The Cult Test
Questions 21 to 30
by A. Orange

(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and answers.)


21. Personal testimonies of earlier converts.
When you go to meetings, cult members will all tell you that the cult is wonderful and the best thing that ever happened to them. (And if there are a lot of former members who think that the cult totally sucks, well, they won't be around to tell you that, will they?)

Gohonzon
In some groups, a standard part of every get-together or church service is a session where people "testify", or "witness", or "share", and tell stories of what wonderful things the cult has done for them. That helps to both indoctrinate the newcomers and strengthen the "faith" of the current members. In some groups, members graduate from beginner status to regular membership when they can stand up before the whole group and recite an acceptable speech about the wonderful benefits they have gotten from belonging to the cult.

For example, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is a Santa Claus cult where you chant for whatever you want — just grab your Christmas wish list of things to get (money, car, house, laid, whatever), and start chanting to the Gohonzon, which is a reprint of an ancient scroll. No joke. You chant to a printed piece of paper, which the faithful insist has the magical power to grant wishes, among other things. (The true believers will even entertain you with stories about the Jumping Gohonzons, which allegedly jumped down off of the wall and hopped out of a burning monastery in ancient Japan, and some believers will also tell you that they get advice and guidance from their Gohonzon.) Whenever you get something good, you have to stand up before the whole church and brag about all of the wonderful things you have gotten from chanting to the Gohonzon.

The Scientology book What Is Scientology? is loaded with testimonials, like:

  • The end result of my Drug Rundown restored me to my teenage years — when I was honest, didn't take drugs or alcohol; when I was so full of life and enthusiasm; when everything was new and wonderful and I could do anything. All I had to do was decide I wanted something or to do something and it happened. That state has been restored to me now.
    I'm fifty-three.
    S.L.D.
    Dianetics Auditing
    What Is Scientology?, page 358.

  • I have been a Scientologist for many years and I can say with no reservation whatever that the single most important thing for me is that through Scientology auditing I have gained total certainty that I am a spiritual being. To me that knowledge alone is more important than anything else in life.
    F.K.
    Scientology Auditing
    What Is Scientology?, page 358.

  • Before I came into Scientology, I knew there was something more to understand about myself and about life. I would wonder "Who am I?" but never really found an answer, until Scientology. The most valuable thing I have gained from Scientology is a complete certainty of myself as a spirit. It may sound unbelievable to say that Scientology delivers the promise of personal immortality, but it's true. I know without doubt that I am a spiritual being and that I can create a future for myself that is bright, expansive and long-lasting. And to me, that knowledge is priceless.
    L.G.
    Scientology Auditing
    What Is Scientology?, page 359.

Promises of restored youth and personal immortality are, of course, also an example of another standard cult characteristic: Promised Powers or Knowledge. Scientology is so outrageous that they actually claim that they can sell you immortality (for only $250,000).

Many cults routinely show off a chorus line of "poster children" who all swear that the cult saved them from a fate worse than death, or gave them enlightenment, or brought them to Jesus, or got them off of drugs and alcohol, or some such great thing... Those cults love to collect and show off rich and famous people, like movie stars and champion athletes.

Scientology displays in its trophy case the heads of:

  • Tom Cruise (actor)3,
  • John Travolta (actor)2 3,
  • Kelly Preston (actress, and wife of John Travolta)8
  • Chick Corea (keyboard player)2,
  • Stanley Clark (jazz bass player)2,
  • Isaac Hayes (jazz musician and actor, and former cartoon voice of "Chef" in South Park)2,
  • Karen Black (actress)3,
  • Judy Norton-Taylor (actress, Mary Ellen on The Waltons)2,
  • Anne Archer (actress)2
  • Mimi Rogers (actress)8
  • Sonny Bono (Palm Springs mayor and performer, formerly singer with Sonny and Cher)8
  • Nancy Cartwright (the cartoon voice of Bart Simpson)2 3,
  • Jenna Elfman (actress)2
  • Bodhi Elfman (actor)2
  • Haywood Nelson (actor)2
  • Jeff Pomerantz (actor)2
  • Kimberly Kates (actress)2
  • Edgar Winter (musician)2
  • Priscilla Presley (Elvis' former wife)2,
  • Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis' daughter)2,
  • Seamus Heaney (a poet),
  • Juliette Lewis (actress) 9,
  • Kate Ceberano (singer, songwriter, & actress) 9,
  • Terry Jastrow (TV producer & director) 9,
  • Mark Isham (musician & composer) 9,
  • Pete Medak (director) 9,
  • Eduardo Palomo (actor & vocalist) 9,
  • Carina Ricco (singer, actress, & composer) 9,
  • Giovanni Ribisi (actor) 9,
  • Catherine Bell (actress) 9,
  • Jason Beghe (actor) 9,
  • Danny Masterson (actor) 9,
  • Leah Remini (actress) 9,
  • Floyd Mutrux (writer, director, producer) 9,
  • Geoffrey Lewis (actor) 9,
  • Michelle Stafford (actress) 9,
  • K. Patrick Warren (keyboardist) 9,
  • Jennifer Aspen (actress) 9,
  • Karen Nelson Bell (producer, director, & musician) 9,
  • Michael Fairman (actor) 9,
  • Haywood Nelson (actor) 9,
  • David Campbell (composer & arranger) 9,
  • David Pomeranz (songwriter & recording artist) 9,
  • Michael D. Roberts (actor) 9,
  • Carl-W. Röhrig (artist) 9,
  • Keith Code (motorcycle racing instructor) 9,
  • Xavier Deluc (actor) 9,
  • Gloria Rusch-Novello (singer, writer, & actress) 9,
  • Megan Shields (physician) 9,
  • James T. Sorensen (photographer) 9,
  • Cory S. Trammell (fire captain) 9,
  • Barbara Pease Stewart (businesswoman) 9,
  • and Kirstie Alley (actress)2 3.

