Cult-ivating Terror:

A brief analysis of the origins and effects of the cult phenomena in modern society

Joe Quinn

The Oxford English dictionary entry for 'cult'states: 1.a system of religious worship, esp. as expressed in ritual. 2.A devotion or homage to a person or thing. 2b. A popular fashion esp. followed by a specific section of society 3. denoting a person or thing popularised in this way.

It is clear that the above description could easily apply to any of the organised religions prevalent today. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism (and others) are replete and indeed founded on ritual and "devotion to a person or thing." However, they are not generally referred to as 'cults'. It seems that the term cult, in its modern and widely understood form, is reserved for any group formed under a hierarchical structure, where some form of coercion or manipulation of the group members exists. Generally there is also some focus of worship, be it the group leader(s) or some other outside personage or thing. The justification for worship or allegiance is usually tied to the perceived or stated benefits or potential benefits to be derived from same. (I know, sounds rather like accepted mainstream religions - go figure.)

It seems at a practical level however, that the key element in distinguishing a 'cult' from a mainstream religion is the existence of overt identifiable coercion (physical or mental) or manipulation of members.

Having said that, physical coercion or "attacks on the physical integrity of members" in such groups or 'cults', while not without precedent, is less common, (physical coercion being a more obvious violation of free will and therefore more easily identified). A much more subtle, and for this reason effective form of coercion is intellectual, or more commonly emotional, manipulation. This is generally achieved through the aforementioned worship principle where members are encouraged to give of their time, energy, financial resources etc. in the hope, or with the promise of achieving the stated goal and/or benefits for the individual or group.

Very often the allegation that 'mind control' is used on cult members is made. Proving such a claim is problematic however, since the definition of mind control is broad to say the least. There can be many forms of 'mind control' varying in subtlety, although they are not called by that name (see the mass media coverage of the Gulf war for one example).

In relation to alleged 'cults' it is usually via the observation of the results of 'mind control' that assertions are most often made as to whether it is in use or not in any given group. These results include a, by now, widely known list of supposed 'indicators'. For example: members joining 'communes' giving up possessions, extreme devotion and allegiance to a leader, and in a few cases giving up their lives by way of apparent suicide.

In line with this more practical understanding, gives the following definition of Cult:

"Since the 1960s, in English-speaking countries, especially in North America, most English speakers have adopted the term in a pejorative sense to denote groups, many of them with religious themes, that exploit their members psychologically and financially using group-based persuasion techniques (sometimes called "mind control"). Unlike legitimate religious movements, cults are characterized by high levels of dependency, exploitation, and compliance with demands of leadership that are unrelated to religion. 90% or more of cult members ultimately leave the group."

Using the above definition then, we can deduce that 'cults' are groups characterised by "high levels of dependency, exploitation, and compliance with demands of leadership that are unrelated to religion", while legitimate religious movements can supposedly use the same "high levels of dependency, exploitation, and compliance with demands of leadership", as long as they are related to religion.

The problem then is, what defines religion? One commentator suggests the following:

"...religion always begins in an experience that some individual has or that some small group of people shares. The response that this person or group makes to the original experience is what begins the process of interaction between the religion and the community. In extreme cases we can imagine a religion which lived and died unknown to all but the original experiencers, because their response turned inward and never created an interaction with others in the community; or a religion in which the response to the original experience so quickly and completely assimilated it to the traditions of the community that the germinal religion never acquired an independent identity. Most recognizable religions fall somewhere between these extremes, and thus acquire the identity by which we can recognize them.

Religion originates in an attempt to represent and order beliefs, feelings, imaginings and actions that arise in response to direct experience of the sacred and the spiritual. As this attempt expands in its formulation and elaboration, it becomes a process that creates meaning for itself on a sustaining basis, in terms of both its originating experiences and its own continuing responses."

If the true definition of religion is based on "belief that is a direct experience of the sacred and spiritual", then most of today's mainstream religions that are founded on the experience or hearsay of another cannot constitute a valid 'religion' and therefore are in fact not religions at all. They continue nevertheless to retain "high levels of dependency, exploitation, and compliance with demands of leadership", essentially (under the above definition) making them 'cults'.

In spite of this, many groups today define themselves as 'religious' in one way or another and the term certainly has many different meanings for many different people.

For example the watchman fellowship who claim they are "an independent Christian research and apologetics ministry focusing on new religious movements, cults, the occult and the New Age" state that:

"There are many groups operating which engage in the use of deception, fraud, manipulation, coercion, control, and exploitation. The constitutionally protected right of free speech serves as a check and balance against these abuses. When deception, control, and fraud are present, a person's freedom of choice is undermined. It is always right to publicly and privately expose these practices. The one exposing error or abuse has the responsibility to be accurate."

Yet they see no "deception, control, and fraud" when they unilaterally decide to "witness" to unwitting members of the public, presenting a subjective interpretation of a religious text as fact. It is not however our intention here to weigh up the pros and cons of various competing religious organisations.

Essentially there would seem to be two approaches that can be taken when attempting to assess the cult status of a group: One can approach it from a theological point of view or from a sociological point of view.

One religious professor in 1994 well summarized the popular perspectives concerning the identification of "cults" in an online posting, shortly after the tragedy at Waco, that deserves some consideration:

"As a professor of religious studies who specializes in research, writing, and teaching about America's alternative religions, I can tell all of you that the word "cult" has become an essentially contested concept. That is, like many other words, there is no universally agreed-upon meaning.

