International Cultic Studies Association
Cultic Studies Review An Internet Journal of Research, News & Opinion Volume 7, Number 1 2008
CONTENTS Articles Psychologist Survey Regarding Cults Edward A. Lottick, M.D.
The Internet as a New Place for Sects Luis Santamaria del Rio
Un Modèle d‘intervention auprès des proches d‘adeptes: le concept de co-adepte Jean-Claude Maes
Book Reviews Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties that Bind Reviewer: Lorna Goldberg, M.S.W. Power Games: Influence, Persuasion and Indoctrination In Psychotherapy Training Reviewer: Steve K. D. Eichel, Ph.D., ABPP Weapons of Fraud: A Source Book for Fraud Fighters Reviewer: Colleen Russell, LMFT Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time: A Psychological Study Of Destructive Cult Leaders from Reverend Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden Reviewer: Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D., ABPP
39 44 47
*Note: these pages referenced are different than the original published journal. Please check the end of each article for the original pagination.
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Psychologist Survey Regarding Cults Edward A. Lottick, M.D. Abstract In order to assess psychology professionals‘ experience with, knowledge of, and opinions about cults, we mailed a detailed questionnaire to 2,980 members of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. Our interest was specified as being about cult behavior rather than belief, and about cults that were harmful rather than benign. In the directions, ―destructive cult‖ was briefly characterized as one that utilizes manipulation and constraint to accomplish the objectives of the organization or leader to the detriment of the recruit or adherent. A total of 695 psychology professionals completed the questionnaire. Half of the respondents indicated direct experience with cults—professional, personal, or both. Detailed results are presented and discussed, and some recommendations for psychology professionals and other interested readers are presented. According to Lottick (2005), in recent decades approximately 5,000 cults that contain approximately two million adherents have operated in the United States. In his address, Lottick specifically cited surveys of high school students that estimated that 1% to 3% of this age group report belonging to a cult. Olsson (2005) makes very clear that some cults have extremely destructive aspects. For the past several decades, it has become commonplace, especially in psychiatry, psychology, and cultic studies, to distinguish destructive cults from benign cults. Included in the destructive variety are groups that encourage people to make a complete break with their family and their past. Some organizations are dedicated to complete and unquestioning control of members, even to the point of personal harm, and the term ―destructive cult‖ is applied to distinguish them from more benign groups. In 1985 The International Cultic Studies Association/University of California at Los Angeles, (ICSA/UCLA) Wingspread Conference on Cultism developed the following definition: Cult (totalist type): A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control … designed to advance the goals of the group‘s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986) In a 1992 survey of physicians, Lottick (1993) defined destructive cults as groups which violate the rights of their members, harm them through abusive techniques of mind control, and distinguish themselves from normal social or religious groups by subjecting their members to physical, mental, or financial deprivation or deception to keep them in the group. Many scientists, psychological and medical practitioners, cultic-studies students, and even cult supporters and self-characterized ―cult experts‖ have spoken and written about cults. Aronoff, Lynn, & Malinoski (2002) reviewed empirical studies that examined harm among ex-cult members. Professionals have also discussed their individual experience and insights in detail (Singer, 2003; Lalich & Tobias, 1994, 2006). Cults have a history as long as history has been recorded, but there has been remarkably enhanced concern about them more recently. In the 1970s at least two noteworthy whistleblowers called attention to the rapidly expanding adversity of cults. One was Margaret Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 3
Thaler Singer, Ph.D., a psychologist, and the other was John G. Clark, M.D., a psychiatrist. Their writings (Singer, 1979; Clark, 1979) sounded an alarm. They suggested that harm, which consists of physical and psychological constraint and manipulation, refusal to let adherents leave, depletion of adherent‘s funds and assets, denial of competent treatment for illness, and even plain and simple wasting of adherents‘ time, had been widely noted as a consequence of destructive cult involvement. Such harm is now clearly perceived by a significant segment of the population, but widespread awareness of the extent of destructive cultic harm is not yet incorporated into the American culture. Methods In the late summer of 2004, 2,980 U.S.-postal-address psychology professionals, all from the membership list of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, were mailed an 8-page, 275-item questionnaire. Seven hundred and four participants returned questionnaires, a 23.6% rate of return. Of these initial 704, 9 surveys were blank, including 7 with notes citing retirement, 1 with the comment ―no experience,‖ and 1 without comment. That left us with 695 completed surveys to read and analyze. The survey contained six different sections, as follows: 1. Demographics, involving age, gender, level of education, occupation, and association membership; 2. Sources of information about cults and self-rating of extent of knowledge; 3. Professional experience with cults; 4. Personal experience with cults; 5. Miscellaneous (cult retribution, criminal usefulness of various terms); and
6. Opportunities to express further thoughts. Results The participants were 60% female and 40% male. The age range was from 23 years old to 96 years old, with a median age of 51 years. Of the respondents, 70.9% had doctorate degrees (Ph.D., 49.1%; Psy.D., 15.6%; Ed.D., 6.2%), and 26.8% had master‘s degrees (M.A., 14.7%; M.S., 8.6%; M.Ed., 3.5%). The pathway to masters or doctorates was occasionally not direct, and many experienced hands reported themselves as still students, which resulted in an overall total of 11.2% checking ―student.‖ Licensed psychologists consisted of 81.8%. Of those responding, 78.8% reported that they were members of the American Psychological Association, 10.1% reported American Psychological Society membership, and 5.0% reported Eastern Psychological Association membership. General Experience Respondents were asked to specify the content area of their most advanced degree. Of the responses, 57.7% specified clinical psychology, 17.3% specified counseling, and 12.8% specified educational or school psychologist. In total, 38 different categories were specified by one to several participants. Respondents were asked to check particular specific operations performed in connection with their work during the past three years. Within that list, 84.4% checked psychotherapy, 49.9% checked counseling, 65.0% checked testing, 42.2% checked teaching, 24.9% checked research, 18.6% checked forensic, 39.1% checked administration, and 20.6% checked other.
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Length and Focus of Practice Respondents were asked how long they had been in practice since completing all of their training. The range of responses was from 0 years to 50 years, with a mean of 17.22 years and a standard deviation of 11.27 years. Participants were asked what percent of their practice was spent with clients or patients in psychotherapy or counseling. The range of responses was from 0% to 100%, with a mean of 63.3%. Self-Rated Knowledgeableness Regarding Adverse Cults Participants were asked how knowledgeable they were about cults with the following response rates: no knowledge 8.7%, little knowledge 46.5%, some knowledge 39.4%, and much knowledge 5.4%. Information Resources Regarding Adverse Cults If they had at least a little knowledge about cults, participants were asked how they acquire it? The following (descending) percentages were checked: professional literature, 45.3%; magazines, 40.3%; colleagues, 29.9%; clients, 23.6%; continuing education courses, 22.9%; professional meetings, 22.6%; mass-market books, 19.5%; friends, 16.0%; selfstudy books, 15.5%; graduate course work, 14.6%; college course work, 10.7%; computer Web sites, 7.9%; independent research, 7.4%; family, 6.5%; and conference workshops on cults, 3.1%. For Pennsylvania psychologists, there is obviously no single source or tight cluster of a few sources for information about cults. The less-than-50% but leading position of professional literature in the results underscores the importance of getting more scholarly information about cults into the literature. Professional Experience with Cults The 1992 survey of members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society revealed that 21% of primary-care physicians and 50% of psychiatrists had experience with cults. Similarly, psychologists‘ overall experience totaled around 50%. Professional experience treating active or former cult members was reported by 33% of psychologists, and professional experience treating family or friends of the cult-involved was reported by 20.4% of the group. Former cult members were treated by 27.0% of psychologists, and active members were treated by 12.3%. Pathogenicity of Cult Participation After being asked about professional experience treating cult members, psychologists were then asked to specify if they were treating problems related to the cult, or not treating problems related to the cult, or treating both related and not-related problems. Of those with professional experience with cult members, 72.9% reported treating problems both related and unrelated to the cult experience, while 15.8% reported treating just cult-related issues, and 11.3% reported treating issues that were unrelated to the cult. Of those with professional experience with family and friends of cult members, 66.9% indicated they treated problems both related and unrelated, while 16.9% indicated treatment of cultrelated and 16.2% indicated treatment of cult-unrelated issues. When cult members or exmembers or their family or friends are treated, most treatment is at least partially relevant to the cult experience. Of those treating either current or former members, only 11.3% of those they treated had problems that were unrelated to the cult experience; and of those treating family members or friends of cult members, only 16.2% of those they treated had problems that were unrelated to the cult experience. For some of those receiving treatment, cult participation is clearly implicated in the production of symptomatic illness, as subsequently reported by professional psychologists.
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Age Distribution of Cult Affected Clients Participants reported upon the age ranges of their clients (see Table 1). Most of the data is valid because most participants listed numbers of clients in each category. A handful of participants, however, merely made check marks and did not indicate their count. For tabulation, a check mark was simply counted as one. The results in Table 1 are therefore somewhat approximate. Table 1 Age Distribution of Cult-Affected Clients Participants gave an indication of the age ranges of their clients. Most of the data is valid because the great majority of participants listed numbers. A handful of participants, however, merely made check marks and did not indicate their count. A check mark was simply counted as one. Age Ranges Total Count Under 18 173 18 – 25 328 26 – 65 317 Over 65 2 Relative Prevalence of Symptoms The presentation list of symptoms in the survey had been derived from psychological assessments of ex-members and was taken from Aronoff et al. (2000). Each percentage number indicates the relative prevalence of each symptom (see Table 2).
Table 2 Relative Prevalence of Symptoms The figures in Table 2 are percentages. Each percentage indicates the relative prevalence of each symptom. Note that each line of relative prevalence adds up to 100 percent. The presentation list of symptoms for the questionnaire was taken from Aronoff et al. (2000) and had been used in studies of ex-members. Prevalence of Symptoms Don’t None Slight Moderate Much know Depression 4.5% 8.0% 29.5% 49.0% 9.0% Anxiety 5.1% 5.1% 26.2% 51.8% 11.8% Dissociation 17.4% 8.2% 23.8% 34.9% 15.7% Passivity 12.4% 14.7% 27.6% 28.8% 16.5% Guilt 9.9% 12.1% 27.5% 39.0% 11.5% Psychotic break 34.7% 20.4% 13.7% 13.2% 18.0% Fear of reprisal 14.0% 17.4% 24.4% 31.4% 12.8% Other 13.3% 10.0% 16.7% 50.0% 10.0%
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Among the symptoms listed in Table 2 and presented in our questionnaire, anxiety and depression were observed most commonly; guilt was next in frequency, then dissociation, then fear of reprisal, then passivity, then psychotic break. Nonlisted symptoms were elicited under ―other,‖ where there was considerable activity. Post-traumatic stress disorder was cited four times. Symptoms mentioned twice were multiple personality disorder, delusions, sexual abuse, and self-mutilation. Twenty-eight additional symptom categories were listed once and consisted of alcohol abuse, relationship problems, personality disorder, eccentric beliefs, dissocial values, marital problems, dependence on cult leadership and structure, physical abuse, conduct disorder, rebellion, obsessive-compulsive disorder, visual hallucinations, sexual dysfunction, poor coping, poor decision-making, panic attack, loss of self-awareness, loss of ability to experience intimacy, loss of self-esteem, poor memory, poor reality-testing, eating disorders, night terrors, triggering, suicidal actions, self-doubt, and loss of ability to assert self without panic and anger. Effective Treatment List Participants volunteered their favored treatments for clients with cult-related issues. One category stood out. Of the respondents, 61 wrote down ―CBT‖ (cognitive behavioral therapy), and 18 respondents wrote down ―cognitive.‖ Also, 17 respondents wrote ―supportive,‖ 15 wrote ―family,‖ 13 mentioned hypnosis, 10 mentioned ―psychodynamic,‖ 9 mentioned psychotropic medication, 7 mentioned interpersonal, and 7 mentioned ―insightoriented.‖ In addition, from our now-more-complete list, 88 other treatment approaches were mentioned, with frequencies ranging from 1 time to 6 times. Ineffective Treatment List In this category, 15 participants listed psychodynamic/psychoanalytic, 6 listed ―behavioral.‖ A number of respondents commented on the ineffectiveness of authoritative and directive approaches. The complete list of various treatments cited as ineffective totaled 44. Suicide Attempts and Completed Suicide In this category, both suicide attempts and completed suicides had occurred. There were 279 responses either ―yes‖ or ―no‖ regarding experience with cult-related attempted suicides. Of the survey participants 36 (12.9%) checked ―yes,‖ and the remainder checked ―no.‖ There were 278 answers regarding experience with cult-related completed suicides. Of the participants, 7 (2.5%) checked ―yes,‖ and the remainder checked ―no.‖ Professional Comfort Level for Cult-Related Problems The percent distribution of five different responses to a question about comfort level with client-related cult problems was as follows: Very uncomfortable, 20.1%; somewhat uncomfortable, 33.5%; neutral, 27.1%; somewhat comfortable, 14.4%; and very comfortable, 4.9%. Personal Experience with Cults Participants were asked whether they had ever had personal experience involving the participation of self, family member(s), or friend(s) with a destructive cult. Of 625 participants responding, 82 (13.1%) responded ―yes,‖ and 543 (86.9%) responded ―no.‖ Participants were then asked which of the following people were directly involved. ―Myself‖ yielded positive responses from 23 out of 85 respondents (27.1%), ―Spouse‖ yielded positive responses from 6 out of 72 respondents (8.3%), ―Child‖ yielded positive responses from 6 out of 71 respondents (8.5%), ―Parent‖ yielded 3 positive responses out of 72 respondents (4.2%), ―Friend‖ yielded 36 positive responses out of 76 respondents (56.6%), and ―Other‖ yielded 36 positive responses out of 76 respondents (47.4%). We realized that we had omitted a probably common category, ―Sibling,‖ only when we were analyzing survey results. Siblings apparently ended up in the category ―Other.‖ Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 7
Personal Comfort Level Participants were asked about their comfort level for dealing with ―cult-related personal problems.‖ The pattern was similar to that for responses to the comfort level with clientrelated cult problems. Of 385 respondents, the breakdown was as follows: Very uncomfortable, 17.1%; somewhat uncomfortable, 33.5%; neutral, 30.4%; somewhat comfortable, 11.4%; and very comfortable, 7.5%. Hostile Retaliations by Cults Participants were asked whether a destructive cult had subjected any of the persons listed in Table 3 to Investigation, Litigation, or Harassment. There were instances of each hostile action. Again, we inadvertently omitted ―Sibling,‖ as well as ―Parent‖ and ―Other,‖ from this list. Table 3 Hostile Cult Retaliation The following numbers are totals of instances of various types of hostile cult retaliation cited by participants. Note that the presented list was incomplete and did not, for example, include sibling, parent, or other. Although we added up instances of each type, we failed to achieve a true grand total. Instances reported as one may include more than one occurrence. Instances of Hostile Cult Retaliation Cited by Participants Investigation Litigation Harassment Self 5 3 19 Spouse 1 2 4 Child 2 1 4 Friend 6 3 18 Client 8 7 36 TOTALS 22 16 81 Usefulness of Terms for Psychological Manipulation and Control As shown in Table 4, participants were presented with a list of terms and spaces to check to indicate the degree of usefulness for each term in a professional report or paper. The term most preferred by participants was ―process of manipulation and control,‖ and the runner up was ―mental manipulation.‖ ―Brainwashing,‖ the popular commonplace ―granddaddy‖ term for the process, was not very strongly favored by the participants.
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Table 4 Usefulness of Terms for Psychological Manipulation and Control Participants were presented with a list of terms and asked to check spaces to indicate the degree of usefulness for each term if it were used in a professional report or paper. The numbers are percentages based on responses to indicate relative usefulness of each term. Each horizontal line adds up to 100%. Not Somewhat Very Useful Useful Useful Useful Mind control 22.1% 18.3% 24.0% 35.7% Thought reform 27.3% 26.7% 24.4% 21.7% Brainwashing 24.7% 26.0% 21.4% 27.9% Mental manipulation 9.2% 15.5% 35.7% 39.6% Undue influence 10.0% 23.6% 33.6% 32.8% Intensive persuasion 7.0% 15.5% 36.6% 40.9% Psychological 7.4% 15.1% 36.3% 41.2% influence Conversion induction 31.8% 28.8% 22.5% 16.9% Process of manipulation and 3.8% 9.8% 36.0% 50.4% control Differentiation of Terms for Influence The question reflected in Table 5 was inspired by Margaret Singer‘s effort to clarify that terms for psychological manipulation and control were distinct from other forms of influence (Singer, 2003). Participants were asked if they thought that the terms in the preceding question about psychological manipulation and control were distinct from other forms of influence such as propaganda, indoctrination, advertising. or education. Possible answers were yes, no, or not sure. 545 persons participated in responding to this question. Table 5 Contrasting Terms Are the following contrasting terms distinct or not from terms in Table 4? Horizontal lines add up to 100%. Yes
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Support for or Opposition of Law Against Brainwashing We asked participants whether or not they would favor a law against brainwashing. Participants numbered 625. Of those, 21.4% ―Strongly supported‖ a law against brainwashing, 35.0% ―Supported‖ a law against brainwashing, 29.0% chose ―Can‘t say,‖ 10.1% marked ―Oppose,‖ and 4.5% marked ―Strongly oppose.‖ Participants were then asked how inclusive the law should be. Of 392 who answered, 15.3% checked ―minors,‖ 7.7% checked ―minors and adults,‖ 9.2% checked ―minors, adults, and senior citizens,‖ and 67.9% checked ―all citizens.‖ Expressions of Curiosity and Further Interest Participants were asked whether a continuing education program about cults would be useful if offered in Pennsylvania in the next year or two, and 52.5% checked ―yes.‖ Participants were also asked, Do you plan to read the results when the survey is published? Respondents numbered 602; of those, 89.0% responded ―yes,‖ and 11.0% responded ―no.‖ The final question asked whether participants would like more information regarding possible resources to draw upon in a possible future encounter. Those participants who checked ―yes‖ numbered 280. Discussion Destructive cults often create peculiarly distorted, unreflected-upon, short-cut, sometimes concrete thought in their recruits who are undergoing processing. It appears to the observer that these recruits have lost their higher powers of empathy, insight, and judgment. A percentage of cult followers develop symptoms partly as a result of this distortion or derangement and the concomitant short-cutting of their prior-to-cult, formerly richer and more reflective thought patterns (neural connections). Current research strongly suggests that persons who have been subjected to brainwashing have developed short-cut, less circuitous neuron pathways for processing thought in their brains (see Taylor, 2004). Some recovery or rejuvenation apparently involves reconnecting or re-establishing the former richer neural network. In Table 1, it is noted that the juvenile segment is somewhat larger than expected from literature, while the senior-citizen segment tends to vanish in this study. Note that younger ages, less than 18 years, and especially in the age range from 18 to 25, predominate and therefore should be central in our concern. Education about destructive or adverse groups needs to achieve its goals in persons by their mid-teens at the very latest, because that is when recruitment interest accelerates. Looking at Table 2, in retrospect it is obvious that the provided symptom list was not nearly extensive enough. Participants listed 33 different additional symptoms under ―Other.‖ Because of no advance listing, no additional participants were able to bring to mind and comment on an expanded list. Anyone planning to repeat a similar question might consider using these detailed results as a basis for an expanded list. Also, perhaps the question would be less constrictive if it were worded to include ―problems, and defects,‖ as well as ―symptoms,‖ or perhaps more inclusively as ―issues.‖ For an expanded list, see Giambalvo, 1993. Referring to Table 3, various interferences such as Investigation, Litigation, and Harassment were occasionally checked. Harassment was the most common form of hostile retaliation. Survey reports probably involved patterns of harassment rather than isolated occurrences. For evaluation, let us assume a total pool of 1,000 cult-involved clients in the sample. Therefore, the hostile retaliation would have involved harassment for 8% those clients, investigation for 2% of the clients, and litigation for 1.6% of the clients.
