I saw one of the gossip papers run a headline: “Oprah brainwashed by cult”. While I usually consider these papers about as reliable as a Micheal Moore movie, it did get me thinking about the whole topic again. Having read Tolle’s book, and listened to a couple of the lectures that came from it, it shows some stark similarities to other cults.
What are the characteristics of a cult?
- It is unorthodox, esoteric and devotes itself to a person, new set of ideas or an object.
- It claims new teaching.
- It claims the only truth, and claims that older religious systems are wrong, outdated or heretical.
- The leadership is strongly combined in one or two people.
- It uses various methods whereby opposing ideas are misrepresented and ridiculed to indoctrinate people.
- It emphasizes experience, such as meditation or spiritual enlightenment, with or without God, to prove the truth of their system.
- The system is often non-verifiable, claiming that it came by special revelation or from an unproven source.
- They usually emphasize and do good works, so that people will join them.
- Their moral teachings are normally good.
- They may use selected parts of the Bible with new or alternative private interpretations.
Looking at those characteristics, and knowing what we do about Oprah and her movement, it is hard to say why it could not be classified as a cult. The vigor with which the movement is defended by its followers shows that it certainly has some effect, although I wouldn’t just yet claim that it has complete control over its followers like some other cults. But the potential for abuse is there.
More importantly, the central message of this cult, which obviates the need for a Savior Christ, is leading many millions astray. Jesus is relegated to a bit-part role, along with Muhammad, Buddha and other spiritual “teachers”, all of whom preceded Tolle and his star student Oprah with this specific brand of the “truth”.
Oprah’s church is a cult, plain and simple. And while it may seem noble and attractive at first glance, it is designed to lead people such as me and you away from eternal salvation by the Grace of God.
And that is what makes it so dangerous. It may feel exciting, different and good to read Tolle, and try to let go of the ego, and try to meditate and just “be”, but apart from the love and mercy of our Creator, it is absolutely meaningless.
Cry out to God today, accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus brings, and invite the Holy Spirit to conform you to His image, and experience real freedom.