I get email:
I don’t have any regrets about being in the church. In fact, I do miss the community. Yes, granted it was not always easy, and even sometimes kind of stressful and bizarre? But, ultimately I think it comes down to each person having their own experience with the universe. I had metaphysical beliefs before I ever joined Summit. My dad was a very successful attorney, so I know about reason. I think both reason and spiritual faith are good.
Regarding the comments that Elizabeth told you about her “failures”. I know that no one is perfect, “Let he who has not sinned, cast the first stone” like Madonna said at one of her concerts early in her career. But I want to say that for me I don’t think Guru Ma failed in her mission.
I still love and admire her for the good that she did, not her human faults, just like the public had to do with Clinton. She gave me and thousands of others, the opportunity to join together as brothers and sisters on the spiritual path.
She gave us a connection to other beings of light that we may have not been able to experience on our own. She gave us a sea of knowledge and a truer sense of who we really are. I don’t agree with everything that was done in the church. In fact, I didn’t even want the church to sell Camelot. But, it gave me a community of friends that I will have for a lifetime and beyond. And for that, I want you to please tell your mom, that I said thank you very much. I might add, that when I got divorced many years ago, your mom gave me some really nice words of motherly love and encouragement over the phone, when nobody else did.
Religion I agree can be dangerous if it causes division in society-which unfortunately it does. I actually pursued to obtain a degree in Religious Studies at a university after I was in the church. What I realized, is that I did not know as much as I thought. There is a common theme of ethics in most religions. The problem is that most people want to be the “chosen people” instead of recognizing the common denominator of being human-which is the desire to recognize a higher truth. Being human without some kind of faith or belief in a higher power would be meaningless life. We all know we shed our body when we die.
I have had spiritual experiences before, during, and after I was a part of the church. I do base my beliefs on real experiences; out of body experiences, ( I have traveled in my finer body and have communicated with others while in their bodies) seeing auras and chakras, angels, fairies, etc. It may sound crazy, but it is real. Denying these kinds of experiences is really denying one’s true self and of the beautiful experiences that life has to offer.
A depressingly familiar sentiment
The above letter is sadly typical of what I have received over the years, and is an example of the giant gap of understanding I’ve had with ex-CUT-staff members. Most chose to be a part of the community, and for them, it provided some answers they apparently needed. It’s “I got mine…” But at what price?
Like the letter writer I, too gained many good friends in the community. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really cut it. You find friends wherever you are, don’t you? It doesn’t justify the life savings contributed, the decades spent for which people have nothing to show. One member and friend donated her trust fund of over $1 million and later deeply regretted it. Her life was unalterably changed. How many people even have access to, let alone give away $1 million? Like her followers, my mom also turned over her parents’ life savings and proceeds from the sale of her childhood home to the church. This wasn’t the same situation of course, since my mom retained control of the money–which she eventually used to build herself and her family houses on the ranch.
But often decisions of CUT parents (like all decisions parents make) were terribly costly to their CUT children, who had nothing to say about it. This is by no means just a personal issue. Many families gave all their resources, and were actively courted by the leadership to do so. It was one of the main things that kept the organization going (since it really had no viable or profitable product). I could name the names of the families, it would be a very long list… I won’t do so out of respect for their privacy.
Most letter writers such as this, weren’t close enough to see the insidious nature of the organization and its leadership (of which I was a part). They did not see the arbitrary nature of some of the ‘revealed truth’ they swallowed hook, line, and sinker. Some people are just happy being led.
There are no cults, without followers
Passive followers have been the enablers of many great cult tragedies in history.
Because of the sunk-cost fallacy, many times it’s just too hard to acknowledge they made a mistake, even after leaving a cult. It’s difficult for anyone to admit they spent years of their life, abdicating their power and ignoring their five senses. Many followers still cling to their metaphysical/new-age/esoteric beliefs as well. They cling to “kindnesses” they may have experienced in the community–failing to see that kindness is everywhere, in all communities, religious and secular. Kindness and compassion are human traits, and have nothing to do with cults or cult leaders.
Believers justify their time in the community because it’s so painful to admit to themselves they were misled. They resist any attempts to be brought to their senses and to see the fraud for what it was. Since the letter was personal correspondence, I have omitted the name of the sender in my reply:
My reply to the letter-writer (that never changes):
I’ve gotten dozens of letters like yours, as well as even more who actually saw the destructive nature of what went on in the CUT. When believers such as yourself surrounded my mom with your credulity and gullibility, you lent power and mystique to her fantasies. Power she never would have had without a collection of fawning followers. It is this symbiotic process that is most destructive in religions.
