The Culture of Cults from fwbo-files II

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The Culture of Cults from fwbo-files II

Post by fluffy bunny » 30 Sep 2006

The Culture of Cults from fwbo-files, cont;
Mark Dunlop wrote:Problems in Exposing Cults

Difficulties in Identifying a Cult

It is difficult for an outsider to know whether a particular group is a cult, or may have developed cultish undercurrents. Although there are some pointers and external indicators, it really takes an insider's perspective to know what goes on inside a particular group. Only insiders can really blow the whistle on any abuses within cults.

In theory, it is possible for a cult to be a harmless or even a beneficial organisation. Mind control can be used beneficially, for example to cure people of drug addiction, through reorienting their beliefs and self-image away from addiction. One of the UK's leading cult experts said that she first became interested in cults when she became aware that cults were using techniques similar to those that were being used therapeutically within the medical profession in order to cure people of drug addiction. Rev. Jim Jones (of the Jonestown massacre) started off as a drugs counsellor in New York. The Scientologists claim to be able to cure people of drug addiction, and they probably can. The FWBO has plans to set up a drug rehabilitation unit with help from Dutch Bank Triodos. There are allegations that some Alcoholics Anonymous groups have developed into abusive cults.

The problem is that abuses can occur when powerful techniques are used in a situation without proper checks and balances. So while it may be theoretically possible for a cult to be entirely beneficent, given human nature and the non-accountability of cult leaders, such cults are comparatively rare. Most cults sooner or later are revealed to have fallen prey to some degree to their leadership's desires for adulation, money, power, or sex.

A cult will tend to deny and cover up any abuses by its leadership, and details may only emerge years later [28]. A cult is more or less immune from outside investigation or regulation, because psychological coercion in the form of brainwashing or mind control is almost impossible to prove. This difficulty of proof stems mostly from the subjective nature of personal belief itself, as discussed earlier, but there are some additional practical obstacles which may face a whistleblower, someone who becomes openly critical of the cult they were once a member of.

Difficulties Facing Critical Ex-members

In general, cults have a hierarchical or pyramid type of structure. At the lowest level, members are part-timers who are only partially committed to the group and are who are only lightly brainwashed. All the cult leadership really requires of this level is that members should speak well of the group and be generally positive. Members at this level have little power or influence, and are unlikely to be aware of the full range of the cult's teachings, knowledge of which is restricted to a trusted inner circle of committed, full-time members.

Members at a part-time level of commitment are less likely to be manipulated or abused to any significant extent, because achieving strong influence over a person really requires that they be exposed to a mind control environment on a more full-time basis. Mind control only works on a foundation of personal friendship and trust, and it takes time and effort to establish this foundation. Strong mind control is partly a one on one process, in which the controlee is assigned a personal mentor, a more senior and experienced member, who is willing to devote the patience and effort needed to coach the aspirant/controlee in the beliefs and practices of the group.

For this practical reason, therefore, strong mind control is generally only applied to selected individuals who are perceived to be not only receptive, but who also have something in particular that the group leadership wants. Sometimes this is money or sex, or it may be some practical or business skill which is desired by the group leadership in order to expand the group or to raise money. The greater majority of members are not specially targeted, and are only relatively lightly brainwashed.

A person involved at a more superficial level may find it genuinely difficult to believe what goes on in some of the more committed levels of membership. Members who have not been specially targeted, and who have enjoyed the warmth and friendship of the group without having been exposed to its darker side, will tend to think well of the group, and may be puzzled by criticisms of it. These positive and supportive members can be used as a public relations shield, to counter any allegations against the group, and to reassure new members. Individual critics can be simply outnumbered and their criticisms discredited.

Even if a member involved at a less committed level is not swayed by the general air of positivity, and does develop suspicions about the group, they are unlikely to have enough inside information about the group to be able to verify their suspicions, or to be in a position to effectively warn others of potential problems. Nevertheless, the mere suspicion that a group might be a cult can be enough to deter a person from becoming involved, and so it can still be worth making relevant criticisms and sowing the seeds of suspicion.

