Massaro, if you are interested – as a creep and a narcissist. How did I know he was that? And how did I know I was not that? Where do I find confirmation for my – sometimes very strong – beliefs about other people? The fact that I have a strong belief, or a very firm conviction that my judgement is right, what does that say? Mark Twain reminded us: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

So how do I know that Bentinho Massaro is a creep and a narcissist? By creep I mean a weird person that is undesirable company. And a narcissist is a person who is deluded about himself and obsessed with feelings of his own excellence and self-importance. Narcissism is described on Wikipedia as “a personality disorder in which there is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings.” To me, this perfectly describes Massaro.

Bentinho Massaro is a religious leader of an emerging spiritual movement. Viewed from inside, such a movement may look cosy and welcoming. But I have absolutely no wish to go inside. To me, standing safely outside, it looks like a very dangerous and creepy cult, held together by frightening groupthink. Here is a quote from the self-proclaimed enlightened ‘master’ (please forgive me my sarcastic tone):

“Fuck your relationships. They mean nothing. Let them go, let them go. Don’t give a fuck about your family. Don’t give a fuck about your children. Don’t give a fuck about your parents. Don’t give a fuck about your partner.”

To me this sounds horrible. And it is completely clear to me that if you buy into this kind of thinking, you are delivering yourself to something that is evil. If you want to find out for yourself, there is more where this quote came from. What you can read there is devastating, or so it seems to me. So if you don’t want to know, you may want to ask yourself why not. Here is a sequel to this, also written by Be Scofield. Scofield has a sane voice, and she also writes with compassion:

The people are sweet, warm and genuine. It’s sad to see what is happening to them. I listened to their stories of searching, longing and growing on the spiritual path. I could see the excitement in their eyes. I also saw hurt and confusion. I just remember feeling compassion as they were so sincere and genuine. Somehow they came to believe that a very mentally ill young man was a highly awakened being who could control the weather with his mind.

I heard about Bentinho Massaro for the first time last Summer, when a lovely FB friend I knew from Circling – I will not reveal her name here – posted about her retreat with him. I wasn’t curious at the time. Just one of many retreats, organized by one of many coaches. Spiritual awakening is a business, and I had already decided it was a business I had no wish to be involved in. But I could sense adoration, and my alarm bells were already ringing.

This morning, it took me just a single Google query to access everything I wanted to know about the Bentinho cult. If you really want to know stuff about people then it is easy to find out, these days. What I found confirmed what I already knew, for Bentinho has fake written all over him. So how come some of my most lovely FB friends do not want to know? How come that intelligent sensitive talented wonderful women that I know quite well get seduced by this creep? How come they believe in him but question – or maybe even: are infuriated by – my judgement? To me, these are serious questions.

Indeed, how can I be so sure of my own judgement? When I say that another man is a creep, what makes me a man whose judgement you, or anybody else, can trust? I don’t know what to say to this, really. If you are attracted to Bentinho and repelled by me, we surely do not live in the same world. It gives me a feeling there is nothing further that I can say. And still I know I am right about this.

Right now, in all honesty, I am reflecting on what it means to be an honest man. Honesty has a lot to do with integrity, and integration is an ongoing process. To be fully integrated means to be whole, and wholeness has the same root as holiness. I am definitely not holy. I am quite sure about that. Still I think of myself as honest, and experienced. And I know for sure I am seeking the company of honest people. And I value experience in people.

So let me try to disentangle world views, a bit. Or rather, let me comment on some slogans that disguise world views. Here is one slogan: “We all create our own reality, all the time.” Here is another slogan: “We are all constrained by the circumstances we are in, all the time.” I can find deep truth in both of these, but only when they are taken together. I find that if the truth in one of these is forgotten, the truth from the other slogan turns sour. For it is false that we are unconstrained in creating our reality. And it is also false that we are helpless victims of our circumstances. The correct way to see it is that, as a human being interacting with an environment, I am in touch with something much larger than myself, call it “reality”, and that I am connected to a mysterious universe in lots of different mysterious ways. These connections constrain me, and at the same time they also enable me to take steps that shape my future. And I am lucky in that I can sense that within the constraints there is also a lot of freedom for me, there.

I know a thing or two about groupthink from painful personal experience. I know the groupthink inside of the Roman Catholic Church from boarding school. Mind you, this was not all bad. But it was my experience that some of my teachers there tried to prevent me at all cost from taking the outside perspective. I know groupthink from inside and outside from interactions with the leftwing comrades from my student days. I interacted with Fun Theatre, making sure that I was not sucked in. See my post on groupthink for more. I took yoga classes at a school that suffered from a devotion to Sai Baba. See my report here on why I dropped out. I learned a lot from all of this. And the key lesson is that there is no substitute for sanity. There is no substitute for making up our own minds. None of us is perfect, and we all need teachers. Once we have chosen a teacher, we have to be willing to follow their instruction, for a while, and then just see what happens. But we all are responsible for choosing our teachers, and it is very, very important to choose wisely. This is the essence of sanity.

There is only one problem with sanity, as again Mark Twain reminds us: “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” Any sane person can see that reality exposes us to suffering. And Mark Twain is aware of the temptation to escape from this into a self-created world of illusion, by giving up our sane judgement.