Who would ever willingly choose to join a cult and follow a guru? I’ll be the first to raise my hand…
In some of my past experiences with the New Age movement in Los Angeles, I was inspired by Esther Hicks and the Law of Attraction to pay for expensive meditation sessions and “raise my vibrations.”
In fact, I didn’t choose this path from inspiration. Rather, it was guided by a feeling of insecurity that my perceived lack of success meant my vibrations weren’t operating at a high enough frequency.
Why did I join this movement and follow such a strange guru? Why does anyone follow gurus or join strange cults?
We’ll explore these questions and much more in this issue of Tribe.
But first, a few brief words about why we decided to write about cults and gurus.
Our intention isn’t to ridicule the people attracted to cults and demonize the gurus that inspire them.
Still, it’s easy to adopt a critical perspective of manipulative gurus, as you’ll see in our piercing critiques of Abraham Hicks, Charles Manson, Osho, L. Ron Hubbard, and Jim Jones.
Instead, our broader aim is to pay homage to how very human it is to be attracted to cults and gurus.
In my case, I was attracted to Esther Hicks and the teachings of the Law of Attraction since they provided an antidote to my loneliness. They made me feel special and fueled my ego. I had finally found a community of people who saw the world as I did, which unfortunately meant seeing myself as superior to or at a “higher vibration” than others.
The problem is that believing in the Law of Attraction requires a form of self-hypnosis, as explained by Rudá Iandê in his profile of Esther Hicks, whereby one bypasses their wounds and avoids facing real problems. This critique certainly hit home.
In Xandar Gordon’s article, you’ll read about his torment in leaving the cult he was raised in—the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are infamous for shunning people who choose to leave their cult. It brought tears to my eyes when reading of his current estrangement from his mother, who is still a Jehovah’s Witness.
Perhaps you’ll feel a sense of almost forbidden excitement while reading Kiran Athar’s article on UFO cults. It might even spark curiosity around the belief systems that have formed the idea that beings from other planets are visiting us. It seems logical that life may exist on other planets, right? Is it that far a stretch to join a community of people that believe these beings are already making contact with us?
Curiosity may turn into shock when we explore some of the stranger episodes related to cults.
Why did the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo launch a chemical attack on the Tokyo subway?
How did L. Ron Hubbard—a brilliant thinker and profound science-fiction writer—manage to turn Scientology into a powerful and wealthy organization?
Just how popular is QAnon, and why did it provoke people to storm the capitol in January 2021?
We attempted to approach these subjects with an open mind. I even felt some admiration when reading about Jim Jones’ values around racial solidarity.
However, this admiration quickly gave way to repulsion concerning his ability to convince so many people to join him in committing mass suicide.
The fact of the matter is that there are some deadly bandits along the road to truth. Predators and psychopaths lure in seekers and feed off their openness and vulnerability, draining them financially, spiritually, emotionally, and, often, sexually.
As you’ll see, we don’t shy away from writing about any of these facets on these pages.
However, we also have a unique account by Rudá Iandê of thousands of people attempting to turn him into their guru. Rudá details his journey from a spiritual seeker to guru to rejecting the role of a guru and simply accepting his place as an apprentice of life, writing of being “praised and confused.”
While reading Rudá’s account, I couldn’t help but remember when I, too, wanted Rudá to be my guru. This desire led to our meeting in 2014. I sought his guidance and shamanic wisdom during a particularly troubling time when my business was failing. The Law of Attraction wasn’t providing the results I so desperately craved. I wanted to try something a little more exotic. Shamanism seemed to be the obvious solution.
Thankfully, Rudá didn’t want to be my guru. Instead, he was more interested in being a friend. As more of a comrade, he helped me wake up to a pattern that had always been deeply embedded in me.
The pattern is my need for a savior.
I think we’re all born with this pattern, even the all-powerful gurus you’ll read about on these pages. Human beings are a unique species. We’re born so fragile and vulnerable, completely dependent on our parents and communities for survival.
Our instinct is to find a savior that will protect us against the uncertainty of life. It’s this instinct that attracts us to the charisma and inner certainty of gurus. We feel gurus will protect us from the depravity of our mortal existence.
However, as we grow older and mature, we start to learn that we can be our own saviors. We can develop a relationship with ourselves that builds a fortress against manipulative bullies and external forces that try to shape our destinies.
I don’t claim to have eliminated my need for a savior. I must also admit that I desperately want to be a part of a community of like-minded people that destroys the desperate loneliness I sometimes feel.
However, there is one commitment I’ve made that I suspect you may share, given that you’ve found your way to this editorial. This commitment is to continue surrounding myself with people pursuing truth and enlightenment while running away from those who claim to have found it to paraphrase Václav Havel.