Jeremy Sherman says all cults have one thing in common – an answer to every question and relief from our responsibility to struggle with the truth.
Winter of ‘76 – Jim Jones and his cult followers had just drunk their poison Kool-Aid in Guyana – 900 dead, and I was off to Guatemala with my spiritual commune to do poverty relief work. My family was worried.
They were also annoyed by what I had become, a know-it-all, confident that I could beat any challenge to my smug, all-knowing spiritual truths. I had fallen for the cult mindset, that heady sense that you hold all the cards, a high so self-aggrandizing that people are willing to drink the Kool-Aid.
‘Aid’ is the operative word. Though my commune was wholesome, I pretended it fool-proofed my life, like it had issued me a deck of trump cards to trump all challenges to my humble authority, the greatest aid any of us could ever crave.
Life is an anxious affair. We all fear failure and therefore might be tempted by the fake trump-card aid that cults provide – I once was lost but now I’m found instead of I once was lost and could be still.