Hardly anyone hears the word “cult” and thinks of
positive aspects.Therefore in order to successfully create and /or propagate an ideology
- in this sense, an emotionally charged conviction about a group of people and
their relationship to their natural and supernatural environment - the tenets
of that belief system must be pushed by its followers in a totalistic direction.
This will, in most cases, occur when the purported beliefs are all-encompassing
and extremely ambitious in their claims in order to dominate all aspects of
the members' lives. In cases where these tenets have become a reality to a select
few there has been created a religious or spiritual movement that can be called
a cult. The following is a list of three criteria, which can be applied to any
group in order to assess its nature as a legitimate organization or as a cult.
This includes complete control and discretion
over what a member of a cult may see, hear, write, or experience in order
to exclude any information that may create conflicts within the individual
or the group.
Methods of accomplishing this include group
process, isolation form all outsiders, psychological and emotional pressure,
physical distancing, unavailability of outside contact, and even physical
One is gradually encompassed into acceptance
of these methods by attending a series of event such as seminars, lectures,
group meetings and meals, and group activities which become increasingly intense
The group also creates a sense of antagonism
and competition with the outside world that results in an "us against them"
Within these group activities, the leaders promote
specific responses, both emotional and physical, that create a pattern of
emotions that seem to have risen spontaneously but in actuality have been
coaxed and orchestrated.
Group leaders claim to have been instruments
specifically chosen by God to do His work on earth and carry out some sort
of spiritual mission in His name and under His power.
The principles and tenets set forth by the leader
from his or her supernatural conversations soon become exclusive beliefs of
the group and are structured so as to be the "truth" or the only true message
from God and the sole means of salvation and redemption.
The leader who preaches these tenets has acquired
an aura of being a physical manifestation of supernatural power and mystique
and is perceived as an entity that is more real and attainable and therefore
more attractive to cult members.
Methods and techniques of recruitment legitimize
the use of deception and trickery in order to recruit new members and raise
funds in the name of God against the resistance of the outside world.
The Demand for Purity
Once in the group, the world becomes divided
into the pure (the group) vs. the impure (outsiders) which can also be seen
as good vs. evil and us vs. them in which the group is absolutely correct
and the outside world is absolutely wrong.
The individual must continually change and conform
to the norm inside the group while shedding the norms of popular society.
The members of the group use guilt and shame
in order to control and manipulate individuals and create the impression that
the ideas and beliefs of the group are absolute and correct.
This separation of pure and impure is a absolute
tenet both in the environment and the individual as created by the guilt and
shame of having or even considering other, unregulated beliefs.
This same guilt is used to coerce individuals
into confessing any non-conformity that may occur in physical action and especially
in mental and psychological processes.
Confession within a cult is carried beyond its
normal religious and therapeutic purposes and soon becomes a technique by
which an individual becomes brainwashed.
Sessions in which a member confesses to his
or her sins are coupled with exercises in criticism and self-criticism that
focus responsibility on the individual, blame on society, and forgiveness
within the group's belief system.
This constitutes an act of symbolic self-surrender
to the group.
It is common for confessors to admit to pre-cult
sins in order to appease the wishes of the group members and to belong but
still hold on to other secrets or doubts they may have.
These groups maintain an aura of respect and
sacredness around its doctrines that set it apart from other belief systems
as special and uniquely correct by which it achieves the distinction as the
ultimate moral vision for human existence.
The questioning, criticizing, or doubting of
any of these tenets is prohibited and punished.
Extreme reverence is demanded for the ideology,
those who originated the doctrines, and the present keepers of the doctrines.
This sacredness is often very attractive because
it tends to simplify the world and answer a particular set of questions an
individual might have about religious doctrines in society and their truth.
Loading the Language
The language of the doctrines and of everyday
interaction is characterized by thought-terminating words and phrases that
emphasize the sacredness of the doctrines and their ultimate truth.
The language focuses on in-group jargon and repetition
of these phrases.
Words are often given new meaning that the outside
world does not understand and will not use by which a unique language is created.
Doctrine Over Person
Every issue in a person's life is reduced to
a single set of principles expressed within the doctrine of the group that
must be adhered to and are seen as the ultimate solution to all problems.
If an individual questions or doubts these principles
they are criticized and made to feel something is inherently wrong with them
- any questions are turned around rather than being answered directly.
The main underlying assumption is in that the
sacredness of the doctrines make it ultimately more valid and truthful than
any human behavioral experience can possibly be.
The experience of contradiction is automatically
and inherently associated with guilt and wrongdoing.
The individual is conditioned to feel any doubts
are a reflection of one's own evil thoughts and lack of faith.
Dispensing of Experience
Due to the group's notion of their doctrines
as absolutely correct and true, those who are not in the group are considered
evil, their thoughts and actions are evil, and they do not have the right
Anyone outside the group can immediately
attain a right to exist by joining the group.
Anyone who attempts to leave the group
is, in essence, leaving God Himself, and deserves to be punished.
The group members are God's elite, chosen
ones while those who do not believe are considered evil and cannot be saved.
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