Dogma is a poor substitute for understanding
Dogma is a useful device when there is no understanding. Religion is perhaps the best example of this where dictates such as “do not steal” are handed down to a population that possesses very little understanding of the dynamics of life. Without such a command the mass of people might be quite inclined to steal whenever an opportunity presents itself. To inhibit such behavior the commandment comes with penalties for transgression; these penalties might include residence in hell upon death, social and religious ostracizing, and so on. Religions have always issued dogma as a means of taming an otherwise ignorant population.
With the demise of religious authority so society has taken it upon itself to issue its own dogma. Thou shalt be productive, a success, attractive, sociable, a conformer, an adopter of acceptable roles (father, mother, a businessperson, a priest). Once again, this dogma is used to control the behavior of the masses because without punishing social disapproval people might move toward anarchy.
The same dynamics apply in so-called spiritual traditions. It is much easier to issue dogma than it is to encourage understanding. A classic example of this can be found in the Gurdjieff tradition. That we should not express negative emotions is now an established part of a deformed set of behaviors that Gurdjieff did not actually specify. The act of not expressing negative emotions was Ouspensky’s baby; Gurdjieff never mentions it in any of his writings. All kinds of nonsense are associated with this dictate; that it allows a person to build up certain energy to help them build an astral body – and numerous variations on this theme. This is the way of dogma and ignorance.
If a person could come to understand the nature of the emotions and more generally the nature of life, they would be less inclined to negative emotions in the first place and hence would not need to inhibit their expression. Such understanding is not easily come by, but with persistence, it is possible to acquire it. The alternative is the way of dogma and a half-formed human being capable of doing something (not expressing negative emotions) but ignorant of why. This could be one way to form stupid saints.
The other problem with dogma is that by its very nature it can specify only a discrete set of rules. If circumstances occur that have not been covered by dogma, then a person is left floundering with the real possibility they destroy anything they have so far achieved through the dogma. An understanding of the laws and basic dynamics that are at play would allow a person to deduce how a situation should be treated.
Alas, the dominant tool of religions and spiritual traditions is that of dogma, and this certainly contributes to the poor results of such organizations and the possibility that a person is damaged by them. A way that embraces reason and understanding is a rare thing and will probably always remain so.
The way of dogma is a bottom-up approach; obey some rules and something useful might come from them. A top-down approach would say gain understanding and the good things will necessarily follow with no effort and no need for dogma. Spinoza states this beautifully in his Ethics:
Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself We do not enjoy blessedness because we keep our lusts in check. On the contrary, it is because we enjoy blessedness that we are able to keep our lusts in check.
Bring your inner state to one of understanding and everything else will fall into place.