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ISBN 3-930343-43-3



Final Report of the Enquete Commission

on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"

New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups

in the Federal Republic of Germany


Translated into English by:

Wolfgang Fehlberg and Monica Ulloa-Fehlberg

Editor: Deutscher Bundestag

Referat �ffentlichkeitsarbeit

Bonn 1998


Overall production: Bonner Universit�ts-Buchdruckerei Die Deutsche Bibliothek -  CIP-Einheitsaufnahme

Final Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"

New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups in the Federal Republic of Germany

Transl. into English by: Wolfgang Fehlberg and Monica Ulloa-Fehlberg

[Ed.: Deutscher Bundestag, Referat �ffentlichkeitsarbeit]. -

Bonn: Dt. Bundestag, Referat �ffentlichkeitsarbeit, 1998

(Zur Sache; 98, 5)

ISBN 3-930343-43-3



Since the late 1960s, our society has experienced profound changes. Formerly clear-cut standards in terms of life-styles, values and the meaning of life have become less and less binding. New life-styles and new sources of meaning are evolving and competing with each other. At the same time, the individual is expected to be highly efficient,

as well as highly flexible, mobile and willing to take decisions. This leads to a great deal of uncertainty.


Both as a response and as a reaction to this development, a plethora of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups has emerged in the past 20 years. Some of them offer alternative life worlds in which individuals hope to find caring, a sense of community and orientation, as well as "refuge" from the demands of society, or opportunities for religious devotion, or meaning in their lives. Other groups, however, promise "ideal adaptation" to the challenges of the modern age by suggesting to individuals that they will able to increase and strengthen their efficiency to an unrealistic extent. Many people in the Federal Republic of Germany have observed this development with great concern.


This situation led to the establishment of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups". In order to find out what conflicts can be ascribed to the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, and in order to decide whether governmental action is required, and if so, in what areas, the Enquete Commission analysed the phenomenon extensively and in its many facets within a period of only two years. During this analysis, the Commission

found that there were substantial gaps in research available in German-language countries. By awarding contracts for research projects and expert reports that could be completed within the short period of time available, the Enquete

Commission helped considerably to improve the research findings available.


In its final report, the Commission presents the findings obtained during its work, which was limited to identifying problems and conflicts that arise in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. It

was not part of the Commission's brief to scrutinize specific groups, let alone their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of belief are cardinal and inalienable human rights to which the Commission is firmly and wholeheartedly committed. In its work, the Commission has always been guided by the principles of governmental neutrality and tolerance as laid down in Article 4 of the German Constitution.


The Enquete Commission was confronted not only with fears of citizens with regard to the perils associated with "so-called sects" but also with the concern of many communities that they might be labeled as "harmful sects" and treated

as such.


The Commission also dealt intensively with this side of the problem, and it is very much against stigmatizing such groups "lock, stock, and barrel" and against using the term "sect" because of its negative connotations. The rejection

of the term "sect" is also supported by Enquete Commission's finding that only a small number of the groups which have often been summed up with the term "sect" in the past is problematic. It would therefore be irresponsible to continue to use the term "sect" for all new religious and ideological communities.


A research project for which the Commission had awarded a contract showed that people who feel attracted to new religious or ideological communities are not "passive victims". Instead, they have a number of needs, desires or problems in life which they hope will be fulfilled, satisfied and solved in such communities. Whether individuals join a community and stay there or drop out, depends on the quality of the "fit" between their expectations and the answers

and the milieu provided by the communities.


For a realistic discussion of this societal phenomenon -  i.e. a discussion in which the issue is neither exaggerated nor played down -  it is indispensable to have reliable empirical findings and well-founded scientific studies of the various

aspects involved in this issue. In this context, it is necessary to remedy considerable shortcomings in research.


Religious pluralism is a characteristic feature of our society. The communities of the major world religions exist side by side with a host of smaller groups representing a wide variety of religious beliefs. This fact alone should not be a bone of contention that leads to governmental intervention. Instead, government must respect each individual's choice of a given religious belief. However, whenever laws are violated, whenever basic rights are infringed upon, or worse,

whenever crimes are committed under the guise of religion, government cannot remain passive.


The Commission feels that, below this threshold of imperative governmental interventions, government is called upon to provide support and assistance. While government must not impose any rules that dictate how individuals should live their lives, it can support its citizens in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world by providing information and education.


The scope of governmental action in dealing with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups ranges from education and information on the one hand, to specific legislative measures, on the other. This spectrum is reflected by the Enquete Commission's recommendations for action. They include both possible and necessary governmental interventions. The Commission's recommendations for legislative action draw attention to gaps in the current legislation and suggest ways of filling these gaps. The establishment of a foundation which is expected to bundle the various aspects involved when dealing with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is one forward-looking proposal. For any further work on this subject, it will be indispensable to open a dialogue across national borders. International co-operation will be necessary because the phenomenon will not remain limited to the Federal Republic of Germany; in fact, it is a symptom of modern Western societies.


Helping individuals to find orientation and to cope with life is a challenge which government cannot master on its own. Instead, a government must both respect and insist on the personal responsibility of its citizens. To make this

happen, politicians and all groups in society must interact closely. It is necessary to impart knowledge, to teach tolerance and solidarity, and to strengthen the individual's critical faculties as well as his or her ability to cope with conflicts. This will not only protect the individual from being drawn to problematic groups, but it will also give legitimate new religious and ideological communities the room for maneuver in our society that they deserve.


I would like to thank all those who have constructively supported our efforts in a variety of ways and who have thus contributed to the successful completion of our work.



Ortrun Sch�tzle, MP

Chairperson of the Enquete Commission on

"So-called Sects and Psychogroups"



Composition of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"




Chairperson: Ortrun Sch�tzle, MP

Deputy chairperson: Gisela Schr�ter, M P


The members of the German Bundestag

Ordinary members                                                               Substitute members


Helmut Jawurek, MP                                                             Hermann Gr�he, MP

Eckart von Klaeden, MP                                                        Sigrun L�wisch, MP

Ronald Pofalla, MP (spokesman)                                           Marlies Pretzlaff, MP

Ortrun Sch�tzle, MP                                                              Johannes Singhammer, MP

Birgit Schnieber-Jastram, MP                                                 Kersten Wetzel, MP



Alfred Hartenbach, MP                                                          Angelika Graf, MP

Angelika Mertens, MP                                                           Klaus Hagemann, MP

Renate Rennebach, MP (spokeswoman)                                Prof. Dr. J�rgen Meyer, MP

Gisela Schr�ter, MP                                                               Regina Schmidt-Zadel, MP



Roland Kohn, MP (spokesman)                                             Birgit Homburger, MP


B�ndnis 90/Die Gr�nen

Dr Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP                                           Volker Beck (Cologne), MP (spokeswoman)



Ulla Jelpke, MP (spokeswoman)                                           Rosel Neuh�user, MP


The experts

Professor Dr Ralf Bernd Abel

Department of Business Law at the Fachhochschule Schmalkalden


Ingolf Christiansen

Commissioner for Ideology Issues of the Lutheran Protestant Church District of G�ttingen


Ursula Caberta y Diaz

Head of the Scientology Task Force, Ministry of the Interior, Hamburg


Dr J�rgen Eiben

Social scientist, Bonn


Hans Gasper

Theologian, Commissioner for Sects, Pastoral Centre of the German Conference of Bishops, Bonn


Werner Gross

Psychologist, Association of German Psychologists, Bonn


Professor Dr Werner Helsper

Department of Philosophy/Education, Teachers' Training College of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz


Dr habil Hansj�rg Hemminger

Centre for Ideology Issues, Protestant Parish Service for W�rttemberg, Stuttgart


Dr J�rgen Keltsch

Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior, Munich


Professor Dr Hubert Seiwert

Institute of Religious Studies at the University of Leipzig


Dr Bernd Steinmetz

Richter am Landgericht Hamburg


Professor Dr Hartmut Zinser

Institute of Religious Studies at the Free University of Berlin


Commission secretariat

The German Bundestag made a secretariat available to the Enquete Commission in order to provide organisational and scientific support to the Commission in its work.


Director of the secretariat: Dr Jutta Wettengel


Deputy director of the secretariat: Katja Meyer zu Heringdorf, lawyer


Academic staff:       Andreas Klump, political scientist

Hardo M�ggenburg, social scientist

Wolfgang Wittmann, social scientist


Office manager:       Beate Hess, administrative science graduate


First Commission secretary: Sabine Reeb


Second Commission secretary: Petra Becker


Academic staff employed by, and working for, the various parliamentary groups


CDU/CSU:                                              Dr Christoph Golsong                           

Ulrike Heuberger

SPD:                                                        Frank Sassenscheidt-Grote

B�NDNIS 90/DIE GR�NEN:              Wolfgang Bayer  

Ralf Klemm

F.D.P.:                                                    Sabine Scholz

PDS:                                                        Gudrun Hentges



Table of Contents


1                     Mandate and Implementation of the Work of the Enquete Commission on

"So-called Sects and Psychogroups" . . . . .                                                                            19

1.1           Description of the Problem, as well as the Commission's Establishment and Mandate . . .. 19

1.2           The Commission's Methodological Approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            23

2                     Phenomenological, Terminological and Conceptual Clarification of the

Subject under Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                         27

2.1           Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                27

2.2           The Term "Sect" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               27

2.2.1        Historical Meanings of the Term "Sect" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             28

2.2.2        The Term "Sect" as Used in Scientific History . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                          29

2.2.3        The Term "Sect" as Used in Colloquial Language . . . . . . . . . . .                                            29

2.2.4        Understanding of the Phenomenon in Social Sciences . . . . . . .                                              30

2.2.5        Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 31

2.3           The Term "Psychogroup". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             32

2.4           Types of Conflict with "Sects" and "Psychogroups" . . . . . . . . .                                          33

2.5           The Term "Sect" and Religious Conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             34

2.6           The Term "Sect" as Used by Governmental Bodies. . . . . . . . . .                                           35

2.7           Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 36

3              Macrosocial and Microsocial Dimensions of the Phenomenon.                                             38

3.1                 Societal Causes of, and Conditions for, the Emergence and Growth of

New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups. . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

3.1.1        Preliminary Remarks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              38

3.1.2        From the Traditional Community to the Elective Community . . .                                        39

3.1.3        Modern Biographies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               42

3.1.4        Societal Secularity and Religious Indifference. . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             42

3.1.5        Supply of, and Demand for, Meaning, Life-Counselling, and Personality Development. .. 45

3.1.6        Globalisation and Localisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              47

3.1.7        Media and Public Awareness                                                 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

3.1.8        Experience Orientation as a Selection Criterion . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              49

3.1.9        Modern Society: A Communication Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            51

3.2                 New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups as

Perceived in Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                53

3.2.1        Historical Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              53

3.2.2        Objectives and Instruments of Governmental Intervention. . . . .                                          55

3.2.3            New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups:

A Challenge for Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                          56

3.2.4        Survey among Various Groups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              59

3.2.5        Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                61

3.3           Group Structures, Activities and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            63

3.3.1        Opportunities for, and Limits to, a Typology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                         63

3.3.2            Overview of Structural Elements of New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                         65

3.3.3        Description of Typologically Generalised Groups . . . . . . . . . . .                                          67

3.3.4        Mixed Forms, Business and Pyramid Selling . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             70

3.3.5        Potential Conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              72

3.3.6        Digression: Enlistment and Recruitment Strategies. . . . . . . . . .                                             74

3.4           Occultism/Satanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                78

3.4.1        The Scope of Occult and Satanic Phenomena . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               79

3.4.2        Modern Occultism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               80

3.4.3        Modern Satanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                81

3.4.4        Typologies of Satanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              82

3.4.5        Examples of Problematic Practices and Rituals in Satanism . . .                                             83

3.4.6        Areas of Conflict . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              85

3.5           The Psycho-market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              87

3.5.1        Issues and Hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               89

3.5.2        Study on the Alternative Life-Counselling Market . . . . . . . . . . .                                          90     Consumers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                91     Providers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 97

3.5.3        Problems, Risks, Negative Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              101

3.5.4        Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                103

3.5.5        Suggestions for Further Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               104

3.6                 Entry Pathways and Membership Histories in New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups; Results of the Research Projects on "Drop-outs,

Converts, and Believers: Contrasting Biographical Analyses of Why Individuals Join,

Have a Career, and Stay in, or Drop out of, Religious/Ideological Contexts or Groups" .     105

3.7                 Social and Psychological Effects of Membership in New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups . . . . . .                                                                                112

4              Information and Counselling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 116

4.1           Information Provided by Governmental Bodies. . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            116

4.2                 Counselling and Information Provided by Non-governmental Bodies . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

4.2.1        Need for Information and Counselling from Non-governmental Centres. . . . . .  . . . . . . . .   118

4.2.2        Current Basic Elements of Conflict Perception . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            120

4.2.3            Need for Counselling and the Underlying Conflicts: Findings of the Expert Report

Prepared by the Department for Sects and Ideological Issues in the Diocese of Aachen .    122

4.2.4        General Conditions of Counselling Work. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            126

4.2.5        Lay Helpers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               131

4.2.6        Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                132

4.3           Education and Continuing Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              133

4.3.1        Information and Education Provided to Individuals and Associations . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

4.3.2        Information and Education Provided to Public Officials . . . . . . .                                          137

4.4           Research and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                138

5              Analysis of Specific Priority Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               140

5.1           Forms of Social Control and Psychological Destabilisation . . . .                                           140

5.1.1        Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                140

5.1.2        Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 140

5.1.3        Levels of Psychological Dependency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             142

5.1.4        Religious Dependency. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               147

5.1.5        Levels of Social Control and Manipulative Elements . . . . . . . . .                                           149

5.1.6        Potential Dangers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                151

5.1.7        Interim Summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               153

5.1.8        Opportunities and Need for Governmental Interventions . . . . . .                                         154

5.1.9        Ethical Standards, Voluntary Commitments, (Moral) Appeals . .                                         155

5.1.10      Institutional Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              156

5.1.11         Recommendation to Fund Research Aimed at Shedding More Light on the

Issues at Stake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                  156

5.2                 Children and Adolescents in New Religious and Ideological Communities and

Psychogroups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                           157

5.2.1        Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 157

5.2.2            Conflicts and Approaches to Coping with Conflicts in New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups, as Compared with the Principles of Modern Life-styles. 159

5.2.3            Assessing the Education of Children in the Belief Systems of New Religious and

Ideological Communities and Psychogroups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162

5.2.4            The Situation of Children and Adolescents in New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                      163     The Unification Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              164     Fundamentalist Currents in Groups and Movements of Christian Origin . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . 165     Hindu and Meditative Currents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             167     Scientology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                170     Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                 173

5.2.5        Educational Conflict Areas and Potential Hazards. . . . . . . . . . .                                            174     Problem Clusters within the Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             174        Problems and Conflicts in Relation to Schools, Peers, Youth Culture, and Other

Fields of Experience of Children and Adolescents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176        Problems and Conflicts Affecting the Social Integration and Individualisation of

Children and Adolescents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                         179

5.2.6        Digression: Ritual Abuse of Children: An Occult-Satanic Phenomenon?. . . . .  . . . . . . . . . 181     Ritual Abuse, Dissociation, Multiple Personalities . . . . . . . . . . .                                         181     Qualifications and Question-marks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              183     How Widespread Are these Practices?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              185     Ritual Abuse: Summing Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              186

5.2.7        Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                186

5.3           Economic Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                187

5.3.1        Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                187

5.3.2        Examples of Commercial Enterprises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              189

5.3.3        Pyramid Selling and Multi-level Marketing Systems . . . . . . . . .                                           194

5.3.4        Pyramid Selling as a So-called "Commercial Cult" . . . . . . . . . .                                             196

5.3.5        Profit Expectation Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              197

5.3                 International Aspects of New Religious and Ideological Communities and

Psychogroups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                    200

5.4.1        Comparable Problems in Other Countries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              200     Problem Description and the Enquete Commission's Mandate .                                           200     Scope and Scale of New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups . .. . . 203     Legal Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                205     Legal Disputes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                209     International Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               211     Perceptions in the Public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              211     Counselling and Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               214     Parliamentary Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              215     European Parliament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               219   Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. . . . . . . . . . .                                           220   Conclusions of Parliamentary Reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             220   Implementation of Parliamentary Reports. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            222   Conclusions for the Debate in Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            223   International Co-operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             224

5.4.2        International Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              225

5.4.3        Visit by a Delegation to the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                           228

5.5           Legal Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               233

5.5.1        Overview of Relevant Case Law. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             233

5.5.2        General Problems Involved in Legal Disputes . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            242        Behaviour of New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups in

Terms of Legal Proceedings. . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                         242     Typical Difficulties for Individuals in Legal Disputes . . . . . . . . . .                                       243

5.5.3        Constitutional Appraisal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             246     Article 4 of the German Constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            246     Rights of Corporations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              249

5.5.4        Application and/or Extension of the Scope of Existing Law . . . .                                          251     Association and Tax Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             251     Act on Non-Medical Practitioners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            252     Provisions of the Law on Parents and Children . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                           259     Usury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                261     The Act on Psychotherapists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             266     Aspects of Labour and Social Security Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             266

5.5.5        Legal Provisions to be Adopted in Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            272        Establishment of a Foundation in the Field of "New Religious and Ideological

Communities and Psychogroups" . . . . . . . . . .                                                                      272        Introduction of a Legal Regime on the Provision of Public Funds for Private

Counselling and Information Centres . . . . . . .                                                                       273     Act on Commercial Life-Counselling Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             277     Introduction of Criminal Liability of Legal Entities and Associations of Persons . .  . . . . . 278     Making the Organisation of So-called Pyramid Games a Separate Criminal Offence. .         280

6              Opinion and Recommendations for Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                281

6.1                 Opinion of the Enquete Commission on the General Societal Phenomenon of New

Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281

6.2           Recommendations for Action. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              285

6.2.1        Constitutional Appraisal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             285     Article 4 of the German Constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            285     Rights of Corporate Bodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              285

6.2.2        New Legal Provisions to be Adopted in Future . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                           285     Act Establishing a Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              285        Introduction of a Legal Regime for the Provision of Public Funds for Private

Counselling and Information Centres . . . . . . .                                                                       286     Act Governing Commercial Life-Counselling Services. . . . . . . .                                            286        Introduction of Responsibility under Criminal Law for Legal Entities and

Associations of Persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                                 286     Making the Organisation of So-called Pyramid Games a Separate Criminal Offence.. . . . . 287        Including Pyramid Selling in the Scope of Application of Legislation on Financial

and Insurance Services Intermediaries . . . . .                                                                          287

6.2.3        Applying, and/or Extending the Scope of, Legislation Currently in Force. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287        Activities of the Federal Administrative Office in the Field of "New Religious

and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups". . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287     Association and Tax Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             288     Act on Non-Medical Practitioners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            288     Legal provisions on the Relationship between Parents and Children . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289     Usury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                290     Act on Psychotherapists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              290

6.2.4            Observation of the Scientology Organisation by Germany's Offices for the

Protection of the Constitution . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                    291

6.2.5        International Co-operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                             291

6.2.5            A Common Approach towards New Religious and Ideological Communities and

Psychogroups in the European Union . . . . . .                                                                        291

6.2.7        Occultism/Satanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                291

6.2.8        Education and Continuing Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                              292

6.2.9        Funding of Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               292

6.2.10      Transparency of the Psycho-market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            294

6.2.11      Conflict Reduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                               295

6.2.12      Avoiding the Use of the Term "Sect". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            295

6.2.13      Duty of the German Federal Government to Submit Reports . . .                                         295


Minority Opinions

Minority Opinion Submitted by Commission Members Dr J�rgen Eiben, Professor Dr Werner

Helsper, Dr Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP, Professor Dr Hubert Seiwert with Regard to

Chapter 4.2.1 "Need for Information and Counselling from Non-governmental Centres". . . . . .          296

Minority Opinion Submitted by the Working Group of the SPD's Parliamentary Group

in the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" with Regard to

Chapter (Rights of Corporations) and the Relevant Recommendation for

Action in Chapter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                                 298

Minority Opinion Submitted by Ursula Caberta y Diaz, Alfred Hartenbach, MP,

Dr habil Hansj�rg Hemminger, Renate Rennebach, MP, Gisela Schr�ter, MP, Dr

Bernd Steinmetz and Professor Dr Hartmut Zinser, Members of the Working Group of

the SPD's Parliamentary Group in the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects

and Psychogroups" with regard to Chapter 6.1 "Opinion of the Enquete Commission

on the General Societal Phenomenon of New Religious and Ideological Communities

and Psychogroups" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                             301

Minority Opinion Submitted by Commission Members Professor Dr Ralf-Bernd Abel,

Ursula Caberta y Diaz, Dr J�rgen Keltsch, Professor Dr Hartmut Zinser with Regard to

the Commission's Final Report . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                                    303

Minority Opinion Submitted by Dr Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP, and Professor Dr Hubert

Seiwert, Members of the Working Group of the Parliamentary Group of B�NDNIS

90/DIE GR�NEN in the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"

with Regard to the Commission's Final Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305


The Research Project on "Drop-outs, Converts, and Believers: Contrasting Biographical

Analyses of Why Individuals Join, Have a Career and Stay in, or Leave, Religious/Ideological

Contexts or Groups" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                                                                            371


1    Mandate and Implementation of the Work of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"

1.1 Description of the problem as well as the Commission's establishment and mandate


With the votes of the CDU/CSU, F.D.P. and SPD, the German Bundestag adopted a recommendation for a decision on 9 May 1996 -  submitted by the Committee for Scrutiny of Elections, Immunity, and Rules of Procedure in

response to a motion tabled by the SPD's parliamentary group (Bundestag Doc. 13/3867) -  establishing the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" (Bundestag Doc. 13/4477).


With this decision, the German Bundestag followed a recommendation made by the Petitions Committee on 25 October 1995 to establish an Enquete commission in order to clarify a host of legal questions brought to the attention of the

Petitions Committee by concerned citizens.


These questions and concerns were not new; along with personally affected individuals, information and counselling centres had been increasingly preoccupied with these issues since the 1960s. In every-day usage, the term "sect" has long since stopped referring exclusively to religious movements; instead, it also covers ideological, philosophical, psychological, educational, and political communities. A group's history of ideas is no longer the only factor that determines the use of the term "sect" but also -  and primarily -  the presence of a certain potential for conflict. The groupings which are referred to under the generic term "sects" are accused of, among other things, isolating and psychologically manipulating individuals by means of totalitarian internal structures and the use of problematic methods of taking influence, as well as fraud, exploitation and the infliction of severe mental damage on members and their families; however, they are also accused of devising antidemocratic societal systems.


Because of the widespread use of the term "sect" in every-day language, the German Bundestag decided to give the Enquete Commission the working title "So-called Sects and Psychogroups". This title is evidence of the fact that the

German Bundestag rejects any sweeping statements flatly condemning all communities believed to belong to the spectrum of groups that might spark conflicts.


In its work, the Enquete Commission did not start off by focusing on specific groups; instead, the Commission began by examining and analysing the potential conflicts ascribed to the phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. This was the mandate assigned to the Enquete Commission by the German Bundestag in its decision to establish the Commission. Hence, the Enquete Commission has not endeavoured to appraise religions




or ideologies; nor has it drawn up a list of all the groups which are active in the Federal Republic of Germany because such a list would involve a considerable risk that the groups mentioned therein might be stigmatized.


The Commission's remit was to analyse conflict and problem areas in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and to find solutions without scrutinizing religious beliefs. On the one hand, this brief was fully in keeping with the freedom of religion and the freedom of religious belief guaranteed by the German Constitution, as well as the associated religious and ideological neutrality of government; with its remit, the Enquete Commission also fulfilled a duty incumbent upon the State, which is to protect individuals against any encroachment upon their rights, and to protect society as a whole.


Under the German Bundestag's decision to establish the Commission, the latter had the mandate to deal with four priority areas in its work:


"1.           To analyse the objectives, activities and practices of so-called sects and psychogroups that are active in the Federal Republic of Germany

This analysis is expected to

          identify dangers emanating from these organisations for the individual, the State, and society;

          appraise open and concealed societal objectives pursued by these organisations;

          identify national and international interconnections of these organisations, and

          identify the limits to recourse to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion for more      recently established religious and ideological movements, so-called sects and psychogroups.

"2.           To find out why individuals join so-called sects or psychogroups and why such organisations are growing in membership

To this end, the Enquete Commission is requested to

          study typical case histories, i.e. how individuals become members and what happens after they join such organisations;

          identify the social and political conditions which lead to an increased willingness to join so-called sects and psychogroups;

          identify enlistment and recruitment strategies pursued by these organisations, and

          develop proposals designed to prevent citizens, as well as companies, associations, pressure groups and other institutions from inadvertently being drawn into such organisations or being abused by such organisations.



"              3.             To identify problems encountered by individuals during membership and when trying to leave

membership in sects can lead to problems not only for the members themselves but also for their families and friends, and it can create problems in companies, associations, pressure groups, and other institutions. Socialisation problems and legal disputes due to family conflicts are of particular importance in this context. Even if the extent to which individuals are affected varies, it is often not possible to cope with the problems or their solutions without outside support. For this reason, the Commission was requested to study not only the problems associated with sect membership and the consequences for all the parties affected but also the question as to what offers for help are or should be available. When examining the help that can and must be given to individuals who want to leave an organisation, the Commission should take into consideration reports by former members about their experience regarding the pressure exerted by some organisations, as well as the  psychological state of members, and their prospects and opportunities "after" leaving the organisation.


4.             To draw up recommendations for action bearing in mind the debate carried on in society to date

the Commission is expected to submit fundamental recommendations for how to deal with the phenomenon of the so-called sects and psychogroups in future, involving the institutions in society affected by this phenomenon; it should be possible to implement these recommendations within a short period of time. In its work, the Commission should also answer the question as to whether the way this phenomenon has been dealt with in society in the past, and whether the fact that all these organisations are generally referred to as sects or youth sects, is in keeping with the actual development and the need for an appropriate debate in society."


This Final Report, which follows up on the Enquete Commission's Interim Report (Bundestag Doc. 13/8170), is the result of a busy and packed work schedule. Because of the short time available, the Commission was not able to

investigate all the ramifications of the subject. In its analysis, the Enquete Commission therefore deliberately focused its attention on priority issues in keeping with the mandate assigned by the German Bundestag in its decision to set up

the Enquete Commission:


A key challenge for the Enquete Commission was to appraise membership in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups from the perspective of the individual in order to find out what conflicts actually emanate from new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. To this end, the Commission looked intensively into the question of an individual's background and the connection between the individual's life history and his or her joining,




leaving, or staying in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. The Commission examined the question as to whether dependencies of the individual are created within the group, and if so, in what ways, and what

effects membership has.


Another priority of the Enquete Commission's work was to identify the causes in society which lead to the development and spread of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups because the phenomenon can only be

assessed adequately if it is seen from the perspective of society as a whole. On the one hand, the causes of the growth of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups as a characteristic of the modern world are not limited to Germany alone; and on the other hand, many of the groups operate internationally. For this reason, the Enquete Commission chose the international dimension of the phenomenon as another priority issue in its work. For this purpose, the Commission not only invited scientists from other countries to participate in an exchange of ideas, but it also had numerous talks to exchange experience with foreign politicians and explained the German position vis-�-vis the Scientology Organisation during a trip to the United States of America.


Furthermore, the Enquete Commission examined the activities and assessed the importance of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in business enterprises. Particular attention was paid by the Commission to the problem area of "children in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups" because the State has a particular duty to protect these weakest members of society; and there is by all means a dichotomy between this duty

and the constitutionally guaranteed right of parents to educate their children.  Arriving at a balanced assessment of the phenomenon in this context was a particularly difficult challenge for the Enquete Commission.


In its recommendations for action developed on the basis of its analysis of the phenomenon of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the Enquete Commission takes into account current discussions on legislation in Germany, draws attention to the need for closing loopholes in current legislation, presents proposals for improving the efficiency of counselling and information services, and makes suggestions for improvements in the sector of research, education and continuing education, which has so far been grossly neglected in the Federal Republic of Germany.


However, the recommendations for action developed and deemed necessary by the Enquete Commission do not release the various societal groups from their own obligation to deal with the phenomenon of the new religious and ideological

communities and psychogroups in a responsible manner. The Enquete Commission itself considered that it was one of its important tasks to try and have a dialogue with groups in an effort to ease the tensions in society. Many communities gladly accepted the proffered dialogue and used this opportunity to submit statements. The Enquete Commission is hoping that the dialogue between the groups, government and society will continue after the completion of its




work. However, this will require a certain measure of "even-handedness", not only on the part of the media, academia, and each individual, but also by the groups and communities themselves. A dialogue can only be successful if both

sides make an effort.


1.2 The Enquete Commission's Methodological Approach


Composition of the Enquete Commission


The Enquete Commission was composed of twelve members of the parliamentary groups represented in the German Bundestag, as well as twelve experts. The PDS group was represented by one non-voting member in an advisory

capacity; in addition, the PDS appointed one non-voting expert. A secretariat provided organisational and scientific support to the Commission in its work.



In the period between its constituent meeting on 9 May 1996 and the adoption of its final report at the meeting on 28 May 1998, the Commission held a total of 49 meetings.


For reasons of confidentiality, most of the hearings of external experts were not open to the public:

Non-public hearings and talks with experts

          Talk with experts from Germany's Offices for the Protection of the Constitution, 14 November 1996


          Hearing of counselling and information centres as well as initiatives of parents and affected individuals, 2 December 1996


          Hearings of various groups, 13 January 1997 and 17 February 1997


          First part of a series of three hearings on the "Situation of Children and Adolescents in so-called Sects and Psychogroups", 20 February 1997


          Hearing on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups and Business Enterprises", 12 May 1997


          Hearing on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups: A Challenge for Society?", 2 June 1997


          Hearing on "International Interconnections", 5 June 1997


          Hearings on "Drop-outs from so-called Sects and Psychogroups", 25 September 1997, 2 October 1997, 9 October 1997, 5 February 1998


          Talk with experts on the topic of "Pyramid Selling", 13 November 1997




          Talk on the topic of "International Aspects in the Field of so-called Sects and Psychogroups" with an expert from the European Parliament, 11 December 1997


          Talk with experts on the topic of "Ritual Abuse", 16 January 1998


          Talk with an expert from the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on labour law and social security issues, 12 February 1998


          Talk with medical experts on the topic of "Disease Risks due to the Improper Use of Hypnosis, Trance, and Conditioning in Lay Therapy and Group Dynamics Events", 14 May 1998


The Enquete Commission invited the following groups to attend non-public hearings: Alter Mystischer Orden Rosae Crucis (Rosenkreuzer), Bruno Gr�ning-Freundeskreis, Gemeinde auf dem Weg, Gesellschaft f�r Transzendentale Meditation (TM), International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Landmark Education, Neue Akropolis, Osho, Scientology, Soka Gakkai, Universelles Leben e. V. (UL), Verein zur F�rderung der psychologischen Menschenkenntnis (VPM), Vereinigungskirche (Unification Church) Jehovah's Witnesses. Representatives of the Europ�ische Arbeiterpartei (European Labour Party; today: B�rgerrechtsbewegung Solidarit�t -  Solidarity Civil Rights Movement) were invited but did not accept this invitation. While the representatives of the Scientology Organisation and of VPM appeared at the hearing, they refused to give any information.


The Commission heard drop-outs from the following groups or course participants: Ananda Marga, Europ�ische Arbeiterpartei (European Labour Party; today: B�rgerrechtsbewegung Solidarit�t -  Solidarity Civil Rights Movement),

Gemeinde auf dem Weg, Gesellschaft f�r Transzendentale Meditation, Kaizen, Landmark Education, Sant Thakar Singh, Scientology, Soka Gakkai, Universelles Leben e.V., Verein zur F�rderung der Psychologischen Menschenkenntnis, Vereinigungskirche (Unification Church), Jehovah's Witnesses.

Public hearings

          Hearing on the topic of the "Constitutional Background in Dealing with New Religious and Ideological Movements (German Constitution, Art. 4)", 12 December 1996


          Second part of the series of hearings on the "Situation of Children and Adolescents in so-called Sects and Psychogroups"; hearing of educational and psychological experts, 13 March 1997


          Third part of the series of hearings on the "Situation of Children and Adolescents in so-called Sects and Psychogroups"; hearing of legal experts, 20 March 1997


          Conference on the topic of "Psychotechniques", 14 April 1997




          International forum on the topic of: "So-called Sects and Psychogroups and Their International Interconnections", under the Patronage of the Speaker of the German Bundestag, Professor Dr Rita S�ssmuth, MP, 22 September 1997


          Trip of some Commission members to meet representatives of Universelles Leben (Universal Life) and Jehovah's Witnesses, 19 and 20 August 1997


          Trip of a Commission delegation to the United States of America, 23 to 27 February 1998

Research projects/Studies


          In order to determine the spread of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in the German population, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract to INFRATEST Burke GmbH, Berlin, to conduct a survey based on a representative sample. For the results, see the Commission's Interim Report (Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 33 ff.).


          In order to analyse the background and connections with the life history of individuals, i.e. careers in new religious and ideological movements, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for a research project entitled "Drop-outs, Converts, and Believers: Contrasting Biographical Analyses of Why Individuals Join, Have a Career and Stay in, or Leave, Religious/Ideological Contexts or Groups".


The implementation of this project was entrusted to:


Professor Dr Heinz Streib, University of Bielefeld,


Professor Dr Werner Fuchs-Heinritz, Open Polytechnic University of Hagen,


Dr Albrecht Sch�ll, Comenius-Institut M�nster,


Wilfried Veeser, theologian, pastor of the Protestant Church in W�rttemberg.


(For the results, see Chapter 3.6. as well as the Annex).


          In order to identify the motives and the patterns of perception of psycho-market clients, and to shed some light on the providers and consumers as regards the psycho-market, psycho-techniques and the esoteric scene, the Enquete Commission joined an ongoing project headed by Professor Dr Straube and Professor Dr Mischo. In this context, the Commission awarded a contract to Gerhard Hellemeister (psychologist, University of Jena) who, in co-operation with Wolfgang Fach (psychologist, Institut f�r Grenzgebiete der Psychologie, Freiburg), carried out a research project on the topic of "Providers and Consumers in the Psycho-market: An Empirical Analysis" (see Chapter 3.5 for the findings).





          In order to obtain reliable findings with regard to the question as to whether there is a specific form of religious dependence, and if so, what processes lead to such dependence, and how it can be defined, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for a research project on the topic of "What Are the Characteristics that Can Be Used to Identify Religious Dependence?". This contract was awarded to Professor Dr Burkhard Gladigow, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut im  Wissenschaftszentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen (see Chapter 5.1.4 for the findings).


          In order to study socially desirable and undesirable effects associated with new religious movements, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for a study on the topic of "Social and Psychological Effects of Membership in New Religious Movements, with Special Consideration Given to the Social Integration and Mental Health". Dr Sebastian Murken, psychologist, University of Trier, was entrusted with the execution of this project (see Chapter 3.7 for the findings).


          In order to make cause-effect relations of conflictual events fully comprehensible in the social environment of individuals primarily affected by new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for an expert report on the topic of "Need for Counseling, and Triggering Conflicts in the Case Histories in a So-called Sect Counseling Centre, Based on Case Categories and Process Patterns". The execution of the project was entrusted to the Beratungsdienst f�r Sektenund Weltanschauungsfragen beim Bisch�flichen Generalvikariat Aachen (see Chapter 4.2 for the findings).


          In order to identify the skills which the staff of counselling centres for new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups need in order to meet counselling needs, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for an expert report on the topic of "Skills Required for Counselling Staff Working in the Conflict Area of So-called Sects and Psychogroups: Criteria and Strategies".  This study was entrusted to Beate Roderigo, psychologist, Informations-und Dokumentationszentrum Sekten/Psychokulte of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kinder- und Jugendschutz, Landesstelle Nordrhein-Westfalen e. V. (see Chapter 4.2 for the findings).




2.                Phenomenological, Terminological and Conceptual Clarification of the Subject under Review


2.1  Introduction


Since the term "sect" is used in a variety of ways in science and in colloquial language, primarily in internal religious disputes, and since the term "psychogroup" is new, the Commission had to clarify whether these two terms sufficiently and adequately described the subject under review by the Enquete Commission; the word "so-called" used by the German Bundestag in its decision to set up the Commission already indicates that the use of these terms is of a tentative nature only. In the first part of what follows, the Commission digresses from the topic under review to discuss the terms

"sect" and "psychogroup" by means of some selected examples; and in the second part, the Enquete Commission then defines its own field of work on this basis.


In the course of its work, the Commission found out first of all that different terms cover different (partial) aspects of the overall phenomenon. This point is discussed in greater detail below. Secondly, the Commission found out that not

all the attributes ascribed to groupings that are referred to under the heading of "so-called sects and psychogroups" actually apply across the entire spectrum.


Many conflicts which will be described in this Report are conflicts with a relatively small percentage of groups from the overall spectrum; some of these conflicts are also of a temporary nature because they are typical of a certain stage

of a group's development.

2.2 The term "sect"


According to the German Bundestag's decision to set up the Enquete Commission, the latter has the duty to answer the question as to whether the way this phenomenon has been dealt with in society in the past, and whether the fact that certain organisations are generally referred to as "sects" or "youth sects", is in keeping with reality and the need for an appropriate debate in society. For this reason, it was necessary for the Commission to deal with the terms "sect"

and "youth sect". In some sources in literature, the meaning of the term "sect" is also considered to be a given fact. 1 ) In addition, there are other terms, some of which emphasise other conceptual aspects: Fr. W. Haack has introduced the

term "youth religion". 2 ) Furthermore, the terms "cult" and "destructive cult", which originated in the United States, have been adopted in the German language


1 ) Cf. Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur, Freiburg/Basel 1987, p. 22.

2 ) Cf. Haack, Fr. W.: Jugendreligionen. Zwischen Scheinwelt und Kommerz, Munich 1994 (first

edition 1974); ibid.: Jugendsekten -  Vorbeugen-Hilfe-Auswege, Basle 1991.




