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Samael Aun Weor and family
Samael Aun Weor and family

Is the Gnosis of Samael Aun Weor a Cult?

The modern world is increasingly filled with very disturbing groups of people, including what are commonly called "cults." Today, any group that appears unusual or is different from the mainstream, especially if it is spiritual or religious, is quickly accused of being a "cult." Over the decades, this accusation has been aimed at the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, in order make people afraid. Let us examine it, to see if the word "cult" can be applied to the tradition of Gnosis, and to see if Samael Aun Weor can be called a "cult leader."

The Real Meaning of "Cult"

The modern English word cult is from the Latin CVLTVS, cultus, which means "care, labor; cultivation, culture; worship, reverence," from colere, "to cultivate." This is a positive word, and is common in scriptures.

"Et non fuit qui insultaret populo isti, nisi quando recessit a cultu Domini Dei sui."

"And there was no one who could attack this people, except when they withdrew from the worship of the Lord their God." -Judith 5:17

In modern times the word cult has a decidedly negative implication, but originally it simply meant "worship." When studying older writings, you will encounter the word used in its positive sense: worship. 

In the mid-nineteenth century, the word began to be used to refer to non-Christian or "inferior" religious beliefs, and came to infer any religious system that is negative or even dangerous. That is why today, when you hear the word "cult," you immediately get a chill, and imagine creepy people that are brain-washed, murderous, or merely stupid. Of course, there are such groups today: many of them, perhaps more than ever in our history. But for the sake of this examination, let us clarify the word with more precision.

Types of Cults

If we retain the original use of the word as "worship, reverence," then we can posit that there are two types of cults: positive and negative.

A cult is objective (positive) when it lives by and teaches the standards of universal religious ethics. That is, the people demonstrate in their actions the qualities of humility, chastity, generosity, patience, kindness, diligence, happiness for others, non-attachment, respect for others beliefs, and respect for others will, etc.

The Buddha explained the ethics of the positive cult perfectly:

Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching.

Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words.

Rely not on theory, but on experience.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

-Buddha, Kalama Sutra

A cult is subjective (negative) when it does not live by or teach those ethics, but instead relies on unreliable data from the five senses, beliefs, and theories, and is incapable of verifying the reality through scientific, spiritual methods like authentic meditation, astral projection, etc. In other words, a subjective cult follows a limited selection of beliefs and has no way to investigate the truth of those beliefs. This leads to errors mistakes, assumptions, fanaticism, and an atmosphere or secrecy, fear, and suspicion. Many people blindly follow their chosen theories and beliefs, and have no way of verifying whether they are true. They have many theories that they enthrone in their minds, refuse to consider any other point of view, and emphatically reject anything that contradicts their theories. This is easy to observe in many areas of modern society: politics, science, culture, and religion. Any belief or theory can become a cult, extremist or false when interpreted by subjective reasoning (based on the five senses). 

Modern culture is taking on many of the qualities of a negative cult: if you do not go along with modern ideas and beliefs, whether in politics, sexuality, gender, religion, or other areas, you risk being attacked, losing your job, ostracized, mocked, etc. Society is increasingly polarized into opposing camps of fanatical believers and their charismatic leaders. None recognize their own cult-like behaviors, but are quick to accuse others of "being in a cult."

How to Recognize a Negative Cult

  • A negative cult usually has one or more charismatic leaders who are fervently followed, imitated, and idolized as "special", and are obeyed without question. 
  • A negative cult pressures people to conform to their beliefs and join their group, and looks down on those who are outside of it.
  • A negative cult condemns critical thinking. You either agree with their views, or you are out. 
  • A negative cult usually restricts what members can read, believe, or study. For instance, "only these five books are allowed." Those who read anything else are kicked out.
  • A negative cult intensely rejects any evidence that contradicts their views. Investigation is not welcomed or encouraged.
  • A negative cult provides no means of verifying whether their views are true or not, or they point toward means that the student cannot achieve. For example, they say, "go out of your body to investigate," but the student, being fearful and constrained, is unable to do so.
  • A negative cult claims to have the only authentic master(s), usually with claims to some high position or holy name
  • A negative cult claims to be the only real spiritual group, and all other groups are false
  • A negative cult claims to be the only one with access to the real teachings
  • A negative cult has a closed levels of membership with a veil of secrecy that they exploit to pressure potential members. Entering closed groups is very difficult and has extremely challenging requirements, such as perfect attendance to classes and groups, monetary commitments, no memberships in any other organizations, etc.
  • They use deceptive methods to convince people to join them, such as claiming anyone who is not with them is on the wrong path or is doomed. 
  • They brainwash members in the same way, and threaten that those who leave will go straight to hell, etc. 
  • They exploit people financially, psychologically, emotionally, and in other ways. 
  • They accuse other groups of being traitors, false, degenerates, etc., spread gossip and rumors, etc. all in an effort to emphasize that other groups are dangerous, while theirs is the only good one. 
  • A negative cult radiates pride, dishonesty, vengefulness, lust, and other defective qualities.

