On Getting a Bullshit Meter, Or, “If I Remember Lemuria, Will You Pay Me $100 a Year?” by Erica M Cornelius
In 2016 Erica M Cornelius had risen up to the grade of Adeptus Minor 5=6 in Aleister Crowley’s A.’.A.’.. She had moved into the Qabalistic sphere of Tiphereth-6 (תפארת), or the Sun, on the Tree of Life. It was time for her to learn what it means by the phrase “Every man and every woman is a star.” (Liber AL I:3) Her first goal was to learn that the light of her Star doesn’t always shine unhampered, and just as the light of the Sun in the heavens is occasionally blocked by dense cloud-cover, so too her inner light can be blocked. As an Outer Adept, her goal was to lift these clouds, these shadow-like miasma and phantoms that she has created which controls her ‘personality’ or ego as it relates to those spheres below her Star toward Malkuth-10 (מלכות). Like a scientist she began researching what was real and what was incorrect, vanquishing every aspect of false Knowledge that has hindered or would hinder her growth. Being in the A.’.A.’. is like sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch. It’s not all about doing rituals or taking on some fancy-sounding title as if that alone was proof of an accomplishment. It’s realizing that you’ve chosen an incarnation in order to gain a certain experience. We call this experience our True Will. This book details one woman’s journey and magickal struggle to fulfill the Adeptus Minor’s first obligation, which is learning how to use a Bullshit Meter. **NOTE: all numbered copies have sold out. Only a few UN-NUMBERED copies remain.**
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In 2016 Erica M Cornelius had risen up to the grade of Adeptus Minor 5=6 in Aleister Crowley’s A.’.A.’.. She had moved into the Qabalistic sphere of Tiphereth-6 (תפארת), or the Sun, on the Tree of Life. It was time for her to learn what it means by the phrase “Every man and every woman is a star.” (Liber AL I:3) Her first goal was to learn that the light of her Star doesn’t always shine unhampered, and just as the light of the Sun in the heavens is occasionally blocked by dense cloud-cover, so too her inner light can be blocked. As an Outer Adept, her goal was to lift these clouds, these shadow-like miasma and phantoms that she has created which controls her ‘personality’ or ego as it relates to those spheres below her Star toward Malkuth-10 (מלכות). Like a scientist she began researching what was real and what was incorrect, vanquishing every aspect of false Knowledge that has hindered or would hinder her growth. Being in the A.’.A.’. is like sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch. It’s not all about doing rituals or taking on some fancy-sounding title as if that alone was proof of an accomplishment. It’s realizing that you’ve chosen an incarnation in order to gain a certain experience. We call this experience our True Will. This book details one woman’s journey and magickal struggle to fulfill the Adeptus Minor’s first obligation, which is learning how to use a Bullshit Meter.
I’m very excited to announce to you: I am publishing my first book titled ON GETTING A BULLSHIT METER. I have poured my heart into it.
In my book, I write about the nine-plus years I spent in a cult and the valuable lessons I learned in escaping from it. In many places, what I have to relate is not pretty, neither about myself nor about the cult leader. Yet I share with my readers what I learned and developed by going through the experience. In fact, it is in writing about the experience that I purge my soul, facing my own phantoms and vanquishing them by bringing them into the light of day.
Apart from giving my extremely personal revelations about how I ever got involved in a cult, what I was looking for, and why, I also uncover the larger meaning of my experience. My journey was in many ways typical of people living in the present Aquarian age. I look a bit at the history of new religious movements and talk about why these new sects, why now, and why we owe it to ourselves to be very cautious in how we relate to them. I have come to believe that the Aeon of Aquarian universally poses a specific and characteristic task to humanity, although the details are unique to each one of us.
For the magickal practitioner, I include some realizations I attained through this experience about how I, as a woman, may work the female formula. That said, I worked hard to make this book clear and enjoyable for the general reader who knows nothing about the occult.
Apart from bringing some very difficult life lessons to a positive place by working through them, I write my book as both an inspiration and a warning to others, perhaps especially to other women: do not ever let another person control you, no matter what the reasons given. You can realize your destiny only if you remain independent. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself!