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Like the oft-cited Eskimos‘ language and its variety of terms for their ubiquitous (but now diminishing) snow, cultic studies literature has a lot of terms for psychological manipulation and constraint, the focus of the results in Table 4. That is because psychological manipulation and constraint are so prevalent in the world of cultic studies. Each term for psychological manipulation and constraint in Table 4 is slightly different, however, and does have its individual history; but all are terms that involve psychological manipulation and constraint. Participants were asked to judge whether a specific term would be useful or not in a professional report or paper. The objective of the exercise was to determine whether a particular term was favored or not favored, and how strongly. It seems to be reasonable to assume that the more familiar one is with the history and context of the terms, the more one would find more terms more familiar and therefore more favorable. On the question regarding distinguishing the propaganda, indoctrination, advertising, and education terms from other forms of influence, the focus of Table 5, the sought-for answer was ―yes‖ for all four. Margaret Singer features a very lucid explanation and table in her ground-breaking book, Cults in Our Midst, pp. 58-59. All of the terms at issue are influence terms, but the manipulation and control terms (e.g., brainwashing) are somewhat more specific and more distinguishable from other forms of influence, such as education or advertising or indoctrination or propaganda. The two questions about a law against brainwashing were inspired by Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law and First Amendment scholar, who first came to my attention on the Internet (Hamilton, 2003) during a search for information about the newly proposed Italian law against brainwashing. Hamilton wrote about the possibility of a law against brainwashing itself in the case of Elizabeth Smart, a 14-year-old girl from Utah. Her abuser was being prosecuted for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated burglary, but not brainwashing. In the survey, participants were asked whether they would support or oppose such a law in Pennsylvania. There was overwhelming support for such a law in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the preponderance of participants, when given options, favored making the law protective of all citizens. Conclusion Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time (Olsson, 2005) is a chronicle of the psychopathology of destructive cult leaders. There can be no question that some cults can be truly horrendous and destructive. We‘ve all heard about mass murders and mass suicides. Smaller-scale horrors also exist and were described by clinicians including Margaret Singer and John Clark three decades ago. With this current report, there should be no further grounds for denying the existence of less dramatic destructive cults, which produce their psychological, psychiatric, or social casualties one by one. ―New religious movements‖ is a benign and descriptive phrase, but it should be applied sparingly and not used as whitewash. The destructive cult universe is very much still with us into the 21st century. ―New religious movements‖ is an ironic term when misapplied because at the very least, malignant pied pipers are not particularly ―religious‖ as that term is commonly understood. If a new religious movement exists on the back of its followers, we would question that it is religious. David Brear (2007) indicted destructive cults by stating that they either constructed anew or are modifications of existing ritual belief systems that are constructed or perverted for clandestine human exploitation. In this current study, psychology professionals were more experienced with such groups both professionally (33% clients, and 20.4% family or friends of cult adherents or exadherents) and personally (13%,) when compared to the earlier study of primary-care physicians. The participants in the physician survey (Lottick, 1993) were both primary-care physicians and psychiatrists, and yielded mixed professional experience, 16.8% total, and mixed personal experience, 7.2% total. This physician survey gave a rough indication of Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 11
prevalence, especially with the finding that 2.2% of physicians had experience in their own families. Psychological symptoms were investigated in the current survey, and treatment approaches were discussed. Many participants favored cognitive behavioral therapy. It needs to be considered that a client might turn up at a professional psychologist‘s office with less than optimal function but seemingly without specific diagnoses or symptoms. For example, a cult-involved client might even turn up at an office with ambivalence or uncertainty about his or her situation in life. Rather than facilitate the client‘s disappearance back into the cult, by becoming directive himself or herself the psychologist might consider recommending an exit counselor for specific, brief, structured exit counseling. It would be far better to involve a third party than adopt a directive stance oneself, according to what our participants have reported. Cult members and ex-members are, more likely than not, looking to a psychological therapist for understanding, support, and encouragement, but not necessarily advocacy. Cult education might best be left to those who are knowledgeable about cults specifically, have insight into the client‘s situation, and can mobilize appropriate relevant documentation. Later in the survey, in the open-ended questions, a small but very significant and articulate group of participants expressed oppositional concern about involving the government in coping with the problems created by adverse cults. Some of these same respondents, however, strongly favored a law against deliberate psychological abuse. Actually, the great majority of participants (85%) seemed willing to favor (56%) or at least favor hearing more about (29%) a law against deliberate psychological abuse involving psychological manipulation and constraint. Such laws on a state-by-state basis may be the least Draconian of the many remedies suggested by participants for dealing with adverse aspects of cults. It should be noted that many respondents were unable to recall the name of the cult involved. This suggests unfamiliarity perhaps due to little preprofessional education about contemporary cults. Perhaps this deficiency, as a number of participants suggested, might best be addressed at earlier levels of education. This survey suggests that a cult-related encounter is very likely in a given psychologist‘s future. Half of participants had had experience, many in low single-digit numbers; but a handful had lots of experience involving as many as dozens of cults. Of those surveyed, 29.9% listed colleagues as a source of information. It is suggested that all psychology professionals plan to access cultic studies information sooner, rather than later, and that novice practitioners might have in mind whom they might consult when confronted by a client who had been subjected to abuse within the context of a cult. A number of psychologists said they would include some questions about destructive- or adverse-organization involvement, ―a group that some people might consider a cult,‖ as part of their intake interview. Finally, to respond to those who said they would like more resource information, readers might follow up by reviewing some of the references. The Aronoff review is quite comprehensive, Margaret Singer is always highly relevant and timeless, and Kathleen Taylor is enlightening in her discussion of brainwashing and recent neural research. I have accessed many other authors since initially drafting this report and would like to especially mention Nobel laureate Eric Kandel‘s book In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, and Cozolino‘s book The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the Human Brain. And Peter Olsson goes far beyond recent media coverage. He has produced a timely and discerning psychological study of perpetrators and precipitators of mass murder and mass suicide in Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time. Still, the most directly relevant book for psychology professionals is Michael Langone‘s Recovery From Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 12
Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. There cannot be many who would question that cult recruitment is an all-encompassing, if not, overwhelming experience. When opportunity presents, psychologists may find themselves facilitating mental and physical recovery from the cult manipulative process or helping family or friends cope with their debilitating sense of powerlessness. This report demonstrates that the challenge of destructive cult abuse is clearly familiar to many psychology professionals, and is still very much with us. References Aronoff-McKibben, J., Lynn, S. J., & Malinoski, P. T. (2000). Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review, 20, (1), 91–111. Brear, D. A. (2007). Universal identifying characteristics of a cult. (In Press.) Clark, J. G. (1979, July 20). Cults. Journal of American Medical Association, 242 (3), 279– 281. Cozolino, L. J. (2002). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Building and rebuilding the human brain. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Giambalvo, C. (1993). Post-cult problems: An exit counselor‘s perspective. In M. D. Langone (Ed.) Recovery from cults: Help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse (pp. 148–154). New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Hamilton, M. A. (2003). The Elizabeth Smart Case: Why we need specific laws against brainwashing, FindLaw.com. Kandel, E. R. (2006). In search of memory: The emergence of a new science of mind. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Lalich, J. & Tobias, M. (1994, 2006). Take back your life: Recovering from cults and abusive relationships. Berkeley, California: Bay Tree Publishing. Langone, M. D. (Ed.) (1993). Recovery from cults: Help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Lottick, E. A. (1993, February). Survey reveals physicians‘ experiences with cults. Pennsylvania Medicine, 96, 26–28. Lottick, E. A. (2005). Prevalence of cults: A review of empirical research in the USA. International Cultic Studies Association, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, July 14, 2005. Olsson, P. A. (2005). Malignant pied pipers of our time: A psychological study of destructive cult leaders from Rev. Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden. Baltimore: PublishAmerica. Singer, M. T. (2003). Cults in our midst. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Singer, M. T. (1979, January). Coming out of the cults. Psychology Today. Taylor, K. (2004). Brainwashing: The science of thought control. New York: Oxford University Press. West, L. J. & Langone, M. D. (1986). Cultism: A conference for scholars and policy makers. Cultic Studies Journal, 3, 117–134. Edward A. Lottick, M.D., has been a cultic studies student for 18 years. He retired from 35 years of active medical practice in 2000. Since then he has completed four years of advanced French at King‘s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and has taught an advanced psychology elective on American Cults at the college every other year for the past eight years. In 1992, he surveyed 5400 Pennsylvania physicians about their personal and professional experience with cults; in 2004, he surveyed 3000 Pennsylvania psychologists regarding similar experience; and in 2007, he surveyed over 1000 Pennsylvania legislators, district attorneys, and judges regarding similar experience. Two years ago, he published ―The Forgotten Freedom,‖ The Torch, 79(3), 26-30, 2006, and is working on a book on a related topic. He recently translated from French to English, the legislation on fraudulent abuse of vulnerable persons introduced in 2006 to the Belgian Parliament. He is also active
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on a number of boards. He recently discovered he is listed fairly accurately when last checked on Wikipedia under ―Edward Lottick.‖ This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Review, 2008, Volume 7, Number 1, pages 1-19. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
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The Internet as a New Place for Sectsi Luis Santamaria del Rio Abstract The spread of new information and communication technologies has given a new dimension to the sectarian phenomenon. After reviewing how the Internet has become important in the religious field, this paper shows how sects use the Internet, how they present themselves on the Internet, and how they act in cyberspace. The paper also addresses other topics: groups that stand out for their activism or publicity campaigns on the Internet, virtual conversions, and how different groups attack or praise the Web A professor in applied economics made a comment regarding ―computer overload,‖ stating that ―we are analogical beings trapped in a digital world we have created ourselves.‖ ii That‘s true. Every aspect of our lives has been invaded by new technology, specifically the Internet, as a new means of communication, training, working, and even developing relationships. The huge volume of data and hyperlinks is simply overwhelming and makes a thorough study on any topic concerning the influence of advancing technology a daunting task. Thus, I offer an overview of one such topic that pertains to the reality of the sectarian phenomenon on the Internet.iii In this article, I intend to provide an overview of cults in cyberspace that will allow us to see where cults are on the Internet, identify their purpose, and consider how we ought to use the information cults have provided there—information that we ourselves can find on our computer. I will start with the religious phenomenon that exists on the Internet, and then proceed to relate the diverse aspects that stand out in terms of the sectarian phenomenon on the Internet. Religious Phenomena on the Internet This virtual world is increasingly interfering with the different components of our lives. Those of the younger generation—in particular, persons born with ―silver computers in their mouths‖—are most affected by this new technology. The emerging influences of the Internet are also affecting religious phenomena. If Saint Anselm coined the expression ―fides quaerens intellectum‖iv in reference to the essence of theology (faith seeking understanding), nowadays we can find an updated proposal, ―fides quaerens internetum‖ (faith seeking the Internet), an expression that reflects how widespread the spiritual phenomenon is throughout cyberspace. The Internet, as you will find out in the section devoted to the topic of New Age or Neopaganism, contributes to the existence of a spiritual eclecticism and syncretism. One mouse click is enough to display all the religious and spiritual traditions and new trends right before you on your computer screen. This availability of material reemphasizes the existence of the already classic expression ―spiritual supermarket.‖ The religious phenomenon is simply another consumer good in our market society. According to the latest research carried out by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 64 percent of the United States‘ 128 million Internet users have ―used the Internet for spiritual or religious purposes.‖v According to this report, the ‗online faithful‘ are devout and use the Internet for personal spiritual matters more than for traditional religious functions or work related to their
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places of worship. But their faith-activity online seems to augment their already-strong commitments to their congregations. In this case, the Internet serves as a supplement to offline religious life, rather than a substitute for it. Therefore, this personal experience contributes to the presence in a religious institution: It is possible that those currently affiliated with religious institutions will maintain a foothold in both the online and offline worlds, remaining loyal to their offline affiliations while also continuing to use the Internet for more personal expressions of their faith.vi Some studies have also appeared in the United States of America that analyze the religious experience of teens and youths on the Internet. ―The Web is part of this generation‘s identity.‖vii Therefore, according to the experts, it is not unusual for members of this generation to use the Internet as a means for expressing themselves. The problem is that ―although teens demonstrate some discernment regarding the evaluation of information on the Web, their capacity to critically evaluate religious information on the Web is lacking.‖ viii Hence, it is necessary that some educational intervention be used to assist this particular population in judging the religious information they find on the Internet. The figures in this study show a progressive increase in Internet use to find religious information similar to the results in other studies. The Sectarian Phenomenon on the Internet According to Mr. Rafael Gómez, four primary reasons explain the emergence of large, prominent sects (i.e., Mormons, Adventists, and Jehovah‘s Witnesses, the great religious revival) in the United States of America throughout the 19th century: 1. A lack of one main religious tradition, which leads individuals to respect all of them. 2. The discovery of religion as a source of income. 3. The use of social media, such as press, radio, and now television and the Internet. 4. Freedom, above all, even if it means deception, or ―taking people in.‖ix It is interesting to observe the similarity between that socio-historical situation and the current context within cyberspace, where every religious tradition and every spiritual and esoteric group are on equal footing, and many people have seen the religious phenomenon as a profitable business.x Thus, the Internet serves as another avenue of the media in which complete freedom and relativism make it impossible to distinguish truth from falsehood. A religious phenomenon so fragmented, blurred, and viewed as an actual ―spiritual supermarket‖ finds in the Internet the perfect place for the shambles of lesser spiritual groups and feelings.xi After all, the Internet is the ideal space for flexibility, for lack of hierarchy and institutionalization, for selective and personal appropriation of anything, for subjectivism, and for every single mystery still to be discovered. Heaven’s Gate: The First Scandal When the first signs of social unrest regarding the Internet appeared, the Web was described as a place brimming with pornography, drugs, racism, and sects. If we want to locate the recent historical roots of the presence of sectarian groups on the Internet, we can find the origin in the collective suicide carried out by the members of the Heaven‘s Gate sect. Thirty-nine followers were found dead at the sect‘s ranch in California in March 1997. According to group members, they wanted to free themselves from their bodies and leave on a spacecraft behind the comet Hale-Bopp.
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Members of the sect worked as Web designers for Higher Source, a company they set up. They used their Web site to spread their ufological and apocalyptic doctrine. Furthermore, to lure those interested, they hid words about this subject in the background of their Web site. Another suicide victim in California claimed to be emulating this event. He was not a member himself, but his suicide followed in detail the instructions posted on their site: ―Some may be looking forward to follow us…, it‘s advisable to ‗exit‘ in some western or south-western part of the USA.‖ Some members were very active on the Internet and used chat sites to attract followers. To a certain extent, the Internet was to blame for this collective suicide. A mere Web site seemed to be a powerful instrument in attracting followers; however, the sect had existed for about 20 years. So, the question lies in whether or not the Internet was to blame for the tragedy. No, it wasn‘t. But it was certainly the ideal medium for an organization obsessed with new technologies and science fiction to spread its doctrines and attract new members.xii One cannot forget that ufological groups have found in cyberspace the perfect place to disseminate their beliefs, which in turn ―match‖ their doctrines. According to B. Leblanc: the mistake would be precisely in seeing them as a vague and nebulous threat which appears on the Internet following a well-defined strategy; we do not have any evidence to confirm it. On the contrary, it seems as if we were witnessing a distribution more or less representative of the different religious and spiritual beliefs present in our society, owing to a significant permeability of cyberspace.xiii It is true that the presence of sects on the Internet is, in principle, a reflection of what we can find in the real world (not always, though, as we will see later). Yet, it is also true that the sects have different strategies when using the Internet. I will explain some of them. The Internet As a Strategy: Public Image and Virtual Apologetics A main reason for sects to have such a strong presence in the Internet setting is to offer favourable information about their respective organizations. Doing this helps to avoid the occurrence of curious Internet users coming across numerous search engine hits written by detractors or former members. Thus, within the first search results we will find the group‘s official impeccable home page, offering attractive content and presentation: first-hand information, an abstract of their doctrines and activities, a biographical sketch of their founder or leader, news, and other very appealing information. Nowadays, a sect‘s Web site is its main window to the world and has become the most universal place for the sect.xiv For this reason, some widespread groups from all over the world offer information in different languages or have a localized page for every country. Sects with different ―front‖ institutions multiply their Web sites; such is the case for the Church of Scientology or the Unification Church.xv The Internet becomes a perfect propaganda medium when groups have such a vast number of domains and so dominate search rankings that their detractors‘ sites do not get seen. Another strategy consists of some of their members‘ making personal Web sites, where they defend the group and spread their beliefs. A typical case study found in treatises on ethics and Internet law is the turbulent history of the Church of Scientology and its detractors on the Internet. A judge has even ruled that the Church‘s strategy consists of silencing critics in the name of copyright.xvi Real Information? With regard to sects, some people believe the Internet is a direct reflection of what can be found in real life. This, however, is not true in all cases. Cyberspace offers this great window Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 17
to the world that can be seen as an ideal opportunity to manipulate and overdo reality. Some groups are omnipresent on the Web, with large official Web sites interconnected so that they appear to be more important statistically and in number than they really are. Sects‘ propaganda campaigns carried out in other media, such as the Raelian Movement (with the cloning campaign), the Church of Scientology (the campaign with Tom Cruise, among others), and the Unification Church (with the Milingo case), are some examples that show the importance of having a media presence to help spread the group itself. Free Action and Survival in Totalitarian Groups The title of this section especially refers to Falun Gong. Since the Chinese government first prohibited that organization in 1999, the Internet has become its main means of survival, to the extent that it has been described as a ―new cyberreligious movement.‖ xvii According to a thorough study by N. Porter,xviii in 1995 the works of the group‘s leader, Li Hongzhi, could be found on the Internet. Therefore, he did not have to go back to China to spread his teachings in seminars after he had left the country. Although Internet access was not common in that country in those years, all the forbidden information could be found and transmitted. After the Falun Gong practice was forbidden, Li Hongzhi‘s presence on the Internet became much stronger in terms of both the content and the quality of his Web sites. Most Falun Gong followers from the United States of America polled by Porter visited the group‘s Web site regularly. According to Porter: The practitioners who use the Internet do not do so in lieu of any other Falun Dafa activities (getting together at practice sites, reading the books, etc.), and there generally is not much informal interaction between practitioners on the Internet.xix Since the Chinese authorities have banned direct access to this movement‘s information, there are official filters, censorship, and tight control of Internet access (this means that those who get access to the information can be arrested). The most common way for followers to be informed is by subscribing to email lists. Falun Gong‘s sites offer the following information: the experiences of those who converted and went through a radical change in their lives, the negative consequences that the attacks on the movement inflict upon the karma of the attackers, the defense of Falun Gong‘s practices and the organization‘s version of what is really happening in China, disapproval of the punishments and tortures suffered by the group‘s followers in that country, the ―distorted‖ and biased news in Falun Gong‘s favor and interests (and the elimination of different points of view), editorial articles with authoritative weight, and so on. Apart from the Internet‘s communications value, as a means to exchange information, the representatives of Falun Gong acknowledge the importance of using the Web to proselytize, in order to reach more people who do not yet practice their exercises (for this reason, their main Web sites in Chinese also offer a translation in English). Since 1997, communication among the group‘s hierarchy is carried out only via the Internet. Electronic mail is the ideal means to mobilize their followers within the shortest time possible and to give them orders on how to act when facing persecution. According to the movement's spokesperson, G. Rachlin, ―We do everything via the Internet.‖ Doctrinal Propaganda The paradigm of using cyberspace for the purposes noted above is evident in the countless number of groups with Christian origins: ―If cyberspace is a digital ocean, then Christianity online is its tidal wave.‖xx First, anyone who goes on these groups‘ Web sites can see how difficult it is in most cases to know exactly what kind of group it is—whether it is a historic Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 18
