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Worksheet: How Much Does Enlightenment Really Cost?--© 1995 John M. Knapp. Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the author. People often deceive themselves about their level of involvement in coercive groups. I can't count how many friends who have conspiratorially whispered to me that they were never deeply involved in their group because they were never "joiners." I'm thinking of having cards printed up, "I never really bought all that crap -- I was just watching."
But I've found one question cuts to the bone, revealing more about the depth of one's group involvement than any other: "How much money have you really spent with them?" (If you are muttering to yourself, "I never spent any money on my group," about now, I suggest you read on. In particular, review questions 17 and 18 very thoroughly. You should find them very revealing.)
Many groups charge little or nothing for beginning courses -- and will sanctimoniously point this out to anyone who will listen. But fees for techniques, seminars, courses, audiences with group leaders, and so forth rise exponentially as you ascend to "higher levels" -- frequently as the actual techniques or knowledge imparted become more and more simple-minded. And groups that do not charge for instruction usually require ever greater donations of money, time, labor, or professional services.
In my experience, most current and former members of abusive meditation, "tech," self- improvement, or seminar-training groups have only the vaguest notions of the money they have spent or donated. Frequently when I ask, members respond they have spent at most a few thousand dollars -- far less than a semester in college.
But the truth is, even members who have left coercive groups are frequently in deep, deep denial about the money -- much like the alcoholic who "only drinks socially" or the gambler who perenially "breaks even." I have yet to find a current or former member who has spent less than $10,000 -- and it is common for committed members in the 90s to have spent significant six-figure amounts.
You may find these questions useful in creating a fearless personal inventory of the money you have spent. I've included typical answers for my cult, Transcendental Meditation. You should find it easy to translate this worksheet to the terminology of your group. After all no matter what their ideologies, cults have more in common than differences dividing them -- when viewed from the outside.
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--(c) 1995 John M. Knapp. Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the author.