How a cult member changed the course of my life
I don’t think I’ve told this story before (not that it’s a big drama), except to my husband and maybe to one sister. I had put it out of my mind all this time, but last night it resurfaced, probably because of how troubling I find the cult-like characteristics that are now found in so many social communities.
Especially during the pandemic, cult-like, all-or-nothing thinking has taken over such divergent communities as 2A proponents, anti-vaxxers, virus deniers, white supremacists, Trump followers, evangelical Christians, yoga communities, wellness affiliates, and multilevel marketing communities.
I’ve been sent article after article, video after video, from friends and family, which question the science behind the pandemic’s emergence, how the deaths are counted, whether or not the virus causes illness, masking vs. anti-masking. Later these topics merged with politics. During the heat of the election, the same people who were questioning science became suspicious of the whole election process…anticipating (with Donald Trump’s helpful assertions) that the election would be stolen because more voters were being accommodated during the pandemic.
Those two streams of thinking also incorporate, to a greater or lesser degree, end-times predictions and charismatic Christian ideas.
Thus, my hair often stood on end as I detected the cult-like characteristics I was seeing in my loved ones. I have always been wary of cults, wary of “charismatic” persons, and wary of anything approaching the dark arts.
In the past few years, I have shared thoughts about a few experiences approaching the paranormal, but I hold them at a distance, do not get emotionally invested, and I don’t seek to “understand” or re-experience them. It just is what it is, in my view.
But I had completely forgotten about this one university professor who had started to express very close interest in me. He gave me compliments that were, mostly, not warranted. He put me at the head of class, told me about opportunities outside of class, and gave me more attention than anyone else.
One day he asked me to stay behind after class and gave me a flyer about an event, like a picnic. He was in a power position as my teacher, and I was feeling pressure. I took the flyer and said I’d think about it.
The flyer was about Eckankar. Whoever heard of that? Even today it is a rather obscure entity. Somehow, (and this was long before the internet, but I was a good researcher) I found out about them, that it was probably a cult.
I skipped class. Then he turned up in a few unexpected places. I ignored him. I dropped his class and stopped going to campus. I would walk all the way around the campus to get to my apartment from work, just to avoid being there. That ruined my first college career.
I feel that today, a young person could tell her department administrators about such incidents and that the professor would be admonished. At least, I hope so. Back then, I was on my own, and that’s how I handled it.