There are also other terms such as "new religion", "new religious movements", as well as the more neutral term "communities of special religious groups". Psychotherapeutically oriented enterprises, which are assumed to manipulate individuals psychologically, are also referred to as "psychocults" or "psychogroups". Groups with political objectives have also been termed "politico-religious youth sects". Information published by governmental agencies

often use the terms "new religious and ideological movements" or put "so-called" before the words "sects" and "psychogroups", or put these words into quotation marks.


Hence -  although it may appear to be self-evident -  the term "sect" itself is ambiguous and thus problematic. 3 )

2.2.1 Historical meanings of the term "sect"


Etymologically, the word "sect" is derived from the Latin word "sequi" (follow), which is the translation of the Greek word "hairesis" (following). In antiquity, the word "sect" was initially used to describe those who followed the school of opinion of a given philosopher. In the history of Christianity, the word "sect" was used to refer to groups who followed a certain religious leader outside the Church or who followed dogmas or practices which had been declared a deviation from doctrine. During the Middle Ages and during the early Modern Age (see, for instance, the Ad Deus constitution of Emperor Frederick II of 1220), individuals who were "unruly followers" of a "sect" were outlawed and sentenced to death (see, for instance, Art. 30 of the Bamberg Rules of Court Proceedings for Capital Crimes of 1507). Sect membership was made a criminal offence in the Middle Ages because any form of deviating belief was considered

to be a tort which was not acceptable for society and for the State. Thus, religious deviation became a criminal offence, as the Protestant theologian P. Tillich wrote: "Anyone who violates canonised dogma, (is) not only a heretic who goes

against the fundamental doctrines of the Church but also commits a crime against the State" 4 ). In addition, the word "sects" of course also had a neutral meaning, as illustrated by Roger Bacon (in the 13th century) and Nikolaus von

Kues (in the 15th century), who spoke about the "secta Christiana". The negative meaning of the term "sect" seems to have clearly culminated during the 16th century, especially when it was used to describe those Christian communities

which established themselves -  next to the recognised religious parties -  with



 3 ) Cf.: Hemminger, H. J.: Was ist eine Sekte?, Mainz-Stuttgart 1995; Keltsch, J.: Neue religi�se Bewegungen und das Recht, in: Einheit und Vielfalt der Rechtsordnung. Commemorative publication to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Munich Law Society, Munich 1996; Gasper, H.: Ein problematisches Etikett, in: Herder Korrespondenz, Vol. 50, No. 11, Nov. 1996, p. 576ff.; and Zinser, H.: Der Markt der Religionen, Munich 1997, Chapter VIII; for a legal definition, see Abel R. B.: NJW 1996, p. 91.

4 ) Cf. Tillich, P.: Vorlesungen �ber die Geschichte des christlichen Denkens, Part I, Supplements and unpublished works, Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1971, p. 20f.




out being legally legitimated by the Empire. 5 ) Such views and institutions were abandoned when freedom of religion was declared in the countries of Europe. In Germany's Constitution, reference is made only to three types of religious

groups: religi�se Vereine (religious associations -  German Constitution, Art. 140 in connection with Art. 138 of the Imperial Constitution of the Weimar Republic); Religionsgesellschaften (religious societies -  German Constitution, Art. 140); and Religionsgemeinschaften (religious communities -  German Constitution, Art. 7); there is no substantive difference between religious communities and religious societies; an established state church does not exist (German Constitution, Art. 140 in connection with Art. 137, Imperial Constitution of the Weimar Republic). In terms of  Constitutional law, there is no difference therefore between Churches and other forms of religious organisation. Consequently, the term "Church" is no longer "protected", so that any organisation can call itself a "Church" and use

this term in a misleading manner.

2.2.2 The term "sect" as used in scientific history


The historical meaning of the term "sect" is closely connected with its theological interpretation. This interpretation of the term "sect" is based on certain criteria, e.g. the recognition of books of revelation other than the canonised Bible and other forms of revelation, a different creed, a different understanding of apostolic succession, and -  in  Protestantism today -  also membership in the World Council of Churches, etc. Because of the neutrality of the State in religious and ideological matters, the theological concept of "sects" is irrelevant for the Enquete Commission.


In a certain historical situation, Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch used various characteristics to develop "ideal-typical" definitions of the terms "Church" and "sect" for their studies of the history of Christianity and the associated development of "modern capitalism": while individuals are born as members of a Church, sects have to be joined; while a Church has a universal claim, sects only have a partial one; while the charisma of office-holders in a Church is usually inherent in their office, office-holders in a sect must have personal charisma, etc. 6 ) These definitions were developed on the basis of analyses of a given historical situation; hence, they are irrelevant for the problems dealt with by the Commission.



2.2.3 The term "sect" as used in colloquial language


The colloquial use of the term "sect", i.e. its use in the public debate, is highly multifarious, and its scope is widening more and more. In public usage, the term "sect" also denotes to religious content. In addition, the term "sect" is also

used in colloquial language for groupings which are referred to as "new religious



 5 ) Cf. Feil, E.: Religio. Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffs vom Fr�hchristentum bis zur Reformation, G�ttingen 1986, p. 274f.

6)       Cf. Kehrer, G.: Einf�hrung in die Religionssoziologie, Darmstadt 1988.




and ideological movements" in literature. At the same time, the public associates with this term groupings which lead to societal conflicts of varying intensity, even if these groupings tend to pursue political or psychotherapeutical objectives rather than being religious or ideological in nature. Hence, there is no consistent distinction between "sects" and "psychogroups" in colloquial language.


Generally speaking, one could say that the public uses the term "sect" for groups which are assumed to deviate from the convictions and lifestyles that are still commonly shared. The convictions involved are primarily ethical views about human interactions. Terms such as human dignity, human rights, freedom, tolerance, self-development and self-realisation are points of reference for socially acceptable actions and behaviour. In colloquial language, the term

"sect" is therefore increasingly used to refer to groups which are accused of systematically defying these points of orientation in theory and practice, of producing dependence instead of scope for development, of degrading individuals

and of teaching intolerance, etc. 7 )


The colloquial use of the term leads to several difficulties. First of all, it is not possible to delineate this use  linguistically from other meanings of the term "sect" so that if the term "sect" is used in the media for a given group (which is a correct term when used in its own theological context), there is a risk that this may create the impression that the group involved may be a source of conflicts.


Secondly, labelling a group with the term "sect" as used in colloquial language may suggest that the group is a source of conflict, that it makes its members dependent, or that it is dangerous in another way, although the members of the

group or other individuals affected may have a different perception. Hence, the colloquial use of the term "sect" is not very precise in terms of its substance.


For these reasons, the Enquete Commission feels that this use of the term is highly questionable and will not use it in this Report unless qualified by quotation marks or the world "so-called".


2.2.4. Understanding of the phenomenon in social sciences


In sociological and social science literature, a "sect" is defined -- with regard to the questions addressed here --  by the degree to which a group is in conflict with, in contrast, and in contradiction to its environment. 8 ) This understanding

of the term as used by social scientists, which overlaps with the term's colloquial use by the general public, is the only relevant definition for this Report.



7 ) Cf. Hemminger, H. J.: Was ist eine Sekte?, Mainz-Stuttgart 1995.

8 ) Cf. Niebuhr, R.: The social sources of denominationalism, New York 1929; Wach, J.: Religions-soziologie, T�bingen, 1951; Wilson, B. R.: Religi�se Sekten, M�nchen 1970; Johnson, B.: Church and Sect Revisited, in: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 10, 1971; Stark, R. und Bainbridge, W. S.: The Future of Religion, Berkeley 1985.




Based on the understanding of the term in the social sciences, a "sect" could be defined as a small, exclusive religious or ideological, scientific or political group which demands total commitment from its followers and which places special emphasis on the group's separation from, and rejection of, its environment. 9 ) Hence, a characteristic feature of a so-called "sect" is a special, extreme form of internal and external relations. The deliberate separation from its environment is a feature which generally applies to all the various aspects of the entire culture of the group or community.


However, the emphasis in defining the term "sect" varies, depending on which phenomena of this culture or what level of group interaction is studied from the outside in terms of this trait. If the focus is on the group's rejection of the conditions under which it lives in society -  in particular the prevailing value system and the public legal system applied in theory and practice -  the definition of the term "sect" will resemble the secular concept of a sect that prevails in the public debate. However, if the focus is on the rejection of the group's religious or theological environment (often primarily its own intellectual roots) at the level of faith and ideology, the definition of the term "sect" will resemble the one used in religious or theological studies. In this case, the tension between a community and its environment will be primarily determined by the history of its religion and ideas.


At any rate, the concept involved is always a so-called "relational concept", which describes the conflictual relationship between a minority and the surrounding society. Hence, the question as to whether a minority within a culture is referred to as a sect always also depends on the observer's own cultural vantage point and on value decisions.


In this context, it should be pointed out that tensions also arise from differences in the emphasis placed when defining the term "sect". There are some groups, for instance, which are classified as sects from a religious perspective, but

which -  from the point of view of the social sciences -  are not perceived as sects (or at least not in the narrower sense), because of their relatively successful adjustment to the everyday life of the established society around them.


2.2.5 Summary


Due to the different origins of the term "sect" and its different interpretations, its use is very problematic, except in cases where the context has been clearly defined (e.g. in theology or in religious studies). It is hardly suitable for distinguishing between "conflict-prone" and "non-conflict-prone" groups. Furthermore, it is not useful at all for characterising specific conflicts. Since it is not suitable for governmental use, it is not a suitable term for this Report either.



9 ) Cf. Abercrombie, N./Hill, St./Turner, B. S.: Dictionary of Sociology, London, 3rd edition, 1994

(Penguin Reference Books), p. 371.




2.3 The term "psychogroup"


In the past few decades, the term "psychogroup" has been widely used to describe the "wide variety of psychological and pseudo-psychological advice available outside professional psychology and outside the public health sector in the fields of life counselling, life orientation, and personality development" 10 ). This spectrum includes activities which are as diverse as psychological success courses for business managers, esoteric courses offering advice for coping with money problems, astral journeys, contact through a medium with extraterrestrial intelligent life, and the return to earlier lives. A large number of methods are offered to achieve these and other objectives:  Therapies borrowing from traditional psychotherapy schools; emotional and physical therapies (e.g. primary therapy, rebirthing); spiritual offerings with purported therapeutic effects (e.g. reiki, reincarnation therapy); the use of technical equipment in the esoteric scene (e.g. mind machines, bio-resonance); natural healing methods with a spiritual background (e.g. aroma therapy, Bach blossom therapy); magical and occult practices (e.g. telepathy, psychokinesis, pendulum, Tarot); natural religions, mystical and spiritual traditions; esoteric ministry or life-counselling.


What these methods have in common is that they are not only practised in groups but that they are also used commercially to help individuals cope with their lives or change their personalities. In addition, they are used as a leisure pursuit, for entertainment and to satisfy the need for sensory and aesthetic experiences. This is a services sector which is also referred to as "psycho-market". In a more neutral form, one could also label this sector as alternative,

non-orthodox educational, psychological and psychotherapeutical methods which are practised side by side with those of recognised schools; this is similar to medicine where non-orthodox alternative medical approaches and orthodox

medical treatments exist side by side.


Usually, such services are used in the framework of a business relationship with customers. Since this relationship is not the type of relationship that exists in a community or a group, it does not make sense to speak about membership in

these cases. However, such relationships may evolve into a "psychogroup" if a group of regular customers forms around a "life-counselor", and if this group makes regular use of the services of this counselor or his enterprise. Even then, there are considerable differences as compared to the type of relationship in a community because the customer relationship is retained. It is only justified to refer to a group as a "psychogroup" or -  more harshly -  as a "psychocult" if a certain permanent level of organisation is achieved by a service provider and his clients, and if internal and external relations establish themselves which are typical of groups.



10 ) Hemminger, H. J./Keden, J.: Seele aus zweiter Hand, Psychotechniken und Psychokonzerne, Stuttgart, 1997, p. 7.




2.4 Types of conflict with "sects" and "psychogroups"


As described above, the approach adopted in the social sciences towards understanding this phenomenon is to look at the conflicts arising with various groups. This is discussed in greater detail below.


The special, extreme form of internal and external relations in such groups -  i.e. the tension between the tendency to withdraw into a "total" inside world ("total groups") and the outside world -  has been characterised by terms such as

"isolation" and "insulation" (withdrawing to an island). This describes the tendency of these individuals to isolate themselves more or less completely from their environment and to limit themselves to living in a world of their own. Such people then tend to transfer the entire reality of their lives -  including beliefs, cultural and social norms, and possibly economic and political aspects -  exclusively to the inside world of a given group; or they exclusively derive and define this reality in terms of the knowledge of life (and its sources) applied and practised by the group. This gives rise to most conflicts.


Hence, one particular aspect of the conflict-proneness of a group in its internal and external relations has to do with the group's world view and its life-style, i.e. "dissenting world views" and "non-conformist life-styles". In other words, theirs are convictions which deviate substantially from the socio-culturally widely accepted or at least tolerated world views and values, and life-styles which differ significantly from generally practised or at least tolerated life-styles.

While this description is abstract and general, an analysis of the groups in question often shows in concrete terms where potential conflicts may arise. If an individual drops out of a professional or vocational training programme, or if an

individual abandons his or her professional career in order to be able to work in the group, this may prolong an adult group member's financial dependence on his or her parents or partner beyond what is usual, or it may re-establish this

dependence if an individual abandons his or her professional career. If the parents, the spouse or the friends of an individual who has just joined a group are not willing to adopt a positive attitude towards the group and towards the commitment of its new member, this may lead to family disputes or to separations with all the resulting conflicts.


For outsiders, it may also seem disconcerting that the group assigns partners to its members. Other fields in which conflicts with outsiders may arise include the group's attitude towards sexuality; its concept of marriage and family life; questions relating to bringing up children; attitudes towards business and politics; beliefs about the individual's personal freedom, etc. Even if these questions often involve areas which are covered by the basic right of free development of an individual's personality, one cannot ignore the effects which sudden changes in an individual's views and behaviour can have on his or her environment. For this reason, such groups are perceived as contentious by their environment because they trigger such changes.




The characteristics describing the internal and external relations of a group -  such as "total commitment" towards the inside and "separation from the environment" -  can be subdivided into various degrees, so that while a given type of sectarianism can be determined in accordance with the definition mentioned above, it is not possible to draw a clear line between a sectarian and a non-sectarian religious or ideological community. 11 ) To sum up, the conflict-proneness of the groups considered to be sectarian as defined above is usually due to a combination between the aspects mentioned above -  i.e. exclusivity, total commitment, separation from the environment and its rejection ("isolation" and "insulation") -  with "dissenting world views" and "non-conformist life-styles". These aspects can lead -  albeit not necessarily -  to problematic constellations and reactions, and hence, to considerable conflicts.


The hazards involved in extreme isolation and insulation are illustrated particularly clearly by examples which have attracted much attention in public. These include the murders and mass suicides of groups such as People's Temple

(Guyana), Heaven's Gate (California), Sonnentempler (Switzerland, France, Canada), Aum-Shinri-ky� (Japan).


2.5 The term "sect" and religious conflicts


In cautioning against the indiscriminate use of the term "sect", it must be pointed out that a certain degree of conflict with society is part of religious orientation and religious sociation. This is due to the fact that religious (and often also ideological) communities naturally claim the right to live in a certain way and to defend their own truth vis-�-vis competing views of human nature and the world. Something similar applies to modern ideologies with their own

view of the world, which -  based on scientific or pseudo-scientific evidence -  claim the right to provide their own binding interpretation with regard to the totality of human existence. As the history of religious and ideological movements demonstrates, this can sometimes lead to profound societal conflicts.


Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that religions consider it to be one of their responsibilities to take a critical stance vis-�-vis the society and the state they live in; under certain circumstances, this may lead to tensions with, and

sometimes even stark opposition to, government and society. Since religions also tell individuals what they must not do, they thus imply in one way or another a distance or a critical stance vis-�-vis the status quo.


In addition, it is not only the dissident communities that act when conflicts arise but also competing and already established religious communities, as well as



11 ) Distinguishing between "cult movement", "clients cult", and "audience cult", which has become common practice nowadays, is a typology which permits such a subdivision into different degrees. This typology can be applied to sects if one adopts the distinction between "sect" and "cult" as proposed by Stark/Bainbridge (which, however, does not seem to be imperative).




other political and cultural institutions of society. For all these reasons, it must be pointed out that any conflict with "conflict-prone religions" can also lead to questioning our society, and not only to critical questions about the group concerned. Such conflicts have been and can always be a factor bringing about societal change.


It should not be ignored that progressing modernisation and growing cultural uncertainties create considerable stress, in particular for individuals clinging to traditional religious life-styles; so that increasing isolation or even rejection of

modernisation may also represent an attempt to cope with these modernisation stresses. Often there is a more or less pronounced dichotomy between the guidance provided for one's own life and for raising children in the framework

of special ideological/religious communities and the principles of modern living required to cope with the socio-cultural challenges prevailing in Western societies. Hence, as a result of destabilisation and "de-traditionalisation", individuals may also look for shelter and safety in a new "religious/ontological home" instead of living up to modern expectations and challenges by assuming personal responsibility and being open, mobile and reflexive. Such attempts to cope must certainly not be oversimplified by interpreting them exclusively as "deficient life-styles" relative to the principles of modern life, and the individuals pursuing such attempts must not be disqualified as "dangerous sects".


2.6 The term "sect" as used by governmental bodies


Nevertheless, it would be possible to construct -  from the variety of different concepts -  a narrower definition of the term "sect" for the purposes of political and legal theory and practice. In this case, the term "sect" would be used to

refer to such religious groupings and life-counselling organisations whose theories and practices are not compatible with the principles of the German Constitution and its concept of human beings, its legal system, its value concepts, etc. and which proclaim, and strive for, a social order other than the German Constitution. Or based on the description of the phenomenon as used in social sciences, it would be possible to use the term "sect" to refer to groupings where the level of isolation, the tension between "inside" and "outside", etc. lead to a high degree of almost permanent conflict-proneness.


An introduction into constitutional law of the term "sect", which is already burdened by various uses of the term in the past, would involve the risk of restricting the critical potential which is required for the continuous renewal of society; the emergence of new religiousness can also be seen as a response to shortcomings in society, as an indicator of misguided developments in society as a whole and the associated problems.


An introduction into constitutional law of the term "sect" would above all entail the risk or the tendency of abolishing or restricting the freedom of religion by using the term "sect". In our modern age, religion is not influenced by the State.




Nevertheless, exercising freedom of religion is subject to a legal framework which is set by limits that are inherent in the Constitution. Aside from freedom of religion, there are other interests which are protected by the Constitution; and

in the event of a conflict, the interests concerned must be weighed to decide which of the interests takes precedence in a given concrete case.


In the interest of a neutral description and analysis, it is therefore more appropriate when describing the subject under review to use the terms "new religious and ideological communities" and "psychogroups". However, such general

terms also give rise to problems. It is not possible to find short, concise terms to characterise the entire diverse spectrum of the groups concerned. This spectrum also includes groups, for instance, which only pretend to be religious or ideological communities. In this broad range of groups and movements which are referred to as "sects" from various perspectives, there are only a few which are so conflict-prone -  and permanently so -  that they correspond to the

extreme picture which prevails with regard to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


In addition, it is advisable for the sake of clarity to use more specific terms when examining specific fields of conflict. In accordance with Anglo-Saxon usage, allegedly religious communities with predominantly economic objectives can be characterised as commercial cults, while ideological communities can be referred to as "political groups", etc. The commonly used term in scientific literature is "new religious and ideological movements" (NRMs). The Enquete Commission has chosen the terms "new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups" as an appropriate and neutral description of the phenomenon. In this way, the Commission has also responded to the need for differentiation.


2.7 Summary


It is not possible to use the ambiguous term "sect" to determine the field of legislative and general governmental action. Hence, another way must be found to define and limit action in this field. This also applies to the term "psychogroup".

Need for governmental action can only be identified on the basis of the real relations that exist between a group and its social environment. It goes without saying that need for action arises only through the social interactions caused by

the group members' rejection of their social environment, their total commitment, etc.; usually, it is only when these characteristics take on a very pronounced or extreme form that there will be such need for action. The fact that there is a gradual transition from a group's strong emphasis on conflict-triggering characteristics to its successful integration and adaptation should not be used as an argument to deny government any scope for action even in the event of severe conflicts; nor should it be used as an argument to curb the freedom granted by our Constitution to religious and ideological groups. Instead, the governmental scope for action includes first of all measures available in the




event of violations of effective laws and threats to interests protected by law.


Secondly, there are sectors of social life which, according to our Constitution, should remain free of any governmental regulation. This includes in particular personal choices in terms of internal and external conditions of life, and in terms

of the context in which an individual decides to live.


The conflicts which are caused by social actions in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups -  and in some cases also by the actions of individuals -  can be subdivided into three categories:


a)                    violations of laws;


b)                   abuse of power by individuals who take advantage of legal vacuums which jeopardizes interests protected by law; such abuse calls for regulatory action by government;


c)                    violations contra bonos mores derived from the system of fundamental values, and infringements of social obligations.


In this area, governmental action is both necessary and feasible. In fact, conflicts in this field fall within the mandate of the Enquete Commission. Hence, the Commission's field of study includes not only the groups themselves but also clearly defined social actions and conflict-triggering actions by individuals -  or more precisely, individual members of groups -  most of which claim to have, or are ascribed, a religious or ideological status 12 ) . In this context, attention must also be paid to a principle laid down in the Council of Europe's Convention of 4 November 1950, according to which "freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interest of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."


This means not only that there must be no provisions which restrict the freedom of religion for specific religious communities, but it also means that religious communities and their members must of course abide by certain rules that

apply to everyone. Hence, the wording of the German Constitution, which does not provide for any general requirement to have a law on freedom of religion, seems less specific. However, there is agreement about the fact that the freedom to manifest one's religion comes up against its limits whenever it violates the constitutional rights of others. At any rate, it is not possible to circumvent or override the legal system by invoking freedom of religion.



12 ) The question of whether a group rightly claims to be a religious community is answered by constitutional law. The definition of "religion" or "ideology" as used in constitutional law is usually narrower than the definition used in social sciences (cf. BAG NJW 1996, 143).




3       Macrosocial and microsocial dimensions of the phenomenon


3.1 Societal causes of, and conditions for, the emergence and growth of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


3.1.1 Preliminary remarks


The Enquete Commission's work has clearly shown that the phenomenon of "so-called sects and psychogroups" is a highly complex issue. Attributing problems simply to those who allegedly caused them -  i.e. the "sects" -  gives rise

to more questions than answers. This does not mean that one should deny that certain groups or individuals may take advantage of the existing room for maneuver above and beyond what is acceptable if one finds that the problems

associated with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are to a large extent due to social causes and settings. Only if these causes and settings are understood is it possible to adopt an adequate approach aimed at

finding problem-solutions.


The public has been paying a great deal of attention to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups: a large number of articles have been published in daily and weekly newspapers; and TV and radio programmes, as well as books have dealt with this phenomenon. In the public debate, the quantitative scale of the groups concerned has sometimes been overestimated. In its Interim Report, the Enquete Commission found -  largely in agreement with earlier surveys 13 ) --  that new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are not so widespread that this alone could explain the echo which this subject has found in the public. About 0.5 percent of the respondents said that they were members or followers of a new religious or ideological movement. Another 0.7 percent stated that they were

somewhat close to such a movement. 14 ) Despite this limited magnitude, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are perceived as a major threat by the public. However, the quantity and the quality of a problem

are not identical.


Some of the most important social causes of, and conditions for, the emergence and the growth of new religious and ideological groups and life counselling programmes as well as their perception in society are outlined below.



13 ) Cf. Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur, Freiburg, 1987; or Stoffers, M. and Puhe, H.: Neue religi�se Organisationen und Kultpraktiken, project report, Cologne, 1993.

14 ) Cf. German Bundestag: Interim Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 35 f.




3.1.2 From the traditional community to the elective community


Modern industrial and service societies are characterised by the fact that they loosen and sometimes break up traditionally grown structures to replace them by more flexible ones. The efficiency and the capacity for development of modern societies is based on this very potential in terms of flexibility, willingness to change, and adaptability. In various fields -  e.g. in associations, trade unions, political parties, or in married and family life -  this development is also perceived as a loss; this is true in particular in the field of religions. It is generally assumed that religion unfolds automatically and largely in a parish, i.e. anchored in the direct environment shared by all its members.


This has been largely the case in the history of Europe, but also in other cultures. According to relevant theories, religion was seen, among other things, as an institution which comprehensively provided transcendental and immanent

meaning for the development of the individual's identity, life-style concepts, the "cosmisation" of reality, coping with contingencies, reference towards transcendence, for the entirety of government, society, and culture, as well as for the

community (both political and religious) and the life world, etc. This world, which is of course never completely homogeneous, has been in a process of profound change, dissolution, and restructuring ever since the 17th /18th  century --  a process which was accelerated once more during the years after World War II, and which is often referred to as secularisation. However, what this process represents is pluralisation of religious contents and forms, as well as alternatives and options, which creates religious diversity and a religious market. In addition, there is a distinction between religious and non-religious life counselling movements or programmes designed to help the individual find meaning in life. In itself, this is not yet any different from religiousness in parishes, or from the practice of religion in congregations; instead, a market-like situation is developing, with a large number of suppliers. In addition to the traditional religions, there are new ones which are very different, not only in terms of their origin and tradition, but also with regard to their forms of organisation.


However, the fact that other organisational forms of religion -  such as supplier or service religions -  are possible and widespread became clear when Peter L. Berger published his book "Der Zwang zur H�resie" (The Need for Heresy);

because religion or the religions as providers of meaning and life-style concepts (which they have always been) are obliged to move within this societal context and look for their links within this context. However, in addition to communities practising religion in parishes where all the people living in a given town or district are members, there have always been special alternative communities such as secret cults, mystery cults, orders, etc.


As far as organisational forms are concerned, there are two extreme forms of new religiousness, "in addition to the Churches", i.e. our traditional religions.




On the one hand, there are religious offerings which are evolving into the direction of religiousness in the form of communities or parishes. Whenever such religious communities tend to develop into very closed forms (possibly connected with "isolation" and "insulation", as mentioned above), there is a great likelihood that conflicts will arise. 15 ) This is the case especially if these groups have recourse to pre-modern patterns, i.e. if they try to use what could be referred to as the "interpretative value added" of religion (in other words, the functions and services mentioned above) in order to undo the separations and segmentations in today's society and culture by re-establishing traditional unitary concepts, by tying the entire reality of life directly to religion, and by considerably curbing personal freedom rights.

In addition, there are market-oriented forms of organisations which convey religion and meaning in a more precise sense, e.g. in the form of numerous offerings for therapy and advice on how to cope with life. These forms do not organise themselves as congregations or parishes; instead, their structure is flexible, less binding. In such cases, the purpose of the "interpretative value added" of religious organisations and organisations designed to help the individual find meaning in life can be to conceal the professional limits or shortcomings of their life-counselling and therapeutic programmes behind a veil of religion/ideology (there are parallels to be found in the ideological components of psychoanalysis).


Such movements either take a critical stance towards the alleged lack of tradition in the modern age and propagate a more traditionally oriented way of living and believing. Or they are very specifically geared towards helping individuals to adapt to, and make them "fit" for, the achievement-oriented society. This can be done by having recourse to one's own religious traditions or by importing other religious/cultural patterns. Quite often, there are also mixed forms composed of, for instance, European-Christian, Asian and/or (psycho-)therapeutic components. 16 )


There is not only a breakdown of traditions in large parts of society, but also a multiplication of options that exist side by side and that compete with one another for followers. However, the fundamental principle is not the replacement

of one tradition by another, but it is the coexistence of various traditions whose popularity varies like ups and downs in the economy. In this context, one must of course bear in mind that the importance of traditions has undergone profound change: what used to be more or less binding and compulsory standards for the individual has become a matter of choice and option. What is perceived as a loss in this development is not the loss of tradition itself, but the loss of

social transcendence and reliable expectations, i.e. the disappearance of the binding force of traditions and the standards imposed by them on everyday life and action in society. In sociology, this is referred to as  individualisation".



15 ) Cf. Chapter 3.3.

16 ) Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, loc. cit., p. 96 ff.




However, these very differentiation processes are in turn based on some underlying standards whose validity is growing world-wide, e.g. human rights in an individualised interpretation, the pursuit of happiness as a source of meaning, again in an individualised form (see Chapter 3.1.8), etc. Hence, the individualisation process is unfolding in a globalisation setting; there is considerable pressure toward uniformisation, not only with regard to normative standards, but also concerning the overall economic and social settings of our everyday life world. This standardization (e.g. in professional career expectations) is progressing both world-wide and within our society; hence, those who fail to adapt to these changing standards or take the wrong decisions in their professional and private lives will suffer very negative sanctions as individuals. On the one hand, therefore, "individualization" means more choice for the individual; but on the other hand, modern biographies are very much subject to the constraints of increasingly uniform economic systems and professional options, which in turn depend on political constraints. Some of the conflicts with new religious and

ideological communities and psychogroups have to do with, among other things, the fact that some of the groups concerned negate or intend to reverse globally recognized orientations in life, and that they encourage their followers

more or less blatantly to ignore the mandatory general rules that apply in business and in the world of work.


Conversely, another major reason why individuals turn to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is that people founder, or fear that they will founder, under the conditions prevailing in this very world of work and life, or that they are at least under the subjective impression that they cannot cope with the pressure to adapt and to do well.


Individualization processes also become manifest in socio-demographic terms. Reliable data are nowadays available on, for instance, urbanization, as well as trends with regard to household size, family size, forms and intensity of personal contacts, and forms of housing and participation, to mention but a few. For years, these data have revealed a growing trend: The scope and the binding force of close social relations in families, neighborhoods and local communities have been declining. Instead, specialized areas of life -  first and foremost, the world of work, but also family life, leisure pursuits and friends -  have been gaining ground as factors of social integration of the individual. At the same time, the subjectively perceived relative importance of more collectively oriented areas of life is decreasing. Only about 20 percent of the respondents regularly state that politics/political parties and religion/Churches are important areas of life for them, while between 60 and 80 percent mention professional and family life or leisure pursuits. Except for minor variations, this has been the result which the Allgemeine Bev�lkerungsumfrage in den Sozialwissenschaften (ALL- BUS - General Population Survey in Social Sciences) has regularly revealed since 1980.


The statistical findings indicate that society has been changing in two directions: On the one hand, the statistics suggest society has lost some of its collective formative influence on general patterns of thinking and behaviour; on the




other hand, the data have shown that the individual depends on, and is supported by, smaller units of social orientation areas, such as one's own family, the circle of colleagues at work, or leisure-time acquaintances.


3.1.3 Modern biographies


As shown above, the changes in traditional social relationships have led to a loss -  which in some cases is substantial --  of social continuity and transcendence. Filling one's biography with one's own particularities in order to prove oneself as a social creature is an achievement which used to be supported by the community and which nowadays is largely up to the individual. Thus, the "post-modern concept of living" opens up a broad spectrum of options for action which are equally legitimate in society, as long as they are covered by a subjectively perceived order or are plausible to the individual, and providing that they are compatible with the general economic conditions prevailing in society.


Against this background, it is much more difficult for an individual to develop and preserve a personal identity. It becomes a life-long project in the course of which the identity has to be continuously re-established and consolidated. Problems with regard to the meaning of life are experienced by the individual much more intensely than would be the case if the individual was part of a closer community.


This is described very succinctly by Niklas Luhmann when he says: "The components of an individual's curriculum vitae are made up of turning points at which something happened which was not inevitable, beginning with birth". There is no better way of describing the demands made on the individual's constitution and his or her biography in the modern age. Against the background of a broad choice of social options, it is up to the individual to meet the general

requirements for successful participation in social life and to give meaning and context to what appears to be a random combination of different elements. 17 )


So while there are better opportunities in life, there is also a greater risk that -  given the wide variety of choices and options available -  one might take a decision which proves to have been wrong at a later point in time. This is the source of many of the problems and conflict constellations which have been recently discussed in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups: the need to choose from a range of offers made to individuals to help them cope with life, coping with life in an alternative religious group (during membership and possibly also after leaving such a group), and the discussion of these choices in society.


3.1.4 Societal secularity and religious indifference


Over 50 percent of the respondents in Germany's old federal states and almost 80 percent in the new federal states describe themselves as being non-



17 ) Cf. Identit�tsarbeit heute, (ed.) H�fer/Keupp, H., Frankfurt, 1997.




religious. 18 ) The expression "neue Un�bersichtlichkeit" (J�rgen Habermas; roughly: the "new complexity") also applies to the Churches. On the one hand, the number of Church members has declined substantially since the 1950s; on the other hand, an average of 17 percent of the respondents still go to church (with considerable variation both above and below this average) and a much higher percentage of individuals are still members of a Church. In the Churches themselves, the phenomenon of a shift from tradition to option has also become manifest, and has even reached their core congregations.


This illustrates that religious aspects of life and performing religious acts jointly in a congregation have become less important for the German population. However, this is not tantamount to a complete loss of religiousness or full secularisation of life as a whole. As far as values are concerned, for instance, there is still a strong emphasis on Christian values. The belief in religious patterns in the broadest sense is also quite widespread. In their everyday lives, people read their horoscopes, believe in faith-healers, witches or lucky charms; they believe in reincarnation or occult phenomena. Religious needs and religious patterns of coping with life are still widespread in the population. 19 )


Nevertheless, there is a large amount of religious indifference with regard to social contexts. In the framework of such social action contexts, religion does not seem to be immediately required to help individuals find meaning and orientation and to cope with life as long as those individuals are sufficiently involved in everyday life and as long as their everyday life is intact. In the family, at work and in professional life, as well as during leisure pursuits with friends and

acquaintances, there are many opportunities for an individual to fill his or her everyday life sufficiently. Often, there is no time for religious practice, nor is there any pressing need. On the contrary: In many parts of society, there is even

massive social pressure supporting religious indifference. In professional life, for instance, an excessive orientation towards religious norms could easily hamper an individual's career. According to a survey conducted among managers in German industry, indifference towards religion is a very pronounced attitude in professional life. Or as Franz-Xaver Kaufmann found out: "Religious standards are not generally rejected, but they are not highly valued by most people". 20)


Hence, religious references are excluded from many sectors of life in society because they are considered to be irrelevant. Religious activities form a separate, specialised sector in society, in which such activities can unfold.


This constellation is by all means paradoxical because it demonstrates that while individuals are relatively out of practice when it comes to religion, they are unquestionably receptive to religion. Questions about the meaning of life can suddenly come to the fore in an individual's everyday life when that individual is



18 ) Cf. Table 16 in Daiber, K.F.: Religion unter den Bedingungen der Moderne, Marburg, 1995, p. 55.

19 ) Cf. Eiben, J.: "Neue Religiosit�t" in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Cologne, 1996, p. 42f.

20 ) Cf. "Religi�ser Indifferentismus", in: ibid.: Religion und Modernit�t, T�bingen, 1989, pp. 146- 171, p. 151.




personally affected by radical change or crises; this may be the loss of one's job, sickness, or the severe illness and death of a close relative or friend. In other cases, one's expectations with regard to one's professional career, or

one's marriage or partnership are frustrated, which raises the question of the meaning of life. From this perspective, it can therefore be said that it is not the individual who is indifferent towards religion, but it is the social structure in

which he or she lives and acts.


From the individual's perspective, this constellation of the integrated secular world appears to be continuously jeopardised and unstable; as a result, indifference can also turn into determined opposition to, or support of, a given religious life-style. From a perspective of cultural sociology, this is corroborated by a supplementary analysis of the current attitude towards religion of the citizens of a secular society, which shows that there is a separate secular history of religion in modern age. 21 ) This would mean that fundamental concepts of occidental modern age -  such as the idea of scientific progress, the idea of the development of new human beings by means of education and psychology, etc. --  can themselves assume the function of a religion (which has already happened to some extent) and compete with the religions for cultural influence. In the case of modern ideologies such as Communism and National Socialism, this influence cannot be denied; however, it is debatable whether the individualised life-styles of today's majority also derive meaning from "secular religious" ideas. In this case, the majority's indifference towards pre-modern-age religious traditions could also be interpreted as a commitment to such secular religious sources of meaning and interpretations of human existence.


Against this background, the emergence of a market-oriented religiousness, which almost invariably also wants to provide life-counselling, would also have to be seen as an attempt at finding a different way of keeping the promises

made after all with regard to finding meaning in a secular world, after the plausibility loss of the conventional institutions, i.e. politics and science. At any rate, the development of so-called "psychocults" and "political sects" in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the emergence of the New Age and esoteric movements in the 1980s, give credence to such an interpretation.


Various recent studies, some of which were also proposed by the Enquete Commission, 22 ) have shown that, in most cases, the reason why individuals turn to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups has to do with




21 ) Cf. K�enzlen, G.: Der Neue Mensch -  zur s�kularen Religionsgeschichte der Moderne, Munich, 1994

22 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: Alternative Gesundheitskultur. Eine Bestandsaufnahme mit Teilnehmerbefragung, Forschungsberichte zur transkulturellen Medizin und Psychotherapie, Vol. 4, Berlin, Verlag f�r Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1997; Dipl.-Psych. Dr. Murken, S.: "Soziale und psychische Auswirkungen der Mitgliedschaft in neuen religi�sen Bewegungen unter besonderer Ber�cksichtigung der sozialen Integration und psychischen Gesundheit", study conducted on behalf of the German Bundestag's Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", January 1998.




personal problems which tend to be secular problems from today's perspective. Such motives include the departure from the parental home, conflicts with one's parents or partner, professional problems, unfulfilled wishes. Usually it is not until later that explicitly religious motives come to the fore, once a certain life-counselling programme available from a group has been put into a broader context of helping the individual to find meaning in life. At this point, the individuals concerned are very willing to get involved in a "completely different life" whose quality, concomitants, and consequences cannot be surmised by them; on the other hand, their ability to handle religious feelings and impressions today probably tends to be poorly developed.


