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Is Eckankar a cult? A guest post by Michael Porter

A spirited conversation has emerged recently about cults, with fascinating comments from you Blog-Buddies about Cult Exiting and Deprogramming, How Energy Spirituality Can Help.  MICHAEL PORTER has given us a standout comment, brimming with thoughtful consideration.

As part of our conversation around the last post, in Comment 2, I referred you Blog-Buddies to a couple of posts from a couple of years ago, the Cult Recognition Quiz and then Cult Recognition Quiz — THE ANSWERS.

What happened when MICHAEL went to the Cult Recognition Quiz?

“I looked at the list and would like to comment. It seems so subjective to be unusable. However, if you look at Eckankar in terms of the list, I don’t think it applies. I know more about Eckankar than TM, so maybe someone else can comment about TM.”

From the observations that follow, I suspect that MICHAEL thought my Cult Recognition Quiz was a checklist. As in TRUE, TRUE, TRUE.

Nope, the numbered items below are popular cliches about cults. Not the truth, IMHO, about what cults really are.

However, I don’t think MICHAEL read that part. He isn’t used to the quizzes at this blog, designed to be thought provoking, not just one quick glib TRUE or FALSE.

It’s great that he went through my Cult Recognition Quiz point by point. But I am pretty sure that MICHAEL became so incensed that he didn’t think to take a look at the other blog post I suggested in Comment 2, with ANSWERS to the quiz. Basically, this involved debunking common cliches about cults. (Correct me if I’m wrong here, MICHAEL.)

Looking in the wrong places to decide if a group is a cult. Uh-oh! That is what I was trying to prevent. Oh, gotta love Earth School and our little ironies, right?

One big reason why folks get involved in cults is that they never learned cult identification.

Ironically, if you follow this link to  Cult Recognition Quiz — THE ANSWERS, you’ll find that my answer to every question on that Cult Recognition Quiz is FALSE, except for Questions 5, 7 (but a tricky loophole here) and 10.

Whether or not you agree with my answers or MICHAEL’s, it’s smart to educate yourself on cult identification.  Cult exiting and cult deprogramming depend on knowing what a cult is, in contrast to inaccurate stereotypes and cliches. So does prevention and being a smart New Age Consumer.

Of course, this being our way-smart community of “Deeper Perception Made Practical,” in attempting to define what a cult is and isn’t, in that blog post I also explore how many of the answers could be sometimes be considered TRUE as well.

Do we use nuance here along with energetic literacy or what?

MICHAEL, this community about “Deeper Perception Made Practical” involves nuance and thoughtful consideration, not zealotry or simply slamming entire religions like Eckankar.

At this blog, in workshops and books, I teach skills for energetic literacy.

Empowerment is the purpose. So that any of you can go beneath the surface of reality, whether subjectively or objectively. With skills like face reading, aura reading, Skilled Empath Merge, I am coaching members of this community to drill down to truth, even going all the way to the level of chakra databanks.

MICHAEL, just so you know (and it is evident that you are new to this blog and have much to offer if you continue to read and contribute), this is not a gossip blog. We are not about theories or generalizing about entire groups.

In fact, my work with helping folks with exiting cults and deprogramming, through Energy Spirituality, has been conducted with one person at a time. Whenever I have facilitated moving out a cord of attachment, for instance, that was a unique session of healing with unique information in the cord dialogue and unique logical consequences for my client.

When I teach people how to effectively do cord-cutting for themselves, of course that moves out a deep level of subconscious programming! Self-healing with Energy Spirituality that people do for themselves! I can assure you, none of this powerful healing is merely a theory.

Sure, I definitely do not know everything about cult exiting or cult deprogramming or all those who do believe that Eckankar is a cult, or all those who disagree with me and love their involvement in Eckankar. However, I do not claim to know everything, either.

One day at a time, I explore the truth, seek guidance from my own spiritual self-authority, use the very best skills sets I know about for evolution on a personal path to Enlightenment. Also, I encourage everyone here to do the same, whether you read and comment here daily or you lurk on occasion, or anything in between.

Well, enough for my providing context. Speaking of nuanced and thoughtful, here come MICHAEL PORTER’s insights, with my supplying only headings, some links, minor copy edits for clarity. (And I can’t resist, noting in parentheses after each numbered Cult Recognition Quiz item, whether it is TRUE or FALSE, according to Rose.)

Also right here, I want to thank MICHAEL for sharing on a topic he knows really well, obviously from deep personal experience, writing with heartfelt conviction.

Defending Eckankar against popular cliches about what cults are…

1. Cults are oddball religions.

FALSE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

Eckankar is not a traditional religion, and every religion probably has “oddball” elements, but that doesn’t make it oddball.

