The Danger Surrounding Cults and Cult Leaders

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This esssay is about the danger surrounding cults and cult leaders.

Submitted: July 14, 2012

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Submitted: July 14, 2012

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Merriam-Webster's dictionary has several definitions for the word "cult". Here I will focus on the dangers of cults, cult leaders, in the following manner: "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious or great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book)."

I have learned of the misfortune of people who have come across a certain type of cult. I have some insight into how people can overcome its delusional, grandiose, homicidal, terrorist-like, obsessive influence that it has tried to impose on either individuals or its members. These types of cults have a supposedly all-knowing, all powerful "influence" that is nothing more than a fascade that masks something more sinister. These groups resort to using mind control over its members and try to use it on others as well. On the internet I found the following on mind control: "some form of coercive persuasion or mind control is used to recruit and maintain [cult] members by suppressing their ability to reason, think critically, and make choices in their own best interest." From what I've learned, its members exhibit a fanatical and unquestioning, homicidal and extremist faith in its leader, "no matter what!", even to the point of becoming self-deprecating, delusional, mentally ill, violent, in other words, at the cost of their own well-being (particularly mental). I have also learned that its members will stop at nothing to achieve a desired goal, even threatening its victim of death if anyone tries to help the victim.

It has been my misfortune to learn that its followers question not any ethical or moral standards that the ideology that the cult espouses. Oftentimes, it resorts to systematically killing a target/victim, no questions asked. It has been my misfortune to learn that any inherent "good" that its members possessed is overwritten by blind faith in a treacherous and abusive cult leader, one who is indeed charismatic and professing to be all powerful, "no matter what". Its members end up with some type of moral disorder, which poses dangerous consequences to all those who don't want to be involved. If you question a "leader" of this sort of group, its member is often found to be given a false sense authority, an "ok" to continue doing what he/she is doing to a victim, always on behalf of its cult leader.

I have also become aware of an instantaneous love-like devotion and protective quality that cult members exhibit for its leader. What drives its members is fanatacism and crazed emotion/devotion, void of any reason or common sense. I have learned of many of its members' lack of self-respect and lack of self-esteem, or the extreme opposite, a holier-than-thou "righteousness" that "allows" them to nearly destroy the "evil" victim/target. I have learned of its leader not even ALLOWING its members to question its actions, have found instead a blind committment to its practices, no matter how harmful or immoral, homicidal, violent (particularly to women, in some cases). I have learned of the pain that its victims have had to endure and overcome through years of abuse, torture, rape, violence, terror, psycholical and otherwise. The strength, courage, perseverance, and innate power and wisdom of the victims of these crimes is astounding, and their faith in God throughout their ordeal has been nothing short of exceptional, according to the victims.
Mind control
"Studies have identified a number of key steps in coercive persuasion:[17][18]
1. People are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations;[ALWAYS]
2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
3. They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
4. They get a new identity based on the group;[19]".
Potential for harm
In the opinion of Benjamin Zablacki, a professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, groups that have been characterized as cults are at high risk of becoming abusive to members. He states that this is in part due to members' adulation of charismatic leaders contributing to the leaders becoming corrupted by power. Zablocki defines a cult as an ideological organization held together by charismatic relationships and the demand of total commitment.[23
Under the "psychodynamic model," popular with some mental health professionals, individuals choose to join for fulfillment of subconscious psychological needs. Finally, the "thought reform model" states that people do not join because of their own psychological needs, but because of the group's influence through forms of psychological manipulation
A destructive cult is a religion or other group which has caused or has a high probability of causing harm to its own members or to others. Some researchers define "harm" in this case with a narrow focus, specifically groups which have deliberately physically injured or killed other individuals, while others define the term more broadly and include emotional abuse among the types of harm inflicted.
Even if they start as ordinary modern political party or organisation, to prepare and force their members to act without asking any moral question and act selflessly for the cause of the group and ignore all the ethical, cultural, moral or religious code of the society and humanity, those organisations have to change into a cult. Therefore to understand an extremist or a terrorist organisation one has to learn about a Cult."

