Deeper Perception Made Practical

Exiting a cult. A guest post by "Ray"

Blog-Buddies, we are lucky that talented writer RAY has offered a guest post today on the theme of exiting a cult.

He shares so beautifully about his process of cult exiting. The factors he identifies as most cult-like are important, I think, for any of us who have chosen to deprogram and exit a cult.

The sweet allure of a cult

For me, joining a cult was the most reasonable thing in the world. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of an organization that exists to relieve your suffering and that is invested in the greater good?

That world of certainty was much shinier than the rest of my sometimes cruel, painful, and boring existance.

So where is the fulcrum that tips a group with all of the best intentions into coercion and deception?

There are many definitions of cults all over the internet, and as I was exiting the cult that owned my life for 8 years I read them all, but the two most salient points for me were:

  • Cults coerce.
  • And cults deceive.

Cult coercion

I say “coercion,” but it was the mildest possible at first, nothing more than peer pressure.

It’s the members, filled with enthusiasm, who want to know when you are going to the next time-consuming program.

It’s their puzzled looks and disappointment when you hesitate.

It’s the traditions like giving the teacher a “gift” for his teachings on top of the thousands you’ve already paid for the retreat.

Then it’s the “bad karma” of slowing down or having less than utter respect for the guru.

Then there are “eternal karmic consequences” for stepping off the path.

You really don’t want to step off that path.

I was just lucky that my cult stopped at hypothetical threats. I know some groups don’t; some actually go after you.

Where is the tipping point? It’s somewhere between enthusiasm and outright threats, but I now think it’s a lot closer to the enthusiasm than most people probably would have normally without being in a cult.

Cult deceptions and lying

The deceptions are mostly harmless to start too, like the things we don’t tell new people because they’re not ready or wouldn’t understand.

It feels like when my mom would fast-forward through love scenes in movies and mumble about “When you grow up.”

All the things the cult did not talk about were dangled in front of me like those mysterious love scenes. If you want to know the truth, you have to… And then you have to…

After awhile, the main coercion and the main deceptions became my own. I forced myself to continue and lied to myself about how well life was going and how awful real life is.

The outside world grew more and more intimidating as well, as I lost out on the life experiences and thus the life skills I needed for success. (I am still playing catch-up on some of them.)

Identifying a cult

I return to my question: when might a group earn the title “Cult”?

For some, I’m sure they start out like that…a corrupt leader launches a full-blown deception for his own power or pocketbook or because he’s nuts.

For most though, I expect it’s a slower process, filled with the best of intentions as they take more and more money, and more and more time, and they promise more and more greatness, gentleness, and evolution.

(Even as the senior membership is littered with the arrogant, the angry, the unkind, and sometimes even the criminal.)

Another blog commentator is right, there are those people in every organization. The problem is, at least in my cult, they promised differently.

Then they excused these people by saying: you should have seen them 20 years ago.

No, thank you! A turning point for me was realizing I was becoming one of them, bitter and angry and far away from everything they had promised.

Authentic cult exiting

And still it’s so hard to leave. Since leaving, I have not felt anywhere close to the bliss of certainty I felt there.

I have not felt as connected to people. I used to be so close it’s like we were living in the same skin.

I have not lived a day without worry (like I used to, while still a member of that so-lovely-sounding cult.)

I would not trade these newer problems for my old certainty, in that cult.

I would not trade ever.

What is changing for me, after cult exiting?

The bliss has given way to the bittersweet, but much more real life.

Those people who “shared my skin,” none of whom ever spoke to me again, have been replaced by people I don’t agree with, sometimes can’t stand, and sometimes I love so much I can’t breathe.

These are people who would be there for me through anything.

Life is still painful, boring and sometimes cruel. And I savor the freedom to admit that and take a day to wallow instead of dragging myself to a meditation cushion and castigating myself for my “unenlightened eyes.”

Because life is not awesome, always. Life does not really match whichever positive, teachable spin you can put on your experience.

And that was the key for me at the end…

Cult living was positive and teachable and joyful, but it was still just spin.

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  1. 1

    I would also like to give a shout-out to one of the articles linked to here:

    At the end, Jayanti Tamm gives an excellent checklist you can use for cult recognition.

  2. 2
    Elaine says:

    Ray, thanks for posting this. A lot of pain there. It makes it a little more clear why people stay in a cult. So living in a cult there’s this sense of bliss, (which is really false?) and if you’re in this bliss, why would you leave it because living otherwise feels so much more difficult. In the cult, it sounds like you’re in a kind of disconnect from life but it sounds incredibly hard and courageous to leave it.