And from 1993 to 1998, Kirstie Alley was listed as Narconon's international spokesperson. Narconon is Scientology's version of a 'narcotics anonymous' organization. Scientology also has Crimanon, for criminals, but Kirstie Alley doesn't represent that one. Notice how the Scientologists couldn't even think up original names for their copy-cat organizations. They just copied the Al-Anon, Narcanon, and Narcotics Anonymous naming so closely that you might confuse one organization with the other — which just might have been the idea all along. (To keep them straight in your mind, remember that NarCONon is a Scientology CON. Narcanon is the wives' and childrens' auxiliary for Narcotics Anonymous — not really good, but cheaper than Scientology.)

Speaking of chorus lines, "est", the "Erhard Seminar Training" scam, bragged about having bagged "John Denver, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Joanne Woodward, Yoko Ono, and Jerry Rubin — 'with incredible results'."4 Later, they added the actor Roy Scheider and Broadway stage actor Raul Julia.5 But they never did explain what "incredible results" they got...


22. The group is self-absorbed.
That is, the cult is the most important thing in the lives of the cult members. Sometimes, it is their entire life.

Faithful members will tell you that the cult has given them a whole new life, but that new life is often nothing more than working for free all of the time to raise money for the cult, and recruit new members for the cult, and going to meetings, "Bible study classes", "worship services", chanting sessions, meditation sessions, prayer sessions, work parties, "auditing" sessions, training sessions, conventions and other get-togethers. Sometimes, cult members live together in communal houses and have few social contacts besides other cult members. And all they talk about is the cult.


23. Dual Purposes.
The cult has a publicly advertised purpose, and a hidden purpose. The cult has a hidden agenda.

For example, many cults will, while raising funds, claim to be very busy solving social problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, or abandoned orphans. But when the money is spent, little or none of it goes to the good cause; rather, the money is used to support the cult, and further its hidden agenda, and finance the leader's luxurious lifestyle.

Rev. Jim Jones and his People's Temple were notorious for sending children out into the streets, begging for donations to support programs to get people off of drugs or to help orphan children. But Jones' biggest expense was actually indulging his own whims, and his biggest activity was self-glorification and faking miracles.

This is a very common hidden agenda: A church may claim to be doing charitable relief work, feeding starving people (especially children) in foreign countries, but their real mission is proselytizing and trying to convert other people to their religion. They feel completely justified in lying and deceiving others — both their donors in the USA and the people in foreign countries — in order to "bring more souls to Jesus", or some such thing. They imagine themselves to be very holy, "serving God", but they really have the morality of a cancer cell or a virus. All they want to do is turn everybody around them into clones of themselves.

Antioch Church in Texas sent young women to Afghanistan to illegally proselytize for Jesus while pretending to be relief workers who were there to help the poor and starving. Perhaps you remember that a few months before September 11, 2001, the Taliban arrested two American women relief workers for proselytizing and trying to convert Afghanistanis to Christianity. Everybody involved denied it and said that the Taliban were just crazy Islamic fundamentalists.

Half a year later, the U.S. Army invaded Afghanistan and rescued the relief workers, and the news media made a big deal out of the rescue of those two women and other relief workers. Those women even continued to lie and deny their proselytizing activities when they gave a press conference in the USA when they came home. The truth didn't come out until the mother of one of the two young women gave NBC news an interview telling the whole story: the Taliban were right. The women had been actively proselytizing and trying to make converts and establish Christian "cells" which would (hopefully) grow into large Christian churches.

The mother made these revelations because she was very worried — her daughter and her daughter's friends in Antioch Church were planning to return to Afghanistan and do it all again, and the State Department wouldn't stop them. Apparently, religious bigotry, lying and deceit are not against international law, or against American foreign policy, either (as long as you are a Texan Christian).