Erica M Cornelius (neé Peterson) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1970. She attended the University of Minnesota where she was the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the undergraduate philosophy journal Juvenilia, which was published at the university for the first time in the Spring of 1995, the same year in which she graduated from that institution summa cum laude in History and Philosophy (double major). The journal was re-named Agathon in 2002. She moved to southern California in 1995. In June of 2002 she earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Science Studies from University of California at San Diego. Between 1995 and 2004 she worked as a college Teaching Assistant or Adjunct Professor, mainly teaching writing and philosophy. She first worked in student affairs back in 1998, when she served as Interim Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center at UC San Diego. Off and on between 1998 and 2012, she worked in that office, the LGBT Resource Center and Services for Students with Disabilities—the last two at UC Riverside. Having been raised as an atheist and skeptic, in around 2000 she began to embrace alternative forms of spirituality, chiefly through practicing western magick. She was the owner and operator of Ananda Books and Gifts in Riverside, California, a new age center and store, from January 2004 to August 2006. A prolific writer and poet, Erica has also at various times worked as a freelance ghost-writer and as a freelance editor, including for academic publications. She moved to Berkeley in April of 2013. She is a philosopher who conducts practical research within western esotericism and a ceremonial magician, psychic and noted astrologer who established Persephone Counseling Astrology, later renamed as Joyful Psyche Astrology. When asked what motivates her in these diverse activities, she says it is an interest in helping each human being uncover and live in accordance with their own deepest values, as only they can define. While in Berkeley she became an initiate of Aleister Crowley’s OTO. She also joined Grady Louis McMurtry’s A.’.A.’. lineage as a Probationer 0=0 on July 21st 2009 assuming the motto Absorbeo 410. She rose up in the degrees and was duly recognized and chartered to run Pure Joy Clerk House on January 4th 2015. The name was taken from Liber AL vel Legis II:9. On February 22nd 2016 she signed the Oath of Adeptus Minor 5=6. She is the Editor-in-Chief and co-author of Essays, a series of hardback books released by McMurtry-Cornelius A.’.A.’. lineage. She married J. Edward Cornelius on August 31st 2015 in Berkeley, thus becoming known as Erica M Cornelius.
… and, if interested, Erica M Cornelius has eight essays on magickal theory from a woman’s point-of-view published in ESSAYS No.2 (2015).
Three people have come out attacking Erica on Facebook about her book ON GETTING A BULLSHIT METER, but before listening to their rants you should carefully determine if they are members of the religious cult that forms part of the subject matter of Erica’s book and take that into consideration. As Adepts we’re taught that by our Words you’ll know us and by the words of the cult leader, Ricardo’s, students you’ll see the real type of spiritual guidance he teaches. He might be able to do a nice video of his ‘Tellings’ or write a book that sounds cool, but the way his student are attacking exhibits what really goes on behind the scenes and it exposes the real truth. In other words, once you’re in his group you must toe the line of the ‘Family’, as his brother calls it, and if you leave, or dare to speak out of your time spent in the group, they’ll publically attack you with added threats, use name-calling such as liar and other forms of character assassination. It’s basic cult behavior 101.
They are incapable of understanding that the book is really not about them. It’s a text-book example of what an Adeptus Minor must achieve in order to prove their ego is under control. The book is all about Erica. She spent over eight years in Ricardo’s group and knew him years before he even started his Tolteca cult; she had much clutter in her mind which needs to be addressed so that she can move on. She had to face the obvious, that the Light of her star doesn’t always shine unhampered into her reality and just as the Light of the Sun in the heavens is occasionally blocked by dense cloud-cover, so too her own inner Light can be blocked. An Outer Adept’s primary goal is realizing this dilemma and striving to identify each ‘Restriction’ (i.e. cloud) as it may appear. Every Adept is well aware of ‘Restrictions’ on a macrocosmic level and how they are considered a sin but few realize that microcosmically, or within, Restrictions are False Knowledge which hinder us from the Truth and according to Aleister Crowley, believing in such False Knowledge is the way of the Black Brother. A true Adeptus Minor must work toward lifting all the shadow-like miasma and phantoms that have filled their head which control their ‘personality’ or ego as it relates in those Sephira below their Star. Erica diligently threw herself into this task and finished a paper as part of her Obligations to prove she warrants the A.’.A.’. Degree of Adeptus Minor. It was such a well done research project that we suggested she publish it, to offer others assistance as to what is required in working the lower Ruach on the Tree of Life. The reviews in this regards have been awesome.
In other words, the book can offer great insights into the role of an Adeptus Minor in the A.’.A.’.. For those who are unable to see this truth and who will argue that the book is merely attacking Ricardo’s group, I must remind you of the opening statement in the book which quotes Aleister Crowley – “The Brothers of the A.’.A.’. have set their faces against all charlatanism, whether of miracle-mongering or obscurantism; and all those persons who have sought reputation or wealth by such means may expect ruthless exposure, whether of their vanity or their dishonesty; for by no gentler means can they be taught” … so, before attacking the book or its author you should ask yourself, which side of the bread do you butter? Furthermore, doesn’t The Book of the Law tell us that as Thelemites we must not be old aeonic white-light, ass-kissing cowards who turn the other cheek, it tells us to be like soldiers in the army of Ra-Hoor-Khuit (i.e. the Lord of the Sun, our Star), which is similar to the Oaths we’ve taken in Ordo Templi Orientis to fight tyranny and oppression wherever it rears its ugly head. Erica had to first examine all the ‘facts’ that have been put into her head over the years by Ricardo’s indoctrination and also by others, our own A.’.A.. lineage included, and with that we had her research the origins and validity of information. The Bullshit Meter simply had her examining what she has learned and was taught and then asking some hard questions if such was real or bullshit, questions which true spiritual Order fear not, but questions which cults fear because Truth vanquishes phantoms.
