So the weirdest thing that ever happened to me was that I was once in a cult. Yeah, seriously. It’s a long story that’s got a long back story attached to it. I’ll try to condense it as much as possible.
When I was in middle school and into my early years of high school I was really into nerdy shit, trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and pen-and-paper role playing games like Werewolf and Vampire. If you’re not familiar with pen-and-paper RPGs, just imagine dorks playing sitting around a table playing Dungeons and Dragons, it’s like that. Don’t judge me, I guarantee there’s some mad nerdy shit in your past too. In early high school I got to chatting with this girl and mentioned my love of RPGs and she informed me that she was a regular at a pretty interesting Vampire game on the weekends. My friend Steven and I got in on that game and through it I met some pretty interesting people.
These people were weirdo early 20’s goth metal alternative people. When I was 14 they seemed really cool. In retrospect….they were fucking dorks. They were the kind of people who couldn’t believe Metallica in general, but especially couldn’t wrap their minds around the S&M album where Metallica collaborated with the symphony; at 14 they were my kind of people.
Over the course of several months we all became good friends with me and my friend Steven constantly competing for the favor of these new friends. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until one weeknight I was sitting up and the three regulars from our weekend RPG get together showed up at my house and invited me out to coffee at a local all night diner. I left a note for my dad and left with them. On the way there, the leader of our RPG explained to me in a very matter of fact tone that I was “an empath”. My immediate reaction was to think she was talking about our weekend RPG game. “…my character in Vampire is an empath?” I replied. “No,” she replied laughing “you are an empath.”
I will do my best to communicate in very clear, direct, and succinct terms what was revealed to me very vaguely and gradually over the course of several weeks. The three people I was spending time with were Tetia, the leader and her boyfriend John who were both in their early twenties, and Layne who was a year or so older than me. They told me this elaborate myth that goes like this:
In the beginning of time there were twelve empath people, or rather, spiritual entities, or empath souls, or something of the sort, 2 parents and 10 children who have been alive on Earth since the Garden of Eden and who have been reincarnated in different host human bodies over and over again. That these spirits will usually lay dormant in the host human until awakened by other members of the spiritual “family” at which point the dormant empath spirit and human host mind meld into a peaceful symbiosis. It is the destiny of all of these twelve empath spirits to be united and awakened together at some point to….I dunno, prevent or bring about the apocalypse or something.
Being an empath meant having the power to detect/control emotional energy in others and also the ability to travel to the astral plane. While in the astral plane, we as empaths have the ability to take on two forms, one form is a vaguely familiar yet modified version of our Earthly bodies, always wrapped in a cloak of a colour that indicated the type of empath that we were and the other form was that of an animal, in our cases it was always some type of large cat, like a tiger or panther or something.
…I swear I’m not making this shit up.
The significant thing about me, Tetia, Layne, and John was that we were a special type of empath, called “White Cloaks”, which was indicated by the color of the garments we wore when traveling to the astral plane. All twelve “White Cloaks” were out there somewhere in the world, living as dormant spirits in human host bodies until we found them and woke them up. So the woman that I knew as Tetia was actually “Zelona”, the spiritual mother of the spiritual empath living inside me, whose name was “Jonas”. John was “Matthias”, Zelona’s spiritual empath husband and spiritual empath to me and Layne, who as “Qualinqua”.
….are you tripping the fuck out yet?
The ultimate goal was of course to find the other 8 members of our “family” and wake them up so as to fulfill the prophecy, or our destiny, or some epic shit like that. The spirits of the other White Cloaks could be living in anyone, octogenarians, babies, and we had to find them simply by our spiritual “sense” that they were nearby. That is how the three of them found me.
There were other empaths that we associated with who were our allies, green cloaks and red cloaks. They were really just other nu-metal dorks. Being an empath usually meant driving around listening to Metallica and doing “energy circles” and “traveling to the astral plane” which really meant sitting in a circle with our eyes closed and holding hands and pretending that our souls were somewhere else and then ten minutes later describing all the cool shit we had done while we were having our out-of-body experiences.
…I know what you’re thinking, did I really believe all this wacky shit and if so, how fucking stupid was I? The answers are yes, and very.
How could I believe such an insane story? Well there are several factors to be considered. Firstly, in my defense I would like to make the contention that what I believed was no weirder than what your average Christian believes, it was just more nu-metal and on a smaller scale.
Honestly I 100% feel that I was brainwashed, which honestly was no big accomplishment on their part. I was lonely and uncool enough that I think people could have brainwashed me by accident simply by asking me to hang out with them. I was so miserable that I would have believed anything that allowed me to have a social group that desired my company and respected me. The fact that they were older was a huge perk.
The weirdest part of all this was not the way that I behaved toward my cult/family/fellow white cloaks, but the behaviors I developed toward my normal friends. I had been sworn to secrecy regarding all this business so I was constantly coming up with elaborate lies and explanations for why I called a 22 year old black woman “Mother” and why I was obsessed with long hair (one of our rules was a Samsonesque belief that spiritual and personal power came from hair and as such we were forbade to cut ours and frowned upon loved ones cutting theirs) and why this random girl from my school would call the house and ask for “Jonas”.
It’s hard to really nail down a solid timeline for this. From start to finish I know that it lasted under a year. It was definitely enough time however to do irrevocable damage to nearly every single one of my personal relationships with friends and family. On Christmas of that year I bought presents for my cult family and none for my real family. Looking back on it all it seems even crazier than I remember it being at the time. My best friends at the time remember watching me slowly get crazier and crazier and more and more isolated from everyone else. It was a frightening time in my life.
Over time the mythology began to fall apart. It turned out that Tetia was severely bipolar with psychosis that bordered on schizophrenia, John cheated on Tetia with Layne, and the “family” fell apart, John and Layne immediately announced that they no longer believed in the crazy lies that Tetia had convinced us all of. I maintained a relationship with Tetia for long afterwards, slowly breaking it to her that I also no longer believed.
I did my best to make it up to my loved ones, but I was always too embarrassed to tell the full story, and to this day only a handful of people know it in any real detail.
After all this, Tetia ended up dating my father and moving in with us, then after they broke up she married a wigneck ex-con and I was a groomsman in their wedding and gave a toast at the reception. The wigneck ex-con later overdosed on heroin and I more or less lost track of Tetia and everyone else. The advent of social networking sites has brought these people closer to being back in my life than I will ever be comfortable with.
Below is some sidewalk chalk art I drew in New York while I was in the cult. I felt it was worth taking a picture of. It says ZMQJ, Zelona, Matthias, Qualinqua, Jonas.