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What distinguishes an authentic spiritual path from that of a cult? What exactly is a cult?
Question: What distinguishes an authentic spiritual path from that of a cult? What exactly is a cult?
Answer: The best indicator of an authentic spiritual path is one that instructs that responsibility for your state of mind at any given moment rests with you. The truth is within and cannot be found in persons, places, or things outside.
Truth is not something that can be found in a book or object. Truth is an experience of the living moment that will dawn of Itself. The Spirit uses the symbols and sights and sounds of the world, including people and music and words of inspiration (sometimes thought of as scriptures), to help the deceived mind to the point of Realization or Recognition. These are all stepping stones or metaphors, and they all dissolve at the point of Recognition, which is an experience within!
True spirituality rests on open communication, the release of all attack thoughts (and the fear, guilt, and anger that they produce), non judgment, true humility, defenselessness, gentleness, and divine mercy. Any authentic spiritual path will promote forgiveness and advocate laying aside grievances. All are included in the experience of love, for it is unconditional and impersonal, and everyone is equally loved and appreciated.
A cult is a symbol or representation of the belief that your state of mind is dependent on a person, place, event, or circumstance and is not a decision of your mind. Faith is placed in "external authorities and forms and rituals,” and the underlying experience will always be based on fear, no matter how endearing or adoring the devotion seems to be. Ultimately you can never really love, or adore, or be devoted to anything specific. Ultimately, you cannot successfully follow anything in form, for truth cannot be found in images and symbols. When you attach to the form, like a scenario or script you believe will make you happy, a substitute or idol image has been made— and accepted as real—and is being worshipped. Truth is denied in such an attempt. And the pseudo "love" will turn to hate and anger in the mind of the leader or follower.
What can turn to hate was never the Love of God, but was instead the desire to be special and "loved" in a personal sense. There appears a "holier than thou" mentality in cult-thinking, which attempts to raise some people up and put other people down and perpetuates a "we/they" division. Hence, there is always a fear of an external enemy.
In true spirituality everyone is always welcome, for it becomes apparent that we are always meeting our Self. No one is turned away or judged against. Acceptance of the truth is an experience in which no one is labeled and dismissed, for the experience of truth is vast and expansive and All-inclusive! The experience is freely given by God, and the Peace and Joy and Love of God is beyond the possibility of commercialization. There is no reciprocity (giving something to get something), and authentic spirituality cannot be bought or sold. Love is freely given, and by giving it, it is retained in awareness. What you share is strengthened in your awareness, so by giving love you become aware that you have love and are love. This is how the mind is awakened by the Holy Spirit from the dream of scarcity, guilt, fear, and death. First you learn to forgive, and then you are awakened unto Eternal Life!
The opposite of a life of love and forgiveness and trust in God is a seeming condition of fear, guilt, scarcity, and anger. This "condition" is the simplest way to define cult-thinking. Because of intense fear and suspicion, cult-thinking involves threats, privacy, secrecy, hierarchies and chains of command, attempts at control and manipulation through breaking off communication, or using communication to make someone “guilty." It may seem to manifest as scarcity (hoarding of food, money, possessions, and supplies out of a fear that they may run out). It may also manifest under the guise of abundance (power, wealth, fame, psychic powers, energy experiences and phenomena that are valued in and of themselves). These pursuits, under the guise of spirituality and religion, are distractions and detours to true peace and happiness. When the ego is highly threatened, it may even resort to confrontation, the use of firearms and weapons, violence, or suicide as an "escape."
Cult-thinking rests on judgment, for it raises some people up as special "good ones" and lowers others as the "bad ones." The good ones are praised and loyally adored, while the bad ones are attacked, avoided, blamed, abandoned, excluded, or rejected. Cult-thinking involves forming cliques around worldly and historic beliefs and values of ethnicity or heredity. The clique may value a certain tradition or geography or nationality or race, or it may favor a certain gender or age or formal religious practices and rituals. Cult-thinking may involve anything specific in the world, as long as boundaries and differences are maintained at all costs. Uniqueness and a special "identity" must be maintained. Cult-thinking is quick to anger and accuse, sometimes as quick to flee, and is particularly threatened by open, direct communication.
Future loss is not the greatest fear of "cult-thinking,” for present joining and union is what it dreads most. Complete joining the ego sees as the abolishing of privacy and separation, and this it cannot tolerate. To protect itself, the ego will attempt isolation and rely heavily on "fight or flight" strategies. Decisions are made hastily and always based in fear. Reason and patience and cooperation and clear-thinking are de-emphasized; shared opinions, gossip, and grievances are rallying points against the perceived external enemy—hence the group-think mentality.
Moral and ethical standards of behavior (which are often focused on sexuality, money, and possessions, etc.) are often cited and defended as good reasons for attacking, condemning, avoiding, blaming, excluding, or rejecting the things that have been labeled "bad or wrong.” These may be particular persons, groups, institutions or even countries. This "judging against," based on perceived differences, is the rationale the ego uses for perpetuating the fundamentally separating quality that it so highly values.
All cult-thinking is based on fear, though members do not see that the fear is not really based in the images of the world (persons, places, things, events, etc.). The real, underlying fear is the fear of God and the Holy Spirit, which strikes terror in the ego. Darkness is afraid of the approach of Light. The opposite of love is fear, but love is all-encompassing and has no opposite! Cult-thinking is therefore no real threat to a mind that is devoted to loving. A clear mind, free of judgment, is very capable of forgiving, or seeing the false as false. The still mind rests in God. And who can fear when there is love?
I am so grateful to teach and learn that Innocence is real, and guilt and condemnation are false witnesses. I am so grateful to learn that nobody is ever to blame and that it is impossible to be unfairly treated. Cult-thinking is thus just another name for the ego or the world of darkness. Jesus tells us to be of good cheer and to be happy learners, for He has overcome the world! A misperception can always be corrected by a miracle. Cult-thinking and cults are errors, for they come not from our Heavenly Father. A Child of God need not seek outside and fall for the ego's games of attack and defense. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is an instruction not to attempt something you are incapable of. A mind that values stillness and quiet and peace is a mind that does not attempt judgment. Forgiveness and non-judgment are synonymous.
If we want peace, we must hold every thought up to the Light of Truth. If a thought does not come from God, the only thing to do is to release it and harbor it no longer. Manipulation is of the ego, for God did not create it. Betrayal is of the ego, for God did not create it. Abandonment is of the ego, for God did not create it. Attack is of the ego, for God did not create it. Rejection, exclusion, avoidance, isolation, condemnation, scarcity, fear, anger, guilt, and even death are all of the ego, for God did not create them. If these or any of the fearful beliefs, thoughts, and emotions the ego sponsors are believed in as the truth, the world will outpicture or witness to this belief. That is why these beliefs must be questioned. When the mind clings to these beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, and protects them, upset is unavoidable. Forgiveness is the laying aside of all these transitory beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. Forgiveness of illusions brings peace, happiness, love, and freedom! How magnificent is the Perspective that simply sees the false as false! How glorious is the Mind that recognizes Itself as One!
The Mind that is shared with God is Pure Oneness and knows not of judgment. For in Oneness there is nothing to judge between! This Mind is forever Innocent, for Life and Being are in the Mind of God. Holy Child of God, You are Innocent forever! Hallowed be Thy Name and the Name of Our Creator God! Thy Kingdom has come! Thy Will is done!
Love & Blessings always, David