Is Access Consciousness™ a Cult?

by Access Administrator on October 20, 2011


By Chutisa Bowman

As an Access facilitator, I have frequently been asked “Is Access Consciousness a cult?”  This prompted me to research what a cult really was and why people have intense apprehension and great unease about cults.

Whenever someone talks about cults, I would ask one simple question: “Just what do you mean by the term ‘cult’?” I have found that when most people think about “cult,” they often think of closed sacred groups led by a charismatic leader with devout followers, whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. To some people, the word ‘cult’ conjures up images of strange-dressed people with shaved heads, dancing and chanting on a busy street-corner, or a small band of extremists holed up in a remote farm house. It can conjure up images of a group of people who isolate themselves from friends, family, and even society, or religious groups that engage in dangerous, criminal, unethical and devious practices.

The term “cult” is often used loosely by many who may not be fully aware of its meaning and connotations.  Most people believe a cult is something negative that strays from the confines of the general public’s opinion of what is the “norm” or that which defines the “social good”. The negative conception of a cult today implies a spiritual group that has strange, weird, or bizarre beliefs, is highly controlling, and engages in criminal practices. Many ideas surrounding the definition of a cult are shaped by the media.

So, what is a cult really?

In its original sense, the word “cult” is not demeaning. The word cult comes from the French culte, and is rooted in the Latin cultus, which means “care” and “adoration.” That idea comes from the Latin cultus – the past participle of colere, which means “to cultivate.”  The word was used in the sense of “to worship or give reference to a deity.” The World Book Encyclopedia explains that “traditionally, the term cult referred to any form of worship or ritual observance.” By that criterion, all spiritual and religious organizations could be classified as cults. Within academic texts, for example, we can frequently find the early Christian church referred to as a cult as well as references to such things as the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Conversely, in general usage today, the word “cult” has a different meaning.  None of the original definitions, however, are what people are thinking of when they accuse a group of being cultish. Since the mid-1900’s, publicity about cults has altered the meaning of the term…. cult has attained much more derogatory, negative and judgmental connotations. Today, many people use the term to refer to any movements or any group they consider nonstandard or deem dangerous. This commonly includes what law enforcement deems dangerous or destructive cults (such as those promoting murder, abuse or suicide).

Before examining the question  “Is Access Consciousness a cult?”  , let us give thought to not only the World Book Encyclopedia definition, but also what leading commentators in the field of cults and the nature of mass movements say. One such thought leader, Eric Hoffer, an author of the best-selling book, The True Believer, maintains that “a cult (mass movement) attracts and holds a following not by its doctrines and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence”.  However, he also acknowledges that some movements are good, while others are not.  He looks at only the characteristics and tactics, not the morality of the movement. The book probes into the psychology of the frustrated and dissatisfied, those who would eagerly sacrifice themselves for any cause that might give their meaningless lives some sense of significance. The disaffected seek to lose themselves in these movements by adopting those fanatical attitudes that are, according to Hoffer, fundamentally a flight from the self. Hoffer stresses that “To the frustrated a mass movement (cult) offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources”.

After studying the book ‘The True Believer’, I gained more clarity and awareness of the ultimate distinction that sets Access Consciousness apart from what is currently defined as a cult by the general public, media and law enforcement. Using Hoffer’s definition, Access Consciousness is what he delineates in his book as a “practical organization”. Eric Hoffer also describes the contrast between a practical organization and a cult, best summarized in his own words: “There is a fundamental difference between the appeal of a mass movement and the appeal of a practical organization.  The practical organization offers opportunities for self-advancement …. On the other hand, a mass movement (cult) attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation. Cult offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their own resources”. Among Hoffer’s insights about mass movements (cults) was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and — more importantly — in their own eyes.

From Hoffer’s standpoint, Access Consciousness is indeed a practical organization since it is about facilitating consciousness, awareness, knowing and self-advancement. The target of Access Consciousness is to empower individuals at all times to know that they know, and to know that they can choose to step into the greatness that they truly are.  Access Consciousness doesn’t offer a substitute for what Hoffer describes as “the whole self” because it empowers you to evoke your own resources, awareness and inner knowing.

Eric Hoffer put forward that an organization is a cult if the vigor of an organization stems from the propensity of its followers for united action and self- sacrifice, best summarized in his own words: “The chief preoccupation of a mass movement (cult) is to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice….. any group or organization which tries, for one reason or another, to create and maintain compact unity and a constant readiness for self-sacrifice usually manifest the peculiarities of a mass movement (cult)”. In contrast, the vigor and growth of Access doesn’t depend on its capacity to evoke and satisfy the passion for self-renunciation. Instead it encourages people to generate their priority for self-advancement.  Actually, it inspires people to be willing to allow themselves to be first and foremost in their life and stop making anybody else’s needs, wants and desires the source for creation. What Access Consciousness does is provide tools and insights that empower people with the awareness of the fact that they perceive, know, be, and receive everything infinitely.  Access Consciousness empowers people to know that they always have choice. It is about awareness, choice and possibilities, not exclusion. According to Hoffer, cults cannot do this, because if they do they will destroy themselves if they allow individuals to have self-interest, choice and awareness.