If a critic is an insider, someone who has been more deeply involved and who has enough inside knowledge about a cult to be able to make detailed criticisms, they will still be unable to prove anything (because of the subjective nature of personal belief in general, and the non-falsifiable nature of cult belief systems in particular). They will be unable to prove that the group used deception or misrepresentation in marketing the benefits of participation in group run courses and activities.

If an ex-member claims that they were subjected to brainwashing or mind-control techniques, not only is this again unprovable, but it is tantamount to admitting that they are a gullible and easily led person whose opinions, consequently, cannot be worth much. If an ex-member suffers from any mental disorientation or evident psychiatric symptoms, this is likely to further diminish their credibility as a reliable informant.

Additionally, dissatisfied members or other critics have great difficulty in disproving ad-hominem arguments, such as that they just have a personal axe to grind, that they are trying to find a scapegoat to excuse their own failure or deficiency, or that they are simply being subjective and emotional. Cults have a vested interest in challenging the personal credibility of their critics, and may cultivate academic researchers who attack the credibility and motives of ex-members. [29]

In general, the public credibility of critical ex-cultists seems to be somewhere in between that of Estate Agents and flying saucer abductees.

Summary of Advantages Enjoyed by Cult Organisations

To summarise, a cult - defined as an identifiable, organised group of people holding to an independent belief system which primarily originates or is primarily interpreted from within the group, and which has a hierarchical organisational structure based on that belief system - is to a large extent immune from outside criticism, either of its belief system or of the methods used to recruit followers, because:

1. Legal criticism is ineffectual, firstly because freedom of belief laws largely protect cults from outside investigation or regulation, and secondly because of the subjective, non-provable nature of personal belief itself.

2. Moral criticism is ineffectual, because a cult belief system can set its own self-justifying moral codes.

3. Philosophical or theological criticism is ineffectual, because a cult belief system follows its own internal logic, which is impenetrable to an outsider.

4. Empirical or scientific criticism is ineffectual, because the tenets of a cult belief system are non-falsifiable.

5. Criticism by ex-members is ineffectual, because apostates tend to lack credibility for a variety of reasons.

Immunity from outside criticism and regulation does not, in itself, necessarily mean that a group will develop and use what might be considered, by the standards of the mainstream, deceptive or devious psychological techniques to gain or control adherents. It only means that they can, and that there is little come-back if they do. Religious freedom and freedom of belief laws tend to protect the rights of religious and quasi-religious organisations, much more than they protect the rights of individuals who may become involved with those organisations and their belief systems.

Text © Mark Dunlop 2001.

1 Collins English Dictionary definition of cult:

1. a specific system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and deity.
2. a sect devoted to such a system.
3. a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.
4. Sociol. a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols, esp. one characterized by lack of organizational structure.
5. Intense interest in and devotion to a person, idea, or activity: the cult of Yoga.
6. the person, idea, etc., arousing such devotion.
7a. something regarded as fashionable or significant by a particular group. b. (as modifier): a cult show.
8. (modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of a cult or cults: a cult figure.
[from Latin cuJtus cultivation, refinement, from colere to till].


The Collins 1 definition refers to the term religious worship. Religion (meaning a particular system of faith and worship) derives originally from the Latin religio - onis, which meant 'obligation, bond, reverence'.

The Collins 2 definition refers to the term sect. This word comes from the Late Latin secta, which means an "organized church body." That in turn is rooted in the Latin sequi, which means 'to follow,' and is used of a 'way of life', or a 'class of persons'. Sect can refer to:

a religious denomination
a dissenting religious group, formed as the result of schism (division; separation, from Greek skhisma -atos 'cleft', from skhizo 'to split'). In this case, the term sect also borrows from the Latin sectus, which means 'cut' or 'divide'.
a group adhering to a distinctive doctrine or leader
Theologically, sect is used of a group which has divided from a larger body or movement - generally over minor differences in doctrine and/or practice - but whose teachings and practices are not considered unorthodox or cultic (theologically and/or sociologically). However, in some countries sect is used instead of - or interchangeably with - cult.

