Cult? Yes, and also differentiate


I read ~C4Chaos‘ post on cults, which is a topic it is good for people with weird interests (like myself) to explore.

I remember that even back in high school, I realized that I belonged to different cults, and always would.

As Byron Katie says, a cult is two people agreeing.

So yes, I am in lots of cults… some of them are called integral, Buddhist, Christian, people who think Arvo Part is great, people who like strawberries, people who like a clean house, people who think people shouldn’t lie, western culture, and the human cult (I am sure other species could easily see us as a dangerous cult, if they had stories going the way we do).

Some of the trademarks of a cult is (a) people within it agree and think they are right, (b) others believe other things and see them as misguided, and (c) they potentially harm themselves and others.

On each of these points, all of the ones I listed above are cults. And we all belong to lots of cults.

  • All the ones listed, and many others, consist of people who agree. Who believe a certain thing, and support that belief with all sorts of evidence, including others agreeing.
  • All are contrasted by other groups of people who disagree and see them as misguided, at best.
  • And any belief is stressful, at best, and harm ourselves and others in different ways.

This is true of integral, Buddhist, people who like a clean house, and even people who like (something as apparently innocent as) strawberries.

In short, they are cults.

So that is why I am in a cult. But the reversal is also true, and equally important to explore.

I am not in a cult, since I am (sometimes) open to explore my beliefs… to lighten the hold on them, even to let them go when I see clearer what is going on. And few of these are groups that, at least intentionally, harm others (with the exception of the human cult, which often is quite dangerous to itself and other species).

And I am also of course free to explore and play around with the conventional definitions of cults… Buddhist and Christians are not, because they are too mainstream (they were cults when they were smaller, and still may be seen as cults when they are in a significant minority… such as Zen in Utah). People who like strawberries are not because it is (appears!) too innocent. Humans… well, maybe they are, from the view of many other species.

So I can explore and go along with, to different extents, all these conventional ways of looking at cults… but now, with less need to protect or defend particular beliefs and identities around them. I can be more fluid with it, seeing the (limited) truth in any of the ways we can play with the story of cults, including free to see the truth in how I am in lots of cults, and also how I am not.

Enlightened to a thought


The definition of enlightenment is quite simple, although can be put in different ways:

  • Ground awakened to itself (emptiness, awake to itself)
  • Realized selflessness (no separate self anywhere, just awake emptiness and form, and form as no other than awake emptiness)
  • Differentiation of the absolute (awake emptiness and form, as is), and the relative (any stories about it, filtering the absolute through stories)
  • The timeless now (awake emptiness) awake to itself, that which time/space unfold within, to and as.
  • The complete allowing of any forms (inherent in Ground) awake to itself.

Of anyone, I appreciate the most how Byron Katie talks about this… as usual, it is simple, clear, and uncompromising in a kind way.

No one is permanently enlightened. That would be the story of a future. There’s only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe in a stressful thought? Then you’re confused. Do you realize the thought isn’t true? Then you’re enlightened to it. It’s as simple as that. And then the next thought comes, and maybe you’re enlightened to it as well, and maybe not.

This way of looking at it explains why people who are not “officially” enlightened still can be very enlightened in some situations and areas, and people who are officially enlightened sometimes are not… still stuck in rigid beliefs (I certainly saw that a lot during my time at the Zen center…!)

The quote is from chapter 13 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie, edited by Stephen Mitchell.