Since I accepted the position of Pastor at the Terasem Movement Trans-religion I have heard a certain word much more frequently. When I begin describing ideas advocated in the Truths of Terasem a rather common refrain is heard: “sounds like a cult.” Always spoken with a hint of distaste, implying a lack of credibility or acceptability to whatever is it directed at.
Well what exactly is a cult anyways? It turns out there are more than half a dozen ways to define a cult, but the root of the word is the same as a more common and endearing term: culture – the distinct way that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. To get a most accurate understanding and to provide myself with an ultimate answer, I will compare Terasem to each definition (according to the World English Dictionary) of cult and see how that term may ring true and where it may be inappropriate.
1. A specific system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and deity.
Terasem as a trans-religion does not favor or exclude any conceptions of deities or practicing of rituals. As a theology it can be said to be agnostic, it’s closest references to deity being “The earth is our mother” and “God is technological.” Although in reference to both of those statements there is no system of religious worship to either. This definition does not describe Terasem.
2. A sect devoted to such a system
The term sect in this context originated to describe a branch of practices or rituals defining a school of belief within a larger theology (sunni vs. shia) or of a mystical nature. The term cult in this context emphasizes the private nature of personal beliefs, which is at odds with the former context implying a public statement to be made by their existence. This definition does not support Terasem although Terasem does encourage an individual quest for understanding.
3. A quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.
Do to fear of change by established institutions the common use of the term is best characterized by this definition: a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents. Quasi-religious is a pretty vague term so I am submitting that aspect as applicable. Devious psychological techniques however I strongly attest are not in use. Particularly in the pursuit and manipulation of adherents. We are of course hopeful and joyous for new joiners, however none can be said to have been pursued, and all must list objections in their application. To further that point it is only asked that a joiner try to live in accordance with the Truths of Terasem. No litmus test is given, no judgments made against any joiner. I implore you not to take my word for this. Visit terasemfaith.net and watch the joiner videos yourself. All show a free willed testimony to the likes and dislikes that joiner has of the Truths of Terasem.
4. A group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols, especially one characterized by lack of organizational structure
The term exclusive ideology is a little vague and hence could be swayed to favor either direction. The first principle of Terasem being diversity, I am disinclined to grant the term exclusivity any quarter. The Quadrennial Convocations that update the Truths of Terasem also deter the acceptance of the term exclusivity. There are unarguably ritual practices that incorporate what could be defended as a sacred symbol in practice currently. The nail in the coffin of application of cult in this instance would be the characterization by lack of organizational structure. Terasem has a highly developed organizational structure following the levels of the periodic table and a redundant hierarchy of logistical responsibilities.
5. Intense interest in and devotion to a person, idea or activity (the cult of yoga)
6. The person, idea, etc, arousing such devotion.
The two definitions and their applicability to Terasem I have grouped together because they both swing on the concept of Joyful Immortality through the geo-ethical use of nanotechnology and personal cyber-consciousness. (Try saying that five times fast!) In both cases we will immediately discard reference to devotion to a person as non-applicable. The idea of the fore-mentioned concept embodied in the practice of mind-filing is of intense interest to the organization and Truths of Terasem regardless of the reality that many joiners do not subscribe or devote themselves to that one concept. It is also the polarizing aspect of Terasem that causes many people to view the movement as bizarre and extreme. The same argument of devotion can be said of the ritual meditations, however, which would not refute the definitions but are less applicable to the connotation of being extreme and bizarre.
Terasem is therefore classifiable in two of the six definitions of cult, those definitions from which the term may be applied due to a passionate interest or adherence to an idea or activity. Cyclist, musicians or any set of hobbyist is equally describable as a cult by these definitions as well. Although the term cult may be found applicable in some cases, those in which it is generally ascribed do not describe the Terasem Movement Transreligion.