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My Spiritual Journey, Part 2
In which some Ricochet readers do internet searches for evidence that I have joined a cult. [continued from My Spiritual Journey, Part 1]
A prologue for context: The tiny non-Christian religion I joined just before I got arrested likely has between 50,000 and 75,000 members worldwide. That alone does not open the door to it being called a cult. The fact that it has a living spiritual leader–as well as makes claims about inner spiritual masters who guide people in understanding their dreams, past lives, and adventures in heavenly worlds–does open that door.
So, before I go further, let me remind you that I’m the kind of person who created The Thomas Sowell Archive (password TS). (One can get quite an education just by watching the 19 Uncommon Knowledge videos listed there where Peter Robinson interviews Thomas. Here’s hoping Peter gets at least one more interview when Thomas’s new book comes out.)
I also wrote the Ricochet post, “Why We Need Shakespeare Now More than Ever.”
And the series posts on How the Mind Creates Blind Spots to the truth (a critical education for me):
…Blind Spots and the Reticular Activating System
And the entire 12-Step Totalitarian Program, which outlines how a mass cult works to program people:
12-Step Totalitarian Program: Step 1: Corrupt Education
Step 2: Corrupt Language
Step 3: Corrupt Science and Religion
Steps 4 & 5: Corrupt History, the U.S. Founding, Natural Law, and the U.S. Constitution
Steps 6 & 7: Corrupt Journalism, the Arts, and Money
Steps 8 & 9: Corrupt Separation of Powers, Elections, and Law Enforcement
Steps 10 & 11: Corrupt Healthcare, and Food and Energy Supplies
Step 12: Corrupt Individualism
So, I beg a little indulgence. But fear not. If you want to post testimonies from the Internet to make the case for a cult, I will not argue. The claims I make about my beliefs and experiences in no way invalidate the beliefs and experiences of others.
But before that reveal, I would like to provide some quotes from the writings of this particular spiritual leader.
* * *
These individuals spend all their time trying to devise new ways to milk the welfare cow when an equal amount of effort spent on learning how to become self-sufficient as a contributor to society—rather than a parasite of it—would increase the amount of personal and spiritual freedom.
A moral law is something society makes you do if you want to live at peace within that society. Ethics are the fine shadings: you do the right thing spiritually, even though you may not gain from it materially. You may even lose. But it is the right thing to do; it’s the spiritual thing to do.
I’m not here as a political force. I don’t care about those things. But I do care when the spiritual light is dimming in the world.
Our political leaders are, in large part, responsible for the mayhem today. When politicians try to play God by ordering the last little details of people’s lives–even through such outwardly good programs–they ignore an important spiritual law. It is that people must pay the true costs of these benefits in some way.
The Great Society program was supposed to create a society free from the imbalances that result in poverty. Today you can look around and see that the experiment was not successful at all.
Today, socialism is still a weaker form of communism. Yet the spiritual crime of both these two doctrines is in taking the rights and freedoms of others. It’s a breach of spiritual law. A direct result of such blind justice is the moral sickness of the “victim consciousness,” which inflicts our society.
* * *
The tiny little religion I joined back in 1976 is called Eckankar: The Path of Spiritual Freedom. The spiritual leader today (not the one when I joined) is Harold Klemp. His title, though cumbersome, is necessarily descriptive: The Mahanta, the Living ECK Master. Eckankar means Co-worker with God. ECK is another name for the Holy Spirit.
His title details his two roles, and this is why I thought it worth checking out and proving it to myself as a member way back when. [Side note: The cost to join then is the same, even cheaper, to join today.]
As the Living ECK Master, the outer teacher, he gives talks and stories, he writes, he offers spiritual exercises to try, and he does his best to keep members from changing this teaching into something more mental and complex than what it is. He claims to be a Wayshower, not a Waypusher. He offers. You try things and see if they work for you. You can see video clips of his talks on YouTube. (He is not a charismatic speaker, and he does not strive to entrain his audience through his rhetoric.)
As the Mahanta, he is an Inner Teacher. Or more precisely, the Mahanta is a larger manifestation of the Holy Spirit who teaches through dreams, protecting and guiding individuals on their own individual path home to God.
He is a Master in the sense of Master and Apprentice, like the crafting guilds of old, where a master craftsman helps a student move into their own master of the craft.
Personality worship is not allowed. He is a human being, one who can make human errors. Nevertheless, over the years I have seen members move into personality worship. What invariably happens? They hit a point where the outer person betrays their projected image, and then they quit, in disgust, and often post stories online in anger and retaliation.
But that’s human nature. The real focus is on the Holy Spirit, the Inner Master.
Enough of that for now. Time to continue my story.
