Herein lies the peace of God.
September 17, 2013 3:27 PM   Subscribe

It was Ben who introduced me to A Course In Miracles. He was part of a self-help group that ran workshops based on a couple of popular New Age spiritual philosophies. Ben credited this group with his ongoing recovery from a mysterious undiagnosed chronic pain and illness, and he encouraged me to embrace it as a cure for whatever it was that caused me to spend so many of my days unable to get out of bed.
"Failing a Course in Miracles," Anne Ouellette, The Toast
posted by Rustic Etruscan (17 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If you reject the world of bullshit, it can feel pretty lonely.
posted by Xoebe at 4:13 PM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

This article describes the culture that exists on about exactly half of the acreage of the islands between Victoria and Port Hardy to the North. I've found it pleasant but un-examined and sometimes vexing.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:16 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think learning that a lot of adults who seem to have their life together are actually faking it is a pretty useful life lesson for a teenager.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:34 PM on September 17, 2013 [15 favorites]

I just came across (from another angle) this bit of research on control and pattern recognition, and it totally explains this particular bit of magical thinking. People who feel desperately out of control in their lives - and none of us have all that much control - will do just about anything to regain a feeling of control, and their perception is actually skewed while they're looking for solutions.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:35 PM on September 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

I once worked in the religion, philosophy and occult section of a big bookstore. I had everything from Boethius to Bigfoot. I was a lowly clerk, but some of the salespeople would still try to work me. The only one creepier and more aggressive than the Course In Miracles guy was the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh salesman. (I still retain "Books I Have Loved", by the latter, in my collection, if only for the discussion of Das Kapital).

I'd go with The Urantia Book, if I were you.
posted by thelonius at 4:41 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you were in your early 20's in the 1970's, you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a cult member in the head. Literally. (Heh.) Interestingly, some of the most intelligent and creative and even skeptical people got sucked in. You can read all about it on the Internet, still.

I'm too embarrassed to name the cult that got me, but at least it was just four years, and I didn't have to wear anything special or follow a bunch of rules. I actually don't regret it, unlike people who got stuck in it for decades. It was the zeitgeist. It was something in the air. After drugs and anti-war marches accomplished a lot less that we had envisioned in 1967, we were ready for either making bombs or worshiping a poontang-obsessed faux Hindu guru.

Of course, cults and religions will always be with us. Rick Ross has a pretty good cult watch website.
posted by kozad at 4:57 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

There was something... I remember meeting a friend from high school, and asking him how he was: "Fine, since I GAVE MY LIFE TO JESUS.*" I grew up in Edmonton, where a bunch of people in my circle were part of the Emissaries of Divine Light. I went to a couple of lectures, but they were so vague I couldn't understand anything they were talking about. One of my friends was very disappointed that I was too stupid to understand. They were a pretty lame cult though.

* the caps are for somber foolishness, not volume.
posted by sneebler at 5:39 PM on September 17, 2013

Oh god, the passive-aggressive airing of grievances under the guise of sharing inner emotions, aaahahahahahah
posted by en forme de poire at 5:43 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

This was a really good read. I don't know if anyone else was disappointed with The Hairpin's summer camp series this summer, but this is what it should have been like.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:52 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am absolutely loving The Toast right now, nearly every article is just delightful. I may not like it, but there's just a really good feel to it.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:27 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

See, I went the other way. As a teenager and into that weird place at about 18-19. I spent a lot of time reading Einstein and various religious books with a soupcon of Philosophy. I did the books of Jewish Law, the Vedas and the Book of Mormon. I ended up in the Quaballah and Crowley as well as Dionne Fortune and their ilk.

I was the guy on the F train hi-lighting parts of Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice.

I was damn serious about it. I took a handful of Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose seeds and read the whole damn book in one night. IT SPOKE TO ME.

I still have a library of books on the mystical quballah and the tree of life. I knew each and every sephiroth by heart. I was doing tarot readings with the Waite-Rider deck and the Thoth deck.

And I almost went crazy. I actually brought the special card from the Thoth deck (designed by Crowley) that protects one from evil to a meeting with a girlfriend's friend because I thought that he might try to mess with my soul. Seriously. No shit.

For a while, while my girlfriend at the time was away I refused to masturbate because I was afraid that it might harm her.

In my dreams I kept seeing a dark presence that wanted to suck my soul.

I got better, thanks.

But this kind of magical thinking is dangerous. Trust me. Or trust the imp that sucks my breath on my chest. ;-)
posted by Splunge at 8:23 PM on September 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'd go with The Urantia Book, if I were you.

Oh man, I was out of town one weekend and when I got back my housemates told me that two Urantia Book People had shown up and needed a couch to stay on. They left a copy of The Book as a token of appreciation. We amused ourselves at dinner for the rest of the semester by reading to each other out of it. I was always sort of disappointed that I hadn't been around to meet them.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:39 PM on September 17, 2013

Rick Ross has a pretty good cult watch website.

I was really hoping this was going to be the other Rick Ross.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:03 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Every time I see things like this where supposedly responsible adults in positions of power and mentorship over teenagers basically ignoring depression and acting like their bullshit can cure it I just feel so angry. I didn't get sucked into a cult, but I did have what should have been obvious signs of mental illness written off by the people who intentionally put themselves in a position where they were supposed to take care of me, and they let me-- a child who didn't know any better-- fall into my own head, my own self-blame. I recognized the feelings of envy for people with "real problems" because they have permission to fuck up and be taken care of from my own experience.

I know it's largely just that I'm still angry about my own experience. But every time I see those particular echoes of my own life in other people's stories it just makes me livid.
posted by NoraReed at 3:24 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you were in your early 20's in the 1970's, you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a cult member in the head. Literally

Unfortunately, it is still not terribly uncommon to run into active cults still suckering folks in. It's not a huge surprise that they attract people with undiagnosed psychological needs at all times in their lives; they're sort of designed to make that their target market.
posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on September 18, 2013

I feel like a person split in two. I am incredibly woo-woo, "karma is real, man!" and other mystical technologies. Stuff can manifest if you work for it, and are lucky. Your mind DOES create your reality. Meditation and mindfulness can change your life. And then I have a line. No one should ever try to control what you think, how you think, or what you feel. And no one is "more equal" than others.

The very art of being human means we are prone to so many errors in thinking, we are born to be brainwashed (ahem "enculturated") and unless we've transcended this human/animal ego, that's just the way it is.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:54 AM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

St. Peepsburg, I still hold a lot of that kind of thinking in my head. But I try to avoid triggering that mindset. Why? Because even though I do not believe in demons and angels anymore, I still understand that the mind can be programed.

Timothy Leary and John Lilly and others wrote and spoke of neuroprogramming back in the 1960s. And yes, it's easy to program your mind to believe in things. Another guy who was into that was Robert Anton Wilson.

But to be honest they all started from Crowley.

Here's a secret. Crowley didn't, ultimately, believe a word that he wrote. He was a showman. And everyone after him is a joker. Discordianism. Bob. It's all an in joke amongst people that like to mess with peoples heads.

Ultimately it's just a huge troll of the world of people who believe in this stuff.

Or is it?
posted by Splunge at 2:16 PM on September 20, 2013

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