The Cult Test
Questions 31 to 40
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.)


31. Dishonesty, Deceit, Denial, Falsification, and Rewriting History.
Cults are dishonest in many areas:

  • they practice deceptive recruiting,
  • they are hypocritical,
  • they lie about the faults or shortcomings of the leader or leaders,
  • they lie about the real nature of the group,
  • they lie about the real goals and purposes of the group,
  • they lie about what they have done in the past,
  • and they lie about their finances.

"Truth is the most valuable thing we have.

Let us economize it."

== Mark Twain

The cult has no respect for the historical truth. Like a Communist country that changes the history books every time a new dictator takes over, evil cults revise their history whenever it suits them. The cult won't allow mere facts to hinder it in its pursuit of wealth and power.

Speaking of Communists, two of the most famous and notorious examples of rewriting history were the regimes of Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Both of their regimes were non-religious cults built around the personality of the leader. Both of those leaders had their own ideas of history, and what had happened, or what they wished had happened. Both of them tended to "re-educate" people who remembered the wrong things, and the re-education took place in horrendous gulags in Siberia, or communal farms in rural China, where death was common as dirt.

Stalin's agents even went into libraries, and cut pages out of books, and glued in new pages, to change history. And Stalin's enemies had a funny habit of getting air-brushed out of old photographs... Stalin's boys even invented the Orwellian term "non-person", which is what somebody whom Stalin disliked turned into... Those "non-persons" didn't do anything wrong. They weren't killed on Stalin's orders. They simply never existed in the first place.

A little closer to home, Jehovah's Witnesses will deny that they ever believed that Armageddon would come in 1975 — even those people who sold their homes or delayed getting medical treatment didn't ever believe it. They didn't gather on hilltops waiting for the Lord to come. It *did* *not* happen.

Scientology provides us with plenty of outrageous examples of falsification of history, particularly the history of the founder Lafayette Ronald ("L. Ron") Hubbard. Scientology propaganda tells us things like that young Hubbard was in China and Tibet in 1927, instructing oriental sages in the wisdom of the ancients, when he was actually just another unspectacular high school student in the USA. And then they tell us that he was a great naval commander and war hero in World War II, but his contemporaries tell us that he was the commander of a barge for a very short time, where he blasted away at the empty ocean with a deck gun, insisting that he was shooting at a submarine that no one else could see. One of his commanders wrote in his competency report, "Under no conditions should Hubbard be given command of a ship."2 But books published by the Scientology organization still tell us that L. Ron Hubbard was a brave war hero.

And Frank Buchman's Oxford Group cult was good at rewriting history, too. Buchman was notorious for admiring and praising Adolf Hitler before World War II: "I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler...". Frank Buchman also repeatedly declared that he wanted everyone to live under a "Christian Fascist dictatorship", and "the dictatorship of the living spirit of God" and "the true dictatorship of the living God".

But after World War II, they totally changed their story. Garth Lean's obsequious biography of Frank Buchman, On The Tail Of A Comet, contains two chapters about the years before World War II, called "Awakening Democracy" and "America Has No Sense of Danger", where he explains that Frank Buchman had always been a super-patriot who opposed fascism and Adolf Hitler — that Buchman was a prescient moral leader who struggled to awaken a stupid, complacent America to the imminent dangers posed by the rising tide of fascism...

Likewise, Frank Buchman's fascist disciple Peter Howard, who became the leader of Buchman's organization after Buchman's death, was a member of Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party, which morphed into the British Union of Fascists, and Howard bragged about street fighting against the leftists in Britain. Peter Howard was also the leader of Mosley's New Youth Movement — Oswald Mosley's copy of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) organization. But in 1941, when Britain was at war with Germany, Howard wrote in Innocent Men, his book of praise of Frank Buchman, that he, Howard, had only been a follower of Mosley for a few months, and that he was always strongly opposed to fascism.1


32. Different Levels of Truth.
Some pieces of information, or "truths", are given to outsiders, but others are only revealed to insiders. Likewise, the beginners and the guru's inner circle get different "truths". Some items of information are only accessible to the innermost circle.

Ken Ragge said it well:

All cults have different levels of truth. "Outsider doctrine" refers to information and "truths" which are told to the general public. Complementary to this "outsider doctrine" is "insider doctrine" which is revealed to members alone and then usually only gradually as they attain status. For example, the outsider doctrine of the Scientologists is that their organization works for mental health and human potential. The insider doctrine includes belief in past lives on other planets and other unusual beliefs. The reason for this separation of doctrine in cults is that it would be impossible to recruit if people knew what the organization really was about.
The Real AA, Ken Ragge

Ken Ragge just left out some of the most extreme (and entertaining) stuff: Scientology also says that you can be harmed by memories of injuries (engrams) that you received millions of years ago, in really distant previous lifetimes on other planets. And Scientology says that you can be inhabited and hurt by "body thetans" and "clusters", which are the spirits, or clusters of spirits, of aliens who were murdered 60 million years ago in a huge purge of the excess population of a remote over-crowded planet, by the nasty Galactic Overlord Xenu.

Yes, boys and girls, it's The Attack of The Interplanetary Cooties!

Furthermore, if you are really a competent, functioning, intelligent being, you should be immortal and have great mind-over-matter powers. It is called being an Operating Thetan. Getting injured, getting sick, and even dying are all considered evidence that you are just being lazy and immoral.

One test of competency is the Ash Tray Test: You go into a room where there is nothing but a table and a few chairs, and an ash tray on the table. You do not leave the room until you levitate the ash tray with your mental powers. Should you fail to do that, it proves that you are immoral, damaged, and non-functional, and need to pay Scientology lots more money and take more Scientology courses for some more "self-improvement."

Is that nutty enough for you? Obviously, that isn't the kind of stuff that they tell the prospective new members out on the street. Like Ragge said, the newcomers are only told that the Scientology organization works for improved mental health and increased human potential by clearing out harmful engrams.

In speaking about patterns of cult behavior in many of our government institutions, Dr. Arthur Deikman wrote:

      Secrecy supports cult-like behavior, as we saw in the Life Force group, where the hierarchy was maintained through limiting access to information. Secrecy functions not only to cover up unethical activities from outside eyes, but also to increase authoritarian control over the larger group. By promoting the idea that the leader or the in-group have special information and expertise, they remove themselves from criticism and justify the exclusion of others from the decision-making process.
      In the case of religious cults the special information and expertise is described as divine inspiration or enlightenment. The cult leader's presumed higher state precludes lower beings from judging his or her actions. Similar claims are made in government where special knowledge of the enemy or secret technical information is said to justify decisions that would otherwise be objected to on moral or even practical grounds.
The Wrong Way Home, Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 145.


