Latin CVLTVS, cultus, "care, labor; cultivation, culture; worship, reverence," from colere, "to cultivate"
"Et non fuit qui insultaret populo isti, nisi quando recessit a cultu Domini Dei sui."
"And there was no one who could attack this people, except when they withdrew from the worship of the Lord their God." -Judith 5:17
In modern times the word cult has a decidedly negative implication, but originally the word simply meant "worship." When studying older writings, you will encounter the word used in its positive sense.
A cult is objective when it is a group of awakened people (Initiates) who cultivate and share an esoteric knowledge, based on all the ethics of the awakened consciousness: humility, chastity, generosity, patience, kindness, diligence, happiness for others, non-attachment, respect for others beliefs and will, etc. An objective cult makes no effort to control anyone, manipulate anyone, or convince anyone.
A cult is subjective when it relies on the five senses, beliefs, and theories, and is incapable of verifying the reality through scientific, spiritual methods. This leads to errors mistakes, assumptions, and fanaticism. For example: there is a widespread cult of science: people blindly follow their scientific theories and beliefs, and have no way of verifying whether they are true, such as about the origin of humanity. They have many theories that they enthrone in their minds, refuse to consider any other point of view, and emphatically reject anything that contradicts their theories. This is the case with religious cults as well: the interpretation of any religious scripture can become a cult, extremist or false when interpreted by subjective reasoning (five senses) or without the proper tools.
Modern culture is taking on many of the qualities of a negative cult: if you do not go along with modern ideas and beliefs, whether in politics, sexuality, gender, religion, or other areas, you risk being attacked, losing your job, ostracized, mocked, etc. Society is increasingly polarized into opposing camps of fanatical believers and their charismatic leaders. None recognize their own cult-like behaviors, but are quick to accuse others of "being in a cult."