If you go to Eckankar’s website, you see a focus on love, respect, an acknowledgement of karma and reincarnation (weird to some) and putting God in your life. There is a spiritual leader which might seem weird, but almost every religion I’m aware of has a spiritual leader.

2. Cults refer to themselves “Cults.”

FALSE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

Every path and every person believes themselves to be viable. This is defining a cult as anything that is a cult.

3. Cult members are weak, self-engrossed, selfish, and easily manipulated.

FALSE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

This is absurd. There are all kinds of people in all kinds of organizations.

4. Cult members feel superior to everyone outside their cult.

Mostly FALSE, says Rose. (Interesting nuances to this answer, though, very related to typical cult dynamics.) MICHAEL says:

Again, I’m some people in every organization are arrogant and some are not.

5. Each cult has the greatest leader in the world.

TRUE, says Rose, basically agreeing with MICHAEL, who says:

Every group respects its leader. He or she is after all the leader. That doesn’t make it a cult.

6. Cults take your money.

Mostly FALSE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

This is absurd. Everything you get in life has a cost. Some things are expensive and some are cheap. I know in Eckankar, there is no required donation.

7. Cults brainwash their members.

TRUE, says Rose. The beginning of my comments on this topic: “True, except that being a True Believer in any system never feels like being brainwashed.”

MICHAEL says:

This is really based on coercion. Some members are passionate about their beliefs and some are not, but that doesn’t make them brainwashed. I know several members of Eckankar and they aren’t coerced.

8. Cult leaders tell you the truth.

FALSE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

Again, so broad as to be uunusable.

9. Cults show great respect for their members.

Mostly FALSE, says Rose. In the nuanced response to this quiz item, I go into detail about established patterns of cults. There are certain dynamics within cults, and the switch from initial respect to more complex dynamics later is summarized in this part of Cult Recognition Quiz — THE ANSWERS.

MICHAEL says:

Again, so broad as to be uunusable.

10. Courage is required to live free from cults.

TRUE, says Rose. MICHAEL says:

It takes courage to live life, and make day-to-day decisions as to what is best for oneself.

I pray day-to-day for guidance from spirit and try to make the best decisions. Sometimes I make good decisions and sometimes bad.

But just like I have been in a job or relationship that was great and then that job changes, I think that applies to religions too. It doesn’t mean I didn’t gain something and grow as a person. When I am in any relationship life is good- when I leave it the person is a jerk and I find things to dislike.

There is an old saying that one person’s psychology is another person’s ontology. My sense of being and view of life, is for you my psychology. Others may see me as screwed up, but I have a world view I find consistent and positive.

We can apply these rules to any organization and path and call it a cult.

So what is a cult? For me if the path is based on love and respect it is legitimate. If there is use of power, coercion and control, then it is probably a cult. Under this definiton, Eckankar is not a cult.

Thanks for bringing up this important topic.

Rose comments at the end

Just for clarity, Blo9-Buddies, I am adding a bit here that comes from me, not MICHAEL. I have given him space to air his views.

Personally, I couldn’t disagree with him more strongly about his conclusion. Most personal development cults, religious cults, New Age etc., are precisely “based on love and respect.”

They promise, anyway. You can find a detailed writing about what cults actually are, in my opinion, in Cult Recognition Quiz — THE ANSWERS.

If you do follow that link and have comments, please place them here, not at the post from years ago.

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  1. 1
    Mike says:

    Rose, not sure I agree with your very last comment (above in red) i.e. “under this definition Eckankar is not a cult.”

    Speaking as an Eckist I would say that most Eckists I know are lovely and loving people, who are sincere and kind. There is no “overt” coercion and control. But if one delves below the surface, the control and coercion are there, but in a much more subtler form. I have compiled some evidence to back these statements up (from your highlighted link in the above article “Eckankar is a cult”. (I find the writers views on this site to be fair and balanced.)

    “But once the chela [member of Eckankar] has become a member of the inner circle, HE CANNOT RESIGN…Those few have found that spiritual decay sets in immediately, affecting the health, material life and spiritual life, and BRINGS DEATH MORE SWIFTLY.”

    Shariyat ki Sugmad – Book 2, (Eckankar Bible)

     “He who leaves the path of Eck, or refuses to follow it, shall dwell in the astral hells until the Master takes mercy upon him and brings him upon the path again.” (1970).