Christian church, a free denomination, a local group, a sect, and so on. On all these Web pages we can find information about Christ and faith; and many of them share the same postulates as the Protestant reformation. However, it is difficult to distinguish what they really are.xxi In terms of its presence on the Web, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church) has experienced outstanding progress. In comparison to 1997, when it had 500 Mormon Web sites, by the year 2000 these figures had soared to 6,000 sites. A fairly thick book about this movement on the Internet, Mormons on the Internet 2000-2001, offers detailed information about the LDS Church‘s Internet presence and development. xxii L. Gold, the author and a member of the movement, states, ―I see God‘s hand in the technology revolution taking place in the world today‖xviii. And after she describes all the positive aspects brought by the Internet to the Mormon community, she also adds the negative aspects: criticism and calumnies, hatred and lies, partial truth and attacks, jokes and biased facts. This book stresses the importance of the Internet for propaganda and proselytizing purposes. The Internet also offers proven results: ―It is, in fact, a whole new paradigm for spreading the gospel. There are already countless new members of the Church who credit their Internet experience as a significant factor in their decision to be baptized‖ (6). Furthermore, there is a list with the "religious" uses of the Internet by the Mormons (1123), such as to take part in the community, to strengthen testimonies, to better understand the Gospel, to share the Gospel as a resource for working, to acquire a deeper knowledge of it, to keep up-to-date, to correct false images, to manage internal issues, to renew friendships, to discuss ideas, to keep in touch, to prepare meetings, and to better understand other members. The users also acknowledge that ―as with anything good, the Internet can be used for bad, for distracting the members, for encouraging dissension, and for increasing misunderstandings‖ (23). This same use of the Internet, as seen within an established movement as the LDS Church, can also be applied to many other Christian groups, except the use ―to lead the genealogical research,‖ which is particular to the Mormon movement and is its most popular site on the Internet. In fact, millions of Internet users looking for information about their ancestors access the genealogical archive, made up of millions of files that this group has on the Internet. Gold points out another interesting idea. The Internet paves the way for proselytism and personal relations to attract followers. ―If you find yourself uncomfortable approaching coworkers, neighbors, and your seatmate on the airplane about the gospel, you‘ll find that your inhibitions quickly disappear in the anonymity of the Internet‖ (10); the same applies to new followers. This situation clashes directly with the strategy of another important movement, the Jehovah‘s Witnesses. Experts Chryssidesxxiii and Mayerxxiv have already pointed out that in spite of Jehovah‘s Witnesses being the pioneers in the use of the new technologies for proselytizing, they are reluctant to give up door-to-door preaching. Thus, their Web sites offer just doctrinal information and serve as a ―press room.‖ The sites do not provide any e-mail addresses and do not offer any alternative to face-to-face contact. We can also focus on the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, and its subsequent history, which has caused the appearance of an overwhelming number of schismatic groups more ―faithful‖ than the followers of the ―mother church‖ used to be. M. Morrison, a representative of the Worldwide Church of God, once said to me, ―The Web sites criticizing the movement are numerous Web sites run by former members who preferred our old legalistic doctrines; their Web pages do not really affect us. Although we visit them occasionally, we reply on very few occasions.‖ All these groups follow the same pattern on their Web sites. This pattern revolves around distributing books and brochures. With a Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 19
prophetic, apocalyptic, Sabbatical emphasis and doctrines of Anglo-Israelism, all of them offer information on line, as well as in the more traditional paper publications. Thus, both electronic and paper publications are used hand in hand. Among these sects, the most important one is the United Church of God, which gathers most of the ―dissidents‖ and has a strong presence on the Internet, apart from being very active nonelectronically. Before we finish this section about the presence on the Internet of groups that seem to be Christian, worth mentioning is the existence of racist or supremacist sects (such as Aryan Nations or the Creativity Movement, formerly the World Church of the Creator), which use the Internet to spread their messages loaded with radical Jewish hate and racial hatred (they manipulate the teachings of Jesus Christ in the most offensive way to justify their misanthropic ideologies). This practice has lead these groups into legal problems. From the East and Beyond The various groups with an Eastern origin also have learned how to benefit from the Internet to make known their doctrines in Western societies. According to Swami Atma, the person in charge of Sivananda Yoga in Los Angeles, ―The Internet is a springboard to encourage people to get more involved.‖xxv However, it can never be used to substitute for the yoga exercises practiced together with the teacher. The Web can be a double-edged sword for Orientalism: Although the information given online usually helps to boost the fame of some gurus: …at the same time, the Net may undermine the tradition of the guru, which historically has pivoted upon the direct transmission of subtle energies between guru and student. With its lack of any central governing authority, however, Hinduism as a whole will probably flourish on the Net.xxvi Certain movements, such as Transcendental Meditation and its many institutions, Elan Vital, Sahaja Yoga, Brahma Kumaris, or the International Association for Krishna Consciousness, have important official Web sites. This last group also has encouraged Krishna‘s followers to publish their own personal Web pages, which has led to the appearance of hundreds of them that praise Krishna and thus reduces the effect of their critics. Movements born in the Far East, such as Japanese or Korean ―new religions‖ (according to sociologists‘ nomenclature), have immediately adopted the use of new technologies. From the beginning, these groups have made the most of the media—for instance, to broadcast their ceremonies. As we have already seen with other groups, the Japanese sect Agonshu experiences the paradox of technological development: Starting with his leader, Kiriyama Seiyu, up to his followers, they all consider that modernization is to blame for the divorce of the Japanese people with its true roots and, at the same time, they broadcast on TV every single ritual event and produce hundreds of videotapes and short films for TV informing with their ideology.xxvii According to the researcher R. Vofchuk, the Japanese movements do not use either the media or the Internet, as a tool to attract new followers. But ―modern technology is an effective tool to communicate messages to those converted, or to bring some information to the relatives of the believers, but not to attract new followers.‖ xxviii It is true that some groups do not intend to spread themselves and acquire new foreign converts (this would be the case for the Korean movement Taejonggyo, which pays homage to its ancestors and does not have a single word in English on its Web site). However, other movements, such as Won Buddhism, adapt themselves to new geographical and cultural means to attract new followers:
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When the new Korean religions try to spread to non-Korean converts, they sometimes discover that they have to fine-tune both their image and their message in order to make a more attractive image for Americans and to make it easier for them to understand their teachings and practices.xxix Attacking the Web Some sects consider the Internet ―God‘s blessing,‖xxx while others criticize it harshly. Among the latter, Jehovah‘s Witnesses stand out. In their publications we can find frequent warnings about the dangers of the Web (pornography, terrorism, etc.). They warn about using electronic mail, which can be used to spread lies and shams, false stories that do not encourage the true pious devotion. The sole source of information for members must be the organization‘s leaders, and Jehovah‘s Witnesses refer to them when they claim that: the Christian congregation is the theocratic means through which we are fed spiritually by ―the faithful and discreet slave.‖ Within God's organization, we find direction and protection to keep us separate from the world as well as motivation to keep busy in the work of the Lord. xxxi They even ban their followers from publishing Web sites that contain information about the group. What really seems to worry Jehovah‘s Witnesses group leaders is that the members might get in touch with critics and, especially, former members of the group: Some Web sites are clearly vehicles for apostate propaganda. Such Web sites may claim otherwise, and those who sponsor a site may give a detailed explanation to affirm that they truly are Jehovah's Witnesses. They may even request information from you in order to verify ―you‖ are one of Jehovah's Witnesses.xxxii The very cybernetic Church of Scientology can even surprise us sometimes as we find some of its own members harshly criticising the Internet.xxxiii (The strong controversy already mentioned about this group and the Internet might be connected to this subject.) The Controversial Question of Conversion Leblanc questions the efficiency of Internet sites as a tool to convert people: ―The persistent presence of members guarantees traffic of information which tends to discredit many groups. On the other hand, one has to admit that a Web page is, above all, a static resource and, therefore, a passive strategy.‖xxxiv For this reason, he sees as more appropriate the ―active‖ dimension of the Internet to attract new followers, such as discussion groups and distribution lists. Dawson adopts the same stance: The nature of religious contact offered on the Web, at least so far, tends to be too detached. Successful recruitment, as we now know, relies heavily on intense personal interaction with members of the religion and involvement in their activities.xxxv According to some psychologists and experts on computer addictions, the attraction of new followers using the Internet could be more efficient than it is since it reaches out to more people with emotional or spiritual deprivation. Those who are alone, weak, and the like get into a virtual world, where they can lose their inhibitions, take advantage of anonymity, hide themselves behind a different personality, meet someone who helps them to fulfill their deprivations. However, we cannot say that there are ―fixed patterns‖ to attract new sect followers, although we can point out risk sectors. (We will discuss this topic later on when we talk about occultism and Satanism among young people.)
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J. F. Mayer finds the Internet useful for proselytism, although just moderately. xxxvi A 20page survey of 10 groups with Christian characteristics and another 10 non-Christian groups has even been carried out. The survey results identify up to 50 publicity strategies whose main goals are to show the group‘s ideology and offer an idealized view of the group (e.g., nice, approachable, and desirable). According to the authors, this survey: demonstrates how the influence methods used on NRM Websites follow many of the patterns already established in the literature on more conventional persuasive methods used in the advertising industry. As NRM Websites evolve exploiting technological opportunities, future research will likely reveal influence methods different from those in the classical advertising industry…xxxvii For these reasons, these groups are very likely to reach a large number of people and try to convert them. New Age and Neopaganism, the “Soul” of the Internet Everything that could be classified under New Age has become the norm on the Web. If some people have described this new cultural and spiritual atmosphere as the soul of globalization, the same could apply to the Internet because the relationship between New Age and cyberspace is very close. Some proponents of New Age philosophies even consider the Internet as the metaphor for the divinity, or even the deity itself. They find it easy to jump from reality to virtuality, exaggerating the ―holistic‖ nature of the Web: the divine, the humane, and nature integrate themselves in a sole synthesis. To reach salvation, people just need knowledge, a new kind of gnosis they can use for personal development and that will enable them to reach their maximum potential, the plenitude of consciousness. According to this view, the Internet offers a vast database from which one might achieve this. Syncretism has become normal, and the Internet encourages, to a great extent, this key feature of New Age thinking. Furthermore, some experts have pointed out the undoubtedly magical and esoteric nature of the circles in which the Internet was born in the 1960s. Both the technological revolution in Silicon Valley and the Wicca phenomenon appeared and developed in the same period in the San Francisco Bay area. For instance, N. Drury establishes a parallelism between the counter-culture movements in those years and the birth of the Internet. He sees the same historical and cultural background to both. Further, according to some authors, computers could be the LSD of the 1990s. D. Rushkoff considers that neopagans do not make any distinction between occult magic and high technology. He quotes a follower, ―The magic of today is the technology of tomorrow. It's all magic, it's all technology.‖xxxviii Quoting F. Champion,xxxix everything that belongs to the ―mystic-esoteric nebula‖ is widely spread on the Internet: divinity, lost civilizations, ufology, cabbalism, hermetism, neoshamanism, neodruidism, neo-Templarism, theosophy, Rosicrucianism, spiritualism, and so on, as well as witchcraft and neopaganism. Virtual Demonism Devil worship, including every different expression, uses the Internet to spread and to inform people. A large number of satanic Web pages offer ―outside‖ documents on this group and trends, documents that generally speaking have dark and ―gothic‖ aesthetics. The Satanic Bible by A. S. LaVey has a huge quantity of satanic material being exchanged among peer-to-peer networks. Some members of these demonolatry circles declare on their Web sites to be satisfied with the possibilities offered by the Internet to spread their ideas without the usual hindrances of prejudices and public sensationalism.
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In a research paper by James R. Lewis about the profile of Satanism followers, we find that, in spite of the fact that half of those persons referenced have no personal contact, 85 percent of them communicate using virtual media.xl Even more alarming is the massive presence of teenagers and youngsters in forums about these alternative beliefs, according to my own experience researching the Internet. For instance, it is hard to find a member who is more than 30 years old in Red Satánica (Satanic Network), xli a popular Web portal in Spanish. Taking all necessary precautions regarding personal information on the Internet (people can give false or distorted information concerning themselves), it is a concern to find that many under-age young people use occultist and Satanist virtual media. The vast majority of these people do not belong to any group in the real world. However, they use these circles to try to find the mysterious and everything that might shock society in a revolutionary and protesting way. Perhaps they are tired of everything and do not feel fulfilled.xlii The “Spiritual Circus” The Internet presents itself as the ideal place for all kinds of groups to expand, including Christianity (especially, but not exclusively, in reformed circles, as we shall see). Anyone, supported by an organized group or not, can constitute his or her own ―church,‖ even if we are talking about the Christian tradition or a schism, such as with Catholicism. For example, on the fundamentalist side we can search the Internet and find that an alternative Spanish Pope Peter II, Manuel Alonso, successor of Clemente Domínguez Palmar de Troya, is not the only one to compete to be the next Supreme Pontiff. We can find in traditionalist (non-Roman Catholic) the pictures, the respective eulogy, and the works of other rather curious popes: some who have also taken the name of Peter II (in Canada, France, the United States of America, Australia, and Germany); Michael I (David Bawden, from the United States of America, chosen in conclave in 1990); the group of Gregory XVII (the Canadian Gaston Tremblay); Lino II (Victor von Pentz); Pius XIII (Lucien Pulvermacher, popular Capuchin pope chosen in 1998 even with fumata bianca); Pax Immanuel (the German who leads the Christian Essenian Church and teaches Reiki). The list might be much longer, maybe even too long to complete. If we move to the other extreme, we can see that the Web pages of those groups that have split from the Catholic Church are very active, pleading for female priesthood and optional celibacy. Every so often in the European press, we can read news about women being ―ordained‖ by groups such as the Iglesia Carismática Católico-Apostólica de Jesús Rey (Catholic Apostolic Charismatic Church of Jesus the King), which was founded by the schismatic Argentinean bishop Rómulo A. Braschi. In short, the number of dissidents multiplies on the Internet, and their influence is exaggerated, distorting a reality of influence that is much less. The lack of seriousness and authenticity of some participants in this ―spiritual circus‖ is more evident on those Web sites from which any user can obtain a diploma of ―ordained minister,‖ sometimes for free, but usually by paying a reasonable amount of money; for instance, the Universal Life Church. Any Christian reverence is lost; it is enough if the ―holder‖ is a good person. Summing Up 1. Although religious experience requires the presence of a human community, the progressive privatization that characterizes contemporary spiritual life, practices and institutions contributes to the fact that many people, especially in the rich countries where there are computers and servers, find on the Internet the place and the means to satisfy their spiritual needs à la carte and in a watered-down way.
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2. Sects and the many different circles of new religiosity have made the most of this cyberspace pluralist universe to spread their beliefs and activities around the globe and at a low price. Furthermore, they take advantage of Internet‘s lack of hierarchical structure and apparent equality to attract new members. 3. Some authors, referring to the Heaven‘s Gate case,xliii have already pointed out that the extreme endings of manipulative groups potentially can be avoided if the appropriate experts were to monitor the Internet more closely (the same could have been done to prevent some school massacres in the United States of America, terrorist attacks, and collective suicides carried out by those who had provided forewarnings of their actions through their Internet communications). Some quotations by the philosopher S. Kierkegaard are still relevant in this regard: ―…from now on those who are right will not be listened to, but those who speak louder‖; ―…the louder will prevail over the truth‖; and ―…the loud wins through the deep.‖ xliv Clearly, as we have seen, we can apply these quotations to the reality of the sectarian phenomenon on the Internet. Endnotes i
I use the term ―sects‖ because it is closer to ―sectas‖ used in Spanish without being pejorative (like ―cults‖ in English is), but with a technical sense that can serve our purposes better than the phrase ―new religious movements.‖ I would like to thank Mario Álvarez Rodrigo for translating this article from Spanish to English. ii
José B. Terceiro, in the seminar ―Individuos y sociedades en un mundo tecnológico,‖ according to a note published on the Spanish newspaper El País, 20/04/05. iii
I have already covered this topic in depth in Santamaría del Rio, L. (2003), ―Las sectas e Internet: púlpito neorreligioso y foro de discusión‖, Pastoral Ecuménica 59, 59–102. The following quotation can help to clarify the purpose of this piece of work: ―We usually find ourselves in situations where we do not really know how to handle such a large amount of data trying to find what we are looking for; hence, the real value is not the information, but the information about the information in itself; i.e., the way to handle these data we have access to, which, otherwise, would be overwhelming and impossible to process.‖ (Díaz-Ramon, D. (2003), ―Internet, mundo de extremos‖; Joyanes, L. & González, M., II Congreso Internacional de Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento. Libro de actas. Tomo II, McGraw Hill, Madrid, 14–20). iv
This was the title he chose initially for his book Proslogion. There is another curious expression, ―From Yahweh to Yahoo‖, that recently appeared in the title of a book about religious information written by UNDERWOOD, D. (2002), From Yahweh to Yahoo!, University of Illinois Press, Illinois. v
Hoover, S. M., Clark, L. S., & Raine, L. (2004), Faith Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project. These results exceed, by far, those obtained in past reports: In 2001, the survey produced a figure of 25 percent (which represents the overall wired population out of 28 million people). vi
Lutz, A., & Borgman, D. (2002), ―Teenage Spirituality and the Internet‖, Cultic Studies Review, Vol 1, No. 2, 137–150. Compare also the study published in 1998, ―The Cyberchurch Is Coming: National Survey of Teenagers Shows Expectation of Substituting Internet for Corner Church,‖ Barna Research Group, Ventura. Another important aspect related to this point is the ―communicative transmutation‖ many people experience when they are connected to the Net—above all, teenagers and people going through changes; those with social interaction problems, who are shy, and so on who change dramatically and become talkative and uninhibited ―new identities‖ looking for the deep facet of life and themselves. This personality change can contribute to the spiritual search as well as their finding any other thing, even sects. viii ix
Lutz, A., & Borgman, D. (2002), ―Teenage Spirituality and the Internet,‖ o.c.
Gomez Perez, R. (1990), La invasión del ocultismo, Ed. del Drac, 146–147.
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In 1986, N. Himmel, acquainted with L. R. Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, stated in reference to the latter that ―…whenever he was talking about being hard up he often used to say that he thought the easiest way to make money would be to start a religion.‖ (Miller, R., & Joseph, M. (1987), Bare-Faced Messiah. The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard, Penguin Books, London, 117.) Some other similar quotations appear in other books referring to talks with Mr Hubbard in the late 1940s. xi
Consider also Schroeder, R., Heather, N., & Lee, R.M. (1998), ―The Sacred and the Virtual: Religion in Multi-User Virtual Reality,‖ Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 4. xii
―HG leaders used the Internet, mass-mediated entertainment, and Christian tradition to develop a fatally flawed architecture of apocalyptic vision. The content of the vision ultimately lured them to enact a ritual of communal death‖ (Brasher, B. E., (2001), Give Me That Online Religion, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 167). xiii
LeBlanc, B. -H. (2000), ―Nouvelles religions, nouveaux médias: les ―sectes‖ et leurs stratégies sociales à l‘épreuve d‘Internet,‖ Religiologiques 22, 104–105. xiv
―Most religious groups did not officially invade the Internet until the middle 90s. At that time, the business sectors were in the lead, since they had been faster to make the most of the new media. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions, the case of the Church of Scientology is very representative, since the Internet (regarding social strategy) was already used as a new tool to manage its image and, therefore, to manage its identity.‖ (Ibid.) xv
According to D. Baker, Moonism has created a multitude of subsidiary organizations, with the purpose of being the ―friendly face‖ of the movement, in order to propagate their doctrines more easily. However, Moon acknowledges that ―just a quick look at the current Website with its evident references to the True Parents (Rev. Moon and his wife) shows that they are not reluctant to proclaim their Unificationist religion.‖ However, this openness about the association does not apply to all organizations, since some of them conceal their condition as a member of Moonism. (BAKER, D. (2003), New Korean Religions in North America and on the Web, presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta). xvi
―Although the RTC brought the complaint under traditional secular concepts of copyright and trade secret law, it has become clear that a much broader motivation prevailed—the stifling of criticism and dissent of the religious practices of Scientology and the destruction of its opponents.‖ (Religious Technology Center v. Lerma, 908 F. Supp. 1362, 1368; E.D. Va. 1995, quot. in BRILL, A., & PACKARD, A. (1997), ―Silencing Scientology‘s critics on the Internet: a mission impossible?‖ Communications and the Law 19, 1–23.) xvii
Karaflogka, A. (2002), ―Religious discourse and cyberspace,‖ Religion 32, 279–291.
Porter, N. (2003), Falun Gong in the United States: An Ethnographic Study, thesis, University of South Florida, 207–221. xix
Zaleski, J. (1997), The Soul of Cyberspace, Harper, San Francisco, 99. According to this author, the Catholic Church ―dominates Christianity in the real world, but not in the virtual one‖ (100). This is partly due to the fact that, as it happens with the whole Internet, most of the users come from the United States of America, where Protestantism is the main religion. ―Only two influential Christian denominations seem to shun cyberspace‖: the Amish and the Shakers (120). xxi
There is a project, partly published by the Program for Latin American Socio-Religious Studies (Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos, PROLADES) which is updated regularly and can be considered an "inventory" of all the religious groups in Latin America; it emphasizes those groups that are Christian. Consider also Holland, C. L., Hacia un sistema de clasificación de grupos religiosos en América Latina, con un enfoque especial sobre el movimiento protestante, (Toward a system for classifying religious groups in Latin America, focusing especially on the Protestant movement), Prolades, Costa Rica [www.prolades.com]. xxii
Gold, L. (2000), Mormons on the Internet 2000–2001, Prima Publishing, Roseville.
