It seems that spiritual groups differ little from other groups. Perhaps this is normal. Idealistic me would have hoped that there was some point to being spiritual, and that lessons could be learned towards less screwed living. This is the ideal. Then there is the human factor. We are all progressing at our own speeds. We are in our own places, doing the best or worst that we are capable of. Membership in a spiritual group does not put a halo over a person's head. It instead offers them opportunities for exploration and growth. Not everyone takes advantage of these, or perhaps they do in they're own way. The reasons for joining a spiritual group point to why they are cut from similar clothe of other groups.
Why join a spiritual group? Why be a member or leader? I came up with the following list:
1) To belong to something larger than the individual
2) To heal
3) To learn
4) To be empowered
5) To have power
6) To be special/different
7) To make a difference
8) To connect with or find deity
Items 1 through 7 can be shared with all groups. Only item 8 is particular to spiritual groups. Though, one could argue that non-spiritual groups have a secular version of this item.
These items are all noble and good. Each of these also has a shadow. Maybe I'll write about those another time. The point is that each noble aspiration can turn on itself, creating dissension and pain for those inside and outside the group.
Once upon a time I hoped that spiritual groups could do something to keep the shadows at bay. Maybe some quality of personal or group character could be attained that other groups don't have. Sadly, I see spiritual groups as much at risk for succumbing to the shadows of the group dynamic.
I ask my LJ friends these questions... do the spiritual groups have any moral/character advantage over other groups, or are they merely an imperfect but serviceable vehicle for discovering the divine? If you are or were a member of a spiritual group, what drew you to membership? How did the spiritual group improve your life?