I’m not here to ‘debate’ the issue, because there’s really nothing to debate. I’m on record with my views, pretty extensively at this point. I also spent 30 years of my life at the center of the storm. With respect to religion vs. spirituality, and so-called spiritual experiences–it’s a question of evidence–and there really isn’t any. It’s OK to ‘believe’ in myths, legends, Harry Potter, etc., as long as you don’t confuse that with reality. I’ve had my share of experiences too, both in meditation, dreams, etc… At no time whatsoever did I ever confuse any of that with real life. Interestingly enough, I had none of these experiences while in the presence of the supposed messenger of the ‘Great White Brotherhood.’
You might as well ask me to prove there isn’t a Chinese teapot in orbit around Mars, (the famous Teapot thought experiment by Bertrand Russell) or an invisible fire-breathing dragon in my garage (from Carl Sagan). I’m not interested in such ‘debates.’ No one can stop you from believing in supernatural new-age mumbo-jumbo.
Or you could choose to own up to your mistake, and join the community of reason, which has nothing at all to do with lawyer’s arguments (though attorneys use reason as an effective tool). Reason, as a practice, has to do with healthy skepticism, Occam’s razor, objectivity, understanding the logical fallacies, etc..
For a primer, you could start with “Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan.
And for that, I want you to please tell your mom, that I said thank you very much.
I can’t tell my mom anything. Quite simply, her brain is gone, there is no one left to tell.
Being human without some kind of faith or belief in a higher power would be meaningless life. We all know we shed our body when we die.
No. That’s argument from consequence. Wanting meaning isn’t the same as having eternal life. We die when we die. There is nothing to suggest that we live on in any form, or that the universe has any particular purpose or meaning.
We woke up one day and became self-aware. Some other day, we will cease to exist. It is up to us to imbue the days in between with whatever we find meaningful. That does not come from outside. No petty god or fantasy will provide the answer to your existential angst. God-belief is more like morphine–keeps you from feeling the big black gnawing hole inside–instead of coming to terms with the fact that the feeling is simply an evolutionary response. We feel that feeling to make us resist dying, and to make us have children to carry on our genes. The science of biology says that your consciousness will end when your brain chemistry stops. False certitudes about an ‘afterlife’ are worse than drug addiction–and they mangle your priorities and distort your perspective of what’s important. Faith also provides a gigantic shield for the opportunists of the world. And the CUT / TSL experience was no exception.
We are close to the same age. I would hate to see you go the rest of your life with this unprocessed trauma.
Hi Sean, I’ve got some comments about the e-mail you received:
1) I get so sick when I hear religious people telling us, non-believers, that our lifes are “meaningless”. Who the hell they think they are?? Do they really think we don’t have ideals, responsabilities, families, lovers, friends, jobs, careers, hobbies, fantasies, wishes, etc.?? Our lives have meaning because our *actions* give meaning to it; not because of some kind of thought or believe inside our heads.
I think we’ve been too tolerant with this kind of attacks, mostly because of fear. We hear them and we let them pass. It’s time we non-believers stand and let our voices be heard.
2) Now, I’d like to know more about that “common ethics” that all religions have. Up to this date the only thing in common I’ve found is that each group believe they possess the truth. (A world with a universal ethics code would only be possible in a secular world without religions.)
3) The search for a “higher” truth a human common denominator? The word truth doesn’t need any kind of adjectives before it. It stands by itself. There is no such thing as a higher (or lower) truth. The truth is just the truth, and it has always been out there, in the natural real world, waiting for us to discover it. The truth isn’t a revelation, it’s us understanding the world as it really is. It’s a job, it takes a great effort to do it (unlike religions, where you just sit and wait for God to tell you what life is about.)
We already have a very reliable way to find the truth: science! So reliable that thanks to it we dare to travel in airplanes and cars without knowing anything about mechanics. Our believe in science is not a matter of faith, its a matter of trust. We all know science works (even Amish have to deal with that fact.)
The development of the basic scientific principles took a long unnecesary amount of time â€”and innocent livesâ€” thanks to the obstacles placed by religious christian fanaticism during almost a thousand years. It’s in the hands of non-believers to never let that happen again.
I find my life very meaningful.
