I wish to respond to certain points of argument that were made by the Gnostic Movement in the Cult is the new heresy piece. [www.gnosticawakenings.com
] However before I do that I would like to apologize if I ever called the Gnostic Movement a cult. Such a statement is not accurate as can be clearly seen by the origin of the usage of the word in the English language. What would have been a much more accurate description would to state that it seems that the evidence supports the argument for the Gnostic Movement being a dangerous and destructive cult.
"-this article will look at something you won't find much written about at all: their continued persecution in the modern day."
This statement was made in an effort to show that modern Gnostics are still threatened. It may surprise some, but I would agree with way of thinking. However we have a problem with definitions here. At the very least I do not limit the term Gnostic to that of the organization known as the Gnostic Movement, if they should even be considered to be Gnostics.
However Gnostics, free open minded thinkers who are interested in spirituality are attack from many angles by those who say that their is only one path to the divine. Does that not sound a lot like Mark Pritchard?
"The term "Heretic" was used to pursue and punish people outside of established religion right into the 19th century."
I was not aware of the term Heretic ever going out of usage withing the community who say that there is only one way to view God. I grew up with Fundamentalist cousins, I should know. However from my experience blasphemer is the more common term now.
"By the 1940s some established Christian denominations formed a "Christian counter cult movement" in the United States which labeled those outside of Christian orthodoxy as "cults". By the 1970s a secular opposition to "cults" had also formed an "anti-cult movement"."
What the author conveniently forgets to mention here is how vastly different The Christian counter cult movement is from the anti-cult movement.
While the Christian counter cult movement attacks anyone who does not belief what they belief (much like Mark Pritchard), the counter Cult Movement aims to have an objective criteria to evaluate the behaviour and accountability of an organization to determine whether it could be destructive and dangerous to either individuals or society. This system of evaluation can be applied to businesses, service organizations or even government bodies and is not limited to groups that profess or hold a belief system. In fact many in the counter cult movement have started to use their criteria for working with what they call the smallest cult, individual destructive relationships and in particular the dynamics of such relationships.
Personally I come from an academic background where the predominant thinking was a position of relativism and therefore there was a rejection of ever calling a group a cult. After seeing what the Gnostic Movement was really about I saw a need for such a designation as Destructive and Dangerous Cult.
"most scholars and sociologists of religion, responded by rejecting the use of the word "cult", and like organizations such as the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) instead use the term "new religious movement" or NRM-which tellingly, although generally preferred in academia, has not gained popular use in the media."
Actual from an objective point of view I would have to say that this is not the case. With Academia, predominantly Sociology and psychology this debate is very much still open.
It should be noted that New Religious Movement is an extremely vague term as it does not even suggest that there could be a concern. Also by definition the term includes groups that have never been brought as a concern by anyone, certainly not anyone with the legitimate Anti-cult Movement.
"Today the number of new religious movements worldwide is placed somewhere in the lower tens of thousands , while the number of new religious movements that are used as the basis of the negative use of the word "cult" number around 10."
So really there are only 9 other dangerous and destructive groups beside the Gnostic Movement?
" The word cult dehumanizes the religion's members and their children. [.] When we label people as subhuman, we create a context in which it is considered virtuous to kill them." "
You would think that a teacher who says that all other spiritual teachings are the product of demonic world should raise the same kind of concern as this.
"However sadly, thus far at large it is only the academic community who have really recognized the need for all people to be free to pursue their own forms of connecting with "God", without fear of prejudice or persecution-something fundamental to us all."
Really, are they serious? Why do governments go to such length to make sure that they do not interfer with peoples right to practice their religion in addition to making it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their religion?
"As with the use of "heretic", the aim is to appeal to the moral code of society set by the authorities and establishments of whatever time, to publicly condemn and therefore justify action against the supposed "heretic" or "cult"-an example of this is the trial, public condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus using false accusations. Fear is used to stir the moral prerogative of the people against what is posed to them as a threat by those with vested interests-and labels and so-called factual testimonies of witnesses, supposedly faithful to those moral codes, still play an integral role, and this has become recognized by academics."
