I Was Part of a Narcissistic Sociopath’s Cult for 25 Years

  • I was part of the Buddhafield cult for 25 years. 
  • I wanted to understand why I made the choices I made as an adult. 
  • What happened to me can happen to anyone, so I want people to know my story. 

Editor’s note: The author was part of the Buddhafield cult, which began in the 80s in Hollywood, usually recruiting its new members through yoga studios. 

I spent 25 years of my adult life in a cult, under the influence of a narcissistic sociopath. It took me years to recognize and escape the psychological prison of cult life.

In writing “The Followers, “Holy Hell” and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders: How My Years in a Notorious Cult Parallel Today’s Cultural Mania,” I set out on a journey to explore these questions: How could I have believed this guy? How could I have made the moral compromises I did, and for so long? How could I have failed to recognize a classic narcissist? 

I wrote this book as a clarion call, in hopes that the reader will learn from my life in the comfort of their own home, so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. 

Narcissistic behavior is everywhere in our lives

There are countless examples of the damaging effects of narcissistic behavior in our personal relationships, societal interactions, and leadership positions.

You may suspect your spouse, family member, or boss is a narcissist, or you may have niggling doubts about your spiritual or political leaders and find yourself in a complicated set of circumstances, wondering why and how you got involved or how to untangle yourself from the narcissist’s web of deceit and control.

If it’s any comfort, you are far from alone.

Cult members are not dumb

It’s tempting to judge cult followers as weak-minded and gullible. Cult membership has little to do with intelligence or education. It’s about human nature. Narcissists are talented con artists. They figure out what you want or are afraid of, then create the illusion you most desire. The original working title of my book was “Duped.” But as I began to formulate my ideas, I realized that my story is not about the leader, as much as it is about us — the followers.

It’s important to understand that the narcissist and their followers have a mutual feedback loop. The leader promises what you want, and in return the followers — in all innocence — provide them with gratitude, adulation, and praise, thus feeding their insatiable appetite for self-aggrandizement. Our sycophantic adoration of the leader fed his narcissism and turned him into a monster. No amount of worship or professed fealty was ever enough.

Cult versus just a group

The delicate distinction between a destructive cult versus a club or mere group is the cult’s use of lies, scare tactics, coercion, and deliberate manipulation of a person or group who share a common concern, desire, or fear.

The natural response to a deluge of lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories is confusion and cynicism, and the general conclusion that no one can be trusted. This uncertainty makes us more receptive to someone who seems to be bigger than life — one who appears to be omnipotent and omniscient, such as an enlightened master, demagogue, or authoritarian figure.

“The Followers” is not a story about me per se, or some broken, gullible individuals, or the past. It’s a story about what’s happening today — to all of us

When our world becomes overwhelming, we tend to gravitate toward our herd — our familiar identities — for comfort and security.

I’m using the story of my life as an example of how and why enchantment with a narcissist can happen to anyone under the right circumstances. It is up to us to pay attention to our instincts, and to recognize and protect ourselves by avoiding the narcissist wherever possible — lest we inadvertently sell our souls, our minds, and possibly our very lives for an illusion.

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