Consider also Chryssides, G. D. (1996), ―New Religions and the Internet,‖ Diskus 4.
Consider also below, note 37. Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 25
Zaleski, J., o.c., 209.
Vofchuk, R. C. (2000), ―Las nuevas religiones del Japón moderno. La importancia del Sutra del Loto (Primera parte),‖ Boletín de la Asociación Española de Orientalistas 36, 257–267. xxviii xxix
Baker, D., o.c.
According to the Web site of the Misión Internacional del Espíritu Santo (International Mission of the Holy Spirit, group founded in Costa Rica), ―…the Internet is one of the signs of the end of time and God wants to have it available for His people. However, only the Holy Spirit could inspire the scientists‘ and technicians‘ minds to invent a network which speeds up the process of exchanging knowledge as it was prophesied to Daniel‖ [www.enjesus.com]. xxxi
―Use of the Internet. Be alert to the dangers!‖ Our Kingdom Ministry, 11/99, 2.
For instance, what Tom Cruise, member of this group, said for no reason at all in an interview about one of his latest films: ―When we see the volume of drugs prescribed by psychiatrists, illiteracy, the crime rate, immorality… These problems are never seriously addressed. These are the enemies. When they talk about our huge capacity to communicate ourselves… In fact, there is little communication. The Internet has more to do with pornography rather than with really communicating.‖ (CALVO, J. M., ―Spielberg y Cruise asustan al mundo,‖ in El País Semanal, 26/06/05). The Internet must be added to the list of traditional obsessions of Scientology. How odd! xxxiv
Leblanc, B. -H., o.c.
Dawson, L. L. (2001), ―Doing Religion in Cyberspace: The Promise and the Perils,‖ The Council of Societies for the Study of Religion Bulletin 30, 3–9. xxxvi
Mayer, J. F. (2000), ―Les nouveaux mouvements religieux à l‘heure d‘Internet,‖ Cahiers de Littérature Orale 47, 127–146; ID. (2000), ―Religious Movements and the Internet: the New Frontier of Cult Controversies,‖ HADDEN, J. K., & COWAN, D. E. (Eds.), Religion on the Internet, JAI Press, New York, 249–276. xxxvii
Kjaerland, M., Alison, L., & Lundrigan, S. (2003), ―A comparative study of persuasion and recruitment techniques exhibited by organized groups on the Internet,‖ University of Stavanger. xxxviii
Consider also Drury, N. (2002), ―Magic and Cyberspace,‖ Esoterica 4, 96–100; Groothuis, D., (1997), ―Technoshamanism: Digital Deities in Cyberspace,‖ Christian Research Journal 19. xxxix
Consider also Champion, F. (1990), ―La nébuleuse mystique-esotérique. Orientation psychoreligeuses des courants mystiques et ésoteriques contemporaines,‖ Champion, F., & Hervieu-Leger, D. (Eds.), De l´émotion en religion. Renouveau et traditions, Centurion, Paris, 17–69. xl
Lewis, J. R. (2001), ―Who serves Satan? A demographic and ideological profile,‖ Marburg Journal of Religion 6. xli
An 18-year-old Spanish lady who takes part in one of these forums told me the following some time ago: ―I don‘t think it‘s necessary to belong to any group. You just need to believe in it. Furthermore, it‘s really hard to be accepted in a real group. I think the Internet helps us to get a closer view of Satanism, not only so as to get information, but also to get to know other people with similar beliefs. Without the Internet you would never get to know them.‖ xliii
―No one seems to have been listening when they declared their intention to soon end it all on their Web site. If we can learn from this mistake, monitoring the Net may facilitate the prevention of similar tragedies in the future‖ (DAWSON, L. L, o.c.). xliv
Quoted in Lobo, J. A. (1982), ―Manipulación de los ‗Mass Media,‘‖ AA.VV., La manipulación del hombre, San Esteban, Salamanca, 104.
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Note This paper is based on an open plenary presentation to the Annual International Conference ―Understanding Manipulative Influence, Cults, New Religious Movements, and Other Groups‖ of the International Cultic Studies Association. Madrid, Spain, July 14-16, 2005. Luis Santamaria is Bachelor of Theology in the Pontifical University of Salamanca. He is also a member of the Red Iberoamericana de Estudio de las Sectas (RIES) [Ibero-American Network for the Study of Sects]. He has studied the cultic phenomenon for several years and has published a number of articles on this topic. This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Review, 2008, Volume 7, Number 1, pages 20-41. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
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Un modèle d’intervention auprès des proches d’adeptes : le concept de co-adepte Jean-Claude Maes1 SOS-Sectes, Belgique Résumé L‘adepte entre avec la secte dans une relation de dépendance « positive » en ceci qu‘il y voit la source de tout bien. A SOS-Sectes, notre hypothèse de travail, souvent vérifiée dans notre pratique clinique, est que certains des proches de cet adepte, que nous nommons « co-adeptes », vont entrer avec la secte dans une relation de dépendance « négative » en ceci qu‘ils y voient la source de tout mal. Une autre lecture du concept de « co-adepte », est que les proches sont les premiers dans la famille à être traumatisés par la captation sectaire, et que leur réaction à ce traumatisme peut leur faire développer une forme périphérique de « syndrome de Stockholm ». Quelle que soit la lecture adoptée, le concept de « co-adepte » induit un modèle particulier d‘intervention auprès des proches d‘adeptes.
Abstract A disciple enters a cult in a relationship of ―positive‖ dependency in that he sees it as the source of all good. At SOS-Sectes, our working hypothesis, often verified through clinical practice, is that some relatives and friends of the follower, whom we call ―co-disciples,‖ enter into a ―negative‖ dependency relationship with the cult in that they see it as the source of all evil. Another way of understanding the concept of ―co-disciple‖ is that relatives are the first ones to be traumatized by their loved one‘s cultic involvement and that their reactions can lead to a secondary form of ―Stockholm syndrome.‖ Regardless of one‘s interpretation, the concept of ―co-disciple‖ can lead to a particular intervention strategy with the disciple‘s family and friends.
Je n‘aurai le temps ni de préciser la composition de mon échantillon de recherche, ni de présenter SOS-Sectes, le « service d‘aide aux victimes de comportements sectaires » dans lequel cette recherche a pu être réalisée. Néanmoins, l‘une et l‘autre présentent toutes les cautions scientifiques qu‘on est en droit d‘en attendre. Pour plus de précisions, on pourra toujours se référer à notre site : « www.sos-sectes.org ». Le Concept de Co-Adepte Le concept de co-adepte part évidemment du concept de co-dépendance, qui pour ce que j‘en sais, est un produit de l‘étude de l‘alcoolisme, qui a par la suite été également appliqué à la toxicomanie. Rien ne nous empêche, a priori, de définir le sectarisme comme dépendance à un produit culturel, là où l‘alcoolisme ou la toxicomanie pourraient se définir comme dépendances à des produits chimiques. Notons que la compréhension de l‘alcoolisme ou de la toxicomanie, comme celle du sectarisme, nécessitent une double voire une triple lecture, en tant que pathologie individuelle, mais aussi groupale, et enfin sociétale. L‘idée directrice, dans les trois cas, est que la lecture causale individuelle échoue à rendre compte de l‘entièreté des processus à l‘œuvre. En très court car ce n‘est pas l‘objet de cet exposé, je relèverai trois axes d‘analyse : le produit consommé, le contexte dans
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lequel s‘est développé cette consommation, et le complice grâce auquel cette consommation perdure. En ce qui concerne la notion de dépendance à un produit culturel, j‘aimerais insister sur le fait que le phénomène sectaire n‘est en tout cas pas un phénomène religieux, et qu‘il serait oiseux de répertorier les croyances bizarres de tel ou tel groupe. Comme pour l‘alcoolisme et la toxicomanie, ce qui importe, ce n‘est pas la nature du produit, mais la nature de la relation au produit. En ce qui concerne le contexte, il est clair qu‘il y a des milieux qui favorisent l‘alcoolisme, et que la toxicomanie va de pair avec une certaine marginalisation. Comme il est clair que certains milieux tels que le Nouvel Age ou le Renouveau Charismatique, sans être sectaires en eux-mêmes, servent d‘antichambres à un certain nombre de sectes. Dans les trois cas évoqués, beaucoup de chercheurs se sont interrogés sur la causalité familiale. Ce qui m‘a le plus frappé dans les résultats de notre recherche sur le profil familial d‘adeptes de sectes 2, c‘est la majorité, dans notre échantillon, de familles de type démocratique, là où nous nous serions attendu à des familles plus totalitaires : il semble que le modèle démocratique soit difficile à gérer, et que s‘il est vécu positivement par les familles qui l‘adoptent, il n‘en pose pas moins aux sectateurs potentiels un certain nombre de problèmes que le totalitarisme sectaire se proposera de solutionner. Enfin, le co-alcoolique est généralement présenté par la littérature comme le complice de l‘alcoolique. Quoique largement étayée par l‘observation, cette hypothèse est choquante, dans la mesure où elle fait abstraction de la souffrance du co-alcoolique : à moins de le considérer comme un masochiste, on ne voit pas pourquoi il se rendrait complice de la consommation d‘alcool d‘un proche qui se transforme, sous l‘effet dudit alcool, en un véritable Mister Hyde. Il s‘agit donc d‘une complicité paradoxale, qui n‘atteint pas ses objectifs, et n‘arrive pas à identifier son erreur. Un des objectifs d‘une intervention auprès des proches d‘adeptes sera de les aider à identifier cette erreur. Comme première définition de ce que j‘appelle le co-sectarisme, je dirai que si les adeptes sont dans une dépendance positive à la secte, c‘est-à-dire ont toutes leurs pensées occupées par une secte qu‘ils jugent être l‘incarnation du bien, les co-adeptes, quant à eux, sont dans une dépendance négative à la secte, c‘est-à-dire ont toutes leurs pensées occupées par une secte qu‘ils jugent être l‘incarnation du mal. Le Co-Sectarisme du Conjoint Très concrètement, la secte se mêle de la vie du couple, essaie de régler les problèmes, sans paraître se rendre compte qu‘une partie des problèmes sont provoqués par elle-même. Le conjoint se retrouve dans la situation de celui qui doit subir les intrusions continuelles d‘une belle-mère pas forcément hostile, mais néanmoins destructrice dans la mesure où elle entend refaire sa vie par procuration, sans se rendre compte que ce qui est vrai pour elle, ne l‘est pas forcément pour le couple. La secte entend le plus souvent embrigader le conjoint, sans se rendre compte que son fonctionnement décourage ledit conjoint de désirer une quelconque appartenance à ce groupe dont il se sent, d‘ailleurs, exclu. L‘adepte ne comprend pas ce sentiment d‘exclusion, et de fait, il est paradoxal, si on considère la volonté d‘incorporation démontrée par l‘ensemble des autres adeptes. Ce qu‘il faut bien comprendre ici, c‘est qu‘un désaccord très profond s‘est introduit dans le couple, qui peut porter sur les croyances, mais qui, plus fondamentalement, porte sur le mode de fonctionnement du couple : l‘adepte a adopté un fonctionnement par « inclusion », par lequel on ne peut être qu‘un « même » ou un « étranger », alors que le conjoint a gardé l‘ancien fonctionnement, par appartenance, reposant sur la filiation pour la famille, sur le contrat pour le couple : on peut être « différent » sans devenir « étranger ». Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 29
L‘incompréhension de l‘adepte, ainsi que sa loyauté indéfectible vis-à-vis du point de vue sectaire, font que le conjoint est objectivement « trahi ». Il se pourra même qu‘il se sente « trompé », qu‘il vive une espèce d‘adultère d‘autant plus difficile à dénoncer qu‘il n‘est pas sexuel, mais moral. Il y a pourtant là un authentique « coup de canif dans le contrat », qui s‘avère très rapidement un coup de machette, un véritable schisme. Le tragique de la situation est que l‘adepte, souvent, fera beaucoup d‘efforts pour sauver son couple, sans se rendre compte que la direction suivie par ces efforts, indiquée par la secte, loin de pouvoir sauver le couple, en prépare la faillite. Souvent, le conjoint fait également beaucoup d‘efforts : et surtout, il essaie de comprendre le point de vue de l‘adepte. Moins sensible à la suggestion, il arrive qu‘il adhère aux croyances du groupe sans en avoir éprouvé la « séduction », ni en avoir vécu la « lune de miel », seulement pour ne pas se sentir abandonné. Au début, son adhésion est de surface, mais à terme, à force de subir le « harcèlement moral » propre aux sectes, il développe un véritable « syndrome de Stockholm ». Je n‘ai pas le temps de développer ce concept, mais on sait qu‘il rend compte du constat qu‘une victime peut tomber amoureuse de son bourreau. Plus souvent, le conjoint essaie de convaincre l‘adepte de l‘inanité de ses croyances. Se heurtant à un mur, il arrive qu‘il tape sur ce mur (moralement et/ ou physiquement), qu‘il essaie, en désespoir de cause, de le casser. En miroir de la violence insidieuse de la secte, le conjoint développe dans ce cas une violence plus objectivable, et se met donc dans son tort. Néanmoins et dans tous les cas, le plus souvent, c‘est le conjoint qui s‘en va, de toute façon à ses torts, puisque la secte a généralement un bon avocat à proposer à l‘adepte. Au même titre que le co-alcoolique présente une certaine « tolérance » vis-à-vis de la consommation d‘alcool, le co-adepte présente une certaine répugnance à utiliser des outils légaux contre l‘adepte. Il préférerait attaquer le gourou et le groupe, et s‘indigne qu‘il n‘y ait pas de loi anti-sectes. Parallèlement, il surestime nettement certains dangers, en même temps qu‘il en sous-estime d‘autres. En miroir de la « paranoïa » du groupe sectaire qui s‘estime persécuté, le co-adepte développe sa propre « paranoïa », qui interprète l‘apparente passivité, face aux sectes, du législatif, de l‘exécutif et du judiciaire, comme une preuve de la puissance des sectes. Le Co-Sectarisme des Parents La famille est généralement partagée entre plusieurs attitudes : a) banaliser les faits, b) dramatiser les faits, et c) prendre le parti de l‘adepte contre la famille. La banalisation n‘est pas forcément une mauvaise attitude, du moins si elle n‘est pas synonyme d‘indifférence vis-à-vis de l‘adepte. Elle n‘est pas réaliste, certes, mais elle présente l‘avantage de ne pas rentrer dans le jeu de la secte. La dramatisation engendre des formulations telles que : « On dirait un mort vivant », « Un zombie », « C‘est comme si son âme était morte, et qu‘on en ait mise une autre à la place », etc. De telles formulations sont précieuses parce qu‘elles renseignent le clinicien sur la nature du problème. Il est question ici du mythe du lavage de cerveau, qui considère le cerveau humain plus ou moins comme un disque dur qu‘on pourrait formater puis reprogrammer, ce qui est bien évidemment impossible. Ce n‘est pas tant que l‘adepte aurait changé d‘identité, mais son identité se divise. C‘est pourquoi, là où Steven Hassan (1995) propose d‘identifier dans le comportement de l‘adepte un Moi-Moi et un Moi-Secte, ce qui laisserait supposer que le premier est authentique alors que le second est faux, injecté par la secte, je propose d‘identifier un Moi-Secte et un Moi-Famille, le Moi-Secte étant constitué d‘un patchwork d‘idéaux qui font que le futur adepte aura envie de donner sa loyauté, et d‘ailleurs, plus généralement, le meilleur de lui-même, au groupe sectaire, le Moi-Famille étant constitué de ce qui reste loyal à la famille d‘origine. Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 30
Le Moi-Famille n‘est donc pas un Moi entier mis entre parenthèses au profit d‘un nouveau programme injecté par la secte, mais une espèce de « reste ». Cette notion de reste a une forte résonance pour les psychanalystes, car la façon la plus basique de définir le concept de « castration » au niveau symbolique, c‘est l‘idée qu‘il y a toujours un reste. Or, c‘est justement ce reste qu‘une secte ne peut tolérer : « Ton ancien moi mérite la mort », énonce l‘une d‘elles dans un manuel destiné aux nouveaux baptisés. J‘aimerais souligner que d‘après mon expérience, une majorité de sectes ne s‘attaque pas tant à la famille d‘origine (réservoir d‘adeptes potentiels), qu‘au Moi-Famille, non tant d‘ailleurs parce qu‘il est loyal à la famille d‘origine que parce qu‘il constitue ce fameux « reste », et au fond, un « noyau de résistance » au conditionnement. Ce que la famille a parfois du mal à comprendre, c‘est qu‘en attaquant la secte, elle attaque le Moi-Secte, ce qui contribue à le développer. Pourquoi ? Parce que ce Moi présente la particularité de se construire en opposition avec le Moi-Famille, au même titre que la secte elle-même se construit en opposition avec le reste du monde. Par ailleurs, en attaquant le Moi-Secte, elle attaque également le Moi-Famille (les deux Moi ne sont dissociés qu‘en apparence), et elle participe ainsi à sa mise à mort par la secte. Cela semble sans issue : on ne peut attaquer sur aucun front, mais on ne peut pas davantage rester indifférent. Michel Monroy, qu‘on connaît surtout pour ses ouvrages sur le phénomène sectaire, défend en d‘autres contextes l‘idée que le problème du harcèlement moral, ce n‘est pas le conflit, mais l‘absence de conflit. Qu'il n‘y ait pas de conflit, cela ne veut pas dire qu‘il n‘y a pas de violence, car cette dernière se développe dans une relation fondamentalement asymétrique, inégalitaire. Dans les sectes, cela prend la forme suivante : le gourou a fondamentalement raison sur tout adepte, qui lui-même a fondamentalement raison sur le monde, puisque celui-ci est l‘incarnation du mal. Du côté des co-adeptes et du scénario de dramatisation, cela donne : la famille a fondamentalement raison sur la secte, puisque celle-ci est l‘incarnation du mal. Pas de place pour le conflit, ni pour ce que les psychanalystes appellent le « désir », c‘est-à-dire une pulsion vers l‘autre qui soit soumise à la « castration ». Après cela, un certain nombre d‘associations, et de modes d‘emploi édités dans la presse, défendent l‘idée qu‘il faut donner à l‘adepte une bonne image de sa famille, et même une image meilleure que l‘image de la secte... Pour moi, cette idée contient au moins quatre contresens : a) cette image est forcément falsifiée, comme est falsifiée celle de la secte, car dans le contexte, une bonne image, c‘est une image parfaite, et la perfection n‘existe pas ; b) une image parfaite évacue toute dimension de conflit, et initie une autre forme d‘asymétrie ; c) c‘est un bras de fer avec la secte, que la famille est sûre de perdre, parce que la secte a pour elle un plus grand nombre de bras ; d) c‘est utiliser les mêmes méthodes que la secte, une fois de plus en miroir. Mais alors, que faire ? Nous pensons à SOS-Sectes que ce qui fait sortir un adepte, c‘est un événement qui présente tout à la fois une dimension éthique et une dimension émotionnelle. Or, la dimension éthique est justement ce qui peut permettre à une relation d‘être symétrique, dans la mesure où elle domine les deux partenaires, les mettant ainsi à égalité. Nous préconisons donc que les familles travaillent à préserver la relation avec l‘adepte, mais une relation qui ne soit pas édulcorée, et introduise une dimension éthique, c‘est-à-dire un droit à la différence. À côté des membres de la famille qui prennent parti pour l‘adepte contre la famille, en général pour des raisons liées à la dynamique familiale, il y a ceux qui pensent devoir cacher leurs désaccords. Or, comme dit le proverbe : « Qui ne dit mot, consent ». La question devient : « Comment exprimer un désaccord sans rompre le lien ? », voire : « Comment utiliser le désaccord au renforcement du lien ? ». Notons au passage que c‘est une question assez universelle, et à laquelle il vaut mieux ne pas répondre, en tout cas pas Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 31