In general, there are two main ways in which the word cult is used: the academic and the popular. Academic usage tends to try and make cult cover all eight (in Collins' classification) shades of meaning, while popular usage is more specific, and tends to equate cult with either the Collins 3 or the Collins 7 meaning. Likewise, popular usage of the word religion tends to be more specific, and tends to imply an established system of faith and worship, like Christianity. It is arguable that, in the West, the modern usage of the term religion, to imply an established system of faith and worship (usually one which believes in a single creator Deity) dates from the third century AD. In 313 Constantine the Great issued an edict of toleration for all religions, and in 380, Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Prior to this, Christianity had in general been seen a just another 'cult' (in the non-pejorative Collins 1 sense of 'a system of religious worship), much like, for example, the cult of Diana/Artemis. Theodosius I effectively promoted Christianity from 'cult' (system of faith and worship) to 'religion' (established system of faith and worship).

For a long time subsequently, within Western academic and scholastic traditions, religion meant Christianity, and anything else tended to be dismissed as a 'native cult' (eg. 'the cult of Lamaism'). Over the last century or so, the West has gained a greater understanding of foreign cultures, and systems of faith like Islam and Buddhism have, in both popular and academic usage, been promoted from 'native cults' to the status of 'world religions'. The faith systems of even fairly obscure and only recently discovered ethnic tribes are nowadays mostly referred to as native 'religions'. The term cult in this context, while possibly technically correct, tends to be viewed as disparaging and carrying undesirable overtones of cultural imperialism.

Religion comes from the Latin religio- onis, which meant 'obligation, bond, reverence', and did not originally necessarily imply belief in a single creator God. If the terms 'religion' and 'worship' can legitimately be used in a secular context (eg. 'Football is their religion'), as a synonym for the honour, respect, and reverence paid, in varying degrees, to various secular ideals and personalities, the second and subsequent meanings of cult given above can, with only a little stretching, be interpreted as referring to specific systems of secular 'worship'. For example, Collins gives: '7a. something regarded as fashionable or significant by a particular group. b. (as modifier): a cult show.'

An example in this context might be J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye'. In the 1950's, this book became popular among young people and came to be regarded as a cult novel. The book told the story of an American adolescent, Holden Caulfield, growing up in an adult society after World War II, and its theme, of the relation to the individual to the world around him, can be compared to the slightly more mainstream philosophy of Existentialism, which is concerned with issues of the individual self, freedom of choice, and personal responsibility, in a world which does not make sense. Existentialism traveled to America with the GI's returning in 1945 from war service in France, and strongly influenced the 'beatnik generation' and, presumably, Salinger himself.

Existentialism can be related both to later philosophical attitudes, such as the alienated vision of Generation X, and to earlier cultural and artistic movements like Surrealism and Dada, which had in turn partly arisen out of a desire to make sense of the experiences of the first world war. The term Existentialism, much like the terms religion and cult, can acquire different shades of meaning, depending on whether the term is being used in a popular, academic, literary, artistic, or political context. The various flavours of Existentialism coexist with assorted flavours of other current philosophies, like post-modernism, structuralism and situationism, None are easy to define.

Existentialism and its cousins can be regarded as sub-sets of the mainstream Western secular ideal of democracy, the ideal of the responsible individual exercising informed freedom of choice. While it is probably stretching the language a little to say that mainstream Western secular society actually 'worships' this ideal, nevertheless the ideal is granted considerable honour, respect, and even reverence. (For example, from the American Declaration of Independence, 1776: '.We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ----- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -----.' or, for example, J.S. Mill, On Liberty, 1859: 'Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.')