33. Newcomers can't think right.
The elder cult members believe that prospects and new converts are incapable of exercising good judgement.
Since newcomers can't make good decisions, the cult must do the thinking for the newcomers, for their own good.

The reasons that the cults give to explain the newcomers' mental handicaps vary from one cult to another.

  • Some cults will say that the newcomers have not been exposed to enough Holy teachings to overcome the evil influences of Satan.
  • Others will say that they haven't progressed spiritually enough, or that they haven't prayed enough, or that they haven't learned enough to know the Truth, yet.
  • Other cults will declare that the newcomer has not yet done enough meditation, chanting, or yoga to have a clear mind.
  • Recovery- and psychotherapy-oriented organizations claim that newcomers have not yet recovered enough to have sane, clear minds. Scientology calls them "pre-clears" because they haven't bought enough courses of "auditing" to fix their minds and become "clear".
  • The previous item, Different Levels of Truth, provides another reason to believe that newcomers can't think right: They haven't been told the important information, so they can't make informed decisions.

In most cases, the elder cult members believe that withholding the truth from newcomers is occasionally justified, necessary, and appropriate. The elders believe that they are justified in practicing deceptive recruiting to get new people to join their group, precisely because the newcomers cannot think correctly, so it doesn't really matter what the newcomers are told, or what they think, anyway.
"Tell them anything to keep them happy while they get indoctrinated and converted into good cult members and true believers. Eventually, they will get fixed, and think the right things."

Steve Hassan reports in his book Combatting Cult Mind Control that he was repeatedly deceived and lied to while he was recruited by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, and they rationalized it this way:

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. He explained that the world was controlled by Satan after he had deceived Adam and Eve into disobeying God. Now God's children had to deceive Satan's children into following God's will. He said, "Stop thinking from fallen man's viewpoint. Think about God's viewpoint. He wants to see his creation restored to His original ideal — the Garden of Eden. That's all that matters!" Later, it became evident that this "heavenly deception" was used in all aspects of the organization — recruiting, fundraising, public relations. Since members are so focused on meeting their assigned goals, there is no room for "the old morality." The group even uses the Bible to "show" that God condoned deception several times in history in order to see His plan accomplished. By accepting the way in which I was deceived, I set myself up to begin deceiving others.
Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan, 1988, pages 18-19.

Meanwhile, over in Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard was saying that

"... new followers or potential converts should not be exposed to [the language and cosmology of the group] at too early a stage. 'Talking whole track to raw meat' is frowned upon."
Cults In Our Midst, The Hidden Menace In Our Everyday Lives, Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalich, 1995, page 71.

In the Oxford Group, Dr. Frank Buchman declared that beginners could not hear the Voice of God correctly in their "Quiet Times", because they had not confessed enough, and prayed enough, and they had not totally "surrendered to God" yet, so the newcomers were required to always submit their received "messages from God" to the elder cult members for review and approval. Those elders would then tell the new members what God really said and what God really wanted people to do. (Notice how that policy changed "Hear the Voice of God and obey God" into "Hear the cult elders and obey the cult elders".)

Also see the cult characteristic "You Are Always Wrong" for more examples of claims that members cannot think right. Especially see Chuck Dederich and other Synanon elders attacking the thinking of newcomers. Also see "You Can't Trust Your Own Mind".


34. The Group Implants Phobias.
Members are made to fear that terrible things will happen to them if they leave the group, or fail to follow the orders of the guru, or even question the group's teachings.

Fears are part of the cult member's belief system, and the cultish mind-set contains numerous fears to keep the member imprisoned.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a psychiatrist who treats people who have been traumatized by fundamentalist religions. The web site "The Freethought Police" (TFP) interviewed her, and asked about people leaving fundamentalist religions:

TFP:  OK.  Say somebody decided their religion isn't working for them anymore and they want to leave.  What kind of message of hope can you give to someone trying to overcome indoctrination?

DMW:  Well, many people have done that.  It's possible.  It's not your fault.  It's a little bit like domestic violence: the person who thinks its her fault and she keeps going back and why doesn't she just leave?  Well, it's very difficult, but people do leave.  And just because you've been told, over and over, that if you leave terrible things will happen, that you'll die, that's not true.  Because, it's not so much that you'll go to Hell when you die, but that terrible things will happen right now.  That you'll go crazy.  You'll become addicted to drugs.  You'll become a criminal.  That you'll become depressed.  All sorts of things.  Your life will be terrible if you leave the faith, if you leave the fold. If you leave this group.  The world is a bad place.  People are bad and it's the domain of Satan.  So, you're very reckless to leave.  So, people are very afraid.  And that's true.  That's a phobia indoctrination.
Interview with Dr. Marlene Winell, Author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion.
http://freethoughtpolice.com/2012/08/18/interview-with-dr-marlene-winellauthor-of-leaving-the-fold-a-guide-for-former-fundamentalists-and-others-leaving-their-religion/

Steve Hassan lists numerous Physical, Psychological, Spiritual and Social fears that various cults will implant in their followers. For just a few examples, cult members fear that if they leave the cult they will:

  • die painfully or violently.
  • become an alcoholic or drug addict.
  • go insane.
  • be a failure.
  • lose control completely.
  • lose their dreams.
  • lose all hope of a happy future.
  • become unspiritual.
  • lose their relationship with God.
  • be defeated by Satan.
  • be possessed by demons or evil spirits.
  • lose their chance for immortality or salvation.
  • be judged unworthy when Armageddon takes place.
  • not be taken up to Heaven when the Rapture happens.
  • be unloved.
  • be ostracized and rejected by the group. (This threat is real.)
  • be abandoned.
  • be accused unjustly.
  • be persecuted by psychiatrists or other mental health specialists.
  • be tortured or tormented by deprogrammers or exit counselors.


35. The Group is Money-Grubbing.
The cult is preoccupied with fund-raising.
This is simple. The cult is just always scheming to make more money, one way or another, either from cult members or from outsiders, and often, from both.

  • Often, cult members are required to buy books written by the cult leader. Most every sect has some kind of holy scriptures or documents. The Hari Krishnas (ISKCON) have many books written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and the Scientologists have many dozens of books by L. Ron Hubbard to buy...

