What is one person's incense-drenched golden memory is another's vision of world peace — is another's nightmare.
Unfortunately, it's very human to generalize from one's own experience and believe everyone else's should match.
In my practice, I try to honor each individual's experience with their own group. You are the expert on your experience.
It's a matter of respect and allowing space for each individual to find their own truth.
I hope to write another post soon on the things I value from my TM experience. Today I'll ask you to comment on your experience — both good and bad.
In the anti-cult movement, I've run into a tendency by some to label anyone that attempts to present a balanced view of the good and bad in these groups as a "cult apologist." I believe this has become a buzzword for "enemy."
Demonizing the cults just feeds their power, in my opinion — creating myths about super-powerful organizations with tentacles everywhere. And it fosters victimization among cult veterans -- or "cult victors" in Sudarsha's felicitous phrase.
After all, who can stand up to a superhuman archvillain? Superman?
I have no superpowers. Do you?
Cults are not superhuman. And they exist on a continuum from relatively benign to hideously destructive. It's really a shame that we use one word to characterize them all.
If I were to rate TM as a group on a scale of 1 to 10 from least to most abusive, I'd give it a "5." Scientology, a "7." Groups like Mohan Singh's or the Family, which allegedly engage in sexual abuse, a "9." Suicide or murderous groups like Jonestown, Solar Temple, Aum Shinrikyo a '"10."
And even the worst can be defeated. Both at the societal level and in an individual's life.
Chatting with Sudarsha, he expanded my thoughts on continua quite a bit. As he wrote me:
[E]ach cult has factors to consider. TM's about a 3 for organization, maybe a 9 for slickness, possibly a 5 when it comes to a believable spiel. Maybe, John, this rating system, not drawing any conclusions, but asking people to rate their own experiences with TM or whatever they were into on a multi-layer scale would be very interesting and get people to think of TM/TMO/Maheshism not as a solid entity but as a multi-faceted conglomeration from which not just bad emerged.
What do you say? Care to rate your TM experience in the comments below? Or if you prefer, email me at email@example.com.
Let's widen our horizons and get a discussion going with the "new" old comment system.
John M. Knapp, LMSW
Note: I reference a number of Wikipedia articles above. While I find them in general fairly even-handed, voices from all sides of these issues weigh-in. Please bear in mind that both current and former group members, as well as scholars with greater or lesser experience in this field, contribute to the articles. Take everything you read — on the Internet and off, including my own writings — with an appropriate grain of salt.
P.S. I was interviewed on my approach to cult recovery by an obscure blog recently. Give 'em some love.