(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)
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:
* 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
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.
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