Anyone here into learning about cults? I know it isn’t just me. I listen to podcasts, watch TV shows/documentaries, and read about cults in my spare time. I’ve never been in a cult, but I’ve been in a cult-like situation* so I find my hobby to be very cathartic (as well as fascinating).
Robert Jay Lifton is a psychologist and renowned writer who wrote about thought reform. He came up with 8 criteria that describe how someone may manipulate someone’s mind and change the way someone thinks. Mystical manipulation is one of these. The term refers to the way someone (such as a cult leader) will claim that coincidences and other events were in fact examples of their power. If I were to draw a picture of you perfectly with my eyes closed, and then claim that it was my God-given power of true sight that made it possible (not my skill) – that’s a clear example of mystical manipulation.
Gets the mind racing, right? I hope you enjoy my marker drawing, which I think ended up looking like a poster. It was a way for me to channel my impressions of this particularly powerful concept.
*It wasn’t a cult, and I’m okay. I don’t want to take away from people who really have been affected by a cult.
This isn’t as depressing as I think I’ve made it seem by the title. It’s just my way of looking at life.
It’s how I think everyone starts their story. Without knowledge, and barely themselves. So all our life we are struggling to be who we are. Hence the imagery of a cell, our basic biological unit.
I’m not the happiest with the pencil lines, but at the same time I like the way it feels unfinished, like a life. So it’s doing right by me.
I have started to do more drawings in marker. Markers give me the force I need: Thick, bold lines that dig into the paper. Limited colours that give me the opportunity to be creative in another way. The feeling that ink gives me of permanency and no turning back. It is the perfect medium for depicting the “religious eye” that many of us know and feel even when there’s no one there.
Have you ever tried to draw your mind?
When I “release emotion” through drawing, I’m actually releasing myself from the hold my thoughts and emotions have over me. The artwork ends up exposing what’s inside; it’s more about how I think than what.
To get an idea of my state of mind: I had been listening to a lot of true crime podcasts, including episodes regarding cults, when I drew this. Listening to the stories made me ask myself big questions about my place in the world, religion, protection, and responsibility.
It may not be visually stunning, but these types of drawings give me a different sort of pleasure and feeling of accomplishment. These “mind maps” remain the best way for me to explain what I am truly thinking.
Many Mauritians practice Indian classical dance (Kathak) forms, although I was never one of them. That wasn’t important in my family. However, you are influenced by it if you are what is known as “Indo-Mauritian” (ethnically from India, ancestors brought over during British colonialism). It’s a part of the larger culture.
While drawing, I considered the way the rhythm, melody, and dancer’s body must become one in any one of the complex dance forms. They’re considered to be very difficult to learn, and there is a constant struggle to make everything look flawless. I’ve heard “dance is worship” in dozens of Bollywood movies – I get it, I really do. Dance requires your absolute devotion and focus.
With such a link to the divine, I thought it fitting to represent the top of the dancer using a light bulb.
Certain models of the brain show that the human mind most likely has two or more sources from which thoughts are created. For example, some of us study the left and right sides of the brain, or the zones of the brain that perform specific tasks (frontal cortex vs Broca’s area, for example). These aren’t perfect models but they get us closer to understanding how our bodies help us to think.
I think it is very telling and natural that there are many cultural explanations as well for where thoughts come from. A very important one is the light/dark or yin/yang allegory. These speak of a “dark” and a “light” side to all people, to keep it simple, and finding equilibrium within that context is something we all share as people. We just call it by different names.
A lot of what I draw attempts to reconcile different areas of my mind, to accept all aspects of the self. Here the shadowy hand is reaching out to eat from the bowl of another world made up here of cleaner lines. It’s just one example of a work that expresses my desire to explore the mind – another thing shared by all people.
“The discerning and calculating gaze of another” is made obvious by its title. Need I say more? 🙂