What vested interests in our society are against the Gnostic Movement? In fact from my perspective it seemed to be very hard to get anyone to pay attention to the organizations lack of responsibility and abuse. It would seem much more that there is a vested interest in business and the ability to make money that protects groups like TGM for quite a long time.
It would seem here that The Movement wishes to discuss the relavancy by which our society sees the Gnostic Movement as inappropriate.
Is the Movement not in support of accountability within an organization?
"A set of criteria had been put together by anti-cult movements to identify "cults", but this criteria importantly would then form the basis of an "atrocity story" or testimony rehearsed by supposed former "cult" members, to seemingly objectively and legitimately destroy the image and reputation of their former group in the public eye and mobilize society against them."
I would like to ask the author if he or she does not feel that such concerns mentioned in such criteria are not valid concerns and if so how they can honestly say that enough of those concerns do not exist within Mark Pritchards Gnostic Movement?
"However, it is the testimonies of "apostates" which are commonly sought and used by anti-cult movements to identify and damage suspected "cults"."
What is the point? How else are you going to gain information on closed groups since those who are still involved will not or can not speak about what goes on?
"The testimonies of supposed witnesses are now heard not in the tribunals of the inquisition or witch hunt, but in the media and on the internet."
So the Gnostic Movement is now against the Internet a free space for open and democratic discussion? This is quite interesting since it would never have become what it is now without the internet.
"empirical studies of defectors from NRMs "generally indicate favorable, sympathetic or at the very least mixed responses toward their former group.""
Here we are using the term NRMs. How can we be certain that we are looking at the same groups that the Anticult movement tends to be concerned with. I don't see how this can be considered objective since the author quoted in this piece as clearly taken a side on the Cult or New Religious movement debate.
" The apostate needs to establish his credibility both with respect to his earlier conversion to a religious body and his subsequent relinquishment of that commitment. To vindicate himself in regard to his volte face requires a plausible explanation of both his (usually sudden) adherence to his erstwhile faith and his no less sudden abandonment and condemnation of it. Academics have come to recognize the 'atrocity story' as a distinctive genre of the apostate, and have even come to regard it as a recognizable category of phenomena [A.D. Shupe, Jr., and D. G. Bromley, "Apostates and Atrocity Stories", in B. Wilson (ed.), The Social Impact of New Religious Movements, New York, Rose of Sharon Press, 1981, pp. 179-215.]" "
I would agree that once someone has been in a cult they need to figured out what made them get themselves into such a group.
Wilson states "The apostate is generally in need of self-justification. He seeks to reconstruct his own past, to excuse his former affiliations, and to blame those who were formerly his closest associates. Not uncommonly the apostate learns to rehearse an 'atrocity story' to explain how, by manipulation, trickery, coercion, or deceit, he was induced to join or to remain within an organization that he now forswears and condemns."
Reconstruct their own life to fit? This has not been my experience. Most I have work on trying to figure out what put me into such a bad state in the spring of 2008 that I would accept a group like the Gnostic Movement. Further I have wondered a lot over the last two years what it is that tends to lead us as humans to Fanaticism, Fundamentalism and righteousness.
"The apostate typically represents himself having been introduced to his former allegiance at a time when he was especially vulnerable-depressed, isolated, lacking social or financial support, alienated from his family, or some other such circumstance. His former associates are now depicted as having prevailed upon him by false claims, deceptions, promises of love, support, enhanced prospects, increased well-being, or the like. In fact, the apostate story proceeds, they were false friends, seeking only to exploit his goodwill, and extract from him long hours of work without pay, or whatever money or property he possessed."
What's to say this isn't true? Actually this is quite an interesting matter since we all know that even those in the Gnostic movement tell stories of being in a very low state when the first became involved. The major difference with those who are within the Gnostic Movement is that they tell their story like they were saved by "finding Gnosis".
