Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Cults, Cults, Everywhere Cults--And???
Webster's Ninth defines "cult" in this way: 1) formal religious veneration; 2) a system of religious beliefs and ritual-also its body of adherents; 3) a religion regarded as unorthodox; 4) a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgators; 5) great devotion to a person, idea, or thing.
And so it goes. According to the above definitions, any of us who are involved in any kind of religious or spiritual community can be considered "cultists." In fact, those devoted to strict scientific inquiry could also be called "cultists."
How much time does it take, and how many followers does it need before a cult becomes a respectable, if not respected, religion? I suppose it depends upon which cult you're in. If you are Pentecostal, for instance, then not only are all the other religions cults, but so are many of the sects within Christianity itself i.e. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, even Catholics. And other branches of Pentecostalism might well fall into the category of cultist, by some standards.
What about New Thought? A cult? Oh, probably. Or it can be for some people. I recently read something rather amusing about New Thought's founders and early days in the 1850s and 60s. It seems that the Calvinist Christians (the predominant Protestant mind controllers of the era and forerunners of the evangelical fundamentalists of today) blamed New Thought for the beginning of modern psychology and psychotherapy. Too much focus upon SELF-healing, you know. (Freud would probably disagree; Jung, too.) It's true. We (New Thought) did bring personal integration and wholeness into public consciousness. We took control of our own destiny. We recognized that Spirit is not separate from creation, but One with it and as it. "There is no spot where God is not," as we say. (If you happened to catch the wonderful PBS miniseries "Origins" recently, it seems even the physicists and cosmologists are coming around to our way of thinking.) We found out that there is nothing wrong in the universe, that it's OK to like oneself, even love oneself, and to forgive oneself. We discovered that love is much better as a choice than as an obligation. And we are free to walk away without fear of retribution or condemnation.
We do not claim to have access to any kind of ultimate truth. However, we do know this: the more we recognize that the Presence of God is within us, as Jesus even said, the more easy and simple it is to spread love abroad in the world. Love--compassion--after all, is the greatest calling, but only when it's voluntary.
We have given up looking for a heavenly reward. We've already found it. And it's right here, right now, in our own hearts.
Is New Thought a cult? Sure, why not? And I love it.