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An empty head is not really empty;
it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty
of forcing anything into an empty head
               Eric Hoffer

Cults: Never Ending Information

In the previous section I made reference to continuous, ongoing information. When you graduate college, the university hands you a diploma, shakes your hand, says "You're now qualified, have a nice life, go out and make yourself some money" and shows you the door.

Your money paid, service rendered, you are on your own. What's more, you don't pay the school any more tuition and your degree can never be revoked. Any professional licensing and certification fees are  paid to the state or a state mandated/regulated organization, not to the university. Continuing education to keep up with changes and findings in the field are constant but from sources other than the university.

With cults, however, you are on an endless hamster wheel of new information. The cult  is not only the university, but it is the regulating and certifying  organization as well as the source of continuing education. It is an organization, incidentally, that has no credibility or accreditation outside itself. Needless to say accountability is definitely missing. As is reliability of information. And that is where the hustle of new information comes in.

You will be barraged with either out-and-out new stuff or new deeper teachings -- usually of things you were already supposed to know -- every few months. Here is were the concept of a fantasy being both complex and sophisticated comes into being. You will get lost in the details of the fantasy. In the name of learning the depths of the system, the information becomes both more focused and --  truth be told --  more trivial. The depths of the system, you learn 5,000 variations of the same technique (which if the move doesn't work in the first place, is a complete waste of time). Nothing new is introduced, it is the same information from the same limited source, just  rehashed and repackaged. If something new is introduced, it is carefully filtered and packaged to appear to have been in the system all along. Unfortunately, this filtering often renders it both incomplete and  ineffective.  

Unlike college, you don't get to graduate. You are on a treadmill of never ending information. The bottom line is you must continue to pay for this new, never ending-- and questionable -- information. And who is to say different? A cult is answerable to no one except itself. There are no outside regulatory or accreditation organizations who can identify this new information as either bogus or rehashed. The only source of information is the cult itself. And to quote an old joke "You know how dem sheep lie"

I'd like to more fully explore a point I mention a few moments ago. It is interesting to note  how often new revealed knowledge  looks like something else, but dressed up in the system's clothing. As an example, during the grappling craze, we actually encountered a Tae Kwon Do school who claimed to be teaching the ancient and secret grappling aspect of Tae Kwon Do. Dianna who had been in TKD for ten years by that time had never heard of of this hidden aspect of Tae Kwon Do. You'd think after ten years she'd might have even heard a rumor. What was most astounding was how closely this "ancient Korean system" resembled BJJ. (A little while later, the instructor suddenly and mysteriously acquired a ranking in Jujitsu. Taking one look at the degree on the wall Marc` immediately recognized it as a mail-order grappling/video/certification program). Amazingly enough, a ranking in grappling became a black belt requirement for that particular school.

In general the Master picks up a new trick somewhere, tweaks it slightly and  feeds it to the rank and file as "advanced" or the "depths" of the system. If you have been around such an organization long enough you will be able to track the changes according to trends in the MA/SD world. You can watch the program change and evolve to meet new marketing expectations. But to the new members "it has always been in the system."  But no matter how long its been in the teachings, there will always be something new to learn -- and to pay for.

There is another point of interest about this never-ending cycle of information. You will never surpass the Master; the source of this ever growing, more and more esoteric wisdom . No matter how high up the mountain you go, the Master will always be ahead of you handing down  more of his revealed teachings about the system.

The credibility of this new information, is extremely questionable. This is revealed in one simple question: Where'd this new information come from? We ask this because the Master never receives any additional training in his system. He can't without losing status. But how realistic is that?  We cannot think of another business where continuing education, seminars, business conferences, workshops and tradeshows are not attended by leaders. They do this to stay abreast with current business trends and developments in their field. So if he isn't going back to his instructor or  to outside sources, where is this this new information coming from? Is he making it up? If he is figuring it out, is he field testing it?  It's affiliation with the system is questionable. Yet it is being presented as part of the curriculum you must follow to learn "the system."

 The usual response is that it was an advanced teaching from his instructor. However, this begs another question: How is that he studied with his Master, for less time than many of his students have been with him, and yet, somehow constantly comes up with new revealed wisdom from that time? 

Are we to believe that in five years of study, this mythical grandmaster imparted 30 years of cosmic wisdom, martial arts prowess and 27 levels of secret teachings? How much information can one really impart in such a short time of study? Or is it more feasible that the new master is pirating or making stuff up and attributing it to his teacher? While we're in this neighborhood, how is it someone in the military can study with an Oriental master and achieve a black belt in the usual tour of duty, namely a year to a year and a half?  How much can you really learn in a year and a half?

Having said this about the advanced teachings, however, an important point about cults is that often they are based on  legitimate knowledge -- initially at least. That is to say it is either an established system or it is some pretty good stuff that has been compiled by the Master. Let's say that again, it is important: The introductory stuff works. That's the hook. Where you get reeled in though is with what comes afterwards. The continuing levels of information gets shakier and shakier, and often more and more outrageous. This is where you get into the "Celestial- Orangutan-on- Steroids -Dim-Mak- Touch-of-Death" technique. A move so complicated and unrealistic that the only chance for success would be if you were fighting a mannequin, not a resisting opponent. However, after being ensorcelled by both good basics and the cult mindset, at this point, the cultee is ready to believe anything, no matter how outrageous.

 What do we mean by ensorcelled? These new revealed truths replaces old revealed truths. What is interesting is how the new information supercedes the old new information... but  is still based on ancient warrior ways... which although they were obsolete and no longer effective, have been modernized so they work in the streets. If this sounds absolutely foolish, you're right. However, to someone who is entrenched in the groupthink of a cult it's not. They are offended if you don't accept their contention that the lead balloon can fly. Instead of risking the chance that their lead balloon proves to be less than aerodynamic they will revert to the behaviors described in the Why do we say Cults? section to kick up dust and change the subject.

When the thinking has become so circular that it is outrageous and seemingly psychotic, look for the money trail. That twisted circular logic will translate into one's gonna cost you. You either have to pay more money to remain "certified in the new system" or you will have to work off the cost of your new training by donating time/labor with the running of the organization. Along with this the old standards suddenly change and you will be expected to meet the new standards. As an example, we've encountered schools where to achieve a black belt in a hard style fighting system you also have to have attained at least a green belt in a grappling system. A grappling system that the school conveniently teaches as well. Speaking with older black belts, this had not been a requirement when they were coming up through the ranks.

The common denominator of all this is simple: Vague ideals will somehow always mutate to keep you paying or donating. Although they promise you that everything you will ever need to be an uber-warrior will be conveniently provided for you, like a cat chasing its own tail, just when it seems you about to catch it, the object of your desires will always be pulled out of your reach.

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