"Before one can know what the term means one must know the user and his or her context religiously and socially. I tell my students there are four major approaches to using the term: journalistic (tends to be sensational), theological (defines "cult" by some standard of orthodox truth), sociological (uses "cult" to describe groups that self-consciously oppose the mainstream of culture), and psychological (uses a standard of psychological manipulation and coercion).

"What counts as a cult differs by these varying definitions. All three may agree on a certain group being a "cult" such as Jim Jones' "Peoples' Temple." But a theologian might label the LDS church a "cult" simply because it diverges considerably from standard orthodox Christianity, while a sociologist would say it isn't a cult due to its size and influence."

The theological argument seems to hinge upon interpretation of religious texts, with various groups attempting to define the boundaries of what it means to be truly Christian. The argument is unlikely to be resolved any time soon given that none of the warring factors actually possess any conclusive proof.

For example, the theological approach is taken by the Christian countercult movement. It considers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) a cult because the church rejects the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, has scriptures in addition to the Bible, and has various other unorthodox beliefs and practices.

In the end, size and influence seem to play a major part in deciding which religious group gets awarded 'cult' status. The Catholic Church, for example, has approximately a 2000 year history, 600 million followers around the world, and vast financial resources at its disposal. It seems that this provides all the protection needed from the threat of 'cult headquarters' ever replacing the term 'Vatican' or 'cult leader' the title of 'Pope.'

Rightly or wrongly then, smaller and newly formed religious groups are much more likely to find themselves the object of scrutiny than larger established mainstream religions, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof for provable 'cultic' behavior (if such a thing even exists from the theological point of view). Of course, given the monotheistic nature and monopoly on belief held by the major organised religions, it is certainly plausible that this situation is most acceptable to them, and that they may even contribute to its perpetuation.

In a recent article for the long established Egypt weekly paper 'AL-AHRAM', Jonathan Cook, a British writer living in Nazareth, makes an interesting point about the similarity of the 'mind programming' effects attributed to 'cults' and the effects of mainstream religion (in this case Judaism). He suggests that the reason the persecution of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military continues unquestioned by the Jewish people is not due to ignorance of the situation but is instead dependent upon various factors, not least of which are the dictates of Judaism, he comments:

"[It depends upon [Jews] passing through an education system that transmits historical and moral values of exclusiveness to the religious and the secular alike: premised for the former on a biblical mission to be realised by God's chosen people; and for the latter on the overriding need to provide a sanctuary for a people blighted by centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust.

It also depends on a military rite of passage to adulthood that cements Israelis to their society, itself perceived as their only protection from a hatred, anti-Semitism, to which -- if they are to believe their teachers, media and government -- every gentile in the world is susceptible. This is their unique fate as Jews -- and Israel is their one and only insurance policy.

Israelis who believe this -- and almost all do -- feel that they have no choice but to submit to the collective good. Not a universal good, one of values shared by all mankind, but a collective good reserved only for Jews.

Talk to Jewish anti-Zionists in Israel -- a tiny number of people, barely reaching four figures out of a total Jewish population of five million -- and most will tell you how hard they struggled to overcome the Zionist training they were given from birth. Many say they are still fighting to defeat their own racist assumptions to this day.

Jeff Halper, an academic and leading Israeli activist against army abuses in the occupied territories, recently described to me the decades-long process of "unlearning" his Zionist responses. Deprogramming is what he called it. The kind of thing we read about in the papers when vulnerable youngsters need to be revived from the dangerous ideas implanted by a cult. But how do you loosen the grip of a cult when a whole nation is under its spell?"

The other approach available to 'cult assessors' is the sociological approach. This is the approach taken by most ' and forms the basis of the most serious allegations, as it precludes the theological argument which is fraught with difficulty and in the end coming down to a matter of belief rather than verifiable facts.

The sociological argument is essentially the 'cultural' argument wherein it is alleged that certain groups self-consciously oppose the mainstream of culture with all its inherent accepted 'norms'. Implicit in this argument is that mind 'control' or 'manipulation' that is alleged to form a part of the make up of many cults does not form a part of the make up of modern civilised society and culture. This argument, as we discuss a little later, is also subjective.

The aforementioned definition is interesting in that it states that the term cult in the "pejorative sense" was first adopted en masse in the 1960's. Indeed it seems that prior to this time the term cult did not have negative connotations at all, being generally used (if used at all) to denote any belief system. As noted above the Oxford English dictionary gives the additional definitions of 'cult' as: 2a. a popular fashion esp. followed by a specific section of society 3. denoting a person or thing popularised in this way.

The definition of what is and what is not a cult is not officially defined by any government agency in the US. The term remains open to interpretation and, as is discussed further below, it perhaps better serves the essential goals of government for it to remain that way. As a result the prosecution of 'cults' or 'cult leaders' has generally been carried out under more mundane infractions of the law, for example, kidnapping or extortion, or, in the case of the Waco incident, 'gun control'.

(Note: From here on the term 'cult' is discussed from the above mentioned sociological point of view)

Nevertheless, there exist several different conflicting definitions of what a "cult" is, in widespread use. But even if a definition were to be agreed upon, there still remains the problem of agreement as to what entities fit under that definition.

As stated, the main requirement for 'cult' status would seem to be what can be broadly termed 'violation of free will'. For this to be present it seems logical that at the outset there must be some level of deceit in the presentation of what the 'member benefits' will be. No prospective cult would attract many devotees if among the benefits of membership it included: subtle mind control, physical beatings, incarceration, daily insult sessions, etc. In short, 'cults' as they are popularly defined, are definitely not 'what you see is what you get' type organisations.

