Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cults I have known

The Process Church of the Final Judgment

Toronto was an interesting place in 1970.

I taught meditation, and met many colorful groups: hippies and American draft dodgers, saffron garbed Krishna devotees, and, people in dark Harry Potter robes with embroidered patches of oh yeah, Satan on the one side and silver crosses and the swastika like P logo on the other, belonging to the Process Church of the Final Judgment. I made many friends, and got to know them well, and in the end I could either join the Process "there's this (18 year old) girl who really, really, likes you" or Hare Krishna "here's a tambourine and you can chant all day" I choose neither, of course. My path was not so simple.

The Krishna Consciousness movement was a microcosm of every thing wrong with the ‘Indian guru goes to America and does well’ aspect of the New Age movement and it was, unfortunately, a cult. The focus on raising money, the sexual improprieties and abuse, unbalanced diet and conditions designed to keep people in a state of fatigue and more easily open to suggestion. It fell apart after the death of its founder Swami Prabhupada as his disciples fought amongst themselves.

I know that Swami Prabhupada was motivated by the purpose of bringing Krishna Consciousness to the world. I know he helped many people. I know he was not aware of the abuse, and did not condone it; the allegations came out after his death. They were also true, as several insiders confirmed to me. But that isn’t my point, which is that a focus on matters outside of this world can lead only to imbalances within this one, as I have seen over and over again in all sorts of groups and movements.

The Process Church was even more interesting, read the article and links at:

Led by Robert de Grimston and his wife Mary Anne MacLean, they were a splinter group from Scientology. In 1966, they retreated from the world to Xtul, in the Yucatan peninsula. There, with the aid of various stimuli and psychedelia, they channeled God, aka Jehovah, then, the later aspects Christ, Lucifer and Satan, and stated we all vibrate according to one or the other aspect, and we must eventually integrate all four. They were much perturbed when I said I already integrated all four :) I was a young whippersnapper then.

Having been born out of the various psychoanalytical therapy movements of the 60’s, the Process was widely influential with Rock Stars and in the counter culture movement. The Process eventually fell apart when it turned out they had some connection with multiple killers Charles Manson and Sam Berkowitz, the son of Sam.

I found it interesting they had a secret, undisclosed belief in long ago UFO’s visiting Earth based on the writings of Brinsley Le Poer Trench,,_8th_Earl_of_Clancarty and and that their
ideology had some resemblance with mine. But I saw also elements of manipulation and control I would never be able to live with.

Yet, for all they might truly believe in an apocalyptical world and that Charles Manson was a sign of the end times, but, there was something beautiful there too, in that even if they got Satan all wrong, they still got God, somewhat right.

Robert de Grimston, Process Church of the Final Judgment.

Yeow! The reading is a riff on War, and yes it should be read in full, great poetry cannot be summarised but read in its entirety.
But here's the conclusion:

"1.15 Humanity as a whole will not rise above its conflicts. Even if it were to do so it would still destroy all the physical, social and moral structures which it has created, because it would see their total invalidity. But it will not; so the destruction will take place in a chaos and confusion of ignorance, with the vast majority still clinging desperately to their hollow materialistic dreams, even in the depths of their final despair; whilst the few who do rise above the conflicts, will stand aside, separated from the mass, united not within but without the man-made structures of the human game, and linked to a new reality founded not on the laws of men but on the Laws of GOD."

The Process Church reinvented itself as the New Ager Foundation Faith of the Millennium, then as one of America’s most well known Animal Rescue services, the Best Friends Animal Society based in Utah. It pleases me to know that my old friends Brothers Micah and Michael, and Mother Ophelia, who sought so hard in the 60’s and the 70’s to create a better new world, now serve our animal friends. (They were the organization that went in and rescued many animals from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and if they ignored the humans, at least they did good, nevertheless)

I lived through tumultuous times and saw how hard people tried to change the corrupt society they lived in. The assassinations of JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon, the Vietnam War, Kent State and anti-war movement, Che Guevara’s execution, the 1966-68 student riots, the music, the films. We were the idealistic generation, and if some choose to drop out and explore the possibility of a beautiful spiritual alternative, then more power to them.


Xanadu said...

You realize of course that the word "cult" is a smear word. No one who belongs to a particular religious group likes to be told he belongs to a cult. Having been a member of Subud for some time when I was very young, I was amused to learn later on that I'd been the member of a "cult". This was a term of abuse (by outsiders) for a movement about which they obviously knew nothing.

