it's a little-articulated but perfectly obvious mechanism in spirituality, how spiritual communities and groups form and what the benefits of being in a group dynamic, on the spiritual path, are.
I mean, most spiritual paths (and their devolution into religions, I mean the organized and otherwise) revolve around some sense of community, of people coming together, working together toward common goals or vision, sharing their mutual joys and pains as a kind of extended family. human beings seem to understand this importance, intuitively.
the question is why, and what's the underlying reason for forming spiritual groups? it's about soul protection... there's a story about a group of monks meditating at the time the US dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima -- IN Hiroshima. the whole city was reduced to fire and ash but their monastery kept standing and the whole group of monks was unharmed by the explosion and subsequent radiation.
why? the strength of the group.
another part of the answer lies in the necessity, in serious spiritual disciplines, to burn off karma. being in a group helps people SEE directly the creation of karma through action and reaction, in their own lives.
finally, after enough purification and spiritual work and friction and egoism flare-ups between group members, the personalities settle down and the souls start asserting themselves as the dominant arbiters of acceptable or unacceptable behavior. mostly, the personalities get tired of flinging themselves against one another (mostly out of egoism, jealousy, unworthiness or fear, or some combination thereof) and seeing an immediate and unpleasant reaction.
over time, people start behaving in a respectful, communal way with one another out of a kind of soul self-defense (it's easier to be kind and loving and elicit a loving response from one's family members), rather than acting out over and over again, causing more karmic reaction and staying stuck in the drama of anger, misunderstanding, taking everything personally and holding onto blame, resentment, rage and petty jealousy against others.
all of this kind of stuff, these illusion blocks, cause quite a commotion, a disturbance, at the soul level. a person holding onto anger and resentment quite literally can curb their own soul's development.
eventually a smart soul starts to catch on to the game: if I'm rude or cruel to another person, I'm shooting myself in the foot because that person IS me.
people in spiritual groups behaving in unpleasant ways to one another and holding their personal grudges and resentments really disturbs the group harmony and unity -- and their overall chances of succeeding in spiritual life.
we finally get it through trial and error, crashing and burning, mistake after mistake, until we really grok how out of control our egos really are, and that everything we're blaming on another person is really a beautiful (and painful) reflection of our own karma, our own actions, our own reactions.
nothing more, nothing less.
yikes. more surrender, please. I'll have mine with a helping of humble pie and a side dish of patience. and a cup of faith to wash it all down with.
my point: what counts is an understanding that the shakti that runs through us all is the SAME, regardless of what illusion of separation (I am me, you are you) we're operating under. surrendering to a group means surrendering the illusion of our individual egoism -- and acting only to support or promote the group's interest.
as a spiritual person fumbling toward the light... these days... my motto is: "surrender now. avoid the rush."
(think I should have t-shirts made up.)