I came across a terrific post called The Cult Test today, and in reading it decided to share my own answers re: my cult experience with Andy. Some people (not many, to be fair) have questioned my classification of what Andy does as “a cult.” I didn’t arrive at that conclusion out of the ether; as I’ve mentioned before, reading Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias. However, I am not one to put all my faith in a single source, and it’s always good to do a refresher. So here it is, 100 questions to identify a cult, answered about myself, the Bagenders, the DAYDians, and Andy’s current activities (but mostly about me and the Bagenders). I’m shortening the questions themselves, but I highly suggest clicking the links and reading the full text. Judge for yourself.*
*Note: the site uses a lot of this to explain how AA is a cult. I am not going in to that aspect of it; I’m maintaining focus on Andy and what he did/does to his victims.
Section One: Questions 1-10
1. The Guru is always right.
The Guru, his church, and his teachings are always right, and above criticism, and beyond reproach.
In some cults, the guru is dead, but the principle is the same. I use the word “guru” loosely here; in many cults the charismatic leader has the title of minister, priest, yogi, swami, prophet, or all-knowing wise man. Or even, “Chairman Mao.” In any case, the leader is always right.
Andy. Is never. Wrong. He places himself as the ultimate authority on everything – from how events and organizations are run to Hollywood insider information to therapy to cultural appropriation to his followers own memories. There is no topic he hasn’t claimed encyclopedic knowledge of, including “channeling” doctors, lawyers, police officers, computer experts, movie stars, comic book artists and numerous historical figures.
2. You are always wrong
The individual members of the cult are told that they are inherently small, weak, stupid, ignorant, and sinful. Cult members are routinely criticized, shamed, ridiculed, discounted, diminished, and told in dozens of ways that they are not good enough.
This cult characteristic is sometimes expressed in the infantization of the cult members: They refer to the leader as “Father”, while he refers to them as “my children.”
Andy has been called Fearless Leader and Chief, among other honorifics. He consistently gives cutesy nicknames or outright renames (I mean, aside from calling me “Bee” and “TitFish,” Diamond went by Katherine Sharpe for quite some time, Sam almost legally changed her name to Samantha, and Jason almost changed his name to Robert O’Hara, despite his disbelief of Andy’s line). Sam, Di and I have all talked about the “therapy” we were given. Not to mention the fact that he was my “adoptive father” (when channeling Lord Elrond!) who renamed me Elhorian (supposedly, “adopted daughter of the elves.”)
A corollary to this rule is the practice of lowering members’ self-esteem by a variety of methods:
Elders or higher-ranking members will berate the newer members and tell them that their work or their spirituality isn’t good enough. Again, the beginners are abused by the guru and his henchmen until they reach the inner circle, at which time they can turn around and do it all to someone else who is just beginning.
I’ve also mentioned the “control addiction” both Diamond and I were “diagnosed” with. And even above, I mention all the “therapy.” This definitely included shaming us both – Di has talked about how she was shamed for her virginity, and I have no trouble saying that he shamed us all in so many ways – our only hope of being more than useless and shitty was by listening to him (and all those he “brought” to teach us).
3. No Exit
There is simply no proper or honorable way to leave the cult. Period. To leave is to fail, to die, to be defeated by evil. To leave is to invite divine retribution.
Members are often taught that all kinds of bad things will happen to them if they leave: They will lose all of the spiritual progress that they made while they were in the cult, or they won’t be able to get into Heaven, or the Devil or demons will get them, or they will relapse and die of drugs and alcohol… They say that world is a bad place — people are bad and it’s the domain of Satan. That is another standard cult characteristic: The Group Implants Phobias, and more of the usual threats and fears are listed under that item.
It wasn’t so much “leaving” as it was “telling anyone anything.” Supposedly we were free to stop associating with Andy at any point, but given the amount of “wank” that tails him, you know that you might be eviscerated by an angry mob for your association with him. This is a major reason why I started blogging about my experience to begin with: to create/show that there is an environment where people who have done stupid shit in his name can still get out from under his control.
Also, leaving meant turning your back on your friends, your “adopted family,” your God(s), your purpose and all your potential. And further, you’d be dishonorable and a bad person and friend if you “broke your word” not to tell what Andy did.
A corollary to the “No Exit” rule is the demonization of those who leave
Andy has tried to frame me as an abusive ex, accused me of statutory rape and has literally reframed his own actions as things I did (e.g. saying I’m the one who sent him packages and presents after we broke up).
4. No Graduates
No one ever learns as much as the Guru knows; no one ever rises to the level of the Guru’s wisdom, so no one ever finishes his or her training, and nobody ever graduates.
Given that no one could/can “channel” the way Andy, the “Paladin,” “Mindhole,” “Hellmouth” and (allegedly) “Vessel” it’s not hard to see that you could never, ever, ever be as special a snowflake as Andrew Blake.
The cult has its own language. The cult invents new terminology or euphemisms for many things. The cult may also redefine many common words to mean something quite different. Cult-speak is also called “bombastic redefinition of the familiar”, or “loading the language”.
Andy very consistently creates his own “in-jokes” that very deliberately exclude “outsiders” and allow them to discuss his super secret secrets without giving them away – “hiding in plain sight” he calls it. Bagenders, bagenderisms, Kelishi, “the white light,” la la la no hobbits…the list is endless. Diamond, Little Sam and I still use these terms sometimes – in fact, one of the reasons Diamond and I remain so very close is that often the only words we have to describe a thing are ones no one but us (and Andy) know.
6. Group-think, Suppression of Dissent, and Enforced Conformity in Thinking
The cult has standard answers for almost everything, and members are expected to parrot those answers. Willfulness or independence or skeptical thinking is seen as bad. Members accept the leader’s reality as their own.
We believed he became Elves, Hobbits, vampires, ghosts, and that the original “soul” in his body had died and been replaced. I guess you could say we lived in his reality. And if we questioned him, we risked “hurting him” by causing him to get anxious that it wasn’t real – and thus had to spend hours hearing why it was real – and then reexplaining it to Andy.
The beliefs of the cult are irrational, illogical, or superstitious, and fly in the face of evidence to the contrary.
Yeah. see #6.
8. Suspension of Disbelief.
The cult member is supposed to take on a childish naïveté, and simply believe whatever he is told, no matter how unlikely, unrealistic, irrational, illogical, or outrageous it may be. And he does.
Again, see #6. Elves. Hobbits. Ghosts. We believed.
9. Denigration of competing sects, cults, religions, groups or organizations.
Andy took great pleasure in dissecting and exposing the “true story” behind Christianity and any other religion he came into contact with. Only he knew the “truth.” Or rather, the elves and so on did. He also had/has great contempt for “normal” people with “normal” lives.
10. Personal attacks on critics.
Anyone who criticizes the Guru, the cult or its dogma is attacked on a personal level.
Rather than honestly and intelligently debating with critics, using facts and logic, the cult will resort to low personal attacks on the critic, using name-calling, slander, condescending put-downs, libelous accusations, personal slurs, accusations of bad motives, and casting aspersions on the critic’s intelligence and sanity
As I said in my answer to #4, Andy demonizes his detractors. He did it then (he even accused Turimel of having a “repressed crush” on him!”) and he does it now.
Stay tuned, there are 90 questions to go.