After becoming a member and before my arrest, I knew my drug-use days were over. Eckankar made it very clear that mixing the Spiritual Exercises of ECK with illegal drug use was dangerous. Even smoking marijuana could let in negative psychic influences. Smoking and alcohol were okay initially but would go away as one grew spiritually. Of course, each Soul could choose when, but if one were to remain attached to illegal drugs, then membership was not encouraged.
I practiced the daily spiritual exercise recommended in one of the books, using a mantra going back thousands of years called HU, pronounced “Hugh.” It crosses many cultures and no one culture or religion owns it. If you look up “God” in the first edition of The Oxford English Dictionary (I have not checked the second edition), you can see how the derivation includes the Sanskrit “HU.”
“god (___). Also 34 godd. [Com. Teut.: OE. god (masc. in sing.; pl. godu, godo neut., godas masc.) corresponds to OFris., OS., Du. god masc., OHG. got, cot (MHG. got, mod.Ger. gott) masc., ON. goð, guð neut. and masc., pl. goð, guð neut. (later Icel. pl. guðir masc.; Sw., Da. gud), Goth. guÞ (masc. in sing.; pl. guÞa, guda neut.). The Goth. and ON. words always follow the neuter declension, though when used in the Christian sense they are syntactically masc. The OTeut. type is therefore *gu_om neut., the adoption of the masculine concord being presumably due to the Christian use of the word. The neuter n., in its original heathen use, would answer rather to L. numen than to L. deus. Another approximate equivalent of deus in OTeut. was *ansu-z (Goth. in latinized pl. form anses, ON. oss, OE. Ós- in personal names, ésa genit. pl.); but this seems to have been applied only to the higher deities of the native pantheon, never to foreign gods; and it never came into Christian use. The ulterior etymology is disputed. Apart from the unlikely hypothesis of adoption from some foreign tongue, the OTeut. *guðom implies as its pre-Teut. type either *ghudho-m or *ghutó-m. The former does not appear to admit of explanation; but the latter would represent the neut. of the passive pple. of a root *gheu-. There are two Aryan roots of the required form (both *g”heu, with palatal aspirate): one meaning ‘to invoke’ (Skr. hu), the other ‘to pour, to offer sacrifice’ (Skr. hu, Gr. _____, OE. _éotan yete v.).
It shows up in the Sufi poetry of Rumi and was also one of the names of the Egyptian Sphinx.
It shows up in a Celtic religion: from The Flaming Door: Mission of the Celtic Fold Soul
by Eleanor C. Merry, 1936:
“And that which came to meet the soul (as light and sound come to meet our outer eyes and ears) was called HU, the spiritual world.” (p. 137)
“The God HU was the all-ruling Divinity of Western Celtic mythology. He represented the power and the glory of the spiritual world.” (p. 153)
“The Mysteries of HU revealed the other pole of human life: the ascent out of the body into the ‘glorified’ state of expansion of the consciousness in the spiritual world.” (p. 153)
Practicing HU daily and seeking an inward connection with this Inner Teacher, the Mahanta, continued after my arrest.
I was very naïve. I had been arrested for selling LSD to the younger brother of a friend, one time, one $2 transaction. Apparently, he had tried to resell it and got caught.
The arresting officers allowed me to bring my two Eckankar books, but those never made it into the holding cell with me, a cell with ten bunks and nine other inmates. Without my books, I had only HU and a relaxed belief that everything would be okay, even though I had no outer assurance. Because I believed that this whole thing was related to working off karma, I had naively signed a confession.
In the cell was a box of paperback books, including a legal book where you could look up laws by the number on your prisoner ID. I looked mine up and for the first time I realized that I had signed a confession to a felony of selling a controlled substance to a minor. It carried a sentence of…
Ten to life.
No. No way. There is no way that is how my life would go. I had no idea why I thought that, but it just seemed to me an impossible road. Somehow, I will have the protection of the Mahanta. But I could not see how. Was he even real? Was he really with me now?
Meanwhile, it was time to escape this glaring reality, so I found a fantasy paperback in that box, the only sci-fi/fantasy novel in the lot. It was called Under the Green Star by Lin Carter. I started the first chapter where the main character in first-person explains that he had been, since the age of six, confined to a wheelchair due to polio.
He had sought to be released from his body and talked about ancient texts and astral projection. He was talking my language. And about three or so pages in, he said this (and you may want to go to the link above and click on the cover page image to read that first chapter to verify):
Being a cripple, it was perhaps natural that I should turn my attention inward. The lore of the occult attracted me from my earliest youth. I had the finest tutors, and mastered Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Hebrew. The ancient Eastern science called eckankar—soul travel, the projection of the so-called “astral body”—fascinated me.
I could not believe what I was seeing. A secular novel had mentioned the word “eckankar” and it was the first novel I had chosen.
You can imagine how I felt. That this was arranged by the Mahanta to confirm, outwardly, what I was feeling inwardly. He was with me. This was the first miracle.
