Here is a damaged history of my education and why being in a cult can really damage your odds in becoming a critical thinker.
I was born in a bilingual family. My folks immigrated to America from Poland. My first language was Polish. I did not effectively start to speak English until I was 5 or so when I entered public schools in New York City.
At age 10, my mother joined the Science of Identity cult of Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, A.K.A Jagad Guru/Christ Butler. It was at this age that my bran was stuffed with ideas of 4-headed creationist gods and all sorts of crazy ideas of the sun being pulled by a chariot etc.
I moved to L.A. with my mother to follow her guru. A year later I was sent to the P.I. cult school. The basic class structure there and academic program looked like this:
1. We woke every day at 4am (tired kids=tired brain=lousy learning)
2. We spent much of the morning in martial arts classes and cleaning duties.
3. Classes were grouped by ages. Kids ranging in ages from 10–13 were stuck in one group, and 13–16 in another group and so on). These groupings were not always ideal. Some kids fell way behind, other were bored with what they were learning.
3. Mixed in with regular academic studies we were taught scriptural verses, wrote essays based on religious lectures and often religion was mixed into our academic studies.
4. There was no “counselors” to deal with physiological problems, so often things were left to get worked out by the students as far as odd behavior in various classmates. When things came to head, it was dealt with a spiritual problem, not a mental/emotional one.
After leaving the school, with no paperwork to show that I went to “school” for the last 4 years, It was near impossible to get into a public school without some sort of “test out” or series of stressful assessments to see if I could even be placed in a certain grade. Seeing as I was in a all boys religious ashram for 4 years, I just about had a panic attack even entering a public school. Certainly I was going to be very spiritually polluted hanging out with all these “materialistic kids”. Needless to say it did not happen. I never went to a public school…
Instead, I was “home schooled”. Since my mother was not a teacher and did not speak great English, I was left to my own with a subscription to some sort of homeschooling program. Without the structure of a classroom and a teacher to clarify things and do lessons with me, I in essence never did it and was eventually found out to have been hiding all my lesson plans in the underwear draw. Whoops!
I decided to “test out” and just get my GED at 17 year of age. This meant that I went through a 4 month “cram-it-all-in” program so that I can barely pass my GED to be able to hopefully get into some sort of college.
My GED scores were dismal. I was not accepted into any college I applied to or wanted to go to. I eventually had to go to a 18 month wham-bam technical college that looked more at the fact that I was willing to pay them money than what my GED score was.
In effect, I grew up not having read much more than scriptures and studied, at best, a high school level education.
Leaving college, I made some efforts to cram in as many books in the form of classic works as well as psychology and things related to the line of work I wanted to be in as I could.
From age 16, I had a job and earned money to support myself or throw it into the “family pot”.
I now have my own business and am otherwise “successful” and decently educated. But I do regret a lot of the way education was played down in my life as “material knowledge”. I was basically told to focus on the “prize” so to speak. The prize being a guru peddling good-tidings and chanting on my beads ad nauseum. The prize being a overall lack of a rich education and comprehension of the world I lived in. I was in essence robbed of knowledge through this cult. I can never have those years back. I will never know what it means to go to a 4–6 year college and read great literary works and understand different concepts and ideas by a variety of thinkers. All the time I have spent unlearning the utter non-sense I was taught as a child is simply gone. I had my mind filled with crazy stories, rituals, practices etc. None of which have any practical meaning and application to who I am. I had my young, sponge-like mind filled with artificial and pre-fabricated ideas. I was not able to create my own ideas but rather told to simply bow here, pray there, read this, do that, chant this, wear this, eat this, believe THIS etc. If not I was faced with anger or disapproval or ostracization — or even worse, my own skewed and fucked up moral compass. I now had my own internal ruling system that I was told was my “paramatma” — a little god sitting in me telling me that I was wrong for questioning or feeling odd about this or that incongruity, contradicting or otherwise outlandish concept/idea/ritual etc.
It’s no wonder so many kids who grew up in this and other cults have a hard time leaving. They are hard wired into fearing everything outside of the cult structure. It’s the only framework they have literally built their world on from the ground up. To mess with it’s structure or foundation is to see a whole sense of self collapse. And I really feel that is where most of us have to start from. A complete rejection of this “tower of power” that keeps us stagnant and immobile. How can you ever know what is truly your own authentic life experience when you have been told how to think and view everything through the glasses of the cult?
I have so many friends who are not really following their religion in any meaningful way, yet they still hold on to outlandish ideas and views. There is no logical reason for this other than fear. Fear that some yamaduta will drag you to hell or that you’ll displease some “parent figure” in the form of some guru or blue god.
Many folks will stay in their faith and be happy in it for whatever that means. Power to them. But the least they can do to contribute to modern culture and a progressive evolution is to allow their kids to live and make their own decisions about what they believe in. No guru or god concept should be shoved down the throat of a fresh mind. Nor should they spend much time in canvassing and recruiting. If something is so powerful and wonderful it should not be too hard to sell anyone on it. The sun does not need a spokesperson to feel it’s warmth and benefit. Let people gravitate to what they authentically feel they benefit from.
Any limiting of a child’s access to a whole and progressive education and any tampering of information about science and concepts like evolution and physics and a clear and thorough eduction in religious studies, mythology etc — any thwarting of this type of knowledge is abuse of the highest order, leaving generations of people trapped in a stagnant imaginary ocean that is very heard to get out of — especially if these misconceptions are taught from a young age.
I feel that my lack of a formal education was a great deterrent in my life. I regret it tremendously. I cannot get it back and I have spent many years “unlearning” things and trying to reformat my world views. It’s a shame to say the least. I know many parents do this almost instinctively and without much thought. In fact, many feel it is their right and unbridled role in life to impart some concept of god and so-called spirituality to their kids. It may be hard to explain certain things to your child, but it is far better off to simply say “I don’t know, we don’t really have a clear answer to that, but some people believe…”, than to state something as irrevocable fact when in all honesty there is no way that you have the right answer if it’s based on some guru or scriptural work.
And finally, no child should have to go to some crazy school thousands of miles away from their parents and wake up at 4 am and take cold bucket showers. Children benefit greatly and learn a good deal from family. Being around a bunch of hormone-ridden boys 24/7 is not how a boy becomes a man and a girl a woman. Children do not grow stronger emotionally by sitting in a room chanting over and over and listening to lectures about confusing subjects. Ultimately kids do not need any major intervention in terms of being separated and indoctrinated in order to turn out “ok”. They need love, affection, care, compassion, kindness and a little less bullshit.
I’m all for the tooth fairy and santa. I think all manner of myth and fantasy plays a great role if forming ideas an connection as a child. But at some point, the picture is clarified and adjusted according to maturity and comprehension of certain knowledge. at that time, myths are replaced by facts. Facts that, if you are thirsty for knowledge and have a hunger for truth, will only act to invigorate and leave you with a continued sense of wonder and appreciation of the visible universe. Within that scope of knowledge is an appreciation of cultures and the nuances of the human experience and expression.