trop vite : il faut la laisser en travail. Elle n‘est pas sans rapport avec la question de l‘appartenance : la différence ne doit pas entraîner l‘exclusion. Autres Formes de Co-Sectarisme Il y a d‘autres formes de co-sectarisme, que je n‘aurai pas le temps de développer ici, mais que je vais quand même évoquer. Il y a, d‘abord, le co-sectarisme des ex-adeptes. Dont je dirai deux choses. Premièrement, qu‘ils vivent une exclusion, même quand ils sont partis de leur propre chef. Et que pour l‘adepte au même titre que pour l‘amoureux, être rejeté ravive le désir. Deuxièmement, que la dépendance, comme on l‘observe également pour l‘alcoolisme ou la toxicomanie, se prolonge bien au-delà de l‘abstinence. On pourrait résumer la situation de l‘ex-adepte en posant qu‘il a appris à voir le monde d‘une certaine façon, avec une certaine grille, et que cette modification a quelque chose de définitif, ou en tout cas de difficile à démonter. Il y a, ensuite, le co-sectarisme des « sectes anti-sectes ». Par exemple, quand les conjoints, les parents et/ ou les ex-adeptes décident d‘investir leur souffrance dans la militance anti-sectes. Je ne vais pas discuter ici de la pertinence d‘une telle militance, dont on peut quand même constater qu‘elle a eu des effets politiques et sociaux positifs. Néanmoins, les effets psychologiques individuels et/ ou familiaux le sont rarement. Le problème – que je n‘aurai une fois de plus pas le temps de développer – est que la position « anti- » n‘est pas étrangère à la position sectaire. Ce point de vue m‘a d‘ailleurs amené à pointer un co-sectarisme des « anti-cléricaux », fréquent chez certains sociologues des religions. Ceux-ci ne sont pas co-adeptes au sens premier du terme, par contre ils se rendent souvent, par leur attitude, complices des sectes, ce qui peut sembler, a priori, un peu paradoxal, pour celui qui considèrerait les sectaires comme des hyper-cléricaux. Mais justement, le sectarisme, pour le dire une fois de plus, n‘est pas un phénomène religieux. Il y a, encore, le co-sectarisme des intervenants professionnels. C‘est un sujet délicat, souvent très mal pris par les personnes visées quand on s‘aventure à leur en parler. Il part d‘un constat sur le terrain, que divers intervenants, et en particulier ceux qui travaillent pour ou avec la justice, développent, face à certaines situations, une cécité sélective, à savoir quand un des paramètres est l‘emprise sectaire. Je pense en particulier à une série de situations liées au divorce, au droit de garde, au droit de visite et à la pension alimentaire. Dans ces situations, nous observons régulièrement des assistantes sociales qui minimisent des situations de négligence, voire de maltraitance d‘enfant ; des avocats qui préfèrent attaquer l‘adepte sur le fait qu‘il est dans une secte, alors que ce n‘est pas un délit, que l‘attaquer sur des délits réels, quand il y en a (mais il y en a souvent) ; des juges qui minimisent ces délits, parce qu‘ils ont peur, s‘ils se prononcent en faveur du non adepte, d‘être accusé de ségrégation religieuse ; etc. D‘autres professionnels dans des domaines mettant eux aussi en jeu la problématique de l‘emprise, par exemple la maltraitance ou l‘abus sexuel (Perrone et Nannini, 1995), font le même constat, et l‘hypothèse d‘une emprise indirecte, dont le maître mot serait sans doute la confusion plutôt que l‘influence comme c‘est le cas pour les victimes directes. Après cela, et à partir du constat que le sectarisme a pris, dans le courant des années septante, des allures de phénomène de société, on pourrait se demander de quelle maladie souffre ladite société, dont les sectes seraient le symptôme. Je n‘explorerai pas cette piste aujourd‘hui, mais renverrai aux travaux d‘Anne Fournier et de Catherine Picard (2002), ou encore à ceux de Jacques Michel (1999, etc.). Je n‘en dirai qu‘une chose, qui me permettra de revenir à ma préoccupation première, qui est de terrain : je constate, aussi bien à travers les témoignages recueillis à SOS-Sectes, qu‘à travers la jurisprudence belge, que les sectes se servent des Droits de l‘homme pour contourner des jugements nationaux pourtant Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 32
solidement étayés par des lois qui qualifient les délits jugés, et des enquêtes policières qui en font la preuve. Certaines ont même le culot de se faire les champions des Droits de l‘homme, en organisant des marches, en créant des associations, etc. Conclusion Je me propose de conclure mon exposé avec la notion de responsabilité. Ceux qui m‘ont déjà entendu savent que c‘est un de mes dadas. Dans le cadre d‘une de nos recherches (Maes et coll., 2001, pp. 33-45), nous avions posé l‘hypothèse que les adeptes étaient dans un même mouvement fortement culpabilisés, et fortement déresponsabilisés. Une majorité de notre échantillon d‘ex-adeptes n‘était pas du tout de cet avis, estimant avoir été, de fait, fortement culpabilisés, mais plus fortement encore responsabilisés par le groupe. Il nous a fallu un certain temps pour prendre la mesure réelle de ce résultat, et abandonner notre hypothèse. Pourtant, l‘examen réellement objectif de l‘entrée en secte de nos patients débouche sur la même conclusion : a) dans la plupart des sectes, ce qui est promis au futur adepte dans la phase de séduction, ce n‘est pas une prise en charge, mais des outils qui vont lui permettre d‘être plus responsable tant vis-à-vis de sa propre vie que vis-à-vis du monde qui l‘entoure ; b) dans toutes les sectes, l‘adepte n‘est pas supposé être à charge du groupe. Nous avons d‘ailleurs vu que si ça devenait le cas, il serait impitoyablement exclu. En fait, à bien des égards, c‘est le gourou qui est à charge des adeptes. Ce que le gourou prend à la place de l‘adepte, ce ne sont pas des responsabilités, mais des décisions, les conséquences de ces décisions étant assumées par le seul adepte, quitte, si ça tourne mal, à l‘accuser de les avoir mal comprises ou mal appliquées. Telle idéologie de la responsabilité devrait rendre impossible l‘apparition d‘un quelconque bouc émissaire. C‘est d‘ailleurs une des prétentions qu‘on peut repérer dans le discours des sectes. Évidemment, la réalité est tout autre. Premièrement, le monde extérieur au groupe sectaire n‘est pas seulement différent donc exclu, il est aussi responsable. Non seulement il est responsable de ses propres malheurs, qui ne se seraient jamais produits s‘il avait fonctionné comme le gourou préconise qu‘on fonctionne, mais il est en outre responsable des malheurs du gourou et du groupe. Deuxièmement, de même que l‘ancien Moi doit mourir, les adeptes soupçonnés d‘intersection avec le « monde » sont invariablement et indéniablement pris comme boucs émissaires : ce sont « les plus à l‘extérieur de ceux qui sont à l‘intérieur ». Bien des théoriciens ont décrit la désignation d‘un bouc émissaire comme un phénomène de mise à mort groupale. Cette mise à mort est d‘autant plus violente dans les sectes qu‘elle n‘est pas reconnue comme ce qu‘elle est : à l‘adepte qui se plaindrait de ségrégation, on répondra qu‘il est fou. Troisièmement, les co-adeptes, eux, sont « les plus à l‘intérieur de ceux qui sont à l‘extérieur ». En effet, que ce soient les conjoints et les parents, qui ont été approchés par la secte, ou les ex-adeptes, tous ont été « éclairés par la vérité » dont se réclament les adeptes. Ils n‘ont donc pas les mêmes excuses que les autres de vivre « dans l‘erreur ». Au fil des découvertes, nous restons persuadés de deux choses. Et premièrement, que la culpabilisation entraîne une déresponsabilisation : en effet, celui qui est coupable ne peut rien réparer, il ne peut qu‘expier, dans l‘espoir qu‘un grand Autre le pardonne. Ce qui a changé dans notre compréhension de cet axiome, c‘est qu‘avant nous pointions prioritairement la culpabilisation de l‘adepte par la secte, alors qu‘aujourd‘hui, nous invitons le co-adepte à réfléchir à son rôle dans le processus. Pour l‘expliquer en deux mots, l‘adepte, qu‘il le veuille ou non, a des responsabilités vis-à-vis du co-adepte. Si le coadepte, quand l‘adepte n‘assume pas ces responsabilités, adopte le chemin de la culpabilisation, sa plainte sera vécue comme une pression, un chantage, alors que s‘il adopte le chemin de la responsabilisation, il peut espérer susciter dans le chef de l‘adepte quelque chose comme un dilemme, un conflit. Deuxièmement, nous sommes persuadés que la déculpabilisation est une étape inévitable sur le chemin de la responsabilisation. Il nous faut donc penser les événements qui nous sont racontés non en termes de causes, mais en Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 33
termes de processus. En effet, trouver la cause des événements dans le comportement de telle ou telle personne, c‘est en faire un bouc émissaire, même si on n‘en a pas l‘intention. Alors que comprendre ce comportement comme une pièce parmi d‘autres d‘un processus d‘ensemble, c‘est donner à chacun les moyens d‘influer sur le processus, donc de prendre une responsabilité. Je n‘ai pas le temps de développer plus avant un modèle d‘intervention auprès des victimes de sectes, mais vous aurez compris que ce modèle est étroitement lié au concept de coadepte. À dire vrai, je préconise une thérapie (brève ou longue suivant les cas) avec toute la famille moins l‘adepte, et dont l‘enjeu serait la responsabilisation de tous les membres de la famille, adepte y compris. Je vous remercie pour votre attention. Notes 1
Psychothérapeute au Centre de Consultations et de Planning Familial Marconi, B1190 Bruxelles.
Voir Maes et coll. (2001), « Santé mentale et phénomène sectaire », pp. 33-45. Références
Collectif. (1999), Sectes, PUF, Paris. Collectif. (2001), Psychoses et familles, in Cahiers critiques de thérapie familiale et de pratiques de réseaux n°26, De Boeck Université, Bruxelles. Ehrenberg, A. (1995), L‘individu incertain, Calmann-Lévy, Paris. Fournier, A. et MONROY, M. (1999), La dérive sectaire, PUF, Paris. Fournier, A. et PICARD, C. (2002), Sectes, démocratie et mondialisation, PUF, Paris. Hassan, S. (1995), Protégez-vous contre les sectes, Editions du Rocher, Monaco. Maes, J.-C. (1999), La collusion sectaire, in Dialogues n°145, pp. 27-50. Maes, J.-C. (2000), Dépendance et co-dépendance à une secte, in Thérapie familiale n°21, pp. 111-127. Maes, J.-C. et coll. (2001), Santé mentale et phénomène sectaire, Commission Communautaire Française, Bruxelles. Monroy, M. et Fournier, A. (1997), Figures du conflit, PUF, Paris. Neuburger, R. (1984), L‘autre demande, ESF, Paris. Neuburger, R. (1988), L‘irrationnel dans le couple et la famille, ESF, Paris. Olievenstein, C. et coll. (1982), La vie du toxicomane, PUF, Paris. Perrone, R. et Nannini, M. (1995), Violence et abus sexuels dans la famille, édition augmentée, ESF, Paris, 2000. Rousseaux, J.-P. et Derely, M. (1989), Alcoolismes et toxicomanies, De Boeck Université, Bruxelles. Roussillon, R. (1991), Paradoxes et situations limites de la psychanalyse, PUF, Paris. Jean-Claude Maes est psychologue, psychothérapeute familial systémique, et président fondateur de SOS-Sectes, Belgique (sos-sectes.org; [email protected]
) un « service d‘aide aux victimes de comportements sectaires » subsidié par le Ministère de la Santé de Bruxelles (Service Santé de la Commission Communautaire Française). Ses publications: "Les couples sectaires", in Thérapie familiale n°18, "Dépendance et co-dépendance à une secte", in Thérapie familiale n°20, "Santé mentale et phénomène sectaire", in Cahiers de la Santé n°16, etc. (pour d'autres références, voir sos-sectes.org).
This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Review, 2008, Volume 7, Number 1, pages 42-54. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 34
Michael Kropveld is Executive Director and Founder of Info-Cult, the largest resource centre of its kind in Canada. Since 1980 Mike has assisted thousands of former members and members of ―cults,‖ ―new religious movements,‖ and other groups, and their families. He has spoken, in Canada and internationally, to hundreds of professional and community groups on cultic phenomena. He is also involved in counselling and is consulted on the issue by, among others; mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies, and media. He has served as an expert witness on cult-related criminal and civil cases. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs locally, nationally and internationally. In 1992 he was awarded the 125 Commemorative Medal ―in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada‖ by the Government of Canada. He co-authored the book The Cult Phenomenon: How Groups Function (March 2006), and its French version (Le phénomène des sectes: L’étude du fonctionnement des groupes). Both versions are downloadable at no charge from www.infocult.org, or can be purchased in print format. In 2007 he received the Herbert L. Rosedale Award from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) “in recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom. This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Review, 2008, Volume 7, Number 1, pages 55-56. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
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Book Reviews Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind Amy J. L. Baker, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2007. ISBN-10: 0393705196; ISBN-13: 978-0393705195 (hardcover), $32.00. 304 pages. Those of us who are immersed in the cult field often find that our work has been marginalized by mental health professionals who see us as treating a population that has little to do with the problems they are addressing in their clinical practices. Over the years, I believe we have been able to bridge this gap with those who work with other trauma survivors. Now Dr. Baker has brought some of our cult-related insights into another field— family environments in which children need to maintain total loyalty to one parent at the cost of a relationship with the other parent. This is a family problem that occurs on a continuum of influence, from such behaviors as mild bad-mouthing of the other parent to using an array of strategies that might result in a case of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which happens in the most extreme cases. We acknowledge the power of suggestion and influence on both children and adults. In the past, those of us who work with cult survivors immediately ―got‖ the concept that poorly trained therapists could successfully suggest to their patients that they might ―recover‖ memories of child abuse of which they previously had been unaware. Likewise, in contrast to some therapists who become seduced or manipulated by parents who present them with children who might totally reject and hate one parent without giving them specifics (particularly specifics of abuse or neglect), therapists who have worked in the cult area can be skeptical, request further information, and wonder whether PAS is at work. We also wonder about the possibility of some form of parental alienation when an adult enters therapy with a black-and-white version of his parents. In 2005, Dr. Baker published a fascinating paper in the Cultic Studies Review entitled ―The Cult of Parenthood: A Qualitative Study of Parental Alienation.‖ In this paper, Baker discusses her study of 40 adults who had been alienated from one of their parents when they were children. Transcripts of Baker‘s interviews with these individuals were analyzed to identify similarities between alienating parents and cult leaders. The analysis determined that adults whose parents had alienated them from their other parent in childhood described their alienating parent in much the same way that former cult members described their cult leaders. The adults saw these parents primarily as being narcissistic and requiring excessive devotion at the expense of the other parent, who often was targeted for rejection. Other commonalities between the targeted parents and cult leaders included the use of a variety of manipulative techniques to induce heightened dependency in the children and to increase parental control, power, and adulation. The adult children in this study described dealing with aftereffects of this alienation from the targeted parent that were similar to those that former cult members experienced. These aftereffects included the following: 1. Low self-esteem stemming from feeling unloved by a formerly loved parent and that parent‘s relatives. The low self-esteem also was derived from the child‘s own self-hatred; that is, by needing to hate a parent, the child was induced to hate a part of himself or herself. 2. Guilt toward the targeted parent for the callous treatment that he or she had shown in childhood. 3. Depression about having lost this important relationship during childhood and about the loss of childhood itself. Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 36
4. A lack of trust in oneself and others. Everything the adult child had believed about his or her parents was distorted and people were not who they appeared to be. Dr. Baker‘s paper is now a chapter in the book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome. This book has a great deal to tell us of the psychological harm that can stem from growing up in this kind of emotionally abusive environment. What is it like to grow up with a parent who has a personality disorder, particularly a narcissistic, borderline, and/or antisocial personality disorder, who is triggered to feel humiliated or abandoned by his or her spouse (whether or not as a result of a divorce situation)? This often results in the narcissistic parent‘s obsessive need to devalue and humiliate that spouse. Such parents employ and manipulate their children to serve this need by inducing them to abandon the targeted parent. These children quickly learn that their rejection of the targeted parent is the price they must pay for feeling acceptance and love from (or not to be punished by) this alienating parent. The child has the ever present fear that if one parent can be banished, the child can be abandoned, too. Although Dr. Richard Gardner first coined the term ―parental alienation syndrome‖ in the 1980s to describe the consequences of the manipulations of a narcissistic mother who turns her children against the other parent in a post-divorce situation, Baker expands our previous assumptions by showing us how, at times, PAS describes behavior that occurs in an intact family or behavior that a father might show toward the mother of a child. In fact, Baker discovered through her own research and other research in this area that just as many affected children grew up in families in which the father was the alienator. The syndrome, as Gardner defined it, reveals the following factors: 1. Alienating parents obsessively have their children become preoccupied with unjustified deprecation and criticism of the targeted parent; this deprecation and criticism occurs in the absence of a rational and legitimate cause. (This is not a situation in which the targeted parent has shown abuse or neglect.) 2. Alienating parents are obsessed with intentionally destroying the relationship between the child and the targeted parent. To this end, the alienating parent will lie to the child about the targeted parent‘s true feelings or induce the child to believe that the targeted parent is harmful. There will be an attempt to erase the targeted parent from the child‘s life. Children who are victims of PAS present with the following symptoms: 1. Preoccupation with unjustified deprecation, criticism, and ―hate‖ of the targeted parent. 2. Weak, frivolous, or absurd reasons for the depreciation of the targeted parent. 3. A lack of ambivalence for parents—one parent is totally loved and one parent is totally hated. 4. Absence of guilt for behavior shown toward the targeted parent. 5. Insistence that the decision to reject the target parent is their own. 6. A reflexive unconditional support for the alienating parent. 7. Use of arguments that seem to be adopted wholesale from the alienating parent (e.g., the use of adult concepts and interpretations). 8. Alienation that broadens to the entire family of the targeted parent.
