A Great Documentary on the Will to Believe

Published at 21:11 on 6 September 2012

I came closer than I like to think to missing it, but I managed to catch Kumare on the last night it showed in Seattle tonight.

It’s a documentary about what is essentially a case study on the human will to believe. The producer decided to exploit the advantages of his ethnic heritage and pass himself off as a guru from India. He basically concocted a spiritual belief system of his own (complete with plenty of new agey woo), and had no trouble attracting a small group of followers. (Which could have probably been a large group had he been so motivated to acquire one.) Eventually, he let them know the truth, after hinting at it in his teachings all along.

It’s an interesting study that raises a number of questions, not the least of which is his assertion that gurus are not needed. That’s an assertion that I am very fond of myself, but I have to admit that the movie can be taken as proving the opposite in some sense. Most of those who followed him really did seem to benefit from it, and it’s an open question whether they could have so benefited on their own.

Of course, we’re dealing with a self-fulfilling prophecy here. If you firmly and sincerely believe that gurus are necessary, and that you need one, then that belief in and of itself will get in the way of your being able to improve your life without finding and following one.