Throughout my entire life I have always been searching for a deeper connection with the spirit. This had led me to be apart of a variety of groups throughout the years that have included a yoga ashram, a Golden Dawn Order, and a martial arts school. All were very different in thier teachings, but all the same in thier search for the spirit.
Besides seeing the similarity in results that were yielded as one began to study the deeper aspects of each, I also noticed another peculiar similarity in these groups. In every organization, the closer I got to the "inner circle", the more I would begin to hear stories about the leader taking advantage of people, using them for thier money, thier time, doing things to emotionally disturb them etc...this often left some people feeling disgruntled and hurt leading to them leave, whereas others thrived and became happier. Hmmmm, what was the difference? Were the others, including me just blinded by the 'cultish" powers of the leader? No, I don't believe so...I think now I have learned the truth.
My favorite book is The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus, a book that purifies the individual just by reading it. It is very powerful, an advanced book only I believe, to be read by ones who are studying the greater and more subtle mysteries, those who are really looking to extinguish the ego, learn true humilty in the Lord, and are accustomed or feel drawn to being purified by a slightly harsher path. I would not suggest this to an Outer Order member, and only to those who have a strong ability to discern between right and wrong.
In it there are many stories of monks who seek to purify themselves through various devices such as humiliation, scourging, extreme fasting, hard labor etc...the writer of this book does not suggest these techniques to the majority of people, even most monks who are reading this book. However, there are stories of a not so extreme nature, such as the monk who was told by the Abbot to stand behind him in silence for all of dinner to teach another humilation, or the Abbot who lied to two monks who had been getting very close and told them each that the other was disfaming them to the others; he did this so that they would remember not to be attached to lustful feelings but turn closer to the Lord.
These stories, brought something to light that had be rumanating in my mind for quite some time...if spiritual leaders were to behave like this in a world outside of a monastary, they would be called a cult leader. On the internet we have people bitching about a possible small rite of "bloodletting" in one of the Orders, yet today monks stand for over twenty four hours in vigil regularly on Mt. Athos. I would take the former over the latter when it comes to pain. Why is it o.k. for this to occur in a monastic environment, but not one in the outside world?
The Golden Dawn system, and many others are pure and true systems in thier own right. They are powerful systems of transformation that can take you to hightened levels of spirituality very quickly. They will get you into a deep connection with the Divine. But, you must interact with the system, not just stand there hoping it wafts some divine knowledge at you. This is the main difference bewteen the people who thrive and the people who don't, the ones who do are taking each situation and turning it into a growing experience, they are acting on the environment. They are making choices based on growth. The one's who don't are letting the environment react on them, letting it victimize them.
When we are in the Outer Order, we go to classes, we sit and absorb everything, maybe we even start to volunteer for a few things. Are we seeking our own knowledge? No, we are learning the rubricks of a system....usually during this phase there are very few problems with people feeling like they are belonging to a cult..of course not! you are having everything handed to you....The system is serving you!
Then, we move into the Inner Order or inner circle close to the Chief or Sifu. Now, it is your time to serve and to work. On top of that the majority of your training is placed within your hands. You must take the rubricks that you learned and begin to delve deeper into the mysteries...because your real education is between you and God. Usually, this is the point where problems occur. Most people have a hard time transitioning from being spoon-fed to having to walk on thier own two feet. In fact, many people resist this to the utmost of thier being crying things such "I work all day at the Temple"and you never give me any new material!"
O.k., (let's take the GD for example) what have you done with your current material? Have you worked with every single Senior, consecrated your tools more than one time each, scryed the Vault walls, done more than a few Shem workings?....I could go on. The initiate is trapped in an ego obsession that thier teachers, must continue to baby them...Non, mon frere! We want you to truly succeed. Pull up your boot straps, get in the Temple and start contacting your Higher Genius! The Greater Mysteries have to do with depth, not breadth. The people who are thriving in this environment are the one's who take it upon themselves to explore the nuances in the system going to thier mentors when they have questions, leading them to get new material.
This leads me to the second point. People who are usually having this problem also tend to have another problem...being a "Yes Man". They want to please the master, so that they can be in good standing, get special treatment, laud thier position over the others. They want this so much that they will do anything for the master. To them thier progress in the group is based on being in good standing with the leader, not on actually doing the work. So, you know what happens? They are asked to do and do and do...until they become so fed up with doing every little thing, they leave the group in a huff talking about how much of a cult leader that person is. You know what I say?
Grow some balls. Get your priorities right. Assess why you are really doing this work. If you are here to be lauded over, you are going to get hurt. If you are here to get special attention, it will be fleeting. If you are stretching yourself too thin, then learn to say no. If you feel as if you were asked to do something that went against your values, then refuse. If you don't its because your afraid (of confrontation, disapointment, being kicked out). Use the circumstances that are placed before you in your work to help you change, to make better decisions, to learn when to sacrifice and when to stand down. Use your work to get in touch with your Higher Genius so that you will know when the difference is.
The people who run these groups are human. They are apt to fall into sin from time to time. Does that mean that you should throw your path out the window? No, it means you should stick up for yourself, stay true to your vows, and if there is corruption be brave enough to face it and make a change. Have you evern thought that these difficult situations could be being placed in front of you so that you can grow? If, on the chance you do run into a situation where you feel you must disagree and you get kicked out, well, then you will know you really were apart of a cult, and you just did youself a favor.
Nosce Te Ipsum