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In addition to presenting the work of those from the cult field, such as Lifton, Lalich, and Hassan, Baker presents the theories of several psychoanalytically oriented therapists. In particular, she offers insights from clinicians such as Herman, van der Kolk, and Benjamin, who are experts in the nature of abusive relationships and trauma situations. Baker describes the defenses the alienated children use, citing reaction formation, denial, and identification with the aggressor. She uses attachment theory as the fundamental developmental theory for her understanding of the tie that binds the child to of the alienating parent. She emphasizes how insecure attachment to this type of parent, who is intermittently rejecting and loving only if he or she is ―served,‖ creates strong insecurity and dependency needs in a child who must show complete loyalty and obedience to ensure that love. However, some alienating parents rule through the use of intimidation and fear rather than through seductive ―love.‖ In either case, this way of relating to the child clearly is emotional abuse, in which the child recognizes that he or she will be rejected, isolated, ignored, terrorized, or threatened with abandonment if he or she does not submit to parental wishes. To avoid pain, the child anxiously maintains a close relationship with the alienating parent. I also would add that the cement that could hold the child‘s loyalty might be the sense of his or her importance to the alienating parent as a replacement figure for the targeted parent. This bond, in part, serves to gratify libidinal and narcissistic feelings, but it exists at a tremendous cost to the child. How have these alienated children come to see things more realistically? As with those who are enslaved in cultic groups, there are multiple possibilities to the answer. As they entered their adolescence and adult lives, these children‘s cognitive abilities became stronger [omit,] and their emotional and physical need to continue to depend on and safeguard that relationship by idealizing the alienating parental figure diminished. Instead, they were beginning to forge close ties with new relationships in the wider world, such as friends and new love relationships. Some children began to become more aware of their alienating parent‘s lies and manipulations as they watched that parent‘s interactions with others. They often began to compare their own family to the families of others. When others spoke with friends, their friends often would question their descriptions of their parents. Some individuals sought therapeutic help for other problems and began to review their childhood with the therapist, who might have questioned their distorted, black-and-white impression of reality. Entrance into new families allowed some of the alienated children to review their original families with more distance. However, Baker points out that those who did not feel basic security with their caretakers were less likely to protect themselves from the exploitation of others as adults. Therefore, these children often had a tendency to repeat the experiences of childhood. Some married a new version of the alienating parent and found themselves becoming the targeted parent within their new family. This highlights an unconscious characteristic tendency to masochistically serve the new relationship as the narcissistic parent was served. All the factors that allow these individuals to escape from a manipulative environment are familiar to those of us who work with second-generation cult members. We are keenly aware of the exploitive behavior of parental figures. Unfortunately, however, too many therapists who are intent upon ―believing the children‖ are blind to the possibility of PAS, to the eventual harm for the children and targeted parents involved. Therapists often become either manipulated or intimidated by the alienating parent‘s story of how the targeted parent is the one who is harmful to the child. And this story is parroted by the child, who
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adopts the parent‘s language. This often occurs because the child does not have language of his or her own—no real experiences to confirm this belief. In this book, Baker offers excellent and thoughtful suggestions for therapists who work with children who might be alienated from one of their parents, for adult children of PAS, and for targeted parents. Baker demonstrates how therapists working with children can focus on specifics rather than simply accept the global or wholesale language of the child. For those working with adults who have experienced PAS in childhood, the therapist‘s role is similar to that of those who work with former cult members. Baker suggests that therapists begin to identify the multiple manipulations the alienating parent has used to help the adult client understand that he or she was prey to a deliberate process of alienation. She also proposes the use of cult literature to further allow the client to gain an appreciation of the mind-control techniques the alienating parent utilized. Additionally, the therapist might offer to meet with the adult child and the targeted parent to clarify what happened to both of them. Baker also offers extremely useful advice for those who have been targeted. She mainly encourages the targeted parent not to believe the child‘s rejecting behavior and to remain as involved as possible with the child. This book is comprehensive, helpful, and clearly written. It contains a great deal of theorybuilding content, illuminating PAS in a more complex way than we have seen in the past. Baker uses poignant clinical vignettes to give us a rich and varied understanding of the struggles of adult children of PAS. With heartbreaking detail, the book stimulates a thorough examination of the harm to both the children and the targeted parent. Baker reminds us that we will find cult leaders not only in cults. This book gives those of us working in the cult area a new avenue for viewing the damage that alienating parental figures might cause. Lorna Goldberg
Power Games: Influence, Persuasion and Indoctrination in Psychotherapy Training Edited by Richard Raubolt, New York, NY: Other Press, 2006. ISBN-10: 1-59051-173-5; ISBN-13: 978-1590511732 (paperback), $32.00. 320 pages Like many other psychologists, my first exposure to the field was through psychoanalytic theory and concepts. Psychoanalysis was daring and bold, and delved into the psychic depths that behavioral psychology dismissed as an unknowable and irrelevant ―black box.‖ Psychoanalysis was science with a human face. It dealt with people, not behavioral contingencies and schedules of reinforcement. Although I later ―converted‖ to a psychology that is more inclusive than dogmatic, I will always have strong if mixed feelings for the faith of my ancestors. Edited by Richard Raubolt and containing a broad range of contributors, Power Games: Influence, Persuasion, and Indoctrination in Psychotherapy Training is a dense and highly important work. It is not for the lay reader. In purpose, scope, and terminology, the book is clearly intended for graduate-level mental-health professionals or others well acquainted with psychotherapeutic and, especially, psychoanalytically oriented theory and practice. The volume is divided into three sections, beginning with several personal accounts. In Section I: Supervisory Experiences: Personal Reflections, the first chapter describes a therapist's involvement with the Center for Feeling Therapy. The second chapter tells of a therapist's wife's experiences with the Bar Lev Educational Association. Then the third
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chapter presents the therapist/husband's responses to the content of chapter 1 and chapter 2, by his wife. These accounts clearly set the tone for many, but not all, of the subsequent chapters in the book. Many later contributors painstakingly reveal their experiences as therapists in training, some within well-known therapy ―cults,‖ but others within traditional psychoanalytic training. Fortunately, although the book is rich in ―complaints‖ (narrative, theory, and conceptualizations of the problem), it also contains some thoughtful solutions in its third and final section. Throughout, the book rarely descends into ―cult-baiting‖ or pejorative or pedantic rationalization. Some of the stories are difficult to read because they are so multilayered, and they attempt to probe into such deep and subtle social psychological processes. The irony of psychotherapy training is that, to become proficient and expect one's clients to trust and be vulnerable, the trainee must do the same in her training. Yet, just as the goal of psychotherapy is the facilitation of mature identity, independence and interdependence (healthy attachments), and productive work/creativity, the goal of psychotherapy training is the facilitation of the trainee's growth into an independent, mature, and wise clinician. Annette Richards tackles this paradox in her discussion of submission vs. surrender. Submission implies a static, one-way interaction in which the personhood of the trainee must submit to that of the trainer, with little or no mutuality. Surrender, on the other hand, is ―more of a state of mind, a yielding, a letting-go, which is the expression of an open system‖ (Richards, p. 31) in which both trainer and trainee are equally vulnerable. Daniel Shaw's chapter 4 in the first section, ―Narcissistic Authoritarianism in Psychoanalysis,‖ is noteworthy. Like Richards, Shaw tackles an aspect of the training relationship that is difficult to nail down. In distinguishing between ―everyday narcissism‖ and ―malignant narcissism‖ in psychoanalytic training, Shaw explains how ―normal‖ narcissism can degenerate into an ―everyday‖ yet authoritarian narcissism that consists of ―minor intrusions of the analyst‘s narcissism in his role as teacher and supervisor‖ that, over the span of psychoanalytic training, accumulates until it causes the trainee to ―develop a ‗false supervisee self‘ based on compliance... [greatly increasing the likelihood] that the supervisee will go on to elicit similar results in his patients‖ (Shaw, p. 75). The authoritarian demand for compliance in psychoanalytic training results in ―suppressing individuality and creativity in [psychoanalytic] candidates in favor of compliance and accommodation ... the Orwellian version of psychoanalysis, of which we should all be afraid‖ (Shaw, p. 76). This form of authoritarian narcissism is more subtle and therefore more difficult to counteract than the malignant narcissism found in cultic groups. ―The malignant narcissist,‖ Shaw notes, ―acts in conformance with the underlying belief that she is perfect, superior, and ultimately entitled, and therefore any means will always justify the end—the end being the fulfillment of the delusion of omnipotent perfection‖ (p. 79). In chapter 5, Marty Livingston discusses and comments on the previous chapters, focusing primarily on the concept of charisma. Charisma in and of itself is neutral; at best, it encourages and invites ―surrender to a process within a safe surround,‖ which leads to ―vulnerable moments‖ that are ―windows for change.‖ The passion of the charismatic leader (or therapist) can lead to a forcefulness that, on the one hand, can allow him or her to enforce safety and containment in an environment that promotes vulnerability and therefore can invite potential abuse (in group therapy, for example). On the other hand, ―the force of the leader‘s personality and conviction can be potentially damaging‖ because vulnerability can also lead to ―shame, disorganization, and unhealthy influence‖ (Livingston, p. 84). In Section II, Theoretical and Technical Considerations, Theodore Dorpat begins chapter 6, ―Covert Methods of Interpersonal Control‖ with the great analogy that ―fish don't know they Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 40
swim in water until they are out of water.‖ That is, until people experience caring, reciprocal, and healthy relationships, they typically don't know ―how much they have been covertly manipulated, controlled, and abused by others‖ (Dorpat, p. 93). Dorpat goes on to eloquently describe covert methods of interpersonal control in therapeutic situations, including ―gaslighting‖ (the deliberate undermining of a client‘s own judgments), questioning/interrogation, confrontation and interpretation of defenses, abrupt changing of the topic, and other methods of fragmenting a client‘s experience. He compares and contrasts therapeutic manipulation with covert methods of interpersonal control in everyday life, such as covert verbal abuse and the use of unspoken presuppositions (the use of subtle underlying assumptions that can direct how an individual thinks). He also critiques the ―idealization of power and mastery over people,‖ the use of indoctrination by large institutions, and behavior modification therapies. He correctly compares the denial of abuse often seen in some cult victims with the denial therapists often see in people who have been physically or sexually abused as children. However, Dorpat's statement that ―covert methods of interpersonal control are used more extensively by nonpsychoanalytic therapists than by psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapists‖ (Dorpat, p. 115) is not backed up by research. He incorrectly notes that psychoanalysts are trained to be neutral and nondirective, when there has been considerable evidence in therapy-process research that there is no such thing as ―nondirective‖ therapy. (This evidence is why Carl Rogers ceased referring to his therapy as ―nondirective therapy‖ in favor of the more accurate descriptor ―client-centered therapy.‖) Recalling his early years as a psychologist at a large mental hospital, Patrick Kavanaugh in chapter 7 seems to echo Erving Goffman (1961) in his description of the psychoanalytic institute as a total institution. He cautions against psychoanalytic candidates being coerced into becoming a ―Lobo Brigade‖ (a term used to describe lobotomized patients who were hospital lawn keepers) who must show absolute obedience to the theoretical orientation of their institute. His chapter weaves together the interconnections among ideology, power, and knowledge, and ends with the conclusion that ―psychoanalytic education in the twentyfirst century must be premised and organized around the freedom to question the structures of our traditional social institutions‖ and the basic assumptions and values of culture (p. 151). As a context for my comments about Michael Lariviere‘s chapter (8) on mimetism, or ―institutional cloning,‖ I will say I am admittedly not a big fan of Jacques Lacan. What I do understand of Lacan has long seemed fairly obvious to me and, in my opinion, has been better expressed by others (even sociologists!). I do not understand a great deal of what Lacan has written and spoken (I have watched—or tried to watch—a few videotaped lectures and interviews). I find myself lost in his use of vague language and overly esoteric references. I had the same reaction to Lariviere‘s chapter. While he attacks the tendency of psychoanalysts to mimic their conceptualization of Freud and Freudian thinking (a process often humorously depicted in the sitcom ―Frasier‖), Lariviere seems to do just that with Lacan. To this admittedly weak reader of Lacan, his chapter seems very ―Lacanian. Richard Raubolt‘s chapter 9 on ―coerced discipleship‖ is entirely unlike Lariviere‘s contribution. Raubolt‘s chapter is concise and to the point. He builds on the classic article on iatrogenic psychotherapy cults by Temerlin and Temerlin (1982). He characterizes indoctrination as occurring by ―seduction or force‖ and as possessing five essential components (p. 171): (1) charismatic, authoritarian, and dominating leadership; (2) dichotomous and stereotypical thinking; (3) affiliation with an institution or group that fosters conflicting relationships; (4) cycling of trauma and retraumatization; and (5) theft of language. He provides several clear examples of each component, and his discussion of the different kinds of coercive leadership styles is especially illuminating.
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Section III of this volume is titled ―Supervisory Alternatives.‖ Here, in respective chapters, analysts Paula Fuqua, Conrad Lecomte, Joan Sarnat, and Arthur Gray share their experiences as supervisors struggling with the authority and power inherent in the psychoanalytic training process. Then in the next chapter, Gershon Molad and Judith Vida tackle the difficult issue of identification and introjection in training. The final two chapters, the first by Irene Harwood and the last by volume editor Raubolt, attempt to synthesize and address these issues and provide suggested solutions. In chapter 11, it is relieving to read Fuqua‘s description of ―a dilemma full of emotional and ethical challenges‖ (p. 212) she experienced with two supervisees. Her theoretical approach, which combines Kohutian self-psychology and intersubjectivity, is one I can deeply appreciate. One case in particular resonated with some of my own experiences. I once supervised a promising but very emotionally damaged young therapist who was initially painfully honest with me while she hid her true feelings and thoughts from other supervisors. Like Fuqua, I attempted to ―create an empathic bond... [and] divert some of her mirroring selfobject needs into our relationship‖ (p. 216). My situation did not end as successfully as Fuqua‘s, however. In part because I failed to exercise my power and authority, my supervisee eventually decompensated, and her subsequent behavior almost cost me my job (to this date, she has not obtained her license). In Fuqua‘s example, her supervisee eventually broke off dysfunctional relationships with her husband and her iatrogenic therapist. As Fuqua aptly concludes: ―In the end, the supervisor‘s authority and expertise [are] a double-edged sword. [We] have the potential to foster growth or create pain, harm, and havoc, and we don‘t always know which will result‖ (pp. 217-218). Conrad Lecomte begins chapter 12 by reminding us that training centers tend to advocate one of three approaches to supervision. Some programs attempt primarily to teach mastery of specific strategies and techniques. Many cognitive-behavioral-oriented programs probably fall into this category. The second type of training emphasizes proper and thorough patient assessment and diagnosis. The ―therapist-focused‖ programs rely heavily on exploring the therapist‘s internal process and experiences as primary contributors to the therapeutic enterprise. Lecomte advocates an integrative training model that ―fosters an empathicintrospective, affect-attuned approach of listening to and exploring the therapist‘s experience‖ within a ―reflective space in supervision‖ (p. 236). Developing and conveying this ―safe‖ space during supervision is primarily the responsibility of the supervisor, who must continuously struggle toward increased competence, which Lecomte defines as ―the self-awareness and regulation of one‘s own ongoing organizing activity in interacting with similarly and differently organized perspectives‖ (p. 239). To me, Lecomte seems to be arguing for deep awareness and appreciation of intersubjectivity. Supervision of supervision may be necessary; the ultimate goal for both supervisee and supervisor is the development of an ―internal supervisor‖ (see note). I found Joan Sarnat‘s chapter on authority relations (chapter 13) interesting and highly approachable. Working from a relational perspective, Sarnat encourages the supervisory relationship to be one of ―mutual vulnerability.‖ Over the years, I have found my most meaningful supervisory relationships (both as supervisor and supervisee) to be those in which both parties take risks and become engaged in a growth process that might occasionally be very uncomfortable. Sarnat implores supervisors to challenge their supervisees‘ enthrallment with an ―authoritative‖ clinical theory, but also to be open to their own conflicts, to seek peer consultation, and, on occasion, to share the struggle with their supervisees. Disclosure can model and ―demonstrate a self-analytic process, by speaking about the workings of [the supervisor‘s] mind as it shows up on [the supervisory] relationship‖ (p. 265). Recognizing the inherent extra vulnerability of the trainee, Sarnat also urges the supervisor to adapt him/herself to the supervisee‘s ―narcissistic vulnerability‖ (p. 268). Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 42
In chapter 14, Arthur Gray presents a structured group-supervision model as a means of both leveling the field and making training more efficient. His six-step group-supervision model begins with a presentation of the situation, followed with a discussion of the presenter‘s approach to the situation. The problem to be addressed in supervision is then presented, and the group discusses whether this approach addresses the problem. In the last two stages, the group considers alternative approaches to the problem, and then concludes with a discussion of what has been learned. The result, according to Gray, is that the group creates the supervision experience together; all participants have the opportunity to become empowered. Gray‘s structured group process seems logical and forthright, but I can see how it can easily be undermined by a charismatic/authoritarian group leader and the creation of ―in‖ and ―out‖ subgroups within the larger group. Gray‘s chapter would be strengthened by a discussion of how to recognize and deal with the dynamics that might lead to an iatrogenic group-supervision experience. Chapter 15 by Molad and Vida attempts the difficult task of differentiating identification (including identification with the aggressor) and introjection. Both processes can involve love, but the former is the result of aggression and fear in which the ―victim‖ capitulates to, and joins with, the ―aggressor.‖ In contrast, introjection involves a ―surrender and giving-in (yielding) [and is] more suggestive of something quieter, like devotion‖ (p. 298). Distinguishing between two kinds of love that might involve very similar feeling but are ultimately very different processes is a daunting task that may be too subjective for any meaningful generalizations. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this chapter is undermined by its over-reliance on psychoanalytic theory and terminology, to the point of becoming almost inaccessible to the ―common‖ therapist with a minimum of psychoanalytic training. Power Games’ concluding chapters 16 and 17 take different approaches to achieving closure. Harwood comments one by one on the third-section authors‘ chapters. Her approach is personal and self-reflective. To me, hers is a model of the self-analytic process that clearly underlies all the solutions presented in this volume, and I appreciate her honesty and willingness to open her process to so many unknown readers. I found myself in agreement with her support for Gray‘s group-supervision process, and I shared her difficulty with the chapter by Molad and Vida. Finally, volume editor Richard Raubolt returns to some of the warnings in this book‘s earlier chapters. He discusses behaviors and signs that might suggest that supervision has become a traumatic process, or may be triggering retraumatization. He seems to echo Fuqua‘s use of a self-psychology perspective, quoting E. Wolf‘s admonition that ―one of the most basic aspects of supervision or consultation should be the reduction of the [student‘s] fragmentation anxiety‖ (p. 336). The goal should be ―the strengthening of the student‘s self ... teaching has to merge into healing before it will result in learning‖ (p. 337). Raubolt concludes with his own set of nine carefully thought-out training/supervision recommendations designed to encourage the search for ―paradigms in professional education that focus on finding ‗truth‘ in the supervisee and in the supervisor through the mutually developed relationship between them‖ (p. 338). Note: Interestingly, although never cited, a recent work by experiential psychotherapist/trainer Jeffrey Kottler (2003) makes the very same recommendation, and provides considerable practical advice about how to develop an internal supervisor. References Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. New York, Doubleday. Kottler, Jeffrey A., & Jones. W. Paul. (2003). Doing Better: Improving Clinical Skills and Professional Competence. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