Hoffer stipulates in his book that, “a mass movement is bound to lose much when it relaxes its collective compactness and begins to countenance self-advancement as a legitimate motive of activity….. The same is true of religious and revolutionary organizations: whether or not they develop into mass movements depends less on the doctrine they preach and the program they project than on the degree of their preoccupation with unity and the readiness for self-sacrifice.”  From this view point,  Access Consciousness cannot succeed and accomplish as a cult since it doesn’t require people to sacrifice the self or to have a willingness to dissolve the self by losing their individual distinctness in a compact collective whole. Hoffer stresses that in order to become part of the cult and a compact whole, the cult members have to forego much. The cult requires them to give up privacy, individual judgment,  and often individual possessions. They have to become a follower (the true believer) and live their life by the cult leader’s point of view.   On the contrary, the Access founder is not interested in collecting followers.  He is interested in empowerment and he says that getting others to follow a leader is not leadership.  There’s a difference between someone who takes charge and someone who is a leader.  Cults take charge of your life.  A true leader is one who knows where they are going and invites you to come along if you choose.  And if you don’t choose, it’s your choice.

In addition, Access Consciousness cannot successfully propagate as a cult since it encourages people to perceive and to know and to acknowledge that ‘No one and nothing is more valuable than your consciousness and your choice and most importantly to never give up your point of view for somebody else’. Access Consciousness does not require you to take the point of view about anything. It does not require you to believe anything. You do not even have to believe the Access Consciousness tools will work in order to learn them and practice them successfully. It facilitates you to get what your point of view is, since you are the one who knows everything about your life and what’s right for your life. Access advises you to only give up your point of view if you see it as a limitation. Access Consciousness has no answers, only questions.  Access Consciousness encourages you to ask: What if the point of view you had didn’t have to be a limitation?   What if the point of view you had was a possibility?

So….. Is Access Consciousness a cult or is it a source of empowerment?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Hemingway October 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

How does it get any better than this? With gratitude : ) I am smiling and feeling lighter reading this fantastic article. Raised in a JW household and split family Christian’s I had opportunities starting very young to hear and start ?ing what’s true for me. Much of my seeking all kinds of things stemmed from this. I appreciate this article… Thank you

SolangeRocine November 22, 2011 at 6:37 am

Gratitude Chutisa,
This article is well written and wonderfully researched. Thank you for the gift you be to all of us.What else is possible for more ease in change with this knowledge?

Milena Joy November 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

Great article! Although, I will admit it was way too many words for me and I skimmed through a lot of it. :)
The last paragraph sums it up beautifully.
Something I would like to add is that, in my experience with Access, I have read and heard certain points of view Gary holds stated as fact. Points of view that I do not sense a resonance with. So I use this handy, practical and completely helpful tool given to me by Gary (through Access)….I think “Hmm, interesting point of view” and move on. :) I have no need to resist and react -OR- align and agree with anything that is presented. It doesn’t change the dynamic value I continue to receive from Access.
As I’ve heard Dain say on many different occasions: ‘Please, don’t buy my point of view. Have your own. If there is anything I say that does not feel light/true to you, set it aside. Use what works for you, and leave the rest.’
Would any self respecting cult ask you to do that?! Would any cult give you the tools to decide for yourself what is true for yourself? Or encourage you to follow your own knowing?
As someone who was born and raised in a cult, it might be easier for me to differentiate between something like Access Consciousness and a cult, and if you’re wondering about the answer to those last 3 questions, the answer is no. :)

Manny November 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Does the possibility exist that Access Consciousness is a cult?

Jeff January 13, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Is that how you reply when asked the question is access con a cult?

Sounds a bit like you may be defending your position or point of view of access, is that possible?

I’m sure it is what it is,and as it is not a cult you would not feel impelled or compelled to convince or have anyone become involved so for what reason would you have to justify or clarify others concerns?

admin March 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

HI Jeff,
You are correct, there is no need for Access Consciousness to defend or justify this, and there are a lot of people around the world who regularly request more info as to exactly what makes a cult, and what makes Access not a cult. So here it is! The info that we give to people who ask, so that everyone who has the same questions can find them on here whether they’re at a class where this is being addressed or not! Thanks for your question! ~The Access Team~

Gillian September 19, 2014 at 10:05 am

Under the criteria mentioned it seems to me that most, if not all the worlds major religions fall into the category of ‘cults’!
A system turns into a dangerous ‘cult’ when it starts preventing it’s members from exercising their basic freedoms .
Access however, promotes personal freedom throughout, more than any other methodology, if I am not mistaken?
In fact I find the infinite possibilities are very daunting. And as a Peanuts cartoon put it “the theological implications alone are staggering!”

Dr Ron Jahner September 20, 2014 at 1:37 am

Thank you! Excellent article!
I have often said “Religion must be a tutor to spirituality (consciousness) NOT a substitute.”
Hoffer’s differentiation between emphasis on readiness for self-sacrifice & united action over personal advancement and choice is telling. Any group that would “lose much by relaxing it’s united compactness and when it begins to countenance self advancement as a legitimate motive of activity” is suspect.
Doesn’t sound like Access to me.