As for the term "organized religion", this too is a term of abuse invented by unbelievers or reprobates for an ideology which they choose to sneer at simply because they are unable to follow its first and most fundamental commandment: to stop sinning.

The very use of the term "organized religion" tells you that you are in the presence of a fool. What religion is NOT organized? Is there such a thing as a "disorganized" religion? And if there is something unacceptable about an organized religion, are we to suppose that a disorganized one would suit our purposes better?

Man From Atlan said...

Oh take an irony pill, Xanadu. It's a valid word, used to illustrate a theme. If there are elements of abuse and mind control, it probably is a cult. If there's a hierarchy, then it's organised, religion or otherwise.
But I welcome your questions because they allow me to expand on the original articles.
Those of us born in the 40's and
50's lived in tumultous times, but we fought in a way that has not been seen since.
We rioted in the streets to end war, we made love not because we were rebelling against parents or religion but because we did love every one, and if we joined spiritual groups we were searching, however imperfectly, for a better world. If some tripped on drugs, great music and films came out as well. Free love may have caused some to get venereal disease or unwanted pregnancies, and many regretted their choices, and many more were glad to have lived then. Books and documentaries can't even give the flavour of those times.
It was a mass social movement, but there also were sharks..
Experiments on mind control have been going on for more than a century, with propaganda and the work of Edward Bernays. The CIA's MK ULTRA program introduced LSD and other drugs into the population.
Many believe that Scientology, EST, OTO and definitely Jim Jones were part of those mind control experiments, and I observed at first hand attempts to introduce New Agey movements into Russia, China and Iran to destabilise those countries.
Many religionists point to attempts to introduce new sects into countries by colonial powers, to subvert and divide. They still have an allergy to missionaries, even though Christianity itself has been subverted by the Evangelicals and Scofield Biblists.
I could go on about Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophists but will save that for my article on New Age.
'Cults' did have a useful pejorative meaning in the 70's as rich parents kidnapped their adult chidren and used 'deprogrammers' to get their chidren to conform to THEIR values.
So I observed all this, and oh yes, I did start my own spiritual community, and had to explain to the comfortable why I really couldn't worry about those who might call it a cult. People would always have that freedom of choice.
The 60's ended with Riots, assassinations, and the Charlie Manson murders. People became zombies, as they were taught, subliminally, that life was meaningless and nothing they did would make a difference. The biggest form of mind control was not 'cults' after all, but Mass Media and the chemicalisation of society.
So this article was about people who were searching, and was written in love for them, and remembrance of things past.

Xanadu said...

You appear to have taken umbrage at my innocuous comment, as if it were an attack on you personally. No offence was intended. You sages are all alike, too sensitive. :)

Xanadu said...

I do have a problem with spiritual guides (like Rajneesh) who say to their disciples, "Cone unto me, ye sex-starved, and I will give ye more sex!"

People don't want to be told by their gurus to yield to their sexual temptations. They want to be told to resist them! For this, in essence, is what religion is all about: self-restraint. (religare, Latin, 'to bind back', to restrain.)

Rajneesh got the disciples he deserved — the randy pot-smoking hippies and summer-of-love dropouts. And in between lecturing his disciples on Indian philosophy and meditation he would watch porn videos.

Do I feel anger? None at all. Just a profound sadness that a lost soul like this can attract the disciples and the wealth to buy 95 Rolls Royces.

Me, I'd rather have no guru at all and get to hell on my own steam

Man From Atlan said...

Oh I had my umbragella up, so I didn't get wet:)
I didn't think you were referring to me personally, and even if you were, we're exchanging ideas. Seriously, I'm one of those people who welcome people who disagree with or question me, thanking you for giving the chance to develop my theme.
Now, I wasn't suggesting you were irony deficient (though that's a definite possibility with vegetarians :) but here you are speaking against Rajneesh because you disagree with his practices, but since you don't like to use the word cult you're ignoring the fact that yes, it WAS a cult.
But that doesn't really matter, I try to show that words don't hurt, only ACTIONS, and we would be a lot healthier if we learned to not be hurt at all. Wouldn't happen if we were thin-skinned, would we?
This article, once you get past the title, was really about the
60's and the death of the spiritual Neptune in Libra generation.

Man From Atlan said...

