The Path∼Cult Issues

 

It’s all been going on in season 2 of The Path! Murder, bribery, extortion and poisoned town water, not to mention Hawk getting his hair cut! Sarah is now co-guardian of the light with creepy Cal and Richard has gone berserk! So much excitement in such a small community!

If  like me, you are wondering why the cult drama, The Path, which finished recently on episode 13, has left so many questions in its wake, you will be relieved to know that a third series has already been commissioned! So hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out what is going on with our favourite cult drama.

It may be a little surprising to find out that The Paths’ religion of Meyerism is not a real religion at all, although it encompasses many secular elements from other high functioning cults – most notably Scientology; although the producers have stated that it definitely not Scientology in disguise. One of the characters even said “We are not Scientologists,” in a horrified tone in series 1, which was really amusing; to counteract the lawsuits from self-appointed god squads, no doubt…

On the compound everyone looks healthy and well fed, there are no obvious signs of abuse, but what do these people do all day, apart from a indulging in a little gardening, baking delicious pies and smoking weed? I know – it all sounds like great fun, apart from the brain washing. But if you’re hedging your bets on the lazy side of life, and would enjoy guardians of a higher authority (the light) telling you how to think, dress and relate to everything around you; then cult life could be for you!

With Steve (Dr. Stephen Meyer) their spiritual cult leader on his death bed with cancer, the newly emerging leader Cal (who has been sexually abused as a boy by ‘Saint Steve’ as it turns out) is a tormented individual and a recovering alcoholic with many personal demons and also a monstrous mother (played by Kathleen Turner – if your still remembering her fondly from the eighties, take a deep breathe, caution is advised). With the seemingly psychopathic Cal leading the divine way at the community – what could possibly go wrong?

The really great thing about The Path is the issues about cult life which the series raises. If this were a real cult there would be limitations, but as it is a fake religion the writers are open to explore many troublesome issues and questions, evolving from different cults and organizations. I have listed some of the things the programme has already tackled, to good effect:

Why is the cult so engaging?

I think this drama hits a nerve, not just because it is about aging hippies or new age crystal wielding, seekers of spiritual enlightenment, but for those of us who would like to have their sense of purpose in life ordered and explained. This drama appeals to our sense of yearning to belong to something much bigger than ourselves, something which might stop us feeling so alone; and hey, if you were to get involved, maybe it wouldn’t feel so much like you had sold your soul to belong to the movement, but you were actually trying to find it?

So what is the lure of the cult?

Try and put your judgement aside and imagine for a moment; a place where you would never again, feel alone, unwanted or unappreciated – with this amount of emotional support and acceptance, what could possibly go wrong or lead you to doubt your divine sense of purpose?

How do you know it’s a cult, if the people involved deny this label?

Freedom of action and thought are a very strong indicators, if you are not allowed to mix freely with outsiders who don’t share your beliefs and are prohibited from expressing your own opinions which may disagree with the leadership, then despite what you are being told, it probably is a cult rather than an organisation with a cult like mentality, although the distinctions are often blurred.

If you are already submerged inside the cult – what could threaten your belief system?

Access to outside information – in the past cults always relied on their power of suppression to control the flow of information – information is power- too much information can lead to questioning core beliefs. The internet is banned, but what would happen if you Googled your own cult – what damaging information would you discover?

If it’s all about idolizing the leader – what happens when the leader dies?

Second generation leadership is often a very difficult transition – many cults are unable to survive it. In every cult you usually find one charismatic leader – but what happens when the all-powerful leader dies? Some cult leaders would prefer to destroy what they have built rather than hand the power over to the next generation of believers and this is when things can become very dark with mass suicides etc… It would seem that in many cases, second generation leaders are often less spiritually driven and more money and power orientated than their predecessors, and this can lead to a strong sense of disillusionment amongst original founding members.

Why do they always think that the world is going to be destroyed and they are the only ones with answer?

Power and control, frightened people are less likely to disrupt the cult or leave it, because they fear the consequences of doing so.

What is the price of losing your faith?

Disconnection – When you question the cult and are subsequently expelled or you actually chose to leave, you will subsequently become a subversive influence, a hater of the cult/religion and a bad influence on everyone around you, including your own family, who will be ordered to disconnect completely from you. Disconnection is a cult’s greatest and most powerful weapon.

Eddie (the marvelous Aaron Paul) is bravely challenging the cults’ policy of disconnection, and he remains our main focus of attention through put the series, and although we may believe that he is very delusional, we also feel the pain of his disbelief. We understand that to question everything and come up with nothing must be devastating – and yet, despite all of this negativity, there appears to be some other worldly wisdom in his visions. He is undoubtedly a weak and conflicted man, but it would seem that Eddie has been chosen to lead the way forward into the light, and as viewers we have little choice other than to suspend our disbelief and see where his path will leads us…

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