Likewise, at least one of those Christian "save the children in foreign countries" charities that advertises on TV that "we don't preach or proselytize or try to convert the people whom we are helping" is lying.
I know, because I made the mistake of sending them money. When you become a donor, they send you their magazine, which includes stories of how they are teaching the people in foreign countries to abandon their "primitive native beliefs" and convert to the relief workers' ideas of fundamentalist Christianity. An African woman who believed that God was like the sky, immense, clear, and boundless, was told to believe that God is a king sitting on a throne in Heaven. I never sent that organization another penny.

"Dual purposes" also means that the cult is two-faced. The cult has a public face, which is usually an altruistic, happy, smiley face, and then the cult has a hidden face, perhaps that of a greedy, grasping, abusive, mind-controlling organization, or that of a dogmatic, expansionist, fundamentalist religion.

David Berg's Children of God cult begged for donations to "help youth off drugs", but they actually had no program for getting anybody off of drugs. What they really did was get all of the girls into prostitution — "Flirty Fishing" is what they called it — to get the cult more money and more male members.6

For another example, Werner Erhard launched "the Hunger Project" which ostensibly was supposed to alleviate world hunger, but which was really just another scheme to promote and enrich his est "self-improvement training" hoax:

      From the very outset of the Hunger Project, [project director Joan] Holmes herself made it clear that the program had much more to do with spreading the transformational message of est than with actually doing anything to end hunger. Hunger, as Holmes candidly told readers of the Graduate Review in August 1977, had little to do with the overall goals of the project. "Of course, I'm not insensitive to the people who are hungry and starving," said Holmes. "But the truth is that it could be any issue. The process is the same."
Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, page 158.

      While the money began pouring in [1978], Werner Erhard made good on his pledge to refrain from helping to feed people directly or feeling guilty about massive hunger and starvation. After raising more than $1 million during its first full year in business, the Hunger Project contributed the grand sum of $1000 to a San Francisco church that operated a soup kitchen at Christmas. The previous year, the project gave $2,500 to OXFAM, a prominent hunger organization.
      It wasn't long before the Hunger Project began attracting critical attention from some of Erhard's skeptics. "Werner Erhard is using the Hunger Project not only for self-aggrandizement but for promoting the for-profit corporation he founded, as well," concluded Mother Jones magazine in December 1978, following a six-month investigation. "I have serious doubts about the social value of the Hunger Project," one hunger expert in Washington told the magazine. "It's probably collected more money in the name of hunger and done the least about hunger than any group that I can think of." After threatening a libel suit against Mother Jones, est responded instead with a call for seminar participants to devote two minutes of "negative energy" on the magazine's writers.*

* Six years after Mother Jones's investigation of the Hunger Project, the magazine announced that a follow-up look had revealed that the Hunger Project had severed all financial and legal ties with est while instructing its staff and volunteers not to recruit any new customers into est, which was soon to be replaced anyway by a new Erhard program. Mother Jones, however, made it clear that it firmly stood by everything reported in its 1978 article.

Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, page 162.

Hungry destructive narcissists use the childish tactics of pouting and sulking when dissatisfied or when they are thwarted from getting their own way. This is a form of revenge, whereby you are supposed to understand that they have withdrawn their love and approval from you and will continue to hold out until you come around and become more satisfying and accomodating.
Loving the Self-Absorbed, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 79.

That Mother Jones article also said,

The Hunger Project is a thinly veiled recruitment arm for est. Hunger Project volunteers have said that est-trained Hunger Project staffers have pressured them until they agreed to do the $300-a-shot est training. Others told of being asked to lend their cars or provide other services to est.
      The Hunger Project has nonprofit status — which gives it the ability to receive tax-deductable contributions. But this use of a nonprofit organization to recruit customers for a for-profit is in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Internal Revenue Service laws.
      In various cities across the country, Erhard's disciples have organized a "Hunger Project Seminar Series" at $30 per enrollment. Yet the proceeds go, not to the Hunger Project, but directly to est.
"LET THEM EAT est, We Confront Werner Erhard With Our Awareness Of His Manifestation Of What We're Clear Is A Big Scam", by Suzanne Gordon, Mother Jones, December 1978, page 42.

In November [1980] popular television actress Valerie Harper traveled as a Hunger Project representative to the famine-ravaged country of Somalia, where refugee camps were filled with the hungry and malnourished victims of a cruel five-year border war with Ethiopia. Describing the Hunger Project as a "free public-relations firm for the voiceless," the est-influenced Harper admitted that "we don't send one grain of rice but we support those who are."
Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, pages 163-164.

      Undaunted by the mountains of criticism, Erhard and other Hunger Project officials planned a promotional "relaunching" of the project in the fall of 1987, to celebrate its tenth anniversary. "Well, folks, I don't know about you," John Denver said at the time, "but when you listen to Werner articulate what it is that we're about, you truly have the sense that we're participating in something historic."
      A UNICEF volunteer in Portland, Oregon, had a different reaction to the lavish celebration that marked the completion of the Hunger Project's first decade. "For what they spent on that production," he told a local newspaper reporter, "I could feed the nation of Ethiopia."
      Erhard and his fellow Hunger Project enthusiasts had little patience for such complaints. Instead, they continued as they always had to spread a fuzzy message about "taking responsibility" for ending hunger while collecting millions of dollars in the process. Between 1977 and 1989 the Hunger Project collected more than $67 million from around the world while claiming to have "enrolled" some 6.5 million people into its ranks. During that time it gave less than $2 million to other organizations directly involved in antihunger efforts. The rest of the money remained inside the Erhard network, paying for glossy publications and other promotional campaigns to keep expanding the Hunger Project.
Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, pages 166-167.


