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The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: NotEnlightened ()
Date: November 13, 2010 02:42PM

So I am what I would call a recovering new-ager. I have personally experienced being all caught up in much of the material that this site exposes. Thankfully, I have never been caught up on the inside of a cult (besides AA, which I know is not fashionable to call a cult here). Let me state my aims here. I want to stimulate discussion and insight. I am going to write what I wish I could have read 5 years ago, when I first started reading this site. I am not a troll, nor am I an apologist, though I do fear I will be called one. Perhaps I need more deprogramming, or perhaps whoever calls me an apoligist is more cultish than I am. Essentially, I just want to know what is true, what to trust, how to have a good life. Nothing more, and nothing less. And I know no one here has the answers to that.

* Note *
I just wrote a whole post out and deleted it because I felt it was just too much personal information about my life, more than I want to share and more than anyone probably wants to read, heh. Basically, the slimmed down version is this.

A co-worker is HEAVILY involved with Landmark. Since I knew about Landmark prior to meeting him due to reading this site, I was able to avoid getting sucked in to the whole thing, as well as prevent other coworkers from being sucked in. Had I not read about Landmark on this site I probably would have fallen for it, because in the past I do feel like I was always looking for THE answer and I do have some personal issues I can never seem to resolve. But luckily this time I didn't have to waste any time or money. I started reading this forum again recently after the almost surreal experiences with my coworker (if I had ANY doubts as to what has been said about Landmark on this forum, this guy has removed them). The guy is a like a zombie - tries to recruit everyone who will listen to joining Landmark, constantly talks in this manner implying he and the Landmarker's know more than the rest of us. He sure thinks he is the source of true wisdom, good lord. On some level I feel bad for him when I see the reality of what he's caught up in. Then again, with his attitude of superiority and constant evangelism, it makes it hard to be sympathetic to what is happening to him.

Myself, I have been caught up in the whole new-age thing for a while, completely believing in things it suddenly dawns on me I don't have any good reason to believe! Years back when I was reading this site I couldn't understand why Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle and the like were on here. Now I do. I have been involved with a lot of quackiness. I have literally spent every dime on new-age books, quacky therapists (all with valid state licenses by the way - watch out!). Up was down and down was up for me for a while. Alternative was in and traditional was out. Christianity was out and new-age was in. Truth be told, IT'S ALL OUT! Every last bit of it for me, at this moment. New-age is out, quack therapists are out, CBT therapists are out, naturopaths are out, and traditional medical doctors are out, "spirituality" is especially out. After years of intense study I don't even know what it means, and I don't think it matters! None of it has ever healed what I went looking to heal 10 years ago. The more I realize that I'm responsible for my own life, no one else can "heal" me, that life sometimes is painful, that you don't always get what you want, that sometimes life is good and you do get what you want, that life is essentially mysterious, that uncertainly will always exist, that some do have it better than me, but some have it worse, that I don't know everything, I don't know THE answer, and that I don't NEED to know the answer..... The more I think about all that and how OK it really is...... The more I think I am done with therapists, and spirituality groups and progams, and seminars, and coaches, and helping people, and self-help books, and all of this crap forever.

I read Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World a few months ago, and at the time, it was devastating. I felt like I'd been wasting a lot of time and money. It's crazy how with this kind of new age/healing "stuff", you go into it with some kind of problem/dream, and when it doesn't get fixed/acheived, somehow the answer is that you need more of this "stuff". I can't beleive I fell for it!!!!!!! I haven't really gotten anywhere in my life I feel like, but I suspect in a way I have, because at this moment I actually trust myself over any outside authority. Good counselors always say their goal is to make themselves obsolete, so maybe I'm actually at the end of that road. Who knows. Maybe all the "stuff" did work!

But what is sane? Stay away from new-age quacks and Landmark - I agree. But then everyone agrees on other things. CBT for example. Go see a state-licensed CBT therapist is the standard answer the people here give. Guess what. The idea that counseling is where people go with a mental issue and it makes it better is a myth. Guess what else. Standard medicine kills a LOT of people. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes NO treatment is a hell of a lot better. Guess what else. Christianity is as much of a delusion as any other religion.

