This chapter describes my gradual disillusionment with the spiritual group that I belonged to. I’ll introduce this portion of the chapter by using a quote from Steve Hassan’s book Combatting Cult Mind Control, which might additionally help explain what I was going through:
“Given freedom of choice, people will predictably always choose what they believe is best for them. However, the ethical criteria for determining what is “best” should be one’s own, not someone else’s. In a mind control environment freedom of choice is the first thing that one loses. The reason for that loss is essentially simple: the cult member is no longer operating as himself. He has a new artificial cult identity structure, which includes new beliefs and a new language. The cult leaders’ doctrine becomes the master “map” for reality of the new cult member. A member of a mind control cult is at war with himself. . . . . he has two identities.”
For the next year or so, my journals express deep feelings of discontent and discomfort about Limori, her teachings and my place in her world. I wrote that I felt “trapped to be a certain something that someone else defines”. I even went as far as observing that any complaints I or anyone else in the group ever had about Limori’s spiritual techniques, practices and teachings were always made out to be the fault of the complainer. I confessed to myself that I’d noticed that whenever anyone questioned Limori’s motives they were always told that they were “in their ego”.
The fact that I was willing to even express these thoughts is a testament to the amount of pain I was in. Under no other circumstances would I have had the courage to think, let alone write down, thoughts such as these – I was, after all, questioning God himself, or so I believed.
My journals from this time are filled with the cyclical mind-control techniques that I will later (once I leave the group) understand as thought-terminating clichés.
Even though my journals are private and no one ever sees them but me, I very hesitantly and in a very cloaked and cautious way express feelings of doubt about Limori and what she is teaching. I can hardly admit to myself that I am doubting that her group is the right place for me. But as soon as I do get close to a feeling like that, I immediately stop it, using group language and clichés.
For example, here is a direct quote from my journal, from November 1993: “I shouldn’t participate in something that doesn’t feel right. But it is my ego that doesn’t feel right.” (I experience a serious case of mental whiplash when I read that now.) I am telling myself that if it feels wrong to participate in the group, it is my ego that is rebelling against what I’m being taught. If I am uncomfortable, it is my fault and no one else’s. The implied message is, if I leave the group I’m giving in to my ego and that would be turning my back on God and serving the devil.
Part of my struggle was reflected in the fact that I had come to a place where I realized that I would never recommend Limori’s meditation group to anyone. That was something that tore at me for years and I even mentioned it to Michael at one point.
“I wouldn’t recommend this path to anyone,” I said to him one day, as we shared lunch at a café near his office. I used the words “this path” to avoid pointing fingers at Limori specifically, something I was not yet nearly courageous enough to do out loud.
“Why not?” he asked, chewing thoughtfully.
“It’s too hard,” I answered, but even in that moment, as mind-controlled as I was, I knew my answer was a cop-out and didn’t come close to expressing what I really felt.
What I wanted to say was, “The way Limori talks about love but acts so cruelly seems hypocritical to me. I think her teaching methods of yelling at us and ostracizing people for things she says she sees in visions or hears from the spirits could be considered to be abusive. And the worst part is, she’s using God’s name to do it. Doesn’t that seem like the pinnacle of hypocrisy?”
That was the truth of my experience but I couldn’t say it, and if someone had asked me at the time if that was what I felt I would have vehemently denied it. It was too risky to think and feel that I might disagree with how Limori taught. Who was I to question her methods?
Michael was quick to use group rhetoric and thought-stopping clichés of his own to respond to my lame-ass answer, but he would have used these even if I’d told him the full truth of how I felt. “It’s just your ego that doesn’t like the challenge and the difficulty of working for God,” he said. “If it was easy there wouldn’t be any point to it. It’s the hard parts that make it a worthwhile fight. That way, we know we’re making a difference in the world and in the universe.”
Like a good disciple, I shut up and ate my sandwich.