3.1.5 Supply of, and demand for, meaning, life-counselling, personality development


In response to these specific needs for meaning and help in coping with life, a form of organisation has emerged to which various secular societies have not yet sufficiently adjusted because these societies continue to assume that the

institutions providing meaning and help to cope with life are embedded in relatively homogeneous forms of religiousness, or that religion and meaning can only be provided in the context of parishes or congregations practising their religion. Such more market-oriented approaches cannot be generally applied to specific religious groups, including specific new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups; instead, they can be associated with most religious doctrines. This is a way of spreading religious ideas and life-counselling assistance in general which can be established more effectively because of the modern structures prevailing in society. In the past few years, for instance, the Churches have been confronted more and more with the demand that they should offer their services in a more demand-oriented manner.


However, in order to deal with market-oriented aspects and offerings, 23 ) there is not only a lack of consumer awareness among the "buyers" but also a lack of consumer protection criteria such as transparency of offers and options, contents and costs. The realisation that there is a need for consumer protection is growing only slowly.


Unfortunately, the awareness of this need is not yet sufficiently developed on the part of the consumers and on the part of relevant social institutions, e.g. in the fields of law and life-counselling. However, the increasingly individualised demand for sources of meaning and help in coping with life makes individuals particularly vulnerable, especially in a society which is or was characterised by a situation of relative religious clarity. Some of the conflicts which have arisen in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are due to the fact that people are not sufficiently familiar with a pluralistic offer of religions and that they misunderstand the market-oriented religious offers made.



23 ) Cf. Zinser, H.: Der Markt der Religionen, Munich, 1997.




For certain groups of people, the threat to their modern life-styles is much more concrete than for others, which also increases the willingness in certain contexts and of certain people to adopt compensatory, radical religious or ideological orientations in life. Young unemployed people with a lower level of education, for instance, whose prospects of participating in the fruits of working life are currently very dim, have a high aggression potential which can be exploited in a variety of ways by satanic groups (cf. Chapter 3.4). Riesebrodt, for instance, used the example of Protestant fundamentalism in the United States to show that a tendency towards religious fundamentalism in a given population stratum may be associated with protests against a loss of social privileges, in this case a loss of social status and economic security in the lower white middle class. 24 )


It can be assumed that the "classical" sects will benefit from these interdependencies, at least those which can be ascribed to Protestant fundamentalism in terms of their contents and their life-world; it is also likely that there will be similar interconnections in the Catholic tradition. There is a lot of evidence which proves that politically marginalised population groups tend to gain self-esteem and confidence in their actions by way of compensation in the field of religion.


This can be demonstrated by the rise of Spiritualist communities and Afro-Brazilian religions in Brazil and the success of the Pentecostal movement among Caribbean immigrants in the United Kingdom, etc. Hence, it can be assumed

that there is not only a general social interconnection between individualisation and the "need for heresy" on the one hand, and on the other hand a possible sudden change into rigid interpretation systems with totalitarian claims imposed

on the individual. Instead, it can also be assumed that concrete biographical processes -  which may also be based on specific problems such as membership of a disadvantaged population group, unemployment, the collapse of current social security systems, etc. -  may accelerate an individual's conversion.


This specific parallel connection cannot necessarily be formulated in the framework of the overriding sociological theories underlying this report (risk-taking society, experience-oriented society, communication society); however, a separate theoretical deduction would go beyond the scope of this report. Such conversion processes are sufficiently known, based on historical and practical experience. This is all the more significant since this is exactly the point of focus for political measures aimed at preventing religious and ideological radicalisation.


However, the growth of market-oriented movements which help the individual find meaning in life and which provide life-counselling services is not exclusively due to relevant demand. Instead, it is the processes of social change outlined

above that enable sellers or operators to open up distribution channels and find acceptance among "customers" in the first place. For this reason, it is not easy to say how much of the demand for market-oriented movements which help




24 ) Cf. Riesebrodt, M.: Fundamentalismus als patriarchalische Protestbewegung, T�bingen 1990, ibid.: Protestantischer Fundamentalismus in den USA -  die religi�sen Rechte im Zeitalter der elektronischen Medien, EZW-Texte, Information No. 102, Stuttgart 1987.




individuals find meaning in life and which provide life-counselling services is caused by the fact that the advocates of certain forms of religion and life-counselling have become more professional, as it were, allowing them to gain their

livelihood in this way and to improve their social status in their context; this is a development which is not considered to be very unusual in other countries with different religious traditions (e.g. the United States).


It is almost trivial to point out that the Free Christian Congregations, for instance, which have emerged in the past 20 years -  usually initiated by individual missionaries -  and which exist side by side with the established Churches and Free Churches, are usually groups with a very distinct profile which follow a specific school of thought and which cover a rather large geographical area; such organisations are only possible because of the high mobility of people in

conurbations. Likewise, the opportunities of the esoteric movement for distributing their courses, seminars, etc. depend largely, and increasingly so, on modern communications media and modern modes of transport.


3.1.6 Globalisation and localisation


Today, we are witnessing an accelerated development of our societies towards a global society: in economic terms, in terms of the media, but also in political, legal, and cultural terms. However, the effects of this development towards a

global society are contradictory. It is not simply a development which leads to the unification of a variety of different cultures and societies in an overarching form. It is first of all a matter of establishing comparability and having the

experience of being compared: comparability of political, economic, and social systems, their cultural foundations, as well as their systems of religious thinking and standards. Essentially, this leads to two opposing trends. On the one hand, given the wide variety of the different approaches currently pursued, the global society creates pressure for a generalisation of its values and regulatory systems. In other words, what this global society has in common in terms of its substance, will tend to be more and more generalised and will be bound to encompass more and more conflicting traditions. On the other hand, there is a trend toward consolidating regional and particular traits. As Roland Robertson

said, globalisation and localisation combine to become glocalisation. 25 ) The generalisation of the basic legal system and of basic values goes hand in hand with the isolation of regional sub-societies which take certain particular

idiosyncrasies to extremes. Distinctions thus gain greater importance. New religious subcultures emerge. This is a trend which incidentally can also be observed in the Churches. New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, but also new parishes established either within the Churches or at their fringes represent such religiously motivated localisation phenomena. At the



25 ) Cf. Globalization, London, 1992.




same time, however -  and this is the global dimension -  there are relatively small groups which establish themselves as international organisations operating world-wide.


This conflicts with the century-old experience of relative religious dominance in Europe after the Treaty of Westphalia because religious diversity and the development of new, alternative or simply hitherto unknown forms of religious life and action are incompatible with this picture of well-ordered religious structures.


The conflict is due to the fact that the religious market and its possibilities to establish new patterns do not coincide with societal expectations; hence, many people affected initially reject, or are alarmed by, patterns which do not correspond to the "Church"-type image. This also applies to groups and movements within the Churches (e.g. the Protestant Confessional Movement, Opus Dei) or at their fringes. In a certain way, this situation is compounded by the concept of society's progressing secularisation propagated in social sciences in particular in the 1960s and 1970s; according to this concept, the inclination towards religion was considered to be a phase-out model. Even if sociology today assumes that the secularisation of society continues, it also assumes that there is a shift of religious needs to the individual.


This conflict is further aggravated by another effect of globalisation: the implementation of de-traditionalised "alien" religious convictions and groups in social contexts. Not only are the new pluralistic religious phenomena confronted with different societal expectations; instead, it is also a potentially disturbing, frightening, but certainly irritating presence of something "alien" in the form of religion in one's own social environment, "next door", as it were. So, the thrill of the "exotic" and the "alien" which the individual expects to find at a remote holiday destination as part of the local everyday life can turn into something which is perceived as threatening.


3.1.7 Media and public awareness


Society's image of what is publicly presented or presents itself as religion is biased in a very specific direction. Considering that in Germany, as well as in many other European countries, the concept of religion is primarily characterised by relative homogeneity and by the notion that religion is practised in parishes, whereas there is also a variety of market-oriented groups today, all forms of religion which are not in keeping with the traditional image can initially only be described in public in terms of their conspicuous or deviating features.


It would be wrong to suggest that it is the sensationalist journalism of the media which creates a "sect problem". One must realise that the media -  as the term indicates -  are only the messenger, the mediators who respond in a very specific way to the expectations of those who are supposed to receive given messages or news. Nevertheless, in a society which is increasingly characterised




by "media-conveyed hyperrealities", the media's potential in terms of generating images and perceptual patterns should not be underestimated. Hence, the media aggravate the problem if they suggest as a generalised message that sects are a "peril". However, the core of the problem is that there is no open social discourse on religion.


The image which the media present to the public about new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is often focused on sensational events.


This type of presentation will only decline and stop finding a market if it is deprived of its "mystique", so much so that individuals can also reflect their own impressions and their rationale for turning towards religion. Interestingly

enough, a term such as "sect" is always used to describe others. It is always the others who are the "sectarians", not only for "sect members". This is the only explanation why almost 80 percent (of a total of over 33,000 callers) were

in favour of "banning sects" during a survey conducted by the German TV station 3SAT in December last year. There seems to be no other field of public debate in which there is less information about the subject under discussion

than in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. Religion as a whole is defined in terms of its extremes. Often there is no useful information which would enable the individual to deal with religious

matters adequately, i.e. to have a free and informed choice and discussion. It is doubtful whether the often very popular sensationalist journalism increases the population's level of information.


For this reason, an open, unbiased and informative analysis of the opportunities and risks associated the search for meaning and religious devotion in modern society does not take place in a way which encompasses all sectors of society.


3.1.8 Experience orientation as a selection criterion


According to Gerhard Schulze, 26 ) the process of modernisation can also be seen as an "expedient-rational transformation of action structures". Society's outward or collectively oriented modernisation (i.e. the development of societal institutions) is continuing, but it is supplemented by an inward type of modernisation.


If the individual is ultimately unable to act or to decide because of the mind-boggling variety of offers and options available -  a variety which can only be achieved by explicitly relinquishing any far-reaching collective rules -  the interest in an option for action (such as buying a specific product) can be stimulated by establishing a direct relationship to the individual. Hence, inner-direction means establishing a connection with potentially desired characteristics of the individual. In this way, consumption becomes a possibility for the individual to do something very special for him- or herself.



26 ) Cf. ibid.: Die Erlebnisgesellschaft. Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart, Frankfurt, 1992.




What is striking in this context is the subjective reference of the action patterns, and hence also a strong subjectification of the stabilisation of identity. Schulze calls this form "Erlebnisrationalit�t" (experience rationality): "The subject treats

himself as the object whose condition is to be manipulated". 27 ) Basic patterns of such experience include: social rank, conformity, belongingness, self-fulfilment, or stimulation, with the individual being able to use the most varied

means to achieve this realisation. The common denominator of these means is that while they are generally available in society, they can take on both a positive and a negative form. Self-fulfilment can be experienced by means of professional activity or by explicitly abstaining from such activity; it can be achieved both by means of close social contact, but also by social isolation; by establishing a family or by living the life of a single. An individual can also find self-fulfilment by continuously increasing the intensity of pursuing specific goals, in particular in professional life, but also in the social arena.


This type of uncertain societal anchoring of experience makes this experience vulnerable, both in its collective and in its individual form. Collectively reliable structures do not develop. Instead, there are fads that change very quickly.

They change like market trends, and tomorrow they may be quite different from what they are today. From the individual's perspective, this means that the experience cannot be perpetuated. As a result, there is a permanent search for new or revamped experience opportunities in ever new fields of experience: experience demand and supply combine to form an experience market which provides considerable potential -  albeit a very delicate one -  for the expression of individual identity.


The fleetingness and arbitrariness of emerging and passing forms are not problematic for the "experience market" itself. However, problems arise with regard to the individual's reliable self-portrayal because while the experience market is

capable of supporting a sufficiently well-functioning everyday life, it cannot provide answers to questions about the meaning of life, about the major transcendences such as disease, death or other major strokes of fate.


The demand for, and great respect in society for, the assumption of personal responsibility and autonomy by individuals, as well as the assumption that the individual is able and willing to perform, is combined with highly stable, specialised institutional sectors and increasingly generalised social and cultural values.


In view of the (necessary) weakening of the major collective meaning-imparting and rule-setting systems, represented -  particularly in Germany -  by the Churches on the one hand and science based on enlightened reason (belief in

science and progress) on the other hand, this situation leads to a permanent need for the provision of meaning which is adapted to the very specific problems experienced by individuals in terms of meaning and life. This has been demonstrated very clearly by the relative attractiveness of experience-oriented



27 ) loc. cit., p. 419- 420.




religiousness and psychotherapy in the past few years. This applies not only to developments within the established religious groups but also to the new religious groups.


Experience-orientation also leads to the creation of a market in which individual buyers are supposed to act and opt for products. This also includes the existence of controlled counselling institutions. Counselling has become more and

more important in all areas because the individual is less and less capable of acquiring sufficient competence in all walks of life. The fact that professional counselling services are still rather underdeveloped in the religious and ideological sector, which is developing more and more commercial momentum, is problematic because such services tend to be simplistically seen as competing with systems that help individuals find meaning in life and not as an attempt at helping individuals cope with very profane problems in life, without any direct and explicit reference to systems that help individuals find meaning in life.


3.1.9 Modern society: A communication society


In the past few years, the various contemporary sociological diagnoses have been evolving into a theory of the communication society. 28 ) This has led to the contention that there is a need not only for differentiation in society and development of the inner logic of its differentiated sub-systems (e.g. the economic or the political system) but also for mediation of this logic by means of processes that cross system boundaries. This mediation can be achieved by specific systems which can be described as a specific form of communication. Modern society has to build bridges within and among all societal fields; these bridges consist of transboundary communication circles which ensure the necessary

transfer of information, e.g. by means of simple discussion forums where various sectors exchange their views, or by means of advisory boards, commissions, but also through associations and public discourse.


Modern society is no longer capable of finding "all-embracing and definitive" solutions to its key problems. One of the major attributes of modernity is the ability to deal with problems in a flexible manner. The efficiency and stability of

modern society is due to the development of specific sub-systems. It is not possible to control society by setting and pursuing certain political objectives; nor is it possible to do so by means of confidence in a society's industry and

the prosperity which it can provide. Only mediation between the systems can protect modernity from the paradox which would result from the one-sided dominance of the logic of individual sub-systems. And as far as political action

is concerned, this means: regulation and not control, 29 ) as well as stimulation



28) Cf. inter alia the theories developed by Beck, Habermas, Luhmann, Mayntz oder M�nch.

Cf. inter alia M�nch, R.: Die Dialektik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft, Frankfurt, 1991; Die Dynamik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft, Frankfurt, 1995.

29 ) Cf. Mayntz, R. and Scharpf, F. W. (ed.): Gesellschaftliche Selbstregulierung und politische Steuerung, Frankfurt, 1995, in particular Chapters 1, 2, 4, 7.




and utilisation of the self-regulatory forces in other sectors of society which are confronted with problems, and the development of objectives in a dialogue and in a discussion with all the parties concerned.


How religion or religions will or should cope with the challenges described above is an open question which cannot be answered in this Report. It would also go beyond the scope of this Report to discuss whether and how religion

can fulfil its traditional functions without a certain measure of institutional transcendence and continuity.


The fact that there is a risk that modernity might lead to a fall-back to forms of traditionalism is paradoxical. This risk seems to be ubiquitous, especially in the field of religion. However, traditional solutions would not be viable at the overarching level of society as a whole. It is not possible to go back to the conditions prevailing before modernity. Ideological pluralism, diversity of life-styles, the individual as the key element in the determination and preservation of personal identity, performance orientation instead of the feeling of belonging to a community, systemic differentiation of society -  all these are characteristic features of modernity.


At the level of individual biographies or contexts, however, it is quite possible for traditional and particular approaches to be adopted as specific solutions, but they must be susceptible to integration in the context of an overall pluralistic

society. Such approaches create problems in particular if they lead to actions that are liable to criminal prosecution, or when there is a manifest attempt to impose de-differentiation and de-modernisation at governmental and systematic

level as binding policies. In other words: what is no longer feasible in society as a whole, is quite conceivable at the level of mediating systems. Concepts such as that of the "intermediary institutions" or the "revitalisation of small life worlds" are examples of such systems. 30 )


This must also be the basis of any debate about new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. The variety of alternative life designs and religious ideas is a "normal" part of any modern society, a part which will probably tend to increase in importance. Of course, this does not in any way mean that this phenomenon is only positive. However, it is becoming clear that society and its institutions must reckon with this situation, that they must develop mediation systems which can help not only to preserve a sufficiently harmonious societal structure and to protect the individuality of the individual but also help to sustain a common cultural legitimation basis. So far, such a basis of legitimation is virtually nonexistent in the ideological field, which itself is seen as such a legitimation basis.




30 ) Cf. Berger, P. L./Luckmann, Th., Modernit�t, Pluralismus und Sinnkrise. Die Orientierung des modernen Menschen, G�tersloh, 1996, pp. 59- 63, 70f.; Herzog, R.: Die Un�bersichtlichkeit als Ph�nomen des wissenschaftlichen Zeitalters, Speech delivered by the German Federal President on 17 January 1996 in Tutzing, in: Bulletin, (ed.): Office of the Federal President, 13 Feb. 1996, p. 161. In addition, mention should also be made of the adage according to which constitutional democracies rely on conditions which they cannot create themselves (E. W. B�ckenf�rde), i.e. on traditional, practised value convictions in society and on communities

sharing these convictions.




3.3       New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups as perceived in society


In its Interim Report, the Enquete Commission had already decided to approach the subject of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups by consistently focusing on conflicts which may arise. This is not a new approach introduced by the Commission; instead, it is a perspective which has become manifest in announcements and opinions of public authorities in the past few years. The Commission has kept the cause of its establishment in mind, i.e. petitions addressed to the German Bundestag by citizens because of concrete conflicts which the individual citizen could not cope with at all, or not adequately. It became increasingly clear to the Commission in the course of its work that a generalising approach, involving the use of the term "sect" as a generic term to describe all forms of new or binding types of religiousness and/or ideology, cannot do justice to the diversity of phenomena and the different

types of conceivable conflicts. And there is another aspect that needs to be considered: If the popular but nebulous term "sect" is used as a generic term, this can lead to stigmatisation. A religious or ideological group which has been

publicly labelled as a sect will experience a wide variety of problems because of the great attention paid by the public to the alleged conflict-proneness of "sects". A wide variety of very different religious groups, including smaller Christian groupings, have expressed concern to that effect vis-�-vis the Commission.


In the public sector, it is therefore neither advisable nor acceptable to use a single generic term ("sects") for controversial phenomena or groups if the public already applies this term -  usually without reflection -  to all smaller, recently established or simply unfamiliar movements.


3.2.1 Historical review


In the 1960s, the phenomenon of new or alternative religiousness -  which has its roots in the United States -  also appeared on Europe's societal stage. At first, it was hardly noticed in the political arena. This "new religiousness" was seen at best as a less problematic concomitant of the youth movement. Nevertheless, politicians were soon confronted with quite a large number of well organised religious and ideological groups.


The Churches were the first to look after this new field. Groups of individuals affected by the actions of these new religious groups (parents, family members, friends, as well as former group members) formed, usually around the Protestant and Catholic Churches' commissioners in charge of sects. One of the first of these groups that were formed was the Munich initiative centred around Reverend Friedrich Wilhelm Haack, the Protestant Church's Commissioner for Sects. In his paper on the "new youth religions", Reverend Haack set an initial standard in the discussion.


Subsequently, the phenomenon was referred to as




"youth religion" or "youth sect". 31 ) Since most of the groups which emerged in Europe -  usually coming from the United States -  in the late Sixties acted as "collecting vats" for individuals who had been active in the disbanded youth

movement, 32 ) the problem was first and foremost a youth problem.


In addition, the new religious groups emerged when the population's commitment to the Churches was declining. For this reason, it was assumed that there was a link between the growing attraction of the new religious groups for young

people and the growing disillusionment with the Churches, especially on the part of young people. For a long time, the fact that the new religious and non-religious groups slowly began to offer life-counselling services was not sufficiently taken into consideration because the "sect approach" suggested that these groups were a purely religious phenomenon (cf. Chapter 3.5).


Since some segments of the public were concerned about the appearance of new religious and ideological communities

and psychogroups, governmental bodies also began to express their views about this issue in the course of the 1970s.

The German Federal Government and various state-level governments published brochures designed to inform the public about "sects". Furthermore, some of Germany's federal states established centres whose task it was to deal

with the questions arising in this context, and to collect and process information and make this information available to the public. However, almost all of these centres only dealt with this issue "as a side-line". As a result, it was not possible initially for any governmental concept to emerge. Even if approaches towards developing such a concept were made at an early point in time (e.g. in the 2nd Status Report published in 1983 by the Government of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia), it took quite a while until the various objectives and approaches of governmental, Church and private organisations began to become clear. This is a shortcoming which has persisted until today and which the Enquete Commission also has to address.


From the very beginning, public authorities benefited from work done by the Church commissioners and groups of parents and other affected individuals.


The authorities were even largely dependent on this work because basic scientific studies on this subject were not available, nor was it possible to refer to social work or psychosocial counselling services in this context. This con-

tinued to make the development of a single governmental concept difficult. Initially, the governmental bodies had to rely on the work done by the Church commissioners and by private initiatives of parents and other affected individuals. Apart from very few exceptions, these private groups were the prime source of the necessary information gathered in the course of the groups' daily counselling work and the support given to various groups of affected individuals (family




31 ) In its Interim Report, the Commission described this development in great detail. Cf. The findings of Working Group 1.

32 ) This was made very clear by Steven M. Tipton: Getting Saved from the Sixties: Moral Meaning in Conversion and Cultural Change, Berkeley, 1982.




members, friends, colleagues, drop-outs). Other potential sources such as psychosocial counselling services, social workers, and academia did not provide sufficient useful information for governmental bodies.


In addition, governmental authorities expected the major Churches to have a certain competence and responsibility in religious matters, also as far as macro-social developments were concerned. This role of the Churches became questionable with the emergence of religious/ideological pluralism (see Chapter 3.1).


As a result, the governmental bodies themselves had to assume greater responsibility, which made it necessary for them to compile know-how of their own.


Even today, it is difficult to measure the success of governmental measures adopted in connection with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. This is primarily due to the fact the political objectives were not

clearly defined over a long period of time. What should or can be achieved by governmental intervention?


3.2.2 Objectives and instruments of governmental intervention


As far as religious beliefs are concerned, governmental action is subject to the principle of neutrality laid down in the German Constitution (cf. Chapters 4.1 and for more details). However, the Constitution does not define what a

religion or an ideology is; instead, the two terms are simply taken for granted. Even if the authors of the Constitution may have had Western Christian concepts in mind, today it is clear -  in view of an increasingly multicultural society -

that it is only with great care that any restrictions can be imposed on religious/ideological activities. Instead, the government is obliged to protect the freedom of worship -  in particular the freedom of religious minorities -  and to guarantee the right to exercise one's religion.


The role of government is to protect the citizens and to preserve social peace.


In connection with the conflicts arising in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, there are four types of governmental intervention:


          creating the legal setting,


          providing education and information and, where necessary, warning the public with regard to the activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups ,


          helping "victims" or individuals who suffered harm due to the activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, or who try to re-establish contact with the rest of society after having been a member of a compulsory or closed group for a longer period of time,


          where necessary, mediating in conflicts between religious groups, or between citizens and groups.




One of the purposes of governmental action in this field is to reduce social tensions and to reconcile conflicting interests. For this purpose, it is necessary to identify objectives in an appropriate and comparable manner, and to find instruments for their implementation.


3.2.3 New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups as a challenge for society


In one of its hearings, the Enquete Commission asked various groups in society to present their views. The groups invited included the political parties represented in the German Bundestag; representatives of the Protestant Church, the Catholic Church, the Association of Free Protestant Churches, and the Central Council of Jews in Germany; the German Trade Union Federation, the German Press Council, and the German Sports Federation. In addition, representatives of Germany's industry associations were also asked for their views during the hearing dealing with "So-called Sects and Psychogroups in Business Enterprises".


All the organisations invited pointed out that this was an important issue to them, although only very few cases were reported where any of them were directly affected by the issue. All the political parties in Germany expressed a particular concern about the Scientology Organisation. The CDU/CSU, as well as the SPD and the F.D.P. have adopted incompatibility decisions 33 ) because they feel that being a member or a follower of the Scientology Organisation is not compatible with membership in their parties. They contend that the objectives of their parties are not compatible with the objectives of the Scientology Organisation. This is obviously an exceptional approach because the political parties have expressly stated that they do not see any need for adopting similar decisions with regard to other groups.


All the political parties stated that they were not being infiltrated by the Scientology Organisation or by any other new religious and ideological community or psychogroup. However, they felt that it was necessary to provide information

and education on these matters not only to the members of the political parties but also to the public at large. Brochures to this effect have been produced by the CDU/CSU, the SPD, and B�NDNIS 90 / DIE GR�NEN. Their efforts were

invariably aimed at achieving an adequate approach to, and better understanding of, religiousness and life counselling under the conditions of a changing modern society. In addition, the representative of the F.D.P. pointed out that it was not only desirable but also necessary to adopt a common approach nationwide towards providing information and education on these matters.


The representative of the German Sports Federation stated that there had been isolated cases of attempts made to influence sports clubs, and that this applied in particular to the fields of marketing and sponsoring. The few cases that had



33 ) After passing through several stages of appeal, a final judgement has now confirmed the legality of the CDU's incompatibility decision.




become known involved the Scientology Organisation. However, there could be no question of infiltration. In this context, the German Sports Federation also provides information and education to its members.


The representative of the German Press Council drew attention to two other issues:


First of all, attempts had been made repeatedly -  in particular by the Scientology Organisation -  to prevent consistent, systematic and aggressive reporting and commentaries. However, the representative of the German Press Council pointed out that, overall, these attempts had not been very successful to date; publishing houses and press organs had recognised the problem and were able to handle this problem themselves.


Secondly, it was up to the press itself to contribute towards objectifying its reporting on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. However, this issue was not a major problem in the work of the German Press

Council. In the past few years, there had been an average of about 12 complaints in this area, most of them referring to the Scientology Organisation. However, there was no question of the press being infiltrated or even the freedom of

the press being jeopardised.


Similar comments were made by the representatives of German industry associations during the hearing on the subject of "So-called Sects and Psychogroups in Business Enterprises". It was pointed out by the representatives of the associations that this topic had gained considerable significance in recent years, although it was difficult to assess the actual magnitude of a potential threat; on the one hand, there were only few reports on specific cases where a group -  in most cases, the Scientology Organisation -  succeeded in gaining influence on a company's management; on the other hand, companies had a major image problem and suffered massive economic losses if their name was mentioned in connection with a group such as the Scientology Organisation. 34 )


Other aspects were emphasised by the members of the religious communities which had been invited by the Commission. The representative of the Catholic Church drew attention to the increase in the number of options available to individuals in modern society to find meaning in life. At a time of individualisation and growing diversity, the concepts offered by the Churches for finding meaning in life were less appealing to people. Approaches developed within the Churches and offers made to specific groups were also aimed at finding new approaches. The representative of the Catholic Church pointed out that the answer to the problem was not isolation; instead, attempts had to be made to

meet new needs. After a period of fierce controversy with new religious and ideological movements, today the Catholic Church's commissioners for sects are more relaxed and more focused on providing information.



34 ) As far as this hearing is concerned, see the Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, p. 62ff. Cf. also Chapter 5.3 of the Final Report.




The representative of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany pointed out that, on the one hand, it was necessary to prevent abuse in this new, complex situation. He was in favour of consistent consumer protection, including in the field of institutions or services offering individuals to find meaning in life and to cope with life; he suggested that there was a lot to catch up on in this area. On the other hand, the representative of the Protestant Church felt that any criticism with regard to a potential abuse should be launched very cautiously; otherwise, there was a risk that criticism of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and their offers might turn into general criticism of religion.


The representative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said that she was "full of consternation" and that she was "offended" by the comparison made between the situation of the Scientology Organisation in Germany and the situation of the Jews during the holocaust. She strongly objected to this comparison.


However, she felt that this problem also demonstrated that while it was necessary to have this debate in society, it should be handled very prudently. She stated that legislative action seemed less appropriate in this area; instead, it was

necessary to identify and eliminate the social causes. She drew particular attention to the fact that new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups had failed to gain a foothold in the Jewish community.


The representative of the Association of Free Protestant Churches was concerned about the "sectophobia" that prevailed in Germany according to his observations. He pointed out that this impression was also corroborated by a study conducted by Infratest on behalf of the Enquete Commission. 35 ) According to the representative of the Free Protestant Churches, this study showed that quite different groups were being lumped together and jointly considered to be dangerous and threatening, to the point that even the Free Churches were now included in this assessment. He reminded everyone that there was a need for careful differentiation and for an informed, appropriate treatment of the subject. He admitted that it was clear that warnings had to be expressed with regard to certain aggressive types of group; however, it would have to be equally clear in these warnings what specific groups and events they referred to. He pointed out that one also had to realise that the growth of problematic groups was largely facilitated by causes rooted in society.


In summary, the hearing of the social groups mentioned above led to the following findings:


          From their perspective, most of the identifiable problems and conflicts at the end of the 1990s relate to the Scientology Organisation.


          All of them rely on education and information; and they consider that some of the reports in the media and some of the reactions by the public are "too heated".



35 ) Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, Chapter 2.2.7,

p. 33ff.




          They feel that the problems and conflicts experienced are also due to processes of change in society and efforts made by individuals and society as a whole to cope with these changes.


          They are concerned that the current "criticism of sects" might turn into a blanket criticism of religion.


          And the Free Churches, in particular, are concerned about the fact that an undifferentiated perception and fears in society might lead to stigmatisation and isolation of religious minorities.





3.2.4 Survey conducted among various groups


During its 34th meeting on 13 November 1997, the Enquete Commission decided unanimously to conduct a survey among various groups. The purpose of this survey was to find out from the groups concerned whether the public

debate and the portrayal of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups had any adverse effects on the groups or their members.


This survey was primarily carried out because of numerous requests and complaints addressed by various groups to the Chairwoman and the members of the Enquete Commission. The authors of these letters stated repeatedly that they were being discriminated against. A variety of groups have also submitted statements on the Enquete Commission's Interim Report.


The Enquete Commission asked the groups invited to answer the following questions:


a)                    What is your assessment of the public debate conducted by the media, politicians, the official Churches, etc. with regard to your community?


b)                   What is your assessment of decisions, if any, taken by governmental/public institutions concerning your community?



c)                    Are you aware of any members who have suffered disadvantages due to their membership?


d)                   What is your assessment of the Enquete Commission's Interim Report?


The Commission selected communities which had been in correspondence with the Enquete Commission and which were invited by the Commission. In addition, the Enquete Commission asked the Free Churches which are members of

the Verband Evangelischer Freikirchen (VEF -  Association of Free Protestant Churches) to answer the questions.


Some groups had interpreted the questions mentioned above to mean that the Commission was asking them in its letter to prove that they were religious or healing communities. They hoped that their answers would lead the Enquete




Commission to confirm at an appropriate point (in statements or in the Commission's Final Report) that they were not a "sect". Very few groups refused to answer the questions because they did not see themselves as "sects".


In addition to answering the questions in their replies, many groups also made comments on themselves or on the Enquete Commission's work, e.g. on the problem involved in defining the terms "sects" and "psychogroups". The groups criticised the fact, for instance, that the term "sect" was a "war cry used by the Churches". Similarly, some expressed concern about the fact that this term might be defined by Church representatives in the Enquete Commission. If this was done, some groups suspected that relevant movements within the major Churches would be deliberately excluded.


Survey findings


The answers given by the groups in their replies were most detailed with regard to the media. What the groups criticised most was that reports published on them were distorted or false.


What is particularly striking is that the groups feel that media reports on them are objective if they paint a positive picture of them. However, they feel that they are being discriminated against whenever they are criticised. The groups

allege that critical media reports are due to, for instance, inadequate or insufficient investigations, sensationalist journalism, or simply ignorance.


Only very few groups criticise the way in which they are publicly portrayed by politicians or public institutions. Their criticism is focused on publications in the form of governmental "Reports on Sects"; because of the wording used in the

Commission's letter, these reports were taken to mean "decisions taken by governmental institutions". The "Reports on Sects" were criticised for drawing on information from biased sources. In addition, it was also alleged that "decisions

by governmental institutions" included negative portrayals in teaching materials, the withdrawal or refusal to grant non-profit-making status, as well as the banning of events, etc.


Overall, the survey conducted among selected groups or communities can be rated as a success. Of a total of 27 groups, 23 answered the questions put to them by the Commission, with some of the answers being very extensive. The

vast majority of the groups contacted by the Commission are willing to continue to co-operate with the Commission. Some of the groups felt that the written questions were a particularly positive contribution towards initiating a constructive dialogue.


Many of the groups that responded were critical with regard to the role played by the Churches in their public portrayal. They claimed that the Churches' commissioners for sects and ideology issues were particularly powerful with their

publications in influencing definitions, and that they also had a strong impact on public opinion. Overall, however, the responses varied widely:




          Most of the groups emphasised that they were willing to participate in a dialogue, and that they would like to have a more open and more intensive exchange of views with the Churches.


          A minority of the groups were critical and sceptical vis-�-vis their public portrayal by the Churches and tended to be doubtful about the Churches' willingness to participate in a dialogue with them.



          Only very few groups totally rejected any contact or exchange of views with the Churches. These groups saw the Churches as their competitors which they wanted to push offside. They did not expect a dialogue to develop, nor did they welcome such a dialogue.


The vast majority of the groups felt that there was little discrimination against their members in public life. While the groups reported quite a number of cases where members were discriminated against or put at a disadvantage through

insults, verbal abuse, problems in their families and with friends and acquaintances, as well as problems encountered by children in schools and nursery schools, once their membership in a given group became publicly known. The Enquete Commission was unable to verify these isolated accounts.


Nevertheless, if one examines the statements in terms of their overall tenor, these accounts seem to describe isolated cases; while these cases have to be taken seriously, they do not at all reflect the general situation of minority groups

in Germany. Instead, the generalising public debate ("sectophobia") is perceived as threatening and disparaging, not only by the Free Churches but also by other groups. Some think that one way out of this dilemma would be for the Enquete Commission to clear up the allegations by drawing up "black lists" and "white lists", as it were. Without exception, however, the responses indicate that groups questioned would like to see a more open and unbiased public debate.


3.2.5 Conclusions


The findings described above show that there are two trends in society with regard to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


On the one hand, the progressing decoupling of religion and life-counselling has led to the emergence of a new, largely non-regulated field of social interaction. Many things that used to be integrated into the context of a religious life-style in the past are now also available from life-counselling providers in a non-religious context. Apart from the question of proving that such alternative offers are effective, they have also not at all been tried and tested in practice. In some

cases, this creates considerable scope for conflicts and problems which must not be ascribed to religiously oriented life-styles. 36 )



36 ) Cf. Chapter 3.5 for more details.




On the other hand, the findings which the Commission has obtained during its work suggest that current public debate is problematic. This debate can even aggravate existing problems if its overall impact is ignored. The Commission

would like to make the following comments on this point:  In addition to the (still outstanding) development of a common concept with regard to education, advice and, where necessary, mediation on the part of the German Federal Government and the state-level governments, the following aspects seem to be noteworthy. While the information pamphlets published by the state-level governments played an important role in terms of educating the citizens and objectifying the public debate, they also had certain side-effects.


Pamphlets on the general topic present highly different groups side by side, although they are at different stages of their development. The more problematic groups always have radiating effects on the other groups. Thus, the image of the "most dangerous group" at a given point in time tends to affect all the other groups in the same way. In addition, there are accumulation effects due to the fact that the problematic features accumulate from one reference group to the next, so that this may lead to lead to incorrect general images in the minds of the readers of such pamphlets.


It is advisable that governmental information pamphlets should not provide such general reports; instead, they should present descriptions of specific groups or movements for which there is a current need for information and education. These descriptions of specific groups or movements should basically be conflict reports, and they would have to be updated regularly. These reports should also distinguish between legally relevant "hard" conflicts and other, more socially relevant "soft" conflicts. A side-effect of such an approach would also be faster availability because in the event of a legal dispute, this dispute would be limited to the group described in the report. Hence, there would not be the accumulation of legal actions and temporary injunctions which have led to major delays in the publication of governmental information pamphlets in the past.


On the other hand, this would also create incentives for contentious groups because there would be no need for a report if a group eliminated or reduced the intensity of particularly controversial characteristics and patterns of behaviour. At any rate, conflict characteristics could no longer be ascribed collectively to the entire sector.


In addition, generalising terms such as "sect" should be avoided altogether.


Instead, it is necessary to use more specific terms which describe the orientation, as well as the objectives and, where applicable, the particular conflict characteristics of the group concerned (cf. Chapter 2).


Since one of the reasons for the attractiveness of problematic religious or non-religious groups is the desire of individuals to be able to cope with change processes in society, better information and education can only be part of the solution. This has also been confirmed by the Commission's hearing of various




social groups. In a broader sense, it is also a societal problem. And it is also part of the modernisation of society that the social settings for the life of the citizens must be designed in such a way that problematic developments -  whether religious or political in nature -  will have little prospect of success.


These framework conditions also include social attributes such as prosperity, solidarity, and empathy, as well as cultural and intercultural learning and tolerance. However, they also include a broadly-based debate in society on questions of religion, ideology and life, and the scientific study and analysis of these questions. Neither task has been adequately fulfilled in the past few decades.


3.3 Group structures, activities and objectives


3.3.1 Opportunities for, and limits to, establishing a typology


In accordance with the Commission's intention to largely do without referring to specific groups, the following description of group structures, activities, and objectives is typological in nature. It is designed to capture general, significant, and specific characteristics, while at the same time paying attention to concrete particularities. The Commission's hearings of groups have served, inter alia, as a source of information for the development of the following typology. The Commission has approached the subject from the perspective of the conflicts or the conflict-proneness of groups in a wider social context. 37 ) In this context, it should not be overlooked that conflict-proneness is not usually a unique feature of the religious and ideological groups described below; instead, such conflict-proneness can also be found in other sectors of society. Nevertheless, there are also specific conflicts which are due to religious or ideological claims.


The typology covers characteristics which, first of all, (can) apply almost without exception to all religions, religious and ideological groups, communities and movements; hence, they do not pose a problem. At this general level, it is not

possible to provide an adequate description and assessment of conflicts and conflict-proneness. In addition, some of the potential conflicts and conflict constellations may be quite normal in the context of religious conversion and socialisation, and should therefore be tolerated, at least in principle and as far as government is concerned. For this reason, there is a considerable need for a differentiated description which also includes concrete conflicts. Such  concrete conflicts illustrate that certain identifiable group structures appear to be inadequate, problematic, dangerous, etc. because their purpose is to achieve certain specific objectives by means of certain specific activities (cf. Chapter 3.3.5).


