Spiritual Discussion Groups on the Web
Are Not Developmental

by Qutub Sarmouni

There are all sorts of forums, discussion groups and chat rooms on the Web where supposedly serious and profoundly intelligent people share important insights on serious subjects, which sometimes will cause a group flurry of interest in a website such as this one, which has an interactive oracle and some articles but noticeably no forum, discussion group, chat room, advertised meditation classes or other “please get involved with our wonderful work” sort of commercial advertisement.  We give no address to contact; we offer no form of overt participation.  So the shallow grouping will suddenly get fascinated with something, kick it back and forth with witty doubts and criticisms and then pause a little in group satisfaction that theirs is the sophisticated consensus, which will soon be followed by their swarming temporarily on to something else, like a mass of flies in Morocco moving from one piece of hanging meat in the open market and then moving to another one when the first one gets disturbed in some way.  What these various forums, discussion groups and chat rooms accomplish is not even a preparation for higher human development.  What it is, which any genuine Sufi can see, is an attention exchange situation so that the participants can give and receive the amount of social attention they need to fuel their social egos.  It therefore does not matter what website or seemingly serious issue they temporarily land on together, because their only real concern is their attention exchange system.  The little flurries and fads they create for themselves are utterly without substance, except where one or two of them suddenly wake up to the shallow emptiness and pretentious verbal posturing of witty commentators and critics in their group, thus causing these one or two awakened people to stop attending such groups with the realization that attention needs and cravings have no bearing whatsoever on serious human development other than to postpone it for secondary rewards.


Sufis are often called “cold-hearted” and “smugly superior” for pointing out the difference between a social attention exchange situation and a developmental situation or gathering that we in fact call a Gathering, a Jam.  Developmental people in a developmental gathering are not relieving social cravings to belong, to give or get attention.  Anyone with that kind of neurotic problem is simply not going to be there, even if they whine and complain of being “wrongly left out”.  In the end, such people with attention problems will inevitably “decide” that the rejecting people, genuine Dervishes working to become Sufis, are themselves “inferior” and “irrelevant” or they would not have shut out the self-important attention seeker.


Any Eastern teacher or situation that panders to immature social seekers is himself or itself non-developmental, whatever the claims and self-convictions otherwise.  This includes even certain well-known “Sufis” and “Sufi” groupings who offer an indiscriminate “come one, come all” approach with bulletins, advertisements and the like.  This is nothing but cheap consumerism.  Any Sufi who says, “Come and try us out and if you feel impressed and stimulated enough, be sure to try and stay and remain committed to our particular work”, is a false Sufi.  Neither you nor anyone else will ever develop in the company of shallow shoppers who drift from one grouping to another as if they are gathering important experiences along their route of various attention exchange situations.  The Way has never been and never will be a consumerist attention exchange situation.


Who knows?  Perhaps this very article will cause a temporary swarm of visits from some discussion group or forum on the Web when one or another of them feels struck somehow by the Sufi approach to the Sufi Way as opposed to the brainy doubting shoppers of the West.  However, we are never elated or encouraged by such shallow group flurries of “interest” because we know exactly what it really means and does not mean.