Synanon leader Charles "Chuck" Dederich
"Nonviolence was just a position we took. We change positions all of the time."
Likewise, Synanon advertised itself as a wonderful new-age utopian community of people dedicated to saving themselves and other people from alcoholism and drug addiction. Synanon founder Chuck Dederich, who was an old alcoholic and ex-member of Alcoholics Anonymous, claimed to have taken the best parts of Alcoholics Anonymous and made them into a new program that would work better for drug addicts. (Notice the similarity between the names "Synanon" and "Al-Anon". "Synanon" = "Sinners Anonymous".)

In the beginning, Synanon really was a remarkable self-help organization that got hundreds of people off of drugs and alcohol.

But Synanon degenerated into a crazy leader-worshipping cult where:

  • Dederich took over control of all of the members' sex lives and marriages, as well as all of the rest of their lives, and all of the men except the leader Chuck Dederich had to get vasectomies, and the pregnant women had to get abortions, so that they wouldn't have any bothersome children.

  • Then Chuck made everyone get divorced and marry someone else, on the grounds that most couples will break up sooner or later, so why not get it over with now? (But note that the leader Chuck didn't have to divorce his wife Betty...)

  • Then Dederich declared that Synanon was a research organization, investigating how Synanon could supply the leaders with rich, elegant lifestyles.

  • Then Dederich declared that Synanon was a church.

  • And then he had a goon squad of heavily-armed thugs — "The Imperial Marines" — who physically attacked and brutally beat up non-conforming members, splittees, and outside critics alike, sometimes with surprise attacks with baseball bats from behind in the dark of night. The Imperial Marines practiced terrorism, pure and simple. (And so did the People's Temple goon squad, "The Angels".)

  • Then they tried to kill a lawyer, Paul Morantz, who was suing them, by putting a huge old rattlesnake in his mailbox, minus the rattle, so that there would be no warning buzz. It took eleven vials of anti-toxin to save Paul's life, after the snake bit him, and he suffered permanent damage to his arm.

  • And finally, when the police came and arrested Chuck Dederich, he was so drunk that they had to carry him away on a stretcher — he couldn't even walk.

Not exactly your garden-variety drug-and-alcohol rehab program.
Not exactly a wonderful new-age answer to all of our drug and alcohol problems.

But even while all of those insane things were going on, Synanon still continued to advertise itself as, and solicit funds for, a 'wonderful' drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. They continued to collect funds for that good cause even after they stopped accepting any new addicts, claiming that fresh, undetoxed, addicts were "too much of a distraction." Dederich didn't say what they were a distraction from...

As a side note, it just seems like the drug and alcohol rehab business is a fertile ground for the development of cults and similar crazy groups. There are far too many stories to list here; see the page Boot Camps: Children's Gulags, for more.

While all of the craziness and child abuse and even child killing is going on, the boot camps and other children's gulags still advertise themselves as wonderful rehabilitation centers, saving the children from lives wasted by drugs, alcohol and crime, and the gulags solicit funds from charities and government agencies alike, to continue their "good work."

It's funny how so many politicians and bureaucrats imagine that Buchenwald look-alikes will be good for getting children off of drugs. It does not seem to ever occur to them that child abuse and bad environments are often what drove the kids to drugs in the first place.


24. Aggressive Recruiting.
Cult members work hard at getting more members. That, and fund-raising, are often the major activities of the cult. Sometimes, a member can't rise above 'newbee' status until he recruits somebody else. The Oxford Group cult had the slogan: "A person isn't completely changed until he changes someone else." And when members recruited and indoctrinated new members, and those new members in turn recruited more members, the elder members gained status in the cult and were said to have "spiritual children and grandchildren".

The cult may use a variety of rapid-conversion techniques to recruit new members, like

"Love bombing" is over-whelming a prospect with attention and friendliness. The prospect may have been alone and lonely, but now he is the center of attention, and friendly girls who insist on hugging or touching him tell him that he is "really neat" or some such thing.

In the Moonies' cult — The Unification Church — the prospect is never left alone for a minute — he can't even go to the bathroom alone — and he is simply completely immersed in the cult and its teachings all of his waking hours, and constantly surrounded by smiling, friendly faces that tell him that the cult is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And he is deprived of sleep, too, kept awake and busy for long periods of time, so that his waking hours, and his indoctrination time, are very long. The lack of sleep, and lack of free time, helps to stop critical thinking, and the instant intimacy makes resisting the indoctrination difficult.

