From time to time news comes to us in the press, on the radio or television about a cult, or sect, and its disturbing activities, leading to questions about behaviors that are inappropriate to local society or even the world in general. Though these groups claim transcendence they are seldom analyzed or taken very seriously because there are so many of them that in a few days they lose their fascination and disappear from the news. Due to recent interest in this topic we are reproducing an article by our Imperator in which he thoroughly analyzes the phenomena and the underlying nature of such movements.
On many previous occasions questions have been asked about our organization and the behavior of our members. Concerning the Rose Cross Order I have declared, and will continue to maintain as a deeply held conviction, Rosicrucians will always be free to choose their own manner of expression and affiliations.
The Rose Cross Order makes an ongoing effort to assure that affiliation remains sectarian in nature and in turn we hope that the Rosicrucians appreciate the great respect that the Order has for their freedom of choice. We know from experience that Rosicrucians are intelligent people who do appreciate this. As a consequence the majority maintain a high level of loyalty to the Order and its respect for their personal freedom.
The hot topic that presently concerns us makes frequent appearances in newspapers, on radio and television. Unfortunately, when dealing with cults and sects, the news media is seldom completely objective, nor is the matter explored in sufficient depth. The media presents what is sensational and what they think will interest the most people, often expressing the views of special interest groups or even public institutions intoxicated by public opinion.
Relative to this last it is helpful to recall an incident that occurred a few years ago. On that occasion some members of the Church of Scientology who were staying at a certain hotel in Madrid during a convention were detained. The event attracted great attention for several days and was on all the television broadcasts and the front pages of the most important newspapers of Spain but after a few days the supposed scandal ceased to be news and the detainees, with the assistance of legal council, were released. While it seems that most people did not reflect greatly on this news, it is an example of the danger in societies concern about the proliferation of sects. In the most thorough analysis of the situation, certain questions need to be asked:
Are we to believe that the country has no more serious problems, such as drugs, unemployment, terrorism, civil unrest etc. and an event of this caliber, in which we know it was necessary to release the detainees, occupies the front pages of the most important newspapers, as if it were news of great national interest?
Keeping in mind that at the time that this happened a general strike was pending, one that paralyzed the whole country for twenty-four hours and underscored the magnitude of social and labor problems facing Spain at the time, it is easily understood that this whole episode was nothing other than a smoke screen to divert people's attention.
In the days of ancient Rome diversions were maintained to distract the citizens from pressing social problems. The Emperor provided "Bread and Circus"; in modern times it might be bullfights or football. The rulers tried in this way to divert attention from disturbing news about the larger problems of the nation and prevent questions of whether they were fit to lead the country.
In confronting any problem, whether philosophical, social or scientific in nature, Rosicrucians should be honest and brave in analyzing the facts. In this way they will arrive at an understanding and be able to form as valid an opinion as is possible.
Before discussing the topic of sects, or cults, and their proliferation we need to define what we are referring to as a sect and why some are dangerous, as well as the social mechanisms that should be in place to avoid this danger to society.
The etymological meaning of the word sect defines a sect as a group or association that constitutes a segment within a larger social group. In that sense all groups of people, whatever the group's nature, are sects - whether they are social clubs, sporting clubs, political parties, religious groups or commercial enterprises.
In the pejorative sense of the word, a sect is any group with a definite purpose that imposes certain forms of thought and behavior on its members, and by this means somehow obtains an advantage or monetary gain for the leaders. As a general rule sects convince their acolytes, or at least try to, that they are the sole possessors of the truth and that those outside of the sect cannot realize the salvation, justice, knowledge, or whatever is being promised to the faithful.
In accordance with these facts we hope to have provided an understanding of what we mean by a sect. Shall we call something a sect because it has a small number of members? Or is it a matter of their ideology or actions and whether the people within the group have wide and varied interests?
If we are agreed that a sect is not defined by the number of members it has, but by their ideology and actions, we can also give thought to these considerations:
If groups who's membership includes those who can cause harm to society or humanity generally are considered sects, how shall we define those religious groups of all faiths who preach to hundreds of millions of followers about holy wars that bring pain, death and destruction? What can we say of those political ideologies that have caused wars for the sake of their expansionary aspirations, or with the intention of extending their ideology?
Are those groups who promote a fanatic devotion among their members to be considered sects? How shall we define those massive religions that pursue the unfaithful to convert them, torture them and even burn them in fires, and subject others to great humiliations because of their differing religious feelings?
The association that imposes a certain standards of behavior on its followers is said to be a sect. How then do we define those religions that impose certain standards of dress on the followers, forbidding women to show their faces, or indicate when someone should fast or eat, although allowing departure from the standard if a bull is issued granting them the privilege of eating things normally forbidden at certain times of the year? How would we define those groups that even regulate the sexual behavior of their acolytes? Is it not the case that certain religious groups maintain orders in which the monks must renounce their parentage and obey their superiors, sleeping little, and eat only what is ordered by the community, abstaining from normal sexual contact, which often results in aberrations?
Are those groups to be called sects who request voluntary work of their members, without offering remuneration? How shall we define those religious and political parties who require their militia members to work for the association, some without payment, in service to the group's ideals?
Is it said that sects try to gain material profits for the association or for its leaders. What of a religion that asks the followers to bequeath their worldly goods, assuring them a place in paradise or to protect them from descending to the inferno of hell? How exactly did so many religions become so wealthy that it would make the prophets blush in shame, should they return, to see what has been done in their name?
Is it honorable that many political parties of different avocations traffic in influence to gain illegal financing for the maintenance of their apparatus and the enrichment of their leaders? Is that not sectarian?
Although these are weighty considerations we must not lose sight of the essential matter or deceive ourselves in this respect. Certainly there are a vast number of sects of harmful character in these times, a few of the many associations, and society should both be protected and protect its citizens from them. They must be held to social norms and those fair laws that guarantee the protection of a citizen's physical, mental, moral, and ideological well-being.
Primarily these matters should be resolved according to equal justice under law. That is, these organizations should be investigated and controlled as required without regard to the number of members, or whether they are large and powerful or small and weak.
The processes of financing for all associations should be monitored. In any case, they should be financed or sponsored so that the association remains free and independent of the state.
At the same time the ledgers of these groups need to be audited, whether they are religious, political, sports or citizenship oriented, philosophical or of whatever nature, to verify their conscientious accounting of receipts and revenues as well as the regular expenses of maintaining the association.
These and other norms of reasonable control would prevent the proliferation of many dangerous groups or sects since they would be prevented from doing things at their own pleasure. This would curtail their interest in controlling the behavior of their followers.
All Rosicrucians should be free to chose and develop their own lives, without any hindrance from arbitrary impositions, to live natural lives in which there is no imposition on their behavior in the form of dress, choice in food, rest, thoughts, sexuality, or any other normal and natural expression of life.
It is very important that a Rosicrucian have their own approach; that they decide matters for themselves and not only know their own opinions, but when an opinion is not their own. It is this knowledge that frees them from the clutches of ignorance and oppressive dogmas.
These considerations about the nature of sects and their activities will help everyone in their considerations so that, with the freedom of the wise, they can determine when their actions are based on knowledge and when they are being exploited by the subtle opinions of others.
May Peace Profound dwell in your heart!