Oaths of Silence

Discussion in 'Alternative' started by Peggy, Apr 30, 2004.

  1. Peggy

    Peggy New Member

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    Greetings. I am new to the forum. It appears that everyone here is respectful to one another, which is my comfort in joining this forum.

    Most major religions seem to be open and willing to be scrutinized, but there are others that are very protective of their "knowledge" and "understanding." When I look at history, at least from my prospective, religious groups that require a level of secrecy, particularly in the introduction stage, turn out to be cults. ex. Nazism, Wicca, Heavens Gate, Jonestown, David Kiresh, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormans. (These are my examples and I mean offense to no one).

    Some of these examples have ended with great loss of life and/or survivors who need "deprograming" before they can reenter their normal lives. Many of them use brainwashing techniques, starting with limited information and expressing acceptance of the person as they progressively accept each new piece of information. Ultimately providing a comfort zone and a sense of belonging to the person. However, if the person was given full disclosure, for close scrutinization, to make a more educated decision, may never accept the concepts presented to them. If they are fully informed and do accept them, it is then by their own free will.

    Cognitive Dissonance: The tension of dissonance motivates us to change either our behavior or attitude.

    So, my question is, why all the secrets?
     
  2. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Hm, I'm not sure why Nazism is classed a religion, nor why wicca, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons are held to be especially secretive.

    I think your post does highlight a very important question, though - what is a cult?

    Perhaps when we can answer that, we can answer your question better. :)
     
  3. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I can do some dispelling about counting Wicca in that list.

    I'm a Wiccan. I've been actively practing now for over twenty years.

    Wicca is not structured around the idea of a central authority. We do not have a holy scripture. Our "Book of Shadows" is a personal book that each person writes themselves and freely changes. It's been that way since Gerald Gardner, who is believed to be the first Wiccan. (Ronald Hutton's book "The Triumph of the Moon" is an excellent historical study of the influences that lead up to Gerald Gardner and Wicca. Many Wiccans today consider this particular book the best on the topic right now.)

    Wicca does not have a leader like a Pope either. Many covens do have high priests and/or high priestesses, and some covens do associate together in what we call "traditions" ("denominations" in other religions.) The authority of a high priest or high priestess does not go outside the specific coven or tradition. There are many many different traditions, and many covens that operate independent of all others. Covens also tend to be quite small, usually keeping membership to thirteen people or fewer. We are also a religion with a high incidence of solitary practitioners who are not formally associated with any coven or group. Autonomy and independence are very much fundamental ideas within Wicca.

    One of our influential writers, Isaac Bonewits, published a checklist he calls his "cult danger evaluation frame" back in 1979. It's been widely disseminated within the Wiccan and wider Pagan community since then. Check it out -- it's on Isaac's website at http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html In my twenty years as an active Wiccan I've always encouraged newcomers to become familiar with the checklist and use it to evaluate groups they might be investigating. I know there are many others who also encourage cult awareness because those outside Wicca know so little about us and frequently lump us in with cults like Jim Jones' group, etc.

    It is true that in the early years of Wicca (the 1940s up until the late 1960s) people who joined were frequently required to take oaths including an oath of secrecy at initiation. This was more about trying to ensure confidentiality about who was Wiccan, kind of like the unwritten agreement in the gay and lesbian community that it's not nice to "out" others. It's still true that being public about being Wiccan can result in losing jobs, children being taken away, and even worse in some places. Thankfully, in some places it's also easier than ever to live openly as a Wiccan.

    There aren't really any secrets about what Wiccans think or do as everything is in print now and has been since the early 1970s. The only real secrets are about what specific groups or individuals choose to do -- many feel it's no one's business but their own which of the many published practices are the ones they decide to include in their own spiritual routine. I would think it is a bit presumtuous to expect a particular Roman Catholic to provide a full account of what saints they pray to, how they pray, when, where, why, etc. too. I'm not their priest after all. Wiccans are likely to feel the same about those sorts of questions, only feeling comfortable giving a full account of their personal spiritual life to those they consider spiritual elders or counsellors. Some individuals and groups, though, are very open about what they believe and do and keep nothing secret.
     
  4. Peggy

    Peggy New Member

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    Define "Cult"

    I, Brian,

    Thank you for your response. With respect and humility I offer the following definitions and my observations of them. As you will see, I don’t make much of a distinction between Cult and Religion. The definitions use a lot of negative vs. positive wording, depending on what is being defined.

    My observations are in blue print. The definitions for “Religion” are at the end of this post for comparative purposes. Definitions are from www.dictionary.com

    Cult:

    1.
    a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
    b. The followers of such a religion or sect.

    Cult is referred to as a religion. Compare “extremist or false” with the 4th definition of Religion, “zeal or conscientious devotion.” Negative vs. positive wording. We could argue that anyone who is devoted to anything, be it a supreme being, a system, science, etc. could be, by a large poll of the population, considered to be living in unconventional ways. Compare “…under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader…” with 3rd definition of Religion, “…based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.” Again negative vs. positive wording.

    I have heard many speakers. For this exercise I will refer to Charles Manson and those who are devoted to what most people would consider respectable religions. They range in character from hardly-noticeable to someone-who-speaks-with-authority to very-charismatic. None of these characteristics makes any of them good or bad. Part of what separated Charles Manson was his charisma, which by it’s very definition can be characterized as the ability to manipulate (influence, control, charm) others, combined with his mental illness, and the willingness (brainwashing) of his followers. But then again, isn’t that what a lot of religions do? Do they not gently influence, persuade, or manipulate a member to accept and conform to the rules, system, method, values, practices, etc?


    2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

    Compare with 3rd definition of Religion, “A set of beliefs, values, and practices…” Pretty close to saying the same thing with different words.

    3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

    Compare with 1st definition of Religion, “…institutionalized system …” This could be any place or system of worship.

    4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

    Compare …“nonscientific method or regimen…” with 1st definition of Religion, “Belief in and reverence for…” Simply knowledge vs. faith. Compare “…claimed by its originator…” with 3rd definition of Religion, “teachings of a spiritual leader.” Every religion and cult was started by humans with claims or teachings of one form or another. As far as having power to cure disease, I couldn’t begin to list the churches (or whatever you want to call them) that claim to possess that power.

    5.
    a. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
    b. The object of such devotion.

    Compare “Obsessive” with the 4th definition of Religion, “…zeal…” Negative vs. positive wording. Compare “…devotion to or veneration for…” with the 1st definition of Religion, “Belief in and reverence for…” Says the same thing in different words. Compare “person, principle, or thing…” with the 1st definition of Religion, “…a supernatural power or powers…”. Some religions assert that humans are gods or supernatural beings. Others assert that we are at war with principalities. Still others bow down and worship objects made by human hands.

    6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.
    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use these very words to define just about every Religion or Cult…Club, Association, Relationship, Partnership, Business….

    Religion:

    1.
    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
    b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

    2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

    3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

    4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

    Now, before you think me a cold-hearted wench with no conscience let me assure you that I do understand the difference between what the world considers to be cult and religion. Cult as having a negative impact on one’s life and religion as having a positive impact. I also understand that many additional comparisons could be made between the two. What I can’t get my mind around is the fact that millions have been slaughtered because of their faith, be it cult or religion, in the name of another faith. Many have endured severe abuse in the name of their faith, often at the hands of one of their own. But on the other hand, most religions, and many cults, teach an underlying “be a good person” philosophy.
     
  5. Peggy

    Peggy New Member

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    Thank you

    Thank you for your response, I have been doing a lot of reading, but it appears that I need more time to assimilate it all. Thanks for the link and your gentleness.
     

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