Awaiting doomsday, non-human children, and karma.
The Congregation for the Light, or just The Light, has been around since the 1960s. However, its teachings originated in 19th century England. A married couple, known as the Wyeths, awoke from a shared dream and wrote down what they could remember. These writings became The Light’s ideology.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the mysterious society now has around 200 members in New York and an unknown number in Washington DC and Atlanta.
Every Thursday evening, without exception, the members gather at their leader’s building to hear him preach. The building is located in a Manhattan neighborhood: 160 East 35th Street, Murray Hill.
Tom Baer, the current leader, stands in the middle of the room and preaches, reading from pieces of paper that have been passed down to him. There are no religious texts and under no circumstance are members allowed to take notes.
The Light’s first leader, during the 60s and 70s, was Morris Kate. He believed that after doomsday took place, members would be reincarnated on a planet called ‘Nay’, be genderless, and have no stomachs.
Past Southern Baptist, Joseph Denton, the ensuing leader, apparently had something against TV’s and internet, as he tried to ban both.
Baer, a man in his late 70s, became the leader after Denton’s death in 2001 and lives on the upper floor of the building. He believes he was once an Apache and does not think of the group as a cult, but rather a religion — despite ex-members highlighting it’s cult-like characteristics.
The Light’s members believe that they descended from a “master Aryan race” on Atlantis and that in a previous life we all lived on the moon.
Karma plays a big role. For example, suffering from an illness is considered to be the result of something bad the person did in a prior life.
Most women are not allowed to attend higher education, and those who do must do so in the New York area, as to not miss the weekly meeting. The only time of year when members are allowed to vacation is in August.
Marriage is mostly between members, although a member is allowed to marry an outsider if they convert. It is very common for young women to have arranged marriages with older members of the congregation.
Many of the male adherents also take part in weapons training, in order to prepare for doomsday.
Non-members of The Light, referred to as know-nots, are perceived as hazardous. Members are instructed to have minimal to no contact with know-nots. Children, who are not indoctrinated until their teens, are also told to stay away from non-member children.
Noteworthy, children are not considered to be entirely human until the age of 13. If a child dies before such age, it is believed to be because they committed suicide in a past life.
As for belongings, members must not own any decorations that do not contain either of these symbols: an X, to symbolize their greeting sign, or an owl, to watch over the members.
Paul Arthur Miller, a former member who was born and raised in the cult, has been outspoken about the consequences of belonging to a cult.
Tom Baer, for whom Miller worked for at his furniture company, tried to cure Miller’s homosexuality, stating it was “a hangover from the Roman Empire”. Miller eventually gained the courage to leave The Light when he caught members spying on him, but the scars will be lifelong.
He also emphasizes the harm the cult has on children, who often suffer from severe physical abuse, on account that Baer enforces corporal punishment.
Donations fund 10% of the tax-exempt religion, while the other 90% comes from the estates of members when they die.
Tom Baer believes The Light is the foundation of all religions, but according to him, mankind put The Light aside in favor of creating corrupt religions which benefit the leaders.