This ideal, of the responsible individual, was born out of the secular-humanist concept of the individual personality, or self. This self or individual personality had, in turn, been the replacement (radical at the time) for the 'soul' of the Christian ideology that had dominated Europe in the preceding centuries. As with most complex systems, previous paradigms do not suddenly vanish, they linger in the background. For example, the 'soul' remains a meaningful concept in many religious contexts, while 'self-understanding' and 'self-esteem' can sometimes play a similar idealised and mythologised role in current psychoanalysis and popular psychology, for example in terms of the 'cosmic self' or 'the warrior within'.

Both culture and personal belief are complex matters, and this complexity is reflected in the difficulty of precisely defining terms such as cult, sect, religion, soul, self, liberty and responsibility. These terms refer to processes and behaviours as much to finite states They are all 'big' words which are difficult to define neatly or precisely, and whose meaning may include various emotional associations or contextual nuances which may change over time. Language is a fluid medium.

The intention of the above comments on the definition of 'cult' and related terms is neither to set out a precise terminology, nor to excuse sloppy terminology, but somewhere in between. This analysis acknowledges the range of meanings that the term cult may be expected to carry, and has no wish to exclude any nuances of meaning. The main text introduces the notion of the 'quasi-religious spectrum' (page 6) as a means of allowing an appropriate flexiblity or 'fuzziness' in the definitions of the terms cult, sect, and religion.

2 The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines brainwash as: to 'subject [a person] to a prolonged process by which ideas other than and at variance with those already held are implanted in the mind' The term 'brainwashing' was first used in 1953 to describe techniques used by the Chinese Communists to subvert the loyalty of American prisoners captured in Korea. Brainwashing in this original sense involved physical coercion: imprisonment, food and sleep deprivation, and sometimes torture. In recent years, various people concerned about cults have tended to use terms like 'mind control' or 'thought reform' to describe a brainwashing or indoctrination process which does not involve physical coercion. This kind of non-coercive process has the great advantage (from a cult's point of view) of not leaving any physical evidence, and of therefore being very difficult to prove. Whilst there is evidence that some cults have used physical coercion, in general cults are keen to distance themselves from such practices. There has been a kind of Darwinian evolution among cults, in that those which have survived and prospered have tended to be those which have succeeded in developing effective, but non-physically coercive, processes to 'brainwash' a person.

3 Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, professor of psychology at Stanford University and a former American Psychiatric Association president, writes:

'A remarkable thing about cult mind control is that it's so ordinary in the tactics and strategies of social influence employed. They are variants of well-known social psychological principles of compliance, conformity, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, framing, emotional manipulation, and others that are used on all of us daily to entice us: to buy, to try, to donate, to vote, to join, to change, to believe, to love, to hate the enemy.'

There are a number of interesting books on the subjects of marketing and persuasion, eg.:
'Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion', by Robert Cialdini
xxxxxxx by Wolff Olins

4 see: 'Possible Legal Protection against Cults using Mind Control - Allen v Flood, AC 1898, p 72 -74'

5 Robert J. Lifton's eight criteria of mind control:
Adapted from Robert Jay Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (Norton, 1961, now reprinted by the University of North Carolina Press)

Dr. Lifton's work was the outgrowth of his studies for military intelligence of Mao Tse-Tung's "thought-reform programs" commonly known as "brainwashing." In Chapter 22, Lifton outlines eight criteria which can be used as indicators when investigating whether an environment can be understood as exercising "thought-reform" or mind control. Lifton wrote that any group has some aspects of these indicators. However, if an environment exhibits all eight of these indicators and implements them in the extreme, then there is the possibility of unhealthy thought reform taking place.

