Abraham Lincoln once said that no man is good enough to govern another man without the other’s consent. And then it must be considered that the giving of consent is an act of free will and therefore the giver of consent is governing himself by giving his power away.
All change is met with resistance. People often accuse me of being a cult leader and of the 'tribe' being a cult. Many 'Tribers' have come forward to confess this year that their family and friends are flipping out about their involvement with myself or the group because they think it is a cult. They have asked me to speak about my opinions on the matter. And so I will. I have conflicting emotions about doing so because on one hand, I would love to blow it off as too ridiculous to pay mind to and on the other hand I find that it bothers me.
In today’s world, there is a lot of fear about cults and understandably so seeing as how there have been multiple tragic incidents involving them in the past. But this fear has led to a collective paranoia. The term cult and cult leader are now loosely thrown around like a subjective catchall term. And this has caused many people to distrust anyone in a position of spiritual influence.
The fact that cult has become a subjective catchall term makes a rational conversation about cults difficult. In the beginning, the word cult had no derogatory or negative connotations. Cult was simply a word used to describe a group of religious people. In the 1900s it became a term to describe a group of people who demonstrated excessive religious devotion. And now, it is a derogatory term used as an attacking ad hominem to discredit, invalidate and dehumanize spiritual or religious groups. People use the word loosely and flippantly as an insult, not knowing how serious an accusation that really is. In today’s world, if all it takes to be a cult leader is to have a devoted following on social media and therefore lots of influence on public opinion, then every celebrity could be accused of being one.
Most people aren’t in fact working with a solid definition or criteria when it comes to classifying a group of people as a cult. This means they don’t have proof, only accusations. Instead, people are working with a ‘feeling’ or ‘association’ they have. We found out just how dangerous this was during the witch trials generations ago. As we know from back then, the ‘feelings’ and associations’ that made someone convinced that a person was a witch were usually not based on anything other than a person’s own insecurities. For example, when a judge was threatened by the idea of a female in power, he would condemn a woman as a witch when she tried to change the law regarding inheritance and land tenure. We have to be very careful that the paranoia about cults does not trend in the direction of a modern day witch-hunt. For this reason and for the sake of this conversation, I am going to use an established and widely accepted list of criteria for cults as the basis of our conversation.
The first thing you must understand before I go any further is that I am a personal transformation revolutionary. I am not a cult leader. The Teal Tribe is a shared personal growth community that is based on the material and information I create. Teal Tribe is not a cult.
Two PhD’s, Janja Lalich and Michael D. Lanagone in association with the ICSA created a “cult checklist”, a way to tell if a group is in fact a cult or not. I am going to focus on their assessment for the sake of this blog.
The following list is a collection of behavioral patterns that are commonly found in cultic environments.
1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as law. I ask that people have unwavering commitment to themselves. Questioning is a central theme of Teal Tribe because it is the only way to find out what is true for you personally. I offer people my perspectives and opinions, I don’t present them as law.
2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. I encourage questioning. I see doubt as a normal part of personal expansion; it is a call to discover personal truth. Dissent does not lead to punishment. People are welcomed in the group even if their opinion varies from my own or other people’s. Constructive conversation about conflicting viewpoints is an opportunity for establishing a higher truth.
3. Mind-altering practices are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). No consciousness-altering states are encouraged or used by myself or any of those who follow my material with the purpose of suppressing anything. All of the processes, tools and practices we use are done specifically to help people to access things like personal freedom, health, clarity, peace and authenticity.
4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, and so forth). Like every other person, I have many opinions about the healthiest or best ways to do certain things. Like any spiritual leader, my opinion is the cornerstone of my career. But I encourage people to try on these opinions and perspectives and decide if they are benefitted by it. I do not tell people what to wear, whether or not to have children, where to live, who to date, what their purpose is, what job to get etc). If people ask for my opinion, it is their choice to implement the suggestion and adopt the opinion or not. No one in this group needs my permission for anything and needing permission suggests a lack of self-trust. My intention is to teach people to govern themselves.
5. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). I think all people alive today (regardless of whether they are associated with me or not) have a very important role to play in the success of humanity. Because of this, all people are special because of this unique role they play in the bigger picture of human life on earth. I am simply playing one of these special roles.
6. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. I am not alone in recognizing that there are important changes that must be made in the wider society. Society must evolve with each generation. But an us-versus-them way of thinking and being is the exact opposite of what I teach. I teach oneness. I teach integration. Us vs. them thinking is out of alignment with both my teaching of oneness and integration. My vision is for humanity to be able to take an integrative, multi-perspective approach to all of society’s issues.
7. The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, psychologists, military commanders or ministers). In coming to understand people’s fear about cults and even religions, this is the element that seems to frighten people the most. The idea of checks and balances makes people feel safe. When people feel they have less power than someone else, they immediately imagine that their only way of ensuring safety relative to that person is to know that someone else (or multiple people) with equal or greater power can reduce that person’s power or take it away entirely. Everyone on earth is accountable to something that could be seen as having “more authority” than they do including me. I’m not above the law. Contrary to what people may imagine, I do not consider myself the ultimate authority. I strongly believe that power comes from excellence. For example, no matter how hard I try, I will never be as good with accounting than my COO. Therefore when it comes to accounting, he is the one with the authority. No matter how hard I try, I will never be as good at editing as my video editor; therefore he has control over editing decisions. If I am in an operating room, I have no control or authority over what happens there, a surgeon does. My opinion is that it is very important to be aware of and in reality about the areas where you do have authority and the areas where you don’t.
8. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities). If something feels unethical or reprehensible to someone, it is an inner message that they are out of alignment with themselves and this message is never to be ignored. No ends justify a loss of personal integrity. And it is the fact that I encourage honesty with one’s family and friends that causes the most conflict between people who follow my material and their family and friends that do not follow my material.
9. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. My vision for those who resonate with my material is that they are healing and support oriented. As such, I do not see how inducing shame and guilt could play any part in healing and because free will is such an important part of my core message, I do not condone anyone participating in or succumbing to peer pressure. Guilt and shame are not tools used in an authenticity based community of people because they discourage authenticity. It is important to distinguish between someone shaming you as opposed to feeling shame in relation to something that someone is saying or posting online.
10. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. I teach people to question everything, listen to their own internal guidance system, be honest with themselves, become their real authentic self, set themselves free from fears and own their own their own life to the degree that they can fully live it. My vision is multi generational healing. If people cut ties with their family or friends, it is because they have decided it is in their own best interests to do so. On a personal note, while I will support anything that is authentically in alignment with a person’s highest good, it makes me personally sad when this happens because it means the potential for a family systems change and collective healing obsolete. If you follow my material, you do not have to cut ties with anyone or radically alter your goals and activities before or after joining the group. You will be asked to re-evaluate your life because re-evaluation (and the changes that naturally occur during a spiritual metamorphosis or healing cycle) may reveal to you personally that making changes to your life is in alignment with your highest good. Because it is not a requirement in any way, the decision to make changes to one’s life is left entirely to the individuals themselves.
11. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. People who watch my videos and read my books and attend my seminars are not preoccupied with bringing in new members, they are preoccupied with their own healing and happiness. Sharing my content with the people in their lives is not done with the intention of recruiting them. There is a big difference with sharing content and trying to recruit people. Sharing content is done because the person sharing it believes that it will benefit other people too. I would hope that the quality of my work would be reason enough for people to subscribe to my channels and share my videos and connect with each other of their own volition. There is no need to convert someone to something that feels good and has enough obvious value.
12. The group is preoccupied with making money. My company is a for profit company. That being said, money is not the central intention of my career, which is why I offer so much free content and also volunteer opportunities and scholarships. The people who follow my material do not try to make money for the group or myself. They have their own lives; their own jobs, their own bills to pay and their own personal financial concerns just like everyone else in society. There is no membership. Premium content subscription is not the same thing as paying to be a member of a group and/or tithing. No one is required to give money to be part of what I do. If I put a product or an event on the market, people can decide whether or not to pay for it (just like any other product on the market) based on whether or not it is valuable to them.
13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. No one is required to do anything in this group. People in this group who want to donate their time, come forward as volunteers and volunteer for as long as they feel called to do so. It is completely up to individuals how much time they agree to dedicate to anything.
14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. No one is encouraged to ONLY socialize with people who follow my material. I find this extremely unhealthy. If people choose to connect with other people who resonate with my material, it is because that is where they feel the most connection and support and understanding and nothing more. My ultimate vision is that society can change enough that a person who resonates with my material can find just as much connection, support and understanding with someone that does not even know who I am and who does not follow my material as they can with someone who does. The reason those who follow my teachings call themselves "Tribers" is because our world vision is for all people to become 'one human tribe'.
15. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. There is life anywhere you go whether that is following my material or not. Relative to Teal Tribe, there are guidelines (like there are on any social media platform) that serve to support a healthy social environment and they apply to anyone who is aligned with the group and also anyone considering leaving. I cannot (nor should I) control how people are going to feel if someone that was part of the group decides to turn against the group or myself and/or leave it. If someone decides to leave, we would hope they would do so in a way that is authentic to what supports their highest good, a way that is responsible and a way that is respectful and loving to the rest of the community that is deciding to stay. But our policy is that there is absolutely no reprisal, consequence or punishment for choosing to leave Teal Tribe. And the Teal Tribe is also open to people returning. Some people choose to take hiatuses for various reasons and therefore come and go at their own discretion.
If people are worried about being led astray or joining a cult, the real issue is two things, a lack of self-trust and a fear of influence. If people are worried about someone else being lead astray or joining a cult, the real issue is that they do not trust that person with themselves and they believe that free will can be taken away. If self trust and belief in one’s own free will did exist, one would trust themselves to keep on the path of what is right for themselves and the world regardless of other people going astray. The real conversation to be had, which is being highlighted by the topic of cults is about free will and influence. Therefore, ask yourself, why don’t I trust myself? Why am I afraid that I can be influenced into losing my free will? Let this be the real conversation between yourself and those who you think have joined a cult. Why don’t you trust them with themself? Why do you think they can be influenced into losing their free will? It is a very good measure of what you think of them and at the end of the day, it is insulting. As with anything else, trust your own discernment. Decide for yourself. The only life worth living is a life that is lived in alignment with your own sense of integrity.
Power and influence is not bad in and of itself. It is rather like a tool whose use depends on the intention of the person wielding it. Part of being in a position of power is to be aware of the right use of that power. When it comes to influence, the most important thing is the intention behind a person’s desire to influence others. For example, a politician might have the intention to influence people towards a policy because they have personal financial interests that would benefit by the adoption of that policy. On the other hand, they might have the intention of influencing people towards that policy because they believe strongly that it is in the best interests of the collective. I have the intention of influencing people towards their own personal truth and authenticity and towards making better decisions in their relationships and lives so that the world becomes an even better place for us all.