Quotation by Daniel Bell

When theology erodes and organization crumbles, when the institutional framework of religion begins to break up, the search for a direct experience which people can feel to be religious facilitates the rise of cults. A cult differs from a formal religion in many significant ways. It is in the nature of a cult to claim some esoteric knowledge which has been submerged (or repressed by orthodoxy) for a long time but has now suddenly been illuminated. There is often some heterodox figure, mocked or scorned by the orthodox, who presents these new teachings. There are communal rites which often permit or spur an individual to act out impulses that had hitherto been repressed. In the cult, one feels as though one were exploring novel or hitherto taboo modes of conduct. What defines a cult, therefore, is its implicit emphasis on magic rather than theology, on the personal tie to a guru or to the group, rather than to an institution or a creed.
Daniel Bell (b. 1919), U.S. sociologist, educator. The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, ch. 4, Basic Books (1976).
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