We tend to think of cults as religious groups that are out of the mainstream but according to Nathaniel Rich, who de-programs cult victims, that image is far from true. (“The Man Who Saves You From Yourself,” by Nathaniel Rich, Harper’s, November 2013, pgs. 35-44) In his essay, he warns we’re surrounded by cults, though we may not recognize them as such.
…we get cults based on health fads, business-training programs, get rich quick schemes, and relationship improvement seminars; at others we get fundamentalist religious cults. Eastern meditation groups, identity or hate groups, longevity groups and so forth. (Ibid pg. 37)
What cults commonly require are unquestioning minds. To achieve this goal, recruits are often cut off from past associations and made dependent upon the collective. Sometimes mental and physical abuse is involved or food deprivation which makes the starved brain compliant. (Ibid pg.39) But as Rich remarks, these controlling relationships can be found anywhere. I’ve seen them in families and in work situations.
Pedaling influence is a milder version of mind control. Politics is fertile ground for such activity as is any commercial endeavor. Peddlers will go to enormous lengths to convince us to vote for a candidate or buy the latest vacuum cleaner, and their strategies must pay off because they invest time and money in the process.
Doing our homework so we can think for ourselves in this mega data world is exhausting. But giving our mind’s over to someone else is the closest this non-believer comes to understanding the meaning of sin.
Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, contains two lines that illustrates how easily we can lose ourselves to others without understanding the cost. In one scene, a black woman, who has been a slave all her life, is suddenly freed. Crossing the river to her new home, she looks down at her hands. “These hands belong to me. These are my hands,” she says aloud. After a lifetime of bending to the will of someone else, she realizes her hands are now hers to command. The revelation fills her joy and peals of laughter. (Beloved by Toni Morrison, Penguin paperback edition, pg. 141.)
Freedom of thought is fragile, a gift whose only defender is the mind. Turning our brains over to someone else benefits no one – not the giver and not the receiver who is bound to be corrupted by the power.
(Courtesy of www.dailynews.com)