The escape from the cult will teach you a lot.
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I always joked about people who joined cults when I was a teenager. That is until I joined a cult without even realizing it.
I paid a subscription to a cult with a smile.
Where did it all start? Heartbreak. The woman I loved left me. I was broken. I could start to see a wrinkle under my eye that made me self-conscious. Love makes us do crazy things.
For me, as embarrassing as it is, it made me join a cult. Feeling like I had nowhere else to turn, I joined a cult to feel the human connection I had lost.(This is not a story about whether religion is good or bad, or whether God exists. You do you.)
Cults are everywhere. They don’t have a cult sign on their shop windows, though. Recognizing a cult is difficult. Cults look like families. Cults look like happy people. Cults look like togetherness. Cults look like a bloody good time.
For me, a cult looked like an escape from a broken heart.
Google describes cults as a new religious movement. That’s exactly what I found a few years back. What was new and fresh about the cult I joined was music. The cult figure took songs about God and turned them into pumping dance tracks. The cult took an empty warehouse and turned it into a rave party. It was like going to Ultra Music Festival pre-coronius times.
It all started when a friend from work invited me to come and hang out with him. I was desperately lonely and could hardly eat. Food made my stomach feel sick. It was lovesickness.
I met up with him at noon at the agreed location. He asked me to come to this random address. What was crazy about this address was that I knew it well. The old warehouse used to be a luxury used car dealership full of Porsches and Lambos. When I first became an adult I used to fill up a vending machine in this empty warehouse.
A group of old, dirty, dishonest used car salesmen would hang around a black leather couch and smoke. They’d tell dirty jokes. And they’d hire blondes dressed in short skirts to serve them using the job title “personal assistant.”
Every time I went to visit the warehouse and fill up their cans of coke, I could tell they had taken actual coke. They thought I was too young, dumb, and preoccupied with living in a teenage slum to notice. But I did. I could tell they were bad men but I didn’t know why. It was my spidey sense.
One afternoon I came to deliver their cans of Coca Cola. The warehouse was empty. The police were there. It turns out the owners of the car yard had skipped the country. The night before they brought in tow trucks and stole all the cars they were trusted to take care of and find new homes for. The owners of those high-priced machines were pissed. Their car dreams had been stolen.
I don’t know what happened to those used car criminals. I did always have a weird feeling, though, when driving past that warehouse. It was abandoned for years. City rats had taken up residence in the warehouse. The windows were broken and there were gang signs gratified on the walls.
It all came back to me on that Sunday afternoon at 12 PM. This was a warehouse that I associated with lies.
My friend from work was out the front. He was dressed sharp like he was going on a date. It turns out we were going to church. Normally I would have run for the hills and got my butt out of there. I was lonely and needed company so I went in. It couldn’t be that bad, right?
As a non-religious person with grandparents who were religious and forgot about God as they got older, I had been to church before. It wasn’t a place I enjoyed.
We walked into the crowded lobby. It wasn’t like a church. There was a party vibe. There was a restaurant with people sitting down. There were cool quotes on the wall that didn’t look like they were old and came from the bible.
We walked towards the entrance door. It looked and felt like we were walking into something big. The door swung open and people quickly walked in. There were ushers to help us to our seats.
In front of me was a giant stage. There were lasers, spotlights, a band, a Nexo sound system (a sound Engineer and former Dj’s dream), huge amounts of scaffolding, and giant projectors. It was glorious. It didn’t feel like a church. This was cool, hip, and fun.
The first song that came out of those speakers wasn’t a church song at all. It had a catchy chorus and a thumping beat. Everybody rocked to it. I felt this strange sense of euphoria. I felt a sense of connection.
When the three songs in a row were over, it was time to pray. I thought this part would be weird. Praying is for religious people. I closed my eyes to see what would happen. It wasn’t a prayer at all; it was a millennial meditation. I felt calm, relaxed and like a higher state of consciousness was taking over my mind. We opened our eyes and I felt chills down my spine.
Next came the collection plate. This was a public demonstration where I felt obligated to put at least a hundred-dollar bill on the plate. I started asking naive questions about where the money went and why God needed money if he didn’t live in a postcode here on Earth.
My heart was still broken. I was confused.
By the end of the service I felt a change. I felt like life got a little bit easier for two hours.
Attending on a Sunday became a habit. It was a place to escape and contemplate everything that had gone wrong in my life. It was a place to say sorry for all the terrible things I had done and couldn’t admit to myself. It was a place where I felt connected to something bigger than myself.
On the second Sunday I got to see the cult leaders for the first time. They were husband and wife and spent their time traveling all over the world. They seemed to live a very rich life and didn’t have normal jobs. The cult was their full-time job.
Their main job was to fly overseas and be on religious tv channels to market their beliefs and get more members. Something about them seemed off. I could smell a rat — and it wasn’t the leftover rat bodies buried underneath the warehouse of the former luxury car sacred ground I was standing on.
There was an opportunity to come up on stage and say a prayer with them. The odd part was that you were coaxed up by the audience and made to feel like it would be a defining moment in your life. I never did it. It was too public.
The cult leader would say some powerful words and then touch your head and claim to banish all the evil. They had a way of telling you how they could cure you from poverty or any tragedy in your life.
I realized during this ceremony that many of the people in the cult were vulnerable. I’d chat to the attendees before and after service and see that they all had one thing in common: extreme tragedy. They thought the cult would save them. They had no idea, like me, that you can save yourself.
I attended for many months and started to make friends outside of the referrer who got me in. We’d have late-night dinners and do social activities. I began to learn there were these weird rules they followed and they didn’t know why. One rule was a no alcohol or drug policy. Another rule was only watching movies that were considered family-friendly. And there was the rule of love. Intimate relationships were made out by the cult to be borderline evil. To have sex was to ruin your life.
This caused many people in the group to marry far too early so they could give in to their lust and try out their bodies. It was hard to watch. Their bodies wanted it but their beliefs rejected their feelings.
Cults are good… until they’re not good.
A cult is a place to escape. They are disguised as a place to find yourself. They take religion and completely twist it into something it was never meant to be. They turn religion into a business model with a subscription and an unknown weekly fee paid every Sunday.
I eventually stopped attending the cult. I cut all ties.
But it wasn’t all bad. The cult made me spiritual afterwards, rather than religious. I began to wonder about the universe that was billions of light-years away. And I discovered flow states and higher states of consciousness.
We all need something to jolt us out of the BS story we tell ourselves when tragedy strikes or our heart is broken. A cult did that for me. It made me see lies, deception and beauty all in one.
I had to become lost in order to find my potential.
In a strange way, joining a cult was yet another one of my weird experiments. I’m glad I did it. I am glad I got to look into a hidden part of society that many people don’t get to see — cults are an invite-only club. I was working on the site of a future cult as a young man and had no idea.
Cults are everywhere. My advice would be to stay away. You can easily get sucked into the lies. Here are a few ways to spot a cult:
- Do you have to pay money to enter the club?
- Is there one or more cult leaders that people look up to and worship in a bizarre way?
- Does the cult promise to heal you using spiritual techniques in front of live audiences and heal the wounds of tragedy?
- Do the gatherings feel like a tribe of people worshipping?
- Are you free to leave the cult at any time or do they try desperately to manipulate you into continuing to live their way of life?
Don’t be brainwashed by a cult. If you ever accidentally discover one like I did, then run for the hills.
The temptation of a cult and its promises are hard to break.