By Bholanath © 2005
There are some who might choose to see (or call, or at least imply) that House of the Dreaming should be construed as a "cult". Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, it should be realized that a cult -- in its most neutral and traditional sense -- is not necessarily a bad thing. It simply means a "system of religious beliefs and rituals". It can also be used to describe the adherants of such a system. In a more modern sense, the beliefs and rituals needn't be religious: they could be political or even aesthetic. It is related to the word "cultivation". However, the important thing to realize is that through the unified adhesion to such a system, the individual members find security and/or empowerment.
Any careful examination of the articles on the website and discussions on the House message boards (or for those so fortunate, in real time) should prove that while the House does attempt to cultivate the personal evolutions of each member, we don't exemplify a single set of beliefs or practices; instead we put forth insight and speculation upon an array of beliefs and practices. While each of us may have our own preferences towards what is right for us and may openly offer reasons to disparage what we find distasteful, we do not insist that other members of the House should adopt such viewpoints or customs.
In more modern times, the word cult has been loaded with a negative spin, insinuating that the "leaders" exploit the "followers" by brainwashing them, drugging them, draining their personal resources, exploiting their bodies, and even encouraging them to commit suicide.
By contrast, House of the Dreaming has always valued and encouraged individual thought. We have disparaged drug use. We never asked even for donations from its members to cover the costs of materials used during rituals (or from the time and energy given to various on and offline endevours, pro bono). Depending upon an individual's level of involvement and enthusiasm, we may suggest assignments of various sorts to affiliates: However, aside from participation in [usually public and never sexual] rituals none of those assignments have a physical component; nor have we ever made nor implied that any activity was a requirement and could not be amicably refused.
In particular, we have been assailed as a cult because some of us openly frown on Christianity and invite members and affiliates to reexamine preconceived notions, which some might consider the core of their identity. It must be realized that not all members of the House frown on Christianity and in various ways and extents different members and affiliates consider themselves Christian. On the other hand, the history, beliefs, and practices, of Christianity and Christians [taken along with its unavoidable proximity in contemporary life] offers a disproportionate lot to scrutinize. Nor can it be overlooked that the modern experience of many nonconformists when confronted by the words and actions of many who call themselves "Christian" offers a multitude of reasons for bitterness and [in applicable cases] disillusionment with said religion. While the House of the Dreaming exists to explore vampyrism and spirituality, neither of these can be honestly, thoroughly, properly, or entirely divorced from religion. While the House of the Dreaming may choose to moderate some discussions, we do allow members and affiliates a lot of latitude in not only what to think and believe but also what to discussion, and when and how to discuss it.
As to matters of identity: there are many conflicting ideas what might constitute an identity, and therefore what might somehow constitute some essential core to that identity. Beliefs come from many sources, and neither all beliefs nor all sources are good. While some religions might dubiously insist upon the importance of [unexamined] faith, it is still folly to mistake faith for knowledge. If faith does not bear scrutiny, then it is up to the individual whether they feel it is better to remain ignorant [for the sake of preserving their "soul"] or to seek a personal evolution. As a House we might encourage personal evolution, but we don't even try to force it. If an ostrich chooses to stick its head in the sand, I (and I don't necessarily speak on behalf of other HotD members on this) would let the wolf eat it: we each choose our own path.
Further, I would severely question the notion that anything you can be seperated from, whether by whim, will, or woodworking-tool, should really be construed as some essential part of your identity. Obviously if it is removed and yet there is something which you call "I" that survives, whatever-it-was must have been less then crucial or necessary. Perhaps what you consider your "new" self, might seem unto you as different as a butterfly from a caterpillar, but this is not to say that you lost something good or valuable. Rather, it means that you have undergone a critical step in your own personal evolution. To deny the validity of such a step is but an immature desire to live in Never Never Land.
All those who are here, are here entirely of their own will. They are here to learn about who and what they are, what they may be capable of, and who and what they may become. To each, the answers will be ultimately be different. However, we offer (and even receive from) our members and affiliates the opportunity to grow through sharing perspectives and perhaps sometimes even living vicariously in each other's footsteps.
Entomb yourself in your current state of "faith" / "superstition" / "ignorance", if that is what you like (or feel that you need). We, however, would rather you read, contemplate, question and evolve with us. The choice is always yours: do not condemn us for offering it to you.
By Aislin Ni MorRhiaghan © 2006
Especially in our community, be wary of people arising claiming leadership with any of these characteristics. More than one is too many. Remember that above all else, we are predators and even the best of intentions may be marred by that fact. Don't be naive, develop a good BS Detector. You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining, beware.
Signs of a potentially unsafe Group/Leader:
- A group/leader that is always right.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
- A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
- Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
- Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
- Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
- Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
- Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred.
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" for receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
- Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused - as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
- Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
- Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
- Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
Signs of a safe Group/Leader:
- A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
- A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
- A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
- A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
- A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
- A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
- A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
- A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
- A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.