When I met for the first time with my public defender, she stared across the table and said, “Are you an idiot?” I responded, “It’s going to be alright.” She left that meeting confirmed in the belief that I was an idiot. At the arraignment my public defender entered a plea of not guilty.
Back in the cell, there was one guy very curious about Eckankar. He knew about Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy, so I told him a bit of what I knew, and how my presence here was about working off karma, since I had given up drugs. A year later, I saw a cell mate in Reno, and he said, “Do you remember that guy in the cell named Dean? Turns out he was an undercover assistant DA.”
Also, within that first week, I had somehow got on the wrong side of a cell mate. One night he told me to watch out. At the first chance, he was going to beat me up. (The nice way of framing what he actually said.)
Before going to sleep that night, I inwardly sang HU and asked the Mahanta for help.
The next morning that gentleman was removed from the cell and taken away by a guard, never to be seen again.
Protection. As promised.
Then another miracle. While accompanying my public defender to my second court visit, she told me, “When they tested the tablet, they found no LSD, so the charge is being reduced to a misdemeanor of selling a substance and falsely claiming it was a controlled substance. We will plead guilty, and you will serve a short stint in county jail, agreed?
I agreed. And I thought, “I can’t believe it. The Mahanta got rid of the evidence!” Of course, it could also be that the arresting officers, the assistant DA in the cell, and the public defender all got together and agreed that I was a sincere and naïve idiot who would no longer be a danger to anyone, and a felony conviction would cause more harm than good. Still, a miracle.
The judge accepted the plea and sentenced me to 60 days in the county jail including time served. (Just the right amount of time to get the drugs out of my system.) I was shipped off to an Elk Grove, CA, misdemeanor facility for DWIs and other lower-level criminals that had barracks with 100 bunk beds each.
A week or two in, a fellow inmate tried to cut in front of me in the food line and I resisted. He said, “Watch out. I’m going to kick your —.” That night I asked the Mahanta for help.
The next morning that inmate disappeared, and I never saw him again.
The final miracle: Remember that woman who had given the talk at the Sacramento County Library who had that light in her eyes? Turned out her son was in the same facility, and I was able to visit with her every Sunday and have spiritual conversations. She told me that a class that just started and met monthly was holding a spot for me if I would like to join.
I spent my 21st birthday in that facility. I remember sitting in my bunk, reflecting on my past as a straight-A student whose grades faltered in his senior year, my present as an inmate letting go of any drug habits, and my future, which I now had the power to change.
I lit up a cigarette and said, “Happy birthday, Mark.” And indeed, it was.
Within the next couple of years, I quit smoking.
Next time, learning through dreams and my inner training in how black magic works.Published in Religion & Philosophy
Whoa meme guy. Will take me a week to get through this. Maybe I will just wait for St. A’s review.
Well, to the extent he is channeling Augustine and Aquinas, you can trust his review. :-)
This is a wonderful telling of your journey. Thank you for sharing!
I have great respect for you posting this stuff here. Calling anything that seems a bit strange a cult is what a lot of people do. Modern (and ancient) religions are basically giant cults IMO. I grew up a Catholic and was indoctrinated into that cult by nuns and it wasn’t all pretty. Not at all. (Not as bad as some other cults of course)
I have had my flirtations with several ‘cults’ (never really in one) which has for the most part benefitted me. I’ve had plenty of experience with psychedelic drugs, which is totally misunderstood by most people – actually anyone who hasn’t taken them- which is understandable but frustrating. Note however that I spent decades completely drug free and felt no need to take psychedelics or smoke weed. For me the hardest thing to deal with is alcohol. Also difficult was tobacco, which I smoked from age 12 to 38, but I remain smoke free to this day as I’m turning 70.
I did several new-agey seminars including a lot of EST in the early 1980’s -which is also totally misunderstood and there’s a lot of good stuff to learn and experience. It’s sort of an anti-cult cult, if you will. It taught me to be very skeptical of norms and mores, assumptions and expectations.
Did a week long Tantra Yoga retreat too. That was quite something! And more. Kundalini Yoga and was into zen for a while. All quite dilettante-ish, I never really followed through with much. Also before all that, I encountered Scientology when it was quite new (that is a cult) . I was effectively homeless ( I was a low-life bum) at the time in San Fransico and was recruited, went to their local HQ and really wanted to join (I was 19 or so in 1972) but when they discovered I had no money they lost interest LOL! Still I avidly read all the Dianetics books in the library. Yes, I was looking for answers.
My experience here at Ricochet has been informative, in that there are some pretty ‘closed’ minds when it comes to anything like this and it’s one of the most disappointing things to encounter here. Hope this thread is as informative (or half as interesting even) as your post Thanks!