  • Often, the cult members spend a lot of their time selling something, or collecting donations, or working at a cult-owned business. Cults are also often dishonest and deceptive in how they get money.

  • The Hari Krishnas (ISKCON) want to sell you books, and then short-change you. They rationalize their actions by saying that it is all God's money anyway, so it's okay if they steal it from you and give it to their guru. Nori Muster described sankirtan (fund-raising) activities this way:

    Women also did traveling sankirtan, but the ones I knew generally stayed at the temple to work Los Angeles International Airport, conveniently just fifteen minutes from the temple. Some women agonized over their quotas. For others, talking to people and selling things came naturally. There was also an element of deception in some of the transactions; it was called the "change up." In the change-up routine a sankirtan woman might pin a paper flower on a man's lapel and say, "Hi, sir, I'm giving a flower to all the cutest guys in the airport." Then she might say, "Can you please give a donation to print educational books for college students? Everyone's helping out today." If the man opened his wallet to reveal large bills, the devotee might say, "Oh, sir, I've been collecting all day and I have so many dollar bills I feel like a walking salad bowl. I could change a hundred."
          If the man pulled out the bill, the devotee added it to her collection and then started counting back change, slowly. "Five, six, seven, eight, nine. Sir, could you give the rest in charity? It will come back to you a thousandfold." At the L.A. temple, change-up techniques were exchanged in the ashram and demonstrated to all sankirtan devotees in a presentation in the temple room. The technique slipped out to other temples, as well.
          Even though the L.A. women's team brought in $20,000 a week, they had no real power. Women couldn't make decisions for the organization or hold any rank. They could be mistreated unless a male sympathizer acted as an advocate.
    Betrayal of the Spirit, Nori J. Muster, Page 36.

    ISKCON even got involved in drug-running and money-laundering to bring in cash:

    His [Rishabdev's] service in ISKCON was to cultivate "congregational members" and get them to give large cash donations to the BBT. He had received encouragement from above, even though his flock happened to include international drug smugglers from the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The Brotherhood had roots in Eastern spirituality and was associated with Timothy Leary when LSD first became popular during the early 1960s. The Brotherhood tried to instill Eastern philosophy along with the psychedelic drugs its members manufactured and marketed. One former Brotherhood follower joined ISKCON and eventually became one of the eleven gurus.   ...   These congregational members gave generously to the ISKCON mission, and Rishabdev welcomed their donations with an open heart.   ...   Devotees seeking private support for their projects flocked to Laguna Beach for the abundant cash that seemed to circulate there.
          Rishabdev, the link between ISKCON and the Brotherhood, made the necessary introductions for those who wanted to become smugglers. Despite the moral questions involved in such practices, some devotees willingly risked their freedom for the promise of quick financial independence and the ability to support chosen projects. New couriers had their photos taken with Dridha-vrata, the ringleader, and the photos became their identification cards for the hash oil connection in Pakistan.   ...   Their "service" was confidential, of course, because ISKCON prohibits intoxicants, but it would be foolish to say that the Governing Body Commission was completely innocent. "Money is money once it's in the coffer" was the rationalization of those who took the cash.
    Betrayal of the Spirit, Nori J. Muster, Pages 61-62.

  • The Moonies want to sell you books and flowers, and they also have a scam where church members must buy expensive trinkets from the church to comfort their unhappy dead ancestors. The cult also demands that members surrender all of their worldly wealth to the church — just hand over your checkbook and credit cards. Really. Literally.

  • Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sold people words to chant while doing Transcendental Meditation ("mantras") because "Americans are so materialistic that they wouldn't value the words if they got them for free." (I love that: "You American kids are too materialistic, so give me all of your money.") Then Maharishi got into the business of selling his students "flying lessons" — lessons that ostensibly taught the art of levitation. Rumor has it that students who were having trouble flying were taught to bounce up and down on a cushion to get started... It seems that they were working on their hang time even before Michael Jordan popularized the skill.

  • Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had 93 Rolls Royces as well as countless millions of dollars in cash and other trinkets because he convinced his followers that they should show their love and devotion to him by buying him more and more expensive gifts.

  • We were just talking about Scientology. They always want to sell you something, either a book, or an overpriced E-meter, or more auditing, or another horrendously overpriced "course" — or a dozen of them, for another $100,000 or two...

    Scientology takes all of your money in a clever round-about way: In order to be "cleared", you must take a whole lot of courses of "auditing" to process your "engrams". (Translation: Fix your mind by removing the harmful effects of memories of past injuries.) They start off by offering you a free "personality test", but the results of the test are always that you need to take a Scientology course, and you should buy a book, too.

    The courses start off being relatively inexpensive, like $75, but after the first few courses, the prices go up sharply, and they keep going up. The cost of the higher-level courses ranges from $8000 to $77,000, each. To become a "Clear" costs $128,560, even with discounts. For the upper levels you have to pay at least an additional $250,000.

    If you intend to take all of the courses, plan on selling your house and giving the money to Scientology. Literally. That's what Scientology leaders have conned gullible members into doing — mortgage their houses to the hilt and give the money to Scientology for more "courses" and "auditing". And then they want you to max out your credit cards, and borrow all of the money that you can possibly borrow — to put your entire life in hock — and give it all to Scientology.

    Would you like to be a "patron" of Scientology, like some movie stars are? These are the prices:

    • Patron — $40,000.
    • Patron with Honors — $100,000.
    • Patron Meritorious — $250,000.
    • Gold Patron Meritorious — $1,000,000.

    I knew one woman who was into Scientology, who said, "You know, if I only had $50,000, I could really get my head together." (That was $50,000 in 1980 dollars.)
    I had to agree that she needed her head examined, but didn't agree about the proper course of treatment.

    In one of his bulletins to Scientology officials, the cult leader L. Ron Hubbard told them to, "Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money... However you get them in or why, just do it."

    And lately, Scientology has been advertising a new racket on the streets — the "Purity Rundown". They will clear your body of harmful toxins, for a price. Scientology says that you are being harmed and held back and kept from your true powers and your grand spiritual destiny by all kinds of nasty toxins that are lodged in your body and poisoning you. Not only do you have a problem with all of the environmental poisons you were ever exposed to, the junk in the air you breathed and the water you drank, but, Scientology says, if you ever took any drugs, even maybe just smoked a little pot in college back in the sixties, then you still have residual poisons from those things lurking in your body, doing terrible things to you, and you need to be detoxified by skilled Scientologists.

