The Woke movement has many characteristics of a cult--special language, Manichean divisions, punishment for heretical statements, a demand for full commitment, etc. John McWhorter has written about this extensively. He sees Wokeism as a new religion. I would call it a religion substitute--i.e. more of a cult. Unfortunately it is a cult with a great deal of power over our institutions, with almost unfathomable destructive potential.

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Excellent topic of discussion, but I’m surprised I made it through the entire essay without one single reference to the Branch Covidians. Maybe it’s too soon, too raw?

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I really like the idea of cults on a continuum. But I wonder if on that scale, 0 shouldn't be "normal" but rather absolute social isolation, and 5 should be the ideal point.

What cults undeniably provide is a sense of belonging and community. Street gangs famously fill in the gaps where family, and especially fatherhood, is hauntingly absent in many urban kids' lives. We *need* community and interpersonal connection.

What would 5 look like? My guess is: A healthy family life and also vital membership in a wider community group that grounds a person's sense of identity, gives them responsibility, and provides them with what is so elusive to young people today: meaning.

We can all agree that the total isolation near 0 is dangerous and unhealthy, and that the brainwashing cults over near 10 bring untold human misery, but I think part of our struggle as a society is agreeing on what 5 should look like.

It seems to me our society is presently losing the accumulated wisdom and knowledge it takes to form and maintain healthy families, as well as healthy local communities. As these break down, we collectively become incapable of maintaining the healthy "5" balance, and we veer off towards one extreme or another.

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Emporer JT of the PRC

( Peoples Republic of Canada) and his minions should slide in about a 7 or 8 on your 1 to ten scale

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When Q-Anon was a new thing I dove in for a few days to see what the heck it was. It seemed a lot like a cult, but online. I wonder if social media and the internet in general foster quick and easy cult behaviour, at the speed of a click.

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I am a west coast hippy, a relic of the 1960s and 70s awash on a Gulf Island beach like a bottle with a message in it. I am also a white guy and a boomer, not the most popular suit on the rack these days.

I check many of the boxes in this fine article. I lived in communal settings in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Vancouver and on Galiano Island, all many years ago now. I studied mediation with an elderly Tibetan Llama, was awarded a brown belt in Kung Fu and I continue to learn Qigong with a Chinese Master. Along the way, I picked up a Master’s degree in Psychology, a Doctorate in Education and was awarded an honourary Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. My work included starting a street based program for at risk youth that went on for 30 years; designing, developing and implementing two multi-million dollar residential treatment centres for children, youth and their families, one of which still operates ; co-founding a Family Therapy Institute; and initiating a Master’s of Counselling degree program that is now the largest in western Canada, eventually becoming a Vice President of a University. I am currently the Executive Director of the Green Technology Education Centre. I have published numerous articles in professional journals, five book chapters, a book, several op-eds and numerous blog posts at GTEC and Huffington Post.

The major point I want to make is that I benefited from this experience and training and successfully adapted some of the lessons learned across numerous settings. Moreover, I want to say that none of the settings I encountered on my hippy journey resembled a cult. The communal settings were too disorganized. In the spiritual environments I experienced, no one love bombed me; rather than magical thinking, observation and a sense of discovery were encouraged; I controlled the terms and hours of engagement; the abnormal was not normalized, in fact constructive engagement with work, family and community was supported; and the recruit was introduced to the idea that human beings are fundamentally good. The door out was always open.

In support of this article, weird stuff went on during the 1960s and 70s, inside and outside the countercultural journey. It was a transitional time where a lot of conventional boundaries were blurred in some destructive, as well as constructive ways. Some of it was a genuine search for a better way to live and some of it was a self-indulgent reluctance to grow up. Charlatans and cults did show up as they tend to during such periods and institutional abuse is forever and always a danger. The exposure of the Catholic Church in the context of the horrible abuse that went on residential schools is an example of the latter point. Perhaps, it is important to acknowledge that, in many situations, the children of that era did not enjoy the stability and security that was their due. That they would now as adults have misgivings about it all is completely understandable.

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Gender ideology followers seem to be in a cult.

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Any movement, political or cultural, that promises to create a new utopian society will eventually turn to violence and authoritarianism. A perfect society is impossible, and real improvement can only happen incrementally through open criticism and transparent reform. However, utopian ideologies attempt to overthrow all norms at once to realize their vision. When utopia is on the line ALL ends justify the means. The body count rises.

The abandoning of norms is easy but delivering on utopia is hard. When the end result of their efforts is disaster instead of spiritual and societal perfection, they do not allow themselves for a moment to critique their own ideology (that would be heresy). Instead they find scapegoats (their ideology could never fail therefore its failure could only have been caused by betrayal or uncommitted followers), they publicly flog cult members, behead fellow revolutionaries imagined to be disloyal, or send millions of their own citizens to the gulag on accusations of anti-communist sympathies.

