Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Omega Obsession: Part 2

Cynicism arrives with context. The Solar Temple is only one of hundreds and hundreds of similar groups to appropriate the Rosicrucian and Knights Templar lineage. The Heaven's Gate cult is only one of many in the UFO paradigm of alien avatars from Von Daniken's dreams.

Not every cult member is a helpless mind-rinsed recruit. Some go looking, not only for spiritual status, but also for supernatural revenge. Elitism expresses itself in the fervent belief that the acolyte will survive ( here or elsewhere) while the rest of the mundane world plods blindly to its deserved destruction. One of the subliminal attractions of the cult milieu is the smug expectation that the cultist will be allowed to observe the non-elect "get theirs."

The malefic spite that trickles off the pages of the Solar Temple last testament and farewell messages emphasizes the outrage of wounded arrogance, "Remember Sodom and Gomorrah. It will soon be just the same." This sounds like vicious anticipation, not sombre warning. Heaven's Gate teachings clearly imply the world is a hell about to be harrowed.

Recent commentary also extends the victimization and societal blame stereotype to the point where public and state intervention are represented as the motivating factor in these incidents of personal apocalypse. Police investigation into gun-running and political manipulation by the Solar Temple, drugs, guns and sex abuse at Waco, abduction allegations against Heaven's Gate, child welfare intervention with the Ant Hill Kids, have been described as paranoia triggers.

Let's not confuse cause and effect. Cult paranoia is an integral and pre-existing condition. In an end-time hissie fit, the Solar Temple claims centuries of surveillance. They describe themselves as "victims" of the police, the Black Brotherhood, Opus Dei, the "rotten world" in general and probably the Rotary Club as well. The dossier reads in part as a variation of the archetypal excuse: society is the devil that made me do it.

When end-time theology is emphasized out of proportion to and to the detriment of the rest of a religion, the apocalypse imperative kicks in. The final trigger may be Holy Week, Hale-Bopp, Hitler's birthday or the Haliburton police force, but the cosmic trigger will inevitably be pulled.

Fortunately, the resulting publicity serves to reduce the pool of potential converts and provides a cold dose of reality to remaining acolytes that helps deconstruct the cult-belief system, or turn it in more positive directions. Some researchers have indicated that many converts stay in the cult context an average of two years - implying that the seeker is not quite as permanently gullible as the mind-control advocates would suggest.

Finally, let's not become hysterical about hysteria. It should be underlined that most non-traditional religious groups are just that, and do not represent a danger to either their members or the public.


jason evans said...

"Not every cult member is a helpless mind-rinsed recruit."

You are very good at avoiding cliches in your writing.

Bernita said...

Thank you.
Actually, I owe that one to an Archie comic I read long ago.
On the other hand, as I've said before, sometimes a good cliche is worth a thousand words.