And I wasn't too sure about your Latin :) so, from Wikipedia:
"The English word religion has been in use since the 13th century, loaned from Anglo-French religiun (11th century), ultimately from the Latin religio, "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety, the res divinae".[11]

The ultimate origins of Latin religiƍ are obscure. It is usually accepted to derive from ligare "bind, connect"; probably from a prefixed re-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or "to reconnect." This interpretation is favoured by modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell, but was made prominent by St. Augustine, following the interpretation of Lactantius. Another possibility is derivation from a reduplicated *le-ligare. A historical interpretation due to Cicero on the other hand connects lego "read", i.e. re (again) + lego in the sense of "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully".[12]"
which I much prefer, actually. I suspect your nuns were trying to encourage a certain abstinence :)
But seriously, one could say of any religious teacher: "he offended our gods, and taught our children to be disobedient!"

Xanadu said...

Take my word for it, I have a degree in Latin. The word "religion" derives from "religio", which in turn derives from two simple words; (1) LIGO = I tie, I bind; and (2) re = back.

So re + ligo = I tie or bind back = I restrain, I control, I impose limits on.

Religion is not an excuse to do what you want. Etymologically, it is an injunction to practise restraint, ie., NOT to do what your lower nature or impulses urge you to do.

All for now...

Man From Atlan said...

Nope, with all due respect to your degree in Latin. Bind, tie, connect (to God)which is closer to the reference I posted, which you haven't proven otherwise yet.
Still it's interesting you draw more to the restrictive definitions of God. That might require hair shirts and self- flagellation to keep one focussed on the 'moral path' which I really have no problem with, btw.
It's just that when one 'binds' to God, doing the moral thing comes naturally, of one's free will.

Man From Atlan said...

And curious also you missed that 'ligo' also means 'unite'.

Xanadu said...

If it makes you feel better, I will concede your point. Etymology isn't going to get us into heaven.
I have no objections to unity with God. Sounds like a good idea.

Man From Atlan said...

My point of view makes me happy, and not, that people agree.
However, I was only agreeing with St. Augustine's translation :)

Anonymous said...

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Of course, to search out a guru is very nice, but if you want a cheap guru, or if you want to be cheated, then you will find many cheating gurus. But if you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru. Because people want everything very cheaply, they are cheated. We ask our students to refrain from illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. People think that this is all very difficult - a botheration. But if someone else says, "You may do whatever nonsense you like, simply take my mantra," then people will like him. The point is that people want to be cheated, and therefore cheaters come. No one wants to undergo any austerity. Human life is meant for austerity, but no one is prepared to undergo austerity. Consequently, cheaters come and say, "No austerity. Whatever you like you do. Simply pay me, and I'll give you some mantra, and you'll become God in six months." All this is going on. If you want to be cheated like this, the cheaters will come.


Anonymous said...

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The genuine guru is God's representative, and he speaks about God and nothing else. The genuine guru is he who has no interest in materialistic life. He is after God, and God only. That is one of the tests of a genuine guru: brahma-nistham. He is absorbed in the Absolute Truth.
As I said before, the real guru is God's representative. He represents the Supreme Lord, just as a viceroy represents a king. The real guru will not manufacture anything. Everything he says is in accordance with the scriptures and the previous acaryas. He will not give you a mantra and tell you that you will become God in six months. This is not a guru's business. A guru's business is to canvass everyone to become a devotee of God. That is the sum and substance of a real guru'sguru.

Reporter: I wondered how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus.
Srila Prabhupada: Practically everyone. [Laughter.] There is no question of counting. Everyone.
Reporter: This would mean thousands of people, wouldn't it ?
Srila Prabhupada: Millions. Millions have been cheated because they want to be cheated. God is omniscient. He can understand your desires. He is within your heart, and if you want to be cheated, God sends you a cheater.
Reporter: Is it possible for everyone to attain the perfectional stage you spoke of previously ?
Srila Prabhupada: Within a second. Anyone can attain perfection within a second - providing he is willing. The difficulty is that no one is willing. In the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Simply surrender unto Me." But who is going to surrender to God ? Everyone says, "Oh, why should I surrender to God ? I will be independent." If you simply surrender, it is a second's business. That's all. But no one is willing and that is the difficulty.
Reporter: When you say that lots of people want to be cheated, do you mean that lots of people want to carry on with their worldly pleasures and at the same time, by chanting a mantra or by holding a flower, achieve spiritual life as well ? Is this what you mean by wanting to be cheated ?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is like a patient thinking, "I shall continue with my disease, and at the same time I shall become healthy." It is contradictory.


Xanadu said...

"We ask our students to refrain from illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. People think that this is all very difficult...No one wants to undergo any austerity. Human life is meant for austerity, but no one is prepared to undergo austerity. Consequently, cheaters come and say, "No austerity. Whatever you like you do. Simply pay me..."