At present there are estimated to be somewhere between 3000 and 5000 purported 'cults' in the US nominated by the various parties who find reason or need to do so. For example, Amway is a company which aggressively recruits people to recruit other people to sell its products (cosmetics, vitamins etc.). It has been accused of using 'cult-like' tactics in the treatment of its employees.

The Church of Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, uses a form of psychotherapy called Dianetics that some people claim is designed to hypnotize members into a more weak-minded and paranoid state. The church is said to persuade some members to become slaves. A sub-organization of the church -- known as the Sea Organization -- has paramilitary trappings, but is not armed. Critics also say the church seems to function as a for-profit organization, as it requires fixed-price donations for many of its services, which are required to advance in orders.

On its Web site, Scientology says it is not a cult but, "a religion in the fullest sense of the word."

Sahaja Yoga has also been accused. This is a form of Yoga unlike any that most people (at least in the west) are familiar with. It involves mainly meditation and what they term, "tying up your kundalini" [1]. This is done in order to achieve "self realisation" (connection with your Self). Members are invited to "feel a cool breeze" emanating from the top of their heads as proof that their Kundalini is indeed being activated. Self realisation is also available over the Internet. Just stare into the eyes of the picture of the leader 'Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi' while listening to her instructions.

In the run up to the year 2000 the term 'millennium cult' became widely known. These were groups that believed that, as the year 2000 approached, unfortunately, so too did the end of the world. As the year 2000 came and went with no end in sight, many were forced to recalculate their dates, most extending the 'millennium' to anywhere between now and 2012.

While there are apparently few major 'millennium cults' extolling the virtues of the 'end of the world', there are various self-styled 'experts' who organise group expeditions to various 'sacred sites' and who allegedly draw on 'ancient sources of wisdom' to prepare us for the upcoming 'shift' as they call it.

One such source of 'wisdom' is that of ancient Egypt and the various 'cults' that existed at that time. Many of these 'experts' AKA 'Enochian magicians' 'archaic futurists' etc., apparently see themselves as tasked in some way with triggering the end of the world or 'cosmos regeneration' as they call it. This is to be achieved through 'magickal workings' using various 'ancient' and 'sacred' techniques. Among the more colorful are:

'Calling down the cube of space', aligning the celestial poles', 'opening the portals', 'celestial mechanics', 'sacred science,' 'sacred geometry' and 'the raising of the djed'.

Disturbingly, however, there exist strong links between 'Enochian Magick' and 'Satanism', which the reader can confirm by doing an internet search using the two terms.

Many of these 'experts' organise trips for believers to 'sacred sites', often in Egypt. On a more humorous note (depending on how you look at it), in regard to the above mentioned 'raising the djed' - it seems that anyone involved in this activity immediately becomes a 'djedi' and from various sources we find that the time when these 'djedi' perform their 'magickal working' will be the time of the 'return of the djedi'. Thus, we could consider the Star Wars movies as 'cultic' in nature.[2]

As is common with many alleged 'cults' the benefits on offer to believers are grandiose. However, due to the nature of these 'millennial cults' their leaders probably do not envision having to make good on their promises, at least not in this lifetime. 'Djedis' then can expect to reap seemingly fantastic benefits from their efforts, for example:

"When we experience our own connection between the two (matter and spirit) a resounding "Yessss!" will synaptically ricochet throughout the global brain, the morphogenetic field of the planet, (and the Internet.) Our conscious reconnection with the wisdom of our own origins, and the rediscovery of the archaic celestial/terrestrial technologies, initiates us into "whole" consciousness." [3]

Each of us holds the keys, as they are but elements of our own true nature: basic human kindness, an open heart and mind, and the desire to build a loving world society. As you likely know, it is a special time on Earth, a time of global shift. [4]

Or better still:

"Attune yourself to the blissful energetic current of the joyous goddesses as you enter their abundant world of passion, ecstasy and enchantment. Learn how to open yourself to the magical world of the senses, awaken your Kundalini energy, experience the sacred nature of your sexuality and fill yourself with the fertile, life-enhancing nectar of the Sensuous Goddess." [5]

One notable exponent of this type of 'earth grid engineering' as it is often called, is Dan Winter. After many years of lectures and workshops around the US, Mr. Winter was eventually convicted by several courts in the USA, including the US Federal Court and the US Bankruptcy Court of North Carolina, for representing, as his own work, the work of various scholars, and in addition, for adulterating the contents of the other scholars' work. Moreover, Winter published under his own name and sold for profit the works of these scholars in the form of books, CD-ROM and videos. He was forced to publicly admit his lies and deceit in a sworn statement and urged his publishers and associates to do likewise. He then fled the country without paying any of the court fees that were assessed against him. At present Mr. Winter is a fugitive, and continues to conduct seminars and workshops in Europe and Australia.

There seems to be a distinct susceptibility (and therefore vulnerability), in many people to unquestioningly accept the word of others, particularly when these 'others' present themselves as an authority on a subject. The vulnerability is further pronounced when the subject being presented is tied to the emotional needs of the listener. It seems that this weakness is understood and used to ensure devotion, be it to an organisation, a concept, another person, or a law.