Secondly, there is also a risk that this may lead to unacceptable generalisation. In this case, the most conflict-prone groups or those which are most highly developed in organisational terms are then chosen as a model and paradigm; or




37 ) See also Chapter 2.




conflict-promoting characteristics in structures, activities and objectives are described in an additive form, which creates the impression that the sum of all negative characteristics thus obtained applies to all groups, and equally.

"Sects" would then be indiscriminately seen as being "totalitarian" and organised in a "rigid hierarchy", etc.; they would be seen as being involved in "aggressive recruitment" or "evangelising", while simultaneously or primarily

pursuing economic and political objectives; and they would be ascribed at least a tendency to lust for  international/global influence or power, which they may have already achieved to some extent. On the other hand, there is a risk that even blatant cases of abuse may be justified by religious and ideological motives.


Hence, the following points should be clearly stated from the onset:


          Some groups have an effective global or international organisation and are structured accordingly.


          Not all groups with an international or global organisation are equally conflict-prone.


          Almost all of the groups addressed in this Report -  including those with a global organisation -  are minorities, both on a global and on a national scale.


However, minorities can also be a source of hazards for individuals and/or society as a whole.


          Groups which pursue universal objectives and international ambitions do not necessarily have the effective structures and the influence required to attain these objectives and fulfil their ambitions.


          In terms of their structure, many groups range somewhere between an informal organisation and a stable institution.


          Even the smallest groups with a predominantly informal organisational structure or limited local activity can be highly contentious and cause considerable conflicts in their limited sphere of influence.


The following general description includes elements found in the development of any group or community, as well as the basic elements inherent in the development of religious or ideological groups and communities. Generally speaking,

these elements are not problematic as such, at least with regard to governmental action.


It must be assumed that, when religious or ideological groups and communities establish themselves, there is always a potential or latent chance that conflicts will arise. This is due to the particular demands imposed by religions and ideologies in terms of life-style and way of life. Whenever groups with controversial or radical views come across vulnerable individuals and conditions, there is a particularly high likelihood of conflict.


Hence, the following chapters describe a framework which can be applied under a variety of circumstances and which needs to be filled with specific constellations and patterns of conflict.




3.3.2 Overview of structural elements of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


Many, if not most religious and ideological groups are established because individuals, ideas, intentions and practices of a religious and/or ideological nature interact with each other; i.e. there is a more or less informal network of  relations.


These elements can usually be identified and linked with each other when such a network develops into a genuine group.


Similar patterns may also be found in the genesis of psychogroups, as well as mixed types with features of profit-minded business enterprises, and extremist political groups, etc.; this also applies to the subsequent development steps:


          The central point of reference is an individual who is considered to be the leader, master, source of revelations, mediator of salvation or healing.


          There are ideas, doctrines, convictions, views, etc. which vary widely in terms of their nature (e.g. revelations, visions, auditions, rules for living, as well as social, cultural, economic, and political convictions and objectives) and in terms of their origin, and which almost exclusively were developed by the individual who is seen as the central point of reference, or are attributed to this person.


          Alternatively, or closely related with the elements described above, there are saving, salutary, curative or -  in the broadest sense -  beneficial effects, forces, energy flows, etc. which are attributed to the individual who is the central point of reference.


          There are practices and rituals.


          There are followers whose relations amongst themselves are largely dependent on, or even superseded by, the elements mentioned above.


          Distinctions are made between followers, depending on whether they are permanent or occasional supporters (sympathisers, bandwagon jumpers, etc.); whether they are close to, or distant from, the central person; and whether they have the associated powers in terms of teaching, setting rules that determine the lives of followers, and in terms of organisation and administration.


          While there is a more or less pronounced separation from outsiders or non-followers, there is also a more or less intensive relationship with those who are inside, i.e. the followers and the elements that support them (the group or the organisation tends to be the demarcation line of truth or life and salvation).


          When group structures become more firmly established, important factors to be considered include not only the requirements derived from the doctrine and the associated internal guidelines governing the actions of a group, but also the impact of such requirements and actions on society as a whole, as well as the reactions and repercussions in society. The effects can include changes in objectives or deformations caused by the isolation of groups, due to interactions between the group and its social environment.




When small informal groups develop into larger and better organised groups, it is possible to distinguish between six phases or aspects which are of particular interest:


a)                    Informal relationships which are still unstructured -  vis-�-vis both the outside and the inside world -  develop into structured small groups, which eventually become large groups (which may also have a binding legal status).


b)                   Satellite units -  i.e. other groups with permanent ties to the primary group -  are formed, usually at other locations or even in other countries.


c)                    Theory and practice are codified and generalised.


d)                   A larger or large organisation evolves, which may be active internationally or world-wide.


e)                    Sub-organisations, subsidiary organisations or covert organisations are established; these other organisations may pursue secondary or partial objectives of a cultural, economic or political nature.


f)                    A solution is found with regard to succession, i.e. the transition of leadership from the original central figure to another individual or a group of several persons.


Each of the phases mentioned above may trigger specific conflicts, either within the religious/ideological context itself or outside. As far as the theory and its application in practice is concerned, it is important how both fit into, and relate

to, their socio-cultural environment in religious, ideological, and cultural terms, etc. (e.g. they may either accept or reject this environment). This has a particular impact on concrete and practical issues of life and concrete life-styles (e.g. questions of authority, obedience, married life, work, family, and raising children).


It is difficult to identify general characteristics of relationship patterns which tend to prevent conflicts versus those which tend to promote conflicts. However, the question as to how the central authority (master, teacher, etc.) defines

his/her relationship with his/her own background in terms of the history of ideas or traditions, and how he/she relates to the other (non-member) advocates of these ideas, traditions, promises, etc., seems to play an important role in most



 There is a particularly great likelihood that a radical development will occur whenever two conditions coincide: First of all, the community claims to be the sole representative of its religion/ideology vis-�-vis other, closely related religious/ideological communities; i.e. it feels that it is the only group that is entitled to communicate its promises, etc. Secondly, this exclusive claim is not substantiated by actual modifications or significant differences in terms of theory, etc.


On the contrary: Relative to the original traditions, the community's own ideas and practices are more restricted and extremist, so that the claim of exclusivity cannot be justified by intellectual or practical substance. In this situation, the




central figure of the community (or the community itself) can enhance its self-perception by means of psychological and social radicalisation. The purpose of the conflicts which arise in such cases is -  at least initially -  to consolidate

one's own identity by developing enemy images, etc. The community's social isolation and "insulation", as well as its marginalisation and stigmatisation, are the results of interactions between the increasingly radical group and conflict-

promoting or mediating reactions of the environment. This can be illustrated by means of the two following examples:


          In the 1930s, Jehovah's Witnesses developed under Rutherford from a loosely organised community of "serious bible researchers" to an organisation with authoritarian structures.


          From 1986 to about 1995, VPM evolved from a group of young followers gathered around a charismatic leader (Friedrich Liebling) to an ideological psychogroup.


Conversely, it is often possible to reduce conflicts because the ideological and practical substance of a community changes in the course of its development; and/or the group's claim to exclusivity is put into perspective or eventually even abandoned altogether. A well-known case in point is the post-war development of the Seventh-Day Adventists in Germany, from an exclusive special community to a Free Church.


Another important factor for an analysis of contentious developments is the question of whether a group's theory and practice can be qualified as being religious and ideological in the narrower sense, or whether they also cover other areas such as culture, economics and politics to some extent, significantly or even primarily. It is part of the nature of religious and ideological concepts that these areas are also covered. However, in view of the fact that these areas are

separated from each other in a modern state, this raises a particular problem which explains the conflict-proneness of some groups, in particular so-called sects and psychogroups. This applies especially to extremist political groups. It is noteworthy that some (many) of the internationally organised groups which are active in Germany have passed the development steps mentioned above elsewhere (e.g. in the United States).

3.3.3 Description of typologically generalised groups


The various development steps are described below. This description is based on concrete groups which, however, have been generalised for the purpose of this typology.


a. Master circle


New religious and ideological communities and psychogroups often revolve around a male or female master (prophet, etc.) and a circle of persons gathering around this individual. The founders usually do not come from a religious/ideological




"vacuum"; instead, they rely on existing religious, ideological or general cultural convictions which they either give a new interpretation and update, or which they reject, sometimes strongly, polemically, etc. Much of the plausibility for the circle of followers who gather around the master is derived from this positive or negative reference to the religious, ideological, cultural, and social environment.


A characteristic feature of the way in which such groups are founded -  which in fact applies to the beginnings of many traditions -  is the strong attachment to the master, the circle of people around the master, his doctrine and life-style,

etc., which can lead to profound changes, upheavals, and reorientation in an individual's private, religious, social, and professional life.


Initially, the structures in this founding circle tend to be rather informal; usually, however, informal differences, hierarchies and membership categories begin to manifest themselves even at this early stage. The circle's activities and objectives are designed jointly to preserve and cultivate their new knowledge and the new life-style they practise. Often, recruitment activities are also of a more informal nature (word-of-mouth propaganda, simple leaflets, etc.).


b. Transition from a circle to a group


A crucial step in the transformation from a circle to a group or large group (terminological accuracy is not considered to be important in this context) is the development of formal group structures. These result or may result from the need to cement the position of the founder and the circle of people closest to the founder.


A broad spectrum of objectives may be pursued in this context, ranging from religious and ideological objectives in the narrower sense to merely consolidating one's power and exercise of power; often these objectives overlap, and it is not

possible to draw clear-cut lines between them. The general reason for the transformation of circles into groups is the desire to adapt the life of the group to new circumstances, for instance, in the event of rapid growth or because of the need to organise the relations with followers elsewhere and with newly emerging groups, so as to be able to recruit or evangelise more efficiently, etc.


Often the key impetus for the development of formal structures comes from the founder himself, i.e. it emanates from the latter's missionary zeal; however, this impetus may also come from a group of "managers", i.e. individuals who organise or "manage" the founder, as it were. The primary objective and interest of this formalisation process is to ensure the sustainability and continuity of essential elements of the group: both on the inside and towards the outside world, by consolidating the (exclusive) position of the founder, his doctrine and his practical life-style across long distances in the group's missionary expansion and in the interest of increasing the efficiency of this expansion; in addition, rules on the assignment of powers and membership status also serve the purpose of preserving essential

elements of the group. This stabilisation and institutionalisation phase is, or may be, associated with the adoption of legal rules, both internally and in terms of civil law (i.e. establishment of an association under civil law, adoption of a financial regime, etc.).




This phase basically completes the development of a new organisation, which does not rule out a continuation of the institutionalisation process, e.g. in the event of geographical expansion, additional growth in numbers, the death of the

founder, etc. The characteristic features are the group's formalisation and stabilisation on the one hand, and its differentiation on the other. These three processes may be associated with the development of a variety of permanently

installed power, influence, and decision-making structures and levels, as well as related competencies in terms of defining activities and objectives, hierarchies and dependencies, the distribution of responsibilities, and fixing rules on membership, status, and membership say, etc. When satellite units (i.e. separate local chapters) are established, it is important how the relationship between the head office/parent organisation and the sub-groups is organised. Many of the supra-regional groups with a long-term conflict potential are stable entities with a sophisticated organisational structure. A strengthening of the group's formalised and complex structures, activities and objectives may be the result of a transition from the founder to one or several successors.


c. Organisations operating nation-wide or internationally/world-wide


A step which is associated with, results from, or follows the stage described above is the development of an organisation which is present nation-wide or internationally/world-wide and which may have a Church-like structure. Generally speaking, this phase is organised exactly like the previous one; however, everything is more complex, and hence less transparent (e.g. management structures, legal conditions, financial regime, etc.), especially if the organisation or network involved is active internationally/world-wide.


The various groups may vary widely in terms of origin, self-image, age, etc.; however, they are all variations of a basic model. This also applies mutatis mutandis to ideological communities, so-called psychogroups, mixed types with ideological elements and a strong emphasis on economic objectives, and extremist political groups.


With very few exceptions, the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups that are now present in Germany did not evolve into international/global organisations from their base in Germany; instead, they achieved

this development abroad, mainly in the United States, and then went to Germany as more or less developed  international/global religious organisations.


This may also give rise to specific conflicts (inculturation problems).


d. Groups with sub-organisations and subsidiary organisations


A number of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups which are present nation-wide and/or internationally/world-wide have established additional institutions and facilities in the fields of culture, education,

medicine, business, and politics. This sometimes leads to conflicts which go beyond a religious or ideological context in the narrower sense.




It is necessary to clarify how the structures, strategies, and objectives of a religious and ideological parent organisation relate to the religious/ideological objectives, and to the structures, objectives and activities of subsidiary organisations. There are four potential models which are, of course, not clearly distinguishable from each other:


          While the subsidiary organisations are partially independent in their activities, they are clearly subordinated to the religious/ideological parent organisation. In this case, there is only a minor or limited additional potential for conflicts.


          The subsidiary organisations pursue the objectives of the religious/ideological parent organisation, however in a concealed fashion, i.e. in the form of educational and cultural services, or in the form of medical, economic, social, and political activities and facilities. This gap between declared and (possibly/actually) envisaged objectives is, or can be, highly contentious.


          The activities of the subsidiary organisations -  in particular those which are of a commercial or political nature -  apparently or actually serve commercial or political purposes in the true sense of the word, i.e. the organisations involved try to combine the pursuit of their own religious/ideological objectives with commercial or political objectives (which may be quite far-reaching). Such activities may be  international/global in scope, or they can be limited to a national or local/regional scale. Such a twin or multiple-track strategy -  which differs from the ones described above in terms of its scope and scale -  can also be highly controversial.


          Objectives or organisations and their activities which are officially described as secondary or subsidiary are actually, or at least appear to be, primary objectives; the declared primary objectives of a religious/ideological nature are/appear to be a mere pretext. In specific cases, this reversal of the objectives and the related activities may be hard to identify, which may shed some light on the controversies regarding the question as to whether numerous new religious groups are actually religious or only pretend to be.


In all four cases, the likelihood of a conflict increases with the number, efficiency, and lack of transparency of the subsidiary organisations and their activities. This applies in particular if it is difficult to identify the exact extent to which the subsidiary organisations or sub-organisations are associated with the primary organisation, its management and management structures, as well as its objectives and activities, especially in the case of covert organisations.


3.3.4 Mixed forms, commercial enterprises and pyramid selling


In this context, there are also mixed forms of organisations for which commercial or political objectives become so important that any existing ideological or religious beliefs and objectives are superseded or even replaced. This does not exclude the possibility that much of the development of these groups initially




follows the patterns of development outlined above. As commercial or political objectives become predominant, new elements are added which result from the nature of the objectives which may now be pursued in a covert manner. It is

quite possible in such cases that some of the followers will continue to be interested in the group's ideological objectives and that they declare for themselves that these objectives are their primary interest.


There is broad range of organisations and service providers in this so-called psycho-market or life-counselling market. The activities of these providers include personality development courses and seminars, management consultancy, direct selling, multi-level marketing systems and even pyramid selling systems (see Chapter 5.3). Such organisations also include groups which offer users a mixture between the "dream of big money", ideology and esoterics. In the past few years, various organisations operating in this field have been increasingly subject to critical questions. It is safe to say that it is not always easy to draw a clear line between respectable, qualified pyramid/direct selling enterprises and providers of training courses for the business community on the one hand, and less respectable, problematic providers on the other; furthermore, the methods used by such operations can also be applied in specific companies and corporate activities.


Some of these types of organisation deliberately claim for themselves that they work primarily in accordance with economic principles. However, many of the structural features such as the pyramid-like organisation (where possible, everyone should be both an employee and a customer; new employees are assigned to the person who recruited them, etc.) do not apply to all groups. The primary focus of these organisations is not on ideological issues but on enabling the individual to make a monetary profit. In many cases, however, hopes of success are supported by a "winner ideology". Those who join such organisations are not only people who would like to make a big profit with their money within a short period of time, but also people who hope to avoid a social decline by joining these organisations.


When new participants are recruited, the techniques used are designed to influence the individual psychologically. The world is sub-divided, for instance, into "winners" and "losers". The recruiters suggest to a prospect that an individual

can achieve anything he wants, if only he puts his mind to it. During this early phase, individuals are already immunised against possible objections. Only the individual can fail, they are told, not the system. If the newly recruited individual is willing to go along with the "system", an attempt will be made to "install" a compatible corporate ideology and identity. The use of corporate phraseology, a commitment to money and success, a uniform dress code -  all of these things can help to create identity. Bonuses which are distributed to employees in the presence of all their colleagues give a taste of the success to be expected.


Employees in management positions enjoy almost the status of a cult figure.


The feeling of belonging together is strengthened by means of group-dynamic games, and by allowing the employees to experience extreme situations to level out any differences among them.




Expensive status symbols and further education are prerequisites to rising in the hierarchy of the system. In some cases, it is also possible to pay a certain amount of money in order to reach the next higher status level, which makes the individual's prestige and rise in the system more profitable. The general conditions prevailing in this system context often lead to a complete change in the way participants think, feel and act. What emerges is a separate world, which is

viewed only from the perspective of corporate ideology. The company becomes a substitute family. Former social relations with other persons are abandoned, unless they qualify as potential customers and employees.


The high cost of status symbols and never ending training courses, etc., as well as the losses due to unsold merchandise, in many cases lead to financial bankruptcy because no individual can rise as quickly in the system as is suggested during company events.


3.3.5 Potential conflicts


In the past 30 years, some new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups have proven to be contentious during certain periods or permanently; others still are today. It should be noted in this context that conflicts are interactive and may be caused by either side. 38 ) By way of a typology, these potential conflicts can be sub-divided as follows:


a)                    Conflicts with the societal system. When groups want to achieve changes which are not compatible with a democracy under the rule of law (e.g. abolishing the equality of men and women and of all individuals by introducing a cast system; depriving individuals of their civil rights if the latter do not adhere to the group's principles), then this is a problem. Such doctrines, and practices which may result from such doctrines, harbour a large potential for conflict.


b)                   Conflicts with existing laws. Various court cases have shown that some groups fail to comply with, or even deliberately try to circumvent, German labour laws and social security legislation; some at least tried to do so in the past. There have also been cases where some groups were in conflict with fiscal laws and criminal law. The Commission also discussed cases where groups instructed their members to commit illegal and unethical acts, or where groups condoned such acts. It is not possible for the Enquete Commission to say whether organised crime is involved in specific cases; instead, finding an answer to this question will continue to be the responsibility of public prosecutors and their investigations.


c)                    Some groups are prone to conflicts because their internal organisation is characterised by totalitarian power structures and because they have restricted or abolished the constitutional rights of their members. These




38 ) See Chapter 2.5.




power structures are associated with very powerful "context control" (e.g. by means of internal disinformation), with extremely heavy workloads imposed on members and promises of compensation "in the next life", as well as with personality cults (idolisation of individuals), etc.


d)                   The doctrines advocated in the groups can also lead to conflicts, if these doctrines are associated with


          an ideologisation tending towards a total absence of experience,


          a simplification of reality, going as far as a loss of any sense of reality,


          a resulting immunisation against experience and criticism, -  an absolute and exclusive claim to the truth, which rules out the possibility of any error of one's own and which creates "truth barriers" between the inside group and the outside world,


          ethics that apply only to the inside group and which at the same time annul the ethical standards to be observed when interacting with others,


          "psychotechnical" patterns of thinking, etc. Communicating with the social environment creates difficulties which lead to strains in, or even disrupt, the group's relationship with society (cognitive and moral dissonance).


e)                    Some groups provoke either permanent or temporary conflicts with the rest of society in order to strengthen their internal solidarity.


f)                    Some groups mix their religious beliefs with commercial activities, or they use religious objectives as a pretext for pursuing commercial and political goals.


g)                    The external relations of some groups are prone to conflicts if they are characterised by a strong sense of mission which does not respect the rights of others because they are seen as being wrong by definition; and if they are characterised by group egotism which does not allow the individual to assume any responsibility for the environment; by external disinformation; by unethical or covert recruitment methods, and by being hostile towards their societal environment and the rule of law in a democratic state.


h)                   Some groups are prone to conflicts because they try to make it impossible for members and followers to leave, thereby curtailing the rights of their members, including the right to choose another denomination. This happens as part of a gradual process:


          by means of economic measures: Members/followers are brought to sacrifice their property and their lives for the group (e.g. by breaking off their vocational training) -  for the sake of the group's objectives -  so that leaving the group may threaten to disrupt an individual's whole life line;


          by means of social and socio-psychological measures: Members/followers are brought to break off all other social relationships, so that when they leave the group, they may be left completely isolated socially;




          by non-material measures: Members/followers are brought to adopt views which are in crass contrast with the views of their social environment, so that when they leave the group, they are disoriented psychologically and in cognitive terms;


          by other measures which in colloquial language are referred to as "psychotechniques" 39 ).


i)                     Conflicts also occur when groups promise unsuitable achievements which -  as far as anyone can judge -  are either unattainable or can only be reached by the leadership elite (gospel of prosperity, pyramid selling), superhuman capabilities (flying), healing, etc., without being able to live up to these promises, not even to a minimum extent. Such conflicts are significant when people have to pay money to acquire the promised skills.


j)                     Furthermore, conflicts are caused by groups when they deliberately alienate their members/followers from their families and other social contacts, by bringing them to break off their education or to "drop out" of their professional lives.


k)                   Numerous conflicts can emerge for children when they are socialised in an isolated group which makes it difficult or even impossible for them to live a life in social reality; in some groups, children are also deprived of their natural opportunities for development.


3.3.6 Digression: Enlistment and recruitment strategies


The following chapter gives an overview of the enlistment and recruitment strategies used in this particular sector. In this context, the same caveat applies that we expressed with regard to group structures, etc.: It is certainly not true to say that all groups have a highly developed, comprehensive, multi-level repertoire of enlistment and recruitment strategies. Such strategies require a sophisticated organisational structure and a certain size in terms of followers or members as well as a certain financial scope which can be found only partially and only in some groups.


This means that many groups do not make use of all the methods, but select only this or that method from the strategies mentioned above. And not all of the strategies mentioned are used to recruit followers and members for  institutionalised and properly organised groups; in many cases, individuals are attracted by activities offered in the so-called psycho-market or life-counselling activities. Finally, it must be borne in mind that some of the enlistment and recruitment strategies presented below are ethically and legally acceptable. Nevertheless, one should be aware of

the fact that new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups -  as well as other relevant groups in society -  practise systematic recruitment. Such recruitment is perceived as controversial when manipulative elements or forms of hidden recruitment are predominant.



39 ) Cf. Chapter 5.1.




To date, there have been very few systematic publications on the methods used for enlistment and recruitment. An expert report for which the Enquete Commission intended to award a contract did not materialise because of the

short period of time available. Information on recruitment methods can be obtained by looking at the groups' recruitment materials, observing the behaviour of "recruiters" in the groups, attending pertinent events, and by reading

or hearing reports of "dropouts". 40 ) It should be borne in mind in this context that enlistment and recruitment methods vary widely because of the differences (which in some cases are substantial) between new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in terms of their age and organisational structure.


More than traditional religious communities, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups primarily depend on advertising and recruitment efforts to attract new members, followers, participants and customers. In principle, not much has changed in this respect even for those groups which were established in the past century, although many of these groups have now seen the arrival of the "second generation" and although some of the future members are now also "born into" these religious communities. However, most of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups do not have enough members and their membership turnover is too high to be able to safeguard the group's survival even at its current size. Aside from those groups which want to fulfil the promise of salvation only for themselves and which therefore isolate themselves physically or withdraw from society, all other groups depend on active recruitment to obtain new members. This applies especially to groups which a priori are aiming to reach adults only. New groups are obliged to approach the general public by advertising their ideas, their promise of salvation, and their cults.


In their campaigns designed to recruit new members and followers, they assume that there is a "clientele" which is free, at least formally -  a clientele whose "religious", therapeutic and other needs they try to satisfy by means of the activities they offer. At the same time, they have to compete with the major Churches and amongst themselves, as well as with other potential leisure pursuits.


In order to find buyers, followers and members, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups use the methods developed by the advertising industry. However, there are major differences between the groups when it comes to the finer details, and the advertising methods used also vary, depending on the target group envisaged. While some groups tend to use unprofessional advertising methods, others mail glossy brochures, for instance, to selected addressees. These brochures include not only an invitation to attend a course customised for a given professional group or some other event, but also



40 ) Cf. Zinser, H., Der Markt der Religionen, Munich 1997, p. 111 ff.




reply cards for ordering another publication, usually free of charge. One can find advertising materials produced by new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups almost everywhere that a large number of people gather: in pubs and student cafes, in esoteric and ecological shops, at esoteric fairs, at conferences on related subjects, at in-company and other further education courses and at neighbourhood festivals. Time and again, many groups try to

recruit new members by directly approaching individuals in the street and by putting up book stands in public places. Only a few groups engage in door-to-door advertising. In addition, ads are inserted in the relevant sections of all local

city information magazines to publicise courses and information events where the "entry package" is often offered on a free trial basis.


Some of the groups such as the new Christian groupings, the so-called classical "sects" as well as groups that offer help to individuals looking for meaning in life, etc. use clearly religious themes in their advertising. Other groups offer:

practical, usually commercial life-counselling; management courses; therapies; the promise to increase the individual's working and performance capability; healing; professional, legal and health counselling/advice, etc.; in other words,

they cover subjects and provide courses which at first glance do not appear to be religious, or only pretend to be religious, or which do not have any religious background. Some groups have established sub-organisations which are

responsible for marketing these courses and activities. Occasionally, the relationship with the religious group is concealed, and it requires considerable effort to identify the ties which such "cover organisations" 41 ) have with other groups.


Many of these advertising activities can probably be qualified as sham advertising designed to conceal the actual recruitment method applied, so-called dialogue marketing, i.e. establishing contact with the "candidate" by means of personal talks. The recruiters contact their "customers" in the framework of courses and address their weaknesses, needs, wishes, fears and desires. At the same time, they make promises with regard to solutions to the individual's prob-

lems. In this process, they appeal to the individual's emotions. Their performance (packaging: friendliness and empathy) triggers certain dynamics. Once the "customer" has been given the impression that he/she has learnt something, that he/she has achieved a positive development (and this impression is evoked by the recruiters and in the groups, and it is then socially confirmed in the groups), the "customer" is given the credible assurance that he/she can improve even more. At this point, the candidate is encouraged to attend further courses, where he/she can eventually be "converted", which is the actual point of the exercise. If the "candidate" does not contact the group on his/her own, the

recruiter will establish this contact, either by phone or even by visiting the "candidate" personally. During these contacts, the recruiters succeed in interpreting the candidate's personal as well as social, ecological, and economic problems as religious or psychological problems, in keeping with the doctrines of their leader or group. This seems to help the individuals to find meaning in their lives,



 41 ) Cf. e.g. Haack, F. W., Findungshilfe 2000, Apologetisches Lexikon, Munich 1990.




so that some feel relieved of their relevant problems, at least temporarily. 42 ) The groups have realised that any efforts made to spread their concept of the meaning of life must be focused on the individual and that this concept can only be

conveyed by people. This realisation suggests that establishing direct personal contacts is also the most promising approach for groups whose advertising efforts are aimed at integrating new members. This finding is confirmed -  at

least partially -  by the fact that a considerable percentage of the followers of most groups is recruited by personal acquaintances (friends, colleagues, etc.).


For most people, publications which describe the ideology and the religious belief of a given group are of secondary importance; however, such publications can generate interest in, and create a positive attitude towards, the group concerned. The purpose of events that are organised is to create a feeling of belonging to a group and to facilitate group experiences in order to confirm the religious or psychological "concept of life" adopted by the group's members

and followers.


During these recruitment talks -  and even before -  the recruiters apparently differentiate among their target customers by subdividing them into those who will only spend money on courses, meditation events, books, religious articles,

devices, etc. and those who can be expected to become future members or co-workers. Because of their positions in society or in professional life, other persons are not primarily contacted with a view to recruiting them as future cus-

tomers or members; instead, they are expected to help the group become socially accepted and to be recognised in society. It is not always easy to detect this intention, especially since many groups also feel that they are being

"persecuted" and marginalised and also portray this image to the outside world, creating the impression that they are in need of help.


Some groups organise expensive world tours to the "holy" sites of the major religions. The individuals participating in such tours are carefully selected; it is virtually impossible for them to escape the group's dialogue marketing efforts

during the entire trip. Other groups use such tours to reward successful members (trips to their headquarters located in another country, or to other special locations).


Some of the "courses" and cultic events organised are very expensive, so that students or trainees can afford such events in exceptional cases only. For this reason, advertising for such courses is mailed only to groups of persons who

are expected to have an interest in such courses and to be able to afford them because of their professional and economic positions and functions. In some



42 ) Currently, there is a lack of empirical studies on the reasons why people go to such groups and attend their events (e.g. Klosinski, G. Warum Bhagwan? Auf der Suche nach Heimat, Geborgenheit und Liebe, Munich 1985). However, it is very difficult to carry out such studies successfully because some of the members refuse to answer these questions for themselves while others only repeat the answers given in the doctrines of their group. These individuals have assimilated the their group's "explanations" of their personal problems and questions. This assimilation of the "explanations" offered by the groups can be described as the true objective of the recruitment methods applied and the efforts made to convert individuals.




cases, the courses are disguised as courses designed to provide basic and further education and to upgrade professional skills. Some groups and event organisers claim in their advertising that they have a system of courses at the

end of which candidates can become teachers themselves; and they create the expectation that course graduates will be able to earn their living in this way. In some cases, such advertising is deliberately aimed at a group of persons who,

after completing an extended education at a technical college or university, failed to find the positions that they had hoped for. It seems that, overall, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups provide courses and

activities which are designed to meet the needs of a variety of social groups in different circumstances. However, each group is usually oriented towards a certain clientele; only very few groups try to reach several target audiences. Hardly

any group's advertising is addressed to all social strata or all professional and population groups.


However, there are also groups -  such as various (albeit not all) zen groups and some shamanistic groups, as well as the esoteric grail movement, etc. -  which practically do not engage in any advertising and which even have reservations with regard to the use of word-of-mouth propaganda.


Once again, there is a need for further research in this area as well, especially in order to be able to distinguish the dubious and seductive recruitment methods from those that are still legitimate; and in order to be able to provide sufficient prior information to participants at recruitment events with regard to direct and -  more importantly -  indirect methods of influencing individuals.


3.4 Occultism/Satanism


Today, hardly a day in the week goes by without sensational reports in TV or radio programmes and in newspapers or magazines about occultism or Satanism. In particular young people are assumed to be affected by an epidemic

increase in the interest in occult practices. However, the interest in, and use of, occult practices is not at all limited to young people.


Satanism is a particular source of controversy in this area. However, empirical studies have shown that there is a particularly wide gap between media coverage and reality in this context.


It cannot be denied that there is a risk that the media not only cover and report on "trends", but that they also produce "trends". 43 ) However, it is not only the media that can play a "trend-setter role". Experts and scientists will also have

to subject their services and their methods of work to careful (self-) reflection and supervision in this context.



43 ) Cf. M�ller, U.: "Zur Konstruktion von Wirklichkeit", in Jugend & Gesellschaft, 4, 1988.



3.4.1 The scope of occult and Satanic phenomena


Today, a number of empirical studies are available about the scope of occult practices and concepts -  especially among adolescents. However, only very few studies have been conducted with regard to adults.


The concepts and practices of modern occultism are more widespread than organised religious practices. According to various studies, occult concepts and practices are -  half jokingly and half seriously -  part of the everyday life of

about one-quarter of adolescents. 44 ) The share of adults who left the regular school system early and then went to evening schools or other educational institutions is even higher.


Various studies have shown that between 20 and 30 percent of the population -  in some cases even more -  believe in occult phenomena, 45 ) i.e. effects of hidden forces and powers that cannot be perceived by the human senses; devotees of occultism believe in the force of lucky charms, fortune-tellers, faith healers, astrology, etc. However, these figures say nothing about the question of whether these people actually take their everyday decisions on the basis of horoscopes, the pendulum, tarot cards or similar things.


Depending on the study cited, between 20 and 30 percent of the adolescents are also involved in occult practices such as the pendulum, the reading of tarot cards, the moving of glasses, etc. The more accessible the practices are (pendulum, tarot cards), the higher the share of adolescent devotees. 46 ) It is questionable whether it is sufficient for an individual to participate once or even several times in such practices to suggest that this individual is committed to

occultism, or has an occult view of life, or that occultism is relevant for his/her everyday life. 47 ) In 1996, about 1 percent of all adolescents stated that they belonged to occult groups. 48 ) According to two studies, approx. 68 percent 49) and 51 percent 50 ), respectively, of the population strongly reject occult groups; in fact, among the various groups that are rejected, occult groups are number



44 ) Cf. Zinser, H.: Zur Verbreitung des Okkultismus "Jugendokkultismus in Ost und West", Munich 1993; ibid.: "Moderner Okkultismus zwischen Glauben und Wissen" in ZMR, 78, 1994.

45 ) Cf. Noelle-Neumann, E./K�cher, R.: Allensbacher Jahrbuch der Demoskopie. 1984- 1992, Vol. 9, Munich inter alia 1992; Terwey, M.: Zur Situation von Glauben und Kirche im vereinigten Deutschland, in: Information Nr. 30 des Zentralarchivs f�r empirische Sozialforschung, Cologne 1992, pp. 59- 79.

46 ) Cf. Zinser, H., loc. cit.; Mischo, J.: Okkultismus bei Jugendlichen. Ergebnisse einer empirischen Untersuchung, Mainz 1991; for an overview, cf. Helsper, W.: Okkultismus -  die neue Jugendreligion? Die Symbolik des Todes und des B�sen in der Jugendkultur, Opladen 1992; Streib, H., Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination. Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen 1996.

47 ) Cf. Helsper, W., loc. cit., 1992 und Streib, H., loc. cit. 1996.

48 ) Cf. Silbereisen, R. K. et al.: Jungsein in Deutschland. Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene 1991 und 1996, Opladen, 1997.

49 ) Ibid., p. 64 f.

50 ) Cf. Jugendwerk der Dt. Shell (ed.), Jugend 1997, Opladen 1997, p. 365.




four (following football hooligans, right-wing radicals, and skinheads). However, it should be borne in mind that devotees of occultism are usually individualists who do not tend to join any groups.


Practices that are inspired by Satanic rituals represent only a minor portion of the spectrum of "occult" practices. Various studies have shown that -  except for pupils in the eastern part of Germany, where involvement in such practices is only about half as high -  only a few percent 51 ) of Germany's adolescents are actively or passively involved in "black masses". 52 ) However, it is unclear in this context what the adolescents mean when they refer to "black masses". It can be assumed that only some of them will actually include Satanic rituals. 53 )


Overall, the horror scenarios presented in the media have clearly been put into perspective by the figures found in studies. Satanic practices, which have been attracting particular attention in the reporting of media, have proven to be relatively rare marginal phenomena.


3.4.2 Modern occultism


Occultism is an ideology which has emerged relatively recently and which is marked by the dichotomy between belief and knowledge, and between religion and science. Since modern occultism from the very beginning smacked of

deceit, temptation and fraud, some scientists avoid using this term and instead -  following M. Dessoir -  initially used the term "parapsychology" and subsequently "extra-sensory perception" (ESP), PSI capabilities (psychokinesis), etc.

Despite contrary views held in parapsychology, scientists deny that the natural and emotional phenomena summarised under the term of occultism exist outside the mind world of devotees of occultism and scientists who support them.

Since, by definition, such phenomena are not be examined by means of scientifically recognised methods, they are not susceptible to scientific scrutiny. However, the phenomena involved are not occult in and by themselves; they only

become occult by being interpreted as such.


The question as to whether so-called occult phenomena have an existence of their own, independently of their devotees, is at the same time an explanation of why many people are devoted to such a system of belief. For these people,

occultism represents a psychological or religious reality; in the case of esoteric ideological communities, it may also represent a social reality which -  like other systems of belief -  determines the individual's actions and forms a framework



51 ) Cf. Streib, H.: Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination, Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen, Niederlande, 1996, p. 9 ff.

52 ) Cf. Zinser, H.: Jugendokkultismus in Ost und West, Munich 1993.

53 ) Cf. Streib, H.: Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination, Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen, Netherlands 1996, p. 9 ff.




for the individual's views, beliefs and self-image. Wishes, fears, and phantasies are expressed in the practices and concepts of modern occultism in a way that is found nowhere else in the industrial bureaucratic world that we live in. Some occultists and parapsychologists even think that it is possible to find an answer to the question of human mortality by means of occult and parapsychological experiments. 54 )


The current popularity of occultism is probably largely due to the fact that many of the fears, wishes and questions which people have seem to be ignored by the modern sciences, or that people do not recognise themselves in and cannot identify with modern sciences; hence, they try to find reassurance and satisfaction in occult or esoteric concepts and practices -  something that they cannot find in social reality, religious doctrines or the arts and sciences.


Devotees of occultism such as esoterics usually do not tend to form any fixed social organisations; occultists are individualists whose social relations amongst themselves usually correspond to the organisational structures of a public or client religion. 55 ) However, Satanic groups represent a distinct exception to this general rule.


3.4.3 Modern Satanism


The general appearance and the rituals of Satanic groups cannot be traced back to a single source; instead, their background is a patchwork beginning with studies of texts of black masses of the 17th  and 18th  century, then moving

on to groups with a freemason background, sometimes involving anticlerical parodies, and finally finding its way to Crowley. 56 )


For modern ritual Satanism, Aleister Crowley (born on 12 Sept. 1875, died on 1 Dec. 1947) plays a crucial role. Crowley is seen as the "spiritus rector" and the supplier of ideas for a large number of groups and organisations and their rituals.


A key element of Satanism is that, both in its system of belief and in its ritual practice, it is not focused on the figure of Satan, Baphomet, or whatever other name is used. The focus and the primary target is the human being: in other

words, the "self-idolisation" of man. The point and purpose of Satanism is to use a ritual system -  which primarily consists of sexual magic -  in order to promote the recognition of one's own divinity. 57)



54 ) Cf. Driesch, H.: Parapsychologie, 4th edition Frankfurt/Main 1984.