So do the 12+ people that I’ve brought into new high paying (45k+) jobs. Jobs I’ve been able to create working at various corporations.
So do my parents, family, brother, and friends.
So do people who cherish integrity, honor, discipline, and guts.
The religious that judge me based on such, and merit my life based off of their own fantasies and myths are merely another drizzle on my nice clear day.
Keep up the excellent entries. Those that believe, have fun wasting your time. I’m on to make my life worth living.
A brutally honest response. Why is it that when the gullible are shown the lies of the snake-oil salesman, they still defend the snake-oil that they bought?
Like you said, it is difficult for people to admit the falsity of something that they have such a huge personal investment in.
JosÃ©, exactly. When a religious person attacks the life of a skeptic or atheist as meaningless, they are guilty of bigotry of the worst sort. They are doing exactly the same thing they accuse atheists of doing it with respect to God. I have to be careful with this line of argument, however, because it is one of the chief arrows in the quiver of relativism. Believers in the supernatural seek to reduce science and skepticism to a belief system. Since they have no ground on which to stand, such uncertainty only benefits their position. (lowering the opponent reduces the perceived difference, even if a given position is unchanged).
Clearly the lives of atheists are far from meaningless. In fact, since we acknowledge that our life is the only one we have, we are much more likely to be careful how we live it. We will not be willing to die for any cause, except possibly our own blood relations.
(I’ve been having an excellent discussion with Aaron and Olly about that subject.)
On your second point, I couldn’t agree more. We atheists are being accused of having no meaning in our life, while the purveyors of meaning–that is–theism, who have no common ethics whatsoever, are tearing the world apart.
To your third point, you took the words right out of my mouth. There is no ‘truth,’ only what IS. All we humble humans can do is hope to discover as much of it as we can.
That’s the beauty of objectivity. I always tell people “don’t take my word for it.” I always tell people: you could be wrong, I could be wrong, all that matters is finding out what it is. I really don’t see how anyone could take issue with that argument. Unless, of course, they had a strong vested interest in believing something that was unprovable. But that’s really the point, isn’t it? If we were all rational, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Adron, thanks for your contribution. Both to this blog, and to the world of business. Contrary to what some “meaning junkies” might think, your creation of jobs is of ultimate meaning to humanity. Jobs put food on the table, raise living standards, and generally contribute to life on Earth. Stand proud as a purveyor of commerce!
Aaron, thanks again. Hopefully, we humans will soon evolve beyond this need we have to protect ourselves from admitting our mistakes.
I have no idea how I ended up here (had to answer a phone call, do a couple of things and now I am back type of thing).
I was never a member of CUT, but in the early 80’s I bought and read several of your mother’s books (I was raised in a “new-agey” Edgar Cayce afficianado family so I tended to read along those lines). My younger brother borrowed a couple and within 6 months he went from being a lost 19 year old who loved rock ‘n Roll (esp Led Zepelin and the Polic) and played a mean electric guitar, a political activist who worked on the Jerry Brown presidential campaign to an angry, angry (well, he was angry before but not at the WHOLE world!) extremely judgemental marine. He joined CUT in California and ended up in Montana. You might even remember him (I won’t post his name on this site, but I will tell you that he was tall, had red hair and his first name began with E.) … he got kicked out of CUT after basically giving his entire “youth” around the time of the Eric Francis gun-running brouhaha. He would never come clean about “why” but my impression was that he upset some people with some of his questions about the incident.
I feel as though I lost my brother when he joined CUT. He became extremely reactionary in his politics – would not even be civil to the family. If someone put any kind of pop music on the radio, he would leave the room. Particularly blues – which I love! I had had an abortion (which was no secret in the family & one of the sanest decisions I made during that period of my life!) and I (and we had been very close siblings) became in his mind, downright evil. There were specific CUT names he had for people like me, but I don’t remember them. I was heartbroken, but I was not willing to join CUT to save my relationship with my brother!
I am not blaming CUT or ECP for all of his current difficulty (and he remains, to this day, extremely troubled) as I shared his childhood with him and understand the roots (in another time, we would all have been removed from our family as children). What I am saying is that the CUT experience completely put him over the edge and cut him off from the very real support (which was available to him) and the psychological help he desperately needed. He lost the ability to think for himself, and did not trust ANYONE outside CUT.