In the words of the plaintiff in the case against Mr. Winter:

"Dishonest people, and people who enjoy hurting others -- like Mr. Winter -- count on the fact that the vast majority of healthy, caring, well-intended people are not suspicious by nature, and accept what they are told at face value. This is good. Decent, caring people should not have to be suspicious, and should not need to double-check every claim that is made. But unfortunately, this means that decent, caring people, young and old, students and professionals, are easily deceived by people like Mr. Winter, who go to so much trouble to deceive them." [6]

We can perhaps say then that the potential for a group or organisation to actually BE a 'cult' is related to the extent to which the group or organisation presents itself as having the answer(s) to people's problems, promising a better life, happiness, financial success, spiritual enlightenment or essentially anything that plays upon the passive emotional needs that are common to many, but, it seems, not to all of us.

As Mr. Tenen says in the above quote, it is unfortunate that people are forced to be suspicious and double-check everything they are told, however, based on the nature of the world we live in, to NOT do so is to place oneself at the mercy of those who make deception a way of life; and their number is legion.

What can be observed in our society at present, is that in the mind of the average citizen, the concept of a 'cult' is understood as more of a vague threat than anything clearly defined and understood. From the generally ill-informed position of the "man in the street" it can perhaps be likened to the now ever present threat of "terrorists" and "terrorism"; he understands it as something bad, or threatening but would be hard pressed to give any clear examples of where it is and exactly what level of threat it poses to him, personally. This limited and distorted perception of the common person may be indicative of a certain way in which information is disseminated in our society and about the possible agenda of those that disseminate it.

What seems to be true is that the 'cult' label is so powerful, and carries so much stigma, and can be used in a directed way to damage and destroy groups and individuals exactly because of the very things that it labels as 'cultic manipulation,' i.e. the susceptibility of the human psyche to programming and subtle suggestive techniques of one sort or another. Governments must employ the force of public opinion in order to take public action. In our modern society in which people of a predatory nature seem to thrive, any accusation can, and often is, made to stick when stated and stated often enough by those in apparent positions of power and influence.

Dozens if not hundreds of incidents in our recent history can be cited where the public was (and continues to be) led to believe something as truth when in fact it was not. The recent WMD debacle involving various western governments is but one large-scale example. Human history is indeed replete with "urban myths"- many of them forming some of our most accepted and sacred foundational cows. From science to history to religion to politics, no field of study is exempt.

Information is, and probably always has been, a highly valued commodity. "Knowledge is power," as the saying goes. While originally the stated role of governments was to carry out the will of the people, it is clear today that is no longer the case. The job of governments now, it seems, is purely the control of resources, with the most important 'resource' being the citizenry. The information that society is 'allowed' to receive, shapes the perception of the members of that society. Therefore, control of information is key to control of perception, and control of perception is key to the control of the population. Read any of Noam Chomsky's articles or interviews on the media and control of information here for a more in-depth analysis of the control of information and how it is used to manipulate and coerce the masses of people to serve the elite in governments.

Today we have terms like 'Total Information Awareness' (closely tied to, and since 9/11, synonymous with the US government project 'Terrorism Information Awareness'), which is in itself a 'cult of information', or 'cult of awareness'. This philosophy and it's importance is promoted and implemented from the 'top level' in our society. We have people like John Ashcroft, presently on a whirlwind tour of the US, attempting to promote, or perhaps instill this concept into the minds of the populace, the goal being to create an environment or atmosphere wherein the masses of people will be convinced that it is in the interest of their own protection or that of the country (and thus their 'patriotic duty') to funnel information about their fellow citizens upwards to their 'leaders.' Neighbours are encouraged to keep a watch on each other and report "suspicious behavior", with the list of just what defines "suspicious behavior" being supplied by the office of Mr. Ashcroft. We are told that mere disgruntled citizens may well constitute the 'enemy in our midst'.

The masses are told that the benefits of compliance with the requirements of the cult of information lie in the fact that we will be safer; more secure in our beds at night. In short, the cult of information is essentially a cult of fear. Fear must first be instilled in the minds of the masses to inspire them to feed this upward flowing stream of information to their leaders - designed to facilitate the extirpation of any contrary source of information - and fear is a principle that humans seem somehow pre-designed and preprogrammed to wholeheartedly embrace.

What this boils down to is: if you control the knowledge that people have, you control the people. As such, it is not hard to see that if governments understand knowledge as power, and they seek to retain power, they must seek to control the flow of information the aim of which MUST be to LIMIT knowledge.

If you control the spread of information you can control what people think. If you control what people think, you are, effectively, controlling their minds. And we come around in a circle to what is truly CULTIC.

From this point of view, logically, any group that threatens the government monopoly on information and power, and therefore their control of the people, is a THREAT and must be dealt with.

As Richard Dolan has written:

"Anyone who has lived in a repressive society knows that official manipulation of the truth occurs daily. But societies have their many and their few. In all times and all places, it is the few who rule, and the few who exert dominant influence over what we may call official culture. - All elites take care to manipulate public information to maintain existing structures of power. It's an old game." [7]

As noted above, the allegation that 'mind control' is used on cult members is often made when labeling any group as a "cult." However, there can be many forms of 'mind control' - including the mass media coverage of the Gulf war - although they are not called by that name. And if we are to rely on the criteria on which assertions of 'cult' are based, that is observation of the results of 'mind control', i.e. members joining 'communes' giving up possessions, extreme devotion and allegiance to a leader, and in a few cases giving up their lives by way of apparent suicide, we certainly find reasonable justification for labeling the current US administration as a CULT for persuading hundreds of thousands of Americans to give up their possessions and join the commune of the US military out of extreme devotion to a proven liar, George W. Bush, resulting in what could be termed apparent suicide in Iraq.

