CULTS & its Making – Hesham A Syed – 1997
# What is A CULT ? – Various definitions #
1.A group led by an all powerful leader or leaders who claim to have special abilities or powers – the leader demands total loyalty , discourage rational thought , and may even insist that followers severe all ties with friends and family in order to devote their lives to the Cult.
2.Cult is group of people whose life style is different from neighbors.
3.Cult is also referred as New Religion – an alternate religion – these depicts unusual faith — or a first generation religion — how ever if the number multiplies in a few hundred thousands & millions such group carry specific definition of religion and not of Cult.
# Characteristics #
1.A living charismatic leader who claims to have ultimate wisdom.
2.An authoritarian power structure.
# Who joins Cults & Vulnerability Factors #
1.It is observed that most Cults members are young , late teens , middle class 60% attended college – 20% graduates – few comes from intact families – 50% male & 50% female.
2.Essentially normal people , faced with difficulty in lives , sudden loss , disappointment, frustration of important expectation , victim of identity crisis
3.Those who have shown evidence of developmental & emotional problem over and extended period of time – searchers , seekers , – looking for magic belief or affiliation.
4.Disturbed mind , psychotic individual but hey do not stay longer because sooner or later they experience crisis and revert to their personal version of reality .
5.Social misfits , psychologist , sociologist , anthropologist & similar can be classic Cult followers.
6.Family back ground , upbringing – the tendency to conceptualize problems in a religious frame work and a low tolerance of ambiguity.
7.Dependency and need to receive approval from others.
8.People with unlocked career or bored with professional career.
9.Those seeking gang member protection
10.Who are over confident , who can give money , have average or above average intelligence and can be well educated.
11.Idealistic – wants to know God better.
12.Adolescence – life transition – time of many changes
13.Those who are in pursuit of finding answers very fast
— have their confidence shaken by crisis
— are not quite sure how they should act
—facing vague and confusing situation
—uncertain beliefs and values.
14.Stressful transition from / for teens :
–Breaking up with intimate relationship.
–Coping with Parents divorce or misbehavior
–Adjusting to family / friends death
–Moving to another state , city , neighbor hood
–Changing of educational environment
–Living away from home for first time
–Exams failure & shortcomings.
15.Adult Risk :
–Loss of Jobs
–Has no purpose
–Mid Life Crisis
–Identity acknowledgement – Who am I ?
16. Dysfunctional Family :
–Loss of Care
–Distortion of truth
–Loss of harmony in feelings.
# Cults Methodology & Modus Operandi #
2.Use physical force some time to recruit.
3.Use brain storming and washing.
4.Use naïve people , ignorant and simple headed people.
6.Use unfair persuasion
7.Using automatic behavior pattern
8.Using love and affection / reciprocation / love at first sight
9.The divine deception
10.Thru friendship :
– at meetings and parties , public places , hospitals , schools etc.
11.Propagating that the end of the world is coming.
12.Anti nuclear causes
13.Manupulating thru , social responsibility , ecological wisdom.
14.Meditation and revolution.
15.Flattery and Emotional intimacy
16.Unfriendly persuasion :
Manipulation / Variable tactics / all night meetings / driving out of rational mind / using emotional traumas etc
17.Stopping Alertness :
lack of sleep / physical discomfort ness / increasing sugar in take – Glucose fuels the brain cells / a drop in glucose clouds thinking and makes people even more tired and less able to focus.
18.Programmed Confusion :
– Disorient the mind
-Reality and Illusion are merged with too much information for brain to process at one time.
-Sensory overloading / Lecture Cramming / Mind numbing – Most people suffer through sensory overload in silence because they don’t want to appear ignorant in front of others.
19. Thought Stopping :
-Not that brain should spin but go on complete strike
-Altered state of consciousness
-Use methods for the body to release neurotransmitters ( endorphins ) or natural opiates.
20.Intense Emotional Stimulation :
-Paint gloomy picture of the world by using terms as Freedom , Injustice , and Evil
-Persuade mind to behave like children / Regression will make unsure of themselves.
21.Using group pressure tactics to conform :
-Jargons : create impression that new comers are part of special group that has secret , exclusive knowledge.
-Just like me – Comfort
-Ringers : Old members pretend to be new and provide social proof to the genuine new comers as how it has made a change in their life.
22.Provoking Crisis :
-Make believe that end of the world is just around the corner.
-new comers are some time made to feel guilty of their past doing , admit that they are shameful , pitiful human beings , often their self esteem erodes to the point where they will do any thing to gain relief by joining Cult.
-Attendees are led to fear some thing terrible will happen to them if they don’t believe in the Cult message and act on it right away.
-Group leaders some time exploit emotions and ridicule one or two publicly to the point of tears and this creates an impression that the leader reads the mind – Independent thinking is considered rebellious and dangerous .
-Isolation and Other tools used : Cut off relation with past friends & family members – they are made to seek support only from the group for their psychological quest.
23.Made to commit :
-Consistency : Automatic behavior pattern – once we are made to commit thru persuasion and skill by raising hand , getting on to our feet , a promise to do some thing our self image suffer if we back out . Once we have made to pledge of time and money or have vowed to do some thing the recruiter job is over – we have been sold.
-Vested Interest : Spending time and money with the group starts making more sense.
24.Group Pressure :
-We choose to do some thing we consider wrong rather than live with loneliness of rejection.
-Damaging cult uses group pressure to exploit and harm other members.
-Can be Satanic worshippers but sharing the secret can be exciting.
25.Forcing Commitment :
– Sacrifice :
Sacrifice some of playful habits , eating , drinking , smoking material , social habits etc , to make you suffer to focus on Cult objective.
Individual life saving or belongings are considered to be Group Leader property – Individual are made to develop total dependency on the group leader even for small decision in life.