AUTHOR’S ADDITIONAL COMMENT
On Getting a Bullshit Meter is as much an example of a critical piece of one Adept’s Adeptus Minor (Outer) work as it is a description of it. As a result it is sometimes very raw. Richard T. Cole at one point commented, “Reading Bullshit was also akin to watching a big fucking volcano erupt, from a vantage point a tad too close for comfort – Chunks of molten rock sparking in the sandwiches, cake, hair, everywhere. There’s a psychological technique suggestive that it is extremely therapeutic to spew-out a mental blockage, whole. Bullshit was (to my mind) definitely coming up that passage.” Given Cole’s apt observation, I’d like to add a bit of light to the book’s heat, to aid the reader in understanding the magickal importance of the process of getting a Bullshit Meter.
In essence, getting a Bullshit Meter is an internal process of tracing back, testing, and making a decision regarding each of one’s beliefs. Which ones are supported by objective evidence and which ones are not? The Adept who has made the survey must decide which to keep and which to discard. But in all cases, the Adept takes responsibility for each belief retained. No longer may beliefs be taken for granted as simply the way things are nor swallowed as ‘what I must accept in order to survive.’ Even survival must take a back seat to the process of getting a Bullshit Meter. The Adept must be ruthlessly honest with self. Needless to say, not everyone has sufficient psychological strength and integrity to undertake this process safely even if inclined to do so.
Despite the focus on evaluating beliefs, an Adept does not undertake the process of getting a Bullshit Meter in order to arrive at truth or probability. The search for truth involved in getting a Bullshit Meter is only a means, not an end. Rather, the Adept’s intent is to get an objective view on the ego itself. The ego is a cluster of beliefs, attitudes, and habits, most of which are acquired unconsciously and uncritically, through early and repeated exposure to other egos, such as parents, peers, and teachers, all within the greater contexts of collective biological, social, historical, and spiritual forces.
The individual’s underlying, innate psychological forces and structures help to shape the emerging ego, but the form taken by the developing ego’s beliefs and attitudes is provided by the outside environment. As long as those beliefs and attitudes about self and world remain unexamined and untested, the ego remains unaware of its own nature as a construct. The ego, in fact, unconsciously embraces idea that “I am real,” rather than a construct. It seeks to protect itself from anything that would threaten that illusion. The unenlightened person thus projects his or her unconscious psychic material (fears, longings, aggressions, complexes, etc.) upon the external world in an effort to feel safe. Such projection solidifies not only the ego’s sense of unity and inevitability, but also whatever views of the world happened to form it. The process of getting a Bullshit Meter opens up this former ‘black box’ of beliefs and attitudes, exposing the ego as a construct and giving the Adept an opportunity to correct those parts built on a faulty foundation.
Getting an objective viewpoint on the ego affords the Adept a chance to distinguish between messages flowing from the deepest and most divine parts of Self and messages that flow from the external world. A person who obtains an objective point of view on the ego begins to glimpse and perhaps even channel the archetypes that form the essence and intent of his incarnation. By contrast, a person who lacks an objective perspective on his or her ego has no chance of elevating consciousness above the external world that Qabalists call Malkuth. He is lost in egotistical illusions, cut off from his Angel above the Abyss. No matter how spiritual such a person accounts himself, the demons of the ego are really calling the shots behind the scenes, dragging everything back to worldly concerns. He is isolated and stagnant.
Here is a question asked by Cole, followed by my answer. I think it helps clarify the point that getting a Bullshit Meter is not so much about what one believes, but rather how one relates to one’s beliefs.
Q. I wondered if you could advise me as to the essential difference between Koyote the Blind (a charismatic father figure) and the legends/myths/lies he charismatically weaves into pretty patterns (which you comprehensively trash), and Jerry Cornelius and the belief system he enthusiastically espouses (and which you unconditionally endorse)?
A. The essential difference is not, after all, a belief system. The difference is one of attitude and behavior toward one’s beliefs. To wit: the former person uses violence and coercion to control and dominate other people in order to enforce his beliefs, often without being aware of it. The latter person does not.
The belief systems of the two people in question (Ricardo—AKA Koyote—and Jerry) are, for practical purposes identical. So why does Ricardo Flores coerce people, when he actually believes in freedom? Because he lacks a Bullshit Meter. Jerry, by contrast has one.
A Bullshit Meter allows a person not to blame other entities for his actions, but to take full responsibility. The person with a Bullshit Meter knows that all discoveries, all gnosis, is for HIMSELF ALONE. By taking a scientific attitude and testing all his beliefs, he is still free to believe in and promote unsupportable statements. It’s just that he must admit (at least to himself) that they are HIS. Using a Bullshit Meter allows a person to be in control of his ego, rather than to identify himself with it and all its demons.
The person who lacks a Bullshit Meter will tend to project the contents of his psyche onto exterior persons and things, without realizing it. “Projective Identification.” He will be partially identified with people outside him and not realize it. Hence, he will clandestinely try to control them, whether by force or wheedling.
In the end, it is not what someone believes that matters for these purposes. Rather, it is HOW they believe it. Do they believe it superstitiously, as truth for all, as does the person lacking a Bullshit meter?
Or do they believe it ONLY as truth for oneself. If they have a Bullshit meter, this is the only way they can take “truth.” In such a case, as with Jerry, they can bluster, hold forth, etc. After all, their point of view on the planet is what it is. But the person with a Bullshit Meter in the end is never taken in by the illusion that their point of view is good for anyone but them. They have no idea of what that other’s will is and, unlike the person lacking a Bullshit Meter, they act like it.
