Questions 21 to 30
by A. Orange
(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and answers.)
For example, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is a Santa Claus cult where you chant for whatever you want — just grab your Christmas wish list of things to get (money, car, house, laid, whatever), and start chanting to the Gohonzon, which is a reprint of an ancient scroll. No joke. You chant to a printed piece of paper, which the faithful insist has the magical power to grant wishes, among other things. (The true believers will even entertain you with stories about the Jumping Gohonzons, which allegedly jumped down off of the wall and hopped out of a burning monastery in ancient Japan, and some believers will also tell you that they get advice and guidance from their Gohonzon.) Whenever you get something good, you have to stand up before the whole church and brag about all of the wonderful things you have gotten from chanting to the Gohonzon.
The Scientology book What Is Scientology? is loaded with testimonials, like:
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 — 'with incredible results'."4 Later, they added the actor Roy Scheider and Broadway stage actor Raul Julia.5 But they never did explain what "incredible results" they got...
Faithful members will tell you that the cult has given them a whole new life, but that new life is often nothing more than working for free all of the time to raise money for the cult, and recruit new members for the cult, and going to meetings, "Bible study classes", "worship services", chanting sessions, meditation sessions, prayer sessions, work parties, "auditing" sessions, training sessions, conventions and other get-togethers. Sometimes, cult members live together in communal houses and have few social contacts besides other cult members. And all they talk about is the cult.
For example, many cults will, while raising funds, claim to be very busy solving social problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, or abandoned orphans. But when the money is spent, little or none of it goes to the good cause; rather, the money is used to support the cult, and further its hidden agenda, and finance the leader's luxurious lifestyle.
Rev. Jim Jones and his People's Temple were notorious for sending children out into the streets, begging for donations to support programs to get people off of drugs or to help orphan children. But Jones' biggest expense was actually indulging his own whims, and his biggest activity was self-glorification and faking miracles.
This is a very common hidden agenda: A church may claim to be doing charitable relief work, feeding starving people (especially children) in foreign countries, but their real mission is proselytizing and trying to convert other people to their religion. They feel completely justified in lying and deceiving others — both their donors in the USA and the people in foreign countries — in order to "bring more souls to Jesus", or some such thing. They imagine themselves to be very holy, "serving God", but they really have the morality of a cancer cell or a virus. All they want to do is turn everybody around them into clones of themselves.
Antioch Church in Texas sent young women to Afghanistan to illegally proselytize for Jesus while pretending to be relief workers who were there to help the poor and starving. Perhaps you remember that a few months before September 11, 2001, the Taliban arrested two American women relief workers for proselytizing and trying to convert Afghanistanis to Christianity. Everybody involved denied it and said that the Taliban were just crazy Islamic fundamentalists.
Half a year later, the U.S. Army invaded Afghanistan and rescued the relief workers, and the news media made a big deal out of the rescue of those two women and other relief workers. Those women even continued to lie and deny their proselytizing activities when they gave a press conference in the USA when they came home. The truth didn't come out until the mother of one of the two young women gave NBC news an interview telling the whole story: the Taliban were right. The women had been actively proselytizing and trying to make converts and establish Christian "cells" which would (hopefully) grow into large Christian churches.
The mother made these revelations because she was very worried — her daughter and her daughter's friends in Antioch Church were planning to return to Afghanistan and do it all again, and the State Department wouldn't stop them. Apparently, religious bigotry, lying and deceit are not against international law, or against American foreign policy, either (as long as you are a Texan Christian).
Likewise, at least one of those Christian
"save the children in foreign countries"
charities that advertises on TV that "we don't preach or proselytize
or try to convert the people whom we are helping" is lying.
"Dual purposes" also means that the cult is two-faced. The cult has a public face, which is usually an altruistic, happy, smiley face, and then the cult has a hidden face, perhaps that of a greedy, grasping, abusive, mind-controlling organization, or that of a dogmatic, expansionist, fundamentalist religion.
David Berg's Children of God cult begged for donations to "help youth off drugs", but they actually had no program for getting anybody off of drugs. What they really did was get all of the girls into prostitution — "Flirty Fishing" is what they called it — to get the cult more money and more male members.6
For another example, Werner Erhard launched "the Hunger Project" which ostensibly was supposed to alleviate world hunger, but which was really just another scheme to promote and enrich his est "self-improvement training" hoax:
From the very outset of the Hunger Project, [project director Joan] Holmes herself made it clear that the program had much more to do with spreading the transformational message of est than with actually doing anything to end hunger. Hunger, as Holmes candidly told readers of the Graduate Review in August 1977, had little to do with the overall goals of the project. "Of course, I'm not insensitive to the people who are hungry and starving," said Holmes. "But the truth is that it could be any issue. The process is the same."
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.
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.
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."
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."
Not exactly your garden-variety drug-and-alcohol rehab program.