As discussed above, it seems that there exists a certain type of mentality that is predisposed to wholeheartedly and unquestioningly accepting this type of establishment fear-based programming. Such individuals are easily controlled within the contexts of standard religions which, as can be noted, are also generally all fear based. However, in the 1960s, there was a popular upsurge in the awareness of the masses at large due to outrage at the Viet Nam war. The US government set out to eradicate radical protests against government policies, and what is now popularly known as COINTELPRO - Counter Intelligence Program - was created.

Of course, COINTELPRO in one form or another has always existed, and was described in some detail by Machiavelli. Now, keeping in mind that the elite controllers of the masses seek most definitely to control perception via the control of information, we can deduce that this must require that any sources of information that lead to knowledge - knowledge being power - must be marginalized or even eliminated entirely in order for control to be maintained. This leads to the next logical step which is to realize that COINTELPRO must also be used to vector "ideological" trends - beliefs, etc.

COINTELPRO methods included sending anonymous or fictitious letters designed to cast those individuals or groups they wished to contain or destroy in a bad light, publishing false defamatory or threatening information, forging signatures on fake documents to make their targets look bad in some way, introducing disruptive and subversive members into organizations to destroy them from within, and so on. Blackmailing insiders in any group to force them to spread false rumors, or to foment factionalism was also common. COINTELPRO also concentrated on creating bogus organizations.

These bogus groups could serve many functions which might include attacking and/or disrupting bona fide groups, or even just simply creating a diversion with clever propaganda in order to attract members away in order to involve them with time-wasting activity so as to prevent them from doing anything useful. COINTELPRO was also famous for instigation of hostile actions through third parties. It is in this sense that we can best understand many of the groups that have willingly and enthusiastically taken on the role of self-appointed 'cult busters, going about their 'work' in a frenzy of slandering and finger-pointing, evoking the image of the Spanish inquisition with it's motto of "kill them all, god will know his own". Apparently irony is wasted on them and the adage: "people in glass houses should not throw stones" means nothing to them.

It is in the context of COINTELPRO that we can better understand many curious things about this issue of 'cults.' For many years the 'Cult Awareness Network' [8] worked closely with US government officials to tackle the threat of purported 'cults'. It actively urged the press, Congress and law enforcement to act against any non-mainstream religious, psychological or even political movement, which it described as a "cult." After interviewing CAN's executive director at the time Cynthia Kisser, a reporter wrote:

"No one knows how many destructive cults and sects exist in the United States. Kisser's binder holds 1,500 names gleaned from newspaper clippings, court documents and thousands of calls to the network's hotline. Some of the groups have legitimate purposes, Kisser says. But her group's efforts show that most, despite wildly diverse beliefs, share stunningly similar patterns of mind control, group domination, exploitation and physical and mental abuse."

CAN critics pointed out that so-called "mind control" techniques are not much different than the techniques used in education and socialization efforts used by all schools, churches, ideologies and philosophies. CAN's other successful approach was to refer relatives of group members to "deprogrammers" who charge thousands of dollars for their services and, according to a former national director of CAN's predecessor, the Citizens Freedom Foundation, "kicked back" some of the money to CAN.

'Deprogramming' often includes kidnapping individuals, subjecting them to sleep and food deprivation, ridicule and humiliation, and even physical abuse and restraint until they promise to leave the alleged cult - doing the very things they accuse the 'cult' of doing! Because deprogrammers usually involve family members in these kidnappings and deprogrammings, victims rarely press charges. However, in the last few years 5 deprogrammers have been prosecuted for kidnapping or "unlawful imprisonment." One such deprogrammer is Rick Ross, a convicted jewel thief, who has boasted of more than 200 "deprogrammings." CAN executive director at the time Cynthia Kisser praised him as being "among the half dozen best deprogrammers in the country." In the summer of 1993 Rick Ross was indicted in Washington state for unlawful imprisonment. See here for more info on 'deprogrammers'

The fear principle is perhaps the most prized weapon in the government's armory of population management and control tools. The apparent human predisposition for fear of the unknown, strange or the 'weird' is undoubtedly exploited by government agencies in garnering public support for its condemnation of groups that it perceives as threatening to its monopoly on control. It understands that it can find fertile ground in the mass mind for the dissemination of negative fear based propaganda about "cults" or 'terrorists' etc. This in turn feeds the growth of 'cult busters' and 'cult busting' mentality and essentially allows for any group it chooses to be tarred with the 'cult' or the 'terrorist' brush. [See here for an article by Paul Joseph Watson on fear based propaganda]

It is indeed fortunate for the government that the existence and availability of the term 'cult' with its by now well-established and immediate negative connotations can be so easily used as a weapon with which to attack and defame. Any group that the government may deem a threat to its monopoly on truth can be quickly and easily dealt with simply by assigning it the 'cult' label. It is a remarkably effective means with which to control and, if needed, effectively neutralise any such group. For such a group the evidence, or lack thereof, of any "cultic" behavior becomes irrelevant.

Without doubt real cults practicing some form of mind programming have existed and continue to exist, yet due to the aforementioned human nature and nature of governments and those that govern, it is almost inevitable that many have been and will be wrongly accused, and deliberately so.

One such contemporary case is that of "The Sniff Art Collective" ("dedicated to freedom of expression in the great outdoors") recently accused of being a 'satanic cult' (and murder), essentially for simply displaying their paintings in public. The case is ongoing at the minute. The full story can be read here.