And then the prospect is pulled further into the cult through a technique called "acquiescence by default." That means that the prospect is induced to do things just by doing nothing. For example, the young fellow who is being love-bombed may be told by the local group leader, who may not be much older than the prospect, "Sam and Harry should go canvas the university for 'winners' [vulnerable-looking prospects]. Mary and Fred [the new prospect] should take the van and go to the farm for the weekend." Now Fred had not intended to spend his weekend at the cult's commune, but the idea of spending the weekend with Mary is tempting, (and the leader knows it,) so Fred is still debating what he would really like to do when he is shoved into the van by Mary and he's off to a weekend of more intense indoctrination.

Then, if he even starts to think about leaving, the circle of people around him breaks out in 'spontaneous' song:

     We love you, Fred,
     We love you more than anyone,
     We don't want you to leave us —
     And we don't mean maybe!
The Making Of A Moonie: Brainwashing Or Choice?, Eileen Barker, page 113.

After that weekend, Fred may find himself staying for another week or two, just the same way, and then he stays even longer, and eventually, he finds himself selling flowers on a street corner sixteen hours a day for no pay, and he isn't quite sure how he got there, but he knows that it's the right road to Heaven...

Steve Hassan, in his book, "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves", described something very similar: Hassan discussed how, as a 19-year-old student at Queens College in New York City, he was approached by three attractive women who said they were also students, and invited him to dinner. He had just broken up with his girlfriend, so he was lonely, and didn't mind having some female companionship. He wound up accompanying his new friends to a few weekend workshops — all in the spirit of being "open minded."

"It dawned on me when I was driving with them to an estate in upstate New York owned by the Unification Church. I'd ask them, 'Why are we going there?' They would turn it around on me and say, 'Why, are you afraid?'" Hassan recounted. And that deception was the beginning of several years of "service" to the cult.

Guilt induction is just what it sounds like: make the prospect feel guilty about everything and anything, and convince him that only by joining the cult can he change his life for the better. The guilt-inducers love to visit jails and drug and alcohol detox and rehab facilities, and tell people, "Well, you tried living your own way, and it didn't work out well at all, did it? It turned you into a horrible monster, and a real loser, didn't it? So now you should start living God's Way." — And it is always "God's Way" as they define it, of course.

Another standard feature of cult recruiting is "actionizing." The trick is to get new members out recruiting others fast. The newcomers have just been inducted into the cult, they only know a little of the dogma, and already they have to go recruiting. There is a very good reason for that: The act of trying to convert others will cement the new dogma in the minds of the recent converts, and they will be convincing themselves as they try to convince others. They will also have to study and learn more dogma in order to be able to recite it to the prospects. It's the propaganda technique called "Self-Sell" — get them to sell the cult to themselves while trying to sell it to others.

The booby prize for the most aggressive recruiting technique ends up being a tie between two pseudo-Christian cults, both of whom encourage their female members to become prostitutes. One of the requirements for female members of "The Way International" is to prostitute themselves in order to draw potential recruits into the organization. Imagine being the guy in that situation. He would never guess that his new girlfriend is a prostitute, because she doesn't ask him for money. She just wants him to come to church with her, after sex. Isn't it amazing what some people can rationalize, by saying, "It's all okay, because it's being done in the service of the Lord." ("The end justifies the means" is another standard cult characteristic.)

And then there is the pseudo-Christian cult, David Berg's "Children of God", which actively encourages its female members to practice "Flirty Fishing" and to work as "Happy Hookers for Jesus", using sex to bring both money and new male members into the church. They operate near many large American military bases overseas, and take advantage of lonely servicemen with their come-ons. The cult leader David Berg (a.k.a. Moses David) even went so far as to tell the husbands to pimp their wives on the streets.1

In Boot Camps: Children's Gulags, we saw how Jim Jones used another ancient recruiting strategy: steal a bunch of other people's children and raise them up to be the kind of true believers that he wanted.


25. Deceptive Recruiting.
What you are joining isn't what you think you are joining. And they won't tell you the truth until they've got you, and it is your turn to go recruit others in the same manner.

A common characteristic of deceptive recruiting is hiding or distorting the truth, and only revealing the truth to prospects and recent converts a little bit at a time. (See Steve Hassan's description of the "Heavenly deception" practiced by the Unification Church — the "Moonies.")

Cults rationalize this behavior by saying that

  • the newcomers are too "unspiritual" or "new" or "ignorant" to be able to handle the whole truth,
  • or they haven't done enough yoga or meditation yet, or chanted enough,
  • or they haven't gotten enough Scientology-style "auditing" yet,
  • or, they haven't been off of drugs and alcohol long enough yet,
  • or whatever the excuse is...
It is almost a universal cult characteristic that, in the opinion of the elder cult members, prospects and new converts have defective judgement and are not capable of thinking for themselves, so the cult must do the thinking for the newcomers, for their own good. So withholding the truth from the newcomers in order to recruit them and keep them coming back is, in the eyes of the cult elders, occasionally both necessary and appropriate.

