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Re: TS as a cult

Oct 08, 1995 10:28 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

> [book quoted by Ann, talking about cults]:

>"Often, defensiveness and paranoia exist to protect the
>cohesiveness of group. To the extreme, it asks that members
>sever all ties with family and friends. Anyone outside the
>philosophy of the group. The noose gets tighter. It is okay
>to deceive outsiders, for a "higher" purpose.

The limiting of exposure to outside influence may be done with
cults to protect members from the common sense of friends and
family. But it also can be because one is working with materials
that are not appropriate for public teaching. When a chela is
pledged to the Mysteries, his lips are sealed.

>Religious sects generally have a universalist philosophy and a
>code of behavior touching all aspects of the lives of their
>adherents: promote an ideology ostensibly intended to transform
>the world.

We hear this in every attempt at idealism, be it post-modern
science, marxism, fundamentalist Christianity, or some New Age
group with a living guru. We're told: Adopt these beliefs and
live this life and you'll help transform the world. The problem
is that we transform nothing until we are free agents, and have
an awakened transformative power within, apart from whatever
movements we may join.

>The role of the charismatic leader is defined in terms of his
>ability to galvanize people into pursuing a transcendent mission.

This is true of any group -- good or bad -- and within theosophical
groups we have the example of the charisma of Jerry and April
Hejka-Ekins building up the LA Lodge (a good thing), which seems to
have been running an a much lower energy level since their departure.

Another example is John Drais with the San Diego Lodge, which went from
a few dozen members to hundreds in a year, then mostly died off when
he moved it out of town onto a desert site near Dulzura, California.
The lodge eventually moved back to San Diego, but with John's departure,
it had but a handful of members, and folded in a few years, being totally
without any remaining inspiration and energy.

>The transcendent mission of a routinized charismatic group is
>expressed in its rites and rituals. Using these behavioral
>prescriptions, the group establishes standards of how its members
>should conduct themselves in their own lives and in their joint
>activities, in conformity with the group's mission.

With any social group, there is a manner of dress, a method of
living life, and other external signs of belong. Members of street
gangs dress in gang colors. Members of a certain religious group
may shave their heads or wear robes. In the case of spiritual
groups, these are external reinforcements for the individual
still looking to be told what to do.

>Danger comes when power is concentrated in the hands of a single
>individual, who proves unfit to manage it. Deranged leaders may
>possess improper concentrations of power and stifle contact with
>the outside world.

This is very true. But power is self-conferred. We choose to
follow others. A leader only has power to the extent that the
followers accord it. The problem is not protecting the followers
from dangerous leaders, it is in awakening people into self-responsibility.

>The pursuit of new members is an important component of ritual.
>It supports members' commitment by underlining the credibility of
>the movement, since the testimony of new members provides further
>validation of the group's ideals.

This sounds like Daniel H. seeking converts, rather than simply
being happy to share his views with others of different beliefs.
I don't care if he "converts" to Theosophy or not -- that's his
choice. He probably cares a lot if some of us convert to his
belief system.

>Involvement in newfound rituals
>creates conflict in the member's preexisting relationships, since
>major changes in commitment and lifestyle do not come without a
>disruptive effect.

A good example of this is when someone becomes vegetarian for
religious reasons, and is eager to let others know of their foul ways.

>There is a tendency to divide the world into
>good within their own group and the evil lodged in their

Yes. This is the problem with the "exclusive source" or "exclusive approach"
mentality, which we see even in the theosophical groups.

>How does this definition of a "cult" fit current theosophical

There are some correspondences, but not an exact match, except perhaps
with certain lodges or centers. That would be the fault of the people
in those branches, and not of the movement itself. Theosophy is geared
towards providing us with keys to understand many of the problems of
life, but does not come with a prepackaged religion with rules regarding
pious living. We are not told what to do, but taught pure philosophy
and trained in learning to both think for ourselves. We eventually learn,
if we're fortunate, to awaken our "inner teacher" and go beyond the
intellectual content of our teachings into a more direct perception of
Truth. At that point, we cannot be mislead, because we're not dependent
upon the purity of the source of the book that we read, because we can
also look inward for answers and confirmation of what we externally read.

-- Eldon

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