COMMENTS ON AND REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:
You can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
J.I. comments: “Erica, That was a fascinating read. I’ve followed Flores’ cult passively for a few years, at least since I encountered him in the Bay Area. I appreciate your disciplined approach in the book to outline the pathos of a cult leader while providing pretty clear evidence of his bullshit. It’s definitely a rewarding read that should be on every occultists reading list, especially considering how many petty tyrants and bullshitters there are out there. 93s”
J.W.W. writes, “93 – I am writing to thank you for publishing On Getting a Bullshit Meter. As someone on the path of Thelema, it was fascinating to get a peek into your process of self-refinement with the A∴A∴ as well. A relative of mine was involved with A.R.E. and Lucis Trust so there was a lot of familiar territory for me in this book. Thanks for sharing your story! 93 93/93”
Here is Richard T. Cole’s thought-provoking review of On Getting a Bullshit Meter, followed by the author’s response.
Think I mentioned that, soon as I saw the first notices, I really fancied reading your Bullshit Detector. Read it first and second around a month ago. Back then my mind equated it to a rather surreal Christmas dinner experience back in the mid-90s. At first, I was puzzled why my internal circuits had linked two instances separated by two decades. I re-read it again last weekend and am really starting to ‘get’ the connection. Prior to reading it first time round I perused the feedback on its Facebook page. Of this, I was most intrigued by Jerry, who suggested: “I felt through much of my reading of ‘On Getting a Bullshit Meter’ that it was much more important for you to have written it than for me to be reading it.” At the time, I couldn’t quite get my head around this. However, on reading the book, I realised what an astute comment it was. The best I can manage is to narrate the culinary tale. Here goes…
In 1993, the parents of a good mate (then at York Uni.) invited his then girlfriend for Christmas Dinner. Dale’s parents were soo ‘Monty Python does Yorkshire.’ To them, their son’s partner (with flame red hair, ultra-feminist views and a rabid sense of vegetarianism) may have come from Jupiter – She was a different species. I’d bet that neither ma or pa had much idea what a vegetarian was, or did. Nonetheless, ma was a superb cook, went right out of her comfort zone, obtained a few recipe books and prepared what I am sure was a veggie delight. As ma proudly served Val’s lovingly prepared vegetarian Christmas Dinner, with all the family gathered around the table eagerly awaiting her incredibly favourable reaction… Bated breaths and all that stuff… After a moment of silence, Val looked at ma and asked: ‘What’s that brown liquid drizzled over everything?’
Can you guess?
Ha ha ha ha. It was gravy! Ha ha ha ha ha… Gravy, made with the all the meat juices from the roast. Ha ha ha ha ha. Dang, that still makes me chuckle.
Re-read Bullshit and am still struggling to find apt words… Later (31 August).
Right, your reply to my question was absolutely magnificent. As was your book – Very easy to read along its natural flow. Crammed with perceptive insights (often from the sharp end) into the mental processes driving cults, their masters and servants, and the whole process that drives certain individuals to ‘seek’ a deeper meaning, and the gurus who exploit these needs. Also loved your weaving of these notions in with traditional lines of mystical/occult thinking, and the potted histories of New and Old Age mythologies and their manipulation/fabrication. Not to mention your unique and deeply personal experiences along the path.
The difference (to my mind) between your book and reply was time and distance. Bullshit was the ‘essay on America’ written by the Mayor of Hiroshima on Aug 7, 1945. Your reply was the revised piece he wrote a few years after the dust had settled. Reading Bullshit was also akin to watching a big fucking volcano erupt, from a vantage point a tad too close for comfort – Chunks of molten rock sparking in the sandwiches, cake, hair, everywhere. There’s a psychological technique suggestive that it is extremely therapeutic to spew-out a mental blockage, whole.Bullshit was (to my mind) definitely coming up that passage.
Back in the mid-90s I got involved with a very simple paranormal experiment. An open invite was extended to all psychics, mediums, etc., etc, to ‘do their thing’ with a newly-discovered and fabulous ancient quartz crystal skull. Lots and lots and lots did… and oh what wonders they saw. Curiously, not one of them, or the ancient masters (and whatevers) they communed with mentioned that they were channelling a lump of plastic less than two years old. The self-evident conclusion was – They are all fakes! Then, whilst writing up the book, I started to see the results in a different way. I gradually realised that there is no essential difference between people who knowingly fake alien encounters, or whatever, and those who genuinely believe they have been abducted, channelled, etc.. The ‘believers’ are simply picking up a better quality signal. In both cases, the fundamental impulse is the same and quite genuine.
Crowley wrote (somewhere) something to the effect that – If a someone went up against Napoleon, then it was his/her True Will (destiny) to fail. What if the unmentionable Mr. Flores is doing his True Will – You may have much vitriol to pour on the path, but it has taken you to Jerry. Without Flores, you may well not now be anniversarying with Jerry, physically and spiritually – A proper wrong appears to have generated a proper right. I noticed that you had a few words to say about good ol’ Mother Teresa, and, as with your incineration of Flores, an intensely powerful sense of injustice flares across the text. From what I understand of the A.A. system, it is the task of a student to ‘face their demons’ (or words to that effect). Bullshit certainly does that! I wonder if the aspirant’s next task is that of re-integrating these demons back into the whole?