    Curiously, the pamphlet that advertises this detoxification treatment says that Scientology makes no claims that you will get any medical benefits from it; it only says that you will get "spiritual" benefits...

    On the other hand, the U.S. Surgeon General said that the Scientology "Purity Rundown" does have medical effects, and it is very dangerous to your health. It has even caused a few deaths.

  • Synanon had quite a variety of scams: Soliciting donations from anyone and everyone for their wonderful work in getting people off of drugs, demanding large donations from the parents of young addicts, demanding that any member who had any money pay rent to Synanon, even while working for Synanon for free, selling office supplies to sympathetic businesses, and running a wide variety of ordinary businesses like gas stations or building contractor services, using the free labor of members. Like so many other cults, it was a rich multi-million-dollar empire when the police took the leader Charles Dederich off to jail.


36. Confession Sessions.
Members will criticize themselves and confess all of their sins and faults, sometimes engaging in public self-criticism or confession sessions. This is used by everybody from Maoist Chinese Communist groups to ultra-Fundamentalist Christian cults. Confession is one of Dr. Robert J. Lifton's Eight Conditions of Thought Reform. Guilt induction and self-criticism (confession) sessions were at the heart of the Chinese Communist brainwashing program that was used on the American and British prisoners during the Korean War.

Willa Appel compared the study sessions and confession sessions in Chinese brainwashing and in Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification church:

      In China, the purpose of such [study] sessions was to ensure that everyone understood the lectures and accepted them unequivocally. Following the study groups were self-criticism sessions in which each person was prevailed upon to criticize his or her life using proper Communist behavior as a yardstick. Past and present faults were dissected by the group, whose members expressed their own zeal for reform in the intensity with which they tore down each other's defenses. Once a person demonstrated sufficient humility and offered a satisfactory confession, the group's attitude would soften and become more accepting. The very process of confessing, then, provided satisfaction. It rewarded confessors with a sense of belonging and acceptance that was particularly valued after having been reviled and rejected. Some people, especially those who had not previously had a clear commitment or goal, experienced this process as a rebirth. They were exhilarated by their feelings of "belonging" and "purpose". For these people Chinese brainwashing was like a religious conversion.
Cults in America; Programmed for Paradise, Willa Appel, page 84.

The similarity between religion conversion and Communist conversion may be much more than just a coincidence. Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman went to China as a Lutheran missionary in 1915, 1916, and 1918, and pushed his degrading, humiliating, version of conversion that he called "changing people" (into his true-believer followers). His methods relied heavily on what Dr. Lifton described: lots of confession sessions and meetings with group pressure to confess, and confession of personal flaws and shortcomings and personal worthlessness, and confession of powerlessness over sin, and "you can't think right because you are a sinner and you have been defeated by sin," and all the rest of it.

Is it just a big coincidence that 30 years later the Chinese Communists were using Buchman's techniques for "changing" people into obedient Communists? It is more than just a possibility that some of Frank Buchman's converts quit his cult and joined the Communist Party, and taught the Communists the conversion techniques that they had learned from Buchman.

(The Communists were there when Buchman was there, and Buchman was in competition with them for the hearts and minds of the people. Buchman unhappily noted that the Communists were winning. And they were winning because the Communists did not insult the Chinese people by declaring that their culture was stupid or primitive or "unChristian". and the Communists did not display arrogant, condescending, know-it-all attitudes towards "the heathens", and the Communists were not out to destroy the local cultures.)

Then there was the story of a Moral Re-Armament (the renamed Oxford Group) member who was a soldier in the Korean War, and who was captured and became a POW in North Korea. When he was subjected to the Chinese Communist brainwashing, he remarked that it was just like an MRA meeting.


Synanon leader Charles "Chuck" Dederich
In a "Synanon Game" called "The Perpetual Stew"

Synanon popularized "confrontational attack therapy" where people both confessed their own faults, and attacked others for their faults.

Sometimes members will attack and criticize each other in reverse-confession "group therapy" sessions or Synanon games. A "Synanon game" is something like a group therapy session, except that everyone gangs up on and attacks one person, listing every imaginable fault that the person has, listing everything that that person should be confessing. Then, after everyone has exhausted all of their complaints against the victim, they will suddenly switch modes, "flip the box", and lavishly praise the person they just denounced. Then the target will be changed, and everyone attacks someone else. This continues in a random fashion until everyone's ego has been shredded (except for the ego of Chuck Dederich, the cult leader, of course). This is very similar to a variation on confession that the Maoist Chinese Communists sometimes used, where everyone had to criticize someone else at the meeting.

Scientology cleverly disguises its confession sessions by making them look like psychotherapy sessions. People who are being "audited" hold a couple of tin cans which are connected to a meter that measures skin resistance (Galvanic Skin Response), like how a lie detector machine does. Then they answer questions about their past, and eventually reveal their every secret, and confess everything to their auditor, who keeps a file on them which can be used to blackmail them later, and keep them from leaving the cult, and keep them from publicly criticizing Scientology or telling the truth about the cult.


37. A System of Punishments and Rewards.
The cult has some kind of a system for punishing those members who "stray from the path" or break any of the cult's many rules and procedures. And there is also some kind of system of rewards for those who conform and obey and follow all of the rules.

Synanon leader Charles "Chuck" Dederich

The systems of rewards and punishments can start off with seemingly innocuous things, like the praise of the cult leader. Those who fail to sell enough flowers or books or bring in their quota of contributions receive the harsh criticism of the leader, while those who do bring in the bucks receive the leader's praise. The same goes for bringing in new recruits.

Then things get worse, with things like denying people food or sleep, or baths, making them do punitive work, or sentencing them to long chanting sessions, or just about any kind of torture you can think of.

Jim Jones' People's Temple routinely beat people for even minor infractions, like getting a parking ticket on a Temple vehicle. Scientology has "RPF", the "Rehabilitation Project Force" which actually runs fortified and armed prison camps for out-of-favor Scientologists, like the "Gold Base" — the Gilman Hot Springs Scientology base, and the "Happy Valley" camp near Hemet, California.

Synanon had "The Game", which was sort of like an encounter group crossed with a Red Chinese reverse-confession session — a session where everyone criticizes someone else. In The Game, large numbers of people would gang up on and denounce one person who had failed to conform to the rules in some way, or whose behavior was less than sterling. There were variations on The Game where the victims were forbidden to defend themselves. They had to just take all of the abuse and criticism that others heaped on them. Then the group could sentence the victim to some kind of punishment, called "giving them a contract."