"Thus, the apostate presents himself as 'a brand plucked from the burning', as having been not responsible for his actions when he was inducted into his former religion, and as having 'come to his senses' when he left. Essentially, his message is that 'given the situation, it could have happened to anyone'. They are entirely responsible and they act with malice aforethought against unsuspecting, innocent victims. By such a representation of the case, the apostate relocates responsibility for his earlier actions, and seeks to reintegrate with the wider society which he now seeks to influence, and perhaps to mobilize, against the religious group which he has lately abandoned.""
This I can not agree with in my case. I feel an extreme amount of guilt and regret for having fallen for the Gnostic Movements justified lies.
" Scholars such as David G. Bromley, Anson Shupe, and Brian R. Wilson challenge the testimonies of apostates, who crying the word "cult" with stories often so compelling and frightening are just accepted as true by society and the media without question."
You will notice that Rick Ross does not endorse particular claims, he simply moderates these boards and facilitates their continued function.
"Wilson found that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents."
How do objectively define a major or a minor incident? Is a man who claims to be a define master asking you to be his sex partner a minor incident?
"Wilson states "Neither the objective sociological researcher nor the court of law can readily regard the apostate as a creditable or reliable source of evidence. He must always be seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to both his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim but subsequently to have become a redeemed crusader." "
I think the term would be circumstantial evidence and those who are still inside the organization should be viewed as being just as circumstantial as witnesses.
"anti-cult figures give too much credence to the horror stories of "hostile" former cult members, which he says is "like trying to get a picture of marriage from someone who has gone through a bad divorce." "
Yes this is probably a good comparison. But would you say that a divorced person does not know what it is like to be married?
"Some of these groups have defended themselves by arguing that they accept the general category of 'cult' as outlined by the reports, but claim that it is wrongly applied to them. This seems to be a very weak defense. The effective defense should be to show that the category of 'cults' used by these documents is unscholarly and not acceptable. Methodologically, it is clear that these reports rely primarily on sources supplied by the international anti-cult movement, and accept uncriticaly the brainwashing or mind control model of conversion, a model unanimously rejected by mainline sociological and psychological science. It is this methodology that should be exposed as faulty."-CESNUR (from their 'about' page)"
It is interesting that the Gnostic Movement needs to take an extreme relativistic state here. They can not take a stand against abusive and destructive groups and argue for the rights of groups which are simply discriminated against since that would not protect their organization.
"Following such formula, disgruntled apostates tend to assert that they were the victim of authoritarian leadership, psychological control, and make accusations of financial abuse."
And why can the Gnostic Movement not show how accountable they are and why they should not be considered a cult?
"On May 11, 1987 the Board rejected another report and concluded that the mind control theories, used in order to distinguish 'cults' from religions, are not part of accepted psychological science. The results of this document were devastating for mind control theories."
What about levels of control other than mind control? What about dishonesty and lack of accountability?
"Perhaps it's interesting to reflect at this point upon the all consuming hunt for heretics and witches of the past 2 millennia, and ask, where is the basis which motivated such violence against so many innocent people now? Only a few hundred years ago, masses of people were compelled by the fear of witches coming down their chimney"
Again I must mention again the way that Mark Pritchard has spoken and written about other religious and spiritual groups.
"Seeking an Objective View Against Hatred"
Well you are not really being objective if you have already decided that the complaints against you were hatred.
"the extent to which some anti-cult movements "have been 'hate groups' as defined either by Washington state law or by the racial/ethnic criteria in sociology is open to debate." Going on to say that they "have presented slanted, stereotypical images and language that has inflamed persons to perform extreme actions." And that they "have at least promoted a professional veneer which, at the popular level, appears more scientific than hateful. This apparent 'normalization' of their ire against NRMs is a modern trend for hate groups, according to one author: ...the hate movement in the United States has taken on a new, modern face. The strength of the contemporary hate movement is grounded in its ability to repackage its message in ways that make it more palatable, and in its ability to exploit the points of intersection between itself and prevailing ideological canons. In short, the hate movement is attempting to move itself into the mainstream of United States culture and politics.""
