Cults are evil because they ruin authenticity, taking responsibility for the cultivation of our gifts and bringing our unique contribution to the world. If the Giver of gifts, talents, and dreams designed His creatures so our very happiness depends on individuality, there is no greater evil than systematically rendering us interchangeable and monochromatic.
There is a social cost for this perversion of personality. Those lost in cults, advancing abstract, collective ideals, are not fulfilling their mission. These missing people create a sort of cosmic vacuum with real repercussions across time and space. Aristotle spoke of the “vocation,” intimating that our unique gift plays a specific role in society. This call may affect vast numbers, as in the life of Pope John Paul and, forgive me, Luke Skywalker or Katniss Everdeen. Perhaps the only one to benefit from our authenticity will be the Darcy or Elizabeth of our own little Longborns, yet we make a true and lasting difference.
Freedom from false barriers between ourselves and our dreams is a great gift in itself that we should never take for granted. Even if we are not in a cult, we can examine our own lives to see if we have taken responsibility for our dignitatis humanae.
The long journey out of a cult presents few challenges as great as assuming responsibility for our gifts, our passion, and our calling. Especially in cults where many interests were dubbed “worldly,” or “not appropriate for your gender,” it is very difficult to overcome the fear of wrongdoing or the habit of looking to external authority for indication of what ought to be done with one’s life. Not all cults are the same, not all use identical tactics to control behavior. Often, the most damaging cults are those full of true believers in which there is no calculated desire to usurp the freedom of members, only distorted and fanatical fear of the dangers inherent in living in a complex world.
Reaching out to cult members is difficult because of the Gnostic defense-reactions. When it is possible, introducing cultic family or friends to activities and opportunities related to their gifts and talents is one way to help them feel the buried fire of the innate passion and hear the muted but ever-present echo of their calling.
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