The "Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints" (FLDS) cult in Utah, Arizona, and Texas, that is led by Warren Jeffs, has a really draconian system for rewarding or punishing followers. Warren Jeffs' son, who has quit the cult and wrote a book about it, explained how Warren Jeffs would take the wives and children away from dissident members who failed to follow his orders, and give them to a different follower who was obeying Warrren Jeffs. The dissident member was then ostracized, and the former wives and children could not even talk to their former husband and father.

In the FLDS church, they believe that the number of wives that a man has on Earth establishes his future status in Heaven. One wife is good, but two is better, and three is much better, and four wives gets a man the highest rank in Heaven. Thus, Warren Jeffs taking a man's wives away from him not only wrecks his life here on Earth; it also ruins his ticket to Heaven. That makes being stripped of one's wives and children a doubly-horrible punishment.

The most extreme cults often have an armed goon squad "for security" and to enforce the rules.

  • Synanon had "The Imperial Marines" and the People's Temple had "The Angels", both of whom viciously, brutally, beat up non-conforming members and outside critics alike.

  • Synanon leader Charles Dederich said in a tape-recorded message, while talking about the lawyer Paul Morantz who was successfully suing them for beating up Synanon members, "Yes, I do want an ear in a glass of alcohol, I really do." Dederich and two of the Imperial Marines, Joe Musico and Lance Kenton (son of the famous band leader Stan Kenton), were arrested for and found guilty of the attempted murder of Paul Morantz (by putting a rattlesnake in his mail box).

  • The People's Temple Angels killed everyone who didn't "voluntarily" commit suicide at Jonestown.

38. An Impossible Superhuman Model of Perfection.
In all mind control cults, an ahuman model of perfection is held out. Pure and impure are defined by the ideology of the organization. The demand for purity is intense.

Dr. Robert J. Lifton calls this item Self-sanctification through Purity, and it is one of his Eight Conditions of Thought Reform. (Thought Reform is what Lifton called the Chinese Communist brainwashing.) "Only by pushing toward perfection, as the group views goodness, will the recruit be able to contribute."

The model of perfection is simply impossible to attain, because it is too idealized, too lofty, too perfect. Someone would have to be a living saint or an angel to be that good. This is, of course, great for making people feel guilty and inadequate, which is the goal. Then people are punished and learn to punish themselves for not living up to the group's ideals.

"I hate to see any of my followers driving a dented car, because that means that someone had a moment of unawareness when he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing."
== Yogi Bhajan
heard by author at Bhajan's compound in Espanola, New Mexico, 1978.

Oh really? It couldn't be that one of your followers was economical and bought a used car?
What if the follower bought a used car because he didn't have much money left because he had already given most of his money to you?

In her book about the Children of God cult, Miriam Williams described how she gave birth in a natural home delivery, and everything went well except that she tore a little during delivery and had to go to the hospital afterwards to get a few stitches. Then a higher-ranking woman in the cult attacked her:

        "My husband has already talked to Cal [Miriam's husband]," she said sharply. "We have prayed about this, and we believe that you two must seek the Lord for an answer."
        "An answer to what?" I asked.
        "Well, as to why the delivery went so badly," she retorted, looking surprised that I would not know. "I want you to pray about this and write me a report today."
        I was left speechless. The absolutely most beautiful memory that a woman can have in her lifetime, that of giving birth to her firstborn, had been splattered with this acid of someone else's cruel reality. Now every time I recalled that wonderful experience, I would remember that I had somehow failed.
Heaven's Harlots, My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult, Miriam Williams, page 61.

You are always wrong. Miriam Williams could not even give birth naturally, without the aid of a doctor or pain-killers, without one of the cult leaders still attacking her and accusing her of less than perfect, super-human, performance of her motherly duties.

Speaking of which, the Scientologist Tom Cruise made the same demands of his wife Katie when she gave birth to their baby: no pain-killing drugs, and no noise. (Oh, and then Cruise said he was going to eat the placenta. Some people think Cruise has flipped and gone way off of the deep end.)

Like you, I eagerly anticipated the birth of Tom Cruise's out-of-wedlock child and, like you, I am more than a little curious to find out if Katie "The Doormat" Holmes managed to comply with Cruise's quasi-religious stricture that it be done silently.

All religions have goofy precepts and rituals, but Scientology leads the pack with L. Ron Hubbard's cracked notion that babies are better off if they enter a world that is as silent as the womb.

It might be good for the baby, but it is not going to work for the mother unless she is drugged into unconsciousness — one of the many bits of modern medicine that Scientology disallows.

During delivery, mother's moanings, father's encouragements and doctor's orders are discouraged, as is, I suppose, the playing of music, such as the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb," which is the most appropriate theme music for this relationship that I can imagine.

I don't know about you, but the birth of my first child would have been cause for my excommunication from Scientology. The spinal block didn't take, and I had an emergency Caesarean section with the equivalent of the Novocain you'd use to numb a bad tooth. By the time the child arrived, I had my husband by the throat and was howling, "I want furniture and jewelry for this."
Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun, April 20, 2006
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rnrs/message/5421


“You only have to see the placenta,” commented one young mother this week, “in order to decide whether or not to eat it.” But the same logic could be applied to many other foodstuffs when you see them in the raw, as it were. The trick, as Tom Cruise will doubtless testify, having this week reportedly promised to scoff the placenta and umbilical cord of his newborn baby, is in the preparation.

Roasting the placenta with onions, peppers and garlic is one method of preparation, but others include frying, mincing or turning into pâté. More modern recipes suggest placenta lasagne, or even power drinks, but the 21st-century mother is surely most likely to turn hers into a smoothie with banana, strawberries and yoghurt.

Eating placenta is commonplace throughout the animal kingdom, and also in some non-western societies. In fact, the real controversy over Tom Cruise’s suggestion that he would eat his baby’s placenta – also known, less palatably, as the afterbirth – centres on the question of whether it was his to eat.

There are many who consider the placenta to be the best and most nutritious thing since sliced bread, and some have criticised Cruise for denying his partner, Katie Holmes, the life-giving, nutrient-rich organ.
Richard Moore, MSN Health, 2006.04.19
http://www.msn.co.uk/health/placenta/Default.asp?MSPSA=1
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rnrs/message/5430

Swami Prabhupada, the leader of the ISKCON (the "International Society for Krisha Consciousness") reinterpreted the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, this way:

11. I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].

The strong man's strength should be applied to protect the weak, not for personal aggression. Similarly, sex life, according to religious principles (Dharma), should be for the propagation of children, not otherwise. The responsibility of parents is then to make their offspring Krsna conscious.
Bhagavad-Gita; As It Is, "His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada", page 252.

