11 January 2010

Cult leaders and cult followers

We have previously discussed cults spiritual, therapeutic and political, and identified a common thread in that their leaders are without exception people on a "no-ego ego trip" - i.e. identifying their own ego with objective reality. But I don't think we've mentioned before that the kind of people who join a cult - and stick with it - tend to be those people who aspire to that very status, of getting an ego trip by pretending not to have an ego. Which is how cults reproduce - if it was simply a vampiric, exploitative relationship there would be no benefit to sticking with a cult. But even being the hatchet man for a cult leader, or even a lowly but valued foot-soldier, is an acceptable Identity/Ego/nafs if you don't have anything better to do with your life. "Each heavenly body gotta have its moons", as Peter Hammill put it.

But what are we to make of the "epigone" phenomenon - where the main followers of a great teacher or Master end up running her teachings into the ground in service of their own ego? It happened to the prophets Jesus and Mohammed, to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, and ugly rumour has it it's happening to Robert Fripp. Perhaps we can argue that in the Real World of Horrible Jobs, "enlightenment", or whatever you call it when a window in your head opens and you hear the angels blowing their trumpets through it, is not transmittable. If someone doesn't get there for themselves, then no matter how accurately a Master of whatever path explains it, they will inevitably fuck it up. You can't get there unless you get there for yourself. For spiritual teachers, you have to try to emulate how they got there, not just their teachings; for the masters of craft or political theory, you have to use their methodology, not only their conclusions. Gnosis - direct experience - is the only thing that actually works. Sucking the finger won't help, you have to go where it points yourself.