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Posts Tagged ‘cult

“There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”*…

The gate at the Aetherius Society, founded by a man who claimed he was able to channel messages from an “interplanetary parliament” in outer space. 

Half a century ago, you could barely walk down the street in California without tripping over some kind of fringe spiritual sect or cult-like group. Pretty much every famous organization, guru, and spiritual trend of that era had ties to the Golden state – from the Maharishi to the People’s Temple, the “Moonies” to the New Age.

Now, with the exception of some Scientology buildings and the occasional Hare Krishna devotee, you almost never encounter fringe spiritual groups from that California golden age.

Some of the groups violently disbanded or their members died under horrific circumstances. Others slowly faded away, pushed out by California’s rising cost of living, or made obsolete by the fact that many of the things that made them appealing were absorbed into the mainstream: Fortune 500 CEOs now regularly attend Burning Man and crystals and Himalayan salt lamps can be purchased at Target. (The more nefarious side of fringe spiritual belief is also becoming increasingly mainstream, as seen in the rise of QAnon.)

But some of California’s fringe spiritual groups are still out there – little pockets of commune dwellers, transcendental meditators, and UFO worshippers dotted around the state…

Cult classics: the faded glory of California’s fringe sects – in pictures,” from Jamie Lee Curtis Taete (@JLCT on Twitter; @jamieleecurtistaete on Instagram)

* Edward Abbey

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As we become one with the universe, we might recall that, according to (separate but overlapping) deductions made by geologists and religious historians, it was on this date in 33 CE that Jesus was crucified.

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Written by LW

April 3, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”*…

 

cult

The Easter ‘Passion of the Christ’ procession in Comayagua, a small town in Honduras

 

Cults, generally speaking, are a lot like pornography: you know them when you see them. It would be hard to avoid the label on encountering (as I did, carrying out field work last year) 20 people toiling unpaid on a Christian farming compound in rural Wisconsin – people who venerated their leader as the closest thing to God’s representative on Earth. Of course, they argued vehemently that they were not a cult. Ditto for the 2,000-member church I visited outside Nashville, whose parishioners had been convinced by an ostensibly Christian diet programme to sell their houses and move to the ‘one square mile’ of the New Jerusalem promised by their charismatic church leader. Here they could eat – and live – in accordance with God and their leader’s commands. It’s easy enough, as an outsider, to say, instinctively: yes, this is a cult.

Less easy, though, is identifying why. Knee-jerk reactions make for poor sociology, and delineating what, exactly, makes a cult (as opposed to a ‘proper’ religious movement) often comes down to judgment calls based on perceived legitimacy. Prod that perception of legitimacy, however, and you find value judgments based on age, tradition or ‘respectability’ (that nice middle-class couple down the street, say, as opposed to Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch). At the same time, the markers of cultism as applied more theoretically – a single charismatic leader, an insular structure, seeming religious ecstasy, a financial burden on members – can also be applied to any number of new or burgeoning religious movements that we don’t call cults.

Often (just as with pornography), what we choose to see as a cult tells us as much about ourselves as about what we’re looking at…

Cults are exploitative, weird groups with strange beliefs and practices, right? So what about regular religions then?  “What is a Cult?

To get a sense of terrain in question, visit Wikipedia’s page “New Religious Movement” and consult their “List of new religious movements.”

For a sense of how time can convert a “new religious movement” into an established faith, consult the “Timeline of religion.”

And for (one) opinion of where all of this might be leading, see “Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion?

* John Milton, Paradise Lost

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As we ponder piety, we might recall that today is the concluding day of International Clown Week.

Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 2.46.55 PM source

 

 

Tis the season…

from “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny”

Your correspondent is headed into the ice and snow of his annual holiday hiatus; regular service will resume early in the new year…  But lest readers be at loose ends:

From classics like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

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… to Christmas Evil, the film John Waters called “the greatest Christmas movie ever made”…

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… “13 of the Weirdest Holiday Movies Ever Made.”

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As we deck the halls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that CBS first aired Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Directed by the great Chuck Jones and narrated by Boris Karloff (who also voiced the Grinch), it featured songs with lyrics by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel himself.

TV Guide, Dec 17-23, 1966 (Chicago edition)

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Happy Holidays!!

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