The first paragraph is from the Bhagavad-Gita; the second paragraph is Swami Prabhupada's interpretation of it. Prabhupada says that sex is only for making children; forbidden otherwise. The Bhagavad-Gita does not say that — it says only that sex should not be performed against religious principles, like no adultery or seducing children, or such things. Prabhupada decided all on his own that sex is only for making children, and that married couples could not enjoy sex just for the joy of it. And in his ashrams, married couples had to sleep separated in sex-segregated quarters, just to make sure.

Dr. Edgar H. Schein, in his book on Red Chinese brainwashing — "Coercive Persuasion" — wrote:

The ultimate avowed aim of thought reform is, of course, the "new man" who will be ideally fitted for the Communist society of the future. The "new man" has the following characteristics. He should be completely concerned about "others," "The People," and the ideology. He should not look at things subjectively, from a self-centered or selfish point of view, but "objectively," recognizing that the greatest good for himself is that which is the greatest good for the group as a whole. He should be an active enthusiastic supporter of the cause (apathy and indifference are tantamount to opposition). He should be enthusiastic about physical labor and manual labor as the essential means to the glorious "ends" of the revolution rather than being concerned with intellectual and aesthetic activities, which are often pursued selfishly as ends in themselves; intellectual and aesthetic activities should be pursued only for the purpose of effectively communicating the Communist conception of society and rallying others' support of it. He should be enthusiastic about the simple, unembellished life rather than being concerned with material possessions and luxuries of life; he should adopt the simple values and standards of the working people and peasants, including their language, manners, and morals. In short, the "new man" should be truly collectivized.
      The image of the "new man" was continually held up by the authorities and by the propaganda organs as the ideal to strive for, and any tendency of a citizen or a prisoner to behave in a manner not consistent with this idealized image could and did lead to his being severely criticized.
Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-psychological Analysis of the "Brainwashing" of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists, Edgar H. Schein with Inge Schneier and Curtis H. Barker, W.W. Norton, New York, 1961, Pages 52-53.

(The Cambodian Communists, the Khmer Rouge, went far beyond criticism. They murdered a million people to "purify" Cambodia. See the movie The Killing Fields.)

Likewise, Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman and his Oxford Group cult insisted that all good people had to live by the high-falutin' standards of "The Four Absolutes": Absolute Purity, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Love, and Absolute Unselfishness. Those are impossible standards.

  • For instance, someone who practices Absolute Unselfishness should give away his food and money to a hungry homeless person.
  • But he should also practice Absolute Love. He should love the hungry guy, and he should love himself, too, as another servant of God. But if he loves himself, and takes care of himself, so that he can be of greater service to God, he will keep some food and money for himself, so that he won't starve.
  • But that is less than Absolute Unselfishness. Now he's being selfish, perhaps even a little egotistical, keeping some food and money for himself, thinking that he is more worthy of the food than someone else.
  • He can't win. He can't live up to both standards at once.
  • And if he confesses the truth, that the standards are impossible, unrealistic, bombastic, and downright absurd, then he's guilty of violating Cult Rule Number One — don't criticize the guru or his teachings — The Guru Is Always Right.
  • But if he doesn't confess the truth, then he is being less than Absolutely Honest...
  • Obviously, you can drive yourself crazy with that kind of stuff. Such absolutism is Absolute Nonsense.

We could think of many similar problems with such "Absolutes", but one classic example really stands out: The conflict between Absolute Love and Absolute Honesty. Suppose you are speaking with a really fat, ugly woman. If you are loving, you will ignore the negative aspects of her appearance and try to relate to her good qualities. But if you are absolutely honest, you will tell her how she looks to you. But that certainly isn't loving. It's one or the other; you can't do both at the same time.

That predicament is an example of the more general problem where someone asks you to speak ill of another behind his or her back. If you are really being absolutely honest, you will say that the other person has numerous flaws and faults. But if you do that, you are being less than a friend to the criticized person, talking about him behind his back like that (not practicing absolute love towards that person). So which do you do, be honest and realistic, or be a loving friend? Damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

(There is an escape: It is to declare that you have taken a holy vow never to speak ill of someone behind his back. But that is a sort of a dodge, isn't it? You are still just avoiding being totally honest.)


Another facet of the demand for Superhuman Perfection is the idea that we all create our own reality. Scientology and Werner Erhard's est and its clones like the "Landmark Forum" or "Landmark Educational Forum" all push that idea.

Werner Erhard constantly exhorted people to "Take responsibility for making their lives work", and "take responsibility for ending world hunger".

Scientology actually teaches that getting sick and dying is a sign of laziness and immorality. If you were really a high-energy Operating Thetan, you would be immortal. (They still teach that, in spite of the fact that the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, suffered a stroke and died... Go figure.)

Here is another example of Scientology teaching that you must have perfect mind-over-matter powers: After you take a "personality test", and rate yourself on the answers...

WITH THE HELP of the CHART OF ATTITUDES let us take a look at your present-day environment.

You may have realized, while inspecting this chart, that you were not quite at the top. You need not worry particularly if you discovered this. Unlike some witch doctors in modern dress, this book is making no effort to condemn you. There were various reasons why you permitted yourself to be lowered on this Tone Scale — for you had to give your permission to have anything serious happen to you (a matter which we will cover under SELF-DETERMINISM in a later section of this volume.)
Handbook for Preclears, L. Ron Hubbard, page 91.

So Scientology teaches that if you are less than perfect, it is because you allowed someone to damage you.

Also notice the invocation of the standard Scientology bogey-man: psychiatrists, whom Hubbard called "witch doctors in modern dress". L. Ron Hubbard was insane — a paranoid schizophrenic — and he hated and feared the doctors who said that he was insane.

Everybody chooses his life, they say. People suffer because they have chosen a life of suffering. The poor are poor by their own stupid, lazy, choice. Cripples chose to be cripples, and mentally retarded people stupidly choose to be that way. Alcoholics and drug addicts all voluntarily choose to be that way. Obviously, you can discard all compassion for the suffering people of the world if you believe such things. And you can feel terribly guilty about all of the things in your own life that are less than perfect. (And that is a big part of the idea: to make you feel guilty.)

But if you think about it for a minute, the idea of everybody choosing his own reality is absurd. It implies that we are all gods with superhuman powers, in total control of the world.