On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Bullshit, my only real criticism is that all the genuinely perceptive insights are glimpsed only fleetingly from behind whatever part of Flores you happen to be thrashing at the time – For instance, on virtually every page is inscribed the dreaded name, yet your previous partner (and relationship of two decades, as memory serves) rates only two passing mentions. One other… thing. You made a point of not shagging Flores. For someone who spent twelve years in a sex cult, under a sex god… well, this seems… unlikely. Other than that – Go Erica! I can’t wait to read your Word when you get to Magus.
With my very best wishes to you both.
“Dear R.T.C., 93,
I can only describe your sensitive review of my book as a great gift. Thank you.
I must apologize in advance for writing a tome. However, it is a testament to your excellent review that it generated so much thought in me. Please do not infer any obligation to respond in kind, and certainly not on any particular timetable, though your thoughts are always welcome.
You are, of course, absolutely right about the explosive, emotional rawness of On Getting a Bullshit Meter. Unlike many pieces I have written, this book was not just about the topic; it contained the actual process—in this case, of getting a Bullshit Meter—and in many ways it wasn’t pretty. Writing it produced catharsis in me. Jerry and I market the book as an actual example of A.’.A.’. Adeptus Minor work, and that’s what it is, for better and for worse. Thus, I really can’t argue with your criticism, that the insights in the book are glimpsed fleetingly through the guru-thrashings. I can only plead that it is the nature of the beast.
I also agree with you that the impulse of believers and even some hucksters to embrace fabulous ‘insights’ about aliens, mythical lands, etc. is genuine. Myths make accessible parts of the human soul not otherwise available. Stories are never just stories. Stories encapsulate realities—’worlds,’ to use the terminology of Carlos Castañeda—that otherwise remain elusive. The problem lies, not in the stories, but in the posture of literalism, genuine or assumed. I tried in my book to hammer home the damage caused by belief, defined as the unreasoning and unreflective commitment to a particular mythos. Literalism kills souls.
In the same vein, I tried to show how the arid literalism around the vitally necessary scientific worldview generates the spiritual destitution that drives otherwise-rational people into New Age cults. The spiritual newbie often faces the dilemma—created or at least enhanced by predatory cult leaders—that either you believe in me (‘trust me’) or you risk missing the golden opportunity to enter the non-ordinary world and taste the manna of Mystery. Nor at first can the aspirant distinguish between weird phenomena and genuine spiritual attainment. He or she figures, ‘the weirder the more genuine,’ which is not true. Like Jane or Joe literalist on the streets, the aspirant has not understood the deeply psychic nature of all phenomena, ordinary or otherwise. I recommend that everyone study enough neuroscience to understand how no sensory experience is raw and immediate, but how each one is highly processed by the brain. Also, everyone should study hypnotism to understand the power of suggestion. Perception may be manipulated—by self or other. There is a good reason why the First Degree initiate of the Ordo Templi Orientis take an Oath not to allow anyone to hypnotize them.
Your next paragraph is packed with ideas, so let me address each one individually. Actually, the first two I need to pry apart: ‘What if the unmentionable Mr. Flores is doing his True Will – You may have much vitriol to pour on the path, but it has taken you to Jerry.’ I am amused by the idea that Mr. Flores’ True Will is to get me together with Jerry. I’d like to believe he has his own work to do. Yet you have pointed out something extremely important that I must deal with: had I never followed Flores, I never would have met Jerry and become involved with this branch of the A.’.A.’. Therefore, it cannot have been a mistake for me to get involved with Flores. And in fact I followed Flores many years before he himself ever was accepted into our A.’.A.’. Thus if I had left earlier, I still would not have made this critical contact. While in theory I might have made contact with our A.’.A.’. by some other means, I agree that for me Flores was in fact a necessary bridge. To be frank, I came into this incarnation with some heavy karma to work through, and Flores’ cult provided a good means for me to do so.
However, I reject the idea that Mr. Flores is doing his True Will in actively keeping others as slaves. Toward explaining my position, let me first present the Crowley quote about Napoleon that you paraphrase. It is from the Introduction to Magick in Theory and Practice, and an illustration of Theorem #28, ‘Every man has a right to fulfill his own will without being afraid that it may interfere with that of others; for if he is in his proper place, it is the fault of others if they interfere with him.’ Crowley writes, ‘If a man like Napoleon were actually appointed by destiny to control Europe, he should not be blamed for exercising his rights. To oppose him would be an error. Any one so doing would have made a mistake as to his own destiny, except insofar as it might be necessary for him to learn the lessons of defeat. The sun moves in space without interference. The order of nature provides an orbit for each star. A clash proves that one or the other has strayed from its course. But as to each man that keeps his true course, the more firmly he acts, the less likely others are to get in his way. His example will help them to find their own paths and pursue them.’ You raise the possibility that perhaps Flores is doing his own will, simply not worrying whether it may interfere with that of others.
