– This piece is a further collection of posts I have been sharing on my Instagram (@demetragray__) about my experience in a spiritual cult. To read the first collection click here.
There is this narrative that people join cults because they are lacking in something. They just want belonging, they have no other meaning, they want to fit in.
But when I joined, I had close friends, an incredible partner, a loving family, my business was 2 years old and had just had its first 10k month. I was happy.
At the same time, I was getting sick of the salesy world of business. I didn’t want to “niche,” I didn’t want to tell people the “problem” I would solve. I was tired, I felt like my body was out of alignment with my work. I felt like more of an artist than a businesswoman, and I didn’t know how to reconcile that in a way where I could still support myself.
So when I found the cult leader, I was enthralled. Here was a woman who taught a completely different way of doing business. She called it “magic, feminine” business. She told everyone she was in service to truth and power. I was so excited. Here was a woman who appeared to be embodying something I had been wishing existed, and she was proving that it worked.
I told her I wanted to work with her, and that I had already also signed up with another “feminine” business coach, with our work supposed to start in a few months. The cult leader told me that I couldn’t work with her if I was going to work with the other woman at the same time. I’d later learn this was one of the rules of the cult – working with others was not allowed (unless they were also in the cult, and sometimes not even then).
At the time this felt reasonable, because I trusted the leader. But now I believe it is because in a cult, the leader can’t run the risk of anybody in the outside world challenging the cult beliefs. Everything hinges on you believing what the leader tells you to believe – about them, about yourself, and about the world.
“I’m just going to undo everything she does with you,” the cult leader said, after she criticized the other woman’s style of business.
I was intrigued. What could this mean, she was going to undo all of it? This must mean she had a really different way of doing things. I was impressed by her confidence, that she might just let me go so easily. Her business seemed successful – and I wanted to be in service to truth, I wanted it more than anything else.
Cult Leader told me, “I think a 1-2 year deep dive would be amazing… Especially with how committed to the feminine you are.”
She said, “I can feel you. And I know devotion when I see it.”
It was like she knew exactly what to say.
I did feel devoted to truth, and devoted to this energy she called the feminine. I wanted to be able to live from this energy and really serve it, this energy that I felt was the same as the energy of the earth. I thought that was what the world needed, more people living from this place. I was flattered that she saw that in me, and I was hooked.
I used to think that there was no “good” and “evil.”
Approval of everything, “getting off on every stroke,” was a OneTaste teaching that was copied by my cult. (And it wasn’t original to OT either, it goes back beyond that as you can read in my cult highlight).
I took this in and even taught it. I loved it because welcoming in taboo things was in my nature. I am curious and had this tendency to want to take what was in the dark and bring it into the light, to bring light into the dark. Loving and accepting everything felt beautiful to me. And I found a healing in accepting the “bad” parts of myself, my own grossness, my wounds.
But what I came to discover was that I was imagining that everyone had the same inherent goodness that I did.
That of course they would not apply this to abusive behaviors. That of course we all know where the line is. I imagined we all shared a similar line. I thought, of course we all have dark and negative parts of us, let’s love and accept them, and we are all reasonable. We all tell the truth, we all just are doing our best.
And this is not true.
When I left the cult something I really struggled with was this way that I had absorbed these teachings, of having approval of everything, being responsible for everything.
But then at the same time I was faced with seeing something, at first on the surface and then to its core, that I could only describe, in my personal opinion, as pure evil.
It actually made me understand Christianity so much more. I had always scoffed at talk of the Devil, laughed about people being afraid of it. And then I was faced with an example of it I could not deny. I was like wow, this is why people talk about the devil.
Because there is evil that exists and it is the opposite of goodness.
I used to say that there is dark and light in all of nature. Eagles tear apart their prey, for example. Tornadoes rip communities to shreds. The dark and light is one and the same, we need to welcome it all in, integrate it all.
But what I realized after leaving the cult, is that the difference is that the darkness of nature is innocent.
There is an inherent innocence in nature.
Which makes it inherently good.
And this innocence does not extend to all humans.
We are nature, and yet we are different from nature in this way.
Some humans know exactly what they are doing. You can say it comes from their trauma, and part of it (and I do believe, only part of it) does. And it also does not matter where it comes from. Because when someone is lacking in this inherent goodness that is where the evil lives. In the lies and manipulation and the lack of conscience and the way that it preys upon the inherent goodness of others.
There is so much room for grayscale thinking… when there is goodness. So many of us do hurtful things that come from trauma. This is not what I am referring to.
Something that is not inherently good needs to feed off of the goodness of others because that’s what it is lacking. It will put on all the different masks. It will appear good and speak as if it were good. It will use the same language and lighten its image. But the core will always be twisted and evil.
It speaks of love, but it does not know love. It speaks of truth, but it does not tell truth.
And I believe that this is what is worth fighting for: the innocence of life.
There are so many forces in our world that try to take advantage of this innocence, this beauty.
And I believe that it is worth standing up for.
During the past two months I have personally spoken to over a dozen women who had negative experiences in the same cult as me.
Almost all of these women had experiences that they would consider to be abusive, some highly so.
It has been really interesting to hear so many stories. The more stories I hear, the more I understand the very similar threads that make up the cult’s web. The consistent types of behavior of the cult leader.
Most of these women have been in therapy for months – if not years – after their exposure to the cult leader.
Let that really sink in. It is not normal to have people need to recover for years after their work with you. And yet, that is what is happening.
Almost all of these women at some point in their journey felt like they were really healing, like this was the best thing they had ever joined. They loved the cult leader and looked down on other people who had left. They believed in what they were doing.
What must it be like to have spent years in something that you thought was you healing… but the entire time to actually have been in something that you then have to heal from?
I thought I was undoing all my trauma. Instead I was becoming disassociated and more and more traumatized, and I had no idea.
People who have been in a relationship with a narcissist often develop PTSD when they leave. Their nervous systems are shot. They often cannot get out of bed or leave their house or be in the dark. It feels worse sometimes to have the abuse be only psychological. There is no moment to point to to say, oh yes, this was the moment when this person hit me. Someone I know said recently that coercive control is like “death by a thousand cuts.” You can’t see it until you zoom out and see the entire picture, and when you do it is absolutely shocking. Your nervous system is a wreck because of the levels of deception and how something can appear to be something it is not.
Most of the women I have spoken to I have had calls with where we talked for hours. Of the emails and messages I’ve received of people simply stating their negative experience there have been many more than a dozen.
Most people are afraid to share their experience with the cult leader publicly because they do not have the energy, time, emotional bandwidth, and/or money to deal with the backlash from the cult leader. And for good reason – the cult leader has even been contacting people who leave a simple comment on negative posts about her. This is what she does. And this keeps other people from knowing what is happening.
I hope that people being afraid to share their experience will stop with me.
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