There was a time when I felt pretty guilty about even considering the idea that all of the much-ballyhooed cults that could leave public perception aghast ... every one of them evolved from a genteel and hopeful and sanctified environment.
A perfectly good religion or spiritual path -- something that succored and supported so many; something that was kind in the face of cruelty; something that attempted to answer the hard questions of death or deep uncertainty; something that offered to heal and bind up -- was the Miracle-Gro territory of mass suicides or self-serving scams or crass manipulations that could leave anyone gasping at the unkindness of it all.
I didn't want to think such thoughts at the time because, well, spiritual life was new and fruitful and good in my mind. It was a lifeline in whatever sea of confusion afflicted me. I felt somehow apostate that I even entertained the thought and I did what I could to preserve the good and turn my back on the wicked.
I worked pretty hard, but of course it did not work.
Out of the good springs the no-good. Out of the truth springs the lies. I wrestled and thrashed, but in the end, I could not escape.
Of course those who find spiritual persuasion a delusion from the get-go will pounce with glee at this juncture, forming their own cult of understanding: "See, I toldja so! A crock of shit!" They aren't lying, but that's not the same as saying they are telling the truth.
In Hindu mythology, there is a wondrous swan that is said to be able to sip a single drop of milk from an ocean of water. As a practical matter, this story is a koan: How could such a thing be possible -- to extract nothing but nourishment from a universe full of mixed messages? Where praise can't cut it and blame fares no better; where belief and hope and explanation soar and are profoundly crippled simultaneously ... what works?
I guess only a swan could answer that question.