I have no review, other than to observe that we are obviously seeing only part of the picture, and that through the dirty lenses of our own humanity.
Them’s some good stories.
What is a cult anyway?
Ricochet is a kind of cult. We rarely meet our leaders, tucked away in their guru huts in Venice Beach. What we say is controlled by ‘moderators’. The main leader, Peter Robinson is a charismatic interviewer whose main approach is to ask questions and pretend he doesn’t understand the answers. They constantly are looking for new members and require money from their adherents every month. If you leave, they never talk about you again – like you never existed. They have strange “meetups” to keep people in line often using the drug alcohol to facilitate the indoctrination.
You got through it that fast? Let me grab another port or two and will try to do it.
Not sure I agree Franco. But do like the alcohol. And read your and even Gary R’s stuff before he got ex communicated. Interesting reading.
One of the hallmarks of being in a cult is refusing to believe it’s a cult. That, and the inability to detect humor.
Ha ha! Cult leader Peter. Didn’t see that one coming.
Another riveting read . Looking forward to the next chapter.
In my view, a cult seeks to separate the individual from family and culture in a way that controls the individual’s choices to benefit the cult financially. The control comes usually by taking over the imagination so that the individual simply mouths certain acceptable platitudes without serious examination. The cult profits from the individual’s creativity, which is diverted from the individual’s interests to the cult’s.
Freedom to choose being denied is a hallmark of a cult.
I venture that this is a quote from your spiritual teachings meant to show that your teachers are quite sane, and I agree.
It reminds me that I actually became a ‘conservative’ after doing the EST training in 1981. And I never really connected the dots until now about that particular aspect. It’s not like I was a flaming leftist at all. I had many life experiences including living in downtown Cairo for a year 1979-1980, and experiencing a chaotic third world country will wake up most people, but the 4 days of ‘training’ allowed me to understand that I was responsible for everything that happened in my life.
Much of the est training was done through the process. We made agreements to be on time and other basic things. There was great emphasis on ones ‘word’ and carrying out what you say you will do. One morning I arrived late , two minutes after the 9:00 AM start. The doors were closed and I had to answer a question which was “Are you late?” (this was a common procedure I came to understand later )
Are you late?
There was horrific traffic and then I couldn’t find a parking space
Are you late?
Look I’m only two minutes late, what’s the big deal?
Didn’t you make a promise to be on time?
Yes, but I really tried, I’m so frustrated.
But are you late?
Yes, I’m late.
Are you going to be on time tomorrow?
Ok go inside.
That’s all they wanted. They wanted me to take responsibility for my word. ‘I’ was late. It was my responsibility to follow through with my promise. ‘I’ was not some incapable entity that was at effect of the world, unless I believed myself to be such.
All the excuses special-case scenarios or drama was completely ignored. In fact in the seminar, they would drill down into all the victim-y things people tell themselves about why they couldn’t do something. People in that seminar had massive revelations about their lives and the way they lived them, and seeing others, watching people’s excuses and explanations objectively was even more informative.
That insight alone was with the $450 for the 4 day seminar as I look back.
I think learning this, owning this, was certainly worth your $450.
I suppose any social club would be a cult then. There’s nothing stopping people from talking about former members, even if they are banned. Generally, I am too busy or too drunk at the meetup for any indoctrination.
The only cult here is to Boss Mongo, and its sacraments are the use of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms.
Maybe in my warped mind I was making fun of the zeal to identify strange or odd beliefs outside the mainstream, a cult.
I thought labeling Peter Robinson as our charismatic leader would give the the comment a humorous turn.
There’s a scale in ‘cultism’ or a spectrum, and it’s difficult to judge where the line should be drawn. Especially considering we are probably all wrong anyway.
Hail, Boss Mongo!
Beware Lileks the Trickster.
I define cult differently than most of you. To me, a cult is a group that usually forms around one charismatic leader, who expects a significant commitment. People are usually expected to relinquish their personal funds, including ongoing income. That leader cannot be questioned. Participants are often asked to abandon their friends and families, with all devotion to the leader and the group. There is a lot of pressure, sometimes stated as a requirement to stay committed to the group. There might be a couple of other requirements, but those are the ones I recall. I think calling anything else a cult with any less than those requirements is not appropriate.
Also, Mark, putting aside dogma or doctrine, the way you talk about Hu doesn’t seem much different than how I speak about my relationship with G-d. For me, G-d shows up in unexpected ways–insights, comfort, strength, wisdom. I don’t expect G-d to protect me, but then I haven’t been in risky situations much.
I would suggest that alcohol and firearms be used separately. Unless you are hunting. Hunting sober is like fishing sober.
Why would you want to hang out in a terrible cult of the Ricochet type?
Don’t forget the explosives.
Coming back to this, I remember reading about Paul Twitchell and The Tiger’s Fang many, many moons ago.