I am writing this becuase I have a deep suspician that many of the people who joined CUT were much like my brother, emotionally sensitive and already brutalized – in some way – by some sort of harsh life experience. “Belonging” to a group may indeed feel like a salve when a person is already lost and somehow broken. The insidious thing is that the salve can very often be the very thing which makes real recovery and healing impossible.
And isn’t it interesting that you have become an atheist! I can’t allow myself to be all that certain about anything anymore, and settle for agnosticism, though I do lean more and more toward atheism as time goes on. As a person who was raised believing in reincarnation and karma etc, it is strangely liberating to embrace uncertainty – anyway – whether or not there are past or future lives completely misses the point, it is who and what we are now which matters. And if I can in some small way leave the planet a better place for those who will (hopefully!) follow, that is enough immortality for me!
At any rate, I am sure I will be back to read what you have to say, with great interest!
daimones, what a great handle! Because it sounds like to me that your brother completely sacrificed his daimon. I think I remember him. Does he have red hair? If so, then I'm sure.
It's really sad to hear stories like this, and it's on the main reasons why I've gone on record publicly in opposition to religion, and particularly the religion my parents founded. I saw too many people go through the same transformation you described in your brother.
It's like a death–death of the self. Death of the ego, death of the identity. With many religions, this is looked at as a positive transformation. Because it is seen that all of the negative traits we humans express can be quickly eliminated (through the conversion experience). But the price is the elimination of individuality. The "coming-of-age" struggle we all have to go through is where we find out who we really are. Getting into religion at the age of 19 is a sure fire way of arresting your personality development.
I'm not surprised at all that your brother continues to have difficulties. I'm not saying they're all as a result of his church experience, but certainly that did not help.
By demonizing aspects of socialization, and common human experience, the church insures emotional dependency, and prevents a person from coming to grips with their own responses to temptation, opportunity, and risk-taking. This is really dangerous, and the only way to recover from it is to go back to the very point of departure in one's life, where the abdication of selfhood occurred. In your brother's case, it sounds like he would need to go back (developmentally) to the age of 19, and continue to pick up the dropped stitches and work on those areas of his lost self-confidence and individuality.
Being in the Marines simply complicates the issue. The military is another organization which places a high degree of importance on discipline and following of orders without question. So again, the individual is in danger of failing to develop a strong sense of self. Soldiers seemingly have a great deal of self-confidence, and especially Marines. But their confidence comes in large part from their participation in a group dynamic. While many in the military face incredible danger and harrowing combat experiences, it is well known that they often face difficulties reintegrating into society, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
I am grateful in the extreme to all of our servicemen and women. But on a personal level, stories like yours are all too familiar. Religion and the military both demand a high degree of personal loyalty and sacrifice. It would be difficult for a person to find themselves while deeply embroiled in either one. In the case of your brother, being involved in both at the same time presents nearly impossible odds.
I wish he and you the best, and I hope that he finds his Daimon. With you to help him, I'm sure his chances will be greatly improved.
Thanks for writing, and best of luck to you.
Doing research on how mount shasta has been used by “gurus” to sacralize American land, I have come across your Black sun pages. i have been familiar with Cut since i met a follower at Sant Barbara back in 1973. Have researched it and notably its links to American culture. Went to Corwin. Met several leaders and members there.
I study the group as a “typically American product” and i find all your texts most interesting.
I would appreciate corresponding with you in order to get some answers on various questions i have. Notably, and Paolini does mention the subject, the level of political messages passed on to members as they were meditating. i have attended such meetings back in the 80s. Clearly republican messages were sent by your mother with her highly mesmerizing voice as people were visualizing the kundalini flame.
If you read French I can send you the 2 papers i have published on CUT, and i am planning a full chapter for my book on American Religions as religions of America.
I teach American religions.
Rather than recommend Demon Haunted World by Sagan [I loved the guy but he made some odd errors in his near fundamentalist view of science] I’d recommend ‘How to think About Weird Things: Critical thinking for a New Age’ by Schick and Vaughn
especially for those struggling to sort out what happened to their brains after brainwashing in a New Age cult.
Also, Kathleen Taylor—-Brainwashing: The science of thought control
my review in Skeptical Inquirer:
Thanks for the book recommendations, I'll have to check them out.
I'm wondering what you consider to be "fundamentalist" about Carl Sagan? I'm curious as to the errors you found in "Demon Haunted World?"
Since I came to my senses 15 years ago, I've always been an admirer of your work. You saw through the whole new age fraud long before I did, and have been an example to many. Keep it up.