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A Critical Analysis of the Human Design System (Part 2)

Is Human Design a Cult?

In the first article I examined if Human Design is a science or a pseudoscience claiming to be a science. You can read that article here

In this article, however, we are going to examine if Human Design is a cult masquerading as a science?

Ra Uru Hu in the Definitive Book of Human Design says that, 

"The Human Design System is not a belief system. It does not require that you believe in anything. It is neither stories nor philosophy. It is a concrete map to the nature of being, a mapping of your genetic code. This ability to be able to detail the mechanics of our nature in such depth is obviously profound because it reveals our complete nature in all its subtleties."

It is evident from this quote and many other teachings of Ra that he does not consider the Human Design System as something you need to believe in. It is not a myth. It is not a story you learn about as it is passed down generationally through oral tradition. It is not a religion. It is not something you surrender to because you trust it. 

He says that it’s a science — a mapping of your genetic code. A science that can reveal itself through experimentation. He says it’s something that proves itself when you try it out for yourself. And while it’s a stretch to say that individual experimentation can prove something as a science (as discussed in part 1 of the article). It is evident that he does not want us to take his word for it. He does not want us to believe in Human Design. And yet there are so many proponents of the system that share it as if it were fact and if you don’t follow the “rules”, you are not “awake” enough. Perhaps this is what gives Human Design the reputation of being a cult.

But before we can examine if Human Design is in fact a cult, let’s learn a little bit more about belief systems and cults. Are all belief systems cults? What is the difference?

A belief system is an ideology or set of principles that helps us to interpret our everyday reality. This could be in the form of religion, political affiliation, philosophy, or spirituality, among many other things. Scholars estimate that belief systems go as far back as 2300 BCE. That is approximately 4000+ years ago. So, it’s fair to say that human beings have been trying to make sense of their lives through ideology for a very long time. In fact, scholars assert that sociology has led to the development of science in many areas and that humanity at large has benefitted from ideological movements. But there is also an ugly side to belief systems. This is when instead of ushering humanity into progress and fulfillment, they lead them into abuse, coercion, manipulation and sometimes even violence. This is what separates a belief system from a cult.

Of course, it is hard to recognise one from another at first. But learning about some of the manipulation techniques and characteristics that have been revealed through studying cults can be helpful. 

Cults Practices & Tactics

  1. Cults usually have a charismatic leader who is the center of the movement, who is later, often found to be suffering from some kind of pathology (Narcissism, Borderline Personality etc.). They hold access to a secret knowledge because of which they are free from suffering like others. The cult leader is often put on a pedestal and members of the cult think he/she/they have the answers that others have been looking for. Essentially the cult leader has an unfair power dynamic with all its followers. Of course, this power dynamic may not be evident from the get go. Many cults have sister organizations that recruit people through scientific tools and therapies or practices that seem very transformative and freedom-giving at first. The real hierarchy though, is eventually revealed over time as people rise up the ranks. The closer you get to the leader, the more you become aware of the power dynamics. This is because the cult leader usually has a public persona and a private persona. Something you can only witness over time.

  2. Cults seems to have access to a “special knowledge”. This knowledge makes the leader special or chosen in some way. This adds to his/her/their superiority and allure.

  3. Cults usually recruit people by love bombing them in the beginning. People are welcomed in with praise and adoration and there is often this feeling of “I finally belong” or “I’ve found my tribe” or “I finally feel seen and heard”. This is an essential practice to lure people in and to make them invest in the ideologies of the group. Being loved on and cared for is a hell of a drug — it makes you ignore the red flags that may begin to become apparent over time.

  4. Cults usually require discipline, devotion and obedience that are portrayed to be necessary for the end goal. The narrative is often that you must limit yourself in some ways in order to attain unlimited freedom. You must give some to get some. This is often done so that one’s suffering is rationalized and that one is convinced that in order for them to have what they want, they must endure what they are going through. Essentially this is done to remove cognitive dissonance. If you believe it is necessary to suffer for something, you don’t tend to question your suffering.

  5. Cults usually isolate people. Most cults have an ideology that creates a narrative of “us vs them” and oftentimes this creates distance between cult members and their original support groups. This is not shocking to the cult members because they believe their loved ones are not on the same path/frequency as them and also because other members of the cult replace original support groups rather quickly. Essentially, on the surface it does not seem like cult members are alone and isolated because they are surrounded by their “tribe” who is on the same wavelength as them but in actuality, they lose support from and connection with friends and family who ground them by questioning them.

  6. Cults also seem to fixate on a mission that supersedes everything else. Self-transformation, spiritual awakening, political representation, passenger consciousness — are some examples of a mission. Cults usually emphasize on having a mission that is larger than the sum of its parts because that justifies compromise and galvanizes people to come together to reach their goal at all costs. Cults usually create the illusion of strong boundaries amongst its followers only to systematically train them to not have them because something else is so much more important. All cults are usually on a mission to save the world in form or another and to create a new world in which higher values of the group are honored.

  7. Cults use their followers to accumulate wealth while denying them access to its benefits. A cult usually tries to attract wealthy and influential people to it so that its activities can be financed. Cults also engage their followers in unpaid labor in the name of achieving their moral mission. It is very clear from studying many cults that while their followers are deeply engaged with rejecting materialism in the name of spirituality, their leaders enjoy the accumulated wealth in the name of attracting influential people to the cult.

  8. Cults overwork their followers so that they are almost always too tired and busy to question what is really going on around them. There is also a sense of urgency to their assigned work. Cult followers are brainwashed into thinking that what they are doing is so essential and important that if they stopped or took time off, they would fail themselves and their mission. Cult followers are made to feel highly responsible without having any actual authority over what they get to do with their time. Shame and blame are also widely present in such communities when someone falls short of fulfilling their responsibility.