Georgia October 31, 2014 at 7:39 am

I love how clear and succinct this article is! This kind of information is what is needed on the topic of cults and movements. Best analysis I have read.

Bret Rushia October 31, 2014 at 7:59 am

This is such a great article and I’m glad it’s readily available for people who have questions as to whether Access is a cult or not.

I remember when a friend and his parents would take me to their church when I was little and I remember that the people I would meet there would try to get me to join their church and leave behind whatever my beliefs were beforehand and join them in their shared beliefs. I never liked that one bit, and I ended up choosing not to be a part of any church.

With doing Access Consciousness, I’ve never once been asked, prodded, or convinced to give up my point of view for somebody else’s. Through participating in Access classes I have met people from a vast variety of backgrounds. Devout catholics, hindus, muslims, metaphysicians, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and many others who have added the tools of Access to what they do. They’ve never been asked to give up their other ideas and beliefs that they have no interest in letting go of. There’s even one woman I know that does Access that is a pastor at a church here in Texas!

With Access you’re asked questions like “What’s your point of view?” “What if you were never wrong?” and “What’s your reality?”

With Access YOU are the valuable product, not somebody else’s point of view. How does it get any better than that?

Heather Nichols October 31, 2014 at 8:11 am

Brilliant article! Very well researched….thank you Chutisa!

Rebecca Hulse October 31, 2014 at 8:17 am

I really do love how deeply this explanation and exploration of cults and Access goes. I really had no idea.

I wonder what’s really possible A: when language is used effectively, elegantly and correctly to match the energies of the words and B: If more people chose to see things as they really were. So grateful Access chooses this.

Amber O'Hara October 31, 2014 at 8:43 am

I’ve been a seeker my whole life, I’ve done programs by
Various people. Access Consciousness is a serious set of
tools that allows you to Create the life you desire!
This article is spot on!!

"Raven" Anne October 31, 2014 at 8:59 am

Great article, thanks for posting! I’m happy to report that nobody has ever asked this with me, and I’ve not had energies of that nature (fear of cults) come up in my classes or with clients. To me it seems obvious, but it is good for those who have concerns to have information that addresses them.

Louise October 31, 2014 at 9:08 am

Thank you for the clarification!! I have attended many courses and camps with “motivational speakers” over the years and have found Access to be the kindest and most respectful of me and my family. My life and family have more joy from using the tools of Access Consciousness than ever. Gratitude!

Arthur Zweig October 31, 2014 at 9:24 am

I am now 75 years old and have done many different things for self empowerment and improvement over the years. Access is the first thing I have done that has actually given me real tools that assist me in being the real me that I am. I am happier my body feels better and I find joy in daily living instead of just going through life bored and thinking do I really have to get up today. It definetly is not a cult. I am free to think for myself, act for myself and be myself anytime and anywhere and that is what they totally encourage from everyone who has gone to Access. Ask questions and have fun.

Susan October 31, 2014 at 9:31 am

I did some research into the phenomenon of cults 30 years ago, after being involved with a spiritual group/cult in California. One of the most salient points I found in my research was that cult leaders tend to undermine one’s belief & confidence in oneself; also, they are seeking followers.

Conversely, in my experience with Access Consciousness over the past three+ years, I have found every facilitator to be supportive and encouraging of me in accessing what I already know, from within myself. The use of questions to
engender this awareness stands in stark contrast to being told what I ought to do, where I ought to go, and with whom I ought to spend my time.

Frankly, when I first heard the Access Consciousness Clearing Statement, which sounds like a curious “word salad,” my immediate thought was, “Oh geez, is this a fricking cult?” So I got online and did my due diligence.

After reading through numerous articles and pages about Access Consciousness, Gary Douglas, and Dain Heer, I was satisfied that I could safely continue to explore what Access has to offer. After meeting Gary and Dain in person, I was happily relieved to witness two deeply caring, articulate, encouraging men who are vehemently opposed to having followers! I saw two men who are invested in promoting change of the status quo that does not serve the people or the planet, while having fun and finding new co-creators of different possibilities.

As far as the cult I was involved with in for a few months in 1983/84, there were good people involved in that group, many of whom I am in contact with still, and yet there were enough troubling aspects that motivated me to remove myself from further engagement with the group itself.

In contrast, with every interaction I have with the Access Team, the courses and other activities having to do with Access Consciousness, I leave feeling inspired, energized, and having access to even more of my natural happiness.

Liam Phillips October 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Many year ago I had the experience of rescuing somebody from a cult. It was intense as the cult did not want the person to leave, so from my point of Access Consciousness is not a cult but an organization that empowers people to choose what works for them, not telling them what they should or should not do.

I guess some people do not desire to have lots of people who are empowered as empowered people can’t be controlled.

Andrea October 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I absolutely adore this article! What a phenomenal gift to the world! :)

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