It appears that, as a result of the high profile sensationalist news coverage on the various 'cults' over the past half century, the term has become widely known and at the same time assumed its negative connotations. It was through these few, well publicised events involving alleged 'mind control' that the popular understanding of the word "cult" has been firmly imprinted on the minds of the populace. The most shocking cases were those where alleged physical and mental coercion took place and the deaths of a number of the members resulted.

The "Jonestown massacre" in the forests of Guyana in 1978 was one such case. At the time there were suggestions that the CIA and even Israeli intelligence agencies were in some way involved, that the leader Jim Jones was a CIA asset, and that the members of the US embassy in Guyana who were closely involved with the members of 'Jonestown' were CIA agents.

The allegations included suggestions that the CIA's mind-control program, code-named MK-ULTRA, was not stopped in 1973, as the CIA had told Congress. Instead, it is suggested, it had merely been transferred out of public hospitals and prisons into the more secure confines of religious "cults", Jonestown being one of those "MK-ULTRA experimental cults". The implication here is that the fact that 'mind programming' nowadays goes hand in hand with the term cult, may be due more to "outside influences" than due to any intrinsic or automatic part of an alleged group's makeup or function. There were also conflicting reports as to whether the 913 people that died actually committed suicide, with the Guyanese coroner at the time saying that as many as 700 members showed signs of having been murdered.

What is verifiably true about the "Jonestown massacre" is that a US congressman Leo J. Ryan had been to the Jonestown with various reporters and a delegation of concerned relatives of Jonestown members on the day of the "suicides" and was killed in the events that followed. This was, of course, blamed on the Jonestown cult - that they wanted to suppress Congressman Ryan's report. But the possibility exists that Congressman Ryan's report needed to be suppressed for exactly the opposite reasons - that it would be unfavorable to those labeling the Jonestown group as a "cult." In the end, the question can be asked about this event: who benefits? And the answer is that it put a powerful sociological tool into the hands of the government - the idea that a "cult" was, indeed, a very dangerous thing. The "fear of cults" was literally created with this event.

Another example of a much publicised 'cult' confrontation, where the destruction of the group and the deaths of its members in a horrific fire was the ultimate outcome, occurred at Waco Texas in 1993.

In April 1993 eighty nine 'Branch Davidians' lead by 'David Koresh' died when BAFT (Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco) agents stormed their compound at Mount Carmel in Waco Texas. While the general impression among the public was - and still is - that the deaths were the result of 'cultic activities', at the time there were well founded allegations that government agents acted in a disproportionate way to the threat and that the deaths were unnecessary.

Nancy Ammerman, a Visiting Scholar at Princeton University's Center for the Study of American Religion, was one of the outside experts assigned by the Justice Department to evaluate BATF and FBI's handling of the Branch Davidians. She was particularly critical of Rick Ross and the 'Cult Awareness Network'.

"Although these people often call themselves 'cult experts,' they are certainly not recognized as such by the academic community. The activities of the CAN are seen by the National Council of Churches (among others) as a danger to religious liberty, and deprogramming tactics have been increasingly found to be outside the law... Mr. Rick Ross, who often works in conjunction with the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), has been quoted as saying he was 'consulted' by the BATF. . . The Network and Mr. Ross have a direct ideological (and financial) interest in arousing suspicion and antagonism against what they call `cults'. . . It seem clear that people within the `anti-cult' community had targeted the Branch Davidians for attention." [9]

We note with chagrin that this "arousing of suspicion and antagonism" led to the deaths of undoubtedly innocent people - including many small children - in a particularly gruesome manner.

It would seem that financial gain is a significant motivating factor in the activities of so called cult busters such as Ross. In 'Inside the Cult' there appears the Jan. 16, 1993 diary entry of a former branch Davidian, Marc Breault (also the co- author of the book) where he describes a conversation he had with Branch Davidian Steve Schneider's sister:

"Rick (Ross) told Sue that something was about to happen real soon. He urged her to hire him to deprogram Steve. Rick has Sue all scared now. The Schneider family doesn't know what to do. Rick didn't tell them what was about to happen, but he said they should get Steve out as soon as possible. I know that Rick has talked to the ATF." [10]

We should note carefully that Rick Ross was primarily interested in being "hired to deprogram," and that whatever he knew, he withheld for financial gain.

After the April 19th fire Methodist Minister Joseph Bettis wrote Attorney General Reno,

"...from the beginning, members of the Cult Awareness Network have been involved in this tragedy. This organization is widely known for its use of fear to foster religious bigotry. The reliance of federal agents on information supplied by these people, as well as the whole record of federal activity deserves your careful investigation and public disclosure. . . Cult bashing must end, and you must take the lead."

Representative Harold Volkmer charged that the initial attack on the Branch Davidians was part of a pattern of "Gestapo-like tactics" at the bureau.

"I fail to see the crimes committed by those in the Davidian compound that called for the extreme action of BATF on Feb. 28 and the tragic final assault." [11]

Representative John Conyers branded the April 19th gas and tank attack a "military operation" and called it a "profound disgrace to law enforcement in the United States." He told Janet Reno, "you did the right thing by offering to resign. I'd like you to know that there is at least one member of Congress who is not going to rationalize the innocent deaths of two dozen children."

Reno, however, apparently recovered quickly from her attack of conscience.

Los Angeles journalist Cletus Nelson writes:

"From the very outset, the public was falsely led to believe a multiracial spiritual community was largely comprised of gunrunning "rednecks" steeped in violent apocalypse theology and martial rhetoric.