What is my point? Well, I feel like there is some kind of Christian bias here, in addition to some other bias I can't put my finger on. I feel like while people here do a lot towards exposing dangerous groups, they do little to expose dangerous thinking. Did it occur to anyone that more people believing in something does not make it true? A delusion shared with many may not be isolating like a delusion shared by a few in a cult, but it is still a delusion and should be treated as such.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT (YOU THINK) YOU KNOW? Why are you suggesting CBT to people? Have you ever experienced it? Do you have a research background? Do you understand placebo? I do, and I'll tell you what. If you took an hour a week to talk to a tree, talk to a rock, just telling it what was on your mind, you'd probably be helped as much as any counselor. How can someone with completely unprovable Christian views judge someone for completely unprovable Hindu views? How can someone who supports standard medicine even though it uses countless procedures with no empirical evidence criticize alternative medicine because it has no empirical evidence?

What's the gold standard? Science? Science in its pure form may very well be. Are we all going to pretend it hasn't for the most part been hijacked by corporate interests? Why does it seem that all Eastern religion and thought as a whole is suspect here, and only select little groups of Christianity/Judaism? I'm not apoligizing for any of these cults - they are dangerous and damaging. My point is that a group/ideology doesn't cease to be dangerous or damaging just because it is larger and you are embedded in it - quite the opposite in fact. Do you realize that commonly accepted views in the Western world and in medical science are delusional? They may be shared by more people, but that doesn't make them true.

Anyone ever consider the parallels between this site and a cult? I find the best way to learn is to take something you THINK you KNOW, and then do read a bunch of things that contradict it. It's called not being scared by letting information in that might change your beliefs. It's the antithesis to cultlike thinking. Now, get the criteria list, read around, and think about how the RickRoss forum is a cult. I'm not saying it is, I'm saying THINK ABOUT IT. Maybe another way of saying what is bothering me is this. We talk a lot about DEPROGRAMMING here. Is it really DEPROGRAMMING? Or is it more like REPROGRAMMING. REPROGRAMMING back into consensual reality - which is real because more people agree that it's real (that sounds like some suspect new-agey crap right there!).

After saying all that, believe me, I want nothing more than a good discussion. If that is considered stirring up trouble I will talk about something else, because I do have a lot to talk about. Mostly, I'm just noticing the fact that this place zeros in on the obvious and the small when it comes to damaging groups and thinking, rather than looking at the systemic and large that can be found right around us all. Always pointing the finger so to speak. Am I even making any sense, or do you think my mind is ruined? That wouldn't necessarily mean that it is....

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 13, 2010 10:23PM


'I want to stimulated discussion and insight"

This question has been raised and debated here before.

Not everything is a cult or dangerous group. 'Cult' as discussed here, has a precise meaning, otherwise the term would be useless.

One way harmful groups muddy the water is to make it seem everything is a cult, so as to distract attention from their own set up and confuse the onlooker who is concerned.

The first step is to read for yourself these sections here. If any thing seems not clear, then there's a basis for further discussion.


'Thought Reform and Psychological Totalism"-- Robert J Lifton


Coercive Persuasion -- Ofshe



Persuasion Techniques - Margaret Singer


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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: November 14, 2010 01:17AM

' I can't beleive I fell for it!!!!!!! I haven't really gotten anywhere in my life I feel like, but I suspect in a way I have, because at this moment I actually trust myself over any outside authority. '

So, go from there. Find out what really interests you and pursue it.

There are no all-encompassing answers that work for everyone, and the purpose of this site is not to propose any. Personally, I find an hour spent in the woods or similar environment to be the closest to perfection or the answer that I ever expect to get.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/2010 01:18AM by Stoic.

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: Brynhild Tudor ()
Date: November 14, 2010 09:51AM

Hey Not Enlightened,
Wow, you're a recovering new ager, too? I thought I was the only one! Nice to meet you. It's nice to meet others out there... then I know I'm not alone!