IT would be interesting to see how close the Gnostic Movement comes to qualifying as a hate group according to Washington State Law. Also I would have to say that most of these groups mentioned as qualifying as potential hate groups are probably part of the Christian counter Cult movement.
"These studies also claim that a lack of any widespread need for psychological help by former members of new religions has in itself become the strongest evidence refuting early sweeping condemnations of new religions as causes of psychological trauma. "
This is rather subjective considering that most people who need psychological help are not able to get it, considering the low priority that such aid is given by most governments.
"In 1998 the Swedish Government produced a report on New Religious Movements, which states "The great majority of members of the new religious movements derive positive experience from their membership. They have subscribed to an idea or doctrine which corresponds to their personal needs. Membership is of limited duration in most cases. After two years the majority have left the movement. This withdrawal is usually quite undramatic, and the persons withdrawing feel enriched by a predominantly positive experience.[...]The Commission does not recommend that special resources be established for the rehabilitation of withdraws. The cases are too few in number..."[12"
I have heard most people have something positive to say about the Gnostic Movement but none the less they have serious problems with how the organization operates.
"the majority of all defectors or ex-members (67%) look back on their experience as something that made them wiser, rather than feeling angry, duped or showing other ill effects."
The experience makes them wiser, in other words they have learned from their mistake.
"While readily acknowledging the ways a given religious movement failed to meet their personal expectations and spiritual needs, many voluntary defectors have found ways of salvaging some redeeming values from their previous religious associations and activities. But there are some voluntary apostates from new religious movements who leave deeply embittered and harshly critical of their former religious associations and activities. Their dynamics of separation from a once-loved religious group is analogous to an embittered marital separation and divorce. Both marriage and religion require a significant degree of commitment. The greater the involvement, the more traumatic the break-up. The longer the commitment, the more urgent the need to blame the other for the failed relationship. Long-term and heavily involved members of new religious movements who over time become disenchanted with their religion often throw all of the blame on their former religious associations and activities. They magnify small flaws into huge evils. They turn personal disappointments into malicious betrayals. They even will tell incredible falsehoods to harm their former religion."[13"
This does not make ones experience any less valid, their perspective is still worth listening to.
"it is becoming increasingly important to seek out objective information: while it's not always easy to find, throughout history those who have sought to persecute others for their own ends have tended to be marked by hatred and acts of violence, malice, and the violation of human rights-whatever their proclaimed altruistic cause may be. These signs alone should be as a warning to those looking to such sources as unbiased information."
You are not going to get objective information about this matter form the Gnostic Movement, they have a clear need to show that you should not even ask the question if they are a Destructive and Dangerous Cult.
"And although the terms of condemnation have changed over time from "blasphemer" to "heretic" and now "cult", although the methods of persecution have evolved according to culture and technology, their essential aim remains the same. Today, the modern Gnostic Movement seeks to restore the understanding of its rediscovered texts and to pass on the teachings of Jesus and the ancient Gnostics in a world fraught with the same forces and of people that have within the same dualistic human nature: that which searches for "God" and that which seeks to hate."
Blasphemer, heretic and Cult are still terms that are still used by extremist Christian Groups and their leaders in the same way that Mark Pritchard, his Gnostic Movement and its agents use terms like Fanatic and accusations of being in league with Negative or spiritually dead to attack those who do not agree with him.
Notice how this author speaks of the once lost Gnostic text as if they belong to only them and not to humanity in general and yet they speak of others being effected by the human tendency to have a dualistic mind.
I find it interesting from my own experience how they attack Carl Jung as not being a worth while thinker on spirituality and psychology but they ignore the fact that most of the Nag Hamadi would not have survived to come to be preserved and translated.