  • Did a little girl whose parents were just killed in a car accident choose to become an orphan? How?

  • Did the wives who became widows in the September 11 World Trade Center disaster really choose the single life? How?
    (That opens up very screwy lines of logic like: If the widows really did choose that reality, then the hijackers who flew the airplanes into the skyscrapers were really just the mental slaves of the wives, doing the bidding of the wives, rather than carrying out their crazy ideas of the Will of Allah, weren't they? So the September 11 disaster was really the fault of the wives and orphans who are now collecting on the life insurance policies...)

The truth is that neither extreme is true. We do not totally control our lives, and determine everything that happens, but neither are we powerless and unable to control our fates at all. The truth is somewhere in the middle.


39. Mentoring.
The group has a system of mentoring, where newcomers are taken under the wing of an elder, and indoctrinated and trained in the ways of the group. It is a given that the "old-comers" must supervise the newcomers, and educate and train them and make them think properly, and make them follow the rules and conform to the group's standards.

In a cult, the newcomers are abused by their mentors or the guru, or both, until they graduate to the inner circle, at which time they can then abuse others as they were abused. Dr. Robert J. Lifton, the author of the classic study of Chinese Communist brainwashing, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of 'Brainwashing' in China, called this "the psychology of the pawn." Abused, tormented personalities get their kicks not by rebelling against their oppressors, but rather by graduating to become one of the oppressors, and doing it all to someone else.

"The dearest ambition of a slave is not liberty, but to have a slave of his own."
— Sir Richard Burton

In the classic science fiction novel Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert Heinlein told the story of Michael, a human child who had been orphaned on Mars, and raised by Martians. When he was brought back to Earth, Michael was unable to understand humans or laughter until he was at a zoo one day, and saw the monkeys fighting. A medium-sized monkey had a banana, but a bigger monkey came over and punched him and took the banana. The medium-sized monkey immediately ran over to a smaller monkey and punched him. Michael collapsed laughing, because he felt that he had finally come to understand humans.

Cult members make that story all too true.

Some cults, like Heaven's Gate and David Berg's Children of God, called the mentoring system a "buddy system." In both groups, new inductees could not go anywhere without their buddy, not even to the bathroom. The C.O.G. cult leader's daughter, Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis, described the system in COG like this:

      All new members were placed under the strict scrutiny of an older disciple. This was the "buddy" system. At such a time that they proved to be strong, mature disciples, they were no longer considered "babes" and were free to be on their own. This period usually lasted about three months. One girl told me in later years, "Oh, I had the worst trial of my life at TSC [The Soul Clinic]; I was constantly with my 'buddy.' I couldn't do anything without her. I couldn't even go to the bathroom alone. Beds were in short supply, and I even had to sleep in the same bed with her!"
      Ironically, without any prompting from the Chinese Communists, we unconsciously incorporated many of the same conditions used by the Chinese in their Thought Reform programs. Many of these mind-control techniques seem to erupt "spontaneously" in cultic organizations. We boasted that we were "heartwashing" new converts.
      Everyone who came to TSC as a dropout or hippie or college student left with a new identity. Everyone took a new name from the Bible — this was part of Forsaking All. God was making "new creatures" out of us; all the old things were done away with. A new convert broke all relations with the past, both family and friends. The break with one's former life had to be complete, absolute, because that's what Jesus wanted.
      This sudden loss of identity often brought deep conflicts for disciples who suffered the after-pains of leaving their former life-styles and families. This was why everyone had a buddy. When the older disciple perceived that the younger one was wavering and suffering doubt, he was right there to pick him up. Although it was never revealed, the older disciple often harbored the same doubts. By encouraging the younger convert, the older member strengthened himself. It was a good system that accomplished its purpose well.
The Children of God: The Inside Story, Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis, 1984, pages 81-82.

Ms. Davis said that the Children of God were allowed to separate from their buddy after about three months. In the Heaven's Gate cult, they were never allowed loose. They stayed paired right up to the time when they committed suicide together.

Note that Deborah Davis touched on a couple of other indoctrination and conversion techniques besides just mentoring: milieu control and self-sell. Milieu control means that the environment and information intake of the convert are controlled. When the new convert is cut off from family and former friends, he cannot receive any negative information about the cult that might lead him away from the cult, and he can't even get any 'common-sense' messages that might "bring him back to Earth" and interfere with his indoctrination. At the same time, the older buddy is busy selling himself on the cult and assuaging his own doubts by selling the cult to the younger buddy. That's self-sell.

Deborah Davis also described several other standard cult characteristics:


40. Intrusiveness.
The cult is very intrusive, and pokes into members' personal lives. Often, the guru and his helpers want to totally run the member's lives, dictating everything from what work the followers will do, where they will live, what they will eat, when they will sleep, with whom they may communicate or associate, to what they will wear. Sometimes, members need permission to visit their families. Sometimes, the cult even goes so far as to dictate when and with whom members may have sex or marry. Many cults also feel entitled to take people's children away from them and put the kids into special "schools" where they are beaten and abused, and brainwashed into being the next generation of true believers.

In many cults, especially recovery cults, the elders will proclaim that you simply cannot have any kind of privacy or private life — that you will just commit sins, or drink, or take drugs if you have the freedom to do so — so they won't let you have any freedom or privacy. Such cults want to own you; they want all of your time; they want to dominate your whole life. No part of your life is not subject to their inspection and their "guidance".

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race, or his holy cause. A man is likely to mind his business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.
The True Believer, Eric Hoffer

Dr. Frank Buchman's "Oxford Group" cult was so intrusive that Buchman declared that even sex between married couples was an unspiritual "indulgence" that would harm the children:

Indulgence by the married, while having the cloak of legitimacy, may nevertheless be the source of irritable tempers and of inability to answer to the real needs of the children. Parents indulgent inside marriage need not be surprised if their children are indulgent outside marriage. A union which could otherwise be powerful for remaking the nation thus remains a soft and uninspiring association.
Remaking Men, Paul Campbell and Peter Howard, 1954, quoted in
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 258.

Notice the completely groundless declarations: Sexual indulgence by married couples produces irritable tempers. Since when? What study or poll or survey ever found that? It seems like not getting laid is far more likely to produce irritable tempers.

And notice the fear-mongering: If married couples enjoy sex inside of marriage, their children might enjoy sex outside of marriage. Says who? Where did that come from? What evidence is there for that?

Likewise, how does sexual indulgence by married couples make parents unable to "answer to the real needs of the children"? Who ever established anything like that? That is completely baseless.