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 14, 2010 11:40AM

Another item to read

Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures by Karla McLaren


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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: NotEnlightened ()
Date: November 14, 2010 12:04PM

Nice to meet you too. I'm glad we both started to ask questions again! I don't know the answers, but at least I actually know that I don't know the answers now. Seems like a lot of people never get out of these harmful ways of thinking.

I agree about nature wholeheartedly. I feel like I lost a lot of who I was before I got involved in this stuff. I feel like a complete fool now, but in some ways I aspired to master all of this hocus pocus and make a living teaching it to other people. Of course my intent was never to scam people, so now I see my aspirations were sort of a mirage. I feel like I lost so much time, energy, relationships, so much of myself in the last 10 years over this crap thinking I knew how to do life better than everyone else, getting deeper and deeper and never really solving the problems I was trying to solve in the first place.

I feel almost like I want to just completely relapse, go back to pretending I can change my situation with positive thinking, affirmations, some kind of magic thing. It is really hard to face the reality of my life and that I don't know exactly how to go about changing it at the moment. I know it isn't the purpose of this site to provide the answer or any one size fits all solution, but can anyone speak to any ways that are useful for them in effecting changes in one's life (BESIDES psychotherapy). What validity, if any, do you guys give to the maxim that you create your own reality? I can't seem to discard that thought and it's implications - I'm trying to distinguish if that's because I've been damaged and hypnotized by this material, or because I'm looking at things in an incredibly philosophical way that is interesting but entirely impractical... or did I just state exactly one potential problem with getting wrapped up in this kind of material??

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: NotEnlightened ()
Date: November 14, 2010 12:15PM


Thanks for the links, especially the last one. Those are the most helpful things for me to read right now.

I was heavily involved with the whole Emotional Freedom Technique craziness for a while, with a fully licensed therapist no less (watch out). I found an article by Monica Pignotti that I found similarly helpful. It seems like with specific cults you may find some people who get out, but in terms of the more subtle, what I can only call the "new-age movement," people are getting pulled in left and right and I don't see hardly anyone crossing the line back the other direction. The whole philosophy is horribly self-perpetuating and all evidence seems to support it, and when it doesn't we'll throw in past lives and subconscious projection and call it a day.

I'm starting to think that the entire idea of life after death including reincarnation is a massive fraud perpetuated to exploit this strange little weak part of every human that wants to exist in a perfect world with all needs and desires met and no pain at all. That isn't what life is and I doubt it's what life ever will be. I just can't believe I fell for all of this and thought I was soooooo smart.....

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: November 14, 2010 07:35PM

'Not everything is a cult or dangerous group. 'Cult' as discussed here, has a precise meaning, otherwise the term would be useless.

One way harmful groups muddy the water is to make it seem everything is a cult, so as to distract attention from their own set up and confuse the onlooker who is concerned.'

I grew up in a cult family and when I began thinking about what I wanted from life and what I wanted to discard--(differentiation) ran into a similar problem that you outline here, NotEnlightened. The problem was that I was generalising out from my own particular, jaded view to include everything I saw. I was making a logical leap, an assumption based on what I thought I knew as fact
This is a universal human confusion that is often exploited by smart-alecks, conmen and anyone who is in the selling business. Cults, as defined here, fall into that category. Read the Lifton link above and engrave the content in your mind, it will be eternally useful as a differentiation tool (a yardstick to measure by) for evey group you encounter.

The way out of this universal human confusion is to become more specific in your thinking processes--which isnt easy but is tremendously rewarding.
Another eternally useful differentiation tool is the baloney detector:


If you want to move on from your current impasse in thinking, you are going to have to learn to think in a slightly different way, which is not easy or particularly quick to accomplish but is worth the effort. This is the true meaning of 'expanding your mind' or 'human development'--it can only be done one brain at a time and only by the owner of that brain.

