I‘ve just finished watching Steve Hassan’s interview with Hoyt Richards. Hoyt is a famous model with a long career in TV and movies, co-writing such hits as the comedy Dumbbells, which alludes to cult involvement. As with many authors, he is writing about a subject he knows well: for years he was embroiled in Eternal Values, a group based on eastern ideas.
Many times I have talked with people who feel that they have wasted their lives through involvement in a totalist cult. I often share with them how Victor Frankl digested his experience in Dachau and Auschwitz to further develop his logotherapy (see Man’s Search for Meaning and The Doctor and the Soul).
Those who survive and are able to digest their experience will find that they have unique skills. Those who cannot digest their experience will struggle with bitterness in everything they do.
With this in mind, I was impressed by Hoyt’s positive attitude towards his cult involvement. He says that he wears it as a ‘badge of honour’. He speaks of the compassion and empathy that can come from enduring and surviving a cult.
A large part of this is the humility that comes with the realization that our beliefs and convictions were seriously skewed, and that we were taken in by a self-inflated narcissist and acted in ways that we now find embarrassing. This humility helps us to see others as human: susceptible to deliberate deception and manipulation.
It is good to see that at least a few celebrities are willing to speak out about the invidious practices of totalist groups. If the Beatles had explained why they abandoned the Maharishi (‘great teacher’) it is unlikely that so many people would have been duped and harmed by Transcendental Meditation. Instead, we were left to figure out the cryptic message in Sexy Sadie on the White Album. When he died in 2008 the ‘great teacher’ left about seven billion pounds (and, yes, his enlightened followers are still squabbling over the will).
Too many celebrities have worked as cult recruiters, often without realizing the dreadful, dehumanizing treatment the uncelebrated suffer at the hands of totalist groups. It is high time that more people who are in in the public eye followed Hoyt Richards’s courageous lead and helped set the record straight by warning the world about the perils of undue influence and totalism.
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about celebrities in cults that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!