The crucial difference between the Napoleon-like man of Crowley’s illustration and the reality of, not just Flores, but any cult guru you might choose to examine—they are all alike—is that while Napoleon-like-man is oblivious to others’ will, focusing exclusively on his own, cult gurus spend the vast majority of their time and effort manipulating their followers’ perceptions and actions. Along these lines, I strongly recommend the documentary Holy Hell by Will Allen. The beautifully-made film brings out not only the genuine appeal of cult life, but the ubiquitous and stereotypical techniques of cult leaders. I was struck by the parallels between the depicted cult and my own. One ex-follower in the film points out that the leader, who was, like Flores, trained in hypnosis, pushed the buttons of each of his followers individually—telling this one this lie and that one, that, withholding, promising, cajoling. While some brainwashing can be done en masse, much of the labor must be done on the individual level. I remember how once, long ago, Flores shared with his ‘group’ a dream in which he lamented how he had repeatedly to change our poopy diapers. The followers really are like babies, and the cult leader has to keep each one dependent individually, over and over again. The work is taxing. While Napoleon occupies himself with conquering Europe, the cult leader has little time either for external conquering or for self-examination. He spends most of his time staying one step ahead in his secret studies so he always has the answers, running interference among those who threaten independence, and grooming his image as the undisputed leader among his followers—striking the right pose, spreading the right rumors, pitting the right people against each other, whining and pouting in just the right way, yelling in just the right way, etc.
In other words, the cult leader spends almost his entire life clashing with others, intentionally making them feel as though they cannot live without him, intentionally making them planets around his star instead of allowing them to be the stars they were meant to be. Indirectly his entire goal is to foster ‘Restriction’ in his students, which is the greatest sin of Thelema. In the film, the cult leader tells one woman if she leaves the cult, she will not live a year. He tells another man that he argued with God to keep him alive, implying that the man owes him his life. He toys with his followers about which ones are ‘ready’ for the Knowing, the direct experience of God that only he can give them. He uses his psychic gifts in order to overload his followers’ nadis (psychic circuitry), representing such events as spiritual awakenings and transmissions. These techniques are utterly generic among cult leaders, and I saw strikingly similar things throughout my years. Of course, anyone who leaves ‘the group’ is trashed, and tragedy for them is predicted or reported, unless of course the evidence to the contrary cannot be denied. The cult leader, who by definition spends his days interfering with others and preventing them from doing their wills so that they remain dependent on him, cannot be doing his will. He has no time or energy left over. In Thelema we learn that if two stars collide, one of them is out of orbit. If one of them is a cult leader, ipso facto, it is him, for his role is to be a collider.
You then say something that I think may capture the main point of your paragraph: while I certainly faced my demons through writing On Getting a Bullshit Meter, could it be that the next stage is to integrate those demons? My answer: yes. A thousand times, yes. You grasp that the importance of these experiences is not external, represented as injustices by some bad guy in the world, but internal, as a process in my psyche. And I accept your challenge to integrate the demons. Anyone who takes my advice to watch Holy Hell will witness the continuing rage of some of the people whose trust was betrayed, especially through the sexual abuse of their loved ones. I am fortunate to have exorcised my rage about similar abuses precisely through writing my book. By the same means I also began the process of integrating my demons, by examining how the experience was necessary for making me who I am today. I must continue that internal process.
You also mention, by way of example of just how much I foreground Flores, that I hardly mention my ex-wife. A small part of that is practical. I chose not to force her through my narrative to be associated with me in public, so that she can move on with her new life. She was not involved with the cult, and I see no reason to drag her name through the mud. More to the point, however, my choice reflects the nature of getting a Bullshit Meter. The process of getting a Bullshit Meter involves facing, evaluating, and rooting out false foundational beliefs. In that regard, and only in that one, my relationship with Flores is far more important to discuss. For it is through him (though not his fault) that I acquired false knowledge that ended up diverting me from my will. It was through chasing down and exposing its falsity to myself that I was able to liberate myself and at last leave the orbit around his Star and assume the role of a Star myself.
You also doubt that I never had sex with Flores. I never said I made a point of avoiding it. If I’m honest, I wished for it, for a simple reason, and not because I was attracted to him. It is because the lying Flores deceived certain, select followers into believing that he could transmit ‘the higher teachings’ only through sex, and I sniffed it out. I wanted gnosis, I believed he had it, and I believed I had to sleep with him to get it. This gross deception is how he got his attractive, female followers, several of whom admitted to me they were not attracted to him, to surrender their holy Grails to him. One woman, a dear friend of mine, eluded him for five years before he finally was able to seduce her through his relentless application of brainwashing techniques, after which she fled the group. I am pleased to report that this courageous woman has since undertaken self-healing and triumphed. Flores, meanwhile, reasoned that if a woman finally succumbed to his advances, it must be her will. He failed to distinguish between coercion and free choice, let alone between want and will. At any rate, I was never able to make it into that lofty, inner circle since at the time I was sporting a masculine mask, understandably displeasing to the heterosexual Flores. ‘Guys’ had no chance to receive the inner teachings in that group, at least not directly. Further, to the extent that he has considered me female at all, he has perceived me as an emasculating bitch. He is not comfortable enough with his masculinity to feel comfortable with me, my big presence, and my big brain. Simply, he couldn’t handle me, and thus found himself repulsed. Jerry has never had similar troubles. No, I never had sex with Flores.