For some light relief, here is a vid of Robert Anton Wilson (a sci-fi author) explaining quantum physics--it is intended to be simple and amusing--- he is not claiming expertise in the science of QP but does give several useful metaphors that allow non-experts to grasp some new ideas.


IMO, the important points that RAW makes in the vid are:

In western culture we are educated and immersed in Aristotelian logic--which is very useful but, being a thought system, has its limits.

All limits and boundaries are invented by man to serve his cultural needs, the map is useful but the map is not the territory.

From 2.60 mins he talks about the map or the model as a thinking system or a mode of perception and explains in simple terms its limitations. He uses his own metaphor--reality tunnels--you may find that metaphor helpful or not.

Language can be seen as a map that we use to describe the world that we perceive through the only instrument available to us. Perception is always an approximation, filtered through the limitations of my own personal instrument.

New ideas and reflecting on them, using the above-mentioned differentiation tools, are the means to look at the limitations of my own personal instrument and decide whether those new ideas deserve a provisional place in my own personal model of reality. (reality tunnel)

I hope that this is helpful, if not-- feel free to ignore it. See the baloney detector:

'Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy. '

Trusting yourself over any other authority involves a lot of work, but is also a lot more fun.

There was some cross posting--I wrote the above before reading your replies, NotEnlightened. You are in a good place right now, whatever your doubts---move forward, not backward.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/2010 07:47PM by Stoic.

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 14, 2010 11:16PM

Another way to look at the New Age from the standpoint of marketing--identifying people who have money or time for volunteer work, which to a recruiter is what is known as 'sweat equity'--wealth in the form of unpaid labor which is obtained by people who volunteer.

Ever notice fliers, sometimes printed on glossy paper, in many colors and distributed all over your town in the cafes and laundromat and community center and library bulletin boards?

Advertising free classes in this or that?

Who pays for the adverts, especially the ones that require sophisticated print jobs on good paper and that are repeatedly posted all over town several times a year?

That kind of outreach costs MONEY.

Where is that money going to come from if the classes are free and remain free?

Somewhere, they have to find the money. Which means, eventually--someone has to pay.

And that means--us. Or you.

So--thats a signal to do a background check, before getting involved too deeply. Ask them clearly who is in charge, where does the money come from for the ads? If there is a name for the artist who designs the flier or website--do an online search for the name of that artist and see what other projects he or she has designed stuff for and research those. You may be quite amazed at what you find.

Another way is to think about who becomes famous, especially as a spiritual teacher or guru or preacher.

It takes a lot of work and effort to become a familiar name and face. It costs money
(or a lot of volunteer donated effort) to print fliers, distribute fliers, etc. Ad space in big magazines like Yoga Journal or Psychology Today can cost a great deal, depending on the size of the ad.

The general New Age is what sales people term a 'niche' market--or a collection of niche markets.

Some stuff offered within these niche markets is of high quality. Some of it is a mixture of high quality and not so hot.

And some of it is the kind of stuff that lead you and others to visit this forum.

(note: visiting is personal choice. Unlike what we discuss here, does not advertise. Registration is free and one doesnt have to pay any money at any time to remain a member--all one needs to do is abide by the forum rules)

So what this means is, a way to recover and become more choosy is to look at areas that are very popular and learn to run background checks, because you are a person with time, energy and money (or credit) and a lot of people out there want to get some or all of your time, your attention, your money.

Instead of being reactive to advertising or glowing recommendations from a friend, become responsive by doing a background check, just as we do when getting information about what kind of laptop to purchase, what kind of mobile phone plan to sign for, what kind of car or bicycle to purchase.

Look what we do if we know we have limited money and need to buy a clothes. We check the fabric, think whether the color suits us, does the item fit us, then look inside to see if it is well made or just slapped together with a big price tag.

Part of recovery in relation to the New Age alternative scene is learning to slow oneself down and apply this same approach.

Notice how often some buzz words are used in New Age and Alternative advertising:

'secret' '

This is where the power of advertising and sales technique come in.

For more about niche markets read here.