  3. 3
    Mike says:

    Interestingly the cults TM and Eckankar, that I have been involved in have both had options where you could be very peripheral ie you just do TM technique and have little or no contact. But TM also offers communities for married couples or ashrams for renunciates (Purusha and Mother Divine) and this is then the more obvious cult phenomena.
    Eckankar does not believe in ashram type scenarios or even living in communities and again you could just get on with your own thing with little or no contact with other Eckists.

    Thus in these scenarios the comfortable, blissful cushion of living in a tight knit group consciousness may not be in place and thus it is much less obvious that you are involved with a cult.

    However there are still the subtle energetic cords that have got you “hooked” in.
    At some point you have also been “initiated” into “the movement” and maybe this is when the hook ups are most effective?
    Thus the increasing subtlety of it all

  4. 4
    Suzanne says:

    Great post Ray, thanks. You describe what it is like so well. Cults are on a continuum, aren’t they? Like so much else in life. Cults are on the extreme end, but workplaces can be like this, breastfeeding clubs, intentional communities, social groups of any kind… I’m glad for you that you were able to exit, and have found healing.

  5. 5

    ELAINE and SUZANNE and MIKE, thanks so much for all you wrote.

    SUZANNE, I agree with you about cults being on a continuum.

    Of course, MIKE, you’re right about a social kind of security from living in a group of culties. Yet mind control doesn’t have to involve living in a community. As I remember reading about these two cult exiting experts, neither Steve Hassan:

    nor Jayanti Tamm:

    mentions community, in itself, as a main factor in cults.

  6. 6

    MIKE, regarding part of your comment above:

    “However there are still the subtle energetic cords that have got you hooked in.”

    People today talk about many astral-level problems under the names like:

    Cords of attachment
    Energetic cords
    Energy cords
    Astral cords
    Psychic cords
    Karmic cords
    Astral ties
    Psychic ties

    For the sake of clarity, I think it is important to not throw names like these around interchangeably, or to live in fear of “cording.” Cording is a really vague term that seems to mean any of the terms in the list above, with a touch of Spiderman added as well.

    When it comes to astral ties (a.k.a. “psychic ties”), these are random and easily healed. You can learn how to do this type of healing, and healing of other astral debris, from “Use Your Power of Command for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection.”

  7. 7

    Continuing, MIKE, I do hope you understand that the other cording-type terms in the last comment are usually synonyms for cords of attachment.

    From what I understand about the field of cutting cords of attachment, it is nonsense to accuse organizations of doing a voodoo-like sending out energetic cords towards others.

    I didn’t mean to confuse anyone in my comments, such as the following post, “Cult deprogramming without violence” —

    These paragraphs were originally paced at the top of RAY’s Guest Post, but then I realized it was really clunky to have it that way, and might have kept folks from reading RAY’s wonderful words, so I moved it into the separate url where it is now.

    Whew! Long thought. Hope all this makes sense.

    Anyhow, MIKE and other Blog-Buddies, many people fear being hooked and tied in to a group. This can happen socially, sure. That means on the surface of life, there could be social pressures, behavioral actions.

    And the cult counseling literature, such as the work of Steve Hassan, is very good at identifying these surface-level hooks. Just let’s be clear. This is exclusively the surface level of life, not energy, not the topic of Deeper Perception.

    By contrast, relationships with cult members can include other astral-level interactions that significantly detract from health and wholeness. I continue to learn about the relevant array for Energy Spirituality and will continue to share what I learn over time. An example, already discussed at this blog, is Astral Level Ponzi Schemes:

    This is a very unusual variation on cords of attachment, a particular dynamic within cords of attachment. It is not simply flung at people who read a website or go to a church. Check out that post to understand more, in case you’re curious.

    In general, there is no doubt in my mind that the single most important energetic connection for healing when there has been significant contact with a cult is a cord of attachment.

  8. 8

    Amid the chaos in today’s collective conversation about cord-cutting, let’s be clear. Cords of attachment are never just sent out or flung at people. The whole notion of cording, or sending energetic cords, is a terrible mistake that misleads people or frightens them.

    This blog contains many posts about cutting cords of attachment, so there can be a free resource for bringing clarity and quality control to the topic of cord-cutting.

    Yet, if you want to save yourself time and gain a solid understanding quickly — including how to effectively and permanently move out a cord of attachment — I recommend you get a copy of “Cut Cords of Attachment for Self-Healing” or “Cut Cords of Attachement with Energy Spirituality.”

    Here is a link to the latter, a print book but not yet an ebook:

    And here is a link to the former, an ebook but not yet a print book:

  9. 9
    Primmie says:

    Ray, thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m very happy for you that you are now free of the cult and living a good messy regular life.