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Temerlin, M., & Temerlin, J. (1982). Psychotherapy cults: An iatrogenic perversion. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 19, 131-141. Steve K. D. Eichel, Ph.D., ABPP
Weapons of Fraud: A Source Book for Fraud Fighters Anthony Pratkanis and Doug Shadel, Seattle, WA: AARP Washington, 2005. ASIN: B000IZ8UH2 (paperback), available free of charge from AARP. 241 pages. All of us, at some time in our lives, have wished for that magical solution to our problems, whether it be money, a new car, or an extended trip to a faraway land. As Jiminy Cricket sang, ―When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.‖ Our desire for an easy solution that will make our dreams come true increases our vulnerability to exploitation and devastating loss. Weapons of Fraud, A Source Book for Fraud Fighters, by Anthony Pratkanis and Doug Shadel, provides a disturbing but fascinating study of social-influence tactics that common criminals use in fraudulent telemarketing techniques. According to research conducted in several statewide surveys around the country, these methods have victimized 26 percent of the entire U.S. adult population at some point in their lives. Every year, these victims, 57 percent of whom are over the age of 50, lose a total of $40 billion to telemarketing fraud alone, according to a 2001 AARP survey. Basing their research on a social psychology model, the authors‘ primary focus is to educate seniors about fraud and how to protect themselves. As a licensed psychotherapist specializing in cult recovery, and a former member of an ―Eastern‖ cult in the ‗70s, I believe that Weapons of Fraud has a broader appeal: to educate those who have been significantly affected by cultic groups or relationships. Reading this book and listening to its attached CD of actual recordings of ―con criminals‖ (the term the authors use rather than ―con artists‖) at work, I recognized that the social influence tactics employed are akin to those used by some cult leaders. Con criminals might pose as CEOs, entrepreneurs, employers, even cult leaders. Regardless of the role these criminals take—supposed officials promising a $250,000 cash award, or self-proclaimed ―spiritual masters‖—they work to establish trust with the victim, make the pitch seem legitimate, and close the deal, thus exploiting basic human nature. We instinctively want to trust those who seem to be ―friends,‖ to expect honesty and concern from those in our social group, to believe authority figures, and to take advantage of a rare or time-limited opportunity. The authors of Weapons of Fraud studied 645 undercover audiotapes of telephone communications between ―con criminals‖ and undercover investigators who posed as elderly victims who had fallen for multiple scams and had received numerous calls each day. Many of the chronic victims were retired women, often widowed, aged 70+ who lived alone. These recurring victims respond to any and every type of phone and mail solicitation, and they are unable, or unwilling, to stop answering the phone and writing the checks. Friends, family members, and professionals are often highly frustrated when they try to influence the victims‘ behavior because their thought and behavior patterns and/or cognitive impairments make change difficult. The defrauded use the psychological defenses of denial and rationalization to protect themselves from making the painful admission that they are victims of scams and have actually lost most, if not all, of their money. These defensive behaviors may involve the following: The more you do something and the more committed you are to believing it‘s helpful, the more you need to defend its
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helpfulness (even when confronted by facts to the contrary) in order to justify having done it in the past and continuing to do it in the future. In reading the above, I‘m reminded of my own process in extricating myself from the cult in which I was involved, and discovering the fierceness with which remaining or newly recruited members defended the cult, despite clear evidence of the leader‘s deception. And I‘m aware of the deep emotional pain of my clients who seek professional help to recover from their cult experience or to help loved ones currently controlled by cultic groups or cultic relationships. With cons and cults, ―it‘s all about the money.‖ Cautioning the reader that anyone and everyone can become a fraud victim, Weapons of Fraud demystifies and unravels how even the most ―street smart‖ person can be taken for a ride. One of the main ways con criminals succeed is by creating a ―phantom‖ or ―wonderland of the mind,‖ and what social psychologists call ―the power of the situation.‖ These terms refer to an artificial situation or a fantasy of something that people want but can‘t have. An example is what occurs when passengers board a boat at Disneyland‘s popular ―The Pirates of the Caribbean‖ ride. Each person is quickly taken to a different time and place where ―it‘s a pirate‘s life for me.‖ As they listen to the pirates singing, and they observe all the details, these newly recruited ―pirates‖ focus on the ride—what is inside the situation—and do not concern themselves with the rationality of their experience. Social psychologists have found that, in such artificially created situations, people will do things they wouldn‘t ordinarily do. Although the entertainment at Disneyland is harmless, the situation created by a fraud criminal can be disastrous. An elderly woman who was part of the book‘s study had lost $300,000—her life savings— about 18 months after she responded to her first fraudulent sweepstakes mailing. She had been encouraged to buy merchandise to increase her chances of winning the big prize. The mailings, which contained pictures of others who had won ―big money‖ seemed compelling. Soon she was spending almost every minute of every day involved in sweepstakes activity, responding to a huge volume of sweepstakes-related mail and answering 12 to 15 phone solicitations a day. She didn‘t think she was sending money to a criminal; she thought she was participating in a legitimate game of chance that would increase the size of her nest egg. My gut tightened as I listened to the recorded abuse of an investigator posing as an elderly victim while the con executed what the authors call a ―Free Prize Pitch.‖ (Social-influence tactics are in bold type in the following descriptions.) The criminal uses an artificially created situation, or phantom, for a woman who has been victimized in multiple scams: He promises her a $50,000 cashier‘s check. Next, he uses fear and intimidation, authority, and scarcity tactics. He warns her that he is the person who allocates the awards, and if she doesn‘t comply with him, he will give the award to someone else. He doesn‘t reply directly when she asks, ―What does it cost me?‖ Instead, he threatens that she must be ―courteous and kind with me, as I‘m certainly set out to do with you,‖ or her $50,000 check is going to someone else. The criminal profiles the victim, or collects information to ascertain what money is available to her. He uses the tactic of reciprocity in telling her that her taxes on the prize will be covered, and she must cover the bonding, insurance, and registration fees before she will receive the money. The con criminal feigns friendship (I’m on your side), saying he will take care of her, and he alternates this tactic with fear and intimidation: I need some cooperation from you. And if I don‘t get it, you‘re hurting yourself. This is enough money for you to set up anybody that you care about and go to your grave knowing that you went and did the right thing, and you can go and meet God with a clear conscience. Now what do you want to do? Do you want your winnings? Or do you want me to just go ahead and hang up the phone with you and forget I ever saw your name? Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 45
Coincidentally, I recently saw a film of a cult leader using the same tactics toward a member, alternating kindness and threats, manipulating through the phantom or ―wonderland of the mind,‖ using her ―special status to assert her authority over the member‘s life. I was struck by the similarity between the bullying and ridiculing tone of the con criminal and that of the guru. Imploring victims of fraud not to blame themselves, the authors of Weapons of Fraud remind us to have compassion for ourselves: ―It is not something you did, but something the criminal did to you.‖ They provide readers with ways to avoid victimization: 1) Don‘t divulge personal information for a contest. This information could become part of a list to be sold online to other con criminals. 2) Firmly tell telemarketers you don‘t want to talk to them, and hang up if they persist. 3) Don‘t send any money for trinkets or for taxes on the ―big prize.‖ 4) Be aware of social-influence tactics as weapons against fraud. And 5) learn the Seven Scam Types listed below: 1. Investment Scams: Scams in which the con is attempting to get the potential victim to invest in a new company, technology, Website, movie deal, and so on. 2. Coin Investment Scams: Scams in which the con is selling the victim gold coins as an investment. Usually the victim receives the coins; however, the con greatly exaggerates their value, and the victim pays considerably more than the coins are worth. 3. Reload Scams: Scams in which the con claims that he or she can recover money that the victim previously lost to fraudulent companies. The victim is responsible for paying ―taxes‖ or ―fees‖ for this service. 4. Credit Card/Identity Theft Scams: Scams in which the con offers protection from identity theft or from credit-card theft. Usually, the protection covers only fraudulent charges to credit cards or unauthorized bank transactions. The purpose of these scams is for the con to obtain the victim‘s credit card numbers, banking information, or Social Security number to use in making unauthorized bank withdrawals or creditcard charges. 5. Sweepstakes Scams: Scams in which the con claims the victim is the winner of a sweepstakes contest; prizes may be cash, cars, vacations, electronics, jewelry, and so on. Usually, the victim must pay ―taxes‖ on the prize or make a purchase from the company. In many cases, the victim may receive a prize that is considerably less valuable than the con originally claimed. 6. Lottery Scams: Scams in which the con criminal sells tickets to play in lottery clubs. In these clubs, the victim plays a set of numbers with a number of other players. The con misleads the victim on the odds of winning and the amounts to be won. If there are winnings, they are split between all members in the club and are therefore usually very small amounts (sometimes less than $1.00). 7. Travel Scams: Scams in which the con is offering various travel packages. These packages usually involve a one-time fee, and frequently the packages cover either airfare or hotel, but usually not both. In cases when both are covered, the victims have to attend an information session about some type of time-share opportunity while they‘re on the vacation. The scam sometimes involves taking the victims‘ money and never providing any benefit at all. Weapons of Fraud provides vital information about social-influence tactics that can be used to sell a vacation or a lifestyle. And it clarifies how people can be vulnerable to common
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scams while it offers potential victims concrete ways to protect themselves. Colleen Russell, LMFT
Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time: A Psychological Study of Destructive Cult Leaders from Reverend Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden Peter A. Olsson, Baltimore, MD: Publish America, 2005. ISBN-10: 141377668X; ISBN-13: 978-1413776683 (paperback), $19.95. 205 pages. Outside of a few hermits, inmates in isolation, or stranded mariners, very few people from small children to seniors are not enmeshed in one or more of a variety of groups. Groups provide us with security, entertainment, fellowship, identity, purpose, and so on. The leaders of these groups might be constructive, benign, or destructive. In analyzing these leaders, specialists from investigative reporters to mental-health practitioners to scientists and lawyers apply their distinctive vocabularies and philosophies. Malignant Pied Pipers The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, immortalized by Goethe, Browning, and the Grimm brothers might describe a medieval cult leader: The Pied Piper is a magical figure who punishes a medieval town by bewitching a group of young people. First, the piper charms away the rats and mice of the town with his flute. When the citizens refuse to pay him his fee, the piper entices their children to follow him to their doom. In these days, psychoanalyst Peter Olsson likens Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charlie Manson, Shoko Asahara, Marshall Applewhite, Luc Jouret and Joe DiMambro, and Osama bin Laden to malignant pied pipers (MPPs). In this book, Olsson presents a brief biography, followed by a Freudian interpretation and a diagnosis for each of these destructive cult leaders. He concludes, ...all the Malignant Pied Pipers in my study have predominant characteristics of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the additional elements of Malignant Narcissism. I do not quibble with colleagues who favor or add the diagnosis of Antisocial or Psychopathic Personality Disorder. (p. 25) Olsson relies, with reservations, on the American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) (2000), which is the bible of some mental-health workers, but which for behavioral scientists lacks in validity and reliability. The book‘s conversational style is readable and the summaries about each cult leader informative. For example, Olsson concludes that all the MPPs had problems with their fathers, and most were dysfunctional sexually. Such generalizations might obscure differences among leaders and their groups. For example, neither Applewhite nor bin Laden exploited the public for money, and al Qaeda terrorists are quite unlike the children and senior citizens who died at Jonestown. A minor quibble: I think Olsson overemphasizes the prevalence of killer cultists (Dole, 2006); over three decades, only Manson, Asahara, and bin Laden were aggressively homicidal toward harmless outsiders. Psychoanalytic Theory Whether or not you like this book might depend on your attitude toward psychoanalytic theory. In my opinion, Sigmund Freud was a genius who, through direct observation of his patients, intuitively developed a powerful theory of human behavior. Olsson has applied Freud‘s conceptions and his vocabulary deductively to the MPPs. For example, he writes about the leader of the Branch Davidians at Waco, ―Koresh‘s knowing remark about his followers‘ rebellion is an example of projective identification which is typical of all MPPs I have studied‖ (page 67). Note that in writing each chapter about a succession of cult leaders he has relied upon selected secondary sources, on books and articles, to deduce Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 47
such unconscious processes. In contrast, an effective practicing psychiatrist would use several interviews, a case history, and a psychological evaluation before making a diagnosis and identifying major dynamics. Other Views It is instructive to compare briefly other specialists who have written extensively about some of the same MPPs. Thus, James Reston, Jr., in his book on Jim Jones (Reston, 1981) and the People‘s Temple at Jonestown, used the methods of an expert investigative reporter who narrates a story fairly and objectively. Robert Lifton (1968), a creative psychiatrist and cult expert, has built a detailed case history (not cited in Pied Pipers) about Shoko Asahara (2000), based on his interviews and observations of the Aum Shimryko cult in Japan. Sociologist Janja Lalich (2004a, 2004b), also not cited, has used an inductive method to accumulate her very detailed data mass about Marshall Applewhite and Heavens Gate, justifying her original theory: bounded choice. I suspect that the experimental clinical psychologist Scott Lillienfeld (Lillienfeld, Lynn, & Lohr, 2003) would consider as pseudoscience Olsson‘s references to ―hypnotic seduction,‖ ―uncanny encounters,‖ ―apocalyptic vision.‖ and ―dark epiphany‖ in regard to Osama bin Laden. And if Osama is a malignant magician, are al Qaeda enchanted children? Lillienfeld might argue that it is better to rely on fact-based evidence, random sampling, and the double-blind experiment to build hypotheses about cult leaders and their followers. Finally, criminal-justice systems encourage distinctive views about the violations of Jones, Koresh, Manson, and Asahara. Narcissistic Disorder is not a crime; murder is. That is, lawyers stress evidence, adversarial argumentation, and the rule of law. Help What about help for cult victims? Drawing on 20 years of experience, Olsson has many wise suggestions. He recommends long-term psychotherapy for cult victims (as well as for their families), active love, praise and support, patience, and information. But, he warns, ―Deprogrammers often provide a treatment than [sic] is worse than the disease‖ (page 164). Although he does cite Michael Langone, Margaret Singer, and Robert Lifton, surprisingly Olsson says nothing about the International Cultic Studies Association, exit consultation, or rehabilitation centers such as Wellspring. Who then should read Malignant Pied Pipers? Mental-health workers who are comfortable with Freud and his followers can recommend it to their patients for its overview of destructive cult leaders. Those who are curious about an experienced, intuitive psychoanalyst‘s perspective will find it instructive. The book has a number of ideas worth trying on for size. For example, after concluding that our culture creates MPPs, Olsson writes, ―Only carefully cultivated independence of reason, highly developed intuition, and strength of character can help us recognize and stop a Malignant Pied Piper‖ (p. 177). References American Psychiatric Association (2000) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual--Mental Disorders, IV, Arlington, VA: author. Dole, A. A. (2006). Are terrorists cultists? Cultic Studies Review, 5, 198–218. Lalich, J. (2004a). Bounded choice: True believers and charismatic cults. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Lalich, J. (2004b). Using the bounded choice model as an analytical tool: A case study of Heaven‘s Gate. Cultic Studies Review, 3, 226–246. Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought reform and the psychology of totalism. New York: W. W. Norton. Lifton, R. J. (2000). Destroying the world to save it. New York: Holt. Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 48
Lillienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J. & Lohr, J. M. (Eds.) (2003). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology. New York: Guilford. Reston, J. (1981). Our father who art in hell: The life and death of Jim Jones. New York: Times Books. Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D., ABPP
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New Summaries Details on these and other news reports are available in the ICSA E-Library.
British security agency sources say Al Qaeda has recruited as many as 1,500 white Britons — converted to Islam by Muslim fellow prisoners while incarcerated — to carry out terrorist attacks inside the U.K. The process begins with simple consolation and leads over a period of months to conversion. A security specialist based in The Netherlands said, ―Newcomers to Islam are extra-sensitive to perceived discrimination of Muslims and Islam-bashing. They feel they have to defend Islam‖ — one of the essential meanings of jihad — ―and they feel they have to prove themselves as newcomers.‖ The Japanese government‘s intelligence agency estimates that Aum Shinrikyo (now calling itself Aleph) numbered some 1,500 followers at the end of November, down by about 150 from the year 2000. The agency attributed the decline to internecine conflicts. A splinter group under Fumihiro Joyu numbers 210, up from 163 at mid-year. The agency still considers Aum a threat. Congress‘s Government Accountability Office in October released a report — including 10 case studies — examining accounts of widespread abuse of thousands of troubled young people in privately run, largely unregulated boot camps and residential treatment centers across the country. The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, which defends the industry, says accusations of abuse and death are ―the noisy complaints of a few individuals.‖ California House member George Miller compared the programs to torture. ―If you walked into this [hearing] room, you‘d think we were talking about human rights abuses in third world countries.‖ Rep. Kildee of Michigan said wilderness programs used membership in the trade association as a kind of ―Good Housekeeping seal of approval,‖ providing parents with a false sense of security. A Miami jury in October acquitted seven guards and a nurse accused of aggravated manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, a black, at a boot camp in the Florida Panhandle. The child had been kicked and hit after he stopped running during a drill. The jurors were all white, while the defendants were black, white, and Asian. Last year, then Governor Bush, once a proponent of boot camps, signed a law, named for young Anderson, that closed Florida‘s boot camps and sharply restricted the use of force at the institutions that replaced them, which are now supposed to emphasize education, vocational training, and counseling. The Montreal trial of Daniel Cormier, 56, on a number of sexual exploitation charges, was highlighted in December by the refusal of one of his alleged victims — whom Cormier says he married a decade ago, when she was 10 — refused to testify face-to-face against him but did so over closed circuit TV from another courtroom. ―He manipulates people and gets them to say what he wants,‖ she said. ―I don‘t want to be in the same courtroom as him.‖ She added that Cormier, head of the Church of Downtown Montreal, won‘t leave her alone; she says he set up an account on Facebook, pretending to be her, and wrote about their so-called marriage. Cormier believes that the institution of marriage justifies sex with underage girls. The Cape Cod-based Community of Jesus appears to have moderated and evolved in recent years, especially following the 1988 death of leader Mother Cay and the retirement of Mother Judy. Leaders‘ control of members has been relaxed and people who live offsite are now accepted as members. . . The Globe and Mail (Toronto) of 9/4/07 published a case study of an aggrieved former Community member.