I have learned that these cult groups indeed are extremist, stopping at nothing, trying to control everything and everyone they come across in order to subject their victims to their ideological, obssesive, homicidal, mania. They often prove to be manipulative in nature, try to appear as something else other than what it truly is: psychopathic, homicidal, and disastrous to an otherwise civilized society.

This is what I found on cult leaders, as in "The Master Manipulator."

"Let us look for a moment at how some of this manifests in the cult leader. "Cult leaders have an
outstanding ability to charm and win over followers. They beguile and seduce. They enter a room and garner all the attention. They command the utmost respect and obedience. The individuals whose narcissism is so extreme and grandiose that they exist in a kind of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self takes precedence over legal, moral or interpersonal commitments."Paranoia may be evident in simple or elaborate delusions of persecution. Highly suspicious, they may feel conspired against, spied upon or cheated, or maligned by a person, group, or governmental agency. Any real or suspected unfavorable reaction may be interpreted as a deliberate attack upon them or the group. (Considering the criminal nature of some groups and the antisocial behavior of others, some of these fears may have more of a basis in reality than delusion!)

"Harder to evaluate, of course, is whether these leaders' belief in their magical powers, omnipotence, and connection to God (or whatever higher power or belief system they are espousing) is delusional or simply part of the con. Megalomania--the belief that one is able or entitled to rule the world--is equally hard to evaluate without psychological testing of the in- dividual, although numerous cult leaders state quite readily that their goal is to rule the world. In any case, beneath the surface gloss of intelligence, charm, and professed humility seethes an inner world of rage, depression, and fear.


"The Authoritarian Power Dynamic

The purpose of a cult (whether group or one-on-one) is to serve the emotional, financial, sexual, and power needs of the leader. The single most important word here is power. The dynamic around which cults are formed is similar to that of other power relationships and is essentially ultra- auhoritarian, based on a power imbalance. The cult leader by definition must have an authoritarian personality in order to fulfill his half of the power dynamic. Traditional elements of authoritarian personalities indude the following:

-the tendency to hierarchy

-the drive for power (and wealth)

-hostility, hatred, prejudice

- superficial judgments of people and events

-a one-sided scale of values favoring the one in power

-interpreting kindness as weakness
-the tendency to use people and see others as inferior
-a sadistic-masochistic tendency
-incapability of being ultimately satisfied

-paranoia(3)

In a study of twentieth-century dictators, one researcher wrote: 'Since compliance depends on whether the leader is perceived as being both powerful and knowing, the ever-watchful and all-powerful leader and his invisible but observant and powerful instruments, such as secret police can be invoked in the same way as an unobservable but omniscient God....Similarly, the pomp and ceremony surrounding such an individual make him more admirable and less like the common herd, increasing both his self-confidence and the confidence of his subjects. The phenomenon is found not only with individual leaders, but with entire movemnts"

We will see, however, that an authoritarian personality is just one aspect of the nature of a cult leader.

Who Becomes a Cult Leader?

Frequently at gatherings of former cult members a lively exchange takes place in which those present compare their respective groups and leaders. As people begin to describe their special, enlightened, and unique "guru"--be he a pastor, therapist, political leader, teacher, lover, or swami--they are quickly surprised to find that their once-revered leaders are really quite similar in temperament and personality. It often seems as if these leaders come tiom a common mold, sometimes jokingly called the "Cookie-cutter Messiah School."

These similarities between cult leaders of all stripes are in fact character disorders commonly identified with the psychopathic personality. In this chapter we review some of this research and conclude with a psychopathological profile of traits commonly found in abusive leaders.

Cultic groups usually originate with a living leader who is believed to be "god" or godlike by a cadre of dedicated believers. Along with a dra- matic and convincing talent for self-expression, these leaders have an intuitive ability to sense their followers' needs and draw them closer with promises of fulfillment.
Gradually, the leader inculcates the group with his own private ideology (or craziness!), then creates conditions so that his victims cannot or dare not test his claims. Through psychological manipulation and control, cult leaders trick their followers into believing in something, then prevent them from testing and disproving that mythology or belief system.