Milieu Control
Environment control and the control of human communication. Not just communication between people but communication within people's minds to themselves.
Mystical Manipulation
Everyone is manipulating everyone, under the belief that it advances the "ultimate purpose." Experiences are engineered to appear to be spontaneous, when, in fact, they are contrived to have a deliberate effect. People misattribute their experiences to spiritual causes when, in fact, they are concocted by human beings.
Loading the Language
Controlling words help to control people's thoughts. A totalist group uses totalist language to make reality compressed into black or white - "thought-terminating clichés." Non-members cannot simply understand what believers are talking about. The words constrict rather than expand human understanding.
Doctrine Over Person
No matter what a person experiences, it is the belief of the dogma which is important. Group belief supersedes conscience and integrity.
Sacred Science
The group's belief is that their dogma is absolutely scientific and morally true. No alternative viewpoint is allowed. No questions of the dogma are permitted.
The Cult of Confession
The environment demands that personal boundaries are destroyed and that every thought, feeling, or action that does not conform with the group's rules be confessed; little or no privacy.
The Demand for Purity
The creation of a guilt and shame milieu by holding up standards of perfection that no human being can accomplish. People are punished and learn to punish themselves for not living up to the group's ideals.
The Dispensing of Existence
The group decides who has a right to exist and who does not. There is no other legitimate alternative to the group. In political regimes, this permits state executions.
It could be argued that all eight of Lifton's criteria (for example, milieu control or information control) are applicable to society at large, and can be observed in operation within various groups, both cult and non-cult. It could equally be argued that all eight of Lifton's criteria in fact primarily reflect the nature and interior dynamics of a hierarchical belief system, one which includes beliefs about higher and lower levels of personal awareness and understanding, and ideas about rejecting the old self and developing a new self. Lifton's criteria may be more illuminating about cults when the criteria are interpreted as descriptions of the interior world or self-view of a person who believes in such a hierarchical, cult-type belief system. In this perspective, Lifton's Demand for Purity could be broadly interpreted as the desire of a believer for the purification of their old self and the creation of a pure new self. The term 'ego-dystonic mind control' effectively means the same thing.

Lifton also wrote the following about 'The demand for purity' in the essay 'Cults: Religious Totalism and Civil Liberties', (included in the book 'The Future of Immortality and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age', by Robert J. Lifton, pub. New York, Basic Books, 1987):

'The demand for purity can create a Manichean quality in cults, as in some other religious and political groups. Such a demand calls for radical separation of pure and impure, of good and evil, within an environment and within oneself. Absolute purification is a continuing process. It is often institutionalized; and, as a source of stimulation of guilt and shame, it ties in with the confession process. Ideological movements, at whatever level of intensity, take hold of an individual's guilt and shame mechanisms to achieve intense influence over the changes he or she undergoes. This is done within a confession process that has its own structure. Sessions in which one confesses to one's sins are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups and with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change.'

6 'Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan Pub. Aquarian Press, 1988

7 FWBO Norwich Buddhist Centre leaflet and programme of classes, autumn 1999.

8 A utopian vision of an ideal 'new world' or 'new self' does imply an opposite pole, a dystopian or dystonic vision of a disfunctional old world or old self. Applying these terms to the inner world of a person's ego, to their subjective sense of themselves as an individual, rather than to the world at large, 'ego-utopia' could be said to be a tendency towards an unreasonably high level of self-esteem or hubris (overweening personal pride and arrogance), with 'ego-dystonia' as its opposite, a tendency towards shame and guilt and an unreasonably low level of self-esteem.

It might seem more logical to adopt the term ego-dystopic rather than ego-dystonic. The word dystopia is used, for example in 'a dystopian, nightmarish vision of society', but there is also the established term 'ego-dystonic sexual orientation', and it seems more sensible to be consistent with the latter usage.

The term ego-dystonia is used by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For example, when homosexuality was declassified as a 'disorder' in 1973, a diagnosis was left as a residual of the former; that is, the diagnosis of 'Ego-dystonic Homosexuality.' Ego-dystonic here means that the person's (homo)sexual orientation is not compatible with where they think they 'should' be to such an extent that it is causing 'marked decline in social functioning,' or 'dysfunctionality'. While it may result in shame, the suffering does not come in and of itself of being gay, but rather it comes of the fear and self-loathing learned within a hostile family and/or social system which defines gay people as second class citizens. Ego-dystonic sexual orientation is also recognised in the International Classification of Diseases, where it is classified as an adjustment disorder (F66.1, ICD 10).