Eventually the revolution eats its own children and the whole utopian enterprise collapses under its own weight.

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I too am fascinated by cults and really enjoyed your write-up. I think there are inherent weaknesses in human psychology that none of us are safe from, and people out there figure out how to manipulate them in a lot of different contexts to varying degrees.

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Another example. Holistic health and small business coaching both honourable fields, but when they tip over into a certain kind of language. . . now if you aren't healing you are 'resisting,' if you are unwilling to put 10K on your credit card for a business education program you have low self-esteem and 'don't think it's worth investing in yourself.' There's a whole set of either New Age healing jargon or Sales 101 lingo around all of that. I resonate with the point you and others are making that if language--which is, after all, only one way of knowing and describing--becomes our sole constructor of 'truth' and is used in specific ways, we are ripe for all manner of troubles.

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A cult having it's own language and ethos sounds to me like the CBC. I turn it on and wonder how people could fall for this pablum. But they do. Over and over and over. I think people lose all critical faculties soon after joining.. The only way to retrieve them is to haul them into the desert for a week or two far from any radio reception. They slowly come back to themselves. Complete abstinence seems to be the only solution.

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What a great post and so applicable to me: When I was 15 years old I was placed in a self-help recovery cult: I was acting out a fair bit at school (smoking pot, skipping class, listening to Nirvana and Slayer and fighting with my parents) and they placed me in a residential "recovery center" for teenagers that still to this day operates in Calgary, Alberta that I now identify as a 100% self-help cult. I spent 12 months in the actual program and then went to work for the group as a "counselor" to other members in the cult when I was 17-23. My entire life revolved around this place for the entirely of my latter teenage years and the first years of my twenties. 100% of all my friendships, intimate relationships and work relationships revolved entirely around this place.

One question you pose above I believe we can answer. Above you ask "Is there something in the human psyche that draws us toward this darkness". The answer is 100% yes there is. It is the social bond that the human psyche so badly needs that is offered by the cult leaders to the cult members and the tremendous sense of belonging that group offers you if you conform to their expectations of obedience and compliance with the ethos of the group. A lot of people who research cults call this "love bombing" and it is extremely powerful when you are in a cult. The "love bombing" is the tremendous affection and welcoming that is offered to cult members if they will only abandon themselves to the group / program and never question its beliefs and ethos.

Deep down we all desperately want a community to belong to and somewhere to feel like we fit in and belong. Cults powerfully exploit this basic drive and weaponize it.

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Chances Tara will comment on the Felicia Somnez abuse by the Bezos Newsletter:

A) 0%

B) 1%-10%

C) Lloyd Austin of Raytheon

D) 11%-%50

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Most "local activist groups" register much higher than a 1 on the cult scale. Why is it so hard for people to admit this?

Tara has it wrong. She equates "excesses" with "darkness". I guess that is why people, like Tara, cannot admit how cultish so much of their lives and their friends' lives and their relatives lives are. Sorry, Tara. Excess is excess. Darkness is something else. To require "darkness" to admit "excess" means you just do not understand.

Now, THIS is HILARIOUS? "how many cults exist among us, hiding in plain sight, getting warm media coverage?" Wake up Tara, the media is a cult. Why would you expect them to be cult-bashers? My my, the lack of insight by Tara.

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Thanks for this. Makes me want to watch "Ticket To Heaven" again: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/ticket-to-heaven-1981

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From Tara's article:

"Edmondson clearly articulates the cultic pattern: the “love bombing” of new recruits, lavishing them with attention; the magical thinking; the long hours of indoctrination; the use of repetition to normalize the abnormal; the introduction of the idea that a recruit is fundamentally flawed, in a way they cannot grasp without group intervention, and must do emotional “work” to heal. Then, significantly, the suggestion that if a recruit is feeling uncomfortable, this points to a psychological issue — and to overcome it, they must ignore such instincts. (The old “if you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing” line.) Indeed, that one’s perceptions are inherently suspect. (In NXIVM parlance: “What do you make it mean?”)

Add to that the suppression of critical thought, and, of course, critical speech. Plus, ever-increasing demands on time, energy and money, and even diet, exhausting participants. All with the threat of judgment and social alienation if participants leave, or speak out."

This sounds like another cult I've heard of, one that has gripped millions across the Anglosphere, including the majority of students and professors in Canadian universities. I wonder... is there a Jim Jones or Keith Raniere behind this new cult?

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