Having myself been deemed notorious, and occasionally despicable by one of the rather less-than-objective or deductive segments of the ignorance-aligned “vociferous minority” (I presume that’s the opposite of a silent majority, please correct me if I am wrong), I approached this tome with a decidedly voracious appetite.
My own personal crime had been to experiment “for its own sake” with the generically agreed upon dynamics of a “cult” by the simple strategy of reversal of each implicit common quality normally proposed by analysts, commentators, survivors and vested-interest right-wing (often fundamentalist Christian) “cult” groups in their profitable protestations. The research and conclusions that I later reaped from my foundation of an “anti-cult” clearly confirmed the ease with which even an existential surrealist can rapidly attract a devoted and compliant group to an admittedly sexy idea.
Unfortunately, what it demonstrated even more vividly was that being a part of, or administrating, or feeling obliged to constantly feed the group mythology is incredibly time-consuming and boring. The majority of those attracted to any “cult” or “anti-cult” are basically emotional cripples. Which is in no way a denigration, for I would insist that we are all equally crippled, and lost seeking a means to con ourselves into feeling life is innately benign and worthwhile. Equally distressing is the discovery that those who aspire to be part of any “superior” alpha or omega hierarchy are measly dullards with delusions of their own grandeur pretty much without exception.
These observations are not so surprising to most of us. Much more surprising, however, is the apparently universal conviction that the “divine” essence of the “cult” or “anti-cult,” initially followed with absolute allegiance in a highly submissive manner, comes to be perceived later by the more neurotic, devout “members” as in fact a privately inspired and unique product of their own process of spiritual and moral epiphany.
A deep confusion and psychotic resentment can build up if the original “leader” chooses to amend, adapt or in any way change and evolve the original teaching or texts of revelation and salvation. It is fanatically believed, because of the very success of its limitless integration into the personality of the devout “member,” to have become their property. Their holy mission. Their immutable and infallible philosophy of life and immortality. All self-esteem and peer-group status come to rest entirely upon the unassailable and unalterable original source.
This leaves everyone in a double-bind, only if, of course, they truly do seek after wisdom; after compassion; after creativity; after truth; after a new, improved yet individually separate identity fulfilling their most laudable and altruistic aspirations; after fun, laughter, respite and having a good time in the bargain. These real seekers after inspired religious speculation and neo-moral dialogue are confronted with an insoluble problem.
Being “in charge” is the worst nightmare possible and contradictory to any liberating and radical idea or agenda. Being “a disciple” is equally the worst nightmare possible of self-subjugation to a radical idea or agenda that by the very nature of this beast can only atrophy and stagnate by mindless repetition and the dogmatism of the weaker willed.
So you are damned if you do live the “cult” life and damned if you don’t. Everyone else outside your personal “cult” is damned too. Schisms, suicides, murders, confrontations with other “cults” ensue, and misery and existential helplessness engulf all.
Recovery From Cults could have looked at the pros and cons of all cults. Instead it simply trots out the same old, same old lists. A cult is only a cult if it has this or that specific list of attributes. All psychotherapists are either good (i.e. anti-cult) or bad (i.e., not educated in the authors’ and contributors’ rigid and inarguably correct view of the dastardly phenomenon). “Cults” are assumed to be localized aberrations. Christians are good and understand. Christian cults are not Christian cults at all and, of course, “Satanic” cults probably don’t exist, but we’ll allude to their nonexistence as much as we can to play down the vicious, sadistic, warped and foul Christian cults. You see, dogmatism and lack of self-esteem are the same monkey whatever they wear, and whilst I am sure there really are cases of indescribable, altruistic self-effacement and service to the greater good, hey, as the old joke goes:
What is the name of the “cult” where the members have to shave off their hair; give up their clothes; take a number instead of a name; be physically abused and beaten daily; suffer forced marches; have their food controlled; be trained to murder even their own family for their leader without thought or question; use a “cult” slang; be numbed with sleep deprivation and so on and so on? The U.S. Marines, of course.
None of this ambiguity or institutionalized “cultism” is addressed at all. This is, after all, a society where control is violently enforced with deep conviction by state “policing cults.” Where other more unsavory intelligence cults, or even actual cult cults are mobilized, exploited and franchised according to opportunism and the “greater GOoD.” Where even this abomination of depersonalization and sacrifice of individuality is overtly and covertly countenanced only to maintain the illusion of a “bogey-man.” A bogey-man whose nature is so apocalyptically terrible and terrorizing that suspension of disbelief and veracity of perception are voluntarily surrendered to the societal “cult.”
America is the most successful “cult” ever. It is comprised socially, politically, economically and religiously by layer upon layer of “cults.” Not surprising when one considers that the first settlers were themselves fanatical “cultists” escaping disapproval and persecution. The biggest and best “cults,” like the Mormons, the Democrats, the Jesuits, Death Row Records, Bloods and Crips, sports teams, the Nation, etc. poach members from each other, and all unify in reviling the smallest or the weirdest. Often, accessing money is paraded as proof of corruption and bad intention by rivals and newcomers. Most of them will use force, political clout, even assassination to attain and sustain their preeminence. A cult is a cult is a cult. Show me the child and I’ll show you the cultist.
So what can we conclude? No thanks to this book. Well, let’s concede: sad fucked-up lives are sad, and fucked up. Emotional cripples abound and lots of them are lonely and vulnerable to strong pseudo-parental authority. Usually parents bemoan their lost, confused and maliciously misled children, oblivious to themselves as the cause of the alienation. The ultimate, archaic “cult” of the filial family imposes its will above all else, demanding the return of those who have “accidentally” gone astray or run away. Just bear in mind, refugees flee tyranny, famine (emotional as well as literal), isolation, violence, occupation and fear.
Let everyone flee back and forth like headless chickens to join any “cult” they want, I say. It’s unavoidable. For the redundant sleeping masses there can be no life after “cults.” There can be no life outside “cults.” If they want to squabble over possessing certain people, so be it. If they can “retrieve” and “deprogram” or reprogram each other to suit their own ends, so be it. If this process is relentless, unstoppable, cruel, painful and endless for them. If the strongest win. If the omnipotent “cult” of bureaucracy and governmental control reigns supreme… What did you expect ? I have no sympathy for any of them.
For myself, I took apart a “cult” like you would take apart a model engine, to see how it worked. It was never my intention to put it back together again to make it work. My intention was a skeptical act of self-conscious rebellion so that I could detoxify my SELF of the omnipresent and oppressive “cult” pathogen. It was an abjurative act of scornful personality inoculation. A disdainful declaration of infinite and unspecific flux and the repudiation of any tainting of my character by, or experiential vulnerability to, any and all manifestations or interpretations of all possible and impossible forms of inherited “cult” systems. So there!
Paperback: 410 pages