The Role of Charisma

In general, charismatic personalities are known for their inescapable magnetism, their winning style, the self-assurance with which they promote something--a cause, a belief, a product. A charismatic person who offers hope of new beginnings (i.e. "doing something 'remarkable' in this world or other personal agenda that promises a reward of some sort, whatever that may be, unbeknownst to its cult members), often attracts attention and a following. Over the years we have witnessed this in the likes of Dale Carnegie, Werner Erhard (founder of est, now The Forum), John Hanley (founder of Lifespring), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Shirley MacLaine, John Bradshaw, Marianne Williamson, Ramtha channeler J.Z. Knight, and a rash of Amway "executives," weight-loss program promoters and body-building gurus." This is also being witnessed in this day and age.

One dictionary definition of charisma is "a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader or military commander); a special magnetic charm or appeal."(5) Charisma was studied in depth by the German sociologist Max Weber, who defined it as "an exceptional quality in an individual who, through appearing to possess supernatural, providential, or extraordinary powers, succeeds in gathering disciples around him."(6)

Weber's charismatic leader was "a sorcerer with an innovative aura and a personal magnetic gift, [who] promoted a specific doctrine.... [and was] concerned with himself rather than involved with others....[He] held an exceptional type of power: it set aside the usages of normal political life and assumed instead those of demagoguery, dictatorship, or revo- lution, [which induced] men's whole-hearted devotion to the charismatic individual through a blind and fanatical trust and an unrestrained and un- critical faith."
In the case of cults, of course, we know that this induction of whole hearted devotion does not happen spontaneously but is the result of the cult leader's skillful use of thought-reform techniques. Charisma on its own is not evil and does not necessarily breed a cult leader. Charisma is, however, a powerful and awesome attribute found in many cult leaders who use it in ways that are both self-serving and destructive to others.
In the long run, skills of persuasion (which may or may not be charismadc) are more important to the cult leader than charisma--for the power and hold of cults depend on the particular environment shaped by the thought-reform program and control mechanisms, all of which are usually conceptualized and put in place by the leader. Thus it is the psychopathology of the leader, not his charisma, that causes the systematic manipulative abuse and exploitation found in cults.

"The Cult Leader as Psychopath

Cultic groups and relationships are formed primarily to meet specific emotional needs of the leader, many of whom suffer from one or another enotional or character disorder. Few, if any, cult leaders subject them- selves to the psychological tests or prolonged clinical interviews that allow for an accurate diagnosis.
*However, researchers and clinicians who have observed these individuals describe them variously as neurotic, psychotic, on a spectrum exhibiting neurotic, sociopathic, and psychotic characteristics, or suffering from a diagnosed personality disorder*

"A cult is a group of people, usually very obsessive, who follow a specific leader. The leader tells them how to think and act. Cult followers are like sheep, following the so-called leader. Cult leaders are many times motivated by money and control [or other personal gain of some sort].They don't necessarily act [ever] in the best interest of their followers,
"A cult is a false religion with false beliefs. It is run by someone who thinks that his or her beliefs are absolutes. Most people think that a cult leader brainwashes the followers.

From what I have learned from victims of cults, the cults do the following over a period of time:

1. THEY MANIPULATE, BRAINWASH VICTIMS, AS A FORM OF COERCION TO FOLLOW CERTAIN DICTATES OR IDEOLOGY, for a fanatical and obessesive "higher goal", whatever that may be. It often turns out to be in the leaders' self interest for a hidden purpose aside from the one it is claiming to have, "i.e a [goal above and beyond" the current boundaries of its "job", a hidden reward of some sort that they often will not reveal to its followers.

2. Followers are not allowed to question the motives of the leader, and are convinced by the leader "at all costs", by "any means necessary," i.e. VIOLENCE, THEFT, MANIPULATION OF CERTAIN MEMBERS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, promotion of violence and abuse against WOMEN or others, "no matter what". These leaders often espouse to be "benevolent" in nature, like a pastor or therapist, so their word is always GOOD, "no matter what".

3. Sometimes the cult's members become so homicidal, obsessive, that they become mentally ill. They do not stand grounded in truth but in lies, manipulation, and deceit. They lose of sense of who they truly are or once were and follow outrages dictates and as a result do and think in abnormal ways, behave in abnormal ways.