55 ) For more information on public and client organisations, cf. Stark, R. and Bainbridge, S.: "The Future of Religion", Berkeley 1985, p. 24 ff. and Zinser, H.: "Der Markt der Religionen", Munich 1997, p. 122 ff.

56 ) For a biography of Aleister Crowley, cf. Dvorak, J.: SatanismuS, Geschichte und Gegenwart, Ffm, Eichborn, 1989; Schmidt, J.: Satanismus, Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Marburg, 1992; Symonds, J.: Aleister Crowley, das Tier 666: Leben und Magick, Munich, 1996.

57 ) Cf. Christiansen, I.: Bedeutung und Brisanz von Sekten, Destruktiv-Kulten und Weltanschauungen f�r Jugendliche in unserer Gesellschaft, G�ttingen, 1997, p. 262.




In addition, Satanism provides opportunities for individuals -  which are successfully utilised by some -  to transform their inferiority complexes into a higher appreciation of themselves (ego upgrade). Hence, one reason why some people

with a weak ego turn to Satanism is that they want to have the feeling that they can have power over other people through rites and rituals, that they can live out a latent anger, that they seem to be able to change laws of nature to their

own advantage. 58 )


As a culture which "transgresses" Christian beliefs and lifestyles, "Satanism" and a Christian religious orientation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. On the contrary: An orientation to the occult seems to be quite compatible with

views held by the Churches because a crucial source of Satanic convictions and rituals is the negation of the Christian order -  a negation which does not leave the Christian code; instead, it merely reverses the code signs indicating

what is "good" and what is "bad", thereby living out conflicts, hurt feelings and crises in the individual's life history by identifying with what is coded as being negative in the Christian order. In this context, there is evidence suggesting that

an individual's Christian socialisation (marked by narrow confines, rigidity, a negative attitude toward sensuality, and religious constraints) -  either in special Christian communities or in rigorous or traditionalist groups of the major popular Churches, strictly distinguishing between "good" and "bad" systems and powers -  may be a background for "Satanic" rebellion and withdrawal as a way of "freeing oneself" from constraints. 59 )


This line of thinking according to which Satanic practices appear to be an integral part of a culture of transgression and breaking taboos also helps to explain the proximity of Satanism to "magic sexual practices" and sexual obsessions. 60 )

This can easily result in or lead to an affinity and attraction to Satanic concepts on the part of individuals who are prone to breaking sexual taboos and to sexual abuse. While there is evidence to this effect 61 ), there are not yet any reliable or well-founded findings.


3.4.4 Typologies of Satanism


Satanism research has led to the development of a typology which appears to be a useful tool for systematically categorising various types of Satanism: 62 )


          ritual Satanism (involving the establishment of an order),


          rational Satanism (Satan as a symbol or code),



58 ) Ibid., p. 263.

59 ) Cf. Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte. Was Sekten f�r Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996; Helsper, W., loc. cit. 1992; Streib, H.: Teufelsbeschw�rung und Jesus-Zauberspruch -  magische Handlungen mit heilender Kraft?, in: Heimbrock, H. G./Streib, H. (ed.): Magie -  Katastrophenreligion und Kritik des Glaubens, Kampen/Weinheim 1994 as well as loc. cit. 1996.

60 ) Cf. Introvigne, M./T�rk, E.: Satanismus, Paderborn 1995.

61 ) Cf. Fr�hling, U.: "Vater unser in der H�lle", Seelze-Velber, 1996.

62 ) Cf. Introvigne, M.: Auf den Spuren des Satanismus, EZW 5/92, pp. 161- 178, EZW 7/92, pp. 193- 202.




          traditional occult Satanism (Satan is God's antagonist),


          acid Satanism (sadistic, orgiastic and drug-consuming groups),


          Luciferism (Satan and Lucifer as objects of worship).


In parallel with this typology as used in religious studies, there are also groups and cults with Satanic tendencies; however, their classification criteria have to be derived from their psychosocial and social environment:


1.        Psychotic Satanism. This genre tends to be typical of individuals that can be described as "loners". They practice rituals only alone or in small groups. It cannot be ruled out that such individuals are susceptible to committing crimes motivated by "delusions" (cf. Chapter 3.5.3, psychotic episode).


2.        Marketed Satanism. This is a scene which makes commercial use of Satanism. By means of newspaper avertisements, or probably more often by means of word-of-mouth propaganda, interested groups are informed about black masses where -  sometimes for horrendous sums of money -  they can live out the most perverse inclinations which may involve sado-masochistic practices.


The form of Satanism which is probably most well-known to outside world is youth-centred Satanism. This type of Satanism is not genuine Satanism in the strict sense of the term. Instead, it is more of a youth subculture which wants to

offset itself from the adult world. There is a large number of different forms and varieties, including individuals purloining "Satanic quotations" to develop their own adolescent style; some who are fascinated with symbolism of evil; others who are leaning towards Satanic ideas; and yet again others who practise Satanic models. In this context, phantasies of sexualised violence and their enactment do play a role. However, it is not clear yet whether this latter variant is of any major relevance in the field of youth subcultures.


3.4.5 Examples of problematic practices and rituals in Satanism


Arcane discipline (AD)


Each Satanic organisation (cult), group, lodge or order cultivates or protects its "arcane discipline" (AD). Initiated members are forbidden -  often under threat of martial punishment (such as torture, rape, death, etc.) -  to disclose any information to outsiders regarding the infrastructure and the level of organisation of their group, lodge or order. Nor are they allowed to talk about different levels of initiation or any details of rituals or other practices. In addition, the initiation ritual binds members to their organisation for the rest of their lives. The way the groups, lodges or orders see it, their members do not have the choice to leave the organisation -  unless the organisation is disbanded or the "initiated" dies. Members who want to leave the organisation are told in no uncertain terms, using both psychological and physical means, that the organisation is




firmly determined not to let them go that easily. One dropout, for instance, reported that the leader of his group tried to dissuade him from leaving the group by means of bodyguards and by threatening physical violence ("... the

only way to leave is to leave forever ...!"). Dropouts are exposed to permanent, primarily physical pressure. They receive parcels with half-decayed black cats and cocks; or ex-members find dead rats, for instance, arranged in the form of a pentacle in front of their doorstep. In this context, it is irrelevant whether the cult involved is devoted to vulgar "traditional Satanism" (i.e. it does not have a very pronounced system of rituals), or whether the group is composed of academically educated intellectuals who are devoted to "rationalist Satanism". 63 )


There are several reasons why such "pressuring mechanisms" work; one has to do with the belief in magic of the individuals involved; another one is that most members are aware of the fact that the rituals or other practices performed by the group often involve criminal offences which are bound to be prosecuted by police and public prosecutors, once they become known. In addition to mentioning ideological reasons, ex-Satanists also give economic reasons to explain why their organisations were so adamant and relentless in punishing any violation of the AD and the often associated exit of those who "violated the AD".


Everyone who leaves the organisation proves with his behaviour that the premises claimed in "traditional occult Satanism" are wrong: Satan does not have "omnipotence" throughout the world; and he is not the "Prince (Ruler) of this

world"; and hence, an individual can change his ideological trappings with impunity. If a Satanic group, lodge or order accepts such a step, the Satanic cult concerned will be doomed. In addition, it is by all means also in the economic interest of Satanic organisations to ensure that the involvement of their members is irreversible. This will also guarantee future revenues from a variety of activities including compulsory prostitution of female members, drug trafficking, handling of stolen goods, and extorting "voluntary payments of money". 64 )


"Black masses"


The black mass is one of the rituals practised by each and every Satanic group. The black mass is a reversal of the Christian rite, or to be more precise: the Roman Catholic mass. The necessary utensils include black cloth, paraments

and insignia, missals, symbols such as the pentacle, the reversed cross and the number 666, as well as black candles and an altar. However, there is no general pattern for the way in which a black mass is held. According to dropouts, brutal

and sadistic variants are not uncommon. According to reports from directors of counselling centres, such masses have involved animal sacrifices, physical injuries to human beings (cuts in the arm or in the genital region, broken bones),

ritual rapes (often committed by all the male members of the group), and torture under the guise of pain training. Being able to bear pain is seen by the cult as



63 ) Cf. Christiansen, I.: loc. cit., p. 292.

64 ) Ibid., pp. 292- 293.




evidence of Satanic progress. According to reports from dropouts, Satanists are tortured, and they torture others. Love is to be transformed into hatred, and the more successfully this is achieved by a disciple, the less likely he is to suffer

torture himself. In addition to manipulative techniques (ranging from autosuggestion to trance work), alcohol and drugs are taken for granted as instruments to influence the individuals involved so that they can reach certain conditions of

consciousness during rituals. One female disciple pointed out: "Without being high (she means on heroin), you couldn't have taken all that!" 65 )


3.4.6 Areas of conflict


The Enquete Commission has not been able to obtain reliable information on the question as to whether there are organisations with permanently established structures which deal with Satanic practices. So, this question has to remain



A phenomenon which is visible in society, and hence problematic, is the so-called youth-centred Satanism. However, many of the groups which fall into this category usually form spontaneously, and there is no guarantee how long they

will last. The rituals practised by these groups are not systematised or fixed; in some cases, the rituals are modelled after sources in literature, magazines or TV programmes of all sorts. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that adolescents and young adults are also involved in organisations with fixed structures. More often than not, membership in Satanic groups leads to dependence, anxiety and obsession syndromes, and to medically diagnosed psychotic episodes. For some, the concept/idea and the belief that they cannot leave their organisation because they are privy to its arcane secrets -  in conjunction with their fear of being brought back into the group -  makes suicide appear to be the only way out. The counselling and information centres working in this area are familiar with such cases.


If one compiles the views expressed by experts on this topic, as well as the results of relevant empirical studies, there is a consensus to the effect that the so-called youth-centred Satanism tends to be a marginal phenomenon. Reports

about incidents where churches and cemeteries were desecrated and parties were celebrated at cemeteries, 66 ) etc. can often not be clearly ascribed to Satanism; instead, they tend to be a variant of aggressive adolescent behaviour

in connection with vandalism. The adolescents express their protest by breaking taboos, while at the same time turning symbols of the rulers upside down. The Satanic symbolism used in this context is just embellishment. Other reasons

why adolescents participate in such activities include not only boredom, the search for something exciting, for intensive experiences and the ultimate thrill


65 ) Cammans, H. M.: Satanismus in der Beratung, in: Friemel, F. G., Schneider, F. (ed.): Ich bin ein Kind der H�lle, Leipzig, 1996, p. 37.

66 ) Cf. auch Ruppert, H.-J.: Satanismus, EZW 140, Berlin, 1998.




but also the possibility to act out scenes of oneself. When adolescents perform Satanic practices, other causes are also involved to some extent: the fact that adolescents do not see any perspective for themselves in our society; the fact

that the individual's life is determined by others, and hence, the fact that the individual has no community attachment.

In addition, if one studies the biographies of drop-outs, personal and family-related problems usually also play a

major role. 67 )


The key point to remember is that while organised forms of occultism continue to be a marginal phenomenon, occult concepts and practices erode fundamental principles of our society, such as the individual's free choice of how to

live his or her life, and the fact that the individual is responsible for his/her own life. In addition, some of the occult views are linked with right-wing radical and neo-fascist concepts. 68 )


As regards the criminal offences which may be committed in this context, the Enquete Commission has requested relevant information from Germany's state-evel Offices of Criminal Investigation and from the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation. Except for isolated cases, this has not produced any concrete findings about any criminal offences committed jointly by individuals who are members of such groups. As far as these official findings are concerned, it should be pointed out, however, that most of Germany's state-level Offices of Criminal Investigation do not cover criminal offences with an occult or Satanic background as a separate crime category. The only exceptions to this rule are the State of Lower Saxony and the State of Brandenburg. The State of Berlin has established an information exchange and collection centre on the topic of "so-called sects", and crimes with a ritual background are subject to compulsory notification. The Free State of Saxony collects data on crimes committed against Church institutions, with special consideration given to "Satanic" groups of perpetrators. In a special report of 1995 on the topic of "Occultism/Satanism", the Criminal Office of Investigation of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia came to the conclusion that Satanism was more of a qualitative than a quantitative problem, and that it had not been possible to verify evidence of isolated serious criminal offences. However, the report pointed out that there was an

increase in the number of offences to be ascribed to youth-centred Satanism.


While the Criminal Office of Investigation did not see any immediate need for action, it recommended that the activities and currents in this environment should be monitored with special care. The criminal offences that are on record include bodily injuries, coercion, disturbing the peace of the dead, malicious damage to (public) property, arson, violations of the Narcotics Act, violations of the Animal Protection Act, as well as rape and sexual coercion. In many cases, however, it is not possible to find out whether these offences can be unequivocally ascribed to occult or Satanic beliefs or groups. A search in the data base



67 ) Cf. Billerbeck, L./Nordhausen, F.: Satanskinder. Der Mordfall Sandro B., Munich, 1997.

68 ) Cf. Eschebach, I./Thye, E.: Die Religion der Rechten. V�llkische Religionsgemeinschaften, Aktualit�t und Geschichte, Dortmund 1995.




of the criminal police in North-Rhine Westphalia with regard to the above-mentioned crimes committed in connection with occultism/Satanism did notproduce any relevant data.


However, as in the case of other criminal offences which are connected with conflict-prone new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the findings obtained by the investigating authorities are sketchy.


3.5 The psychomarket


Alternative therapies in the field of esoterics, the so-called "New Age" movement, and life-counselling services provided by new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups have been enormously popular in recent years.


Between seven and ten percent of all new publications in the book market fall into the category of "New Age" and "esoterics". 69 )


This has led to the development of a "psychomarket" offering a plethora of healing methods in Germany, too. New Age therapies, which have become market-oriented and commercially organised by now, have evolved from the "psycho-

boom" in the 1970s and 1980s, combining elements of occidental psychotherapy and oriental religion and esoterics.

The methods available make a wide variety of promises including the healing of specific symptoms, personality

development, helping individuals find meaning in their lives, and spiritual growth; most of these methods are embedded in the system of ideas of the "New Age philosophy", whose coherence and religious character are the subject of controversial debate in literature. 70 )


However, there are also numerous organised closed communities which are active in this market, in particular: esoteric groups, faith-healer communities, and new revelationists with a large number of experience-oriented and healing

programmes; communities of Asian origin which offer experience, meditation and healing programmes; so-called psychogroups with personality development courses, so-called success courses based on alternative psychotherapy, etc.

The so-called "classical sects" as well as political groups are not active in this market.




69 ) Cf. Gross, W.: Was eine alternativ-spirituelle Gruppe zur Sekte macht: Kriterien zur Beurteilung von Destruktiven Kulten, p. 29, ibid. (ed.), Psychomarkt -  Sekten -  Destruktive Kulte, Bonn 1994, pp. 27- 50.

70 ) Cf. Stenger, H.: Der "okkulte" Alltag -  Beschreibungen und wissenssoziologische Deutungen des "New Age", in: Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie 18 (2, 1989), pp. 119- 135, Bochinger, Ch.: `New Age' und moderne Religion. Religionswissenschaftliche Analysen, G�tersloh 1994, Knoblauch, H. A.: Das unsichtbare neue Zeitalter. "New Age", privatisierte Religion und kultisches Milieu, in: K�lner Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 41 (3, 1989), pp. 504- 525 and ibid.: "Neues Paradigma" oder "Neues Zeitalter"? Fritjof Capras moralisches Unterneh-men und die "New-Age-Bewegung", pp. 265, in: Religion und Kultur, Sonderband der K�lner Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Opladen 1993, pp. 249- 270.




Like the term "psychogroup", the term "psychomarket" is used to describe the "wide variety of psychological and pseudo-psychological advice available out-side professional psychology and outside the public health sector in the fields of life counselling, life orientation, and personality development" (cf. Chapter 2.3) 71 ); the difference is that advice which is provided by psychogroups to members is available as a commercial service in the psychomarket. These commercial services are available in a variety of ways, including informal activities, print and audio-visual media, books, and lectures, as well as more binding forms such as courses, workshops, seminars, holiday retreats, etc.; and given the right circumstances -  i.e. if there is a charismatic leader, a specific group, or a specific doctrine and practise -  such commercial services can also lead to group membership, i.e. the establishment of a so-called "psychogroup". In this context, it is possible to distinguish (in accordance with R. Stark and W. S. Bainbridge) between "audience cults" and "clients cults" on the one hand, and "cult movements" on the other. 72 )


Most of these psycho-services are commercial in nature and designed for "audience cults" and "clients cults"; only very few of them take on the form of a "cult movement" with clearly defined membership boundaries. However, it may

well be that "psychogroups" at the same time also pursue commercial activities, i.e. they may be active in the psychomarket (e.g. by organising courses); initially, they may tend to be more loosely structured players in the psychomarket (like Scientology during its early days in California), or they may evolve from a psychogroup to a commercial organisation (like the Bhagwan/Osho movement).


Another classification was chosen by B. Grom who distinguished between practical, selective and system esoterics 73 ), thereby describing not only the level of a group's structured development but also the group's "position in the life" of

interested individuals: With increasing systematisation, there is also an increase in the ideological character and the binding force of a group's rules on the life of an individual; the less structured a group is, the less binding its rules with

regard to the individual's decisions in life and with regard to services selected.


There are four different sources of the methods applied in the psychomarket:


The major esoteric systems of the 19 th century (e.g. Spiritualism, theosophy), not least with the themes of the "New Age" and of the incipient "Age of Aquarius".


(Depth) psychology, i.e. C. G. Jung, parts of "humanistic psychology" (A. Maslow et al.), so-called "transpersonal psychology" (St. Grof et al.), as well as body therapies (e.g. Alexander Lowen) and many other psychological or pseudo-psychological traditions. There are two important elements: first of all, the religious interpretation of psychological processes (in this context,



71 ) Cf. Hemminger, H./Keden, J.: Seele aus zweiter Hand. Psychotechniken und Psychokonzerne, Stuttgart 1997, p. 7.

72 ) Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W.S.: The Future of Religion, Los Angeles 1985.

73 ) Cf. Grom, B.: Esoterik, in: Ruh, U. et al. (ed.), Handw�rterbuch religi�ser Gegenwartsfragen, Freiburg 1986, p. 89ff.




Aldous Huxley and others, who wanted to use drugs to trigger religiously interpreted psychological processes, can be seen as forerunners); and secondly, psychosomatics, i.e. the assumption of an interaction between the mind and the body, due to which psychological processes and associated (religious) experience influence or even control physical processes.


Meditation and other consciousness-altering methods from major religions, i.e. methods which are primarily of non-Christian origin, in particular from India and eastern Asia.


So-called archaic religions and religiousness, e.g. traditional religious beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples, such as shamanism.


An eclectic approach to the traditions mentioned above is characteristic of the commercially-oriented organisations operating in the psychomarket. Such organisations which are determined by choice are primarily focused on helping individuals to cope with life by means of specific techniques, methods, and therapies. This raises first of all the question of professionalism in all its different facets (qualifications of service providers, validity of services, reference to (psycho)therapy and religion), and secondly the question with regard to the wishes and needs of the "clients" (e.g. problem-coping perspective vs. clarification perspective; see below). Of course, both questions also apply -  and in a more intense form -  to the so-called "psychogroups".


3.5.1 Issues and hypotheses


There are no methodologically sound studies on the actual effectiveness of alternative treatments, and there are only very few sound studies on the needs and motivational patterns of the individuals interested in such therapies.


Against the background of this problem, the following key hypotheses were derived from a project entitled "Affinity to alternative therapies and life-counselling services" 74 ):


          The primary reason for an affinity to alternative therapies is not primarily the desire to acquire coping strategies but the increased need for clarification 75 ) on the part of users.



74 ) This project, which is managed by E.A. Straube and J. Mischo, will probably be completed by March 1999.

75 ) In psychotherapy research, "need for clarification" or "clarification perspective" means the principle of explaining assessments made by the patients themselves with regard to their motives, values and objectives; the purpose of the therapies in this context is to clarify the factors which determine the patients' perceptions and actions, to establish their orientation in terms of their biographies. In addition to the so-called problem-coping perspective and the so-called relationship perspective, the therapeutic treatment of the clarification perspective is one of three principles which have been shown to be effective in the evaluation of various therapeutic methods. Cf. Grawe, K./ Donati, R./ Bernauer, F.: Psychotherapie im Wandel -  Von der Konfession zur Profession, 3rd ed., G�ttingen et al. 1994, p. 752.




          Alternative treatments do not satisfy this greater need for clarification; instead, they tend to increase this need and keep the "psychomarket" going.


          Alternative (and spiritually oriented) therapies tend to be focused on global needs, while standard therapies (especially behaviour therapy) tend to emphasise specific problem-solution strategies (problem-coping perspective).


These hypotheses can be translated into the following specific questions:


          What needs and motives are addressed by alternative therapies and counselling services (phase of first contact)?


          What needs are subjectively satisfied or even created in the first place by an individual's participation in alternative treatments?


          What factors influence an individual's affinity to alternative life-counselling services?


          How is a given method chosen?


          What positive or negative effects are ascribed by consumers to alternative life-counselling services?


          What connection is there between subjective physical and psychological stress and the methods chosen?


          What connection is there between attitudes towards religion, spiritualism and esoterics on the one hand, and the use of alternative methods on the other?


          What are the general conditions of the alternative therapy setting (providers, duration of therapy, costs, etc.)?


          Are there any differences between users of alternative methods in Germany's old and new federal states (methods, expenditure, motives)?


3.5.2 Study on the alternative life-counselling market


In order to help clarify the open questions with regard to the alternative life-counselling market, the Enquete Commission awarded a contract for a study which is embedded in a larger project on "Spiritual Experience and Health".


This study is being conducted jointly by the Department of Clinical Diagnosis/Intervention and Clinical Psychology of the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and the Institut f�r Grenzgebiete der Psychologie (Institute of Borderline Areas

of Psychology) in Freiburg. There has been very little research so far into this so-called psychomarket, so that this undertaking is of a highly exploratory nature.


The fact that organised groups are active in the so-called psychomarket suggests that their services which address needs in customers and spiritual pilgrims are similar to the services of providers which are not organised in closed




communities. For this reason, the findings obtained in a research project which is aimed at identifying the motives and the perception patterns of the clientele of the psychomarket should also make it possible to draw conclusions with

regard to the needs of individuals who can be addressed by radical communities providing such services. Questions about attitudes towards religion, spiritualism, and esoterics should provide more information on whether, or not, it is

justified to categorise this scene as belonging to the fringe of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


The study summarises the findings obtained in a consumer survey conducted among 219 users of unconventional healing and life-counselling methods from all of Germany, and among 233 providers of these methods operating in the

regions of Freiburg and Frankfurt. Hence, this was a sample which was pre-lected by the callers based on their own interest. Consumers


Data collection, sample


Because of the lack of availability of specific studies on this topic, this was an exploratory study which was carried out with semi-standardised telephone interviews.


In order to ensure that -  in keeping with the purpose of the study -  only individuals who had personally experienced alternative life counselling would participate in the study, press releases with an exact description of the survey were

sent to various press agencies, and newspapers, magazines and radio stations were contacted. As a result, 44 newspapers and magazines as well as three radio and two TV stations published reports calling on alternative users to contact the authors of the study. However, it was not possible to influence the exact wording of the press reports. The interviews were conducted between June and December 1997.


The questionnaire consisted of 61 questions. When a respondent mentioned any negative experience with a given method, the remainder of the interview focused on this method; if no negative experience was mentioned, the inter-

viewer asked about the method with which the respondent had gained most experience.


Of the 385 calls which were received, a total of 280 interviews were conducted; 61 individuals were excluded because they only had experience with standard therapy methods, were service providers themselves and had no experience of

their own, did not want to talk about it, or had left more than 10 questions unanswered. A total of 219 calls were evaluated, including callers who had attended "personality training courses" in a professional context; these 19 calls were evaluated separately.




The questionnaire covered the following subjects:


          positive and negative experience with alternative methods,

          sources of information for the initial contact,

          setting and cost of the services offered,

          money spent on alternative methods,

          reasons for interest in alternative methods,

          subjective assessment of the effectiveness of the method and the competency of the service provider,

          subjectively perceived changes due to the application of an alternative method,

          information provided by the treating physician,

          awareness of alternative methods,

          simultaneous or earlier psychotherapy,

          the individual's satisfaction with his/her own life,

          psychological stress factors,

          attitudes towards religion, esoterics, and spiritualism,

          sociodemographic characteristics.


Summary of findings


Over 80 percent of the respondents were subjectively satisfied with the alternative life-counselling services they had used, and two-thirds of the respondents were female. Their level of education is above average; the percentage of people among them who have left one of the major Churches is also higher than the national average in the German population; many of them have already undergone psychotherapeutic treatment (51 percent); and they spend approxi-

mately DM 2,000 per year on alternative methods. The most frequently mentioned reasons for turning towards alternative methods were: psychological problems (28 percent); physical, functional complaints (22 percent); psychosomatic complaints (22 percent); social problems (14 percent); the desire to change one's own personality and self-experience (14 percent); as well as the search for meaning in life and expanding one's consciousness (13 percent).

In many cases, the decision of individuals to turn to an alternative method is triggered by advice from acquaintances and recommendations from a doctor or a psychologist.




The findings in detail:  Methods covered in the survey


The 200 callers reported on experience with 104 methods, which were grouped in five categories based on functional similarities:


          esoteric healing methods (e.g. Reiki, kinesiology, Bach blossom therapy), unconventional interpretational and occult practices (e.g. astrology, use of pendulum, fortune telling, tarot),


          body and movement therapies (e.g. yoga, qigong, Feldenkrais, bioenergetics),


          unconventional medical methods (e.g. natural healing methods, acupuncture, homoeopathy),


          meditation/spiritual psychological methods (e.g. Zen meditation, chakren work, transcendental meditation),


          stablished therapeutic methods (e.g. gestalt therapy, autogenic training, neurolinguistic programming).


Sociodemographic data


Sex: Over two-thirds of the callers were women (69 percent); the average age was 45 years (with a range from 16 to 84); their level of education was very high: while only 13 percent left school after completing the lower secondary

level, 29.5 percent had completed intermediate secondary school, and 55 percent had completed upper secondary school. There was a high percentage of economically non-active and unemployed persons (25.5 and 13.5 percent,

respectively); this was partly due to the high percentage of women. Unfortunately, more detailed data on the occupations and the socio-economic status of the respondents are not available.


Compared with the population average, the percentage of divorced persons was higher, while the percentage of married or widowed individuals was lower.


The majority of the respondents lived together with a partner (55.5 percent).


Over two-thirds of the partners participated in the alternative method or approved of the respondents' participation (35 and 34.5 percent, respectively).


These data largely concur with findings obtained in other studies, including some international ones. The data collected by Andritzky in a survey conducted among participants of adult education courses tend to contradict these find-

ings. 76 )



76 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: Alternative Gesundheitskultur. Eine Bestandsaufnahme mit Teilnehmer-befragung (Forschungsberichte zur transkulturellen Medizin und Psychotherapie, Vol. 4), Berlin, Verlag f�r Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1997.






Advice from friends or acquaintances is by far the most frequent reason why individuals turn to an alternative method (53.5 percent), followed by recommendations from a doctor or psychotherapist (15 percent), while information from

special-interest magazines (3 percent) or advertising by the service providers (1.5 percent) play a much less important role. On the other hand, recommendations from other service providers (11 percent) are somewhat more important.

Most of these recommendations do not refer to a certain method but to a certain therapist.


Causes and motivations


The motives mentioned most frequently in literature 77 ) are dissatisfaction or disappointment with regard to orthodox medical / conventional treatments, and the conviction that alternative methods are helpful. Half of the interviewed users of alternative methods had undergone at least one psychotherapeutic treatment in the course of their lives -  usually refunded by a statutory health fund -  or such treatment was still continuing.


Another set of motives includes the more non-specific desire for change, clarifiction of a relationship, and "consciousness-raising". The respondents do not ascribe orthodox medicine any competency with regard to this need for clarification and do not expect orthodox medicine to have such competency.


Subjective satisfaction


Generally speaking, the respondents' subjective assessment is very positive: 83 percent of the callers reported that their problem had improved. This is also in keeping with findings obtained in international studies. Meditation techniques

were given particularly good ratings. This is also a finding which had already been obtained, for instance, in the broadly-based evaluative study conducted by Grawe, Donati, and Bernauer. 78 )


Other factors assessed by consumers were described in their comments on the quality of the relationship with the providers of alternative treatment methods.


When asked about the personal competency of the service provider, the average rating of users was 1.1, while the average rating given to psychotherapists (which many had consulted before) was only 2.3 (German school marks range

from 1 = very good to 6 = inadequate).


The respondents' average duration of contact with the provider of the alternative treatment is well over one hour, which is much longer than most appointments with doctors. Often, patients have a more enthusiastic, positive attitude

towards alternative practitioners.



77 ) Ibid., p. 62.

78 ) Cf. Grawe, K., Donati, R. and Bernauer, F.: loc. cit.




According to an older secondary analysis, alternative practitioners are believed to be more patient-focused. 79 )

Attitudes towards religiousness When asked whether they belonged to any religious community, 51.5 percent of

the respondents said that they did not belong to any such community, 35 percent mentioned the Protestant Church and 10.5 percent mentioned the Catholic Church. Some 40 percent said that they had left a religious community in the

course of their lives; 24 percent stated that they once were a member of the Protestant Church, and 14.5 percent said that they once belonged to the Catholic Church. However, the fact that these people have left traditional forms of religion does not mean that they are disinterested in religious matters: When asked about their attitudes towards religion, 62 percent of the respondents described themselves as "religious" or "spiritual", while 12.5 percent referred to themselves as "esoterics" and 12 percent as "atheists".


When asked about major influences on their current world view, 43 percent of the respondents mention Christianity, 29.5 percent Buddhism, 13 percent Hinduism, 8 percent Judaism, and 7 percent Islam. The differences between the

former West Germany and the former East Germany are substantial: 55 percent of the respondents in the western part of the country but only 26 percent of the respondents in the eastern part mentioned Christianity as having a major influence; and while 41 percent of the respondents in the west mentioned Buddhism, only 12 percent did so in the east.

A study conducted on the alternative health culture 80 ) came to the conclusion that, while general interest is the most frequently mentioned motive for attending courses, individuals select courses with their specific problems in mind, and

their health behaviour is generally controlled by relevant systems of ideas.


Qualification of service providers


A glance at the consumers' ratings of the qualifications of their service providers shows that the formal and the informal health sectors overlap. According to the callers, 20 percent of the practitioners they consulted were doctors, approxi-

mately 12 percent were psychologists and 15 percent were non-medical practitioners. The majority of the treatment providers (roughly 54 percent) did not belong to any of these three groups.




The study showed that the individuals interviewed spent an average of DM 1,952 per year for the use of alternative therapeutic methods. The highest amounts were spent by users of body therapies (DM 4,650 / DM 93), while the




79 ) Cf. Hewer, W.: The relationship between the alternative practitioner and his patient: A review, in: Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 40 (1983), pp. 170- 180.

80 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: loc. cit., p. 273.




lowest spenders were users of alternative medical methods (DM 1,044 / DM 60); users of esoteric methods (DM 1,523 / DM 111) and of meditative/spiritual methods (DM 2,119 / DM 280) were in between these two extremes. The second figure given in the brackets is the average price per hour. Users of vocationally oriented personality training courses

Personality training seminars are very popular, not only in the framework of in-company further education and personnel development activities but also among private consumers. Far more than 1,000 providers of such courses are

active in the German market.


More than anyone else, managers are increasingly expected to acquire vaguely defined skills such as intuition, empathy, flexibility, and conflict settlement, and the application of these skills is associated with their success. There are hardly any reliable data with regard to the effectiveness and the risks involved in personality-oriented training. According to Micklethwaith and Woolridge, the primary purpose of these management techniques is to reduce the feelings of anxiety which exist in the higher management echelons. 81 )


A small percentage of the callers (19 persons) reported attending occupationally-oriented personality training courses; they were asked about their experience, as well as their motives and the general setting for attending such courses, and they were also asked whether these courses had had any effect or led to any changes.


One-third of these callers had already attended over five seminars. Fifteen of the respondents said that their "experience had been relatively positive", while the others had "mixed feelings" about the seminars or perceived them as being

relatively "negative". For a more detailed assessment, the callers were asked to select one seminar which had left the strongest impression upon them. The findings described below are based on the accounts given by the respondents in this context: General setting: All the courses described had a minimum duration of two to three days. About two-thirds extended over a period of more than three days. Respondents said that the effectiveness of the seminar was primarily due to the setting in which the seminar was held, involving the absence of amenities, self-catering or the absence of alcohol, cigarettes, telephones and the seclusion of the group. The beauty of the surrounding nature was also mentioned over and over again.


However, the living conditions thus created were also a reason for some people to reject the seminar immediately.


Costs: Participants spent an average of DM 3,000 for the seminars. For about two-thirds of the participants, these costs were born by their companies. Over half of the participants had attended the seminars only because their companies

had requested them to do so.



81 ) Cf. Micklethwait, J. u. Woolridge A.: The witch doctors. Making sense of the management gurus, New York 1996.




Motives and expectations:


Despite the strong involvement of their companies, about three-quarters of the callers said that they had a personal motive for attending the seminar. The reasons given included not only restructuring or re-orientation processes in their companies but also problems with private relationships and personal crises. The presence of a strong need for clarification would have to be studied more closely against the background of the fact that the participants were all middle-aged. In fact, one of the respondents said: "Somehow, they were all in their forties, had achieved everything in their careers, and you had the feeling that they were all somehow looking for meaning". This illustrates this state of mind.




What is striking is that there was a broad spectrum of methods as well as a combination of various methods. It is hardly possible to classify or categorise the seminars on the basis of certain theoretical schools, as this is done in the field of psyhotherapy. The main emphasis is placed on self-experience and group dynamics.


Effects and changes:


According to the course participants themselves, they see the strongest effect in a strengthening of their self-confidence based on the confidence in their actions conveyed to them and a more conscious way of dealing with themselves and others. This, in turn, provides a basis for a number consequential changes in terms of the individual's ability to take decisions, cope with conflicts, and pay attention to their employees' concerns. One of the

most important effects is that the participants continue to work to improve themselves based on the many ideas they have been given. Providers


Only one segment of the overall market -  i.e. the so-called "psycho-scene", which encompasses the scene of the spiritual "New Age" therapies and esoteric activities -  was covered by this research project when the providers of therapies and courses were analysed. For this purpose, data were collected and evaluated in Freiburg and Frankfurt. The providers were asked questions on their sociodemographic data, their activities and the general conditions under which

they work, their clientele, their methods, and their religious or spiritual attitudes.


The authors of the survey did not write to any of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups for information. Such groups rarely try to attract new members openly in the scene. In the questionnaire, however, the various providers were asked whether they were members of, or affiliated with, such a group. The samples, which were obtained at the lowest level, the private organisational level, were analysed to find out whether there was any common identity or any interconnections between the providers with regard to ideological leanings and affiliations.


Data collection


By analysing brochures and advertisements, the authors of the study identified, and sent questionnaires to, some 280 providers in 1996 in the Freiburg region




and approximately 480 providers in 1997 in the Frankfurt region. The rate of returns was close to 40 percent in Freiburg and about 25 percent in Frankfurt.


In terms of the results of the analyses of brochures, the two sub-samples proved to be representative as far as the range of methods and the ratio of men and women were concerned. A total of 233 providers participated in the ques-

tionnaire study, 111 from Freiburg and 122 from Frankfurt.


Summary of findings


According to this survey, providers on average use a conglomerate of eight or nine methods which in most cases come from a variety of different fields: approximately 80 percent draw on the vast fund of body therapies; about three-

quarters work with consciousness-altering methods; while almost half use creative methods, esoteric treatments or esoteric interpretation methods; 20 percent also offer assistance based on extraordinary capabilities of a medium.

Cluster analyses enabled the study authors to identify not only one highly eclectic type of provider but also five other types offering a more specific range of methods: esoteric interpretation, alternative healing, body therapy, psychotherapy, or meditative self-experience.


The study also showed that the majority of the providers had left the traditional Churches. The respondents showed an affinity to both old religious traditions and modern spiritual doctrines, without developing a firm commitment to any

specific ideology; only rarely is there a concrete reference to gurus such as Osho or Sai Baba. However, there are some common guiding religious/spiritual ideas which can be summarised as follows: the respondents are convinced that

there is a higher reality which transcends normal consciousness, and that it is possible to experience this reality by using certain methods.


The findings in detail: Sociodemographic data


Women accounted for an average share of 67 percent; the average age of the respondents was 43 years. Over half of them lived together with a partner (married or not); 37 percent were married; a relatively large share (26 percent) were

divorced; 55 percent had children.


About half of the respondents were graduates of university and other higher education institutions; one-third of them had been trained in a human services occupation: 21 percent had an educational occupation (educators, teachers,

remedial and social education workers, social workers); 12 percent had been trained in nursing (nurses for hospitals and old-age people's homes, physiotherapists, sports masseurs); and 4 percent had an academic degree in psychology. Due to the approach adopted by the study authors (collecting advertising pamphlets and advertisements), the share of medical professionals (doctors and academically trained psychologists) was very limited. Another one-third of

the respondents had been trained in a commercial occupation; the remainder came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds.




The respondents had been active as providers of alternative methods for an average period of 8.5 years; the minimum was 4 months, and the maximum was 26 years. Close to 60 percent of them worked for an average of 31 hours

per month; the remaining 40 percent stated that they worked fewer hours per month, and hence, their work in the psychomarket was probably more of a sideline job. Most of these "part-time providers" spent the rest of their working

month in permanent employment.


Overall, half of the respondents used to be salaried employees and 20 percent used to be self-employed; the remainder either used to have other types of employment, or they were unemployed.


Advertising, information, access


Most of the providers in the psychomarket benefit primarily from word-of-mouth propaganda by their clients (92 percent) and from referrals by other providers (72 percent). Over half of the respondents recruited their participants or clients occasionally or frequently from among their acquaintances. Just as many of them establish personal contacts with the participants or clients whom they meet in the course of their work.


