When I was young, I lived in a Buddhist temple in Japan that was an offshoot of a major sect. It is only recently that I've let myself know how cultish it was. (I thought I was too smart for cults!) Now I've been reading about cults. The book I'm reading now, Cults in Our Midst, by Margaret Thaler Singer, is a classic on the subject. Singer describes how various groups use a variety of tools to give people an out-of-this-world experience and then frame it according to the doctrine of the cult, e.g., "God has spoken to you," or "You are now a blessed one."
Sometimes I still go to see Adyashanti, the teacher who transformed my life in the last decade. And sometimes as I'm standing in line, or sitting in silence waiting for him to come in, I glance around and wonder how the gathering would look to an outsider. Would we all look like a bunch of cultists? Certainly, for me, I've experienced being "out-of-this-world" many times sitting there in front of Adya. In fact, pretty much every time I see him. I see golden light emanating from everything. The whole visual appearance of the room changes and I go somewhere very deep I can't describe. I have no idea how many others experience this.
I suspect Singer would say that this is a hypnotic trance induced by the teacher. But I know the teacher himself isn't at all interested in the accompanying "bells and whistles." The ultimate truth is beyond physical manifestation, beyond bodily changes -- beyond, beyond -- to the place where you and I and all manifestation is one. And there is not necessarily a sign that this is realized.