Other common themes are the use of front groups for recruiting, and masking the true nature of the organization. Steve Hassan reported in his book Combatting Cult Mind Control that when he was recruited by the Unification Church, he was recruited through a front group that was supposedly working on social problems. "We aren't a religion," they told him. Hassan wrote that he was in the organization for a couple of months before he learned that he was actually in the Unification Church.

When I asked a member why I hadn't been told the truth about the religious quality of the movement, he asked, "If you knew in advance, would you have come?" I admitted that I probably wouldn't have.
Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan, 1988, page 18.

That's another recurrent theme:

  • "We aren't a religion", (remember the Rosicrucians, who say "Not A Religion" in every magazine ad,) or,
  • "It's spiritual, not religious", or
  • "It's just the perennial philosophy, not a religion", or
  • "It's a brotherhood of adepts who practice ancient techniques for gaining wisdom, not a religion", or
  • "This is just a civic organization, working on social issues." (Moonies front groups)
If you believe that the cult is a religion, you might see it as conflicting with your current religion, which would probably stop you from joining the cult. But if you think that it's just a spiritually-oriented organization, then you won't see any conflict (until later, when they tell you to dump your current religion and just believe in their stuff).


26. No Humor.
Try telling jokes about the leader and the church. If the members go ballistic on you, you are involved with a bunch of religious fanatics. ("Screech!!! That's NOT funny!") Jokes about other stuff don't count — the jokes must specifically poke fun at the leader and his church and the church's beliefs. Some humorless cults pretend to have a lot of humor by laughing and joking all of the time about everything except the leader, the cult, and their beliefs.

Alan Watts said that his definition of sanity was the ability to come off it. If you can poke fun at someone's foibles and get him to laugh and come off it, then he's okay. On the other hand, if he just says exactly the same thing again, but twice as loud, because you were apparently too deaf to hear it the first time, and couldn't understand his genius, then you have a problem on your hands.


27. You Can't Tell The Truth.
If you find that you can't tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when speaking to the group, that you have to censor your own speech, and can only say certain things in order for what you say to be acceptable to the group, then you should strongly consider the idea that you are in the wrong group.

A corollary to this is that you can't ask for the whole truth, either.

Another way to say "You can't tell the truth" is "Suppression of Dissent". You are not allowed to disagree with the leaders. You are not allowed to say anything that contradicts the leader or his teachings, even if you are telling the truth. When in doubt, refer to Cult Rules One, Two, and Six:


28. Cloning — You become a clone of the group leader or other elder group members.
You must adopt a new identity, which is "group member".
Many of the followers end up looking, dressing, acting, talking, and thinking just like copies of the group leader.

In the 3HO cult, for example, all of the followers have to wear turbans, just like the leader, and all of the men have long beards and long hair hidden under the turbans, and they all dress and look exactly the same as their leader, Yogi Bhajan.

In ISKCON, the Hari Krishna cult, all of the men shave their heads, except for a little pigtail in back, while all of the women grow their hair long, and hide it under a sari. And they all dress in the same orange robes and sandals, and again, the men all look just like their leader, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Even when the cult doesn't enforce an outlandish dress code, the members still start looking a lot alike. Many fundamentalist cults require the men to wear suits and ties, or office dress shirts and ties, while the women all wear long dresses. But the worst aspect of cloning is that the member's minds become just as uniform as their hair and dress. Members don't just look like the leader, they also talk and think like the leader. Cults simply rob members of their individuality.

In addition, many cults give fresh recruits new names to further the process of disconnection from their old identity and adoption of their new cult identity.

In the book Escape from Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon, the author William F. Olin described how the cult leader, Charles Dederich, accumulated a group of clones who looked and acted so much like him that the less-brainwashed members of Synanon disparagingly referred to that circle of sycophants as "the little Chucks". Olin wrote:

At the very top, Dan Garrett's role as the ultimate yes-man ("Yeah, man!") totally turned me off. He deliberately stuffed his own brilliance and parroted every utterance of the Founder — never publicly crossing him — in or out of Games. It was embarrassing. I felt love and esteem for the Old Man, but still recognized his consummate humanity and the reality that his ideas and remarks ran a gamut from inspired genius to banal and asinine. Yet the little Chucks who ran my life accepted each new concept indiscriminately, urging it onto the rank and file as the current "fantastic" gospel according to St. Charles [Charles "Chuck" Dederich]. Either these lieutenants were stupid or else they were able to keep the higher goals of the 'Synanon vision' constantly in view. I had lately begun to suspect that the former was true more often than the latter: After all, Adolph Hitler was big on experimentation. Change was not necessarily growth. God, how sick and tired I was of being a guinea pig!
Escape From Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon, William F. Olin, page 250.

