This has been Cults Week at Curbed LA! We're going out with a handy how-to from comedian and writer Megan Koester. Thanks for joining us on our enlightening journey.
Many consider Los Angeles the cult capital of the world, and with good reason. Most transplants, by and large, travel out west on a mission—some to pursue fame and fortune, others to achieve spiritual enlightenment, all to escape the creatively stifling existence that was their (invariably suburban) upbringing. The one common denominator they share is blind hope, in spite of overwhelming evidence that their dreams will die before they do.
Blind hope, combined with the ever-encroaching desperation of lost souls who possess it, is a powerful thing. Are you tired of being a barista? Is your spec script just not Big Bang Theory worthy yet? Want to be your own boss? Start your own cult! Monetizing the misery that surrounds you at every turn is a great way to build self-confidence and an enviable retirement fund.
Follow the tips on this easily scrollable list and you'll be on your way to possessing your very own congregation, not to mention the meaning of life. NOTE: These tips are merely suggestions, not gospel—after all, I'm not God. You are!
Recruit at the Right Places
Wide-eyed young adults with senses of self worth as minuscule as their waistlines are your target demographic—no one will be more devoted to your cause than someone who feels their parents don't "get" them. Take advantage of their trusting nature and you'll be smoking weed with your 14 wives (or husbands!!) in no time! Great places to find these lost souls include acting studios, the boutiques of Melrose Avenue, and vegan cafes.
Be All Things to All People
Tell interested parties that following you will make their dreams a reality, regardless of what said dreams may be. You needn't give them any evidence to back these claims up, either. It's not your job to give your followers anything, save everlasting life in the kingdom of Heaven you've (allegedly) created for them.
Communicate With a Higher Power
It's easy to write a book when you're not the one actually writing it. Become a conduit for the musings of saints—let their cosmic truths flow through your fingers and your manifesto will be completed in no time. Next step? Self-publication!
Call Yourself God
I know—you're not really God. You're just a drifter from Rancho Cucamonga. But they (and by "they," I mean your naïve followers) don't know that.
NOTE: The authorities, unfortunately, will not legally recognize your status as God, making you subject to the same rules and regulations as non-Gods. Sorry.
Separate Them From Their Friends and Family
Since this is LA, most of your flock will be comprised of struggling young actors. Just tell their worried parents they're shooting a reality show on a desert island—it's the perfect ruse for an extended disappearance! If they happen to perish under mysterious circumstances while under your supervision, say the terms of their NDA render you unable to answer questions about the untimely passing.
You need somewhere to stash your devotees, and the bigger, the better. Rent a huge place, ideally from an unaware/elderly owner, and ride it out until they kick you out. The Source Family lived in a Los Feliz mansion; the Manson crew spread out at Spahn Ranch. The more walls you have, the more space you have to hang tapestries.
Get a Robe
The perfect accessory for your beard? Definitely a robe. It feels great flapping in the Santa Ana winds, hides whatever physical imperfections you may have, and is timelessly stylish. Hey, if it worked for the Son of God, it'll work for you, God.
Practice Free Love
Making tantric love with multiple partners is a must for any cult leader. Make sure to mediate with your husbands/wives in-between these epic orgies, though. It's just as important to fill your spiritual tank as your reproductive tank!
Be Fruitful and Multiply
Procreation goes hand in hand with free love. After all, there's nothing more beautiful than a heavily pregnant woman engaging in hard labor (tilling the organic garden, hand washing robes, etc.) while her spiritual husband is being sexually serviced by a younger version of herself in the next room.
Commune With Nature
California is unique in that you can visit the beach in the morning, the desert in the afternoon, and the forest at night. Take advantage of all these locales—not only are they spiritually enlightening, they'll give you a wicked tan. Pretending to be one with Mother Gaia is a great way to distract the public from your horrific misdeeds, too.
Outsource Your Dirty Work
Speaking of misdeeds, do you have something morally corrupt, be it animal sacrifice or murder, you need taken care of? Get one of your devoted followers to do it for you—they're there to help! Just remember the acronym CMNKAJ: Charlie Manson Never Killed Anyone, Jack.
Become a Nonprofit Religious Organization
After all, the more money you save on taxes, the more Hollywood real estate you can buy! Registering as a nonprofit also ensures that you don't go to jail for tax evasion, a common problem that has plagued cult leaders since the dawn of mankind.
Hire a Good PR Firm
OK, so Jim Jones didn't have a PR guy—otherwise he probably would have been able to broker a sponsorship deal with Kool-Aid. That was the past, though; this is now. In the digital age, it's important to put your best face forward, lest you find yourself the subject of Jezebel articles decrying your distressing lack of female and trans Gods.
Positive PR spin not working? Media still talking about your sex dungeon/"rehabilitation center"/missing spouses? Sue them into submission! It worked for that cult I can't call a cult because, were I to call it a cult, they'd financially destroy me! —Megan Koester
· Cults Week [Curbed LA]