This is the first post for my new website, www.cultrelease.com. My other website, www.scientologyrecovery.com, is directed towards ex-members and their families who were abused by Scientology.
Destructive cult recruiters operate very similarly to sexual predators. The below factors come into play:
- Grooming: The predator grooms the potential victim by making them feel special. They honor them with gifts and treats and delight in them. They talk to them with focused attention and show genuine interest, whereas their parents or friends might not.
- Physical touch: Touching creates intimacy. At first the touching seems normal, but as time goes by the predator advances his touching to the victim’s private parts. Subtle lines get crossed. Alarms go off in the victim, but are overcome by the predator with gentle persuasion and subtle withdrawal of attention. A predator is not the same as a rapist who assaults violently and usually only once, it is a different pathology. A predator wants to keep the victim under his influence for years or decades.
- Sharing of secrets: The sharing of intimate details about each other’s lives creates a special bond. The predator creates an “us.” The victim no longer feels so lonely. A sexual predator can spot people who are not marked by love. The predator targets outcasts, rebels, the weak and handicapped. Cults do the same, but their main targets are people whose lives are in a state of flux or in some sort of ruin. Cult recruiters also share intimacies to bond. Then they let the propect know that the cult can handle their problems. The group uses “love bombing” and offers a new family-like situation to deepen intimacy.
- Threats and implanting phobias: Should the victim seek to leave or reveal the abuse, the predator withholds privilege and gifts and then escalates to threatening the victim or their family with physical harm or death. Destructive cults target the soul and the heart of their victims, not the body. They use threats of eternal death which entraps the soul of the person. In Christian cults members are told if they drop out they will go to hell and that all of their ancestors will join them – past, present, and future. Eastern cults believe in past lives and rebirth, so they install a phobia about between–lives and rebirth. You will be trapped in “the between life continuum” and your spiritual eternity is at stake if you don’t do the next level… Most cults predict physical death, cancer and other atrocities if you leave or violate the cult.
Both cults and predators use privilege, but they use different rewards. Cults promote elitism,exclusivity, supernatural powers, and sacred secrets that only the special few can know. Pedophiles and cult recruiters both cross a line at some point. With the sexual predator it might be a slight indiscreet touch, then the next time a touch to a private part. Cult recruiters cross the line on one’s belief system. The recruiter is trying to shift your reality to the cult’s point of view. One example in eastern cults is that you are told that God is the infinite, is not named or isn’t important whatsoever. A Christian starting out in that cult may not be actively pursuing a Christian walk, but has to have a paradigm shift of some sort to accept the new reality. It can be subtle, but in any case an alarm usually goes off in the person’s mind. But
, the good feelings that exist due to grooming, sharing intimacies, and privilege belay the warning signs. The person becomes a willing participant. Once the phobias and threats are set firmly in place, it is too late to leave.
The cult salesperson or registrar creates urgency to get the person to sign up right away.
, “The Brainwashing Manual states,“In rearranging loyalties we must have command of their values. In the animal the first loyalty is to himself. This is destroyed by demonstrating errors in him.” A recruiter will find the person’s ruin or why they have hit bottom and then point out and isolate the person’s life errors. If the person accepts the findings, a severely dangerous shift in psyche can occur. The essential components of mind control begin. The person’s own identity is evaluated and his identity can be thrown off center , renouncing your old life makes it possible for the recruiter to create a new cult identity. Besides being based on predatory techniques, destructive cult recruitment is based upon everyday human tendencies used to elicit compliance, such as authority guaranteeing credibility, agreement and conformity – “Everyone is doing it!” The main thing they rely on is once the first Yes is given it gets harder and harder for the new member to say No.
Destructive cults build upon initial small commitments which progresses into bigger ones. The first approaches are simple and often involve little money. “Come in and enjoy a free
Who Joins a Destructive Cult?
There is a difference between a cult and a destructive cult. A destructive cult takes a totalitarian control over the member’s life, finances, marriage, divorce, pregnancies, mind, body and soul. Cults deal with afterlife and eternity, a destructive cult implants more scary and foreboding phobias, exerts pressure such as imprisonment if you desire to leave, shuns or disconnects from you if you do leave, and if you speak out publicly against the group the ex-member will be hounded and their secrets are often made public.
There isn’t a certain type of person who joins a cult. It has more to do with vulnerability and times of uncertain change. Cult expert
, Margaret Singer , writes,
“Everyone is influenced and persuaded daily in various ways, but the vulnerability to influence varies. The ability to fend off persuaders is reduced when one is rushed, stressed, uncertain, lonely, indifferent, uninformed, distracted, or fatigued. Also affecting vulnerability are the status and power of the persuader. No one type of person is prone to become involved with cults.
About two-thirds of those studied have been normal young people induced to join groups in periods of personal crisis; broken romance or failures to get the job or college of their choice. Vulnerable, the young person affiliates with a cult offering promises of unconditional love, new mental (or spiritual) powers, and social utopia. Since modern cults are persistent and often deceptive in their recruiting, many prospective group members have no accurate knowledge of the cult and almost no understanding of what eventually will be expected of them as long-term members.”
Cults are active in colleges targeting the young for the most part, but today people in their late twenties and older are also being recruited. A lot of inquiries to cult information resources are now coming from people in their 30sto 50s. Most experts agree that whether the joiner is young or old, certain predisposing factors may facilitate attraction to a cult, the success of recruitment and indoctrination efforts, and the length and depth of involvement.
These factors include:
1. A desire to belong
2. Unassertiveness (the inability to say no or express criticism or doubt)
3. Gullibility (impaired capacity to question critically what one is told, observes, thinks, and so forth)
4. Low tolerance for ambiguity (need for absolute answers, impatience to obtain answers)
5. Cultural disillusionment (alienation, dissatisfaction with the status quo)
7. Susceptibility to trance-like states (in some cases, perhaps, due to prior drug experiences)
8. A lack of self-confidence
9. A desire for spiritual meaning
10. Ignorance of how groups can manipulate individuals
At any age if a person is confused, in a personal crisis, or simply in a life transition, he may become attracted to or drawn in by a cult’s appeal; new in town, lost a job, financial woes, recently divorced, a friend or family member has just died, need for a career change, or feeling depressed. The anxious feelings experienced at such times make a person vulnerable, whether that person is 20 or 70 years old. If a vulnerable person happens to cross paths with a cult advertisement or personal recruiter putting forth even a mildly interesting offer, then that ad will pay for itself and that recruiter will stand a good chance of making his mark.
According to cult expert Michael Langone, “Conversion to cults is not truly a matter of choice. Vulnerabilities do not merely ‘lead’ individuals to a particular group. The group manipulates these vulnerabilities and deceives prospects in order to persuade them to join and, ultimately, renounce their old lives.” (Ref: Michael Langone, Cults: Questions and Answers, 6, Weston Mass; American Family Foundation 1988)
People who join cults are not stupid, weird, crazy weak-willed, or neurotic. Most cult members are of above average intelligence, well adjusted, adaptable, and idealistic. In relatively few cases there is a history of pre-existing mental disorders. Anyone is capable of being recruited (or seduced) into a cult if his personal and circumstances make him prone to it. Cult recruitment is not mysterious. It is similar to the seduction and persuasion used by lovers and advertisers. But when you are vulnerable it is the most effective. However, depending on the degree of deception, seduction, and manipulation involved, the resultant attachment to the cult and the new belief system can be very powerful.