The book "est, 60 hours that transform your life", by Adelaide Bry, is a piece of propaganda that sells the cultish 'est' "Erhard Seminar Training" self-improvement hoax of "Werner Erhard" (really, Jack Rosenberg), which featured refusing to let people go to the bathroom, sometimes not until they wet their pants, and making people "get IT" (which was never defined). The authoress gives us a funny example of a tap-dance as she tries to explain that the clones of the leader are just as good as the leader (who was glorified as a unique genius), so you shouldn't feel cheated if you get an assistant trainer instead of the real guru for your money when you get "trained" — the clones are just as good as the leader — exactly the same, in fact — but don't think that they are mindless clones — they have minds of their own, well, almost, but not too much:

      The trainers fall into a very special category. As Werner's emissaries (I've heard them referred to, affectionately, as sub-gurus) the fourteen trainers are alter egos if not quite carbon copies and yet each has an individual personality and is his or her own person. They are rigorously trained over a long period. I understand that the main concentration of their apprenticeship is to learn to re-create "where Werner comes from" (with the use of videotape among other things) and for the trainer-trainee to get his or her own personality out of the way so the regular trainees can "be there" with themselves. That they all have the same air is, I suppose, a way of saying that the differences between them is [sic.] irrelevant to the training. There are three women trainers, one of whom does the children's training. Word is that Werner is not a male chauvinist.
      There are no specific standards for becoming a trainer — no tests, no job descriptions, no applications for this position. Werner says that "many people come out of the training wanting to be a trainer. What I do is to set up an obstacle course and whoever gets through it is a trainer. The course is made up of anything they've been unwilling to give up, anything they're attached to, anything they need in order to survive. It's a huge sacrifice. What they really have to give up is their ego."
...
      The trainers have gone through this kind of preparation — and more. The nine trainers whom I've seen in action have in common a kind of transparency, an objective quality, that transcends personality, judgement, and biases so that the only experience you get is your own right back again.
      When I mentioned this to someone who had taken the training, she disagreed with me vehemently. "But they're always 'on,'" she said. "They're brilliant actors — stern and unbending sometimes, clowning and funny at others, beautiful, polished, clever..." Exactly. What you experience from the trainers during the training is a duplication, out of their own experiences with Werner, of the training he created.
[Notice the contradiction there. The authoress gave us a long description of the junior "trainers", and then she quoted a participant who "vehemently disagreed" with her, and said that the truth was just the opposite. What is this double-talk? Whom are we supposed to believe? Also, notice the deception where the "vehement disagreement" was actually just more praise of the trainers, so it wasn't disagreement at all.]
      The trainer exists not as a teacher but as a catalyst, to allow experience. He never interprets what's happening, as would a therapist. He gets out of your way, leaving you alone with your resistance, your vomit, your headaches, your backaches, your hunger, thirst, or bursting bladder. He's there to hack away at your belief system. And to do that he has to be Dale Carnegie, John Barrymore, Jack Kennedy — and Werner Erhard — all rolled into a neat super-guru package.
est, 60 hours that transform your life, erhard seminars training, Adelaide Bry, Avon Books, pages 161-163.

Just for the record, as far as Werner Erhard not being a male chauvinist pig goes, another biographer, one who wasn't trying to sell est training, reported that Werner Erhard was a vicious woman-hater and woman-beater, the worst kind of male chauvinist pig. Look here.

Werner Erhard was also a megalomaniac who insisted that everything was about him, that his employees existed only to be his clones:

      At the end of 1975, during a four-day staff meeting, a new staff member stood up to be introduced to the rest of the group.
      "I'm happy to be joining the staff," said the new employee. "I'm happy that I will be able to bring my professional skills to bear."
      Erhard cut him off sharply, yelling at the new employee, "Stop! I don't want your goddamn professional skills. I don't give a crap about your goddamn professional skills. You're not here because of your professional skills. You are here to re-create me." In Werner Erhard's world, est employees were there to imitate the boss, to reflect his image in everything they did.
Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, page 86.

Warning: Werner Erhard is gone, but his racket is still continuing under the names "The Forum", "The Landmark Forum", "The Landmark Educational Forum", and "Landmark Educational". They like to specialize in so-called "corporate training".
See: http://clever.net/ozark/awareness/


29. You must change your beliefs to conform to the group's beliefs.
The price of admission to the club is that you must come to believe what they believe. You must also be ready and willing to change your beliefs in an instant, whenever the leader expounds some new doctrine.

This one is so obvious that it is easy to overlook. At first glance, you might think, "Isn't that what all religions demand? That you believe what they believe?" Well yes, it is, more or less. But imagine the opposite. If you have a group that does not demand that you change your beliefs to conform to the group's beliefs, then that is very un-cult-like behavior. So it is still relevant.

In addition, there is the issue of variability. Cult leaders tend to make up new doctrines whenever they feel like it, while established churches may take centuries to modify their beliefs.

There is also the issue of how much you must conform. Most mainstream religions are tolerant of members who have diverse or differing beliefs on some issues. But cults demand great conformity, and can be very unforgiving of any deviation from standard dogma. So it's a matter of degree.

