Cease To Exist: "The Path," Season Two
Now in its second season, The Path continues to be one of the more disturbing shows on television. Ostensibly, it is the story of a religious movement called Meyerism, but in truth, it’s more about deception and denial of the void that lies beyond, a void that is often reflected in our innermost selves.
In Season One, Eddie Lane separates from his wife Sarah because he is no longer a believer. In Meyerist nomenclature he is called a “denier,” a term that speaks volumes about the level of allegiance the movement demands from its acolytes. Another group of people is treated with similar disdain: the “Ignorant Systemite” or “IS.” These are the people outside of Meyerism who haven’t yet “seen the light,” in both a literal and figurative sense, as Meyerism doesn’t believe in God or a god, but “the Light” itself.
After spending nearly 20 years as a Meyerist, Eddie is, in a very tangible sense, lost. He has a job and an apartment and a life, but what that life means now is unknown to him. This feeling of being unmoored is addressed in a conversation that Eddie has with his high school friend Chloe. “I can’t explain the world I was in, but it only works when you believe, because once you pull that thread it just turns into nothing right in your hands.”
Eddie’s existential dread seems to pale in comparison to what will happen to those who were born into Meyerism if Meyerism itself closes up shop. Sarah is a prime example of someone who owes everything she is and everything she has to Meyerism. She’s never lived outside of its comforting embrace or had to go on a job interview in the IS world. If Meyerism no longer existed, would Sarah’s sense of self disappear as well? Would Sarah still exist?
This uneasy alliance between existence and non-existence underlies much of the narrative trajectory of the show, especially when things take place that could well be supernatural in nature. Granted, ingesting ayahuasca to experience visions is an integral part of Meyerism, but some of these unexplainable events occur to those who haven’t taken the psychotropic drug. For example, Eddie and Sarah’s son Hawk goes on a retreat and levitates. But does he? The Path has toyed with the idea that supernatural events might be real before, but Hawk could also be an unreliable narrator who wants so desperately to believe that he honestly thinks he levitates.
On the other hand, Cal (played by a convincingly creepy Hugh Dancy) continually manipulates not only fellow Meyerists but also the movement itself to gain an advantage. When IRS employee Lisa reveals to Sarah that the FBI is investigating the movement, Sarah tells Cal, who immediately starts a process of interviews to find the mole.
This process is known as “sourcing,” and like Scientology’s “auditing,” it’s just as nefarious as it sounds. It’s meant to “encourage” Meyerists to “unburden” and share their “damage” so that they can recover and heal, but it comes across like an interrogation technique that crooked cops use to railroad innocent citizens on whom they have no actual evidence.
It’s not just Cal, either. Sarah’s brother Russell actually goes into one of the women’s cabins with a security guard and starts rifling through their stuff, shouting the entire time.
“This is why we source,” he exclaims. “To uncover that which you hide from yourself.” The hypocrisy is palpable and grotesque.
After he finds a pack of cigarettes under one woman’s mattress he barks, “Put it back under the mattress or give over. Empty yourself so you can be filled with the truth.” When she tosses the pack into the garbage bag the security guard is holding, Russell’s demeanor changes entirely, like an abusive husband who hugs his wife after punching her in the face.
The idea that one must abandon all sense of self to find “The Light” in Meyerism underscores the danger that the movement presents. Despite their work with the homeless and Sarah’s ill-fated attempts to help a nearby town find relief from their poisoned water source, Meyerism isn’t about, as Cal asserts, harnessing the power inside of you, but relinquishing all power to the cult. Submission is a gift. Go on, give it to your brother.