    The wrath of the eck (spirit) crashes down upon anybody who is still a slave to the ego and deserts the master. Not once will he see the connection between his betrayal of the eck and the horrendous troubles that strike him down like a plague on every hand. And thus he goes downward on the spiral of awareness until he leaves this body in hopeless despair, still wondering why the fates have treated him so cruelly. (Harold Klemp)

    and finally in the words of the ex-High Initiate of Eckankar:
    Most ex-eckists are able to pick themselves up, dust off their pants and, after a period of grieving, move on with their lives. Some, though, have extreme difficulty breaking free of the fear and bad karma threats that are strewn throughout the writings. They’ve been conditioned to believe that if one walks away from the “master”, they lose all spiritual status

  2. 2
    Mike says:

    By the way Michael Porter I really like your analogy:

    “But just like I have been in a job or relationship that was great and then that job changes, I think that applies to religions too. It doesn’t mean I didn’t gain something and grow as a person. When I am in any relationship life is good- when I leave it the person is a jerk and I find things to dislike.”

    I think this is a healthy way to view things with regard to leaving any religion, cult, spiritual path.

    To me the company Apple seems like a cult, but it has not stopped me buying and enjoying using their products.

  3. 3

    So, MIKE, your first comment here inspired me to add clarification to the blog post itself.

    MICHAEL PORTER’S opinions about cults are very much his own.

    Thank you for the chance to clarify.

    It will be obvious to you, I hope, after reading my new paragraphs at the end of the post that I strongly disagree with his conclusions. I just honor his own self-authority. Regarding cults, or anything else, a person has the right to decide for himself or herself.

    And the lengthy start of that post showed that MICHAEL was responding to a quiz, not to my findings about cults at all.

    I made this comment a blog post in the first place because:

    A. This was a lengthy, deeply felt series of ideas.
    B. If I just posted it as it was, a long comment, then the statements of the quiz he quoted might have sounded like things I believed to be true. Not cliches about cults that are, IMO, wrong.

    It took some untangling when I introduced that post, you know? Probably set a record for being the most complicated out of all 1,189 posts so far at “Deeper Perception Made Practical.”

  4. 4

    About whether ECKANKAR is a cult, I definitely do consider it a cult.

    It is one thing to drop into a HU chant or do other casual explorations.

    The deeper one goes into Eckankar, the more obvious the cult aspects become. Including the interesting lifestyle of being a “High Initiate.”

    I have had some personal experience of people in this category. High initiates, in fact.

    Very painful experiences, actually. When kind, intelligent people get twisted by a cult, their actions are all the more unexpected and hurtful.

    Congratulations to all ex-Eckists who succeed in dusting off and moving forward. Each of us can claim cumulative learning here at Earth School.

  5. 5
    Mike says:

    Rose, I assumed that all the sections in “red” were your comments.

  6. 6

    Good point, MIKE. I just took the red italicized indent away from MICHAEL PORTER’s conclusion:

    “So what is a cult? For me if the path is based on love and respect it is legitimate. If there is use of power, coercion and control, then it is probably a cult. Under this definiton, Eckankar is not a cult.”

    There is a convention at this blog of my putting the most important statements in red, italics, block quotes. So it would have been confusing to see this as NOT coming from me.

    Good catch. Thank you, MIKE.

    And, again, thank you MICHAEL as well, for sharing your views here.

  7. 7
    Curious as Ever says:

    Great clarification, Rose. I sincerely applaud you for tackling such sensitive subjects and yet always with respect for others’ self authority.

  8. 8

    CURIOUS AS EVER, applause is gratefully received. It is a weird position to be in, tackling sensitive subjects.

    I dream of a time — preferably in our lifetimes — when there will be universal energetic literacy. People will be used to making choices based on that aura reading down to the level of chakra databanks.

    Many kinds of deception won’t last that way.

    In that historic context, my work is at the startup end. It is awkward and funky, sometimes, as I am (in the context of cults, or cord-cutting, or Spiritual Addiction) shouting from the rooftops, “Please, folks, let’s learn how to read!”

    And the response? So many people find this utterly shocking.

    LOL

  9. 9
    NIPS says:

    Gosh! Thanks you so much for pointing this out.

    I could tell there was something weird about Eckankar just from watching their “HU” video. I mean they even created the video in the most cult like manner with all the children and how they spoke about their experience – LOL

  10. 10
    NIPS says:

    I guess that’s one of the benefits of being energetically sensitive and/or learning energetic literacy — you can really feel/tell when your pull or draw towards a something is unhealthy: an unconscious and compuslive draw towards a certain someone/group with the promise of them providing salvation that almost tries to ‘take over you’.

  11. 11
    NIPS says:

    Versus when its healthy, which feels like: a clean and fresh draw towards something that resonates deep within (since its already within you) and without the attachment and layers of denial that is forced upon you by cults.

    In my experience what’s healthy honours your free will and keeps you in balance.

    But its a lot harder to feel it when you’re already deeply involved. And that’s where energetic literacy comes in.

  12. 12
    NIPS says:

    I can cut cords of attachment but have you found that you’ve often had too remove other types of stuff when it comes to deprogramming?

    Thanks once again!

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