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TOPIC: Cults, etc.

Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 14:49 #98287

Hokai has this post on twitter: "Avoiding disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment, and discouragement, we end up holding beliefs that defy our own experience."


Could it be as simple as: forward looking idealism is creativity, and backwards looking rationalizations are culty?
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 17:35 #98291

The differentiation that pops out to my view is not looking forward vs. looking back-- it is experience vs. belief.

I think that if one reduces experience to belief-- whether about past or future-- it eviscerates the living heart of it. We betray ourselves and the meaning that breathes in our own experience, in favor of conforming to another's catechism of belief, as members of a cult.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 18:26 #98292

There are a whole lot of people in major religious traditions that could be described as behaving as members of a cult, according to your definition.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 18:28 #98293

"Avoiding disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment, and discouragement, we end up holding beliefs that defy our own experience."

I suspect Hokai is thus describing the human condition.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 18:53 #98295

But Kate, there is no experience of the future. So thoughts of awakening, for example, anything future oriented, has to be a belief.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 18:54 #98296

Chris Marti wrote:
"Avoiding disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment, and discouragement, we end up holding beliefs that defy our own experience."

I suspect Hokai is thus describing the human condition.

A pathology of the human condition.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 19:06 #98297

I'd call it the "non-awakened" human condition. I'm shy of using the word "pathology" for what is normal for the vast majority of people.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 19:50 #98298

I think what Hokai is describing could apply to someone's state post-awakening, too. Like awakened cult leaders who desparately try to create the belief in themselves as being avatars, instead of just another human on this earth. They try to hold up beliefs that don't fit their own experience. Pathology seems to work for me. Anytime we spiritually bypass or avoid the truth of disappointment, disenchantment, etc. we start moving into pathology.
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 19:54 #98299

Hokai's quote could be used in any number of ways. It's like a spiritual rorschach image :-)
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 20:12 #98301

What isn't a rorschach test? :)
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Cults, etc. 06 Apr 2015 20:22 #98302

shargrol wrote:
But Kate, there is no experience of the future. So thoughts of awakening, for example, anything future oriented, has to be a belief.

There is no more experience of the past than there is experience of the future: experience is always of the momentary present-- in which we may be entertaining projections or memories/ thoughts of future or past.

And it's true that thoughts of awakening-- ARE beliefs, until such time as 'awakened' is an accurate description of present experience. I'm not saying belief is an irredeemably bad thing, just that it's a pale shadow of Reality.
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 10:30 #98307

shargrol wrote:
But Kate, there is no experience of the future. So thoughts of awakening, for example, anything future oriented, has to be a belief.

Are you sure of this? Sorry, I've been enjoying the explorations in Rob Burbea's book on emptiness teachings haha... I won't lecture you about the emptiness of 'the present' though. You're welcome :P
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 10:44 #98308

Also, just started Going Clear last night (the movie, not the process). Pretty good so far. I haven't thought about this stuff in a long time but basically my impression is that cultism is a social phenomenon that arises in certain interactions between a leader, inner circles, and the rest of the group.

Even more interesting to me than how these and other related dynamics play out in obvious explicit cults is how they play out all the time in everyday 'ordinary' groups. I see it all the time in myself and others. And I think that perhaps the phenomenological root is a willingness on the part of individuals to favor beliefs over experience, to edit our own experience to conform to our beliefs rather than the other way around, mixed with interpersonal dynamics of belongingness/exclusion and intrapersonal dynamics of freedom/dependency. These dynamics are so pervasive that it's actually surprising to me that there aren't more 'cults'.

I also think it boils down to sociology 101. Socialization-- the process of one generation imparting norms on the next one-- can take place in at least two ways. I call these coercive and emancipatory. The former there is no awareness on the part of the recipient (and perhaps typically even on the part of the socializing agent-- parent, teacher, peer whatever) that what is happening is in fact the transmission of memes; it's simply an initiation into the 'way things are'. In the latter mode (emancipatory socialization) it is explicit that what is transpiring is a transmission of memes and alongside that transmission there is a transmission of information about how that process functions and malfunctions and part of the norms that are transmitted are critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and a willingness to evaluate norms (traditions) pragmatically in order to not reproduce them merely for tradition's sake [ETA: in other words, emancipatory socialization is the transmission of memes and meta-memes].

What a different world it would be if we could still have all the cultures that we do now, including the cultures of social and physical sciences, and yet uphold a value of explicit socialization, emancipatory socialization. I don't think there is a middle ground between coercive and emancipatory socialization-- I think it's a crucial distinction to implement, because the very fact of being explicitly socialized inoculates against indoctrination while the very fact of being coercively socialized leaves one vulnerable to more extreme forms of the same thing [ETA: it really is black and white I think. The drawback of a lot of modern and post-modern cultures is that they would like to transmit 'secular' memes-- just more coercive socialization. think scientism and dogmatic atheism/skepticism. So the meta-memes which describe memetic dynamics and the transmission of which is inherently liberatory can easily be transmitted alongside traditional memes as well as modern, humanistic-secular ones-- in fact by definition they have to be transmitted alongside some form of primary memes.].
Last Edit: 07 Apr 2015 13:32 by Jake St. Onge.
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 12:45 #98310

Thanks, Jake-- you expanded on my little thought-kernel in a very useful way.

I had been reflecting on my personal quirk of being really deficient in social motivation. I should come up with a routine disclaimer to the effect that my take is more likely to displease than to please most others, and that I don't have a problem with that or expect agreement.
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 14:52 #98312

Jake, I won't spoil the end of Going Clear for you but once you're finished watching the movie it would be very cool to talk about it on this topic. It's the perfect place. The movie left me with a number of WTF? thoughts.
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 17:39 #98315

Cool, will do. Definitely already been a few of those moments lol...
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 18:20 #98316

I think there's a danger here of devaluing tradition and belief - both of those are useful and beautiful things. I'd argue also that many people's 'bonding' to a cult is precisely initially a result of experience - mystical, joyful, community, etc.

