On Cults and Culture

As I finish reading Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright, an absolutely fascinating glimpse at the world of Scientology, I am struck by our need as a society, as a culture, to figure out whether Scientology is a cult or religion. We don’t like cults; we call them taboo. Ostensibly, we do this because we associate cults with brainwashing or some sort of mental and/or physical torture–coercive techniques to get one to believe in a person or an idea that one would presumably find nonsensical if not for having been tormented into thinking otherwise. That’s a fantastic reason not to endorse cults. However, we live in a culture. Isn’t that an interesting word? It’s got the word cult built right into it.

So, I ask myself, ‘Self?’ I ask me. ‘What is the difference between a cult and a culture?’ If you look up the definition of culture you find that yes, yes, the origin of the word has to do with the cultivation of the soul–but nowadays it has to do with the education of the people. However, since this education is not universal, we can go ahead and add that religious element right back in there, because let’s face it: what we’re educated to and how we’re educated has everything to do with belief. In America, we’re still straddling that line between the old guard of Judeo Christianity and the new guard of science.

All religions, Yes, including Buddhism, came to prominence in different areas of the world at least in part through torturous coercive techniques. The main difference between the Spanish Inquisition and drinking the Jim Jones Kool-Aid is the time of death. So, the difference between a cult and culture?–A cult must engage in coercive techniques to get you to buy their bullshit, while a culture is built upon the foundation of bullshit coercively earned long ago.

Unlike religion, science has a chance to gain preeminence in-and-as a culture on its own merits, but the human drive to believe is overpowering. Science becomes scientism. Or in the case of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology. If scientists stuck with their ideal of what science is, what they tell the public their life’s work is about, which is basically discovering how everything works, there would be no question of belief. But that isn’t generally what they do. They generally try to boil everything down to a material and mechanical process or an unprovable theory that somehow works out mathematically even if it can’t be demonstrated in reality and then assume that everything that they haven’t discovered will be discovered in one of these ways. So, any information running contrary to their views is considered outlier data is to be scoffed at is to be marginalized is nonsensical. This they call healthy skepticism. You may recognize it by its real name: coercion. In the case of science, the price you pay for unorthodox thought is lack of funding (if you’re a scientist) and being laughed at/made a social outcast (if you’re anyone). New religion. Same techniques.

While scientism may not be as outlandish as Scientology or any of the religious movements we’ve used to tie together clusters of people afraid of  mortality, scientists born of these cultures tend to play by the same rules they were indoctrinated into at birth. This may not be a conscious act, as with the cult leader, but conscious or unconscious the result is the same.

Cults leaders, religious leaders, and scientific leaders claim to have the highest mutually-exclusive truth. In actuality, what they have is the same interest: projecting a dominant standardized meme for people to live by. They only differ in degrees of crazy. That fact in and of itself is crazy.

There’s no point in calling attention to all of the flaws of religions and cults, because I’m sure you’ve thought of them all or heard them all by now. But let me draw attention to something you might not have thought of or heard about regarding how science cannot discover that everything is a material process or a mathematical formula. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. We say this to denigrate the subjective experience as if there is an objective experience to be had. Is there? Or is the objective experience the god-ideal of the scientist?

In religion, one can never be godly so one has to set that up as an ideal and strive to be as close to godly as possible. In science, they claim not to hold beliefs–that’s the whole point, right? To do away with beliefs and figure out what’s objectively what? But there is no objective situation to examine. It’s a belief. The scientist creates an ideal called “the objective world” and then downplays the subjective as a thing for assholes. Problem is, the more we come to understand about how the brain works and how human perception works the more we see that how we view the world–including how we store and recall memories–is completely inaccurate by any objective standard. And since all we have to perceive the world with is our inaccurate selves, how could we ever perceive an objective anything with a 100% degree of accuracy?

More concretely, about opinions, science won’t ever be able to tell you why you find one piece of music stimulating and why you find another boring. It doesn’t matter how much your brain lights up under an fMRI while listening to Bach or Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the data will only tell you which part of the brain is being triggered by listening to the song, not why. And not why it makes you feel the way it makes you feel.

Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. And that’s all the proof you need to know that there is more to you than the material processes in the brain/body. But it’s not enough to tell you what that means. And every religion, every cult wants to tell you what that means. Perhaps if there is truth, if there is some objective, universal stage of things… If there is that?–Perhaps it can only be perceived through complete liberation of the conscious and unconscious ways in which we seek it. The first step to figuring that out is to admit the one big secret hiding in all of our coercive chatter. It’s the reason for such chatter and for cults and cultures in the first place: we don’t want complete liberation. We want the ideal of it.

Doing the 1+1 math here, we see that liberation is from the subjective–from the opinion-maker. From you. So, if there is an objective world, you can’t know that you exist in it even if you do exist in it. What are these conscious and unconscious impulses that have to go away if we’re to discover anything beyond them? They’re also you. Who is that scientist scoffing at the worth of the subjective? You. Who is the religious zealot barking down other zealots who don’t believe their zealotry? You.

It’s all subjective. It’s all you.

Get it?

That’s how things are. There is no you apart from the components of you. You are the subjective experience that must surrender to discover if there is anything beyond yourself. You can’t drag the alleged objective to you, for then it enters the subjective sphere and is no longer objective. Right? This is not theory. This is all duh material when correctly stated. I mean just look at it. Duh, right?

So why do we choose duh world over the real?

Every time. Including science.

Throughout the ages.

New disguises.

Same old faces.


Welcome to Level III, Ascended Master. Golgon will see you now. He’s over there behind the curtain. If he looks familiar without the smoke and mirrors, that’s because he’s also you. Wanna see a final trick? Read the inscription above the gate to hell. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” What is hell to the subjective?

Level IV awaits your answer.






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