  9. Cults engage in secrecy, lies, spying, information control and many other tactics to mislead, blackmail, triangulate and coerce its followers to continue pushing their agenda and to make sure its followers don’t leave even though they’ve realized there is something seriously wrong with their environment.

I can list many more tactics and practices that exist in cults but these seem to be enough for now for you to think about if Human Design qualifies as a cult or has cult-like tendencies.

My thoughts on Human Design being a Cult

Human Design does have a charismatic leader who received a secret knowledge, which did free him from the suffering that the masses experience. At least, that’s what he claimed. One can also argue that newcomers into Human Design can experience being love bombed and this feeling of “I have a purpose”, “I’m valuable”, “My life has meaning”. It does have a way of validating your existence and also making you feel like “this is the answer I was looking for”, at least initially. It is also a system that requires discipline, especially if you are truly experimenting with your strategy and authority. I also find that as you experiment with the mechanics, you do experience isolation from those around you, especially ones that appear to be completely closed to the system. Ra candidly talks about 4% of the 4%, which does induce feelings of being special and separated from those that are not on the path of awakening. I have to be honest and say that my relationship with the rest of the world has altered significantly and my relationships do look different post Human Design. I also find myself being dedicated to becoming a passenger of life rather than trying to control it. Some people have also argued that the knowledge is hidden behind expensive paywalls and that the educational curriculum seems dogmatic and undifferentiated.

While I recognise these patterns within my experience and the experience of those that are experimenting around me, here are a few reasons why I don’t think Human Design is a cult.

Human Design does not put Ra Uru Hu on a pedestal. Yes, it is true that he is the source of the knowledge and therefore, he receives a certain amount of credibility and respect in the community. But in my opinion, anybody that is truly listening to him and his teachings, learns that there is no bigger authority than our own inner authority. In my experience, at some point Ra ceases to be an important figure in your experiment and what becomes truly important is what your authority has to say about what you are experiencing. In my opinion, Human Design is not a hierarchical structure where power is dominated in the hands of a leader. In fact, Human Design devolves power and makes you confident about not needing to listen to anyone else over yourself. Does that require you finding a learned analyst or teacher for a while? Yes. Do some of those analysts and teachers knowingly or unknowingly disempower you in the process? Yes. But does the system keep you dependent on its leader forever? No. You learn the mechanics clearly so you can experiment with them. After that, it is really upto you what you do and how you live. There is no one in this system that has the power to tell you otherwise. 

Another important point to make here is that it is true that Ra is the chosen one who received this special knowledge, but what the knowledge itself reveals is that we are all special. In my opinion, Ra being the first teacher of the Human Design System is always going to be someone that people get enamored by, but that by itself cannot iterate that he is the leader of a cult. Neither can his sense of humor and style of speaking conclude that he is a narcissist. 

What is also important to note is that what separates love bombing from genuine love is that love is not followed by devaluation from the community. There is a huge difference between finding a sense of recognition for yourself and being manipulated into liking an illusion of yourself only to be devalued right after so a trauma bond is formed. Just because a system makes you feel good about yourself, does not guarantee that it is a cult. What is important to ask ourselves is that is my love for myself being used as a tactic for me to self harm? Is my discipline being used to coerce me? Do I feel like I’m in this experiment because I have to reach an end goal of self-actualisation or passenger consciousness? In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with discipline or devotion or resonating with a certain mission or larger goal by itself. But if those things come attached with devaluation in the name of self-love, it is important to question that. It is important to have open honest conversations about what’s really happening for you and what others you trust see as well.

This brings me to the point of isolation. The substitution of your old life with a new life because a system has altered your understanding, knowing and/or beliefs. I have to say that the purpose of a new knowledge is transformation and that it is natural that your life changes as you make decisions differently. For some the change is drastic and quick, for others it may be slow and steady. Bottom line is that people seek something new because the old may not be serving. What I will say here is that it is important to not disregard those who do not agree with you immediately. In fact, I now often love to talk Design with those that think I am crazy. This is because they help me think through things even more deeply than those that agree with me. And it is important to remember that you can trust people even though they are ideologically different. Human Design is not the only way to live an authentic and fulfilling life. There are many different ways of conceptualizing life and our experiences here. Having said all of this, we all live in our own bubble and the tendency is to gravitate towards those that you have things with in common. I would suggest refraining from labeling people as “unaware”, “asleep”, “not-self” entirely. We are not better than anyone else, we are just exploring life differently from them. The bottom line of Human Design is that difference is beautiful, let’s try to honor all difference as much as possible.

Human Design does seem to be a privileged knowledge that requires that you invest resources in it and sometimes the educational path appears to be quite restrictive and monetarily demanding. But I also see that those working in such a niche field also need to make a living and sometimes that requires them to charge accordingly. To me as the knowledge spreads across the globe, alternative ways of studying it do seem to be surfacing. It is also clear that it is not Ra Uru Hu and his family that are banking from this system, while its followers remain poor. Many seem to be benefitting from the spread of this knowledge. Of course, there is always going to be tension between those that brought the knowledge to the world and those that have acquired it. This is pretty common in every field. Additionally, Human Design steers clear from overworking its followers in any way. In fact, it creates an immense amount of space in their lives to assess everything that is happening. I also don’t see any patterns of spying, secrecy etc. 

In my opinion, Human Design is far from being a cult although some practitioners may knowingly or unknowingly disempower individuals by taking advantage of their vulnerability. This is something we should all watch out for in ourselves and in those around us. It is also important to create more dialogue around these topics as it can be immensely helpful to those that are navigating their Human Design experiment, at least initially. 


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