Today was my first day back at the co-op after a long 10-day silent meditation retreat (43things entries here) in Onalaska, WA. Oh sweet enlightenment. Almost as sweet as the chicken yakisoba I feasted on with fellow robots while fielding questions on the highlights and lowlights of going off and being by yourself for extended periods of slow-moving time.
Josh mentioned that he went on a 3-day silent Ignatian Retreat back in the day and had a strong religious experience. During my 10 days I didn’t have any religious experiences, but then again, it wasn’t a religious retreat. Mine was more of a systematic dissection of the body and mind… trying to dissolve the gestalt of body and mind into its separate, temporary, independantly motivated and functioning parts. And I had many weird mental and physical experiences that were stranger than most drug experiences I’ve had.
We discussed the fine line between deep, guided, experiences and brainwashing. The techniques for delving into the subconscious and exploring biases, illusions, and ultimate sense of self are eerie and powerful tools that are difficult to trust in strangers’ hands, even in your own hands.
People are naturally interested in the cult phenomenon as it relates to any experiences this far out of the mainstream. Was this retreat an indoctrinization into a cult? It depends on your definition of cult, of which there are many. It implies some strong desire to control its members, usually to the leader’s benefit and the members’ cost. I could find no strong cost aspect in this particular organization… could giving money to an organization that encourages striving for happiness in all beings really be any worse than giving money to organizations that produce products of any other kind? Are people not just as brainwashed by advertising, cultural pressures, employers, families, and fashion?
I expressed interest in possibly going again. Eric expressed a conclusion that it had then “worked”. Josh then asked, “Will you pay next time?” I said no but really I meant maybe. Next up, the landmark forum. THEN maybe we can have a real conversation about cults.