As if to further darken the picture, thinly veiled allegations of child abuse and cultic phenomenon were widely circulated on television and in the mainstream press. This egregious use of what media analysts refer to as "negative framing" would seal the fate of the controversial 7th Day Adventist sect when it was deemed politically expendable by Washington officials." [12]

Whatever the truth behind the events at Waco and Jonestown (and it is undoubtedly not as black and white as the media would have us believe), the result was to imprint on the mind of the global population the idea that small groups with alternative views were synonymous with cults, and cults were the equivalent of dangerous, fanatical religious beliefs, manipulative mind control and a host of other antisocial activities. The reader can make the 'logical' connections between Rick Ross and his ilk and the government COINTELPRO idea on their own. "Birds of a feather..."

As stated, there is no definitive definition or established criteria for what constitutes a cult in the USA. However in France there has been considerable research done by government agencies into the subject. The French National Assembly has produced a general outline of what may constitute a "cult" in modern parlance:

Report of the French Assembly Inquiry Commission on Cults Dec. 20 1995 [13]

Section I: 2:(d) The concept retained by the Commission.

Any movement presenting itself as religious with the following criteria:

Mental destabilization

Exorbitant demands of a financial nature

A breaking off of contact with one's original environment

Attacks on the physical integrity of members

The recruitment of children

Having a discourse more or less antisocial

Involved in troubles of a public order nature

Involved in serious judicial problems

Misappropriation of traditional economic circuits

Attempts to infiltrate the public powers.

The Commission insists on the fact that as the definition of cults is in many ways difficult.

In conducting its work it attempted to ensure that it did not simply accept the definition of cults proposed by those who are engaged, in one way or another, in the promotion of new religions or those engaged in the struggle against the real or supposed excesses of purported cults.

In its work the Commission was conscious that neither newness nor the small number of members, nor even eccentricity could be retained as criteria permitting to label as a cult a so-called religious movement: the largest contemporary religions were often at their start little more than cults with small numbers of members; many established and socially recognised rites today, in their beginning gave rise to reservations and oppositions."

The very fact that that the French government has publicly sought to investigate the cult phenomena and outline criteria defining one suggests that they take the issue seriously. At the same time however, from the above definition, we see also that they approach the subject in a reasoned and logical way. First of all, rejecting what we might call the COINTELPRO standard of tarring and feathering. As the French Assembly pointed out rather succinctly, The largest contemporary religions today started as little more than cults.

And so we come to another essential point of this brief dissertation. The reader may or may not be aware that we, the Quantum Future School, also have our detractors. Given the nature of the world - where knowledge IS power - and the nature of the research we do - helping people to think, to acquire knowledge - it is hardly surprising that we would be targeted with the kind of libel and defamation for which COINTELPRO is famous.

What HAS surprised us, however, has been the nature and the level of attacks that have come from one or two specific areas. Given what we have outlined above and what we know of the nature of the moral character of our detractors, it is unsurprising also that the 'cult' label would be the first to be pulled out and used by them against us, without any qualms whatsoever. Suffice to say that we have been subjected to the most vicious libel and slander imaginable, most specifically directed at our personal integrity and work. These slanderous accusations include but are by no means limited to the accusation of 'cult'.

Readers that have perused the reports we have published on the activities of these "petty tyrants" will be aware of the insidious and menacing aura they seem to exude as they go about their business of attacking us and our work. Many times we have certainly felt physically threatened - 'stalked' - by these people:

"Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term is generally used to refer to the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other telecommunication technologies to harass or stalk another person. It is not the mere annoyance of unsolicited e-mail. It is methodical, deliberate, and persistent. The communications, whether from someone known or unknown, do not stop even after the recipient has asked the sender to cease all contacts, and are often filled with inappropriate, and sometimes disturbing, content. Essentially, cyberstalking is an extension of the physical form of stalking.

Cyberstalking victims who call the National Center for Victims of Crime often complain of not being taken seriously or of not even being recognized as victims by law enforcement agencies they have contacted. Responding to a victim's complaint by saying "you can't be hurt on the Internet--it's just words" or "just turn off your computer" is not acceptable or responsible. It's unreasonable to expect cyberstalking victims to walk away from their on-line activities, which may comprise their professional career, in order to avoid this kind of problem. On-line harassment and threats are just as frightening and distressing as off-line harassment and threats.

A recent incident described in the Cyberstalking Report from the U.S. Attorney General is typical of the lack of law enforcement training and expertise that can be so frustrating for victims. [14]

A woman complained to a local police agency that a man had been posting information on the Internet claiming that her nine-year-old daughter was available for sex, and including their home phone number with instructions to call 24 hours a day. Numerous calls were received. Although every call was reported to local police by the family, the police officer simply advised them to change their phone number.

Cyberstalkers use a variety of techniques. They may initially use the Internet to identify and track their victims. They may then send unsolicited e-mail, including hate, obscene, or threatening mail. Live chat harassment abuses the victim directly or through electronic sabotage (for example, flooding the Internet chat channel to disrupt the victim's conversation).

With newsgroups, the cyberstalker can create postings about the victim or start rumors that spread through the bulletin board system. Cyberstalkers may also set up a web page on the victim with personal or fictitious information or solicitations to readers.

Another technique is to assume the victim's persona on-line, such as in chat rooms, for the purpose of sullying the victim's reputation, posting details about the victim, or soliciting unwanted contacts from others.

More complex forms of harassment include mailbombs (mass messages that virtually shutdown the victim's e-mail system by clogging it), sending the victim computer virii, or sending electronic junk mail (spamming).