And then there is the question of just what you are asked to believe. Cults will believe and do amazing things. It's hard to imagine that a bunch of Jesus-freak kids would believe the declaration that all of the young women should now go out on the streets and practice prostitution to attract new male members and get more money for the church, and their husbands should pimp for them, all in the name of God, but that's what happened in David Berg's Children of God cult. And they actually believed it, and did it. Miriam Williams wrote a book, Heaven's Harlots, where she explained how she did it for fifteen years before she wised up. They were all in such a gullible true-believer state of mind that they just accepted as Gospel Truth whatever new policies David Berg declared. When "Moses David", as he liked to call himself, wrote another "Mo" letter, the cult members immediately accepted it as revealed truth, and did whatever "Mo" said.

Then again, it's also hard for us to imagine that dozens or hundreds of people would really believe it when the leader says that it's time to commit suicide now, but they have done it. Think of Jim Jones' People's Temple, Luc Jouret's Solar Temple, Vernon Howell's (a.k.a. "David Koresh's") Branch Davidians, and Marshall Herff Applewhite's Heaven's Gate cults. That's really some crazy strong belief.


30. The End Justifies The Means.
When the cult engages in unscrupulous behavior, they say that it's okay, because it's all done in the service of God (or for some other good end).

  • The Hari Krishnas routinely short-change people, and rationalize it by saying, "It's all God's money anyway, so it's okay to get more of it for God."

  • Most cults practice deceptive recruiting, and rationalize all of the lies by saying that they are saving souls, or getting more souls for God.

  • The Moonies routinely practice "Heavenly Deception" — deceiving nonmembers to further the church's goals — and consider that okay too, because it advances God's cause.

  • And I just mentioned the Christian cults that encourage their female members to become prostitutes in order to bring more money and members into the cult. That must require a good bit of rationalization...

The eminent philosopher Erich Fromm wrote about ends versus means:

      The overemphasis on ends leads to a distortion of the harmonious balance between means and ends in various ways: one way is that all emphasis is on ends without sufficient consideration of the role of means. The outcome of this distortion is that ends become abstract, unreal, and eventually nothing but pipe dreams. ... The isolation of ends can have the opposite effect: while the end is ideologically retained it serves merely as a cover for shifting all the emphasis to those activities which are allegedly means to this end. The motto for this mechanism is "The ends justify the means." The defenders of this principle fail to see that the use of destructive means has its own consequences which actually transform the end even if it is still retained ideologically.
Man For Himself; An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, Erich Fromm, pages 197-198.

Nori Muster gave a good example of the drift from emphasis on ends to emphasis on means in her book Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement. She described how

  1. in the beginning, the goal was, at least for her, to learn, live, and retransmit truth and Eastern wisdom.
  2. In order to further that end, it was necessary to expand the ISKCON organization, and have temples in every city to spread the great teachings.
  3. In order to do that, it was necessary to raise money.
  4. In order to do that, slightly unscrupulous means were okay for getting more money. The end justifies the means. The great work is important.
  5. And then grossly, feloniously, dishonest means were okay.
  6. Eventually, many of the women spent most all of their time practicing underhanded fund-raising techniques like selling books in airports and then short-changing the customers.
  7. And other members smuggled suitcases full of drugs into the USA to raise more money.
  8. The original goal of spreading truth, love, light and wisdom was quite forgotten in the rush to raise money to expand the group.
  9. But the leaders still said that it was all good, and all okay.



Continue to questions 31 to 40...



Footnotes:

1) Steve Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, page 103, documents: "Flirty fishing" means women members practicing prostitution to get more money and new male members for the church. Also see the following three references:

  • The Children of God: The Inside Story; by the daughter of the Founder Moses David Berg     Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis
  • Heaven's Harlots; My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult     Miriam Williams
  • Final Report on the Activities of the Children of God to Honorable Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of the State of New York,     Herbert J. Wallerstein, Charity Frauds Bureau, Sept. 30, 1974.

2) What is Scientology? Based on the Works of L. Ron Hubbard, Compiled by Staff of the Church of Scientology International
Celebrity endorsements are on the inside front cover, and pages 231 to 253, 316, and 317.

3) Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, footnote on page 28.

4) est, 60 hours that transform your life, erhard seminars training, Adelaide Bry, Avon Books, inside front cover.)

5) Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, page 164.

6) The Children of God: The Inside Story, Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, page 116 for the "helping youth off drugs" reference, and the whole chapter, pages 111 to 124 on Flirty Fishing.

7) NBC News, 3 AM PDT, Monday, 24 June 2002.

8) Time Magazine special report on Scientology, Time Magazine May 6, 1991, page 50, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, said: "Adherents include screen idols Tom Cruise and John Travolta, actresses Kirstie Alley, Mimi Rogers, and Anne Archer, Palm Springs mayor and performer Sonny Bono, jazzman Chick Corea and even Nancy Cartwright, the voice of cartoon star Bart Simpson."

9) What Is Scientology?, pages 308 — 347 is all testimonials from former converts.





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