Ego-dystonia, or a diminished sense of self worth compared to a peer group, is not necessarily confined to the area of sexual orientation. Ego-dystonia can result from exposure to a variety of situations encountered within society at large. It can result from experiences of sexual or racial stereotyping, or as a result of bullying at school or in the workplace, or sometimes as a result of social deprivation or a difficult family background. Of course, individual experiences do vary; some people seem more robust and thick-skinned than others, and better able to withstand a difficult environment. It is rarely possible to make any direct causal or predictive link between the environment and the personal psychology of a given individual, because similar situations may affect different individuals in different ways. One person may react to a feeling of social exclusion, for example, by becoming hostile and blaming others, perhaps developing ideas of revenge, while another may interiorise their reaction and, tending to blame themselves, may develop some form of ego-dystonic depression, and may possibly turn to self-destructive activities.

Personal self-esteem is a fluid and subjective factor, and it is never possible to measure self-esteem objectively. It is often difficult to assess another person's level of self-esteem, or to place it on a scale between excessive self-esteem (hubris) and inadequate self-esteem (ego-dystonia). Nevertheless, individuals clearly do experience various and varying levels of self-esteem, and it seems reasonable to suggest that inappropriate levels of self-esteem may tend to result in inappropriate behaviour. This analysis puts forward the hypothesis that cults can indirectly control behaviour, by inducing and then exploiting an inappropriately low level of personal self-esteem in the minds of their followers. Once some degree of ego-dystonic guilt has been established in a person's mind, then the behaviour of that person can to some extent be manipulated, by that person's peer group granting or withholding emotional approval and support.

Ego-dystonia is not to be confused with the medical condition dystonia, which is an illness characterised by involuntary spasms and muscle contractions that induce abnormal movements and postures. This is obviously different from the psychological condition of ego-dystonic sexual orientation. There are other instances where the same term is used to denote two quite different and distinct conditions; for example, the term 'hypertension' may be used either to describe a particular measurable level of high blood pressure, or it may be used to describe a psychological state which cannot be measured by material indicators.

9 Alan Gomes, Unmasking the Cults, Zondervan 1995

10 Panel discussion with Dr David Jenkins et al, broadcast in July 1999 as part of the ITV series on the history of Christianity, '2000 Years', hosted by Melvyn Bragg.)

11 Lawsuit filed on 16 August 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, by a coalition of plaintiffs, including the Seventh-day Adventists and the 'International Coalition for Religious Freedom' (funded primarily by the Unification Church or Moonies)

12 Re: justification of lies and deception:
From a conversation posted on the internet newsgroup, on Fri 24 Mar 2000, on thread: '$cientology: Cult of LIES'

Poster 1
>>Lying implies some kind of malicious intention <<

Poster 2
'Lying does not by definition imply malicious intent - you can lie out of politeness, out of pity, because you think the truth would be bad for that person, etc. etc. etc.

'Outright lying means to tell people things that you do know are not true - Scientologists do that at times, when they are honestly convinced that this is better for Scientology.

'But there are finer variations where one can convince oneself, that one is not really lying: You can tell only a small part of the truth, you can tell the truth in a way that the other person does understand it differently as it is, you can consciously omit important facts, you can formulate things generally and unspecific - all with the intent that the other person judges the situation according to your wishes while you objectively do not give the person the information necessary to judge the situation impartially.

'Sure you can say, that you did not lie - but you did not tell what is, in your conviction, the full truth.'

Poster 1
>>Because scientologists believe in their tech does not make them liars. For the most part, scientologists are honest and well-meaning. Just like most critics. <<

Poster 2
'The point is not, that scientologists believe in their tech - they have the right to that.

'Also Scientologists themselves do try their best to act ethical (as they define it) and they are sincere in that.

'But Scientologists do have their own definition about ethics which does not fully correspond with the general understanding about ethics.

'And also Scientologists do have their own understanding about reality, about what to tell other people as truth about Scientology - again their view of these things is in conflict with the general understanding.