On the cults topic, an interesting piece I read recently on cult wars between Jim Jones and Father Divine:

The Divine inspiration of Jim Jones
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Cults, etc. 07 Apr 2015 20:16 #98317

Chris Marti wrote:
Jake, I won't spoil the end of Going Clear for you but once you're finished watching the movie it would be very cool to talk about it on this topic. It's the perfect place. The movie left me with a number of WTF? thoughts.

Yeah, I wanted to bring it up actually before Jake beat me to it with many more insightful thoughts.
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Cults, etc. 08 Apr 2015 19:20 #98331

David Chapman is touching on this subject on one of his pages: meaningness.com/metablog/guru-papers-monism-control

"The Guru Papers

The title is misleading. The authors started writing a book about problems in guru-disciple relationships. However, they realized two things: such problems are partly due to common “spiritual” misunderstandings of meaningness; and guru-disciple power dynamics are similar to other relationships of authority, with many of the same problems."
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Cults, etc. 08 Apr 2015 19:56 #98333

To anyone interested in this topic I'd recommend Chapter 10 of Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson: How To Brain-Wash Friends and Robotize People. He gives an analysis of brainwashing based on the first four (terrestrial) circuits in Leary's eight circuit model. It's fairly comprehensive.

My favorite bit from the chapter
There has also arisen a profession of "deprogrammers," so-called. These are neuro-technicians who will, for a fee, kidnap a child (even a "child" over 21) who has wandered off, departed the parental reality-tunnel and been brainwashed into the competing reality-tunnel of some new (i.e., not established—not acceptable yet) "cult." This is known as restoring the victim to normalcy.

It is all hypocrisy and neurological ignorance, of course. The "de-programmers" are actually re-programmers. The parental tunnel-reality is as arbitrary (and, to an outsider, as bizarre) as that of any "cult." A special system of tricky semantics allows most people and some courts to ignore these facts. Just imagine what would happen if a wayward child of Methodist parents had wandered into the Roman Catholic Church, say, and the parents attempted to have that child coercively "de-programmed" (reprogrammed) into Methodism; or if the child had joined the U.S. Army, like Calley, and the parents kidnapped him and tried to reprogram him into civilian reality-tunnels.

These problems will not go away; and the abrasions they cause, as various brainwashed robots continue to collide with each other, will accelerate. Speed of travel and of communication are still continuing to accelerate.

Fortunately, higher circuits are forming in the human brain and offer broader vistas than the narrow tunnel-visions of the antique circuits. That is the topic of our concluding chapters.

EDIT:
Pastebin'd the chapters sans a few pictures
Last Edit: 08 Apr 2015 20:01 by Deklan.
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Cults, etc. 09 Apr 2015 09:24 #98340

Deprogrammers: recently watched a feature film on this very subject

Faults
Last Edit: 09 Apr 2015 09:25 by Gareth. Reason: amending url
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Cults, etc. 14 Apr 2015 06:34 #98370

I'm reading David Loy's "A New Buddhist Path" which so far is really good. On page 27 there is a passage that I had to type up for this thread...

"In its own short history the psychotherapeutic tradition has gained considerable insight into the mechanisms of denial, rationalization, repression, projection, and so forth, which can help us understand how Buddhist practice sometimes goes wrong -- for example, the complicated transference/countertransference that can distort the relationship between therapist and client (or between teacher and disciple).
Transference, as originally defined by psychoanalysts, is the unconscious tendency of a patient to take emotions and behavioral patterns felt toward on person (for example, a parent) and transfer them to another (one's psychoanalyst or guru). Countertransference occurs when the analyst (or teacher) also gets caught up in that transference. If a spiritual teacher is surrounded by a coterie of devotees who look upon him or her as god-like, that is transference. When that teacher begins to agree with them, that is countertransference..."
Last Edit: 14 Apr 2015 07:00 by shargrol.
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Cults, etc. 14 Apr 2015 22:30 #98375

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Cults, etc. 14 Apr 2015 22:45 #98376

You said it, Deklan! Some cults are vast and mainstream...
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Cults, etc. 15 Apr 2015 13:20 #98383

So yeah, wow, Going Clear.

Some very disturbing stuff in that. For now in addition to what I wrote above regarding coercive vs. emancipatory socialization, I just want to add that I think one interesting function of 'cults' is that they can become massive targets of projection.

Since they are basically (if my take is more or less accurate) taking dynamics which are essentially 'normal' at this point in history and amplifying them to an extreme where the inherent pathologies are Really Obvious (from the outside-- a crucial point), they can be a great way for 'us' to look at 'them' and say 'What's wrong with them?"

We can project narcissism, control and domination onto cult leaders and lack of self awareness and dependency and fear of not belonging onto the followers-- as if those dynamics aren't present in all the social situations we find ourselves in everyday-- work, family, school.

I really feel like the issue is broader, subtler and deeper than 'cults' per se-- it is that we (humans) heretofore, for the most part have engaged (mostly unreflectively) in coercive socialization which produces a population which is susceptible to getting caught up in extreme social movements (think the shift from Weimar republic to Nazi Germany for instance...-- another example that makes a great target for projection, 'what was wrong with them?' thinking).

As long as we view 'cults' as a problem and the analysis stays at the level of whether the leaders or followers are more to blame then I'm afraid we will continue as a species to give rise to these terrible, destructive movements. :(

ETA: and I wish someone would make a documentary on cults which had THAT as the punchline
Last Edit: 15 Apr 2015 14:46 by Jake St. Onge.
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