However, providers used a wide variety of different channels for advertising their services: 65 percent used notices and brochures in health food shops and book shops; 56 percent used special-interest information magazines published in the

regional esoterics scene; and 52 percent used classified ads in general-interest advertising freesheets. National magazines such as "Esotera" or "Connection" played a less important role; only 27 percent of the respondents used such magazines. An equally low percentage of respondents can be found in classified telephone directories (25 percent).


General setting


Over half of the respondents (55 percent) work in their own practice or in a group practice with other providers. About two-thirds (37 percent) use rooms in their own private home; and almost as many (31 percent) rent premises for a

short period of time, e.g. for weekend workshops. In addition to using the premises of community colleges (18 percent) and training institutions for non-medical practitioners (11 percent), some providers also hold their courses outdoors.


Since the respondents were able to give multiple responses, the percentage sum is over one hundred.


The clientele and their problems


According to the respondents, women account for 73 percent of their clientele, and 45 percent are university graduates or students. The age group between




30 and 40 years accounts for about 40 percent of the clientele; only 20 percent are younger. These figures agree with similar findings obtained in earlier studies. 82 )


In the Frankfurt sample, a more thorough analysis was made of the problems which the clients had: 41 percent of the respondents said that they often had clients who were looking for "new experiences" without having any specific diffi-

culties. 16 percent stated that this was true for all their participants. Apart from that, tenseness, back problems, anxieties, depression and partnership problems were at the very top of the list of problems.




On average, respondents used seven different methods or techniques in Freiburg and ten in Frankfurt. Roughly three-quarters of the respondents regularly combined the methods they applied during one teaching unit, consultation or

treatment. The range of these methods can be sub-divided into seven major categories: body therapies, psychotechnics, esoteric treatments, psychotherapeutic methods, creative methods, esoteric interpretation methods, extra-sensory perception.


Body therapies and psychotechnics (e.g. trance, meditation, imagination) play the most important role; they were used by three-quarters of the respondents, followed by esoteric treatments (e.g. reiki, Bach blossoms, crystal therapy) and

psychotherapeutic methods (e.g. gest alt therapy, client-oriented therapy, psychodrama) which were applied by about half of the respondents. Creative methods (e.g. dancing, painting, playing musical instruments) and esoteric interpretation methods (e.g. astrology, tarot) were used somewhat less frequently. About 20 percent of the respondents stated that they used extra-sensory perception (e.g. telepathy, clairvoyance, channelling).


Training and qualification


With regard to the question as to how the respondents acquired their professional skills, there were major differences between the two regions. Relative to Freiburg, on average about twice as many respondents from Frankfurt stated that they had taught themselves. In both regions, the rate of self-education was very high among respondents practising esoteric interpretation methods (between 40 and 60 percent) and extra-sensory perception (between 63 and 77 percent).

In Frankfurt, education by private teachers was more common than in Freiburg. In Freiburg, a relatively high percentage of the respondents was trained at institutes.


Over one-third of the respondents in Frankfurt were registered as non-medical practitioners; in Freiburg, no data were collected on this question.



82 ) Cf. Schneider, M.: Glaubensspielr�ume. Empirische Untersuchung zur New Age Bewegung, Diss. M�nchen 1991, Wa�ner, R.: Neue religi�se Bewegungen in Deutschland. Ein soziologischer Bericht. EZW-Texte 113, Stuttgart 1991.




Ties to denominations, spiritualism and esoterics


The majority of the respondents had left the Church. Only one-third of the respondents had a Christian denomination (17 percent were Protestant, 14 percent were Catholic); 10 percent said that they were members of other denomi-

nations. Hence, a total of 60 percent of the respondents were not formally affiliated with any denomination.


However, it was possible by means of a factor analysis to break down overarching religious affinities or orientations towards traditional models into two groups.


The first group included attitudes derived from Buddhism, Taoism, Tantrism, and Shamanism. The second group included attitudes derived from Christianity, Christian mysticism, Judaism and Kabbala. Orientations towards Sufism and different schools of thought in Hinduism could not be clearly ascribed to either of the two groups. However, only about 20 percent of the respondents could be assigned to one of these two groups, while 10 percent stated from the onset that their current view of the world was not influenced by any of the traditional religious beliefs.


According to 83 percent of the respondents, new religious, spiritual or psychological movements were important for their own personal vision of the world. In the regions covered by the survey, respondents stated that they were  influenced by the following factors in a variety of combinations: C. G. Jung (24 percent); Baghwan/Osho (16 percent); anthroposophy (15 percent); transpersonal psychology (12 percent); Sai Baba (11 percent); Krishnamurti, and Wilhelm Reich (5 percent each). Over 150 other factors accounted for less than 5 percent. However, this distribution reflects local particularities; other surveys produced other frequency distributions.


3.5.3 Problems, risks, negative experience


A.       Findings of the study


In the course of the study awarded by the Commission, the authors tried to obtain information on any negative experience which consumers had had with the alternative life-counselling market; however, to no avail. Although

negative experience was specifically addressed in the advertisements, and although separate telephone lines were dedicated for callers with negative experiences, the only calls received came from journalists, and not from consumers. Renowned social research specialists think that it is certainly possible to obtain negative data in this way. Other telephone surveys (e.g. on the respondents' experience with medical treatment) did reveal negative experience with medical treatment and the treatment by medical personnel, so that the method chosen -  i.e. addressing respondents by means of advertisements and interviewing them by telephone -  cannot be blamed a priori for the lack of negative reports.




Methodologically, however, interviews of individuals are subject to very narrow limits. Possible consequences for family members or the social environment cannot be adequately identified when using this method. Most of the users said that there was a high level of acceptance of these alternative methods in their social environment; however, there were also calls from family members pointing out that users of such methods had become alienated. Since the questionnaire was designed for users, such comments could not be evaluated.


If one interprets the results of the study, they probably provide more information about the level of acceptance of alternative methods than about the objective effects of such methods, and they illustrate how difficult it is to find a direct cause/effect linkage between these methods and conflicts, or to separate such conflicts from other conflicts.


B.       Results of other studies and of a meeting of the Enquete Commission with experts


In other studies, however, attention was drawn to potential risks. The two experts Niebel and Hanewinkel, for instance, pointed out that some meditation methods, when applied over long periods of time, could provoke interventions in brain functions which showed epileptic patterns. 83 ) In patients who are anxious anyway, relaxation could reinforce their feelings of anxiety. 84 )


Specific enquiries were made into the dynamics and the effects of so-called "psychotechnics" and their psychoanalytical action factors 85 ), which are applied in the context of training and influencing methods aimed at behavioural therapy.


These enquiries led to the following findings:


          During or after so-called "psychotraining" sessions, there may be acute disintegrative ego conditions which must be seen in connection with the "continuous exposure in groups" in the course of such training sessions and whose occurrence justifies the diagnostic application of the relatively new term of "temporary acute psychotic disorder" (ICD 10, WHO 1991). However, such extreme effects, which can be extremely destabilising in some cases, are relatively rare.


          The combined application of cognitive/behavioural methods and hypnosuggestion can lead to changes in consciousness involving a dissociation of the ego consciousness and of internal assessment; these effects can last longer than effects which are achieved through simple conditioning.




83 ) Cf. Niebel, G. u. Hanewinkel, R.: Gefahren und Mi�brauchspotential von Meditationstechniken, unter besonderer Ber�cksichtigung von Jugendlichen, psychisch labilen und psychisch kranken Menschen, Kiel, 1997, p. 19.

84 ) Ibid., p. 24.

85 ) In the framework of a meeting with medical experts on the topic of "Disease risks due to improper use of hypnosis, trance, and conditioning methods during lay-therapy and group-dynamic sessions", 14 May 1998.




          After leaving groups practising alternative methods, individuals have been reported to suffer from severe psychological decompensation, which in some cases extends over long periods of time and which is experienced as threatening the individual's subsistence. From the perspective of clinical psychology, such massive crises that affect the individual's self-esteem must be seen as chronified personality changes. This term describes efforts made by the individual to adapt to the environment, which can culminate in the loss of one's own inner values, as well as the loss of one's individual needs and of the perception of one's own body.


In their study on traditionally religious, newly religious, esoteric and non-religious individuals, Zinser, Schwarz and Remus drew attention to the fact that the empirical basis for many of the psychological assumptions made with regard to members and followers of new religious movements or in esoterics was insufficient, and that these assumptions were based on a selection of people who had problems with their new orientation in life and who, for this reason, underwent psychotherapeutic treatment or "dropped out". 86 )


Overall, when assessing the literature available, it is important to determine whether publications are scientifically well-founded and objective. In a bibliography on yoga and meditation, for instance, only 210 of the 1,021 publications

listed can be described as independent original publications. 87 )


3.5.4 Conclusions


In the interest of responsible practice in the fields of medicine, psychology and related areas, there is an urgent need to conduct verifiable studies with an enlarged questionnaire. In this context, particular attention should be paid to the

initiating and sustaining motivation and need patterns (especially questions regarding the meaning of life, and the existential need for clarification). Empirical studies should be conducted with the aim of comparing the effectiveness of

alternative methods (as subjectively perceived by users and providers) with other medical and psychological methods.

Some of these studies are already under way; the implementation of additional studies is welcomed and recommended by the Enquete Commission (cf. Chapters 5.1.7 and 6.2.9).


As far as unconventional methods are concerned, this means that a more systematic approach should be adopted in dealing with problematic experiences, and thus with the problem areas of methodology, execution, diagnostic and

methodological responsibility, as well as quality assurance. The present user sample, for instance, has demonstrated that esoteric-magical methods are preferred



86 ) Cf. Zinser, H., Schwarz, G. u. Remus, B.: Psychologische Aspekte neuer Formen der Religiosit�t. Report on an empirical study, T�bingen 1997, p. 50f.

87 ) Cf. Unger, C.: Yoga und Meditation -  psychologische und psychotherapeutische Aspekte. Eine internationale Bibliographie, Ahrensburg 1995 quoted from Niebel, G. and Hanewinkel, R.: loc. cit., p. 3.




in particular by many users who, according to their own accounts, suffer from severe psychological disorders. The findings obtained in the survey conducted among the service providers suggest that it is at least questionable

whether all providers of alternative methods are properly qualified.


With regard to the problems which may be caused by an improper application of alternative methods and by applying such methods to unsuitable groups of clients, the planned legislation on life-counselling activities will provide precautions designed to minimise such problems (see Chapters and


When looking at the informal sector, the institutions of the formal health sector should bear in mind that the motives cited by users of alternative methods include not only the desire to alleviate physical symptoms but also other reasons which -  implicitly or explicitly -  are associated with personality changes and an expansion of one's consciousness.

Academic medicine and psychology as well as other professional curative disciplines should pay greater attention to

the patients' needs for "coping with life". This would have consequences for the theory, research and practice in the fields mentioned above; it would have to be ensured that dealing with existential questions and problems that are a concern for many clients will be integrated into professional treatment.


In the alternative sector, there are obviously also different patterns which prevail with regard to the relationship between the treatment provider and the client and with regard to the individual's responsibility for his own health; these different patterns could provide a modernising impetus in the context of increasingly individualised living conditions. 88 )


A particularly problematic phenomenon is the eclectic application of mixtures of methods in companies; first of all because such application may involve coercive elements due to the fact that employees are particularly dependent on their employers; and secondly because the very fact that various methods are combined reduces the transparency of the services offered and makes an assessment more difficult, both for company buying agents and for the individual

employee who is confronted with such measures.


These structural imbalances can be further aggravated by the tight labour market and current trends towards integrating further education programmes at company level. 89 ) These problems have not yet been sufficiently clarified in German labour law.

3.5.5 Suggestions for further research


Many methods have not yet been the subject of scientific research. Some of the alternative methods are not suitable for scientific studies because they do not have a standardised "canon" of methods.



88 ) Cf. for general information: Stenger, H.: loc. cit., p. 130ff.

89 ) Cf. K�hnlein, G.: "Verbetrieblichung" von Weiterbildung als Zukunftstrend? Anmerkungen zum Bedeutungswandel von beruflicher Weiterbildung und Konsequenzen f�r Bildungsforschung. In: Arbeit 6 (3, 1997), pp. 261-281.




The social, economic and practical health implications of this part of the health sector which is not subject to any legal regulations have not yet been studied because for a long time such studies were hampered by prejudices and professional interests. 90 ) For this reason, it is desirable to pay increasing attention to this sector, which obviously does not play a merely secondary role, whether in quantitative or qualitative terms. 91 )

3.6 Entry pathways and membership histories in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups; results of the research projects on "Drop-outs, converts, and believers: Contrasting biographical analyses of why individuals join, have a career, and stay in, or leave,  religious/ideological contexts or groups"


In its decision to establish the Enquete Commission, the German Bundestag gave the Commission the mandate to find out "why individuals become members of so-called sects or psychogroups". However, it turned out that very little

research had been done on this subject in the Federal Republic of Germany.


Only very few findings were available with regard to the importance in an individual's life history of joining new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, or particular differences in membership histories, or "careers" in such groups and contexts, or the reasons why individuals develop a desire to leave those groups, or the separation processes which can be quite lengthy in some cases, or the question of what happens to individuals after leaving a

group. In this context, it should also be mentioned that current approaches to dealing with this subject in research have been given very little consideration so far. 92 )


For this reason, the Enquete Commission awarded contracts for four research projects which were interrelated in terms of the topics they covered 93 ) and which provided information on the subjective importance of the events men-

tioned above in an individual's biography. The biographies of individuals who



90 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: loc. cit., p. 9.

91 ) Based on other studies, Hellmeister and Fach point out that alternative methods are used more frequently, that alternative treatment providers are given a very good rating on average, and that the callers' assessment of the methods applied is mostly positive.

92 ) See, for instance, Berger, H./Hexel, P.C.: Ursachen und Wirkungen gesellschaftlicher Verweigerung junger Menschen unter besonderer Ber�cksichtigung der "Jugendreligionen", Forschungsbericht, Vienna 1981; Kuner, W.: Soziogenese der Mitgliedschaft in drei Neuen Religi�sen Bewegungen, Frankfurt 1983; P�lz, W.: Prognosen von drogen- bzw. sektengef�hrdeten Jugendlichen, Vienna 1981; Rollet, B.: Religi�se Entwicklung und Interesse an Jugendsekten, Vienna 1992.

93 ) The four projects used the same methodological approach in order to study four different contexts: first-generation radical Christian groups; fundamentalist Christian contexts and organisations; contexts and groups from the Far East; as well as psychogroups and esoterics.




dropped out and others who stayed in the groups were studied in various religious and ideological contexts; types and profiles of the biographies of "stay-ins" were identified; and information was obtained on the question of how the

individual's own actions and their need for finding meaning in and shaping their lives interacted with group activities and structures.


So the question/field to be studied was the broad range of different levels of subjective and socio-cultural importance and meaning ascribed by the individuals concerned to their "immersion" in such contexts and groups. It is only

through these assessment processes that these contexts and groups are transformed into important contexts for the individuals. By means of such an interactive perspective, which incorporates patterns of meaning and importance, the

individuals become identifiable not only as passive victims of clearly defined "groups of perpetrators" but also as social designers of their own life history and their social interactions. This "contribution of their own" is a particular challenge for any adequate and systematic analysis of potentially dangerous group structures, and has not been sufficiently considered in the past because of the lack of scientifically founded evidence.


The current status of research


There are various ways of approaching the problem of identifying the profile of a career in the context of a given religious or social group, including research into conversion processes, research into causes, and research into case histories.


Some of these approaches can be applied to different problem clusters. There are different notions which can be employed to understand conversion processes. 94 ) What they all have in common is the concept of a radical change in an individual's view of the world or personal identity, associated in some cases with profound effects on the individual's social environment and his or her ensuing actions in life. Characteristics of such change include the reconstruction of one's biography to match one's new guiding principles; the adoption of a new ethical pattern as a basis of one's future behaviour; the rejection of alternative patterns of behaviour and perspectives; and the adoption of the role of a convert in all social situations. 95 ) Such a concept raises the question as to what motivates individuals to change their view of the world so radically. In an attempt to find a biographical explanation of conversion, Wohlrab-Sahr 96 ) adopts a functional perspective, asking what the function of conversion is in the biography of an individual. One could also say that he asks what problem in an individual's biography is resolved by the radical change in that individual's view of the world. In this context, it is important



94 ) Inter alia Kilbourne, B.K./Richardson, J. T.: Paradigm Conflict. Types of Conversion and Conversion Theory, in: Sociological Analysis, 50/1, 1989, pp. 1- 21; Rambo, L.: Understanding Religious Conversion, New Haven/London 1993.

95 ) Snow, M./Machalek, R: The Sociology of Conversion, in: Annual Review of Sociology, 1984, 10, pp. 167-190.

96 ) Cf. Wohlrab-Sahr, M.: Konversion zum Islam als Implementation von Geschlechtslehre, in: Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie, 1996, 25/1, pp. 19- 37.




to emphasise quite strongly that this problem in the life of an individual is not always perceived as such by the individual concerned. In addition, religious contexts are not the only important factor involved when individuals solve their problems by means of conversion. Other, non-religious ways of finding meaning in life and coping with life can also be involved.


When assessing conversion accounts for the purpose of analysing conversion processes and conversion causes, it must be borne in mind that each of these accounts on an individual's life is retrospective in nature, and that if one assumed that biographical conversion accounts were completely dependent on an individual's context, then it would be generally impossible to subject such accounts to a scientific biographical analysis.


Aside from this, current conversion research suggests that any change in an individual's view of the world leads to a radical change in the self-perception of that individual, and hence, a major change in that person's biographical profile.


This blocks and obliterates any consideration of alternative profiles.


With regard to the research into causes, there are two approaches: one emphasises the individual's disposition, and the other focuses on group structures and methods of manipulation.


At the level of the individual's disposition, isolated biographical variables or aspects of an individual's personality structure are seen as reasons. Problematic socialisation conditions in the family 97 ) in conjunction with ruptured or disturbed social relationships during childhood and puberty 98 ) can lead to identity problems, and to communication and relationship problems, which the individual tries to resolve by turning towards alternative promises of meaning and therapy, or by means of a religiously biased restoration of the original family and the associated development of emotional ties within a group. Various authors have emphasised the important role which specific tensions and demands during adolescence can play as a potential cause. Others have drawn attention to the lack of meaning and orientation 99 ), pessimistic expectations with regard to the future 100 ), crises due to greater social mobility with frequent passages of status especially during adolescence 101 ); and yet others have emphasised the indi- vidual's alienation from the political, social and cultural structures of society 102 ), and the disappointment about, and the turning away from the established 



97 ) Cf. inter alia Kuner, 1983, loc. cit.

98 ) Cf. inter alia Barker, E.: The Making of a Moonie. Choice or Brainwashing, Oxford 1984; Berger/Hexel 1981, loc. cit.; Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte. Was Sekten f�r Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996.

99 ) Cf. inter alia Berger/Hexel 1981, loc. cit.

100 ) Cf. inter alia Barker 1984, loc. cit.

101 ) Cf. inter alia Schibilsky, M.: Religi�se Erfahrung und Interaktion. Die Lebenswelt jugendlicher Randgruppen, Stuttgart 1976.

102 ) Cf. inter alia Barker 1984, loc. cit.; Kuner 1983, loc. cit.; Schmidtchen, G.: Wie weit ist der Weg nach Deutschland? Szialpsychologie der Jugend in der postsozialistischen Welt, Opladen 1997.




Churches. Psychosocial crises of a professional or private nature, as well as susceptibility to depression or acute tensions in an individual's every-day life prior to joining an alternative group have also been cited as causes.


However, all of the variables mentioned above can only map non-specific cause/effect relationships. They cannot explain an individual's specific choice or fit of a given option offered by religious or ideological groupings or life-counselling agents. Hence, it remains unclear why only very few individuals who have the disposing factors or personality features outlined above or who are in the midst of the crisis-ridden phases in their lives as described above, actually join such groups; while others who share the same characteristics remain within their conventional life pattern or choose other ways of coping with their problems. 103 )


Characteristics that are specific to certain groups and manipulation methods have also been discussed as factors leading individuals to join groups. According to such views, prospective members of "destructive cults" 104 ) are seen as

"victims" of various manipulation methods, some of which are associated with fraudulent cover-up attempts on the part of a group. What all theories have in common is that they primarily try to explain an individual's decision to join a

group through influencing methods used by, and the totalitarian structure prevailing in, the group. In the scientific debate, both the methodology and the substance of these studies, whose results are often summarised under the catch-

word "brainwash theory", have been criticised, and some of their findings have been proven to be wrong. Generally speaking, it is questionable whether it is possible to apply a model -  which was originally developed in studies on pris-

oners of war -  to "so-called sects and psychogroups". It is hard to provide any empirical proof for the effects described above, and it is equally hard to establish an unequivocal causal relationship with group membership. Studies which

suggest that there is such a relationship suffer from fundamental methodological deficiencies. In view of the absolute number of group members, stagnating membership growth, and the high number of people leaving groups 105 ), the

alleged risks described are ultimately not very convincing. 106 )


Research into case histories is devoted to identifying and describing the case histories of individuals as they turn to, join and eventually leave a given group.


With regard to the process that attracts individuals to a given group, it is important



103 ) Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W. S.: The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult For-ation, Berkeley 1986.

104 ) Cf. Clark, J.: Der k�nstlich gesteuerte Wahnsinn, in: M�ller-K�ppers, M./Specht, F. (ed.): Neue Jugendreligionen, G�ttingen 1979; Singer, M. T.: Coercive Persuasion und die Probleme der Ex-Cult Members, in: M�ller-K�ppers, M./Specht, F. (ed.): Neue Jugendreligionen, G�ttingen 1979.

105 ) Cf. Levine, S.: Radical Depatures: Desparate Detours to Growing Up, San Diego 1984; Wright, S. A.: Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection, Washington 1987.

106 ) Cf. as a summary Barker 1984, loc. cit.; Barker, E.: New Religious Movements. A Practical Introduction, London 1992; Wiesberger, F.: Bausteine zu einer soziologischen Theorie der Konversion. Soziokulturelle, interaktive und biographische Determinanten religi�ser Konversionsprozesse, Berlin 1990, pp. 49-61.




to examine how prospective members or participants first come into contact with a given group and what type of contact successfully leads to the recruitment of new members for the group. It should also be examined what

type of contact has the most favourable impact on the new member in terms of that individual's own expectations and its subsequent biographical profile. In this context, the groups' recruitment efforts are as important as the searching

efforts or interests of prospective members or participants. For many authors, however, it seems to be easier to have access to the groups' strategies and actions, so that they currently feel that the key to understanding the lead-in processes is "structural availability", i.e. physical, temporal, social and ideological conditions that facilitate contact. 107 ) An individual's social relationships are a particularly important condition for the stabilisation of that person's member-

ship. In literature, only very few attempts have been made or models proposed to explain why individuals leave their group. 108 ) According to these explanations, the beginning of the alienation process is marked by general or situational crises of legitimacy which put into question the plausibility of the doctrine, the leader, or the group structure. Such crises and frustrated expectations with regard to the individual's development or the development of society lead to a phase of uncertainty during which the sceptics can no longer ignore new experience which conflicts with their expectations. If their doubts are compounded by crises which they experience, they begin to question their membership and to search for alternatives. However, the actual act of leaving the group is usually triggered by one key event. This is followed by a phase during which the ex-members are "floating" between the two worlds of symbolism, finally leading

to a phase of social and cognitive reorganisation. The process models described provide isolated insights into the entry, adaptation and membership phases, and into the estrangement process. However, they do not combine these findings with the motivational or dispositional biographical dimensions of these processes; nor do they say very much about biographical consequences and coping mechanisms.


Finally, there are also authors who feel that the trend towards searching for new ways of finding meaning in life and coping with life is due to processes of change in society. They contend that these change processes allow conclusions

to be drawn with regard to the conditions for the emergence, and the functions, of "so-called sects and psychogroups" in modern Western societies. 109 ) For



107 ) Snow, D. et al.: Social Networks and Social Movement: A Microstructural Approach to Different Recruitment, in: American Sociological Review, 1980, pp. 787-801; Stark/Bainbridge 1986, loc. cit.

108 ) Cf. inter alia Balch, R.: When the Light goes out, Darkness Comes: A Study of Defection from a Totalitaristic Cult, in: Stark, R. (ed.): Religious Movements: Genesis, Exodus and Numbers, New York 1985, pp. 263- 283; Galanter, M.: Cults. Faith, Healing and Coercion, Oxford 1989, Wright 1987, loc. cit.

109 ) Cf. Wa�ner, R.: Neue Religi�se Bewegungen in Deutschland. Ein soziologischer Bericht, EZW-Texte No. 113, Stuttgart 1991; Eiben, J.: Zur gesellschaftlichen Bedingtheit von alternativer Religiosit�t und Lebenshilfe; Gross, W. (ed.): Psychomarkt-Sekten-Destruktive Kulte, Bonn 1996.




methodological reasons, however, they are not willing or able to answer the question as to why individuals decide -  under specific circumstances in their life and/or as a result of specific biographies -  to join specific groups, while others who are in a comparable situation make completely different choices in their lives.



In order to attain such an ambitious research objective, it is necessary to apply a suitable method. All four research projects are interview studies, use narrative interviews and basically apply the methodology of qualitative biographical social research, which can be characterised as follows: Qualitative biographical social research follows a different research logic and applies different methodological principles than quantitative social research and public opinion research. It does not see society as universe which can be observed and measured from outside on the basis of methodological rules; instead, it sees society as a "communicative sphere" which, inter alia, is formed and modified by permanent interpretations of the members of society. For this reason, it is not possible in qualitative biographical social research from the outset to determine the characteristics of interest in a given subject; the characteristics of the subject under review are not defined prior to the collection of data (by means of operationalisation, etc.); instead, the research process is kept open for as long as possible, waiting for what the subject itself "says". Qualitative biographical social research tries to "nestle up" to the communicative character of social life by using data collection instruments which are as close as possible to the customs in social life. The collection of data by means of narrative interviews fulfils this requirement. The purpose of this method is to ensure that the experiences and the interpretations of the respondents can be expressed, where possible, without any theoretical bias from the interviewer and without any bias due to categories specified in a questionnaire or in an interview handbook.


In qualitative biographical social research, the subject under review is not perceived as the sum of a number of cases in which statistical methods can be applied to search for constellations of characteristics; instead, each case is seen as an expression of and a carrier in society; each case is treated as a representative of society and is seen as providing information on the latter. For this reason, qualitative biographical social research is not interested in any proportional data (percentages, etc.); it does not apply any conclusions draw from a sample to the entire universe (statistical inference); instead, it sees the characteristics and structures identified in cases as providing information on society.


However, this information provided by specific cases is relevant because it is possible to identify a structure in each individual case and, more importantly, because it is possible to identify a dimension in several cases; by means of this

dimension, it is possible to organise the cases in the form of a typology from which contrasting types of cases can be abstracted. The result of qualitative




biographical social research is then such a classification or typology, which maps the different variants as a mosaic or repertoire of possible attributes of the process or the constellation of theoretical interest. This typology is the theory developed on the basis of the cases with regard to the envisaged process or constellation -  the theory which has been the purpose of this research.


Since such a theory applies only to the subject or the social process under review, its scope is much more limited than that of "macrotheories" commonly used in social science or of medium-scope theorems; however, its advantage is

that it is an empirically based theory, i.e. a "grounded" theory.


The findings in brief


The result of the four studies described above is not the identification of typical "careers in sects" or "sect-prone dispositions"; instead, the result produced by these studies is the variety or variance of biographical case structures which can then be classified in a typology. It is not possible to identify specific socialisation variables or certain typical biographical constellations as the sole causes or determinants for an individual to be interested in and turn to certain contexts or groups. Instead, a lot of chance/coincidence is involved when individuals turn towards certain contexts or groups.


However, a biographical relevance was demonstrated for individuals turning to such contexts and groups. In all the cases analysed, it was possible to identify problem complexes -  so-called "life themes" -  which the individuals had

encountered in the course of their lives: a cluster of practical life issues and challenges which the individuals tried to come to grips with in a variety of contexts, in some cases consecutively. With regard to the groups and contexts

studied, it was possible to identify a connection in the respondents between their life themes and the specific group context through which these life themes can be tackled. The life themes generate pressure for change, and the individ-

uals concerned usually continue working on these themes until they find a satisfactory solution or "fit".


According to these findings, the most clear-cut lines of contrast were therefore not found between "drop-outs" and "stay-ins". In fact, this contrast was not very revealing, especially with regard to groups which do not tend to be very

closed to the outside world and whose members are not highly organised (e.g. in particular esoteric contexts and psychogroups). Hence, the overall findings revealed neither the typical entry process nor the typical exit process. For an

analysis of the biographical interviews, it was too simple to distinguish merely between "stay-ins" and "drop-outs"; instead, it was necessary to look for more differentiated concepts.


A much more meaningful contrast than the one between "drop-outs" and "stay-ns" is the contrast between various biographical consequences, between various ways and various results of individuals working on their life themes.


Whether an individual stays in a given context or group for a longer period of




time, or whether he or she changes or leaves this context or group again, depends on the "suitable" ways used by, and the options available to, individuals working on their life themes. The question as to how individuals work on their problems and life themes is therefore less influenced by the nature of the contexts and groups involved than by the fit between individuals and the groups. Hence, the question as to whether turning to a group and having a "career" in this group will aggravate the individual's problems or whether it will be beneficial and solve the problems (and if so, to what extent) will also largely depend on the degree of the fit between the group's profile and the individual's disposition towards a given problem. What happens to individuals in such contexts obviously depends not only on the context or group involved but also -  and more importantly -  on the resources and the scope for action which an individual commands when joining a religious group or esoteric context. However, the studies can certainly not provide any "objective" information on the groups involved; instead, such information is always provided from the perspective of the respondents. Based on the overall findings obtained from the biographical interviews, it does not make sense to speak of "sects". Nor is it reasonable to describe a given group as being generally "radical" or "dangerous".


In view of the imponderabilities in terms of the fit, scope for action and biographical consequences, the biographical connections and life themes identified in some of the cases analysed suggested that there was a need for resocialisation

and counselling on the part of the individuals concerned. In addition, it became clear that such counselling should not be primarily aimed at helping individuals leave a given group. If -  contrary to a widely held belief -  there is no such thing as a typical exit process, there can also be no typical counselling for individuals who want to leave a given group. Instead, counselling must be focused on biographical patterns, the individual's personality development and personality

structure and the individual's problem constellations.


The issues discussed in this Chapter are of particular relevance for the overall debate. For this reason, the Enquete Commission awarded the contracts for the research projects mentioned above. In order to underline the relevance of these issues, the findings of these studies are included in the Annex to this Report.


3.8 Social and psychological effects of membership in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


When studying social phenomena, it is common practice to discuss not only the problematic aspects but also the unproblematic aspects of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


Without any doubt, the conflict potential associated with some new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is one of the negative aspects.




On the positive side, however, attention is drawn to the fact that membership in such groups provides social reference fields for some people who would otherwise have to do without such anchorage in their lives.


These aspects are being debated in international scientific literature. For this reason, the Enquete Commission decided not to have a separate complex empirical study conducted on this issue but to award a contract for an expert report designed to analyse literature on the question of the social and psychological effects of membership in new religious movements.


The major findings of this study are presented below. 110 )


The Commission's interest in this area was focused on the following primary/key question: "What psychological and social effects does membership in new religious movements have on individuals?"


The author of the study states that the methodology applied in the study submitted to the Enquete Commission was aimed at analysing from a psychological perspective the international literature available, primarily from Anglo-American sources. The author points out that the analysis is based on data base searches and bibliographies, in particular review articles, meta-analyses, quantitative empirical studies and major qualitative studies (however, no case studies or reports by drop-outs because such publications would not be sufficiently representative and would not provide enough scope). In this context, the author draws attention to the fact that further research is needed to apply the findings of his analysis of international literature to the conditions prevailing in Germany. 111 )


As far as recruitment is concerned, the author points out that this is not a passive event; instead, the recruit is actively involved in the conversion process.


Overall, the author states that it is possible from the perspective of religious psychology to interpret the joining of a religious movement as conversion. He points out, however, that not every individual is open or receptive to the offers

made by new religious movements. In many cases, individuals join such movements after a period of emotional instability and lack of orientation. According to the author, there is evidence suggesting that there is a higher share of

premorbid personalities among members of new religious movements. He points out, however, that such individuals often seem to become more stable psychologically and socially as a result of their membership.


Individuals seem to be particularly susceptible to joining new religious movements during adolescence while middle-aged individuals seem to be less susceptible; however, this may vary from one group to another. Hence, the author




110 ) Dipl.-Psych. Dr. Sebastian Murken, "Soziale und psychische Auswirkungen der Mitglied-schaft in neuen religi�sen Bewegungen unter besonderer Ber�cksichtigung der sozialen Integration und psychischen Gesundheit", study conducted on behalf of the German Bundestag, Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", January 1998.

111 ) Loc. cit., p. 6.




concludes that there is no such thing as a consistent "sect member personality". For this reason, he feels that the notion of a single concept of new religious movements must be discarded.


Findings in the literature vary with regard to the meditation methods used in some groups. Individuals can have either a positive or a negative experience with meditation. It all depends on the characteristics of the individual, the method and the setting involved. In addition, parts of the literature analysed for the expert report suggest that membership can have therapeutic effects. However, this issue is still far from being certain.


The author states that it is usually possible for individuals to leave new religious movements voluntarily without any help from third parties. However, the individuals concerned perceive this break-away as a major crisis which  considerably upsets their stability. However, this is not so much an indication of the "destructiveness" of the preceding experience of membership; instead, this is a side-effect which is associated with any emotionally important role change.

In this context, professional help can be both necessary and helpful.


What is crucial for a later assessment of membership by the ex-member is the way in which the individual left the movement. This assessment will be much more negative if an individual was forced to leave, while it will be seen in a more positive light if the individual left the group on his own initiative.


According to the author of the study, it is not possible to clarify all the aspects or give answers to all the questions associated with the complex of "Psychological Effects of Membership". It is possible, however, to draw a few conclusions.


The author points out that membership in new religious movements cannot be generally labelled as being harmful. The empirical studies available have shown that the psychological condition of members is within a normal range, comparable to those parts of the population that are not members of such movements.


The author points out that religiousness can be a relevant factor during critical development phases (e.g. adolescence); it can be experienced as either helpful or hampering. It is important to distinguish between the various ways in which

individuals access a given group or orientation; individuals can either be "born" into membership or become members on their own initiative during adolescence. The authors draws attention to the fact that this issue and the dynamics

involved have not yet been sufficiently studied.


The findings of the report are summarised by the author as follows:


          The study does not confirm the assumptions that new religious movements are generally destructive and that members generally have a premorbid personality.


          However, crises in the lives of the individuals concerned and emotional instability often seem to precede membership.




          Because of differences in the psychological structure of members, depending on the group involved, it cannot be assumed that there is something like a consistent "sect member personality".


          As a rule, the personality traits of members do not differ from the personality traits of similar groups in the general population.


          In most cases, it is possible for individuals to leave a given group without any help from third parties. However, this experience must be seen as a destabilising and traumatising event.


          This is not necessarily due to the group involved but, among other things, to socio-psychological processes associated with an individual's role change.




4                   Information and counselling


Information provided by governmental bodies


In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Affairs (BMFSFJ -  Bundesministerium f�r Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) is in charge of questions relating to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups on behalf of the German Federal Government. This ministry also publishes relevant information pamphlets for the public.


In 1993, the German Bundesverwaltungsamt (BVA -  Federal Administrative Office) established a new department called "Youth Sects and Psychogroups" to act as a source of information for the German Federal Government. The role

of this department is to generate reports, analyses and evaluations for the German Federal Government with a view to developing the necessary legislative initiatives and preparing statements and reports to be submitted by the German

Federal Government to the German Bundestag and its committees. At present, providing information to other governmental agencies and the public is not yet within the scope of responsibilities of the new department. However, the Enquete Commission would welcome a decision that would enable the department to supply information to other interested parties, in particular to other governmental agencies.


In addition, all of Germany's federal states inform the public about new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. In most cases, such information is provided by permanently established departments which are  responsible not only for public relations but also for internal information. The Federal State of Bremen, for instance, has merely established a contact point in one of its departments where citizens can go to obtain advice. In many cases, however, it is necessary to provide the necessary material resources to the state-level commissioners in charge.


The primary purpose of the interministerial working groups of the Federal Government and the state-level governments in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups (Bund-L�nder-Gespr�chskreis) and specifically concerning the Scientology Organisation is to exchange information across departmental borders. Another function of the interministerial working group is to identify areas in which there is need for action and to co-ordinate

specific actions (e.g. the publication of educational brochures) involving several departments. In some federal states, there are also specific interministerial working groups dealing with this subject (Baden-W�rttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse,

Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Thuringia). Interministerial working groups dealing with the Scientology Organisation exist in the states of Hesse, Mecklenburg -  Western Pomerania, and Saxony-Anhalt.


The sections of the various state-level ministries responsible for such issues cooperate with local apex organisations, the police, etc. Information is also collected




by Church-run and private counselling and information centres. All the specialised sections of ministries and the contact points in the various federal states have at least informal contact with those institutions.


Legal background to the activities of governmental information centres Under the German Constitution, the government is obliged to be neutral in religious and ideological issues. Government can only intervene in the freedom

of religious and ideological beliefs after weighing conflicting interests: on the one hand, the protection of constitutional rights of others, and on the other hand, the protection of the constitutional order. The German Federal Government provides information on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in compliance with its constitutional obligations; to be more specific, the Government "expresses opinions and submits recommendations and

warnings to the public within the limits of the proper execution of the powers granted by the Constitution" (Federal Constitutional Court decision of 15 August 1989, 1 BvR 881/89). 112 ) This ruling was triggered by a constitutional complaint (which ultimately was not accepted for a court ruling) against a judgement handed down by the Federal Administrative Court on 23 May 1989. In this decision (Federal Administrative Court judgement of 23 May 1989, 7 C 2.87, in: Decisions of the Federal Administrative Court -  BVerwGE -  Vol. 82, pp. 76ff.), the Federal Administrative Court unequivocally ruled that the German Federal Government was entitled to provide information and publish warnings by virtue of the Government's constitutional responsibility to inform and educate the public with regard to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


This view is shared by the European Commission of Human Rights, which had to rule on the complaint filed by an applicant whose activities were described in a brochure on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and whose group was warned against. The complainant felt that this was a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, ideological beliefs and religion) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In its decision, the European Commission of Human Rights came to the conclusion that a government was entitled to provide "information on religious communities and sects in an objective, but critical manner". 113 ) The Commission felt that the intended publication would not have any "direct impact on the freedom of religion" of the complainant and that, hence, the freedom of religion as protected under Article 9 was not affected. For this reason, the Commission ruled unanimously that the application was not admissible as defined in Art. 27 of the Convention because it was obviously unfounded.