Wise words indeed! No trendy new nostrums here. Srila Prabhupada clearly knew that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Man From Atlan said...

Old nostrums are ok however? When the practice of it was lacking? I suppose one can look back with rose coloured glasses and be impressed with words.
The reality is here: where thousands of followers in the US, Europe and India were encouraged to "ditch the load and hit the road" collecting donations while leaving their children at a very early age, in special boarding schools called Gurukulas where many were raped, and suffered emotional abuse at the hands of the Hare Krishna hierarchy and insiders.
"An article Child abuse within the Hare Krishna Movement 1971-1986 appears on the movement's website. In it, E. Burke Rochford Jr., professor of sociology at Middlebury College in Vermont, said US Krishna boarding schools first opened in 1971 in Dallas.
"It was here that some children were physically, psychologically, and sexually abused," Rochford wrote. Estimates of the number of students abused have ranged from 20 percent of all students who attended an ashram-gurukula to as many as 75 percent of the boys enrolled at a boarding school in Vrindavan, India, according to Rochford.
Prabhupada should have known, and was ultimately responsible. I blame it on spiritual ego where the emphasis on selling books and getting new converts blinded him; he was more concerned with the welfare of cows than children.
But my greater issue was what I have known (and written about) to be a hidden spiritual tradition within Hindu mysticism "outwardly Vedic, inwardly Tantric" (also within certain Buddhist sects, to not pick on just one) of sexual vampirism, of drawing on the energy of young people. This has nothing to do with the human frailty of individual gurus, it is a practice, and one I abhor.
And these practices lead to various psychoses and several disciples of Prabhupada had to be removed in the 80's for various transgressions.
If the fruit should turn out to be rotten, I sometimes blame the tree.

Xanadu said...

I know nothing about Srila Prabhupada personally. Your comment obviously concerns Homer rather than me. It's up to Homer to answer you if he wishes.

All I will say here is this: as a Christian who venerates Christ in the formal context of an organized religion — the Church of Rome — I am not to blame for the activities of a small minority of pedophile priests. All the priests and nuns I have met have won my respect. None of them, as far as I know, have been sexual perverts.

I suspect the same could be argued about the Hare Krishna movement.

Just as Jesus Christ is not to be vilified because of the shameful activities a few Catholic priests, I should like to convince you — if you are amenable to simple logic! — that Srila Prabhupada is not to be vilified because of the shameful activities of a few Hare Krishna followers.

A guru cannot be held responsible for the failings of his disciples.

Xanadu said...

As for your thoughts on "sexual vampirism",
I couldn’t agree with you more on this point.
That you have the insight to note the intimate connection between sex and religion, between Eros and Agape, is much to your credit. But this must not blind you to the merits of the Hare Krishna movement.

Understand this: the world is full of lost souls. Especially young people overflowing with sexual vitality. These youngsters can easily be led astray if their gurus offer them unlimited supplies of "free love" on a platter. It's not sex they need or want. They already have more sex than they can handle. Sex oozes from their pores, the poor little darlings!

What these lost souls need is sublimation.

The wilder the horse, the tighter the rein must be.

Man From Atlan said...

If there are pedophile priests in the church, then I suggest a major cause is the dogma, and all the moral lectures in the world would not have prevented that. My point, and here we are diametrically opposed, is that sexual repression causes aberrations, and you seem to think it prevents them.
And I do believe that sex and divine union are so closely linked, in a way that has been given as a gift by God, yet corrupted by Man and Religion, but those are teachings only understandable by those with the maturity to do so. So, no, I don't promote abstinence, nor promiscuity, and I don't judge those who do, but will express my opinion: they're both unhealthy.

Man From Atlan said...

And while the article was about the harmful effects of the cults I had direct experience with, and the betrayal that so many spiritual seekers felt when the allegations came out-see, I would have called them allegations, if they hadn't been acknowledged by the Hare Krishnas, and was being kind actually. But, the truth is not ambiguous.
And I wasn't writing about religion, you did, and I'm not amenable to simplistic logic. Jesus Christ has nothing to do with the Catholic Church, he didn't create the structure, and so is not responsible for the actions of a 'few', or a 'small minority' The Pope was ultimately responsible for what happened in his organisation, the lies and the coverup, and Srila Prabhupada was ultimately responsible for encouraging his followers to abandon their children into the hands of pedophiles. That you can't even see that and try to exculpate his guilt is just too bad. No, he wasn't God's representative, but can respect those who think he was, since my problem isn't with them.
Is the guru responsible for the actions of his disciples? But that isn't the question, is it?
Isn't the gardener responsible, to some extent, for the tree he plants? And I'm not talking about a few bad apples, but that the tree, was rotten.
Still, I will be writing about the spiritual community I set up, so that should give people more insights on these questions you asked.