I’d like to end exactly where the film Holy Hell ends. The experience of being in the cult made me who I am today. It will be with me for the rest of my life. While it was in many ways enlightening and in some ways horrible, it is my material. Yes, I will be integrating all of it. Thank you again for a wonderfully engaging review.
93 93/93 Erica”
“This courageous book exposes an aspirant’s missteps on the spiritual path due to both personal psychological ‘wants’ and the glamour created by a charlatan ‘guru’ who functions through bullshit and misdirection, using a synthesis of New Age symbolism and techniques to create sheeplike followers. Beyond Soror Erica’s self-analysis as to what went wrong, On Getting a Bullshit Meter also includes valuable insight into current A.’.A.’. and Thelemic practice and the difficult task that balancing reason and the ‘method of science’ into actual spiritual progress upward through the grades entails. Thought-provoking and well-informed, this book could help others to honestly acknowledge some of their own folly and progress beyond self-created Ordeals to more meaningful and real spiritual work and insight.” – Mark S.
“It was interesting, courageous and informative!” – Carl M.
“Thank you for your book. It tells how easily we can become trapped by our desire to be loved, to be accepted, to fit in. It talks about rising above fear and control by integrating one’s self and then looking back and understanding the dynamics of groupmind. It’s about freeing oneself, forgiving and embracing one’s inner child. It’s about learning how to arm oneself with the proper tools.
It’s about growing past adolescence, some never do. To become a responsible adult, one must divorce the past. To become a knight, to sit at the round table and be an architect of Camelot, of Heaven on Earth, we must grow past fear and insecurity. We need a BS Meter to help steer us.” – J.M.
“Loved the Book” from Michael G. He further writes,”Dear Erica 93, I’ve just got through reading your book and I’m very grateful and appreciative I did. You are a wonderful writer. Informative, understandable and crystal clear. …
Your book answered my interest and on top of that it educated me. In its own way made me face some phantoms. I just wanted to write and tell you, ‘Thank you’. 93 93/93″
From Sheila, an ex-member of the same group the author was in for years, the faulty beliefs of which the latter had to purge upon reaching Adepts Minor: “Great book! Well done and easy to read and flowing narrative. In some regards your story, the book, only touches the surface of what happened in the cult, and though it’s understood this is about your journey and not the group, the description of the cult behavior is spot on accurate. You also provide a very accurate assessment of Ricardo’s abuse, ego, self enslavement, and fall. Although I think he has even farther to fall yet. Your honesty and self analysis are remarkable, very demonstrative and enlightening. I’m sure I’ll read this a few times through as it provides even more insight to myself and my own journey. Thank you for your bravery and courage to speak the truth and share your experience of self discovery. I really enjoyed reading this, far more than I could have anticipated!”
Melissa: “I just read Erica M Cornelius’ book, ‘On Getting a Bullshit Meter.’ It is a beautifully written warning of the pitfalls of magical thinking and the acceptance of spurious claims by self-appointed gurus. The New Age is a breeding ground for this stuff, and we should examine our beliefs carefully. Just because it wears a black hat and a black coat doesn’t make it a shaman.”
Jay Lehman: “This is one of the other great values of this book: it reveals a critical pitfall on the path of any serious vertical Magician and points to the difference between honest vertical spiritual Work, such as that of the A.’.A.’., and a cult. We must not give in to the fear of being Individual and flee to the comfort of an insular collective mentality which encloses itself like a warm womb which refuses to open and give birth. … One of the biggest values of this book which should not be overlooked is that it illustrates the importance of the autobiography, the process of honest self-scrutiny and introspection, the investigation of one’s individual experiences, thoughts and feelings and ego trappings. What Erica has written here is incredibly brave because she strips her own human faults bare and reveals them before the world.”
Chad – “Getting through the rites of cult program and surviving with your soul (relatively) intact is one of those core experiences in a lifetime that can become the key initiation. In a lot of ways, it’s a deceptively pure enactment of the neophyte ritual – writ large”.
Erica M Cornelius – “Appreciate your considered thoughts on that, Mick. As harrowing as the separation was, so was I also able to strengthen mysef through it, closing the doors within me, taking back my power, realizing that I had that power all along. I never needed that outsider, unlike what he claimed. So it’s a very fine and enlightening experience to go through, yes.”
Mark – “It sounds wonderful Erica. I had my own horrifying experiences in the Sai Baba ‘cult’ which deeply and traumatically affected me and my life. And which am still reeling from in many ways. And agree with both Chad and you. It then becomes a matter of separating the bath from the baby water, getting clear on what we had based our ‘faith’ on in the first place and when and what it was that made us sign on the dotted line, so to speak. And as you two have alluded to, those same machinations go on in many ways in regular life too, and so it helps us see it all a bit more clearly, not that I am in any way necessarily free of those things nor of falling prey to their victimization. If and when can afford it, am looking forward to reading your book. Now, please write one about our current political system-lol.”