Is Gnosis a Negative Cult?

Let us answer this by addressing the characteristics of a negative cult.

Is Samael Aun Weor a Cult Leader?

I do not follow anyone, therefore no one should follow me. —Samael Aun Weor, Practical Astrology.

Samael Aun Weor rejected the notion of followers. He did not accept or encourage followers. He sent away those who tried to follow him.

Most of the time, the charismatic leader of a cult is sequestered in some compound surrounded by devoted followers. Samael Aun Weor never had such circumstances; he lived with his wife and children in a humble house in Mexico City, and he died in 1977. So, he did not start a cult, nor can he lead one today.

He also repeatedly rejected the belief that one needs to find and follow a "master" in the physical world. We find this expressed throughout his books and lectures.

Schools have already given all they have to offer. The centers of knowledge are now converted into business places, each with its own tyrant that forbids its adepts and students to go out in search of knowledge; the prohibitions here, the excommunications and threats there, always leaving things for tomorrow, making a big issue out of the password, the protective amulets, the non-plus-ultra... of the secrets that no other school possesses. We are not looking for flatterers of masters nor are we interested in hardhearted henchmen. We are guiding pillars, so do not become attached to us because our mission is not to gather up followers. We indicate with logical thought and exact concept the path to follow so that each person arrives at his Internal Master (he who lives in silence within you). We inform you that knowledge belongs to the Innermost... We are not interested in anyone’s money, nor are we interested in monthly fees, or temples made out of brick, cement or clay, because we are conscious visitors in the cathedral of the soul and we know that wisdom is of the soul. Flattery tires us, praise should only belong to our Father (who is in secret and watches over us minutely). We are not in search of followers; all we want is for each person to follow his or her self—their own Internal Master, their sacred Innermost—because He is the only one who can save and glorify us. —Samael Aun Weor, Practical Astrology. this day and age, it is very dangerous to just simply follow someone. What is best is to seek the Inner Master. The best thing is to follow our “I Am.” The best thing is to learn how to travel in the Astral Body in order to visit the temples of the White Lodge and to receive the teachings directly in the temple... In this day and age, everybody wants to be a master. Notwithstanding, we state that there is only one master; this is the inner Christ that enlightens every human being who comes into the world. Thus, only Christ [within you] is the Master. —Samael Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries

Unfortunately, people do not listen. There are groups who worship the personality of Samael Aun Weor.

Does Gnosis Condemn Critical Thinking?

To think critically does not mean to criticize. It means one should be able to set aside beliefs, traditions, and what one has been told, to analyze the facts and determine the truth for oneself. This skill is in very short supply these days, but it is absolultely essential.

It is not enough to tell students that they should be this or that. It is necessary for students to learn how to be free so that they can examine, study, and analyze for themselves all the values, all the things that people have told them to be beneficial, useful, and noble, and not merely accept things and imitate them.

People do not want to explore things themselves; they are narrow-minded. They have stupid minds that do not want to investigate; they have mechanical minds that never investigate and only imitate.

It is necessary, urgent, indispensable, that students from the youngest to the eldest ages (which is the age when they leave the classroom) enjoy true freedom, in order to discover, to inquire, and to comprehend for themselves, and that they not be limited by the abject walls of prohibitions, scolding, and disciplines.

If students are told what they should and should not do and if they are not allowed to comprehend and experience, where then is their intelligence? What opportunity has been given to their intelligence? —Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education

Students must learn to think for themselves and not only repeat others’ theories like parrots or cockatoos.

Teachers must struggle to put an end to fear in students.

Teachers must allow their students to freely disagree and to healthily criticize in a constructive manner all theories that are studied. [...] 