Xanadu said...

You make many good points, but your tone of condescension is tactless as well as unwise. I'd like to assure you that no harm ever came from resisting temptation.

"Repression" may indeed be harmful if it could be proved that it actually exists — that is, within the human psyche rather than in the recesses of Freud's fertile imagination — but keeping a tight rein on one's wayward impulses never harmed anyone.

Morality and religion sprang from three words: THOU SHALT NOT.

Man From Atlan said...

It's a debate of ideas, Xanadu, not personalities. If you found me not amenable to 'simple' logic and I found your logic 'simplistic' then it was wordplay, but also, honest opinion of your reflexive absolving of cults and religions whose teachings you liked while condemning those you disliked.
It also is debatable who is more 'Freudian', you or I, but then we'd be getting into personalities :)
But I do believe in the freedom to explore, to discover our limits, to make our own mistakes, and our ultimate freedom of choice.
I do believe that certain concepts are only understandable by those mature enough to do so, which is whether one is 'ready', or having the 'wisdom' to understand, not that I was casting asperitions on any particular one's maturity levels :) it's my way of ensuring that no harm is done, whether from the actual teaching, which is only done in person, or when I present ideas here.
Maybe the Quranic quote "you have your religion, I have mine" is an avoidance of debate; maybe it's to acknowldege mutually exclusive positions. But while morality may start from 'Thou shalt not', religion starts from Thou SHALL worship God, Thou shall love one another, Thou shall join together, in my name.
I still say that sexual vampirism is a hidden tradition within many cults and religions, and while you may point to the one that was at least honest about it, I pointed to the one that professed a strict morality while secretly allowing the preying on the vulnerable by an inner circle of initiates.
But never mind, here's something you might like: The Quest for Spiritual Orgasm

Xanadu said...

My comment about your "tone of condescension" — which may have irked you slightly — was unfair. I withdraw it. On further reflection, it occurs to me that you actually go out of your way not to be too rude or offensive.

Xanadu said...

"It also is debatable who is more 'Freudian',
you or I..."

Let me tell you in language as robust as your own that your remark on Freud (quoted above) is unmitigated bullshit. And you know it.

There is no way I can be said to have fallen under the influence of that Viennese charlatan. My strict Christian upbringing was always my vaccination against the Freudian swine pox.

I've just been reading Chapter 4 of Kevin MacDonald's The Culture of Critique in which he carries out a systematic demolition of Freud.

Here Freud is quoted as saying: "Sexual morality seems to me very contemptible. I advocate an incomparably freer sexual life."

This could be you.

As he stood on the deck of the ship bringing him to America, the nation he was about to corrupt, Freud said this to a colleague: "If the Americans only knew we were bringing them the plague!"

Man From Atlan said...

I might write one thing to Xanadu 1and another to Xanadu 2, but here's a synthesis: if I'd really wanted to insult I'd have called you a Frankfurtian, and not a Freudian :) though one could create scenarios and analysis which might place you in either camp. But I do accept you as who you say you are, and not a provocateur.
Just because you have negative experiences of Freud, (or Nietzsche), does not mean one can't learn from the valid theories of the unconsciousness, of repression and projection, of childhood memories that can cause emotional psychopathology (to those who say their childhood was wonderful I say that's when past life and karmic influences can project forward and create the personality that forms around the soul..
Just because Freud expressed some of his ideas crudely, or through the lens of his own experience, does not invalidate what he did, just as one can't throw Darwin out with the dishwater (smiley)
Psychology is a social science and not exact, but I am quite comfortable with a blend of Jung, Adler and yes, Freud.
You must feel free to accept or reject whatever you don't like, but I hope you don't fall into the camp of those who see his theories as a Jewish plot to destabilise society (with all due respect to Prof. Kevin MacDonald, who I do appreciate as well)
If I have a problem with Freud, it's that he rejected the influence of religion and mysticism as unscientific, but, that's just me.
So if you were saved from his clutches, that may be because you had the Catholic vaccination against his theories about demolishing sexual morality; one dogma substituting for another. But I am talking about tolerance, and you, are not. And I say, one inherently rejects what is inside oneself, so perhaps that is what you were reacting to. If someone says Repression is a bad thing, then the violence of your response may indicate how much you have repressed yourself. I would not say that is a good or a bad, thing; I am neutral.
Which I might have said if I were your doctor, but, I'm not.