I came across this article the other day in my Facebook newsfeed and wanted to scream with rage when I read it. I honestly don’t know if the article is being true to the actual philosophy of Karma or if it’s just a botched up amateur version of a complex idea, but the amount of bullshit is astounding.
Once the rage settled a little, I realized it’s also a really good example of cultic thinking. I want to use it as a teaching tool–kind of like those practice sheets you get in English class that ask you to go through and circle grammatical mistakes. If you like how this works, let me know. I’m considering making it a series and would be happy to comb through more articles and videos to give you all some practice.
To test your cult radar, first read the linked article and see if you can pick out the cultic teachings, then come back here and compare your answers.
The laws given in the article sound sweet on the surface. They seem to promise people control of their lives, the ability to gain everything they want, and perfect peace and happiness.
It sounds almost like magic!
Whatever we put out in the Universe is what comes back to us.
Except that underneath all that surgery positive speech are three warning flags for a cult: thought control, emotional control, and victim-blaming.
If what we see is an enemy, or someone with a character trait that we find to be negative, then we ourselves are not focused on a higher level of existence. -Law of Humility
Sounds like a nice little admonition not to judge, right? Except that instead of just encouraging tolerance of differences, this law dictates outright suspending judgment in order to be “spiritual.” Critical thinking becomes a karmic sin.
If that still doesn’t sound bad to you, think about all of the times that you use your judgment to determine when someone is trustworthy or when someone is dangerous. There’s more involved here than merely letting other people live their lives. It doesn’t leave any room for using judgment to protect ourselves from the malevolence or destructive behavior of others.
But that’s not the whole of this law. What you can’t think about, you can’t speak about, so in addition to censoring thoughts, this law also acts to silence victims.
Looking backward to examine what was, prevents us from being totally in the HERE AND NOW. -Law of the Here and Now
Oh such a positive message about not getting stuck in the past! /sarcasm
I’ve seen this one floating around a little bit, and it never quite makes sense to me. It’s not only dangerous, it’s downright dumb. Our past is what got us to our present. It has lessons to teach us for the future. You might as well cut off your head because it doesn’t walk the road for you!
Looking back is healthy. It gives you a chance to assess your life, the good and the bad. It’s necessary for a healthy life. As with most cultic teachings, you can see a grain of truth in the statement. You do want to live in the present, but living in the present doesn’t require you to cut off your past.
If what we want is Happiness, Peace, Love, Friendship… Then we should BE Happy, Peaceful, Loving and a True Friend. -The Great Law
Initially, this one sounds pretty good. It doesn’t say anything outright about suppressing emotions. However, the implication is that these emotions (peace, love, happiness) are the only ones acceptable and that they have to be deliberately pursued. A limited range of emotions becomes the goal.
Why is that bad? Let’s take a look at the next quote.
When our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is impossible for us to have lower thoughts such as greed or anger. -Law of Focus
This one is more obvious about the emotional censoring. I could focus on the irritating way that they fuse a motivation (greed) with an emotion (anger), but I think it’s far more important to talk about “negative emotions.”
Grief, anger, fear, worry—they’re not fun, but they are essential to a healthy soul. Emotions are the psyche’s way of alerting us to what is happening. They are neither thoughts nor goals. They are merely signals.
Suppressing an emotion is like disabling the check engine light in a car because you want the car to be “healthy.” Just because the light doesn’t bother you after you disable it doesn’t mean that the problems aren’t there. If you disable the signal, you miss the chance to address the cause of the signal.
Can you see how this could be a means of censoring thoughts too?
Cutting you off from emotions cuts you off from your full human experience. Cults can’t keep and control members who are whole. They have to pare people down to the thoughts, emotions, and desires that keep them malleable, which means that fear and guilt are exploited (if you commit this karmic sin, you’ll have bad things happen to you) while anger and doubt are demonized. Whenever you see a “spiritual” message that says anything about cutting out an emotion or thought in order to be more spiritual, sirens should go off in your head immediately.
Would you believe that it’s not just for sexism? 😉
Victim-blaming isn’t unique to cults, but it is their favorite tool. To make people want to change in such a destructive way, you have to first convince them that they are bad.
Whatever we put out in the Universe is what comes back to us. -The Great Law
Remember this one from the beginning? Did you catch the victim-blaming?
This phrase could actually fit into the thought control category too because it requires some serious suspension of logic to believe that in a world of billions of people who all have free will, only your actions have an effect on you. However, I place it here because the more sinister message is that you cause your own circumstances.
So, if you happen to get laid off or get cancer, it must be because you are reaping your karmic payback. Or if you are raped, beaten, molested, kidnapped, caught in a tornado, or electrocuted by lightning, it must be because of something you did to attract that.
Whenever there is something wrong in my life, there is something wrong in me. -Law of Responsibility
Just in case the previous law wasn’t clear enough, they’ll throw this one in too. So again, if you get laid off or get cancer, it’s because you’re bad. If you are raped, beaten, molested, kidnapped, caught in a tornado, or electrocuted by lightning, it must be because there’s something wrong with you.
Not with your abuser. Or the economy. Or nature.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the problematic teachings in the article, so feel free to comment with another if you feel like that kid in class who is jumping out of his/her seat with a raised hand.
If you picked up on these without my help, good job! Make use of that perception. It will protect you from manipulative people.
If you were surprised to see that there could be any negative interpretation of these karmic laws, you might want to educate yourself a bit more on cultic or manipulative tactics.
As a disclaimer, I’d like to say that just because I used this as an example of cultic thinking doesn’t mean I think that the author or the site is necessarily part of a cult. The laws could just be ill-thought, overly simplistic, or badly written . . . or they could be a warning of something deeper. That’s why I’m giving you practice with spotting red flags, wherever you may find them. They are a symptom that should alert you to be careful and use your critical thinking (you know, the thing that was condemned in the Law of Humility).