By Chutisa Bowman
Whenever someone talks about cults, I would ask one simple question: "Just what do you mean by the term 'cult'?" I have found that when most people think about "cult," they often think of closed sacred groups led by a charismatic leader with devout followers, whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.
To some people, the word 'cult' conjures up images of strange-dressed people with shaved heads, dancing and chanting on a busy street-corner, or a small band of extremists holed up in a remote farm house. It can conjure up images of a group of people who isolate themselves from friends, family, and even society, or religious groups that engage in dangerous, criminal, unethical and devious practices.
The term "cult" is often used loosely by many who may not be fully aware of its meaning and connotations. Most people believe a cult is something negative that strays from the confines of the general public's opinion of what is the "norm" or that which defines the "social good". The negative conception of a cult today implies a spiritual group that has strange, weird, or bizarre beliefs, is highly controlling, and engages in criminal practices. Many ideas surrounding the definition of a cult are shaped by the media.
In its original sense, the word "cult" is not demeaning. The word cult comes from the French culte, and is rooted in the Latin cultus, which means "care" and "adoration." That idea comes from the Latin cultus – the past participle of colere, which means "to cultivate." The word was used in the sense of "to worship or give reference to a deity." The World Book Encyclopedia explains that "traditionally, the term cult referred to any form of worship or ritual observance." By that criterion, all spiritual and religious organizations could be classified as cults.
Within academic texts, for example, we can frequently find the early Christian church referred to as a cult as well as references to such things as the Cult of the Virgin Mary.
Conversely, in general usage today, the word "cult" has a different meaning. None of the original definitions, however, are what people are thinking of when they accuse a group of being cultish.
Since the mid-1900's, publicity about cults has altered the meaning of the term.... cult has attained much more derogatory, negative and judgmental connotations. Today, many people use the term to refer to any movements or any group they consider nonstandard or deem dangerous. This commonly includes what law enforcement deems dangerous or destructive cults (such as those promoting murder, abuse or suicide).
Before examining the question "Is Access Consciousness a cult?", let us give thought to not only the World Book Encyclopedia definition, but also what leading commentators in the field of cults and the nature of mass movements say. One such thought leader, Eric Hoffer, an author of the best-selling book, The True Believer, maintains that "a cult (mass movement) attracts and holds a following not by its doctrines and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence".
However, he also acknowledges that some movements are good, while others are not. He looks at only the characteristics and tactics, not the morality of the movement. The book probes into the psychology of the frustrated and dissatisfied, those who would eagerly sacrifice themselves for any cause that might give their meaningless lives some sense of significance. The disaffected seek to lose themselves in these movements by adopting those fanatical attitudes that are, according to Hoffer, fundamentally a flight from the self. Hoffer stresses that "To the frustrated a mass movement (cult) offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources".
After studying the book 'The True Believer', I gained more clarity and awareness of the ultimate distinction that sets Access Consciousness apart from what is currently defined as a cult by the general public, media and law enforcement.
Using Hoffer's definition, Access Consciousness is what he delineates in his book as a "practical organization". Eric Hoffer also describes the contrast between a practical organization and a cult, best summarized in his own words:
"There is a fundamental difference between the appeal of a mass movement and the appeal of a practical organization. The practical organization offers opportunities for self-advancement .... On the other hand, a mass movement (cult) attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation. Cult offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their own resources".
Among Hoffer's insights about mass movements (cults) was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and — more importantly — in their own eyes.
From Hoffer's standpoint, Access Consciousness is indeed a practical organization since it is about facilitating consciousness, awareness, knowing and self-advancement. The target of Access Consciousness is to empower individuals at all times to know that they know, and to know that they can choose to step into the greatness that they truly are. Access Consciousness doesn't offer a substitute for what Hoffer describes as "the whole self" because it empowers you to evoke your own resources, awareness and inner knowing.
Eric Hoffer put forward that an organization is a cult if the vigor of an organization stems from the propensity of its followers for united action and self- sacrifice, best summarized in his own words:
"The chief preoccupation of a mass movement (cult) is to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice..... any group or organization which tries, for one reason or another, to create and maintain compact unity and a constant readiness for self-sacrifice usually manifest the peculiarities of a mass movement (cult)".
In contrast, the vigor and growth of Access doesn't depend on its capacity to evoke and satisfy the passion for self-renunciation. Instead it encourages people to generate their priority for self-advancement. Actually, it inspires people to be willing to allow themselves to be first and foremost in their life and stop making anybody else's needs, wants and desires the source for creation. What Access Consciousness does is provide tools and insights that empower people with the awareness of the fact that they perceive, know, be, and receive everything infinitely. Access Consciousness empowers people to know that they always have choice. It is about awareness, choice and possibilities, not exclusion. According to Hoffer, cults cannot do this, because if they do they will destroy themselves if they allow individuals to have self-interest, choice and awareness.
Hoffer stipulates in his book that, "a mass movement is bound to lose much when it relaxes its collective compactness and begins to countenance self-advancement as a legitimate motive of activity... The same is true of religious and revolutionary organizations: whether or not they develop into mass movements depends less on the doctrine they preach and the program they project than on the degree of their preoccupation with unity and the readiness for self-sacrifice."
From this view point, Access Consciousness cannot succeed and accomplish as a cult since it doesn't require people to sacrifice the self or to have a willingness to dissolve the self by losing their individual distinctness in a compact collective whole.
Hoffer stresses that in order to become part of the cult and a compact whole, the cult members have to forego much. The cult requires them to give up privacy, individual judgment, and often individual possessions. They have to become a follower (the true believer) and live their life by the cult leader's point of view.
On the contrary, the Access founder is not interested in collecting followers. He is interested in empowerment and he says that getting others to follow a leader is not leadership. There's a difference between someone who takes charge and someone who is a leader. Cults take charge of your life. A true leader is one who knows where they are going and invites you to come along if you choose. And if you don't choose, it's your choice.
In addition, Access Consciousness cannot successfully propagate as a cult since it encourages people to perceive and to know and to acknowledge that 'No one and nothing is more valuable than your consciousness and your choice and most importantly to never give up your point of view for somebody else'. Access Consciousness does not require you to take the point of view about anything. It does not require you to believe anything. You do not even have to believe the Access Consciousness tools will work in order to learn them and practice them successfully.
It facilitates you to get what your point of view is, since you are the one who knows everything about your life and what's right for your life. Access advises you to only give up your point of view if you see it as a limitation.
Access Consciousness has no answers, only questions. Access Consciousness encourages you to ask: What if the point of view you had didn't have to be a limitation? What if the point of view you had was a possibility?
So... Is Access Consciousness a cult or is it a source of empowerment?