The Allure of Cult Leaders

Last night I watched a CNN documentary film called Holy Hell.  The documentary interviewed former members of the Buddhafield cult and showed old footage of their interactions.  The progression that took place in the relationships of the cult members to the cult leader was much like many abusive relationships: Things started great and then turned to shit.  Their initial experiences with him were charming.  They were in awe of him.  He seemed to have the answers they were searching for.  They said they had amazing spiritual experiences and felt so much love when they were with their Buddhafield “family”.  It initially seemed more like a hippy co-op than a cult.  The members were happy and safe.

Then the group started getting media attention for being a cult.  A flip switched in their “teacher” and he became paranoid, self-serving, highly controlling, manipulative, and sexually abusive to male members of the group.  Yet, they stayed.  Their “teacher” had given them a taste of ecstasy and brain-washed them in the process.  He gained their trust to such an extent that they became blindly devoted to him.  He was no longer simply a guy who seemed to have things figured out.  He was deified in their eyes and to be obeyed.  It took years of mistreatment and numerous confessions by male members about being sexually abused by their leader to convince the group to disband.

This story serves as a warning not to let a longing for answers lead us to believe that any person has all of the answers.  Never give up your right to make decisions.  These people were scolded for thinking for themselves.  Yes, they were actually reprimanded for being in their own mind.  They were taught that thinking for themselves was counteractive to the obedience that was demanded from them.  That part was right.  Thinking for yourself can counteract obedience.  That is the glory of being your own person.  Thinking for yourself aids you to determine when it is a good idea to be obedient.  When you are going into battle for the first time, you know it is probably wise to obey the orders of a respectable seasoned soldier.  You probably wouldn’t take orders from some guy who was drafted out of Juilliard and never been to war.  When you really think about it, you know that eloquently delivered bullshit is still bullshit.

Give yourself the honor of having multiple teachers and deciding which lessons you should keep with you.  Some speeches may put stars in your eyes.  Make sure it is the message more than the presentation that wows you.  It may be easy to buy every line sold to you when a master manipulator is doing the sales pitch.  He or she can see that you yearn for enlightenment and love so much that you might overlook claws dug into you when a soft smile is on the attacker’s face.  Before you know it the claws can be dug so deep into your flesh that you cannot escape without serious damage.  At that point it may feel like removing the claws would be more harmful than letting them stay buried under your flesh, and that is a very dangerous was to think.

Nobody has all the answers you seek.  The “easy way” to enlightenment doesn’t exist.  You can’t just follow somebody around picking up whatever breadcrumbs they decide to leave you while being blind to feasts going on around you.  It may be easier to focus on the teachings of one person, but that doesn’t mean it is wise to do so.  Don’t let tunnel vision prevent you from getting where you need to go by tricking you into thinking there is only one direction.  Love is all around us.  Truth is all around us.  There will be times that all we see in a room is hate and falseness.  That doesn’t mean we should tough it out and wait around in that room hoping for love to appear again.  That means leave the room.  Find a better room.  Don’t limit yourself.  Enough limitations will be pressed upon you by others.  When you are strong enough, you can dare to reenter that dreadful room you knew in order to help others change the room or also leave.  Blessed be, y’all.



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