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.
The spiritual movement I have sparked is often targeted by people who are made uncomfortable by it. All change is met with resistance, so this does not come as a surprise. But I hear that people accuse the movement of being a “cult”. Many Teal Tribe members 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. Those who have become convinced that this movement is a cult are convinced that I am the ultra charismatic cult leader and that those who follow me are my mind control victims. I have conflicting emotions about this opinion 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.
The word cult is a super controversial one. It is a subjective term and so it is open to interpretation. To begin with, 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 devoted spiritual or religious groups. This is why we need to define what a cult really is if we are determined to use the term. People use the word loosely and flippantly as an insult, not knowing how serious an accusation that really is now a days.
It is accurate to say that religious and spiritual groups do exist that cause harm. This is really what we should be concerned with. We should be concerned with whether spiritual movements or practices cause harm.
No definitive checklist exists to diagnose whether or not a group is a cult, but here is a link to multiple opinions about cult criteria.
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. Essentially what they determined is that “concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused”. The following list is a collection of behavioral patterns that are commonly found in cultic environments. The idea is that if you compare these patterns to the situation you were or are in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved) you can determine if there is cause for concern.
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 the truth, as law.
2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
3. Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, mind control, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
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, how to discipline children, and so forth).
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).
6. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
7. The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
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).
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.
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.
11. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
12. The group is preoccupied with making money.
13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
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
In the hopes that I may put rest to some of your fears, I’m going to address these items point by point in the context of the spiritual movement I have sparked.
Above all, this group is a devoted group. But what sets us apart from a cult is what we are devoted to. Self-devotion is the thing Tribers are most dedicated to and hold each other accountable for. Before this raises your "selfishness" red flags, think about this, you can not be self devoted and believe in oneness without being devoted to the well being of others as well. They are indivisible from you. Self-devotion is what bothers people the most because many would have you do what makes THEM feel good.
If people are worried about being led astray or joining a cult, the real issue is a lack of self-trust. 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. If self trust 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. Let this be the real conversation between yourself and you if you’re worried this is a cult. Ask yourself, why don’t I trust myself? Let this be the real conversation between yourself and those who think this is a cult that you have joined. Why don’t you trust me with myself? It is a very good measure of what they think of you and it is after all very insulting.
As with anything else, trust your own discernment. Decide for yourself. There are no consequences for doing so.