Move over, Netflix original series. “The Path,” an original Hulu series, confronts controversial topics from cult practices to immigration through a delightful fusion of mystery and drama with hints of the supernatural. The show focuses on a fictitious system of beliefs known as Meyerism.
Based loosely on Scientology, the Meyerist Spiritual Movement follows the teachings of Dr. Steve Meyer. Movement Leader Cal Roberts said, “We aim to be Light and eradicate the world’s suffering….if you follow this way, the path of Meyerism, someone will reach out to you, or you’ll reach out to them, and you will have started. One soul at a time, and then who knows? Perhaps one soul at a time, we transform our broken, broken world into a place that is whole again.”
This sounds like an ideology anyone could get behind. However, like any other religion, Meyerism requires a bigger leap of faith than a desire to make the world a better place. Meyerists follow an energy they call “The Light,” a deity-esque force that allows them to live in Truth. Those who have found the Light climb the Ladder, a hierarchy that determines one’s dedication to the Movement. They anticipate an apocalyptic Future in which only Meyerists will survive the destruction and live eternally in the Garden of Light.
There are two types of people outside of the Meyerist movement: “Ignorant Systemites,” those who have never been taught the way of the Light, and “Deniers,” who have believed and left the movement. Both Ignorant Systemites and Deniers define Meyerism as a cult, while Meyerists identify their beliefs as a “spiritual movement.”
A cult is a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous. Therefore, if Meyerism gained enough followers to be considered a major religion, it might not be considered a cult by the general public. My religious history teacher once said “a cult is a religion you don’t like.”
Although his definition carried a heavy weight of nuance, I do agree that in a Judeo-Christian society, we struggle to understand different schools of thought. For example, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints must consistently defend their status as a church rather than a cult. If I grew up believing in the Ladder of Meyerism, I would probably scoff at the notion of Christianity. Although certain practices done in the name of religion can be dangerous, perhaps labeling anything we don’t understand as a “cult” is too ethnocentric.
My favorite aspect of the show is Cal’s character development. From his charismatic sermon on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in episode one to a grotesque murder in episode seven, “The Path” seems to question the trustworthiness of religious leaders. After finishing the season, I realized it was actually a critique of blind faith. Deniers are shunned by the community, and no longer allowed to see their family. In episode nine, protagonist Eddie Lane declares, “There’s got to be some room for doubt.” If your religion does not allow for questioning, can it really provide answers?
Season one is available on Hulu; Season two’s release date has yet to be confirmed. Pressing “play” is one path you won’t regret.