I never intended to join a cult. Like most people, I assumed that cults involved Kool-Aid and Nikes and dangerous madmen who would teach you that suicide was the most direct path to God. Cults were things that happened far away, to other people. People who were nothing like me.
I suppose none of us likes to think of ourselves as cult material. But there is in fact a type, a kind of person who is more susceptible to the influences of groups who may not always be what they first appear. This was the kind of person I suddenly became, just before my thirtieth birthday.
You see, one of the things that makes you susceptible to these kinds of groups is change. It happens all the time to everyone, but certain kinds of change can make you vulnerable. The job of change is to uproot us, to tear us away from the familiar so we can open our minds to the new. But in the space between shedding the old and discovering the new, the path is not always a clear one. Itís easy to be tempted by the illusion of a group that seems to have all the answers that, ultimately, we need to find for ourselves.
For me, the catalyst was the loss of my job. It was such a simple thing, but it unleashed a cascade of reactions that undermined the stable framework of my life. In a very short period of time, I went from being a focused, levelheaded career woman to someone who was very confused about what to do with my life. I suppose I was just lucky that Heavenís Gate didnít find me first.
The group I hooked up with wasnít that bad, of course. There were no suicides, no surrendering of personal assets, no proselytizing on street corners. They would even deny that they were a cultóbut then, people who are in these groups always do.
And at first, it all seemed so perfect. They offered me a wise and charismatic teacher, a loving and supportive community, and a sense of purpose Iíd been sorely lacking. I truly thought this woman and her group were the answer to my problems, the light that would lead me forward into the next phase of my life. And in a way, thatís exactly what they did. It just wasnít at all like I thought it was going to be.
You see, the cult I joined, the guru I found, all that was really just a doorway. They seduced me gently in, then shoved me brutally forward into the depths of real growth, into the white hot fire of transformation that burned away everything Iíd ever known about myself until there was nothing recogniz-able left. It was not at all what I had signed up for. But by the time I discovered what was really going on, it was far too late to turn back.