'This does not only concern staff - also public Scientologists are formally and informally told how to best explain Scientology to others, what to mention, how to mention it, what not to mention - all with the best intent, but the result is still, that you cannot, as an outsider, get fully informed about Scientology by a Scientologist. I do know that, because I did it myself and I taught it myself for years.

'Hardly any Scientologist lies consciously to you - but he tells you only a truth he thinks acceptable to you (and this might be so small a part of truth, that it results in disinformation, not information)'

Poster 1
>>Maybe this is true in any religion. If there is really no heaven, have the priests all lied to us? <<

Poster 2
'A voodoo adherent who firmly believes in voodoo, does not lie to you, when he tells you about voodoo, if he is sincere in telling you what he believes.

'A moslem who believes that non-moslems will go to hell, does not lie, if he tells what he sincerely believes - no matter, if the moslem hell factually exists or not.

'A protestant priest who does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead and still preaches he sure did, is lying - he tells something as truth which he does not believe in.

'A Scientologist who says Scientology is a religion and privately thinks it is a technology for self-betterment does lie to you - what he is saying is not what he believes. A Scientologist who believes Scientology is a religion and says it is a philosophy because a as religion it would not be acceptable in e.g. Greece, is lying - what he thinks and what he says is not the same and he knows it.

'One of the problems of Scientology is, that people are actually taught to tell outsiders not what insiders see as the truth - and that Scientologists feel it is ethical to do that. This sort of re-education about what is ethical or not does lead to conflicts with non-Scientologists.'

13 Jayamati, in Shabda, August 1998, p.59. Also: Ratnavira, in Shabda, April 1998. 'There is . the question of public image and reality. There is a public image of the Order which is presented through our publications . and there is what the Order really is . the two are quite different.'

14 Re: Organisations and their belief systems The first three definitions of cult given in Collins Dictionary all imply an element of organisation, while Collins' fourth and subsequent definitions of cult refer to phenomena which are characterised by a relative lack of organisation: '4. Sociol. a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols, esp. one characterized by lack of organizational structure.'

Cults in the sense of fads and fashions (as in: 7a. something regarded as fashionable or significant by a particular group. b. (as modifier): a cult show.) tend to be relatively disorganised phenomena; there may be a belief system, or a set of attitudes, but there tends to be relatively little desire to set up an organisation to promote those beliefs and attitudes. Again, there is something of a spectrum among 'fads and fashions', ranging from the anarchic to the slightly organised.

15 Paul Ricouer, 'Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation', New Haven, Yale University Press, 1970, p27

16 In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, King of Crete. When Theseus came from Athens as one of the sacrificial victims offered to the Minotaur, she fell in love with him and gave him a ball of thread, which enabled him to find his way out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur.

17 Sangharakshita, 'Going for Refuge', T.V. programme, BBC East 12.11.92.

18 Sangharakshita, 'Mind - Reactive and Creative', page 8, pub. FWBO 1971.

19 Alaya (FWBO Order member), telephone conversation 28.3.1994

20 'The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.' - Parable of the wheat field, Mark chapter 2, verse 27.

There may be equivalent 'believer centered' statements in other religions. In Buddhism for example, there is the parable of the raft (Digha-Nikaya, ii, 89; Majjhima-Nikaya, i, 134), in which the raft, representing the beliefs and practices of Buddhism, is to be cast aside once the further shore (enlightenment) is reached.

21 J. L. Segundo, 'Evolution and Guilt', New York: Orbis, 1974, p 52

It should be pointed out that Segundo was not writing specifically about cults as such, but from the perspective of 'Liberation Theology', which is concerned with the hermeneutics of issues such as land ownership and education.

22 'Falsifiability' was first put forward as criterion for testable scientific truth by Sir Karl Popper, Professor of Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics from 1949 - 1969.

A statement of the form 'All crows are black' is a falsifiable statement, because one properly authenticated observation of a white (albino) crow is sufficient to show that the statement is false, despite any number of observations of black crows. In other words, the statement is capable of being disproved through empirical evidence.