And sex between a man and his wife will reduce the marriage to "a soft and uninspiring association." Oh really? Says who?

Nevertheless, undisturbed by the lack of any supporting facts for their crazy ideas, Buchman's unthinking followers Peter Howard and Paul Campbell dogmatically declared that sex between married couples is bad.

At Synanon, the leader Chuck Dederich ordered everyone to get divorced and marry someone else. His logic was that everyone eventually breaks up and gets divorced anyway, so why not get it over with now? Then they had a new Game, Changing Partners, where women were auctioned off each evening for a one-night stand. Then Chuck ordered all of the men, except for himself, to get vasectomies, and all of the pregnant women had to get abortions, so that there wouldn't be any bothersome children around.

Jim Jones was personally very sexually promiscuous, intrusive, and exploitative, but at the People's Temple commune in Guyana, everyone else had to follow his strict rules of sexual conduct:

The Jonestown code of sexual conduct prohibited casual sexual encounters. A couple who desired to enter into a sexual relationship was obliged to apply to a Relationship Committee, and then endure a three-month nonsexual waiting period, at the end of which, if suitable accommodations could be found, the relationship could finally be consummated.
Awake in a Nightmare, Ethan Feinsod, 1981, page 117.

Werner Erhard's est was just the same:

      Throughout est's existence, Erhard had treated sex as simply another form of human behavior to be controlled and manipulated in ways that enhanced his own overpowering control over the lives of others who inhabited the est culture. Long before he ever started est, Werner Erhard — even when he was still Jack Rosenberg — used his powerful sexual appeal and charismatic energy with women to intensify their own sense of loyalty and devotion to him. During his bookselling days, Erhard maintained the nucleus of a dedicated, and predominately female, staff partly by showering his romantic attention from time to time on some of the women who followed Erhard first into Mind Dynamics and later into est.
      Inside the emerging est culture, Erhard continued to view sex as an integral part of his obsessive demand that others around him pledge their devotion. He required staff members to divulge the most intimate details of their personal lives as part of a series of policies aimed at controlling their thoughts and behavior. A staff policy imposed in the mid-1970s instructed est staffers to "stay in communication" with Erhard about their personal relationships, particularly those of a sexual nature.
      Although the policy was designed to proscribe sexual relations between staff members, exceptions were possible in cases in which Erhard was informed about existing affairs. These relationships could continue to include "fucking," the staff was told, but only as long as the trysting staffers got their jobs done and showed no signs of "upsets." The policy made it clear to the staff that Erhard would attribute declining job performance to the fact that "you are fucking whomever you fuck" and would ask the offending party to leave est.
      Erhard generously added a "family policy" to the est rules governing sexual conduct, mindful of the occasional desire among married staff members to enjoy dalliances with other partners besides their spouse. The policy, which otherwise prohibited extramarital affairs, allowed such liaisons as long as Don Cox received a letter from an est staffer's wife or husband allowing their spouse "to fuck someone else." The letter also had to include "guidelines" aimed at identifying those with whom the spouse could enjoy sexual intimacy.
      In the early years of est, Erhard had a habit of announcing strict rules proscribing sexual liaisons among staff members, only to drop them at particularly opportune times and reinstate them at a later date. While treating the staff to a weeklong Mexican cruise in 1974, Erhard abruptly lifted the sexual ban, delighting many along for the trip. After an amorous week at sea, Erhard reimposed the no-sex rules back in San Francisco.
...
      No such self-reporting sexual rules applied to Erhard. Instead, he entrusted to his closest aides the confidential role of assisting in the steady, though usually clandestine, flow of women in and out of his private black-painted bedroom on the second floor of the Franklin House. Sometimes his partners came from the ranks of celebrity est enthusiasts, including actress Cloris Leachman, with whom Erhard maintained a relationship for a few years. Otherwise, Erhard helped himself to the sexual favors offered to him by an assortment of attractive staff members and est volunteers. A comely Franklin House assistant once confided to an est trainer that another Erhard aide "schedules Werner's cock" and that she planned "to get on the schedule."
Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, pages 143-145.

Synanon, The People's Temple, and the Hari Krishnas (ISKCON) all took members' children away from them, and brutally beat and abused those children. Many people found that they couldn't even get their kids back when they tried to leave the People's Temple. Timothy Stoen, who had been a lawyer for the Temple before he quit the cult, never did succeed in getting his own son away from Jim Jones, who argued in court that the kid was his, and refused to give the kid up. Timothy Stoen's son and 275 other children were murdered during the Jonestown massacre/mass suicide, given cyanide Kool-Aid to drink, on the orders of Jim Jones.

And at the Branch Davidian compound of Vernon Howell, also known as "David Koresh", in Waco, Texas,

According to Koresh, sexual life was fine in past ages; indeed, it was necessary for the propagation of the species. However, just before the end of time, those who have purified themselves for the new creation and for the Kingdom of God must separate themselves from this passing, obsolete state of life. Celibacy was hard for the other Davidians to accept, to put it mildly.
...
Once in a Bible study session Koresh had one of the women stand and lift up her dress, exposing her legs and underpants. He told everyone to look at her for a moment, then asked how many of the men had been aroused or distracted although they had no legitimate reason to have sexual thoughts toward this particular woman. Such a demonstration attempted to illustrate how human sexuality is an untamed force that actually leads to deceit and disruption in human relationships. Koresh stressed the ideal potential of the liberated person, free from lust, which even when legalized by marriage is a distraction from higher and ultimate purposes. He emphasized that the group, as part of the vanguard of the age to come, needed purity. Most went along with this teaching, and the men and women of the group began to live separately.
Why Waco?, James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, 1995, page 71.

However, a little later, "David Koresh" promulgated his "New Light" revelation, which gave him a sexual claim upon all of the women in the group — in fact, he said that only he had the right to procreate, because he was the Son of God, and he was entitled, even biologically and spiritually obligated, to have all of the women and post-pubescent girls sexually, to create the new Grandchildren of God. (What's really amazing is that most of the other guys in the cult went along with it and handed over their wives and daughters. Only a couple of guys quit the cult over that.)3



Footnotes:

1) Peter Howard, Innocent Men, pages 11 to 15.

2) John Atack, A Piece Of Blue Sky, and
L. Ron Hubbard, Letters and Journals; Early Years of Adventure, pages 18 to 25.

3) James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, Why Waco?, 1995, pages 68, 81-86, and 160.



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