There is a clear difference between the annoyance of unsolicited e-mail and on-line harassment. Unsolicited e-mail is to be expected from time to time. However, cyberstalking is a course of conduct that takes place over a period of time and involves repeated, deliberate attempts to cause distress to the victim. [...]

The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is less threatening or dangerous than physical stalking. Cyberstalking is just as frightening and potentially dangerous as a stalker at the victim's front door." [10]

One of the most remarkable things about this however, is that anyone is free to look objectively at our work and stated intentions and quickly and clearly see that we fail miserably in terms of "cult qualifications;" in fact we fall at the very first "test."

Every definition of cult requires that the group in question have some form of religious aspect or worship as a fundamental basis or their 'raison d'être'. As is clearly evident for anyone who cares to take a look at our published material, we do not. In fact, in articles posted on our website and every day as part of our "Signs of the Times" news page, we report on the many inconsistencies and hypocrisies that are evident in the major organised religions and their New Age offshoots and the controlling influences they obviously exert upon many millions of people. However, this is merely our opinion.

Above all we value free will and the right for each person to decide and choose for him/herself. At the same time we are not so naive to fail to realise that to some this concept is detestable - so detestable, in fact, that they want very much to shut us down, drive us off the internet, and - no doubt - if possible, destroy us completely.

Time and again our obsessed detractors have leveled the accusation of "cult" at the work and research we do, (and therefore at us), an allegation that is so obviously ridiculous given the EVIDENCE that stands against such an allegation, that initially we reacted to it in the only logical way - humour.

In light of the above analysis of the status of cults in our society and just what qualifies any group for "cult" status, it is clear from our perspective - and surely from anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at our work and research - that our detractors and those that would seek to slander and defame us, must find another pigeon hole in which to stuff us - or another allegation to level at us - for we simply do not qualify for the cult label in the modern definition with all it's accompanying negative connotations.

Alternatively, for those that prefer to ignore reason and objective evidence, they may continue to label us a cult as they wish. However in such a case, in the interest of logical consistency, they should also assign the cult moniker to every other research body and organisation which honestly pursues its goals, openly seeks to network with other researchers with the necessary skills, and freely offers the results of its work in a public forum for the scrutiny of all - for that is what we do.

We have no hierarchy, we have no leaders, we have no defined goal other than to better understand the nature of the world in which we live. We do not practice any forms of coercion or manipulation; they are anathema to the common morals we share as human beings. We simply attempt to offer an opportunity to those that feel they may understand the application of the theories that we have developed, and wish to add their efforts to the furthering of the research we are involved in.

Our broad research goals are clearly defined, nothing other than an honest desire to pursue these goals as part of a network of like-minded individuals is asked or required of any potential group members. Our online school is still FREE to any applicant who is qualified by virtue of being as free as possible of cultic thinking and beliefs. No one is required to pay anything at all, and we ask only for donations that are commensurate with the perceived value of our work by the receiver/reader/participant. No one has ever been excluded for financial reasons from FULL participation in EVERY aspect of our work. As an innate function of the research we do and the networking principles which guide it, any benefits are shared equally by all.

We believe in enabling people to think and decide freely to the extent such freedom is at all possible in this world. We believe a broad informational base is a prerequisite for exercising what freedom of mind may be humanly attainable and working as a network to gather and provide such information and analysis to the interested. This is what we consider our service.

We are not in the business of converting people and do not believe in a one-size-fits-all solution to the concerning challenges of our time. We are of the opinion that spiritual evolution of man may only proceed individual by individual and do so at the individual's choosing. And the choice to advance entails a great deal of work and dedication to gathering KNOWLEDGE - the very thing that the powers that be seek to limit to humanity.

That is the full extent of what we think and do and believe.

It is indeed a lamentable state of affairs that we feel obliged to address the question of "cults" at all. However the explosion in recent years of groups of all shapes and forms has given rise to many charlatans and disinformation artists. From the evidence available it appears that many of them have less than honourable intentions towards their prospective audience and potential members. In fact, we have investigated many of these "disinformation" groups and artists in our research and the results are published on our web site.

In this respect we are happy to be able to contribute to the efforts of all those that seek objective and verifiable truth in the face of lies and deceit, whatever their origin.

We hope that, as a result of this brief analysis, we may have provided the reader with a slightly deeper understanding of the 'cult' label and phenomena. As with all our research, our goal was to provide as balanced and objective analysis as possible and as a result help to shed further light on this rather complicated subject.

In particular we hope we have drawn attention to the various factors that have lead to the current climate in which the 'cult' label can so easily be used to unfairly discredit and malign a group or organisation which may nevertheless possess genuinely honest intentions and information.

We seek only to be allowed to continue to pursue our research in the open and honest way in which we have always done. The evidence of the truth of this statement is clear and available for all those who wish to see it.


[1] personal experience of author



[4] Time of Global

[5] Sacred

[6] Dan winter

[7] UFOs and the national Security state; Dolan 2002

[8] The group is defunct, having been forced into liquidation on June 20, 1996, after unsuccessfully seeking refuge in bankruptcy in the face of a $4.8 million damages verdict handed down in September 1995 by a U.S. District Court in Seattle.

[9] Justice Department Report:Ammerman:1

[10] Inside the Cult: by Marc Breault, Martin King p. 317

[11] Associated Press wire story, April 26, 1993, 01:26 EDT. 5/ Michael Isikoff, "Reno Strongly Defends Raid on Cult," Washington Post, April 29, 1993.


[13] Original document here English translation here

[14] The Cyber stalking resource center here


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