(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for
Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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 —
Later, they added the actor Roy Scheider and Broadway stage
actor Raul Julia.5
But they never did explain what "incredible results" they
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,
"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.
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
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
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
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 , 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
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  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
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"
"Synanon" = "Sinners Anonymous".)
In the beginning, Synanon really was a remarkable self-help
organization that got hundreds of people off of drugs and alcohol.
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,
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
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
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."
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
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
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.
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
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"
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,
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.
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:
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".
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,
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
[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,
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.
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
"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 Landmark Forum",
"The Landmark Educational Forum",
They like to specialize in so-called "corporate training".
You must change your beliefs to conform to the group's
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.
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
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
And I just mentioned
the Christian cults that encourage their female members to become
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,
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
in the beginning, the goal was, at least for her, to learn, live,
and retransmit truth and Eastern wisdom.
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.
In order to do that, it was necessary to raise money.
In order to do that, slightly unscrupulous means were okay for getting more money.
The end justifies the means. The great work is important.
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.
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.
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.
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."
What Is Scientology?, pages 308 — 347 is all testimonials from