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China has accused the Dalai Lama of supporting ―evil cults‖ such as Falun Gong and Aum Shinrikyo, saying, ―Not only has he no hatred toward evil cults but instead shows a great deal of compassion for them.‖ The statement said that the Tibetan Nobel laureate had supported Aum leader Shoko Asahara and Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi. Six weeks after Sen. Charles Grassley asked a number of well-known evangelical ministries that preach a ―prosperity gospel‖ to provide information on how they spent donors‘ money, only two have complied — Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Joyce Meyer Ministries. For example, Grassley asked Meyer the tax-exempt purpose of a $23,000 ―commode with marble top‖ for her headquarters. Two of the ministries declined to cooperate with Grassley‘s inquiry, one saying that the request ―clearly disregards the privacy protections of the church under the law and appears to cross the line of constitutional guarantees for churches.‖ Some legal and church scholars say an examination of tax-exempt organizations, including churches, is lawful. None of the targeted ministries belongs to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Grassley‘s probe, which included non-profits such as the Nature Conservancy and the Smithsonian Institution, led to many calls from whistle-blowers about numerous churches. Despite having been accused of being an ―extremist cult ― that ―breaks up families‖ by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, before he was elected, his new government has now guaranteed the Exclusive Brethren $10 million for its 31 schools. Rudd, who had promised in his electioneering to maintain funding levels for all non-government schools, said in 2006: ―Based on my advice [the Exclusive Brethren] actively discourage children from using information technology [and] from learning how to use computers properly because they will provide avenues of contact with the outside world.‖ The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in November, apparently in response to a complaint from the Chinese embassy, replaced a program on persecution of the Falun Gong in China with a repeat of a documentary on Pervez Musharraf, meanwhile saying it will review the piece on Falun Gong in light of the complaint. . . . The Chinese consulate in New York in December strongly urged State Assemblyman Michael Benjamin — Democrat of the South Bronx — to boycott a Chinese New Year celebration he‘s promised to attend because two festival shows were being produced by New Tang Dynasty, a satellite broadcaster staffed mainly by members of Falun Gong. The consulate said the event ―is very deceitful, aimed actually at propagating the cult and undermining China-US relations.‖ Benjamin refused to boycott, saying he objected to equating Falun Gong with American cults. He believes the latter ―are more closely related to the ‗Cult of Mao‘ that enabled your government to institute the Cultural Revolution, where several hundred thousand teachers, village leaders, peasants, and intellectuals were imprisoned or executed.‖ Benjamin, who has often defended Falun Gong in the legislature, sponsored a resolution condemning Chinese treatment of Falun Gong, and once introduced a group of practitioners on the Assembly floor. Stating that he would attend a show reception, Benjamin declared: ―They can only intimidate Chinese Americans who have families back home.‖ The British Columbia attorney-general, after reviewing allegations, says he will not recommend bringing sexual assault charges — stemming from the alleged forced marriages of underage women to older men — against the Bountiful branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but he may ask the courts to rule on the constitutionality of polygamy. Government lawyers concluded that there was not a substantial likelihood of conviction on the assault charges, and that it is uncertain whether or not freedom of religion protects the practice. In settling a cilvil rights lawsuit, the owner of Vermillion Deli and Candy Shoppe and Big Dan‘s Drive Thru, in polygamous Colorado City, AZ, agreed to serve would-be diners who do not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 51
restaurants agreed to educate employees about the new policy and to report to the state any refusal-to-serve incidents. A $1 billion class action suit has been filed on behalf of several former students against Ontario‘s Grenville Christian College and ex-headmasters Rev. Alastair Haig and Rev. Charles Farnsworth alleging a host of physical abuses and humiliations going back to the 1970s. The suit has the potential to include 3,500 to 5,000 additional former students. It contends that teachers and staff subjected students whom they identified as needing ―spiritual healing or discipline‖ to forced prayer, ostracism, and ―light sessions‖ — staff would wake students at night, take them to a dark room, shine a bright light in their faces, and then berate and humiliate then until they renounced their alleged sins. Teachers at the school — which was financed and overseen or run by the Anglican Church of Canada and the Community of Jesus — would encourage students to join in denouncing sinners. Female students accused of being unchaste were denounced as whores and sluts. The result is that some former students suffer anxiety and depression and are not able to form intimate relationships or participate in normal family life. A justice of the Irish High Court directed in late December that the prematurely-born child of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents be given a blood transfusion to treat a serious current condition if such a step becomes medically necessary. Fifteen members of the Shinto-like Kigenkai, thought now to be led by Yasuko Kubota, were indicted in Nagano, Japan, for ritually beating to death 63-year-old follower Motoko Okuno in September at the group‘s opulent facility, in Komoro. Okuno‘s daughter, Michiko, had jokingly shown a condom to Kubota‘s granddaughter, saying it was a protective amulet that would guarantee prosperity. Following Michiko‘s punishment for this — she was made to wear a trash bag plastered with condoms, and members beat her up — fifty women in the group attacked her mother, Motoko, with fists and feet, pushed a fake gun into her mouth, caked her face in ritual chalk, and rode her like a horse, using her hair as reins. They told her she also had to pay for her daughter‘s crime. Girls as young as 15 were urged to join in the attack or risk never becoming ―children of the gods.‖ A bottle of ―magical water,‖ sold to members to cure ailments, failed to revive Motoko. Authorities cannot yet explain how such a thought control group could have formed and operated so inconspicuously, although locals report that Kigenkai has become more and more eccentric since it began drawing members from all over the country some 30 years ago. This was a decade after the arrival in town of Kensuke Matsui, from Yokahama, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Yamoto Takeru no Mikoto, a prince of the Yamoto dynasty. Former follower Mikiko, 68, tells how Matsui, then calling himself ―The Teacher,‖ cured her terrible migraines by absolving her of the sin, as he explained it, of walking through the gates of a Shinto shrine with her baby while the child was still too young safely to do so. Her whole family then joined the nascent group. Everyone was happy until around 1970, when Mitsui said he wanted to be known as the ―Great Deity.‖ Soon, the Ministry of Education recognized Keigenkai as a religion, the sect headquarters moved up to the top of a hill overlooking town, Matsui started selling Kigen-sui water, and people began sending him envelopes full of cash. A festival drew 5,000 uniformed followers to celebrate the birth of the ―second messiah,‖ Matsui‘s daughter, who on her first day at school arrived in a crimson Rolls Royce and stepped out onto a red carpet. Matsui grew more doctrinaire and insisted that followers rely solely on the special water for medical treatment. Visits to doctors were punished. Mikiko, now suffering from acute stomach pains, finally went to see an out-of-town physician, who diagnosed her with cancer. Unable, nonetheless, to reject the guru, Mikiko told Mitsui of the diagnosis, and he Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 52
prescribed more magical water. Any alternative she tried would lead her, he said, to bankruptcy and death. In extremis, she had a surgeon remove three-quarters of her stomach. ―That‘s when I stopped believing.‖ Thousands of followers living out of town are thought to have lost their faith following the 2002 death from pancreatic cancer of Mitsui himself, but leaders — including Mitsui‘s daughter — try to stem the losses by ever-stricter controls over those who remain. Dozens of Mount Pleasant, NY, residents at a late December town hall meeting objected strenuously to Legion of Christ plans to build a co-educational liberal arts university in this Westchester County municipality. Some in the town fear a loss of revenue on land that now generates $1 million in taxes. One resident referred to the recent Vatican censure of the order‘s founder for molesting teenage students . . . Meanwhile, Pope Benedict in December directed the Legion to eliminate ―private vows‖ enjoining members to avoid criticizing superiors. The Legion‘s critics argue that the vows hinder reform of the organization. Idaho businessman and writer Dave Lakhani, who was once a cult member, has written ―Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want‖ (Wiley, 2005), which teaches business owners how to persuade customers to buy from them by using scientifically proven persuasion techniques that avoid the unethical manipulation characteristic of cults. Appreciation for his mother‘s deep, long lived attachment to the cult in which she brought up her children led Lakhani to think: ‖Shouldn‘t every business have customers this convicted [sic], and if they ever leave, shouldn‘t they always wonder if they made the right decision?‖ He thinks that by applying key principles of persuasion almost anyone can become a better persuader and create a cultish ―brand,‖ for example Jimmy Buffet Parrot Heads or Harley Riders. The key is to initiate subconscious behavior patterns that allow the persuader to achieve a predictable result, leading not simply to loyalty, but a sense that the attachment provides salvation. The difference between cultic and legitimate persuasion is ―intent. If you intend to manipulate, you are focused only on your own outcome and usually at someone else‘s expense. Persuaders simply help people come to their own best conclusion while remembering that the person being persuaded always has a choice. When cult brands are created, choice always remains at the forefront of the process rather than being systematically destroyed, as is the reality in destructive cults.‖ Lakhani is head of Bold Approach, Inc., a Business Acceleration Strategy™ firm. Hundreds of young members of Nairobi‘s Mungiki gang have been murdered in the past six months in what the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights calls an extra-judicial crackdown, apparently involving the police, who have been unable to contain the gang using legal methods. The crackdown was apparently retaliation for a Mungiki rampage earlier this year that left hundreds dead — some beheaded and mutilated — in downtown Nairobi. President Mwai Kibaki had promised a crackdown on Mungiki; previous presidents cultivated the group‘s support. Executives and leading associates of the Albany, NY-based NXIVM, the executive and group-awareness training organization that has been accused by former devotees of being a cult, have donated some $30,000 to Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign. Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs of the Seagram fortune and wealthy supporters of NXIVM, are said to have given millions to NXIVM. Their father, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., took NXIVM classes at one time but subsequently said, ―It‘s a cult.‖ The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has expressed the hope that Opus Dei, which recently opened a headquarters in the city, will not proselytize among Orthodox Christians. In return for a share of power in running Oral Robert University, Mart Green, fonder of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, has promised to donate $62 million to the Tulsa institution, whose president, Richard Roberts, recently resigned amid allegations that his family misspent university and ministry money to support a lavish lifestyle. Green said his Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 53
proposal ―will focus on accepted twenty-first century shared governance principles,‖ which the American Federation of Teachers describes as a model under which college faculty and staff participate in significant decisions concerning the operation of their institutions.‖ As the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, in Yelm, WA, has drawn attention to its economic contributions to the county — 6,000 students pass through annually — criticism of the gated community has also risen. Former Ramtha students in the area have founded the Life After Ramtha School of Enlightenment, charging the establishment, through the stories of aggrieved former followers, with ―fear-generating teachings and wild predictions designed to foster obedience at the school,‖ as well as ―brainwashing‖ and cult-like activities. A Ramtha spokesman called the accusers ―a few disgruntled people.‖ A judge in the late 1980s did not accept the argument of Knight‘s husband in their divorce case that she had brainwashed him, and a witness at the trial, J. Gordon Melton, head of the Institute for the Study of Religion, testified that Ramtha school dynamics did not distinguish it from any other large church or spiritual group. Recently, Ramtha founder JZ Knight — who claims to channel an ancient spiritual warrior — has sued another spiritual teacher in the county for stealing her personal improvement ideas and teachings. The rising profile of Scientology in Germany in recent years has led to renewed efforts by the 16 state governments‘ interior ministries to collect evidence that would lead to banning the organization. The new initiative may have been spurred by a national furor that arose when the Defense Ministry temporarily barred a film company from access to a key location because Scientologist Tom Cruise had the title role. Those supporting the current effort feel prospects improved following a court decision to allow continued surveillance of the organization on the grounds that its activities were a threat to German constitutional protections and the right of Germans to exercise their political will, the right to equal treatment, and guarantees against bodily harm. The judge said that Scientology brainwashes members. (A judge in 1995 ruled that Scientology did not deserve the legal protections accorded to religions and that it was not, in fact, a religious group but rather ―masquerading as a religion in order to make a profit.‖) German analysts, and some government officials speaking anonymously, do not believe that Scientology will be banned. One says that if illegal activities of some Scientologists were a criterion for banning, priestly pedophilia should lead to calls for outlawing the Catholic Church. Another pointed to the high political costs of a ban — the U.S. has already criticized Germany for restricting Scientology. Others say banning might make the Scientologists into martyrs for religious freedom, even as the church seems to be declining — according to the Suddeutsche Zeitung — thanks to anti-Scientology monitoring and educational efforts by the state, political parties, the established church, and trade unions. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeble seems to be leaning toward education rather than banning, even as he acknowledges Scientology‘s ―unconstitutionality.‖ Scientology in December concluded a $4.75 million deal to purchase the 78-year-old former Ramona hotel in Sacramento, which they‘ll renovate. . . Scientology is trying to remove from the Internet a video of Tom Cruise passionately promoting the organization as if he were ―the character he played in the film Magnolia, a twisted and yet extremely charismatic motivational speaker.‖ Scientology says the video‘s content is copyrighted. YouTube has acceded to the demand, but Gawker Media, which has recorded an astounding jump in hits thanks to its posting of the video, says it will not take the video down, on free speech grounds. . . Following Scientology‘s recent attack on writer Andrew Morton‘s book critical of Scientology (―Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography‖), the niece of Scientology head David Miscavige, Jenna Micavige Hill, wrote an open letter to a senior official of the church saying: ―Hell, if Scientology can‘t keep his [Cruise‘s] family together, then why on earth should anyone believe the church helps bring families together.‖ She says her own family was broken up by Scientology policies. Scientology characterized the Morton book as Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 54
a ―bigoted inflammatory assault replete with lies.‖ Jenna Hill, referring to her own experience, challenges the church‘s denial that it pressures members to ―disconnect‖ from relatives who don‘t support the church. An organization called ―Anonymous‖ is attacking Scientology websites in order, it says, to safeguard freedom of speech. (Scientology tries to prevent its copyrighted material from being spread over the Internet.) Anonymous says it also wants to ―systematically dismantle‖ Scientology and curtail the organization‘s financial exploitation of its members. Anonymous directs sympathizers not only to download and spread copyrighted material, but to employ denial-of-service software, make nuisance calls, and fax black pages to church fax machines in an effort to waste ink. Some Scientology critics say the Anonymous tactics are hypocritical, amounting to an attempt to uphold free speech while denying it to Scientology. ―Attacking Scientology like that,‖ said one, ―will just make them play the religious persecution card.‖ More than 100 people representing the anti-Scientology organization ―Anonymous‖ picketed in front of the Church of Scientology in Dallas on February 10, the birthday of Lisa McPherson, a Dallas native who died in the care of Scientology staff members at a church facility in Clearwater, FL, in 1995. The current protest was one of a number of similar demonstrations by some 7,000 persons in front of Scientology establishments in 90 cities worldwide planned by Anonymous. Many of the demonstrators in Clearwater, Scientology‘s spiritual headquarters, some in their late teens and early twenties, wore wigs, sunglasses, bandanas, and hats to disguise themselves — as did protestors in Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Sydney, Dublin, Montreal and many other cities — saying they feared Scientology retribution if recognized. A masked demonstrator in London said, ―We are here to raise awareness of the blatant exploitation [by Scientology] of its members.‖ The Dublin protestors said, ―Anonymous is a group of genuinely concerned citizens that wish to educate the Irish public on the real danger of this purely money-driven cult and to prevent Scientology from taking root in Ireland as it has in America, Spain, and even in the UK.‖ Scientology spokesmen generally responded to the demonstrators by calling them terrorists who incited religious hatred Anonymous is apparently a recently formed group of computer-savvy young people who found each other through videos and message boards online and organized the day of protest through the Internet. They accuse Scientology of — among other things — stifling free speech by trying to keep a revealing Tom Cruise video out of circulation. The stated goal of Anonymous, broadcast on YouTube, is ―To expel you [sic] Scientology from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology.‖ Orlando‘s Arnie Lerma, a longtime Scientology critic, said he was impressed by the potential of the new cadre of youthful protestors. ―I‘ve never seen anything like that before. This is incredible.‖ Asked to explain the ―groundswell‖ of opposition to Scientology, a former long-time member said, ―It‘s just reaching a critical mass. People just aren‘t scared anymore. They try to make people shut up, and I‘m not shutting up anymore.‖ Indian-born spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy died at his Jamaica, NY, meditation center in October at the age of 76. Mikhail Gorbachev, who met and corresponded with Chinmoy, said the guru‘s passing was ―a loss for the whole world‖ and that ―in our hearts he will forever remain a man who dedicated his whole life to peace.‖ Indonesia is successfully destroying internal terrorist networks and winning the public battle against radicalism not simply by force but by employing former jihadis in a program of de-radicalization, with the promise, to those who cooperate, of reduced sentences or family assistance. The co-opted radicals go into prisons and other places to persuade wouldbe terrorists that Islam cannot be used to support attacking civilians, that such action actually alienates people from religion. Government agents also try to exploit antagonisms Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 55
among terrorists and turn them against one other. Saudi Arabia has reportedly had great success in suppressing terrorist acts since 2004 using similar methods, and many other countries in the Muslim world have launched de-radicalization initiatives. The Saudis employ ―deprogramming,‖ which resembles techniques used by cults, and psychologists then try to determine whether or not the subjects are likely to return to extremism. The Netherlands, meanwhile, recently said it will spend $40 million to launch similar programs, train imams and other religious leaders, and promote intercultural dialogue. A British government official said last year, ―Our strategy of funding and engagement must shift significantly toward those organizations that are taking a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism. As the example of two young Moroccan women illustrates, radical groups are recruiting teenagers as young as 14 to become jihadis and even suicide bombers. The director of MI5, the British security agency, says Islamist groups are, with success, ―methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country . . . radicalizing, indoctrinating, and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism.‖ Pakistani police in December arrested a 15-year-old boy for allegedly attempting to blow himself up at a rally for Benazir Bhutto, and in September, another 15-year-old succeeded in killing 30 when he drove a truck full of explosives into an Algerian naval barracks. An American security expert says that radical groups don‘t even have to recruit in person. Internet chat rooms and sites, numbering in the hundreds, contain four elements that can lead to terrorist acts: propaganda, ideological debates, strategic discussions, and tactical advice. A Moroccan social worker says there is no support system to keep young drifters from ―falling prey to radical networks.‖ Members of the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-homosexual Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, the end-of-the-world preaching cult accused by former followers of mind control and mental and physical abuse, is once again handing out literature and recruiting on Hollywood Boulevard. Founder Tony Alamo, released from prison in 1998 after serving time for tax cheating, lives in a guarded compound near Texarcana, AR, as concern among local townspeople grows and accusations by former members of past abuses proliferate. Special vans take the potential recruits, people apparently on hard times, to a converted roadside restaurant in nearby Saugus, CA, where they hear a gospel-song-punctuated sermon infused with end-of-the-world predictions, threats of Hell fire, and conspiracy theories involving Waco, Jim Jones, and the Catholic Church, which Alamo finds responsible for most of the evil in the world, including drugs, pornography, and prostitution. The assembled receive Alamo doomsday tracts, a Bible, and a plate of meatloaf. Members give testimonials about how the Alamo connection has saved their lives, and female followers ―witness‖ intensely to visitors. ―They can be a little pushy about the whole saving-your-soul thing,‖ says a diabetic with an irregular income, ―but they do have a really nice salad bar.‖ There are Alamo churches in Elizabeth, NJ, and Ft. Smith and Fouke, AR, in addition to the ―hundreds‖ of followers in California. In the early years of Alamo‘s ministry in California, followers lived a squalid and controlled existence: they prepared meals from spoiled food collected from supermarkets and dumpsters; punishment included fasting and beatings, even being thrown out of the group and losing one‘s spouse and children, according to ex-members. Alamo is said to have encouraged spouses to file grievances against one another, and children to testify against their parents. ―We were taught, and we taught our kids, that this is Papa Tony, he‘s a prophet of God. You were taught to shut off what you felt and to believe what they said.‖ Members worked in small church businesses, or on local farms as field hands who turned paychecks over to the leaders. Alamo and his co-minister wife, Susan, lived lavishly, and their enterprises grew to include sales of expensive airbrushed denim jackets, produced by members and their children at Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 56
the Arkansas compound and sold to such celebrities as Sonny Bono, Hulk Hogan, and Brooke Shields. When federal authorities raided the compound, looking to charge Alamo with tax evasion — he‘d already avoided prosecution on child abuse charges, but was forced to pay a $1.6 million award in the case — he abandoned the closely guarded settlement and went underground. He was finally apprehended in 1994 while living with nine wives under an assumed name in Florida. He was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to six years in prison; he served four. Ensconced once again in a hilltop compound in Arkansas — with armed guards posted along the public street leading to it — Alamo faces accusations of gross abuse by numerous former followers and the suspicion of many residents of the nearby town, who are deeply concerned about the group‘s activities. One mother of six told state police — who will not say whether they are investigating him — how Alamo said he would allow the return of her husband into the cult‘s good graces if she agreed to become his fifth wife. Refusing Alamo meant, "not only you might get beat half to death, but you'll go to hell on top of it," she recalls. She acquiesced, and he consummated the marriage immediately, in a brothel-like bedroom, shouting, ‖The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is against you, Satan! Thus saith the Lord: 'She is mine!‘‖ According to this woman, other wives included nine- and ten-year-old girls. Yet at the time, "I would have killed for him. I would have killed my child or anyone for him, even though I hated him.‖ Alamo continues to justify sex with underage girls, arguing that they should marry once they start menstruating, even if they‘re only ten. Transcendental Meditation‘s Global Country of World Peace says it‘s getting closer to beginning construction of a $13 million peace palace project in three municipalities near Cleveland following a revision of a plan rejected in 2007 by one of the towns. Said the Mayor of Mayfield Heights: ―We‘ve never had a problem with their plan or their beliefs. It‘s always been because the building they wanted to build would have been too close to the street and a neighboring lot.‖ Twenty-nine members of the True Russian Orthodox Church, in Russia‘s Penza Region — who come from various parts of the former Soviet Union, and include a microbiologist — have moved into an underground shelter to await an apocalypse they expect in May 2008. They say they‘ve entered the well-provisioned multi-room facility of their own free will and threaten to set themselves on fire if they‘re forced out. Authorities want the sect leader, Father Pyotr Kuznetsov, to undergo a psychiatric examination. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty of ―infringing his followers rights.‖ Zambian Roman Catholic priest Luciano Mbwe, who is associated with excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, announced in December the formation of the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia. Mbewe said his church would allow priests to marry, thus joining Milingo‘s campaign to end clerical celibacy. Milingo‘s ―Married Priests Now‖ organization has received financial backing and moral support in his effort from the Unification Church. Twenty-eight members of the Brazil-based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus) have filed separate lawsuits in seven states against journalist Elvira Lobato and the newspaper that employs her charging that they were insulted by her investigative report, ―Universal turns 30 with business empire.‖ Although the report does not mention any of the litigants by name, some church followers say they have been harassed on the street since the article was published. The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper‘s lawyer says: ―It's curious that the lawsuits' descriptions of the harassment are the same, whether the people are from Paraíba or Rio Grande do Sul.‖ (The two states are located at opposite ends of the country.) He thinks the suits are ―intended to inhibit the press and the journalist. You can imagine how difficult it is for a journalist to defend herself in lawsuits across such a large country.‖ Founder-leader of the evangelical church, Edir Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2008, Page 57
Macedo, who began with lower class people, is now gaining middle class converts, including doctors, economists, lawyers, and business owners. Funded with billions of dollars from Saudi King Abdullah, Wahhabism, one of fundamentalist Islam‘s most extreme movements, is attempting to inculcate in young British Muslims — through a flood of literature and the teachings of radically conservative clerics — an anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-democratic worldview that calls for death to homosexuals, apostates, and adulterers. These sentiments are integral to the beliefs and practices of Salafism, a radical branch of Wahabism that would like to return to what it sees as the roots of Islam — something like the Protestant Reformation‘s wish to purify Christianity by rejecting saints, shrines, and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic theologians. This approach appeals to alienated British Muslim youth, like ―7/7‖ London suicide bombers Mohammad Siddique Kahn and Shehazd Tanaweer, and ―shoe bomber‖ Richard Reid, all of whom were Salafis. The Bishop of Bradford‘s advisor on Islam says, however, that violence is not the inevitable outcome of Salafist influence. Abdul Hakim Murad, the Cambridge University student chaplain, believes that ―Wahabism is Islam‘s unstable isotope. It regularly produces detonations around the edges. If you throw into the crucible racism, social exclusion, and the other experiences of being a young Muslim in Britain‘s inner cities, and then combine that with British foreign policy blunders overseas, and then add that to a theology that divides the world in a Manichean way into good and evil, us and them, then — if you put that all together — you may have a very explosive mixture.‖ Youth With a Mission (YWAM) continues to employ recruits from across the socioeconomic spectrum — from punk rockers to schoolteachers and retired engineers — to proselytize and provide Peace Corps-style assistance to communities in this country and around the world. The group made news recently when a member who had been expelled for apparent mental health problems fatally shot four people at a YWAM mission in Denver and two at New Life Church in Colorado Springs before killing himself. Said a leader: ―YWAM has been known as a mission that believes in young people and gives them a chance. You believe in people, and there‘s a risk in that — but it‘s a risk worth taking.‖ A scholar who studies mission programs said of YWAMers: ―They are passionate, they are a bit wild. A lot of agencies are wondering how they‘re going to mobilize this generation. YWAM has figured it out.‖
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