Are you now, or have you ever been a member of a cult?

(If you do not understand the information in this post, you will have difficulty helping your preclear as he will still be dramatizing the indoctrination he was subjected to.)

(Originally published on March 6, 2010. Republished today with comments attached)

Sarah Walston http://tinyurl.com/yzceg3tThere is no wrong answer to this question, just consider this a nudge to examine your experiences in a new light.

I applied some Wikipedia cult checklist material to my 33 years in Scientology as a mission holder and as public and was appalled by the result.

Six months ago, I would have confidently answered, “definitely not!”

One month ago, I would have answered, “Well, sort of… at least it seemed that way at the end.”

Yesterday, I read some definitions of cult behavior and I said, “Where have I been? The Church I belonged to turned into a cult long ago!”

Today I read more information on the Internet and realized the CofS became a cult in 1965, but the total transformation from fun-loving scientologists to SO dominated cult members was not complete until the mid Seventies. (Your mileage may vary as you may have been closer to the center than I was.)

I had  Googled “cult checklist” and came up with about 321,000 results.  Some cult checklists are written by one sect which doesn’t like another sect and decides the easiest thing way to make the other sect unpopular is to label them a cult.

I found several examples on Wikipedia which seemed to be more objective than most and by the time I finished the page I realized I had been part of a cult for 33 years!  My first four years had been so enjoyable at the Ft Lauderdale Mission and at Miami Org because the cult behavior had not been installed there yet.

Here are a few highlights to sample before you saunter over to Wikipedia for a crash course in cult identification.

Shirley Harrison, from her her book “Cults – the battle for God”, lists the characteristics of a potential destructive cult:

* A powerful leader who claims divinity or a special mission entrusted to him/her from above;

* Revealed scriptures or doctrine;

* Deceptive recruitment;

* Totalitarianism and alienation of members from their families and/or friends;

* The use of indoctrination, by sophisticated mind-control techniques, based on the concept that once you can make a person behave the way you want, then you can make him/her believe what you want;

* Slave labour – that is, the use of members on fund raising or missionary activities for little or no pay to line the leader’s pockets;

* Misuse of funds and the accumulation of wealth for personal or political purposes at the expense of members; and

* Exclusivity – “we are right and everyone else is wrong”.

Does this fit your experience? Read on.

Steven Hassan from his book, In Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves contributes this:

Emotional Control

* Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.

* Make the person feel that any problems are always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.

* Excessive use of guilt: identity guilt (who you are, not living up to your potential, your family, your past, your affiliations, your thoughts, feelings, actions), social guilt, historical guilt.

* Excessive use of fear: fear of thinking independently, fear of the “outside” world, fear of enemies, fear of losing one’s “salvation”, fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group, fear of disapproval.

* Extremes of emotional highs and lows.

* Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.

* Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group

Does anything there indicate? If so, you may want to see the entire Wikipedia article on Cult Checklists. If nothing indicates, you are one fortunate individual and should continue what you are doing. You will not need the rest of this article.

If these checklists indicate to you, I  think it is an important step to acknowledge that we have been contributing to a very powerful cult and we are not dealing with a rational top-down organization.

When I wrote “Why fixing the Church of Scientology is not an option” I was describing cult behavior without realizing that there is a lot of information about cult history that might be put to use in handling the Church of Scientology.

Small cults are dismantled in various ways; by force or by suicide (see note). I have yet to find mention of a large cult that was dismantled by act of law or reformed from within. We may yet see the first reformation of a cult through the actions of Independent Scientologists and Ex-Scientologists. Then again, we may not.

Large cults like the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church have enough resources that they can survive when the leader is jailed. Perhaps a close study of the history of the Unification Church will give us some perspective on the future of the CofS.

The Unification Church and Reverend Sun Myung Moon offer the closest parallel to the CofS and L Ron Hubbard.

  • Reverend Moon was the publisher of the Washington Times, but was better known as a 1970s cult leader, the L. Ron Hubbard of the East.
  • In the 1970s Moon was widely considered a dangerous madman, the next Jim Jones. He inspired TV specials with names like “Escape From The Moonies.”
  • In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy in United States federal court and was sentenced 18 months in federal prison.
  • By 2004, he was back as a respected Washington insider who was richer than Croesus and was having the time of his life.
  • In April 2008, Sun Myung Moon, then 88 years old, appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement.
  • In 2009, he handed over day-to-day control of his Unification Church to his sons. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/23770

You can read about him in King of America by John Gorenfeld.

