Cult or not

Oldie but useful/amusing

This is saved content from my former Authentic Europe website. With these connection and presence based practices of Authentic Relating, there was a rapid growth of starry-eyed glowing people babbling in special language, confusing and concerning others.

I ended up writing a piece arguing both sides, so that people could judge themselves, and that they could at least know we knew we were starry-eyed and babbling in special language :-).

Interestingly, this piece seemed to upset new members of our (non-)cult especially, whereas all the core staff and old-hands of the Authentic Relating domain, especially Decker, just loved the self-inquiry and honouring of our quirkiness from the outer perspective.

I still think this is an useful introspection for when you think you might be in a cult or even might consider you could be running one (accidentally) :-).

With kind regards,

Wouter (now checking out other “cults” quite likely)

Cult or not?

The question whether Authentic Europe/Authentic World/…; is a ‘cult’ comes up every once in a while. It is an important question to ask, to yourself and to us. Here are some of the arguments I (Wouter) have why this is and isn’t a cult.

What is a cult?

First, let’s get shared reality on what we we are talking about when we use the word ‘cult’.
The Oxford dictionary contains a few definitions of a cult. The one we’re going to use is “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members”.

Cult

Authentic Europe is relatively small, so that part fits. I wouldn’t say that we have religious beliefs, but we do have “practices regarded by others as strange”. Our practices, games, and even our specific use of language can be seen as strange. “I feel seen” is a good example of ’strange’ language we find normal within Authentic Europe.

Not a cult

We do not impose control over our members. We hold agency, being responsible for one’s own wellbeing and behaviour, core of our views. After all, this is authentic relating, from the existentialist philosophy definition as “relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life”. We emphasise this over and over. The first agreement in workshops is always “Honour self”: taking care of yourself. A core practice is to “own your experience”, a practice that encourages staying with your truth (empowering the speaker) and not putting it on others (sabotaging attempts to influence others).

Cult

People who experience authentic relating tend to want more of that in their life, go hang with the others and do these ‘strange’ practices, attend workshops, even go to the Integral Center in Boulder to train in Circling. These can be significant changes in the social circles one wants to be part of.

Not a cult

As you can see with the vague languaging above, we don’t really have words for who is a member and who is not, who is in-group and who is out-group. This complicates our communication, as it is hard to say that a workshop is filled with a mix of people that are experienced in this way of relating and not, but it also shows that yes you are free to leave any time you want.

Cult

We do share with cults that we are convinced our way is good and we want to spread it. There are moments where that may seem overly zealous and strange to those not used to ‘our way’, much like cult members trying to bring others into the ‘one true way to bliss/salvation/…’.

Not a cult

The integral perspective of “include and transcend” applies here too: we want to share this way of interacting because we think it compliments and extends what is considered normal.

A cult

The speed that intimacy seems to be generated by the authentic relating practices such as the games and Circling, may seem unnatural and you could even think it is manipulative with a hidden agenda. Especially from the old AMP men’s work promotion material, it can seem to be just a cheap pick-up trick ([1], [2]).

Not a cult

Our view that it is actually really natural and authentic for two humans to connect intimately quickly, if they so chose. The practices are there to facilitate this efficiently (and they’ve been honed to be effective). And yes, that takes practice to do and the intimacy reached can be quite scary to experience. Loving someone and being loved, can be scary. I know.

Conclusion

In short: make up your own mind on this. Feel free to try us out, feel free to walk away.

If you do feel that we’re cultish, I would love to hear about it. As you may have gathered, I’d rather have Authentic Europe not be that…

With warm regards,
Wouter