It is necessary for students to abandon fear so that they will be able to think for themselves and to analyze the theories that they study.

Fear is one of the barriers to intelligence. Students with fear do not dare to disagree, and blindly accept as articles of faith whatever different authors state. [...] A person filled with fear does not dare to disagree with other people’s opinions. [...]

It is essential for students to leave their fear behind so that they can have free, spontaneous, and creative initiative.

When students, by their own free and spontaneous initiative, can freely analyze and criticize the theories that they study, then they will stop being mere subjective, stupid, mechanical entities.

It is essential for free initiative to exist in order for the creative intelligence of the student to emerge.

It is necessary to give to students the freedom of spontaneous creative expression, without any type of conditioning, so that they can become cognizant of what they study.

Free creative power can only manifest itself when we do not fear criticism, when we are not afraid of what people might say, when we are not afraid of teachers’ authority, rules, etc.

The human mind is degenerated because of fear and dogmatism; therefore, it is essential to regenerate it by means of a spontaneous free initiative that is devoid of fear. —Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education

His writings and lectures demonstrate that Samael Aun Weor studied all of the world's scriptures, philosophies, and sciences, and he encouraged his readers and students to do the same.

Some groups have claimed that students should only read five of his books, and that he said he wished the others could be burned. Nothing could be further from the truth! What he actually said is that he wished the first editions, which had typographical errors, could be burned, so that readers would only find the current editions. Furthermore, he wrote more books after those "chosen" five, and within them, he recommended his readers study many of his other books. So, the whole claim falls apart as the nonsense it is.

Samael Aun Weor read widely and wrote many books because the teachings are very sophisticated and require a great deal of education, study, and practice.

Does Gnosis Provide No Means of Verification?

Samael Aun Weor repeatedly emphasized the necessity to investigate the truth for oneself. That is why the books of Samael Aun Weor are absolutely packed with hundreds of practical exercises of meditation, astral projection, mantras, prayers... all of which have been thoroughly investigated and confirmed by himself, his students and his readers.  And, they are given freely to anyone who wants to use them: they have no special requirements, are not restricted behind payments, memberships, rules, requirements, etc. Therefore, anyone who makes the effort to use them can verify the truth for themselves.

Unfortunately, there are people and "gnostic" groups who make big promises and proclamations, and demand that the students investigate "in the astral plane," but either fail to teach them how, or infect them with so much fear and uncertainty they are unable to confirm it for themselves. 

Does Gnosis Claim to be the Only Authentic Teaching?

Negative cults claim to have the only genuine master, to be the only real spiritual group, and all other groups are false. A negative cult claims to be the only one with access to the real teachings.

Samael Aun Weor actually said the opposite: he said that the truth is in all religions, and that there are many masters all over the world, in all religions.

Indeed, there is truly only one unique and cosmic religion.  This religion assumes different forms according to the times and the needs of humanity.  Therefore, religious conflicts are an absurdity, because at their base all religions are only modifications of the universal cosmic religion.  Thus, from this point of view, we affirm that this book is not against any religion, school or system of thought.  The only objective of this book is to give humanity a key, a sexual secret, a key with which every living being may assimilate the Christ-principle contained within the foundation of all the great religions of the world...

We may be Rosicrucian, Theosophist or Spiritualist students. We may practice Yoga, and there is no doubt that in all this there are marvelous works and magnificent esoteric practices; but if we do not practice Sexual Magic, we will not be able to create the Christ-astral, the Christ-mental and the Christ-will vehicles. Without Sexual Magic we cannot be born again.

Practice what you will, study in any school that you like. Pray in the temple that pleases you the most, but practice Sexual Magic.

Live the Path of the Perfect Matrimony. We are not against any holy religion, school, order or sect. All of these sacred institutions are necessary. Nevertheless, we advise you to live the path of the Perfect Matrimony. The Perfect Matrimony is not opposed to any religious way of life or to the esoteric practices of Holy Yoga. The Gnostic movement is made up of people from all religions, schools, lodges, sects, orders, etc. —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony

Here again, people do not listen to the actual teachings. There are people and "gnostic" groups who insist that they are the only authentic group. That is cult behavior, and should be avoided.

Does Samael Aun Weor or Gnosis Exploit People?