So, what does this mean for the Church of Scientology, the monster cult we all helped build?

Perhaps the best possible scenario is for David Miscavige to be jailed for human rights abuses and fraud and the church continues on without the Sea Org as a network of small churches paying homage to Ron as they remember him at his best.

The Sea Org was created to impose cult behavior on the formerly freewheeling churches of Scientology. It should be disbanded. See this account of the birth of the Sea Org and decide for yourself.

If they can sell off the Idle Org buildings, they may be able to pay staff living wages.

My current thinking is that we need to starve the CofS of money and recruits by effectively disseminating the truth on all of our communication lines. We should also support those who are requesting the return (repayment) of their unused money on account.

If there are legal avenues that will work to halt the abuses, they should be supported. It would appear that DM and the CST may be vulnerable to suits for criminal activity and human rights abuse. That is not my area of expertise, but all such efforts should be supported.

There are other groups which are working to limit the effectiveness of the cult of scientology and they should be acknowledged for their work. Anonymous is keeping the CofS busy on many fronts and this drains the cult’s resources and lessens the pressure on other independents.

What I am sure of is that hoping for change to originate within the cult of Scientology is a waste of time and an unnecessary diversion.

UPDATE: Paul and Lise have provided links to videos which will give you some mass on what the cult experience is like:

A show about an Australian cult:   http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s2484490.htm

A short video by Carey Burtt about mind control cults. Reminded me of what I have seen in the CofS.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnNSe5XYp6E

Note:
Here are a few historical notes on small cults:

The doomsday millennium cult Movement for the Restoration of Ten Commandments of God died in a church fire in Uganda after apparently being persuaded to take part in a mass suicide Mar 19, 2000.

In a suburban mansion in California, in 1997, 39 people who belonged to the computer cult Heaven’s Gate poisoned themselves to coincide with the appearance of the Halle-Bopp comet.

In October 1994, 48 charred corpses belonging to the Solar Temple Cult were found in two Swiss villages and five in Quebec. The sect believed the world was heading for disaster.

The most notorious mass cult death occurred in 1993 at the end of the FBI’s 51-day siege in Waco. More than 80 members of the Branch Davidian cult died, with leader David Koresh, amid gun shots and fire.

The largest mass suicide of recent times took place in 1978 when the Reverend Jim Jones, led 914 followers of his People’s Temple Commune to their deaths at Jonestown, Guyana, by drinking cyanide.

Number of views:459

23 Comments

Paul Adams  on March 6th, 2010 Edit comment

Excellent article, David. There is a memorable short video from Carey Burtt on YouTube about mind control cults. It adds some mass to the significance. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnNSe5XYp6E

Paul

Lise  on March 6th, 2010 Edit comment

what great information. I realized I was in a cult back in Feb 09 but I couldn’t confront it until I publicly left. I watched this show on telly about a cult here in Australia that was disbanded in the 70′s and they had a reunion, the cult leader was at this reunion. It was a real eye opener for me. During the program I was having quick thought flashes “my god, this sounds like scn” or “I think I’m in a cult”..At the end I knew I was involved with a cult..It took a while to confront the truth of that. Here is the link to that show http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s2484490.htm

OldAuditor  on March 6th, 2010 Edit comment

Good to hear from you, Lise! I hope things are working out for you.

emldubu  on March 7th, 2010 Edit comment

If it looks like BS and smells like BS, let’s just call it BS. If it looks like a cult and smells like a cult… I thought at first I was digging into the pile to see what was there – now I realize I’ve been digging out. Ah, is that the light of day I see and fresh air I smell? Mmmmm.

OldAuditor  on March 7th, 2010 Edit comment

I think of myself as a reasonably aware person, but it has taken me 15 years to be able to look at the Church and see it as it really is.

emldubu  on March 7th, 2010 Edit comment

OldAuditor,

I was inactive/off-lines for 25 years, clearing my head from the SO and getting some objectivity (thank God, I did get at least some), then got back on lines and spent eight years trying to reconcile the near perfectly dichotomous environment that is the CoS today. Nearly killing myself in the process. From where I stand you’re a speed demon!

ButterflyChaser  on March 7th, 2010 Edit comment

Oh, boy. I just finished watching the one-hour Australian documentary on “The Brotherhood” that you referenced on your site.