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...
The cult may use a variety of rapid-conversion techniques to recruit new members, like
"Love bombing" is over-whelming a prospect with attention and friendliness. The prospect may have been alone and lonely, but now he is the center of attention, and friendly girls who insist on hugging or touching him tell him that he is "really neat" or some such thing.
In the Moonies' cult — The Unification Church — the prospect is never left alone for a minute — he can't even go to the bathroom alone — and he is simply completely immersed in the cult and its teachings all of his waking hours, and constantly surrounded by smiling, friendly faces that tell him that the cult is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And he is deprived of sleep, too, kept awake and busy for long periods of time, so that his waking hours, and his indoctrination time, are very long. The lack of sleep, and lack of free time, helps to stop critical thinking, and the instant intimacy makes resisting the indoctrination difficult.
And then the prospect is pulled further into the cult through a technique called "acquiescence by default." That means that the prospect is induced to do things just by doing nothing. For example, the young fellow who is being love-bombed may be told by the local group leader, who may not be much older than the prospect, "Sam and Harry should go canvas the university for 'winners' [vulnerable-looking prospects]. Mary and Fred [the new prospect] should take the van and go to the farm for the weekend." Now Fred had not intended to spend his weekend at the cult's commune, but the idea of spending the weekend with Mary is tempting, (and the leader knows it,) so Fred is still debating what he would really like to do when he is shoved into the van by Mary and he's off to a weekend of more intense indoctrination.
Then, if he even starts to think about leaving, the circle of people around him breaks out in 'spontaneous' song:
We love you, Fred,
After that weekend, Fred may find himself staying for another week or two, just the same way, and then he stays even longer, and eventually, he finds himself selling flowers on a street corner sixteen hours a day for no pay, and he isn't quite sure how he got there, but he knows that it's the right road to Heaven...
Steve Hassan, in his book, "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves", described something very similar: Hassan discussed how, as a 19-year-old student at Queens College in New York City, he was approached by three attractive women who said they were also students, and invited him to dinner. He had just broken up with his girlfriend, so he was lonely, and didn't mind having some female companionship. He wound up accompanying his new friends to a few weekend workshops — all in the spirit of being "open minded."
"It dawned on me when I was driving with them to an estate in upstate New York owned by the Unification Church. I'd ask them, 'Why are we going there?' They would turn it around on me and say, 'Why, are you afraid?'" Hassan recounted. And that deception was the beginning of several years of "service" to the cult.
Guilt induction is just what it sounds like: make the prospect feel guilty about everything and anything, and convince him that only by joining the cult can he change his life for the better. The guilt-inducers love to visit jails and drug and alcohol detox and rehab facilities, and tell people, "Well, you tried living your own way, and it didn't work out well at all, did it? It turned you into a horrible monster, and a real loser, didn't it? So now you should start living God's Way." — And it is always "God's Way" as they define it, of course.
Another standard feature of cult recruiting is "actionizing." The trick is to get new members out recruiting others fast. The newcomers have just been inducted into the cult, they only know a little of the dogma, and already they have to go recruiting. There is a very good reason for that: The act of trying to convert others will cement the new dogma in the minds of the recent converts, and they will be convincing themselves as they try to convince others. They will also have to study and learn more dogma in order to be able to recite it to the prospects. It's the propaganda technique called "Self-Sell" — get them to sell the cult to themselves while trying to sell it to others.
The booby prize for the most aggressive recruiting technique ends up being a tie between two pseudo-Christian cults, both of whom encourage their female members to become prostitutes. One of the requirements for female members of "The Way International" is to prostitute themselves in order to draw potential recruits into the organization. Imagine being the guy in that situation. He would never guess that his new girlfriend is a prostitute, because she doesn't ask him for money. She just wants him to come to church with her, after sex. Isn't it amazing what some people can rationalize, by saying, "It's all okay, because it's being done in the service of the Lord." ("The end justifies the means" is another standard cult characteristic.)
And then there is the pseudo-Christian cult, David Berg's "Children of God", which actively encourages its female members to practice "Flirty Fishing" and to work as "Happy Hookers for Jesus", using sex to bring both money and new male members into the church. They operate near many large American military bases overseas, and take advantage of lonely servicemen with their come-ons. The cult leader David Berg (a.k.a. Moses David) even went so far as to tell the husbands to pimp their wives on the streets.1
In Boot Camps: Children's Gulags, we saw how Jim Jones used another ancient recruiting strategy: steal a bunch of other people's children and raise them up to be the kind of true believers that he wanted.
A common characteristic of deceptive recruiting is hiding or distorting the truth, and only revealing the truth to prospects and recent converts a little bit at a time. (See Steve Hassan's description of the "Heavenly deception" practiced by the Unification Church — the "Moonies.")
Cults rationalize this behavior by saying that
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. ... By accepting the way in which I was deceived, I set myself up to begin deceiving others.
