The fact is that anything at all which deviates from the commonly accepted standards of the society is going to be called a “cult”, even though the whole humanity consists of so many cults. But ordinarily, what is more commonly accepted, you do not call it a “cult”. Nobody has ever heard of somebody calling the democratic party a cult, or communists a cult, even though they are just as much cults as anything else.
[B]What is important is not whether something is a “cult” or not, but whether any group or community consists of individuals who are conscious and awake[/B].[/QUOTE]
I agree with the first part, but the bolded part needs further explanation Because there are levels of consciousness, and awareness. (I am not using your word, awake, as the term is more black and white - awarness can have limits and extent, awakenness less so) So what is the level of consciusness what could differentiate between a group being cultist, or not ? And from the relativism of this level, we could arrive to the idea, that perhaps not this level is really important, but … the relation of the individual to the group he/she has chosen to be part of. And based on the freedom of this choice, what, by the way, should be a constant, ever renewing one, meaning that the individual should scrutinize from time to time his/her appartenence to the group, his/her motives, reasons, expectations and renew his/her adherence to the group. If we put up this requirement, that of being able to discern, form judgement on his/her own, and relate freely to the group based on a conviction based on understanding, than sadly, we must admit your conclusion, that each of us are, at least partially, and in various domains of our lives, cultists. Or, at least, we are so, to the extent of our acceptance of the social, familial, ethnic, gender based limitations, without ever questioning them. Did you ever thought about how being a man, or a woman is actually being a member of a cult ? That there are travesties, shows, that this is not a biological limitation, but very much an assumed, accepted, enacted role of membership. Yet so many times I find that perhaps as a response to centuries of patristic dogmatism, proponents of the Goddess emerge with a strong feminist verve, and I have to question myself … on what level does this opposition takes really place ?
Aside from philosophycal depths, being part of a cult, as I have witnessed it from the inside, assumes, that there is a certain set of axioma, or dogma; rules and believes the group accepts without ever questioning them. Usually these cults are built on the trinity of Master, Way, and Community. There is a Master, a leader, whom is accepted by the members of the group as their leader based on his/her wisdom, strenght, charisma, whose guidance is usually is unquestioned, what leads to the Way, on what the member is expected to advance, and there is the fraternity with other likeminded individuals. All this to work, certain disposition of the members, disciples have to be present; one must be able to accept or admit, that there can be individuals better than myself, and not just marginally, but by a measure so great that my own comprehension fails justifying his/her actions. This leads usually to the Master being withdrawn, and granting audiences and personal guidance, but this is performed in relative secrecy. Discussion of what takes place in this seclusion is discouraged. It also takes a certain level of zeal, to believe that what we desire the most must be true, leading to the prejudice that the members of the group are elect and select (the chosen), better than others, the unitiated. These gropus seek to differentiate themselves from the gentiles, or lay people by clothing, various rituals, diet, and so on. Now, there is place for error even in the most genuine and well intentioned groups, or schools, so the above things do not suffice in the asessment of the real value of such a group or cult.
Yet, the more present and emphasised are the external aspects of the Master, the Way, and the Community, the more we can assume the lack of the inner, more meaningful qualities.
There was a time, when humanity was led entirely by superhuman figures (avatars), but this is no longer the case, and it’s examples today can be deemed atavistic. The time now is for smaller yet more strong communities, created by free and strong in themselves individuals. Not being born from a personal weakness to be led, but from the strong personal will to perform service of humanity. There still are and always will be more advanced individuals, but they know the best, that the time of authority has passed, the time of the law has passed, and the time for love, comprehension, and free search for the divine has come. In this context, the Master cannot be but a partner, at most. The rteal Mater will not command, but He will ask you for help. And indeed, what can be more motivating, inspiring, than there is really need even for our limted powers ?