Watching this was a deeply emotional experience for me. I would almost say it is “required watching” for those who are on the path of asking “WTF just happened?” The parallels between Scientology and this cult are unmistakable.

What struck me most, however, was the wide-eyed idealism of both groups and the utter failure to produce the “ideal scenes” of either. Who among us was not one of those enthusiastic young people full of hope in their hearts for a new and better world? It was heartbreaking for me to see myself in the people who were interviewed. It was like a mirror.

Due to our human need for community and belonging, we are attracted to groups. It’s natural and not aberrated. Neither is having an ideal scene. However, when “the ends justifies the means” becomes the method of attaining that “ideal scene”, all hope is lost.

The truth is that “the means IS the end”. The Sea Org will never punch and scream their way to a “Cleared Planet”. Never. If Scientology’s modus operandi had been Love, Caring, Compassion and Kinship, we would not all be collecting together on these blogs speaking of our woes.

Seeing how the microcosm of The Brotherhood played out was like peeking a glimpse into the future of Scientology. Same dynamics at play. However, when you add the physical abuses of Scientology (in which The Brotherhood supposedly did not engage) you realize that the road to forgiveness will be much longer for those involved in the “inner circle” of Scientology. Some are walking it now – and it’s a position I do not envy.

Thank you, David, for this wonderful post. I know that, for me, it is time to finally admit that, YES, I belonged to a cult. Dammit.

lunamoth  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

Re:ABC’s Compass report on The Brotherhood

Well, that was disturbing.

I was doing fine until halfway into it and it started to get WAY too familiar. Apparently the
suppressive abuse of power over the individual and the blatant perversion of purpose that those of us in the church experienced were pretty predictable from the start.

As for the answer to your title question, David, well, I still can’t say it.

ButterflyChaser  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition for everyone.

Lise’s link to “The Brotherhood” documentary:

http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s2484490.htm

And now the Four Corners expose which just aired yesterday:

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20100308/scientology/

Let’s give three cheers to ABC Australia!

OldAuditor  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

Many thanks to Lise and Paul for linking to videos which illustrate the assault on your humanity when you join a cult.

I have pulled the links up into the post so there will be less chance of overlooking them.

Wallflower  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

If I may ask – Does your new enlightenment change your views of Scientology as a religion?

OldAuditor  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

I always thought of it as an applied religious philosophy, not a true religion.

I never realized it was a mind control cult until I read the cult checklist.
What are your views on this issue?

OldAuditor  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

Lunamoth,

We were part of something that apparently became malignant recently, but the cult structure and the means to implement it was created in the late Sixties, so the seeds of what the church has become were sown quite early.

When it dawns on someone that they have spent years contributing their lives and fortunes to a destructive cult, it is a severe shock. Some may not recover from it easily.

I am hoping that some of our bright technical types are already working up a program to help people get unstuck from the damage they received and the damage they caused others while members of the Cult of Scientology. These actions should be tailored to the individual’s experience and should probably be called Cult Repair.

Paul Adams  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

Cult Repair. Let’s see….

My idea of case programming is to address whatever the individual most has his attention on at the exact time of the session. However, in terms of more familiar procedures, the usual set-up actions and general repair lists can be done.

Then more specific lists. Ralph Hilton’s extensive Ethics Repair List isn’t bad at all. And it shouldn’t be too hard for someone to make up fairly long correction lists, for public, regular org staff, SO etc. containing the main things exes seem to complain about. I don’t see that any of this is at all hard to compile. How useful it will be is an entirely different question. :)

Ralph’s Ethics Repair List is at http://www.freezoneamerica.org/LRH2/OTCOB%2022042000.html

I actually solo’d it in Dec 2005 and thought it was pretty good. It is not to be confused with another earlier “Ethics Repair List” which I tried to audit before Ralph’s and found to be awful (detailed critique online at http://www.fzglobal.org/superpower.htm ).

Paul

Wallflower  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

As an outsider I always felt it is a cult. I just hope others can see that instead of church repair there needs to be a better focus on people repair as more come out

lunamoth  on March 8th, 2010 Edit comment

@David, re: We were part of something that apparently became malignant recently,

Well, THAT is certainly a right indication! LOL!
Yes, I can see you’re right about the seeds having been planted back in the ’60′s.