112 ) Cf. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW) 1989, p. 3269.

113 ) Cf. Council of Europe, European Commission of Human Rights, First Chamber, Decision as to the Admissibility of Application No. 29745/96.




This right to provide information and publish warnings must also be granted to the federal states in Germany because similar constitutional rights apply to their area of jurisdiction (Regional Administrative Court Hamburg, NVwZ 1995, 498, 501).


The court decisions mentioned above show that there is no need for separate legislation governing governmental activities in the fields of information and education. All the activities carried out by the German Federal Government and the state-level governments are based on this legal assessment. 114 )


The Federal Administrative Court has made a clear statement on public funding of private information initiatives. In its decision of 27 March 1992 (the so-called Osho judgement, Federal Administrative Court 7 C 21.90 in: BVerwGE, Vol. 90, pp. 112ff.), the Court ruled that by providing funding for a private association "which is designed to warn the public with regard to the activities of certain religious and ideological communities, government intervenes in the fundamental

rights of the groups affected". 115 ) The Court pointed out that, hence, funding could only be provided on the basis of relevant legal provisions; in this case, the obligation of government to protect the legal rights of the citizens concerned

did not eliminate the need for governmental interventions to be properly authorised by law. Furthermore, the Court stated that government would violate its constitutional obligation to be neutral if it provided funds to associations

which themselves worked on a religious or ideological basis, and which hence were not neutral but partial in the religious/ideological controversies.


4.2 Counselling and information provided by non-governmental bodies


4.2.1 Need for counselling and information from non-governmental centres 116 )


In addition to the findings obtained at the hearing mentioned above, there are many case reports and some general articles and activity reports published by several counselling centres. 117 ) However, the reports published invariably



114 ) Only the State of Schleswig-Holstein has adopted separate legislation for its information activities. It was felt that these activities also involved the storage and processing of personal data and that this would have to be backed up by the introduction of specific provisions in the Data Privacy Protection Act of Schleswig-Holstein.

115 ) Cf. Chapter

116 ) Cf. minority opinion of Commission members Dr. J�rgen Eiben, Prof. Dr. Werner Helsper, Dr. Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP, Prof. Dr. Hubert Seiwert, p. 296.

117 ) E.g. Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte -  Was Sekten f�r Jugendliche so attraktiv macht. Munich 1996; activity reports are available from Infosekta Zurich, Sekteninfo Essen, Sekteninfo Bochum, Sinus Frankfurt/M., Arbeitsstelle Weltanschauungsfragen beim Ev. Gemeindedienst Stuttgart, Referat Weltanschauungsfragen der Evangelischen Kirche im Rheinland (D�sseldorf), EZW Berlin, IDZ Cologne.




provide descriptions of practical cases; they are not systematic studies of this problem area. So while it is possible for counselling centres to assess the quality of the conflicts involved based on case reports, it is hardly possible for them

to determine the quantitative need for counselling. However, the reports published by the counselling centres have shown that when specific professional services become known, the demand for such services is often greater than the

available supply of counselling capacity. For this reason, many counselling centres are currently being established or consolidated by private operators or initiatives. In addition, the hearing as well as the activity reports published by

counselling centres also suggest that at least half of the inquiries are aimed at obtaining information and clarification. In many cases, individuals contact the counselling centres for orientation to prepare their personal decisions. What they expect the counselling centres to provide, for instance, is an assessment of the risks involved, or an ethical appraisal of a given practice. Many individuals also want short psychosocial counselling which only requires one session. In some cases, however, more intensive counselling (2 or more sessions) is also considered to be desirable or necessary. In these cases, it can be assumed that the desire for counselling is caused by massive, in some cases chronic, inner psychological and social conflicts.


On the other hand, the question as to what groups give rise to the greatest demand for information and counselling in their environment can only be assessed on the basis of the activity reports. A generalised estimate covering several counselling centres shows that the greatest demand for information and counselling is generated by so-called "psychocults", at present usually Scientology (in some centres, the single, most frequently cited group). Number two

includes a wide variety of extremist Christian groups such as Gemeinde Christi (Christ's Congregation), radical charismatic groups, as well as the so-called traditional sects (primarily Jehovah's Witnesses). In some of the counselling centres, these groups are the single most frequently cited group). The presence of political groups (VPM, LaRouche movement) varies widely from one region to another, while the demand for counselling created by guru groups, special esoteric communities, Satanists, etc. is lower, albeit at a constant level. This ranking has been subject to major variations over the years: Schmidtchen (1987) 118 ) found that the most important group was the Bhagwhan movement which was expanding at that time; however, after the death of the guru, this movement is virtually negligible in statistics.


However, the conflict-proneness of the various groups can be assessed not only by means of the demand for counselling documented. 119 ) The cases recorded by a counselling centre are almost exclusively accounts of private problems and conflicts of individual biographies. Potential political and societal



118 ) Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur. Freiburg/Basle/Vienna 1987

119 ) Only in a few cases (Jehovah's Witnesses) are there any reliable data regarding the size of the membership. Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", German Bundestag, 13th legislative period, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, 1997.




conflicts (e.g. economic conflicts) are hardly recorded. The only thing that can be safely said currently is that -  relative to all other types of communities -  the so-called psychogroups create a high demand for counselling by individuals, probably because they directly intervene in the individual's personal life and because they are particularly attractive for individuals with prior psychosocial problems. In the activity reports of many counselling centres, for instance, Scientology is cited more frequently than Jehovah's Witnesses although Jehovah's Witnesses can be assumed to have about five to fifteen times more followers than Scientology.


Furthermore, the activity reports and an expert report prepared on behalf of the Enquete Commission 120 ) have shown that it is not possible to draw a clear-cut line between esoterics, occultism and free spiritualism in terms of the demand

for information and counselling generated. This means that orientations that are ideologically alien to the individuals concerned or exotic therapies -  even when offered by communities which are not closed -  lead to requests for information and counselling. Finally, the analysis of the activity reports has shown that the demarcation line between requests for information and requests for counselling in the narrower sense is blurred and that it is often impossible to distinguish the two. For the individuals concerned, the desire to be given an explanation for what has happened to oneself or to a relative is often the first step on the way to coming to grips with their experience. For this reason, the quality of the help that can be given depends not only on the knowledge with regard to the communities and movements involved but also on the knowledge-gathering theories and, generally speaking, the perception patterns of the counselling staff.

4.2.2 Current basic elements of conflict perception


In addition to the sociological, psychological and psychotherapeutic concepts which are commonly used in counselling, the perception of conflict structures and conflict histories requires not only theories as to why individuals join radical

groups (conversion theories) but also sociopsychological or sociological concepts which are aimed at identifying how a group contributes towards an escalation of internal and external conflicts. Such theories also determine how counsellors assess an individual's situation in life, as well as the internal psychological condition, etc. of followers; how psychological problems in connection with the deconversion of so-called drop-outs are explained and treated; and how conflicts are perceived and influenced in a group's environment (family, work). 121 ) Progress was achieved in this field as a result of the Commission's



120 ) Beratungsbedarf und ausl�sende Konflikte im Fallbestand einer sog. Sektenberatung an-hand von Fallkategorien und Verlaufsschemata, Report prepared for the German Bundestag's Enquete Commission by the Information and Counselling Service of the Department of Sects and Ideological Issues in the Diocese of Aachen, 1998.

121 ) A summary and critical assessment of current conversion theories with literature references is provided by Klosinski 1996 loc. cit. and Hemminger, H.: Psychische Abh�ngigkeit in extre-men Gemeinschaften. Materialdienst der EZW 60 1997, pp. 257- 266 and pp. 290- 297.




research project which is described in greater detail elsewhere in this Report (Chapter 3.6). The findings of this project with regard to the perception of the need for counselling can be described as follows: Four sub-projects were conducted to obtain information about the reasons why some individuals leave their groups while other stay in their groups. The purpose of the studies was to contrast the motives of the two groups of individuals in order to find out what interactions there are between the individuals' own actions, their need to find meaning in, and to be able to shape, their own lives,

and the activities and structures of groups. The methodology used was derived from the field of qualitative social research; in one sub-project, a standardised personality test was used in addition. Although the four sub-projects varied

somewhat in terms of the methods used and the research fields covered, they produced the same findings: They showed that it is not possible to generalise the attractiveness of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups or the reasons why individuals convert to, or leave, such communities and groups; instead, there are several different and unexpected ways in which individuals go through the social processes of conversion, acculturation and possibly leaving their group. In addition, the four sub-projects showed that the biographical consequences of conversion are not at all only dependent on the convert's mindset (i.e. a "searcher model"); nor are they only determined by the groups (i.e. a "manipulation model"). Against the background of the complexity and the diversity of the biographical problem constellations identified and the relevance of an individual's life theme, it is possible to conclude for those cases in which there is a clear need for counselling because of worsening crises or conflicts that counselling must certainly not be limited to the period when an individual is a group member or when he or she has decided to leave the group.


The problems involved in such counselling become suddenly clear if one bears in mind that in some of the cases interpreted the biographical problems were not "resolved" when the individual left the group; instead, they continued to

be relevant in a different social context, and the individuals concerned had to continue working on these problems. In fact, the processes of conversion, acculturation and possible deconversion involve complex interactions. Overall, the sub-projects showed that religious or ideological claims to validity and intellectual plausibility of group doctrines, etc. only play a minor role for individuals who decide to stay in or leave groups. It was found that an individual's conversion and possibly deconversion largely depended on the "fit" between the group's social structure and orientation on the one hand, and the individual's personality and situation in life. Such interaction can apparently lead to conflicts as a result of which the individuals concerned look for help and counselling. Such help can be obtained from providers of psychosocial services.


It should also be mentioned that there is an unpublished study, which was conducted at the University of Hamburg, regarding the state of mind of drop-outs from the Neuapostolische Kirche (New Apostolic Church) and Jehovah's




Witnesses. 122 ) The respondents' retrospective assessments confirmed the crucial role which the social "homes" offered by the two communities played in their conversion and the important role which social frustrations and constraints

played in their deconversion. In this context, the discrepancy between the social ethics taught and actual practice was a crucial experience; however, while this finding appears to be plausible with regard to the two communities mentioned

above, this can probably not be generalised. Furthermore, the findings obtained in the study suggested that there was a difference between women and men with regard to deconversion processes; this hitherto unknown finding should be further investigated in future scientific research.


4.2.3 Need for counselling and the underlying conflicts: Findings of the expert report prepared by the Department for Sects and Ideological Issues in the Diocese of Aachen


It was important for the Enquete Commission to clarify the situation in the Federal Republic of Germany with regard to counselling and information provided in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. The

Commission was primarily interested in the specific counselling and information activities carried out by non-governmental centres.


In order to obtain such information, the Commission awarded a contract to the Information and Counselling Service of the Department for Sects and Ideological Issues in the diocese of Aachen to prepare an expert report on "The need

for counselling and the underlying conflicts as observed in the cases collected by a so-called sects counselling service, based on case categories and case development patterns". The counselling centre involved provides orientation

and help to any individual who is affected by a crisis or conflict; the centre is available for both individuals and groups, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, and it is also available for all staff members of the Church, be they in

pastoral or educational work.


The centre provides the following services:


          information on questions of ideology,


          counselling for individuals, couples, and groups,


          peer counselling for staff working in youth welfare departments, psychosocial services, and in juvenile court relief services,


          networking of the individuals involved in the course of a given case in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


The purpose of the report prepared on behalf of the Commission was to identify and analyse the causes of an individual's need for counselling; to distinguish, where possible, between different types of underlying conflicts; to identify the



122 ) Schwab/M�ller/Schirm 1997.




skills which staff need to help individuals who come for advice; to find out if the centre involved co-operates with other centres, and if so, with which; and to draw conclusions with regard to future work in this field.


The report prepared by the Information and Counselling Service in Aachen describes 50 cases of individuals who needed counselling and the respective underlying conflicts in the period between 1992 and 1997; these cases typically

involved individuals who were seen by the counselling staff as facing severe conflicts and needing a lot of time and effort for counselling. The minimum counselling period was 1 month, with the average ranging between 4 and 7

months; each counselling period involved more than three contacts. Counselling was provided in accordance with the same professional rules which also apply to psychological counselling of individuals suffering from major internal and

external conflicts. The Commission hoped that this report would enable it to identify particularly severe and long-lasting problem constellations within the spectrum of potential interaction patterns which occur in the context of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and which therefore are in particular need of treatment. For this reason, the report did not consider crisis interventions, short counselling periods or individuals who came for information and orientation; the same applied to counselling provided for families and couples, etc. However, when evaluating the findings of the report, it must be borne in mind that (in addition to the severe cases) such contacts where individuals come for help and advice represent a major portion of what counselling centres do in practice. The cases described in the report show that there are some features which apply generally or are found very frequently:


          Usually, personal problems and problems with relationships were the reasons why individuals wanted counselling.


          Almost all of those who came to the counselling centre for advice also received other help, usually from doctors and/or psychotherapists, but also from family counsellors, lawyers and social workers.

          The people who came for advice varied widely in terms of their ages, as well as their professions, their levels of education, and other demoscopic data.


          Because of the small number of cases involved, it was not possible to detect any correlation between type of the group or movement concerned and the conflict pattern.


          Most of the individuals who came for advice were so severely affected that they showed psychological or somatic reactions of a pathological nature.


However, only about half of them had a case history of chronified emotional disorders or psychotic symptoms or personality disorders.


A preliminary evaluation of the 50 case studies by the Commission confirmed the plausible assumption that need for counselling develops when a given community has a particularly high conflict potential -- either in terms of its doctrine

or practice -- or when such a community with its doctrines and practices interacts




with particularly vulnerable individuals and circumstances. In the cases studied, the following typical conflicts were observed (which can currently be described in a preliminary fashion only): An individual's family and social environment is burdened by his or her conversion (indirectly affected people) The conversion and the associated re-orientation of an adult or an adolescent which comes as a surprise for his or her environment puts a burden on mem-

bers of the core family and on spouses or partners in life. The conversion can be interpreted as an attempt (subjectively and/or objectively threatening for those who seek advice) by the directly affected individuals (who do not come for counselling) to come to grips with inner psychological and/or social conflicts and development problems. A severe conflict can arise if an individual's coping efforts prove to be ineffective and if the original problem worsens under the

influence of the group, e.g. if the group downgrades current human references, if it encourages the individual to act out inner conflicts, and if the individual loses touch with reality, etc. A need for counselling can also arise if those who come for advice refuse to adopt an approach which would actually be reasonable, or if both sides instrumentalise the group for their conflict in a given relationship. In some cases, counselling enables the individuals concerned to turn

the conflict into an opportunity to re-organise, repair or pacify the relationship with their family or partner. In these cases, the individuals directly affected opt for deconversion. In other cases, the conflict leads to separation or a loss of the burdened relationship for those who come for advice; in such cases, the individuals directly affected do not opt for deconversion.


An individual's personal relationships are burdened by his or her conversion As in the first type of conflict, the conversion and the associated re-orientation which comes as a surprise for the individual's environment considering his or her biography put a burden on the individual's current relationships with members of the core family, with a spouse or partner in life, and possibly also in professional life. This leads to role conflicts and identity problems. As a result, the individual soon has doubts with regard to his/her own decision and with regard to the group's doctrine and practices. The conversion can again be interpreted by those come for advice as an attempt (which is incompatible with the individual's social environment and with his/her own development) to come to grips with inner psychological

and/or social conflicts, or the consequences of a physical ailment, or developmental problems. A need for counselling arises when the individual's coping efforts as such prove to be ineffective and when the individual's difficulties -- in particular the problems with personal relationships -- grow worse under the influence of the group because the emotional and social "costs" incurred due to resistance from reference persons become too high or because both sides instrumentalise the group for their conflict in a given relationship. In the course of counselling, the individual directly affected opts for deconversion.




Unbearable curtailment of an individual's viability and quality of life in a community The individuals who seek counselling have experienced an unbearable curtailment of their quality of life and of their ability to deal with everyday problems, despite or because of their involvement in a group and the use of life-counselling services in this group. Such an experience can be caused, for instance, when individuals are overtaxed by the temporal, financial or emotional strains they are exposed to in the group; other causes include mental disease, as well as severe financial and professional crises. In many cases, there is a cause/effect relationship between the unsuitable help provided by a group to cope with problems, the group context which is perceived as a burden, and the worsening of disorders. Sometimes, individuals also instrumentalise a group to satisfy their own needs in the context of their own psychodynamics. Often -- but not always -- this leads to deconversion. It may turn out that the conflicts cannot be influenced by counselling. Some of the individuals who come for advice are afraid of aggression and reprisals from their communities, some of which deliberately frighten their followers with regard to the consequences of deconversion; others have had practical experience with such consequences. Ritual sexual abuse in a cultic context is an extreme case in point. In isolated cases, individuals who came for advice themselves showed aggressive reactions, and in extreme cases even criminal reactions, to the actions taken by the group.


Individuals dissociating themselves from, and leaving groups because of personal development processes


The individuals who fall into this category come for advice because they are in the process of dissociating themselves from the context of a community or from the leader of such a community; these individuals have already embarked upon their deconversion, but they have not yet entirely finished this process. They are completing a development phase during which they were able to satisfy some of their needs within the community; however, these needs are now irrelevant or outdated. Some of them dissociate themselves from a community into which they were born and socialised. If the individuals involved are unable or unwilling to achieve the adaptation which this process requires, they will need counselling. From time to time, the dissociation process is not triggered by the personality development of the individuals who come for advice but by developments in the individual's community (e.g. radicalisation, change of course).


In connection with the former two categories of conflict (relationship conflicts triggered by conversion), it was often necessary to provide follow-up care or additional assistance such as marriage counselling, psychotherapy, clinical

treatment, etc. This applied even more to the third conflict category (unbearable stress in the community). In connection with the fourth conflict category, however, therapeutic follow-up care was necessary in isolated cases only. Even if there was no need for intensive follow-up care, it proved to be useful in most cases for the individuals who came for advice to attend self-help activities.




Furthermore, the authors of the expert report also pointed out that it was not possible (with one exception) to involve the groups concerned in the counselling process to play a mediating role (probably because of the severity of the cases).

However, in many less severe conflicts- especially in the fields of public information and education- mediation seems to be possible, and it was wanted in many cases.


4.2.4 General conditions of counselling work


a)                    Expert report on the "Qualifications required for counselling work in the field of so-called sects and psychogroups: Criteria and strategies" 123 ) In order to find out the most suitable skills profile that meets practical counselling needs, and to identify the specific requirements to be met by counselling work, and to establish whether it is necessary and possible for staff working in counselling centres to acquire specialised skills, the Commission awarded a contract for the expert report cited above.


The authors of the report examined the points listed above by analysing the concepts and structures currently found in counselling centres, based on empirical data obtained from statistics compiled by the Informations- und Doku-

mentationszentrum Sekten/Psychokulte (IDZ � Information and Documentation Centre on Sects/Psychocults) and on analyses of individual cases. As a result of their studies, the authors came to the following conclusions: They found that there was a lack of empirical studies on the subject of "sects counselling". However, they pointed out that there were a number of handbooks for individuals affected and publications on this topic.


According to their findings, current counselling activities in the field of sects is based on three pillars: initiatives by parents and individuals directly affected, Church commissioners for sects, and experts in the fields of science, social

counselling, the judiciary and committed private individuals. However, the authors pointed out that the term was not very clearly defined because it was associated with highly diverging assessments, depending on the vantage point

of the observer. In addition, they said, there were also diverging views about the purpose which counselling in the field of sects fulfils or should fulfil.


The authors stated that the spectrum was very wide, ranging from a very narrow interpretation (according to which counselling in the field of sects should be exclusively designed to help individuals leave their groups) to a more moderate approach (which, while being more moderate in the choice of methods, also



123 ) Roderigo, B.: Zur Qualifizierung von Beratungsarbeit im Spannungsfeld sogenannter Sekten und Psychogruppen: Kriterien und Strategien, Report prepared on behalf of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", 1998.




implicitly pursued the objective of deconversion). In this context, the authors said, the term "sect" was largely perceived as being negative and harmful for the personal development or the family constellation of the individuals concerned. According to the authors, this type of counselling was exclusively directed against sects.


On the other hand, the authors found that there were also a number of counsellors who were pursuing an unbiased counselling approach, i.e. they appealed to the personal responsibility of the individuals affected, built upon existing

resources and defined a counselling objective that could be achieved jointly with those who came for advice; at the end of this process, the individual concerned could either reassess his or her sect membership or accept the status



In addition to being very active in making presentation and organising information events at schools, community centres and other adult education institutions, many counselling centres in the field of sects were also providing advice

to the media.


According to the authors of the expert report, the counselling services currently available in the field of sects provided necessary, albeit insufficient help for people who were in a difficult situation in their lives due to the influence of "so-

called sects and psychogroups". In many cases, counselling services helped to settle conflicts; however, they could also be a source of conflicts, especially in conjunction with publicised opinions. The term "sect counselling" as used in the

current discussion referred to very heterogeneous fields of activity so that it was very difficult to agree on objectives and to delineate specific areas of responsibility. As a result of this situation, there were repeated misunderstandings which led to new problems.


For this reason, the authors recommended that agreement should be reached with regard to the range of responsibilities, as well as the objectives and the limits of sect counselling services, and that binding definitions should be adopted

for this purpose; and that qualification criteria and profiles for counsellors as well as qualification strategies could only be developed as a subsequent step.


When defining the various areas of responsibility, the authors of the report identified three major fields for counselling services:


          information and education,


          psychological counselling/therapy, and




They suggested that these three fields should not be seen in isolation from each other; instead, they were interlinked. This interdependency is illustrated by the following triangle:





According to the authors, information and education is the basis for any counselling work, based on professional competency, a detailed and responsible documentation, as well as an intensive exchange of information among the var-

ious players involved in the counselling process, i.e.:


          self-help groups,


          psychosocial counselling centres,




The authors pointed out that there was a consensus to the effect that for individuals who were directly or indirectly affected the term "sects counselling" also implied psychological counselling, and that there was a need for such services.


The third area of responsibility arose from the fact that many of the conflicts developing in connection with "so-called sects and psychogroups" could not be resolved by means of currently practised forms of counselling. Instead, an

obvious choice would be the use of mediation methods, i.e. exchanging contrary positions with the help of a neutral and impartial mediator and identifying points of conflict in order to work out alternatives and options in a common dialogue and to develop a consensual result, based on the responsibility of the parties involved.


Mediation was already successfully being applied in many fields of societal problems (divorce, neighbourhood conflicts, environmental conflicts, etc.).


b)                   Quality characteristics of information and counselling provided by non-governmental bodies


The basis of any information, education and counselling activities must always be knowledge on the part of the staff involved and an extensive and up-to-date




documentation on the groups concerned. Since the various counselling centres are rarely able to do this by themselves and since the necessary objectivity can only be achieved by comparing information from a variety of sources, the cen-

tres should be attached to a (formal or informal) network of institutions whose data flow they can use. Currently, the work of the centres is hampered by the fact that centralised and readily available scientific archives and collections of

documents either do not exist or are inaccessible for many of the counselling centres. However, effective information and counselling activities also require personal experience and possibly contacts with the groups concerned. People

seeking information and advice expect the staff in the counselling centres to know enough in order to be able to put themselves into their position and to share their perspective. Based on this platform, it is also possible to describe a

number of specific responsibilities for information, assistance and counselling centres:


          public and private information and education,


          public and private mediation,


          short counselling sessions, helping individuals to help themselves,


          mediating contacts for medical, social, legal, educational help, etc.,


          crisis interventions,


          practical, ethical and ideological orientation,


          psychological counselling,


          therapeutic interventions.


It is obvious that it is not possible for one centre, let alone one person, to pursue all the objectives in the same way. This is due, among other things, to the fact that this would require an unrealistic accumulation of communication structures and professional competencies. In addition, the skills required for an effective implementation of the functions are mutually exclusive. Crisis intervention calls for different structures and skills than conventional psychological counselling. Furthermore, public education can conflict with therapeutic objectives.


Overprofessionalised staff can even hamper effective help for self-help, etc.


Moreover, individuals who come for advice will only ask for orientation if they have confidence in the counsellors' judgement, i.e. the counsellors' own ideological views must be close to the views of the people who come for help. For

these reasons, it is necessary to have a network of organisations and support institutions which vary in terms of their institutional and professional background; this network, in turn, has access to existing institutions (psychothera-

peutic services, rehabilitation, psychological counselling, youth welfare departments, social welfare offices, citizens' legal advice bureaux, bureaux providing advice for individuals in debt, etc.). The purpose of this co-operation is not full




alignment of skills, positions and objectives; instead, this co-operation is designed to serve people in need of help. To this end, efforts should be stepped up to develop and cultivate useful contacts.


More specifically, the various skills required can be described as follows:


Staff working in professionally operating centres should have the ability and the skill to mediate between the groups and the individuals affected or -- via media contacts -- between the groups and the public; however, such skills cannot be expected from self-help groups (see below). All in all, there is hardly any practical experience with mediation; for this reason, greater attention should be paid to this function in the future.


Since individuals seeking advice -- even if the contact is short -- often want more than just mere factual information; they also expect all kinds of practical and personal advice; hence, the counselling centres must either be able themselves to provide psychosocial and psychological counselling, or they must be able to refer the individuals concerned to others who can provide such counselling. If individuals need psychotherapeutic treatment, the centres must also be able to recognise this and provide the help which these individuals need. Some counselling centres are run by institutions which have a clear ideological bias, in particular the major Churches. Others acquire a public ideological profile due to their media presence (action groups of individuals affected, etc.). Such counselling centres are often expected to provide not only concrete help and psychological counselling but also orientation, help to enable individuals to take their own decisions, ideological orientation (spiritual welfare in the case of counselling centres run by the Churches). The most frequent case in this kind of centre seems to be that members of radical Christian groups or their relatives turn to counselling centres run by the major Churches. Providing orientation is not incompatible with providing objective information and quality advice, as long as the individuals who come for advice can clearly recognise what institution is running the counselling centre and what its ideological positioning is; and as

long as the individuals have deliberately chosen a given centre; and as long as the position of the counsellors can also be discussed during the counselling process.


While it is not possible to draw a clear line between psychological counselling in the narrower sense and ideological orientation as well as psychosocial counselling on the one hand, and psychotherapy on the other hand. However, psychological counselling should retain its independent character, and it should only be provided by the counselling centre itself if the staff of the centre have not only the necessary knowledge in the field but also the counselling skills required.


These skills which professional counsellors must have include (aside from the indispensable factual knowledge with regard to the group or movement concerned) primarily the abilities and professional qualifications which are normally

needed for psychological counselling. According to common belief, the conflicts in which new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are




involved do not represent such a specialised field that this would require special psychological or therapeutic training. However, counselling staff should attend further education courses to be familiarised with the common conversion

theories (see Chapter 3.6) as well as relevant knowledge in the fields of psychology and sociology of religion, which are not part of the standard training of psychological counsellors.


4.2.5 Lay helpers


Under certain conditions, lay people can also have the skills required for counselling. Because of the major role played in this field of work by self-help groups and initiatives of affected individuals, this point is discussed in greater detail

below: In the wake of the movement of the 1968 generation, self-help groups developed into a major/important factor in the fields of social affairs and health.


The oldest, still active initiatives of affected individuals date back to those days.


In the context of a self-help group, the term "lay person" first of all means that the individual involved is not a trained professional with a given title, and secondly that the person involved works in this field as a volunteer instead of

exercising a profession. Within the spectrum of lay helpers, there is considerable variation in terms of the level of knowledge and skills acquired by the individuals concerned. With regard to problem-related skills, it is possible to find all kinds of transitional forms, including  --  at one end of the scale  --  "pure" self-help groups composed of people without any professional knowledge at all and  --  at the other end of the scale  --  volunteers who may be far more knowledgeable, due to their practical experience, than professional counsellors. Hence, the terms "lay people" and "experts" can be defined to a limited extent only on the basis of differences in skills in terms of information and help.

However, there are other differences: Lay helpers are typically not oriented towards acquiring the kind of general competency which a training curriculum will provide; instead, they are interested in acquiring specific problem-solving skills in keeping with their commitment. Against this background, lay helpers stand for a specific objective of helping, rather than for a sector of helping. In addition, the roles played by lay helpers are different from those played by professional helpers, and lay help is based on different communication structures. Lay helpers, for instance, tend to leave more responsibility for what happens to those who come for help than professional helpers do. This is fostered by the fact that lay helpers are more similar to those who seek help than professionals can ever be.


The principle often is that lay persons who have been affected themselves help other affected individuals based on their experience and their insights. Even where this is not the case, the problem perception of lay helpers is closer  --  in

terms of the complexity and the assumed cause/effect relations  --  to the perception of those who come for help. In so far, lay helpers can be expected to be objective, but not neutral or uninvolved. On the contrary, under certain circum-

stances it may be beneficial to blend personal contacts with the provision of help.




The features used in literature to describe lay helpers can be summarised as follows:


          voluntary and side-line activity,


          specific problem-oriented skills (instead of general professionally-oriented skills),


          concentration on a limited group of people who seek help,


          concentration on a limited objective of helping,


          helpers assume less responsibility for the influencing process, or they leave more responsibility to those who seek help,


          tendency towards having a symmetrical role distribution in the relationship between helpers and individuals seeking help,


          use of everyday terminology and everyday forms of communication,


          closeness to individuals who come for help or towards their situation (no general "detachment"),


          proximity to the perception and explanation patterns of those who seek help.


Such a lay status obviously involves both advantages and disadvantages with regard to the solution of the issues listed above. Self-help groups and counselling centres run by groups of affected individuals, etc. are primarily able to build

up a relationship of trust quickly with the individuals who come for help; on this basis, they can provide information and education, offer orientation, carry out short and pragmatically-oriented counselling sessions, help other centres

quickly and unbureaucratically, suggest or possibly implement crisis interventions, and in a longer-term perspective help individuals to help themselves.


Except for self-help groups, there is hardly anyone else who can provide the supportive involvement of personally affected individuals who enter into longer-term relationships with other people who have had similar experiences. However, most self-help centres would be overtaxed if they were asked to provide extensive counselling with substantial therapeutic elements, let alone carry out psychotherapeutic interventions (see the cases analysed in 4.2.3 above); or they would have to co-operate with professional service providers.

4.2.6 Conclusions


The information and counselling services available in the field of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are found in a grey zone between social issues and ideological controversy. Maybe it is for this reason that the supporting professional and scientific framework for this field is still insufficient. This has been clearly demonstrated by the two expert reports discussed above.


However, they have also shown that counselling is seen in a broader context.


The findings obtained from the expert report on "The need for counselling and the underlying conflicts" have underlined that the professionalisation of this work is being tackled "bottom up", i.e. at the initiative of self-help groups.




However, full professionalisation of information and counselling activities cannot be an objective. In this case, self-help would lose its strengths. 124 ) On the other hand, the provision of information and counselling should not be left exclusively to personally affected individuals. Instead, professional help and self-help should be promoted in the framework of a comprehensive concept and in recognition of their respective strengths. In practice, however, there should always be a clear line between the different roles of lay helpers and professional counsellors. In addition,

the objectives and limits of the counselling activities of either group must also be clearly defined. This clarity of the relationship is necessary not only for those who help and those who seek help but also for the persons concerned in their environment in order to work out common problem solutions.


The question as to how the necessary combination of skills and the right distribution of responsibilities between professional and lay helpers can be achieved in a given case is not yet clear. The above-mentioned study on the "Promotion of self-help by means of self-help contact centres", for instance, does not mention "sects counselling centres" at all. However, both in psychology and in sociology attempts have been made to apply methods to this problem area. 125 )


The Enquete Commission feels that the availability of information and counselling services can only be guaranteed by means of co-operation among lawyers, doctors, psychotherapists, pastors, scholars of religious studies, debt counsellors and experts from other fields concerned.


However, the purpose of providing a professional and scientific framework for information and counselling activities cannot be to formulate a type of ideal self-help group. This would negate the strengths of self-help. Instead, it is not only conceivable but also desirable that centres with various skills and priorities exist side by side in a network of institutions which provide help.

4.3 Education and continuing education


4.3.1 Information and education provided to individuals and associations


Governmental information and education programmes for individuals and associations focused on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups should be aimed at several objectives: first of all, to ward off dangers; secondly, to protect the individual's freedom of religion and ideology by



124 ) For a more detailed discussion, see Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Senior Citizens (ed.): Selbsthilfef�rderung durch Selbsthilfekontaktstellen, study conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Senior Citizens, Cologne, 1992.

125 ) Cf. inter alia Roderigo, B.: Sektenberatung als gesellschaftliche Herausforderung, Materialdienst der EZW 59, 1996, pp. 324 -- 331; Utsch, M.: Kooperation von Information und Beratung in der Weltanschauungsarbeit, Materialdienst der EZW 61, 1998, pp. 129 -- 136; Eiben, J./Krekel, E.M./Sauerwein, K.-H.: Soziologische Beratung im Alltag, Sozialwissenschaften und Berufspraxis 19, 1996, pp. 223 -- 241.




carrying out information or education activities which enable the individual to take informed decisions; thirdly, to protect the free expression of opinion in the religious/ideological discourse by creating a favourable general setting; and

fourthly, to promote peaceful coexistence among various religious and ideological communities, and where applicable, their integration into society. The first two points play a particularly important role in the fields of training/education

(school, university, etc.) and statutory protection of young people in public places.

Information provided by government


Governmental education and information on specific groups by means of brochures, press releases, conferences, etc. continues to be necessary. However, these activities should be focused on those groups which are particularly problematic and/or particularly widespread and whose risk potential is well documented and clearly identifiable. Cases in point include the risk of sexual abuse of children on the part of the "Children of God" (now: Family) 126 ) and the

hazards posed by the Scientology Organisation for the health and the property of individuals. Aside from this, governmental information should be oriented towards specific conflicts, e.g. the conflict between the civil rights and the right of self-determination of individuals on the one hand, and the insistence of a religious group on rigid compliance with their rules of life, on the other. In this case, the social characteristics of groups that create dependency, as well as the characteristics of personality cults, etc. would be important issues to be dealt with in educational campaigns in the field of statutory protection of young people in public places. The Commission's report contains a detailed account of other fields of conflict and the associated target groups for educational activities.


A particularly high conflict potential is currently ascribed to the numerous problematic life-counselling services available in the so-called psycho-market; some of these services are provided by organised communities. This would be

an area that governmental education measures should concentrate on. Governmental education should also be considerably enhanced by providing counselling and help. Elsewhere in this Report, the Commission proposes that for this purpose, public funding of relevant research, counselling and education should be bundled and co-ordinated by establishing a foundation. The recommendations made here should be seen in a wider context together with this proposal.


While there is a need for public information, some controversial groups are pursuing a policy of disinformation  --  and some (VPM, Universal Life, and especially Scientology) even intimidate critics, if only by inundating them with lawsuits. For this reason, the involvement of governmental agencies in the flow of information must also be seen as a contribution towards ensuring that public opinion can flow unhindered. In addition, public education measures carried out by governmental



126 ) Cf. Hemminger, H./Thiede, W.: Kindheit und Jugend bei den "Kindern Gottes", EZW 131/1996.




agencies should have a de-escalating effect in the public debate because of the government's special obligation (subject to judicial review under administrative law) to maintain neutrality; in addition, such public education measures put into perspective or provide a useful addition to the opinions expressed by other parties to a conflict. The network of well-informed counselling centres  --  which is also necessary for other reasons  --  should be enabled by means of appropriate measures to collect and exchange information/knowledge (networking), so that this information can be made available to governmental agencies, individuals who seek advice, institutions responsible for the administration of justice, etc. In addition, the network of well-informed counselling centres should participate on a large scale in the dissemination of information to the public at large.


School education


School education currently does not prepare individuals for life in a religiously and ideologically pluralistic society with all the problems involved. Against the background of increasing cultural and religious pluralism, school education

should increasingly promote intercultural learning processes. The purpose of such learning processes is to facilitate intercultural tolerance and a reflected, critical examination of pluralistic life-styles and ideologies. It is also in this

framework that the world religions and new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups should be examined in detail. There is one aspect which has not yet been sufficiently considered to date: Because of our society's

individualisation  --  which is associated with a loss of the individual's integration into the community and the life world  --  there is an increasing likelihood that individuals will switch their religion and ideology in the course of their lives, and that individuals will be more readily susceptible to "quick conversions" than in the past.


Religion belongs to those convictions (and the resulting practices in life) that enjoy special protection under the German Constitution. For this reason, teaching is a matter of the religious communities involved. It is the responsibility of the Churches and the other religious communities which teach religious education in public schools to examine the curricula for this school subject, and to introduce or extend the scope of courses that deal with the subject of new reli-

gious and ideological communities and psychogroups, where this has not so far been done.


Since many young people opt out of denominational religious education as a subject taught in schools, it is obvious that the schools cannot remedy the shortcomings mentioned above. Instead of denominational education, schools should therefore generally introduce a teaching unit on religion, where this has not yet been done. The purpose of teaching this subject should be to provide information on the world's major religions, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, and also on the fundamental issue of religion.




What is often lacking in school curricula is background information on the world's major religions and on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. In this context, it would also be necessary to discuss the conflict-proneness of groups caused by radical or problematic structures. What should never be overlooked when such teaching units are introduced is that imparting cognitive knowledge about traditional and new forms of religion cannot replace denominational religious education which is also aimed at generating a religious awareness and religious commitment; instead, general information on religion can only prepare the ground for a tolerant and critical stance towards ideologies and religious beliefs.