Turn your back from the world – social meetings & communication source other than Cult members are denied.
-Build new living facilities – Dormitories may require members to leave home and live there -As outside world connection is cutoff new identity strengthens & outsiders are taken as enemies to fear them
A feeling is generated that the group members can read each other mind – communion intensifies and this commonality is interpreted as some thing mystical and other worldly.
Using shame to the point that the victim feels that if his mistake develops he may be cut off. Develop the condition of learned helplessness when humiliated in public and forgiven – feeling of gratefulness over powers feeling of anger for humiliation.-Guilt and Shame has two different meaning – Guilt refers to realization of making mistake which can be corrected – Shame is that you are a mistake not that you are at mistake.
New rational is used to bind the members – It makes them feel special , chosen people . Various techniques used can produce status of consciousness during which people may also see visions or hear voices – Most teach that visions , voices and dreams are God’s way of speaking to believer. These are some time called mystical experience. These become powerful than usual events in our daily life and seems beyond scientific explanation . Psychologist and Psychiatrist call these mystical experiences as Hallucination. This can cause due to chemical imbalances in the brain to insanity.
A great number of people thus believe in miracles and direct communication from God to individual.
Damaging Cult how ever uses different approach and deliberate consciousness altering technique to force mystical experiences on the members – they are told that these are coming from their leaders rather than from their God – The mystical experiences are always interpreted in ways that allow Cult leaders to take more control over follower’s lives and mind.
26. Destructive Cults and Mind Control :
# Use mind control and thought reform to manipulate : first stage for any member is like checking out syndrome if they still have linkage with the old belief and they are made to think that they are finding a better platform to serve God – After they are subjected to mind control for several weeks , they loose the ability to think critically and emotions are stuffed deep inside to make a decision – the only action the group members take are those approved by Cult members or Leaders.
# There are various tools used : Damaging Cults may not just use one but several to achieve the objective.
# Mind Control programs are carried out on an uninformed person / new members are spoon fed , uninformed and naively they walk in or tricked in to the Guru Circle and a time comes that they have burned so many bridges that there is no turning back.
# Group dominates over a person thinking – they do not allow time to individual thinking and make them passive . there is little or no privacy . Artificial world is filled with work , meetings , lectures or other activities like raising Funds , help to indoctrinate other Cult members – This called Act ionizing . Some time new members are flattered by making in charge of new members colleagues , so they feel that Group has confidence in them.
# Made to feel Powerless :
-repeated lecture , indoctrination , listening , presentation etc makes the message internalized , so that belief becomes the Cult member’s own.
-Old pattern of living behavior are broken some time and members get in to new pattern which is exciting & give them new sense of identity.
-Cults members are made to feel special and outsiders are ignorant or may be doomed.
# Reward and Punishment Concept : this is created to copy the leader – this is called modeling in psychological term and members who follow the role are called more spiritual .
-Access to the learning of real truth is very exciting – the secrecy characteristic of Cult belief is called “ Split Level Religion “ .
-Punishment may include public humiliation and threat of being kicked out of the group.
# Control of Time and Mind :
Many inner circle members claim that they can read mind when in truth they have a net work of spies who report to them – Other group stage fake healing , miracles and exorcism during which they claim to cast out Demons.
Every thing is planned in a way that it does not appear as if it is being forced upon but it is happening naturally.
# Mind Control and Logic :
Psychology of Totalism is applied – thought stopping cliché – some use Bible or Religious so called divine verses or other simply preach NO PAIN , NO GAIN – Cult leader is portrayed as God’s Messenger on earth , so no question asked , complaints or change is allowed. Member self esteem sinks lower and lower , they become help less and dependant on the Cult for their survival.
People are made to believe that they are nothing without the group , so they decide to stay & face the unpleasant reality of Cult life than to risk being doomed or damned for ever.
# Biology of Mind Control :
Scientist believe that some of the mind changing techniques may actually cause permanent chemical change to take place in the brain. The brain has a hundred billions Neurons or Nerve Cells. These Cells are shaped some what like spiders, with a main cell body and many tiny threads like structure branching from that body. These legs are called Dendrites .The Dendrites of one cell do not touch those of next cell. When information travels from one cell to cell in the brain , it must pass across the gap between cells which is called a Synapse. That information is carried by the brain manufactured chemicals called Neurotransmitters. Endorphins , the Neurotransmitter make people feel good & lessens the pain. The pains are one kind of Neurotransmitter , but there are many others.
Stressful life experience as well as enduring weeks and months of hearing the same messages over and over again can affect the amount of Neurotransmitters the brain releases and how those brain chemicals work to carry information.
According to recent research if information is repeated often enough , the new information is chemically imprinted over the old , actually changing the pathways our thought follows.
The biology of Mind control may help account for the fact that people who join Damaging Cults change so dramatically & that those who leave Cults after experience symptoms such as flashbacks for long after they break contact with the Cult.
Bibliography : ( Books consulted to write this article ):
1.Cults in America – Willa Appel 2.Cults – Karen Zenert 3.Cults : Straight Talk – Kaymarrie Portefit 4.Encyclopedia of Active New Religion – Beit Hallahus
5.Cults – Cohen Daniel 6.Coping with Satanism – Ottens , Allen 7.Cults – Ross , Terry
8.Cults – Steven , Sarah 9. Strange Sects & Curious Cults – Bach Marcus 10. Vodoo – Opposing view points – Nardo, Don & Erik 11. American Saints & Seers – Rice Edward 12.Christian Cult Heads – Stressguth , Thomas 13. Witchcraft Trial – Zeinert Karen , Salem 14. Strange Gods : Cult Scan in America – David Lombey. 15.Various Websites
and many books in Urdu languages.
Hesham A Syed