For what it’s worth, something I have recently realized: Before scientology, I never worried about my eternity, and so had no need of a “solution.” In scientology I was given the problem, then provided the solution. It was accepting the premise of “the problem” that made me require the solution (scientology). Had I not fallen for that one, the ideology would have had no hold on me.

Funny thing: I went to Catholic catechism as a child and never fell for the “original sin” thing. That’s the Catholic equivalent of the above, the hook that, once set, keeps you needing the Catholic church to intercede for you in securing your eternity.

Always thought I was pretty smart to have dodged that bullet. Kinda like the comments I read from
people who are way too smart to ever personally fall for anything like scientology.

valkyrie101  on March 9th, 2010 Edit comment

There is no such thing as “mind control” without the element of physical coercion (according to the U.S. Federal courts and various psychiatric organizations). Saying that cults use mind control muddies the water and gives them a legitimate argument that they are being unfairly victimized by their critics. Lying, deception, use of front groups, stupid theology, etc. are all good reasons to go after any specific group. But saying they use mind control is not truthful.

OldAuditor  on March 9th, 2010 Edit comment

Valkyrie,

I do not know if you have any experience with Scientology, but physical coercion and human rights abuses have been an integral part of most stories told by ex-Sea Org members. Visit Marty Rathbun’s blog, Scientology-cult.com, or ESMB and you can spend days reading about the mind control activities of the CofS.

More recently, OTs attempting to leave the church have been physically restrained and were forced to participate in Black Scientology actions where they were interrogated in ways that will cause permanent mental damage.

Google “Scientology + mind control” and you should find enough information to decide for yourself if Scientology knows how to do mind control. IMHO they have gotten quite good at it in the past twenty years. I would not let my friends go to Flag or the Freewinds if I could help it. It is not just a ripoff, they will be subjecting themselves to destructive actions in the guise of security checks and in “ethics handlings”.

SherryMK  on March 9th, 2010 Edit comment

David, a well thought out and researched post. Astute assessment of the “church”. I agree 100%.

One of the first books I read when I got out was Steven Hussan’s “Mind Controlling Cults”. Brilliant and spot on. He was a Mooney as you know and his story hit home..right to the heart.He talks about self-identity and the problems someone who was in a cult has coming to terms with who THEY really are, without their cult identity. I recommend it highly for anyone who hasn’t read it.

It has been interesting to watch your change of viewpoints David. I look forward to coming here more often.

Sherry

OldAuditor  on March 10th, 2010 Edit comment

Sherry, it has been a fascinating evolution of viewpoints.

When I woke up and joined the growing number of independents, I had a viewpoint that I would find a way to help others recover from their CofS experiences and could contribute to the reformation of the church at the same time.

As I learned more about the actual history of the tech and the church, I realized that I needed to take a closer look at the technologies that had been discarded and see if a more workable technology could be developed.

While researching the history of the church of Scientology, I discovered the actual roots of the transition from free wheeling churches with spectacular products to a rigidly controlled and abusive cult.

My current viewpoint embraces the Open Source development of 21st Century technology and policies that will support the growth of a healthy network of independent field practices of all sizes with just enough coordination to ensure sharing of data, enlightened counseling practices and effective legal defense against those who might want to take down the network.

I think we are in for an adventure that will provide a welcome challenge to all who wish to put their skills to work in a good cause.

Ceileen  on April 5th, 2010 Edit comment

Whoa! David that went a little fast and deep for me to assimilate easily. Will get back to you on this after more study. Just getting started here, you realize…. :)

OldAuditor  on April 6th, 2010 Edit comment

Ceileen,

I understand completely! Getting information from the Internet after being in the Sea Org for years is like drinking from a firehose!

Take in only as much as you can digest and go back for more when you are ready. There is more data on the Internet than you can imagine and you will find that Google is your friend.

As an indie, you are free to look at everything you can confront and can ask questions and ask for sources. You do not have to believe anyone except your own good judgment.

This discovery that I had been actively helping to strengthen a cult was hard to accept at first. Once I could look at the data without flinching, it explained so much of what I had been objecting to for years.

Bunkai  on April 25th, 2010 Edit comment

Great Article. I agree completely. Scientology stated into full cult “meme-ing” around 1965.

This is why all the talk about 1970′s tech being “right” and the path to go for the Independents is SO FREAKING DANGEROUS. And key leaders are ignoring this reality on their blogs and continuing to drop communications about the GO and RPF being “Okay in principle.”

Look people. Really look. These memes can reboot very quickly.

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