4. The cult becomes extremist in nature, irrational and overbearing, creating a profoundly stressful atmosphere, violent and predictable, creating chaos and illogical "thinking" amongst its members.

5. The victims on the other hand, from what I have learned, become engrossed with their own sense of survival despite the abnormal circumstances in which they find themselves in, the fanatics that they find themselves amongst. The cult has tried to inculcate fear in these victims, as well as a sense of inferiority which causes the victim to become psychologically "haggard", so to speak. It becomes a battle between life and death, and if the victim does not know how to respond instead of react to bizarre and abnormal circumstances and stimuli, they die, in more ways than one. Through years of experience and finally adapting to this abnormality, the victims in this case learn to differentiate between what is real and what isn't, what is truth and what isn't, and therefore extraplote themselves from the "muck" they once found themselves in.

6. The members of this cult are inadvertently and/or directly indoctrinated, through mind control and brainwashing and manipulation of some sort, creating a superiority complex that "entitles" its members to beat up the victim in some form, stalk them everyday (no matter what!), and try to make the victim react to them in one way or another, in order to make the victim out to be crazy or unworthy of life and liberty for one deranged "reason" or another, at all COSTS.

7. The victim is "given" irrational and abusive "reasons" as to their predicament, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

1.Dumb
2.Ugly
3.Unworthy
4. Has no redeeming qualities
5. No talents
7.No goodnesss
8. Trash
9.Crazy
10. and turns the table around on the victim and makes him/her out to be a "psychopath" and dangerous for one illogical and unfounded "reason" or another.
11. And other lies.

The victim in turn ends up distressed and pressured, not unreasonably, considering the circumstances, haggard, maybe even homeless at times due to the way they reacted to their circumstances, and unable to care for themselves adequately for a little while. They inherently know that all these things are lies, but the torture that they are put through and the apathy that they encounter, seemingly insurmountable, pains them. They learned to overcome their doubts and fears and pain, though, and instead, find themselves with a healthy self-esteem in the end, still battling the insane environment they find themselves in, but now with a sense of reality that is healthy, a moral code, a civilized mind and demeanor, and a healthy respect for the lives of others.

The cult tries to make law corrupt, in pursuit of its "higher goals". But in reality, the police, most of them at least, have not succumbed to illegal practices, not so far as in curtailing the rights of these victims. So the police are not an issue, and thus, the cult is not THAT successful in harming the victim, through this means, anyway.

The cult, in reality is not all that. It is not in control of everyone and everything as certain circumstances have proven, despite the cult's "iron will". THe cult will use other measures of coercive control, of its members and victims alike, through venues like the media, indirectly at least. They will create an atmosphere of noise campaigns and stalk the victime "no matter what".

I have come to like these victims for their inherent sense of self worth, self-respect, COMMON SENSE, dedication to the pursuit of what is right, not wrong, and in their respect for others, "NO MATTER WHAT", lol. Their conscience dictates, their sense of others' humanity and dignity dictates, their rational mind, strong heart, and kind soul dictates, and it makes life worthwhile.

Overall, I believe in the victims and I have learned that cults are dangerous in nature, manipulative, coercive, self-destructive, self-deprecating at times, and overall, insane, illogical, inhumane, violent/homicidal, degrading, immoral, holier-than-thou (as in GODlike, according to what THEY have claimed to be). They don't do anything, ultimately, with good intentions, and at the expense of their OWN members, even. Thus, victims and society in general should learn to be weary of these cults, as they become quite obvious as time goes on, from the outsider lookin in, the dangers that they pose to humanity in general. THey have even claimed to pursue only the "survival of the fittest", whatever the hell that means. I applaud the victims tenacity and avid concern for him or herself and his/her life and even others, despite the evil that has surrounded them for so long. I applaud law and order, a civilized society, one that is humane in nature, "no matter what", lol.

God blesses these victims I think. They believe so too.

We live in a grand world, too beautiful for words. Evil like these cults should be stomped out for good, the right way. No violence, no counter evil.PEriod.

The "road to hell is paved with 'good intentions'." AND good intentions, these cults never have. No matter what! (grin)


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