It's like all of a sudden there's some 1800's type of social stigma against talking about cults. It's been scary experience for me, to tell you the truth, I just needed to vent to keep my sanity.
That's what RR.com is here for.
Someone named 'Hartley' describes how he or she felt in a situation involving a different leader. This conveys the bewilderment."If I had not actually witnessed this scene, I don't think I would have believed that it was possible to create this level of thought distortion in the human mind. There was such a terrible loneliness about it too. I kept wondering: why is this not "taking" in my mind? Why is this working on everyone else? It almost felt like my brain had to be structurally different from all those other people who were sitting there listening to the very same words and drawing such profoundly different conclusions."
Do Devotees Fake Their Belief in the Irrational When it Comes to Adi Da?
Posted by hatley on Mar-10-05
The post about Adi Da taking credit for the Berlin wall coming down but not for Iraq was making me remember that it was considered to be DEVOTEES who were causing the war (in Iraq) when I was in Fiji. I'm not sure who this talk originating with, but I remember everyone jammed into I think it was the dining area quite late at night, summoned in panicked tones for an urgent meeting. People were weeping with apparently broken hearts about this talk (that we were causing the war) -- or maybe the broken hearts were over their abuse of the guru.
I remember sitting there, watching a room full of largely very high IQ people actually believing they were causing a war in the middle east because they could not please their guru. It was one of those moments in my time in the community where I was stunned beyond speech or any response whatsoever. It was like being in an insane asylum -- a very distant one, with the inmates in charge of all exits! If I had not actually witnessed this scene, I don't think I would have believed that it was possible to create this level of thought distortion in the human mind. There was such a terrible loneliness about it too. I kept wondering: why is this not "taking" in my mind? Why is this working on everyone else? It almost felt like my brain had to be structurally different from all those other people who were sitting there listening to the very same words and drawing such profoundly different conclusions.
And now I'm wondering: were some of those people faking?
This is especially a question for people on this forum who were there in these kinds of meetings where the most preposterous claims were being made (no guru at the front of the room distorting people's grip on reality by dissolving their minds in bliss, instead him off "in jail" or somewhere and everyone else wringing their hands with worry).
Did you believe these assertions and threats?
When I was a devotee, whenever I questioned any of these things, it was as if I was proposing ideas so off the wall, so BIZARRE, that the other devotees could not even begin to imagine how my mind could go along such strange paths. I remember the blank stares, and the stunned bewilderment, when I said I thought Adidam was a cult.
It was literally as if this thought had never once crossed the minds of the other people.
And we are talking about people who had been in the community for years and had graduate degrees.
What does it all mean??!!
Seven years ago, I attended a lecture by someone I had read good things about. I
looked forward to the event.
Instead, to my shock, I had an experience similar to that reported by 'Hartley'.
I remember gazing around several times during the evening, wondering how a roomful of middle aged, well established people could buy into the horrid and dishonest stuff being twaddled by the leader. The leader himself came across to be as a cold, cruel man. I could not comprehend why the others gazed at him with such utter love and devotion.
For me, it felt like being the only sober person at a Dead show.
And yes, I recall the loneliness and wondered whether I was crazy.
Must say the usual dichotomy between sanity and insanity do not apply.
What I saw that evening was not merely a charismatic leader--I saw someone empowered by what a sociologist has termed the 'cultic milieu'.
'Cultic milieu' may be what you're trying to describe in Asheville.
Cultic Milieu--a Possibly Helpful Concept?
'The concept of 'cultural milieu', as developed by sociologist Bryan Wilson,is very helpful in understanding this conglomeration of alternatives. According to Wilson, there is exists in Western societies, a milieu, which he terms 'cultic' where much that is rejected by the dominent cultureaccumulates.(Corboy's italics) -- alternative therapies, alternative beliefs, and to some extent, alternative lifestyles.
'Both ideas and persons usually belong more to the milieu than to any specific group within it. Individuals easily shift their allegiences from group to group and idea to idea, and ideas and groups are themselves linked to each other by a shared network of publications and venues. ('Venues' meaning places where people socialize and meet face to face C)
From Bryan R. Wilson, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism: Sects and New Religious Movements in Contemporary Society, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990)
Quoted in a book by Mark Sedgwick, page 48-49 'Against the Modern World: Traditionislm and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century: Oxford University Press, 2004
All this is very interesting and might offer us a way to understand the New Age.
First, some of the alternative ideas and therapies are later found to be effective and become part of mainstream culture. I am thinking of the use of traditional Chinese medicine and acupunture. This was considered fringe and goofy forty years ago. But...what mattered was that some TCM
practitioners had the ability to learn how to do well designed scientific research and were able to start conversations with medical researchers. Even political factors such as the Nixon Administration's willingness to enlarge political and economic exchange with Red China, played a role.
Now we are at a point where tai chi is taught as part of patient education programs at hospitals after studies have shown that it preserves agility and reduces the incidence of disabling falls and injuries.
What is of concern is when portions of the cultic milieu devalue scientific research and write off critical thinking as negative, and make claims and demand personal allegiance or conceal information needed for informed consent.
The concept of cultic milieu is interesting as well because many persons are recruited into Liftonian cults by gurus and outreach workers who know how to use marketing and publicity that are geared precisely to the cultural milieu.
The sad thing is, those in the cultic milieu think they have escaped the evils of mainstream culture and have escaped from the forms of marketing and consumerism that plague the mainstream culture.
Those in the cultic milieu dont realize that the milieu is still very much part of mainstream culture, for it remains a valuable niche market and it can be targeted, accessed and exploited by advertising strategies designed in mainstream culture.
In short, the cultic milieu thinks its a sanctuary, but it is easily penetrated and cognitively colonized by those who masquerade as members of the cultic milieu but whose actual agendas, concealed by spiriitual talk and charisma, are no different than an advertising campaign meant to market cigarettes to teenagers.
This also has implications for exit counseling and cult recovery
Many who feel traumatized by abusive gurus and human potential programs may leave the specific abusive group or guru, but when they leave that group, they return to the cultural milieu...and that milieu may
1) devalue critical thinking
2) contain triggers that constantly activate conditioning inculcated by the group, since a lot of NLP speak seems to float arond in the milieu
3) the cultic milieu seems collectively phobic and unconscious about power issues and issues of abuse and power imbalance, and in my opinion, tends
to shame those who try to discuss this and issue harm reports
4) The cultic milieu seems to enable spiritually rationalized power abuse, socializing people to be codependent to gurus before they even meet a guru and at the same time has a rhetoric of shame and invalidation that is readily directed at anyone who tries to warn of guru abuse
5) The cultic milieu has a network of magazines, social events, conventions, and websites easily colonized and appropriated by enterprising entrepreneurs/eneuses who know exactly how to exploit the mindset of the New Age cultic milieu, using marketing and PR techniques that are created by the very mainstream culture that the cultic milieu sees itself as having rejected.
In short, I contend that what is damaging about the New Age cultic milieu that many of us dislike is not that it is a liberating alternative to mainstream culture, but covertly is an extension of the very worst of mainstream culture.
This is part of why I became so involved with RR.com's message board. Trying to understand.