That's another recurrent theme:
Dr. Frank Buchman's "Oxford Group" was famous for encouraging hilarity in confessions. As people confessed everything they had ever done wrong, it was all so funny and entertaining. As Marjorie Harrison, a contemporary critic, said in her book,
When Dr. Buchman invited converts to stand up and confess at one meeting that I attended, he said: "Remember these three points when you speak: BREVITY, SINCERITY, and HILARITY." Members of his group are taught to be funny and jocular about their sins. I should like to know how that can be reconciled with the teaching of any religion.
However, jokes about Dr. Buchman or his teachings were not tolerated at all. That was not funny. You could laugh and joke about how foolish and sinful you were, but you could not even imply that there was something wrong with Buchman's teachings. The slightest hint of criticism of Buchman or his organization drew harsh rebukes. The group really had no humor at all.
A House-Party audience is almost entirely composed of adherents to the Movement or those partially convinced. Buchman obviously does not expect anything but an assent to his demands, for if anyone asks so much as a question, he becomes flurried immediately. He shouts, blusters, ties himself into knots and is usually extricated by his followers. He is always evasive. A definite criticism voiced at a meeting spoils the meeting for him.
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 and stupid to hear it the first time, and couldn't understand his genius, then you have a problem on your hands.
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:
"2. You Are Always wrong", and
"6. Group-think, Suppression of Dissent, and Enforced Conformity in Thinking".
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 addition, they all get new Seikh names for their new identity: The mens' names end in "Singh" and the womens' names end in "Kar".
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. And again, they all get new Indian names that are just like the leader's name.
Even when the cult doesn't enforce an outlandish dress code, the members still start looking a lot alike. Many fundamentalist religious cults require the men to wear suits and ties, or office dress shirts and ties, while the women all wear long dresses. In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, I heard an older member telling a rather scruffy-looking newcomer that, as he became more confirmed in his membership, he would cut his long hair and shave and change his manner of dress to look more like the rest of the members. The older member considered this change to be perfectly normal and desirable and appropriate.
The worst aspect of cloning is that the members' minds become just as uniform as their hair and dress. The members don't just look like the leader, they also talk and think like the leader. Cults simply rob members of their individuality.
In the book Escape from Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon, the author William F. Olin described how the cult leader, Charles Dederich, accumulated a group of clones who looked and acted so much like him that the less-brainwashed members of Synanon disparagingly referred to that circle of sycophants as "the little Chucks". Olin wrote:
At the very top, Dan Garrett's role as the ultimate yes-man ("Yeah, man!") totally turned me off. He deliberately stuffed his own brilliance and parroted every utterance of the Founder — never publicly crossing him — in or out of Games. It was embarrassing. I felt love and esteem for the Old Man, but still recognized his consummate humanity and the reality that his ideas and remarks ran a gamut from inspired genius to banal and asinine. Yet the little Chucks who ran my life accepted each new concept indiscriminately, urging it onto the rank and file as the current "fantastic" gospel according to St. Charles [Charles "Chuck" Dederich]. Either these lieutenants were stupid or else they were able to keep the higher goals of the 'Synanon vision' constantly in view. I had lately begun to suspect that the former was true more often than the latter: After all, Adolph Hitler was big on experimentation. Change was not necessarily growth. God, how sick and tired I was of being a guinea pig!
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.
Just for the record, as far as Werner Erhard not being a male chauvinist pig goes, another biographer, one who wasn't trying to sell est training, reported that Werner Erhard was a vicious woman-hater and woman-beater, the worst kind of male chauvinist pig. Look here.
At the end of 1975, during a four-day staff meeting, a new staff member stood up to be introduced to the rest of the group.
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".
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.
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
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:
What is Scientology?
Based on the Works of L. Ron Hubbard, Compiled by Staff
of the Church of Scientology International
3) Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, footnote on page 28.
4) est, 60 hours that transform your life, erhard seminars training, Adelaide Bry, Avon Books, inside front cover.)
5) Outrageous Betrayal, The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile, Steven Pressman, page 164.
6) The Children of God: The Inside Story, Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, page 116 for the "helping youth off drugs" reference, and the whole chapter, pages 111 to 124 on Flirty Fishing.
7) NBC News, 3 AM PDT, Monday, 24 June 2002.
8) Time Magazine special report on Scientology, Time Magazine May 6, 1991, page 50, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, said: "Adherents include screen idols Tom Cruise and John Travolta, actresses Kirstie Alley, Mimi Rogers, and Anne Archer, Palm Springs mayor and performer Sonny Bono, jazzman Chick Corea and even Nancy Cartwright, the voice of cartoon star Bart Simpson."
9) What Is Scientology?, pages 308 — 347 is all testimonials from former converts.
Last updated 30 January 2019.
Copyright © 2019, A. Orange