Oct 9, 2019

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/9/2019

Near-Death Experience, NXIVM, Conspiracies, Leaving Groups

Scientific American: New Clues Found in Understanding Near-Death Experiences (Research finds parallels to certain psychoactive drugs)
"Not surprisingly, many have seized on NDEs as evidence of life after death, heaven and the existence of god. The descriptions of leaving the body and blissful unity with the universal seem almost scripted from religious beliefs about souls leaving the body at death and ascending toward heavenly bliss. But these experiences are shared across a broad range of cultures and religions so it's not likely that they are all reflections of specific religious expectations. Instead, that commonality suggests that NDEs might arise from something more fundamental than religious or cultural expectations. Perhaps NDEs reflect changes in how the brain functions as we approach death."

"A former NXIVM cult member is speaking candidly about her ordeal.

Sarah Edmondson, 42, spent 12 years in the cult led by the charismatic Keith Raniere. She said she was selected to join a secret sisterhood within NXIVM and as part of the initiation she had "KR" — Raniere's initials — branded into her skin.

"It was horrific," she told Inside Edition. "The whole point was to experience pain and to overcome the pain, to be really strong, so they cut our flesh open without anesthetic."

The process, she said, took 20 to 30 minutes. "Some people, it took 45 minutes," Edmondson said, explaining that it wasn't a stamp, like cattle.

But far from being the personal growth guru he claimed to be, Raniere was actually preying on some of his disciples for sex. 

"It was a betrayal of the deepest level ... to find out that everything that you've been fighting for, or advocating for, or vouching for, is not only bad but it's the complete opposite of what you thought," she said of the moment she realized she was actually part of a cult."

" ... Cult expert and retired Chico State professor Janja Lalich believes it's a breakdown in common sense that leads to fervent belief in [conspiracies]. "[Conspiracies] are extremely popular now, and it's quite similar to the prevalence of cults in our country and around the world.

'As the world has gotten more complex, people are looking for solutions, and America has a culture that looks for the quick fix," Lalich said. "People will latch onto something that provides them a framework for understanding the world, even if it defies logic, science and critical thought.'"

" ... From kindergarten through sixth grade, I attended the small private school that was connected to the cult. My memories of the school mainly revolved around teachers who would rather talk about personal stories than teaching an academic subject. For example, instead of learning math or history, we learned about the time my teacher almost committed suicide but was saved by the teachings of the church founder. She told us about her nearly fatal experience where she faced a bear and sang a hymn to it to soothe it, or even creepier, when she revived a dead rat with her own breath. 

After years of attending the cult's secluded school, I knew I wanted out. I, like a few of my fellow students, wanted to experience what "normal" school was like. I saw no future for me there. I had to get out to experience the real world.

Leaving the cult's school was scary to do, especially since my two younger sisters still attended the school at the time. Since I still went to the church with my family, I regularly saw all of my old peers and teachers. I was chastised by the school chaplain for leaving. I felt guilty, but I was strong in my decision. 

My family was also treated poorly because of my exit. But eventually, more students followed my lead, including my sisters. They saw that I was doing just fine, which gave them the courage to leave as well. Switching to public school opened me up to numerous opportunities, and I'm very happy that others were able to experience them too.

Ever since my sisters and I left the school, we began to attend the cult's church less and less. However, it was often a struggle between my mom and dad. My dad was loyal to the church, but my mom resisted. Usually, my dad would put up a fight and plead my mom to go to the cult's church. However, after a while, he stopped pushing us go to the cult's church. Deep down inside, he knew something was wrong too. It wasn't until years later that I found out that he also hated going to that church as much as my mom did."

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Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

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