Statements of the form: 'Spiritual life begins when one realises that one is not as aware as one could be' or 'We always have to be aware that our. . .um . . . what we think, is not true, until enlightenment' are non-falsifiable statements. While any number of people within a group may observe (or say that they believe) that they have become more aware following the group's spiritual guidance, a person who questions this or who observes (or believes) that they themselves have not become more aware following the group's spiritual guidance, cannot establish this either as a valid observation, or as a reasonable belief. This is because it can easily be argued that this 'negative' observation results from that person's own deficiencies of spiritual awareness, and not from any deficiencies in the group's spiritual guidance, or in the truth of the group's doctrines.

23 Re: Critics disenfranchised and the non-democratic nature of cults:

'There's no democracy in the Western Buddhist Order! ... It's a hierarchy, but a spiritual one.... It is the broad feeling that there is in someone, or in certain people, something higher and better than yourself to which you can look up.... It's a good, positive thing to be able to look up to someone! If you cannot, you're in a pretty difficult position. You're in a sad state.... like a child that hasn't even got a mother and Father to look up to....But this sort of assertion, that you're just as good as anybody else in the egalitarian sense, is really sick.'

From 'The Endlessly Fascinating Cry.' A seminar by FWBO leader Sangharakshita on the Bodhicaryavatara, transcribed and published FWBO, 1977, p.74-5.

'Spiritual hierarchy' appears to be a variety of 'doctrine over person' and 'dispensing of existence' described by Robert J. Lifton in his 'Eight Criteria of Mind Control'

24 The 'card sharp' simile for a cult is courtesy of Verdex, an ex-FWBO member from Germany, who maintains the Internet site, Verdex also likens the FWBO to a black hole; the attraction increases as a person moves closer to the group, and there is an event horizon, beyond which communication with the outside universe is lost.

25 Newsnight report on cults ( BBC 2 16th July 1993)

26 From the essay 'Cults: Religious Totalism and Civil Liberties', included in the book 'The Future of Immortality and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age', by Robert J. Lifton, pub. New York, Basic Books, 1987.

27 Hassan, Steve, 'Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves', Somerville, MA: Freedom of Mind Press, 2000, Introduction, p. 334

28 For details of numerous allegations of abuse within cults, follow relevant links (eg 'ex-member stories') on the following websites:

29 Academic researchers who attack the credibility and motives of ex-members. Eg:

Dr J. Gordon Melton testified as an expert witness in a lawsuit, that:

'When you are investigating groups such as this [The Local Church], you never rely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members..To put it bluntly, hostile ex-members invariably shade the truth. They invariably blow out of proportion minor incidents and turn them into major incidents, and over a period of time their testimony almost always changes because each time they tell it they get the feedback of acceptance or rejection from those to whom they tell it, and hence it will be developed and merged into a different world view that they are adopting.'

From the expert testimony of Dr J. Gordon Melton in Lee vs. Duddy et al, a lawsuit involving the Local Church and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. Quoted from

And Bryan Wilson, Emeritus Professor at All Souls College, Oxford, wrote about apostates (ex-members who become openly critical of the group they were once a member of):

'Informants who are mere contacts and who have no personal motives for what they tell are to be preferred to those who, for their own purposes, seek to use the investigator. The disaffected and the apostate are in particular informants whose evidence has to be used with circumspection. The apostate is generally in need of self-justification. He seeks to reconstruct his own past, to excuse his former affiliations, and to blame those who were formerly his closest associates. Not uncommonly the apostate learns to rehearse an 'atrocity story' to explain how, by manipulation, trickery, coercion, or deceit, he was induced to join or to remain within an organization that he now forswears and condemns. Apostates, sensationalized by the press, have sometimes sought to make a profit from accounts of their experiences in stories sold to newspapers or produced as books (sometimes written by 'ghost' writers).'

Bryan Wilson, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, p.19.

Further examples of these sorts of ad-hominem arguments may be found at the cult-apologists FAQ at:

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