    I find it very interesting what you write about the bliss of certainty and the closeness to people. I identify with those experiences. In my family of origin I experienced a lot of enmeshment in my relationships. There’s nothing like boundaryless relationships for feeling intense closeness. Also, being an empath magnified all of that for me.

    I became addicted to that intense closeness and became co-dependent in my relationships. Letting go of my addiction to intensity with people was very painful. I went into a deep withdrawal. It is so lonely to let go of enmeshment, so lonely to lose that skinless closeness.

    I re-experienced that feeling of loneliness when I read Rose’s 30 days. I felt again that sadness about giving up the ease I had with slipping in and out of other peoples’ minds. Being a regular boundaried un-mergy human empath felt a bit miserable really.

    I’m glad of course that I’m no longer acting out as a love addict and I’m not slip sliding away into everyone else’s consciousness. I’m delighted about that. I think it’s a sign of my mental health that I can cope with other people being different from me and having different opinions. I’m more certain of my self these days and less globally certain.

    I’m also glad that I learned these things before becoming a mother. I think I would have used my children as a way to bask in that unhealthy blissful closeness if I hadn’t faced my human loneliness. I don’t think I’ll inhibit my children from becoming independent now. Perhaps in the past I would have desired dependency from my children to fulfil my own need for connection.

  10. 10

    PRIMMIE, three cheers for you, becoming a “regular boundaried un-mergy human empath”

    From time to time, I hear from people who strongly object to the title, “Become The Most Important Person in the Room: Your 30-Day Plan for Empath Empowerment.”

    It sounds terribly egoistical, they tell me. It might have been better to write about “Become a Regular, Boundaried, Un-Mergy, Human Empath.”

    I especially savor the technical term “Un-Mergy.”

  11. 11
    Rachel says:

    Love your comment, PRIMMIE. Your children are very lucky to have as thoughtful a mother as you so obviously are!

  12. 12
    Jill Erin says:

    What a wonderful, deeply insightful post. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.

    My own mother suffered a nervous breakdown when she left the Mormon church when I was less than a year old. She said she pushed my baby buggy back and forth in the desert begging God to not let her commit the “unforgivable sin” of questioning the church. But, in the end, she was an intelligent person who could not stop the questioning and, the more she questioned, the more the churches authority melted. That was why she was so adamant about self authority in her own children and everyone else.

  13. 13
    Jill Erin says:

    Primmie, your comments always make me smile. Thank you for, again, sharing your wonderful insights in your unique voice.

  14. 14
    Mike says:

    Rose, thanks for the clarification. I am now working through your cord cutting book.

  15. 15
    Primmie says:

    Rose, I think the title of your book is just right. Thank you for showing me how to become un-mergy.

    Rachel it’s very kind of you to say that, thank you.

    Same Jill.

    Ray, thank you again for this wonderful post.

  16. 16
    Chris Frisz says:

    Hey, I just found these posts and I really like them. When i first started exploring spirituality, I found a mentor who was psychic and the healing felt really good. She had me rely almost completely on her for the healing work. This was before I had a sensitivity to energy…then for eight months we added more and more of ‘god’s light’ into my system…it offered a lot of clarity and psychic like perception.

    Fast forward…I started having all sorts of problems with fear. Fear in me…fear outside of me…fear everywhere. There was no safe place for me to be…it was like living in hell and I had no way of going back to normal life…

    Then about eight months in, I told her about some dark thoughts I had been having and she cut off from me…immediately. I panicked because she had me rely completely on her for grounding, clearing, introducing more light and basically keeping me safe…

    The payoff was the amount of joy that she was living in…

    So like I said I panicked and called someone I knew I could trust, an enlightened man who can move any kind of energy.

    I started working with him and the psychic came after me. She tried to move me back onto her path in her world several times and he removed her…the tough part was I came to love her, but I had to CUT that connection immediately and END it, which I did.

    Let me tell you what I learned over the next year of working with the enlightened master.

    When I was psychic I was grounded on an astral plane that housed a lot of darkness that could come up to me, especially if I saw it.

    My soul was pushed out of my body.

    My energy field was scattered two to three hundred feet away from me.

    I was so far from my body, everything seemed fine.

    I was like an empty shell…

    Then while working with that master, he taught me how to be in my body…how to ground and clear…how to go in and down…he moved away a TON of darkness from me that I had picked up

    The transition was HELL…the suffering was insane, but the HELL I went through changed me…I made a promise to myself that I would never stop growing inwardly, even if I feel great, I still do my meditation and the energy techniques and grow…not mention while all this was going on with me I had to get on medicine and I got diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

    This is about two and half years later now and I’m still dealing with the problems I picked up while I was psychic.

    It was soooo traumatic, but I escaped, barely, with my life…

  17. 17
    Maureen says:

    Awesome article.

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