And within the New Age/Alternative scene are smaller, more specialized niche markets, say for persons interested in stress reduction, mindfulness, yoga, persons interested in Buddhadharma, those interested in astrology, channelling, gnosticism.

Next, take a look and see if a particular niche market is tied to a trend that has become commercially 'hot' -- lots of interest from people, disposable income, especially persons who are new.

Yoga is an example of this general area. This is commercially very very popular right now and shows no sign of slowing down. Sub areas are clothing, learning to cook Indian food, even the film and book Eat, Pray, Love.

What kind of paperwork do they want you to sign before attending some workshop? Is it the kind of paperwork where you give up your right to litigate in case you get hurt?

This alone is odd if the workshop is all about taking responsibility for your life--the workshop leader should be willing to take responsiblity for any bad stuff that goes down. So...what kind of a role model has us sign that kind of release of liability form?

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Re: The thoughts of a recovering new-ager - everything is a cult
Posted by: OutofTransition ()
Date: November 14, 2010 11:36PM

You are not alone in your views towards religion--I think that there are many people who have been in cult or cult-like situations who come out of them feeling the way you do. And I agree with you 100% about dangerous thinking. Thinking in general seems to be so downgraded that the average person probably would be hard put to identify what makes an idea or thought dangerous.

My background isn't New Age, but I have been exposed to it. While I like the playfulness and imagination of some of the New Agers I have met, I just could not swallow what they were asking me to believe. I felt that I was being asked to assassinate my brain, and that I will not do. Ditto for Christianity--it seems that the ones who were most gung-ho on recruiting had the very least to offer. I can't speak for other religions because I haven't had much experience with them, but I suspect that the same is true of them. I would say be careful of any group that seeks to control who you are and downgrades rationality and individuality in favor of group-mind. Sometimes this can be blatant; other times it is very subtle. Keep your eyes and mind open, listen to what is being said (and not being said), and watch how people in the group behave. If there are individuals that appear to be fanatics, does the group encourage or discourage this behavior?

We people who are hurting need to be especially vigilant as there are many who would take advantage of us. If you have been brought up (like I was) to believe that there is a loving God who has a divine plan for us, only to experience quite the opposite in life, it is only natural to seek answers. It is very difficult to accept that there may not be any answers nor any loving God with a divine plan. Some people never do take that step. In my case, it was not until I turned away from that viewpoint and started looking elsewhere that I started getting partial answers to why certain things were repeatedly happening to me, like being bullied and harassed. I have learned that for some reason, either genetic or otherwise, I have a condition (Aspergers syndrome) that sets me apart from other people, and that there are certain people who are skilled in picking up this fact no matter how hard I try to disguise it, and this is how they get their jollies, by picking on people like me. My only defense is to learn what cues I may be inadvertently giving off, and to avoid such people if I can. As I get older and learn more about life as it really is this becomes easier. But, for many years, I sought the answers in religion. And of course, religion had no answers to give me. I would even go so far as to say that my involvement in religion actually held me back in several critical areas. Nobody, for example, ever said to me, the reason you are experiencing what you are experiencing is that you lack the social skills necessary for getting along in this world, because in the circles I was traveling in, this world is not the focus of Christianity, it is the next.

And so it is with other desperate and often lonely people, who flock to such groups. They are like Dorothy and her companions on the road to Oz because they have been told by others (who have not had reason to make the journey because they are satisfied with the way things are) that the Wizard has the answers when in actuality they already have the answers. As Glinda said to Dorothy, "Had I told you that in the beginning, you would not have believed me because you weren't ready."

Finally, Rick Ross isn't meant to be the infallible last word on questionable groups or individuals. The forums are merely a tool to help people make up their own mind. I came here because I had questions about a group I was briefly involved in, and I probably would have severed my connections anyway even without this resource because I saw and heard enough to convince myself this wasn't something I wanted to be part of. At the same time, because of my previous experiences, I wanted to know who and what these people were, where did they come from, and what I learned, combined with my own experience, was enough to give me pause.

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