Simi Olurin ’19

Most of us know what a cult is an all-consuming collective of individuals that is capable of not only corrupting its members, but of successfully crippling one’s ability to think for himself or herself. We’ve heard of the Manson family as well as Scientology, and I’m sure that we all believe that we would never be as susceptible as others to the brainwashing tactics the cult leaders employ. However, I’m positive that many cult members believed that they too were strong enough to withstand the influence of the higher-ups, so how can we be sure that we ourselves are strong enough?

I decided to investigate my own strength.

This is the story of my infiltration of a cult, and the stories from within.

 

I won’t go into details about the particular cult I was a part of, but let’s just say that it’s very close to all of us, and a couple times a year, they become the busiest bees in the area. And I’ll give credit where credit is due–the methods they employ to keep people dependent actually take an extreme level of talent.

I actually wound up within the cult through a pretty standard mode of entry:

About a year ago, I found myself in need of an escape route from another cult-like institution for which I was not equipped. Although the refuge was not necessarily my first choice, it provided the alternative that I needed to meet the requirements of the establishment. The initiation process required me to demonstrate my value in various scenarios, and although I was surrounded by others who were also hopeful, potential entrants, I soon found out that many of them had not made the cut.

My first year entailed frequent meetings with the other cult members in locations that were hidden from the public eye and often times under the cover of night. I would be there for hours despite not being completely certain of what exactly my role was. I would speak for maybe ten minutes total over a period of three hours, then I would be released into the world, simply wondering what my purpose at the meeting had been.

The more meetings I went to, the more comfortable the more senior members of the cult became with my presence within their ranks. Slowly, they began interacting with me more, informing me on the history of the organization, most likely to make me feel as though I was one of them now; they were hoping I’d be more open to allowing them to burrow themselves within my psyche.

I refused.

Meetings soon became much more frequent.  They started placing more responsibilities on me in order to draw me in (despite my immunity), and there was a continued stress on all of the members to remember their roles and do their best to stay within their roles. I knew when I entered the cult that many of their demands would be extreme and time-consuming, but nothing could have prepared me for their most powerful tool to keep people within their ranks.

The Ritual.

It happened several nights, but the first one was the most captivating. As all of the members, myself included, stood in close quarters– again hidden from the public eye. The leader emerged from an unknown location and breezed into the center with a profound grace that I had never before experienced. The leader revealed a parchment to us that he claimed was extremely special; in order to maintain my position as an objective observer within their ranks, I reminded myself of all of the “special” moments they had previously told me about. All of which, I might add, did not even warrant the title of “mediocre.”

But everything changed as he began to read.

Never in my life have I heard a speech delivered with such passion, such conviction, with a cadence that nearly lifted my own soul out of my body to dance with those of the people around me. I was moved. For the first time since I was around seven-years-old, a tear formed in the corner of my eye, and I would have quickly wiped it away so that no one saw, but a greater problem consumed me: I was paralyzed.

I tried to move my arms, but they did not diverge from my sides. My feet felt as though they were stapled to the floor. The only movement I was able to make was the rolling of my eyes, and thank goodness that had worked.  Rolling my eyes had outwardly convinced the others that I had not fallen for their trap, but if they had known the truth, had known how utterly moved I was, I’m positive that they would have pounced on my vulnerability.

And such a strategy would have fully pulled me in.

I escaped my first year. However, I had barely escaped. When I returned the next year, I was much more aloof in order to protect myself.

However, I found that my soul was in no danger of belonging to this cult the second I deciphered their strategy for recruiting new members.

 

…To be Continued…