Samael Aun Weor cannot, because he died in 1977. However, there are "gnostic" groups who do exploit people, and you should be educated how to recognize and avoid them.

Negative cults exploit people financially, psychologically, emotionally, and in other ways. They may apply pressure to potential members, promising access to private groups but requiring very challenging requirements, such as perfect attendance to classes and groups, monetary commitments, no memberships in any other organizations, one cannot leave or come back later, etc.

Samael Aun Weor did not implement any rules like that.  In fact, he said:

"The disciple who wants to enter the straight, narrow, and difficult path that leads us to the light has to withdraw from all spiritual schools. We need to liberate our intelligence from all types of sects, religions, schools, political parties, concepts of country and flags, theories, etc." 

Gnosis cannot be found in any group. Gnosis has no membership. Money cannot buy access to Gnosis. No physical organization can give you Gnosis. It can only be found by awakening yourself. No one, not even Jesus, can awaken your consciousness. Only you can.

When Samael Aun Weor talks about the "Gnostic movement," this is to indicate all of those people all over the world who are practicing the principles of Gnosis: a "movement," a changing direction in society. That is, when you practice, when you live by its principles, you are part of Gnosis. It is that simple.

The real Gnostic Church and its chambers are in the internal worlds, not the physical world. Those who dedicate themselves to the Gnostic path become members of the Gnostic Church in the internal worlds, not a group in the physical world. Attending a physical group is not required. If it were, humanity would truly be doomed, because there are so few such groups.

Gnosis is a way of living, an experience of life, known by being present in the moment, no matter where or who one is. You cannot access that by joining an organization. You can only access that by working with your consciousness from moment to moment.

A negative cult would dangle "membership" in front of you and offer it in exchange for money, commitments, etc. Samael Aun Weor gave it freely, without "restrictions," and so do we. For example, gives you free, unrestricted access to all of the teachings. Nothing is expected in return. You do not have to sign anything, join anything, pay anything, yet are free to learn, question, analyze, and come or go as you will. If you want help from an instructor, it is given freely and anonymously. Your privacy and your freedom are respected and protected.

Does Gnosis Radiate Negative Qualities?

Negative cults are saturated with fear, gossip, rumors, anger, fanaticism, etc. In Gnosis, those qualities are the enemy, and the primary purpose of Gnosis is to eliminate them. Any group that has those qualities is negative. That is why all of the writings of Samael Aun Weor strongly emphasize conscious ethics: the necessity to eliminate our psychological defects through meditation. This does not depend on belonging to a group: it depends on self-awareness, honesty with oneself, and daily effort to change and become better.

Are There Gnostic Cults that Follow Samael Aun Weor?

Yes. It is sad, but it is true.

There are Gnostic groups who demonstrate many of the qualities of negative cults. There are Gnostic groups who worship the personality of Samael Aun Weor. Sometimes, they even imitate his way of speaking, teaching, writing, and even how he dressed. There are also negative cults that follow Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Moses, and every other religious teacher. However, those cults are responsible for their own actions. When a cult claims to follow Jesus but does terrible things, one does not blame Jesus for that. Jesus did not cause the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, genocide, or other crimes of so-called "Christians." Similarly, there are cults that claim to follow Samael Aun Weor but do terrible things: their actions are their responsibility, and should not be blamed on Samael Aun Weor or Gnosis.

Why is Samael Aun Weor Accused of Leading a Cult?

That's obvious: because of fear, resentment, envy, anger, etc. People always attack what they do not understand, or what contradicts their views.

I have already been harassed, humiliated, slandered, persecuted, etc., for teaching the path of the Perfect Matrimony.  This does not matter to me anymore. At first, treason and slander hurt me a great deal; however, I have now become like steel. Hence, treason and slander no longer hurt me.  I know all too well that humanity hates the truth and mortally hates the prophets; therefore, it is normal that they hate me... The attacks of which we have been victims, the persecutions, anathemas, and excommunications etc., are because of ignorance and lack of study. —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony

Investigate the Teachings for Yourself

Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching.

Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words.

Rely not on theory, but on experience.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

-Buddha, Kalama Sutra

We invite you to study Gnosis for yourself. Use your critical thinking, study the books and lectures, and most importantly, apply the principles and practices in your daily life. This is the only way you can truly determine, from your own experience, whether Gnosis is good or not.

Learn More About Cults

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