Dropping the cliché, “You’re in a cult,” is one of the key things Michael Kropveld encourages families to do when they seek help.
Kropveld is the executive director of the Montreal-based organization Info-Cult, which educates the public about cults, new religious movements and related phenomena.
The Western Star contacted Kropveld in relation to the story of Kayla Jean Reid. The 21-year-old Corner Brook woman had been the subject of a missing person’s report, and is in Costa Rica with a group known as The Etherians or Melanation.
Her family believes the group — led by Eligio Bishop, also known as master teacher Natureboy — is a cult.
On Saturday, Reid, who now goes by Sun Ray, went live on Facebook to say she would not be coming home and wants nothing to do with her family. Without more information about Reid’s family situation and about the group, Kropveld said he could only talk in generalities.
He said part of working with families is helping them understand why people join groups and helping them recognize the term “cult” has a very negative connotation.
Using it, he said, basically sets up a wall to communication. Instead, the focus is more on what are the behaviours being seen and the concerns the family has.
“It’s recognizing people are involved in something,” he said, adding that they will generally join a group because they’ve either been recruited or they make some kind of a decision to get involved in what they see as a group, movement or religion.
“People are not joining ‘cults.’”
Kropveld said in any situation it’s not about diminishing the possibility that there may be an extreme group involved, but looking at all factors.
He said Info-Cult helps families see things through the perspective of the person involved. He counsels against ultimatums, and said the suggestion to just go and get the person comes from a 1970s and ’80s mentality of rushing in and grabbing someone.
Police have had some contact with Reid and she is older than 18, so she has the right to say she wants to stay there, Kropveld said.
In reading media reports about Reid, he said, there seems to be implications there was something going on beforehand and that can be a factor in how the family approaches things. And carrying on family issues in public makes it more complex.
“These kinds of situations can be extremely difficult for family and friends, and sometimes a lot of it is the unknown, not knowing exactly what is going on.”
At a minimum, the goal is to rebuild communication. Deciding who might be the best one to do that is just one decision a family has to make.
Info-Cult also encourages families to look at the pros and cons of their approach, and at the results they can anticipate from their decisions. They also have to ask if they can live with the outcome.
Messages sent to Bishop through social media by the Western Star were not returned prior to deadline.
Facts about Costa Rica:
• Discovered by Europeans in September 1502 by Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus.
• Situated between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America.
• Language — Spanish (official), Limonese creole spoken in Limón Province.
• Form of government — democratic republic.
• Population — 4.9 million in 2016.
• Area — 51,100 square kilometres (island of Newfoundland is about 109,000 square kilometres).
• 82 per cent of the population is in urban centres.
• Median age is 31.8 years.
About Eligio (Natureboy) Bishop:
• 34-year-old American.
• Also known as Master Teacher Natureboy, Eligio Prada.
• From Atlanta, Ga.
• At one time aspired to be model/actor.
• Leader of group calling themselves Etherians.
• 17,180 Facebook followers.
About the Etherians:
• Found in Costa Rica.
• Follow the teachings of Eligio Bishop (Master Teacher Natureboy).
• Believe the universe is the archetype and Earth is inside the body of the archetype. People are fragments of the archetype’s consciousness.
• Refer to rejecting one’s Babylon self. Refers to the mutated Caucasian version of the universe.
• Appear to be based on the Book of Ether. In it, there is a small group who separate themselves from a wicked society and establish a new nation in “the promised land.”
• Promised land is between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
What defines a cult according to the International Cultic Studies Association
• A cult is an ideological organization, held together by charismatic relationships, and demanding high levels of commitment.
• People join cults for many different reasons; there are many ways to enter a cultic group. However, it appears people are most receptive to joining when they are stressed or in transition, when their normal way of operating in the world is not working for them.