Erica M Cornelius – “Mark, thank you for sharing your experience. I resonate with your comments. I love what you say about the need to get clear about the root of the ‘faith’ vs. the impulse to sign on the dotted line. So much of what was presented to me as spirituality was simply disguised coercion, which I accepted due to lacking faith in myself. Meanwhile, the original spiritual impulse was something very much within me, and which I was able to free not just by leaving the cult (at which point I got the shock of my life when all of my former “family” members turned against me) but by looking within and writing about what I found in my own psyche that caused me to make this poor bargain. Writing this self-searching book was extremely therapeutic and freeing for me. As I mention in my blurb, in this project I also backed up and looked at the larger picture of our western psyche and the historical events that I think lure many of us into these types of situations. This is not merely a personal problem for a few of us but rather a defining crisis of the Aquarian Age. I really hope I can help illuminate the need for each one of us to get a bullshit meter while we live our spirituality. I also really liked your point about these control-issues going on in regular life too. Many people reading this conversation believe they have never been in a cult simply because they have never shaved their head or chanted, etc. So many of the clubs, social cliques, political parties, etc. use the same or similar control mechanisms as recognized cults do, perhaps to a lesser degree. Furthermore, most people who are in cults have no idea they are in them. I define a cult as any group in which an individual or small group of individuals is venerated by the rest of the group. Many times “free will” and “freedom” is preached incessantly in such groups, as if merely saying it makes it so. Dogma and indoctrination covers up a host of sins, justifying abusive behavior and screwed up relationships. Finally, thanks for the invitation to write a book on our current political system. I’ll pass. (smile emoticon)
Jerry – “I think we can all see cult-like behavior in something we’ve belonged, whether it is fraternal, spiritual, religious or even political. As magicians we must all keep on our guard at all times. There is always someone out there wanting to ‘control you’ and the slaves shall serve. Everyone needs a bullshit meter!”
Christopher – “Sounds like the makings for a good book. Can’t wait to read it.”
Edward – “I learn new stuff [and not just about you] all the time. This sounds like a good read.”
Jennifer – “Congratulations!”
Erica M Cornelius – “Thank you, Jen! (heart emoticon).”
Jennifer – “I’m proud of you.”
SHW – “I’m so happy for you Erica M Cornelius, for coming out of the cult, moving away, starting over, and cleansing yourself as you put it from the bullshit. I can’t wait to read your book, your writing is like ocean waves of knowledge and wisdom. Congratulations in on so many different levels.”
Erica M Cornelius – “Thank you so much for your support, it means a lot.”
James – “Sounds like a very worthwhile book Erica! It sounds like writing it has been truly cathartic.”
Erica M Cornelius – “Yes, James, it has. And that was so important. Those negative feelings could really have spun me off my center had I not taken control.”
James – “I’m a great believer in the value of putting things down on paper, I sometimes write letters I never intend to send, just writing them is cathartic. All the better a book that can help others.”
Ana – “I look forward to reading it. Congratulations on finishing it. So happy to see you produce more literature.”
Melissa – “I can’t wait to read this. I am also a little afraid to read this. Thank you, Erica.”
Erica M Cornelius – “Based on some of your recent comments, I have to admit I’ve been curious what you’d think. No matter what, I really hope it stimulates self-reflection and assists in any healing as necessary. Writing this book was painful at times, but also enlightening and so cathartic, so necessary so that I could move on. We all have our own reasons for going through certain experiences, and we all have our own perspectives. But it takes that reflection to dig it out and make it meaningful.” … “Thank you so much for your pre-order of my book titled ON GETTING A BULLSHIT METER. As soon as we have the volumes in hand (I should know more tomorrow about when that is), we will ship yours out to you IMMEDIATELY.”
Linda – “Sounds Great! I was in a Cult for 13 years. Called Mary Institute. I had nightmares that they would extend to College. But it just made me Irascible and Uppity.”
Goldie – “Please save a copy for me! I wish I could hug you. We made it out, intact! Best wishes to you!!!!! Thank you for writing this!!!! I’ve wanted to and thought about it many times.”
Erica M Cornelius – “I absolutely will save you a copy. Big hugs! Yes, we made it out intact and that is a true triumph worth celebrating. Of course, this is my story. Each one of us had different lessons to learn that brought us in and through which we carried ourselves out. Your story is yours and I encourage you to write it. I will buy your book too. Deal?”
Stacey – “So curious. Can’t wait to read it!”
Rita – “Congratulations Erica on your new book! I want to preorder and will send my paypal, but question – is the cost $31 or $42, including shipping? Thanks.”
Jennifer – “I would like one please. I’m working on Jungian stuff myself right now. Clearing all the bs makes a much more effective and safer magician imho.”
Becky – “RAD! I put my order in cuz I need a BS meter for certain. Good you are helping with clearing up mystery, as it is the enemy of truth. Keeping silence on things that are hidden, is worth while for the facts are what matter, and so, bravo Erica! … It’s great that you are transforming a time you went through into some help we all can benefit from. ”