In addition, such a teaching unit would have to be embedded in a subject-related yet interdisciplinary school culture of a moral discourse on the ethical/cultural and ideological/religious orientation patterns of foreigners. Furthermore, such a teaching unit should also consider the everyday experience of young people in their lives.


As a rule, the teachers who teach ethics or "values and norms", etc. (as a substitute for religion) did not receive any academic training in this subject at a university. For this reason, the introduction of a regular course of studies in this

field is indispensable. The topic of "contemporary, new religious movements" should be given adequate attention in such a new course of studies. At present, the subject is taught by teachers who are either personally interested or who

could not refuse when they were asked to teach this subject. It is not acceptable that the teachers of this subject are the only teachers in German schools who have to rely almost exclusively on attending sporadic continuing education

courses. Some of Germany's federal states (e.g. Thuringia) have taken action to improve this situation. However, since the subject has by now been introduced in almost all federal states, albeit under different names and with different con-

cepts, it is necessary to provide scientifically-based training.


While "world religions" is a topic which is dealt with in the teachers' academic training in the framework of theology and religious studies, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are even less well represented at

universities than in school education. An international comparison has also shown that despite the social and intellectual importance of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, only scant attention is paid to them at German universities in the fields of research and teaching. Hence, there is also need for action at this level: Relevant courses should be made available, for instance, for students of social sciences, religious studies and theology, but also for students of psychology and law.


The Enquete Commission feels that it is desirable that the state-level governments in Germany  --  and more specifically, the Conference of the Ministers of Education  --  should create the conditions for the provision of qualified teaching in this field by allowing teachers to obtain proper academic training.




4.3.2 Information and education provided to public officials


Often it is not so much a lack of legal opportunities that prevents the judiciary, administrative bodies, etc. from taking necessary and sufficient action; instead, it is a lack of knowledge with regard to new religious and ideological commu-

nities and psychocults. For this reason, higher priority should be given in future to internal further education. This will be particularly important for: I institutions responsible for the administration of justice, I investigating authorities (public prosecutors' offices, criminal investigation departments),


          youth welfare offices and other agencies in charge of the statutory protection of youth in public places,


          health authorities.


For all of Germany's judges, there is currently only one further education course organised by the German Academy of Judges which lasts several days and which can be attended by approximately 30 participants per year. The further

education opportunities for members of the administration, the police, etc. are similarly limited. While this shortcoming is remedied in part by the provision of written information, some of which is of high quality, this information material is not centrally co-ordinated or utilised, and it is not (yet) available from one central source. Individual committed experts  --  primarily employed in the administration of Germany's state-level governments  --  are regularly inundated by the large number of inquiries and requests for information. For this reason, they should be effectively supported by a central unit providing information material and further education courses. Once again, however, there is a lack of research in some areas; hence, it is necessary to make funds available in order to foster the gradual development of a sound research base.


Furthermore, the Commission has found out in the course of its work that the skills available in counselling centres vary widely; the same applies to the counselling concepts used, most of which have been pragmatically developed by

the counsellors themselves, due to the lack of scientific groundwork. What is missing is the application of research findings (some of which have yet to be developed) and systematic experience in practice. For this reason, government

should organise or provide funds for the continuing education of voluntary and paid counsellors, and for the development and testing of scientifically-based counselling concepts. In a longer-term perspective, such activities may lead to the development of yardsticks to assess the competency of counsellors, i.e. quality criteria for the provision of public funding for information and counselling centres.




4.3 Research and teaching


In the Federal Republic of Germany, research is largely financed by means of third-party funds (i.e. resources not included in the basic budgets and personnel resources of universities and other institutions) from various sources.

According to 1990 data, German universities received 37 percent of their third-party funds for research from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG  --  German Research Foundation), which obtains a total budget of approximately DM 2 billion per

year from the German Federal Government and from Germany's state-level governments. About 29 percent of the third-party funds came from other federal budgets; 15 percent came from industry and associations, and 10 percent was

made available by foundations and other funding bodies (VW Foundation, Robert Bosch Foundation, etc.). According to the 1998 facts sheet on so-called third-party funds published in the Federal Research Report (actual amounts

spent in 1995), German universities had a total budget of DM 14.4 billion for research and development, of which DM 4.5 billion were third-party funds which came from the following sources: DM 1.7 billion from DFG; DM 1.1 billion from the German Federal Government; DM 0.1 billion from state-level governments; DM 0.3 billion from abroad/international organisations; and DM 1.2 billion from industry and foundations. However, the funds for the basic budgets of the universities are made available by Germany's state-level governments or by institutions sponsoring the universities. In Germany, research and development are financed by the German Federal Government, the state-level governments and industry; and research and development are carried out by industry, the universities, and non-university institutions. Such non-university institutions include:  the Max Planck Institutes, the centres of the Hermann von Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and of the Fraunhofer Institute, as well as federal and state-level research institutions.

Hence, there are several options for governmental action designed to promote a specific research sector: direct funding made available primarily by the German Federal Government (funding of projects, prompting the establishment of

research institutions); recommendations made to DFG; and co-operation with relevant societies and foundations.

Indirectly, the universities  --  which are financed by Germany's state-level governments but which are independent with regard to the establishment and funding of specific departments  --  can be asked to pay greater attention in future to "new religious and ideological communities and psychocults" when planning the appropriation of their basic bud-

gets and the use of their personnel. However, a more detailed discussion of the concrete steps to be taken in order to implement the Commission's recommendations made below would go beyond the scope of this Report.


In its work, the Enquete Commission was able to rely on extensive literature sources and practical experience, which  --  taken together  --  enabled the Commission to analyse the problems associated with so-called sects and psychogroups and to describe political actions required in several problem areas.




Lack of scientific findings can therefore not be used as an argument to justify any failure to act; quite useful data were found, for instance, especially in certain conflict areas in which there was a particularly urgent need for action. On the

other hand, the Commission found considerable research deficits in several of the fields which it had studied; these deficits imposed limits on the Commission's ability to describe and analyse problems. In some cases, there were no

pertinent findings in international scientific literature; in other cases, Germany lagged behind the international state-of-the-art in science. In yet other cases, the knowledge gained in practice (e.g. by counselling centres and governmental

agencies) was not centrally collected, or sufficiently systematised and scientifically studied. Hence, research in this area suffers from shortcomings both structurally and in terms of the subject matter covered (see Chapter 6.2.9).



5  Analysis of specific priority issues

5.1 Forms of social control and psychological destabilisation

5.1.1 Issues


In the following chapter, the Enquete Commission states its views on the question of psychological manipulation. In particular, the Commission seeks to answer the following questions:


          What are the causes that lead to contact with, and recruitment of, potential new members, as well as their acculturation (conversion, attachment) and long-term membership in a conflict-prone community?


          Which of these causes could be described as manipulation of the individual by the groups?


          What forms of manipulation lead to psychological dependency?


          What forms of manipulation should be characterised as immoral or possibly even unlawful?

5.1.2 Problems


There is a major gap between scientific descriptions of the factors seen as likely to cause the above-mentioned processes and everyday experience. This is particularly true of the many reports of individual experiences, as contrasted with scientific pronouncements on the subject. The spectrum ranges from the view that all interactions between the individual and groups perceived as offensive are determined by conscious and deliberate methods of manipulation by the community, to the view that the causes of these interactions and their results are largely a matter of individual discretion and that the group's attempt at influence have no effect. This in turn gives rise to very different views as to the ethics of these kinds of interaction. Roughly speaking, in the public debate on these matters, interaction theories tend on the whole to be contrasted with seduction theories. This is an emotional subject, one that is freighted with value

judgements, and people's predilections tend to govern their selection of data; positions are taken that are hard to defend in scientific terms. In scientific circles, there is only minority support for seduction theories. 127 ) In part these theories are based on the assumption that manipulative methods of persuasion



127 ) Cf. Saliba, J. A.: Psychiatry and the Cults. An Annotated Bibliography, New York, London 1987 and loc. cit.: Social Science and the Cults. An Annotated Bibliography, New York, London 1990 and the contributions in the public hearing on the subject of "Psychotechniques" on 14 April 1997 in the Enquete Commission's interim report on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", German Bundestag, 13 th legislative period: Doc. 13/8170 of 7 July 1997, pp. 28 -- 31.




can also give rise to abnormal and dependent brain states that are susceptible to physiological diagnosis. More plausible, and supported by a majority of scholars concerned with the problem, is the assumption that it is not methods

or techniques, but basic knowledge and the values, ideas and images of human beings and the world it implies and transmits, that matter most, even as concerns the impact of individual "techniques". Moreover, they see manipulative

intentions as depending not only on systems of ideas and values, but on the "dose" that is administered and the accompanying socio-psychological processes, irrespective of the content that is administered. 128 )


The processes of acculturation in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are comparable with socialisation in other social groups and with educational processes. The difference lies mainly in the massive nature of

the influence exerted on the individual, and the deliberate attempt to monopolise his attention.


Any legal judgement of such interactions can only be based on social actions which initiate heterosocialisation and autosocialisation processes for the purpose of generating or perpetuating inner states of mind: Teaching, therapy,

training and other measures. Since religious group behaviour is learnt and maintained through the same mechanisms, there is no need for a special theory on sect socialisation. Belief in the efficacy of particular social techniques, pro-

cedures or methods presumably plays a larger role in the spiritual sphere, but even in what regards itself as the secular world this phenomenon is not unknown. 129 )


So-called ecstatic experiences that occur in connection with meditation can be especially convincing and plausible  --  experiences of peace, calm, wholeness, or ecstatic experiences in which boundaries are dissolved, "cosmic conscious-

ness", seeing light, and so forth. Such experiences can occur spontaneously or be methodically induced by certain techniques. Experiences of this kind can be fulfilling and liberating ("peak experiences"), but may also be regressive or

destructive, depending on the methods, the individual's disposition, and the skills of those applying the methods. Although experiences of this kind, while under the influence of a group or doctrine, may develop a momentum of their

own and a kind of persuasiveness and plausibility, and although in the event of abusive or improper application, forms of dependency are possible, it is questionable whether the manipulative use of such methods and techniques can indeed lead to socialisation in certain groups (by analogy with the assumptions about "brain washing").


The potential dangers of social techniques can only be assessed to the extent that we can identify the associated human images, value systems and theories.



128 ) Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, loc. cit., p. 29.

129 ) Cf. Barker, E.: Authority and Dependence in New Religious Movements, p. 237, in Wilson, B. (ed.): Religion: Contemporary Issues, London 1992, pp. 237 -- 255.




In the course of the Enquete Commission's inquiries, it gradually became clear that people are not so much influenced by the application of specific techniques, rather that there has to be a convergence of influences on different levels, above all socio-psychologically created dependencies and social control mechanisms.


5.1.3 Levels of psychological dependency


The concept of "psychological" or "emotional" dependency is not a technical term used in psychology, although it crops up frequently in the literature on new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. It is also used in the scientific literature, although the psychological process whereby psychological dependency arises and is maintained must regarded as unclear. It describes the experiences of people who, seen from the outside, are subject to the strong

influence of a group or an authority which appears to be detrimental to them, or who are noticeably lacking in perspective or critical faculty, although both  --  in the judgement of outsiders  --  would be appropriate. One way this concept describes such experiences is by analogy with the phenomenon of addiction.


This view also suggests comparison with political and family forms of dependency, which are based on the exercise of power, actual or potential.


The usefulness of this term is examined below, and a working definition will be proposed.


Psychological dependency and addiction


Psychological dependency is often compared with the phenomenon of addiction. Addiction consists in a powerful inner need  --  not amenable to control by the will  --  regularly to engage in a particular form of behaviour, or to have a particular experience, which is sought or performed in stereotypical fashion.


If this behaviour is inhibited, the result is stress, anxiety states, disorientation and possibly hyperactivity or depressive states (i.e. withdrawal symptoms). The readiness to engage in addictive behaviour arises less as a reaction to circum-

stances than as an inwardly-motivated retreat from the possibilities of self-regulation.


Similarities to psychological dependency in the sense presented here may be seen in the apparently compulsive nature of the behaviour. On closer examination, however, this compulsiveness (e.g. the stereotyped parroting of the group's

slogans) turns out to be situation-specific, i.e. it is a way of dealing with people who are perceived as critical or hostile. However, it is less any intrapsychological causes that are crucial here than ways of relating to the outside world that are adopted when joining the group, including their emotional elements. In other words, this behaviour is an integral part of the "group culture", and almost always disappears in the event of deconversion.




Even so, there are numerous examples of particular experiences (auditing in Scientology, ecstatic experiences, meditative contemplation, etc.) which do give rise to quasi-addictive behaviour in certain individuals. Such experiences may be compulsively sought even after withdrawal from the group, although in that case outside the group. It may nevertheless be asked whether this dependence on experiences is an essential part of dependence on persons or the community, or whether it is not rather an individual symptom. In many individual cases, though, there undoubtedly is a resemblance to drug addiction.


For these reasons, the comparison between addiction and commitment to an extremist community can be seen as having only limited validity, and is seen to be clearly dependent on what view is taken of the particular group culture.


In the special case where commitment to the group is maintained not through positive gratification but through fear (of loss of orientation or relationship), it is possible to draw an analogy with addiction. 130 )


Psychological dependency and the exercise of power


Rather more plausible than the analogy with addiction is the comparison with other strong and exclusive social bonds. From research on the psychology of groups and from various experiments, we know about the general susceptibility

to seduction by a given "group culture". "Group" is taken to mean a community in which belonging or not belonging is definable. This is what distinguishes them from masses or aggregations, i.e. a fortuitous collection of people. By

definition, the group consists of an "in-group" and an "out-group", of "us" and "them". Groups are defined not only by the group boundary, but also by the relations among the "insiders", which are mostly structured by means of particular roles. Every group needs a certain period of time to build up the "in-group feeling", and to develop positions and roles.

The internal and external relationships of a group are based on the community's definition of itself. It arises therefore from the group identity, which determines the nature of the members' relations among themselves and vis-�-vis the out-

side world.


Normally, a group does not represent an individual's entire social environment, since he or she will belong to a number of groups which have different functions and are of varying importance. This means that the influence on the individual of

any one group is kept within bounds, just as that influence is augmented if the group's claim on the individual is exclusive and purports to explain the meaning of life.



130 ) Such an analogy is drawn, for instance, by Leo Booth, in "When God becomes a Drug. Breaking the Chain of Religious Addiction and Abuse", Los Angeles 1991. His phase model and the pattern of addiction on which it is based does not amount to a radical critique of religion, but rather criticises "bad use" of religion which leads to loss of self-esteem and of a healthy relationship with the world.




This must also be borne in mind when evaluating the behaviour of members of extremist groups, before any attempt is made to explain individual behaviour.


The internal and external relationships of groups are based on the structures of their self-definition and on the group's identity as it has taken shape historically in interaction with its surroundings.


Some well-researched properties of groups are important for an understanding of the behaviour of members of extremist communities:

          Groups are more easily impelled to outwardly-directed joint acts of aggression which can be used, looking inward, for the generation of group cohesion and, looking outward, for the generation of enemy images.


          Groups always generate (formal or informal) hierarchies. So far as authority is concerned, the distribution of roles is invariably asymmetrical. One way in which extremist and socially adjusted communities often differ is in the degree to which the influence of higher-ranking members is subject to restriction.


          In groups there is an effect known as the "diffusion of responsibility", which gives the individual a feeling of shared responsibility. This can have a positive effect in encouraging the individual, but it can also discourage action. The more exclusive the commitment to the group, the stronger this effect is, so that one can speak of a seduction of the individual.


          Groups generate an effect known as "risk shift". By this is meant that groups help to overcome people's indecisiveness and hesitation. Since risks are perceived as being shared and as insignificant for the individual, the readiness to undertake definite action is the greater. This can have either positive or negative consequences: Negative consequences become probable where high-ranking members of the group exploit the group's disinclination to wait and see before acting in order to push their own interests and to suppress criticism.


Interpretations of the causes of psychological dependency range from the prevention of emotional maturation or emotional trauma earlier in life, to dependency on the basis of complex emotional, social and financial commitments.

The common basis of all these interpretations seems to be the individual's inability to distance himself from the community and its overweening self-concept because of powerful unconscious anxieties.


The contribution of conversion research


The formation of a powerful commitment to a group, and the negative consequences this can entail, usually goes along with acts of conversion, which in these groups is often firmly institutionalised or at least socially expected, and in

which the convert assents to and adopts the particular structures that embody the group's claim to plausibility.




Scientific literature identifies four sets of factors that contribute to conversion:


          propitious factors in society,


          demographic and life-cycle factors,


          factors associated with the convert's own disposition,


          factors potentiated by recruitment efforts, manipulation and deception on the part of the groups.


As already mentioned, the relative weight to be attached to these factors is hotly disputed, and opinion is sharply divided between those who place the emphasis on personality characteristics and those who believe that dependency is induced by manipulative techniques. The former see the (positive or negative) coping with conflicts made possible by the intense relationship with a group, the latter regard the relationship itself as the expression of a psychosocial disorder.


However, the question whether converts willingly embrace dependency or are made dependent cannot be clearly answered one way or the other. There is obviously an interaction here between individual personality and the influence of outside factors: Only this explains the establishment of these intense relationships.


The findings as regards personality factors are not clear-cut, and the following points are under discussion:


          depressive moods, including feelings of meaninglessness and homelessness,


          bad personal and family situations, severe personal crises,


          social decline, unemployment, the sense of having no prospects in life,


          religious models used to explain problems, religious patterns of behaviour,


          external "locus of control" (attribution of causality to others, dependence on the judgement of others),


          narcissistic personality structure,


          drug problems.


It is interesting that most studies have found idealistic or religious motives to be of rather small importance. By and large it is motives fed by difficulties of intra-psychological and interpersonal existence that predominate. The studies also agree that, despite this, we are not here dealing with a particularly disturbed group of persons, rather that the problems they encounter largely reflect average experiences. The conclusion remains that people's willingness to forge an intense inner bond with extremist, closed communities often has to do with efforts on the part of converts to cope with emotional instability and/or precarious social situations.


The fourth set of factors conducive to conversion, those having to do with the behaviours and properties of groups, only come into play in the situation of the actual encounter.




The important factors are:


          the persuasiveness and trustworthiness of the recruiter,


          recruitment by reference individuals or the establishment of positive relations with followers,


          effective techniques for inducing dependency.


The question whether it is possible to induce an intense commitment to a group through manipulative recruitment  --  relatively independently of individual predisposition  --  is answered affirmatively in some theories. In fact, however, most of the control methods identified in this connection are those that are found in any group or community. Measures that are manipulative in the specific sense of setting out to weaken physical and mental resistance and to reduce the critical faculty are found in widely differing degrees in different groups, and in some extremist groups are not found at all.


As concerns the actual process of conversion, most authors agree that it consists of three phases. The first involves a concerted effort to destabilise and disorientate the subject. In the second, the person is presented with a new attractor, i.e. a new system of ideas. In a third phase this new mind-set is stabilised. The existence of these three phases can easily be demonstrated experimentally by studying the attribution of meaning to perceptions and the way this attribution of meaning changes. The process that operates here is a perfectly natural and frequently recurring one. The necessary destabilisation, for instance, can be induced by giving people the idea they are not fully developed, that they are disturbed, that they must do something about themselves. In the second phase they learn what the new system of ideas means, with its own special language, while in the stabilisation phase they are isolated from the social environment the moment they become unsure or start to be critical. This three-step process crops up again and again,

and is very well known in psychology as one way of influencing people's minds; in many cases it obviously works to perfection. 131 ) Among these models of dependency are some that are specifically "religious�  --  or, if they appear in "non-religious� contexts, can turn the latter into "religious� ones. 132 )


Manifestations of psychological dependency


Generalising on the basis of the published experience reports, we may identify the following components of the concept "psychological dependency":


          lack of distance vis-�-vis the community, lack of will, apparent compulsiveness of behaviour, forms of behaviour that are alien to the personality (measured against the expectations of outsiders),



131 ) Cf. the remarks by Prof. Stadler in the Enquete Commission's public hearing on "The situation of children and adolescents in so-called sects and psychogroups") on 13 March 1997, Interim Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", German Bundestag, 13 th legislative period: Bundestag Doc. 13/8170 of 7 July 1997, p. 19f

132 ) Barker, E.: loc. cit., p. 237.




          limitation or loss of previously possible or actual reality-testing,


          everyday activities are largely controlled from outside, measured against normal forms of influence,


          financial, temporal and sexual exploitation (again measured against demands in such areas normally made on other people,


          stereotyped reactions when communicating with outsiders on the subject of the community to which one belongs, in particular the inability to criticise one's own community,


          the erection of strict truth boundaries vis-�-vis former reference persons (parents, other relatives), and in other relations with outsiders,


          reduced importance or even suspension of generally applicable moral principles,


          external attribution of causality within the group's perceptual framework, where this appears implausible to outsiders (e.g. attributing the roots of all conflicts to the group's "enemies"),


          unusual conformity among the followers, measured against the customary range of behaviour and dispositions of ideological communities,


          marked veneration of authority figures, personality cult.


As a working concept, "psychological dependency" is proposed for the state of affairs where an individual has formed an unusually strong and unusually exclusive bond, notably or even predominantly driven by anxiety, with a community which on grounds of religion or ideology exerts an extensive or even exclusive influence on the general orientation and everyday life of its members.


The difference between this and other asymmetrical power relationships  --  which in principle are to be found everywhere  --  lies in the fact that psychological dependency on an extremist group is characterised by a powerful fear of loss and the longer-term mental and behavioural consequences of this fear.


It should be noted that there is an implicit cultural judgement in the identification of dependency in these terms, i.e. the notion that the observed bond is inappropriately strong, that it is harmful for the persons concerned, and that it can be

misused for immoral purposes.


5.1.4 Religious dependency


The Enquete Commission awarded a contract for an expert report to answer the question "What are the characteristic features of religious dependency?"




The resulting report presented by Burkhard Gladigow (assisted by Alexandra Gieser) asks the question  --  irrespective of the general, psychological, sociopsychological or group-dynamic discussion of new religious groups  --  to what

extent and in what way specifically religious forms of dependency can be addressed. The report comes to the following conclusions: Although the history of religion since Schleiermacher has defined religion in terms of a devout feeling of dependency, systematic comparative religion has dealt with specific forms of religious dependency only in a fragmentary manner. Descriptive terms like dependency, submission, obedience, bondage, surrender and their evaluation as a rule depend on whether the respective religious frame of reference is approved and accepted, or not.

The religious history of blind obedience shows the extent to which  --  outside the current "problem of sects"  --  absolute submission to the command of others can become a religious maxim. On closer examination, however, there is no single criterion which can reliably differentiate religious dependency from other kinds of dependency.


The author which comes closest to a specific treatment of the subject is Eileen Barker, a sociologist of religion. 133 ) She takes a clear stand against so-called sect criticism, arguing that dependency is induced in the same way and to the

same degree in other areas of society. Although she adopts a broad definition of dependency, in so doing she denies the existence of a specifically religious dependency. Admittedly, she lumps together patterns and motives which lead

on to structures and modes of dependency: Motives for and expectations of conversion, the ratio of new entrants to drop-outs, claims about interpretation, "heavenly deception", techniques of suggestion, guilt and shame, group jargon,

economic and social dependency.


The most direct treatment of the problem of religious dependency is that of Leo Booth. He establishes a parallel with known forms of addiction, and draws up a catalogue of the symptoms of religious dependency. Case studies of these

symptoms show, however, how closely modelled they are on the conditions of the Christian denominations and their theologies. His purpose is to define religious dependency as a sickness, and to help liberate the sufferer from an abusive, obsessive use of religion, a process that is seen as leading to a new friendship with God as the expression of a healthy spirituality. This definition of religious dependency in terms of the addiction paradigm reduces a highly com-

plex orientation deficit to a physiologically defined withdrawal model. However, more satisfactory concepts that would be broadly applicable are not currently to be found in literature.


As far as the genesis of so-called dependency is concerned, the relevant conversion models are primarily those which, beside the steps from initial



133 ) Loc. cit.




approach to full involvement, also take account of the progressive establishment of religious bonds and their structures. Compared with older models of conversion, since the seventies it has come to be accepted that there is a conscious involvement and active influence on the part of the person seeking to convert. Research based on these more open-ended models looks in the broadest sense at the meanings people attach to their behaviour. This has introduced a new dynamic which allows for a subtle shift of perspective on the part of the convert towards the interaction between predisposition and the actual situation. In the dialectics between chance situation and recruitment strategy, there is a dilemma between the "force" of the particular doctrine and the likelihood of achieving conversions. The report concludes that in order to resolve this dilemma, potential members are made "dependent" gradually, in a process of cautious introduction. So much for the findings of the expert report.


It should of course be borne in mind here that there obviously are people who seek situations and relationships which, seen from outside, would have to be characterised as conducive to psychological dependency. In such cases the  religious tenets of the group correspond to people's individual needs.

5.1.5 Levels of social control and manipulative elements


The manipulation of individuals by groups is amply documented. However, such manipulation seems less to cause the interactions as such (first contact, conversion, acculturation, etc.) than to influence the interactions along the lines

of the group objectives and group rules. A distinction may be made here between:


          conscious and deliberate manipulation (methods),


          manipulation through pressure for social conformity,


          self-manipulation for the purpose of adaptation.


These last two forms of influence are a general part of reorientation and acculturation processes, or the phenomenon of day-to-day social control.


In using the concept of social control, however, it must be noted that all paradigms regard it as an instrument for producing social order, not as a reaction to deviance. Moreover, there is no theory that interprets "social control" as a

mechanism of compulsion against which there are no alternative actions. 134 ) On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that there are psychological techniques



134 ) Cf. Hahn, K.: Soziale Kontrolle als soziologischer Grundbegriff. Klassische und neuere Theorien revisited, p. 273. In: Kriminologisches Journal 28 (4, 1996), pp. 261 -- 280.




which make harsh social control possible and in regard to which there are few alternative actions possible. 135 )

Thus, the milieu control identified by Hassan 136 ), consisting of behavioural control, mental control, emotional control and information control cannot, in every case and as a matter of principle, be characterised as "manipulative". Control

of these areas of action is an inevitable component of social interactions in a group or community. The social control that is always associated with intense commitment to a group must therefore be clearly distinguished from the exertion of intentional, methodical influence for the express purpose of manipulation.


How the results of social control are judged in psychological and moral terms depends on what view is taken of the "group culture" from which it arises and whose active perpetuation it seeks. If for instance an exaggerated claim to

authority by the leadership produces a situation where questions and criticism are generally not possible, the group's "social control" of the convert means that the latter sees himself confronted with a ban on thought and speech, which

may be compensated for by excessive commitment. However, this is not an



135 ) In the context of so-called total institutions such as penal colonies, the ways in which individuals express themselves can be more comprehensively controlled by a totalitarian organisation so as forcibly to re-educate them to a different personality, one that suits the organisation's purpose. Manipulative social control, misusing psychological knowledge of human reactions, can push people to the point of psychophysical breakdown. Such abuse of methods for modifying behaviour, in flagrant breach of human rights, has been the subject of research in human sciences under the concepts "torture psychology" and "brainwashing", or  --  in milder forms  --  the concept of "mobbing" ("harassment"). The repertoire of hard manipulative control measures includes the generation of physical and mental stress through harassment, overstimulation, or the complete withdrawal of stimuli ("sensory deprivation").


Prolonged sensory deprivation alone can produce acute psychological disorders (hallucinations) and make the victim receptive to indoctrination ("brainwashing"). Working people to their physical limits, sleep deprivation and food deprivation are other means of wearing down the natural resistance to indoctrination. According to studies by the Canadian sociologist St. A. Kent, who described his work to the Enquete Commission, the Scientology Organisation uses control techniques of this kind in its corrective institutions known as "Rehabilitation Project Force" (RPF) in order to socialise recalcitrant members of the so-called Sea Org ("Brainwashing in Scientology� s Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), 1997", Internet address: The Scientology Organisation's former top executive in the USA, L. Wollersheim, was awarded damages of US$ 2.5 million for damage to health sustained in the RPF (Court of Appeal of the State of California, decision of 18 July 1989, ref. B O 23193/ASC (No. C 382827). A former member of the so-called Sea Org gave the Enquete Commission a credible account of his degrading treatment in a European RPF.


The criminologist Chr. Schwarzenegger describes how the Japanese organisation Aum Shinriky� forced its members to meditate 16 to 20 hours a day for several days in succession, during which they suffered food and sleep deprivation (ibid.: �ber das Verh�ltnis von Religion, Sekten und Kriminalit�t. Eine Analyse der kriminologischen und strafrechtlichen Aspekte am Beispiel der japanischen Aum-Shinrikiy�-Sekte, in: Sekten und Okkultismus  --  Kriminologische Aspekte, ed. by Bauhofer, St./ Bolle, P.-H./ Dittmann, V. (Schweizerische Arbeitsgruppe f�r Kriminologie), Chur, Zurich 1996, pp. 211 -- 276). On the application of hard manipulative

social techniques in the business world, see Chapters 5.3.4 and 5.3.5.


136 ) Hassan, St.: Ausbruch aus dem Bann der Sekten, Reinbek 1993, (English: Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester 1988).




intentional method of manipulation; instead, it is an attempt to draw the individual into the group culture. Hence, any criticism must first and foremost be directed at the group culture.


On the other hand, planned and purposeful methods of manipulation in the narrower sense do at least tend to run counter to the basic values of our social order, in that they seek to push "milieu control" to the point where the

individual's freedom is substantially curtailed or even destroyed.


However, in this area too it is not possible (except in extreme cases) to identify cause-effect relationships independently of the biography, the personality and the social situation of the candidate.


All reprehensible methods such as excessive meditation, deprivation of sleep and food, endless indoctrination within the group, "love bombing", etc. depend for their effect mainly on the personal characteristics of the individual concerned. Beyond this, the effect is substantially determined by the intention of the persons or groups exerting the influence. For instance, do they mean to use the suggestible state induced by sleep deprivation to bypass reasonable objections, or not?


These intentions, again, depend on the group's system of ideas and values, not on its methods. Besides, their effect is more strongly dependent on the "dose" than on the agent, as is often assumed. With increasing integration into a group

and dependence on a leader figure, there may be a sort of progressive undertow which can further amplify the individual's existing predisposition towards compulsive repetition and an increase in the dose ("more effect").


5.1.6 Potential dangers


In summary, the element of danger is to be seen mainly in (a) a complex combination of aggressively invasive methods and techniques, (b) their unprofessional application, 137 ) (c) precarious elements in the particular group culture or

group organisation, and (d) individual predisposition.


a)                    Harmful effects cannot with certainty be associated with a specific technique. Any effective method of altering consciousness entails risk; this is true of directive psychotherapy and other scientifically evaluated psychotherapeutic procedures, just as it is of other methods which are offered on the market.


An effective method is also going to entail risks, a method with few "side-effects" will as a rule produce few effects of any kind. So no conclusions about potential dangers can be drawn on the basis of the method alone,



137 ) Cf. the remarks by Prof. Klosinski on the particular need for prudence when using such

techniques with children, in the public hearing of experts on the "Situation of children

and adolescents in so-called sects and psychogroups" on 13 March 1997, Enquete

Commission's Interim Report on "So-called sects and psychogroups", German Bundestag,

13 th legislative period: Doc. 13/8170 of 7 July 1997, p. 23.




although some methods are certainly more effective than others, a fact which is naturally useful for psychotherapy, personality development, etc.


b)                   Of greater interest is the question of the qualifications and the seriousness of those applying the techniques, i.e. their training, professional experience and skills, for example, in running groups. There are many practitioners in the market, frequently applying techniques which they have developed themselves and using titles which they have awarded themselves. Of course, it has to be recognised that psychotherapy today is not yet an integrated field and is still very much dependent on developments which thus far have arisen in a creative sub-culture, if one thinks, for example, of gestalt therapy, psychodrama, certain systemic approaches, etc. Trying to limit the use of psychologically effective techniques exclusively to doctors or psychologists would be pointless, since such techniques are often successfully applied in social work, teaching, supervision, theology and religious ministry. The market seems too broad for the adoption of compulsory standards for practitioners to be feasible at this time.


c)                    There appears to be a more serious potential danger from organisations within which certain methods are applied. If organisations succeed in inducing a potential for dependency, then certain techniques, through their longer-lasting effect and influence, can also have more intensive or more harmful consequences. So, a question which has to be systematically asked is: How dependent and submissive does an organisation make its members, and with what means does it seek to achieve this? How strongly does it dominate and exploit its followers? According to the available clinical experience, the effects of group pressure and moral suasion are far greater than those of any particular method. The criteria developed by the German Association of Psychologists for judging "destructive cults" offers pointers to the evaluation of the potential danger that certain structures can represent. However, it must be recognised that other kinds of authoritarian education with a religious background, in which for example attendance at services and prayer are exacted by force, have consequences similar to those of dogmatic communities or groups. The potential impact of these groups is substantially greater than that of most psychogroups.


d)                   The crucial criterion, at least from the clinical viewpoint, is the personality structure of those who participate in a particular group or measure. A sick or unstable person can decompensate more easily if excessive psychological stress is put upon him. Here, the following four factors obviously operate together:

          a sick or weak personality,

          the scope and effectiveness, i.e. the intensity of the method, 138 )

          the totality and the group pressure of an organisation, and

          the qualification and seriousness of a practitioner, and his inclination to exploit the situation.



138 ) See also Chapter 3.5.3.b.




In view of the situation, whose complex interplay of factors has so far made it opaque and difficult to grasp, there is need for research, especially as concerns the epidemiological aspects. General judgements in this area have as a rule

been based on conspicuous individual cases. How often psychologically effective knowledge or mind-altering techniques or measures are actually applied is something for which there is no epidemiologically useful knowledge that would make it possible to substantiate or refute the general validity or inappropriateness of existing judgements.


Further questions to be followed up in this connection would be to what extent which parts of the population take part in what psychologically effective functions apart from the health service and the counselling dispensed by public or

Church bodies, or apply these in a self-taught manner, what motives there are for this, what positive and negative experiences people have, how wide is the specific area of religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, what are the side-effects of psychologically effective techniques, what (typical) disorders and crises may arise, and what help is appropriate in such cases.


It is only on the basis of interdisciplinary research involving sociology, psychology, psychiatry and possibly other areas that rational guidelines for dealing with this subject can be formulated, the potential dangers delineated, and possibly

also legal constraints placed on potential abuse.

5.1.7 Interim summary


The outwardly perceived modes of behaviour and thought which are described as "psychological dependency" on an extremist religious or ideological community may be academically defined as the consequence of an unusually

intense commitment by the individual to a community which, through its exclusive self-definition as the authority presiding over meaning and values and through the hierarchical power structures that express this self-image, exercises

a high degree of social control, generates a high degree of antagonism towards the outside world, and demands heavy investment of time, money and services to the group and its leadership.


A series of scientific studies already available or commissioned by the German Bundestag suggest that there is a close connection between the life orientation or personality of individuals and the offers made to them, and the demands

made on them, by the communities to which they turn. It is also clear that intrapsychological and/or social instability is an important factor in all acts of biographical reorientation. That is why the interactions between individual and

community appear as part of a search and adaptation behaviour that can be neither induced nor replaced by psychological manipulation on the part of the group, but which may well be controlled by it. The readiness to undergo

reorientation and to tailor one's personality to fit the group are not the result of group influence alone, but also of biographical and social factors.




Conversely, however, it is not true to say that certain personality characteristics necessarily lead to interaction with a given group, or that because of this the individual's life takes the best possible course. It is rather the case that, for

most of those concerned, there are numerous ways in which they could change the direction of their lives, many of which from a psychological and educational perspective would open up better development possibilities and more effectively avoid dangers than commitment to a radical community that is likely to be a source of conflict.


5.1.8 Opportunities and need for governmental interventions


In present circumstances and given the available data, it is not possible to establish a clear distinction between immoral, illegal methods and justifiable, lawful methods by drawing up a list of types or procedures. Extreme forms are already covered by criminal law (coercion, unlawful detention, bodily injury, usury, etc.).


The concept of psychological dependency as a so-called inner fact cannot as a rule be used as a criterion for justifying action by the authorities. In a democratic state the point of reference is social actions. Only those acts that  systematically seek to induce certain internal states may become the subject of action by the authorities: teaching, therapy, training, etc. Any concomitant personality changes, whether intended or unintended, are very much a matter of value judgement, and do not lend themselves to definite classification from some "Archimedean point". Just as certain therapies regard deliberate destabilisation as a prerequisite for change, so in the practice of meditation spiritual crises are seen as necessary for personal growth.


There would need to be a consensus among professionals for any assessment of the associated socialisation processes, or therapy ethics that would place limits on intentionally induced personality change. All one can do here is to rank

the methods of influence in order of increasing risk, depending on how likely they are  --  by analogy with psychotherapeutic or medical procedures  --  to change an individual's personality structure, identity, behaviour patterns, emotions, etc. From the standpoint of the authorities, the assumption must be that as the risks inherent in the practitioners' "manipulative" methods increase, so does their responsibility for the consequences. This responsibility is again to be judged by analogy with the precautionary measures held to be necessary in medicine and psychotherapy.


At the Enquete Commision's public meeting on the subject of "Psychotechniques" held on 14 April 1997, reference was made to such a responsibility in the form of an obligation to warn of "side-effects". This became part of the proposals for legislation on life-counselling services, which is dealt with in a separate chapter, which is simply mentioned here in passing.




Reference was also made at the hearing to the possibility of "protecting individuals against their own weaknesses". This too was taken into account and incorporated, in the form of the individual's right of withdrawal. In closed groups,

thought might be given to the establishment of novitiates such as those in use in monastic communities. It has to be ensured that everyone is free to withdraw from such a community on fair terms. 139 )


The demand for licensing of psychotherapists' activities has already taken shape, in the form of the new Act governing the activities of therapists. The extension of the scope of application of this Act to include life-counselling and personality development services, which was also called for at the hearing, has also in part been implemented in the draft legislation on life-counselling services already mentioned.


Establishing a clear distinction between these concerns and the areas of education and training, a problem also touched upon at the hearing, could prove to be a tricky undertaking inasmuch as measures containing elements of personality development are more and more frequently found even within the traditional further education sector and are also being explicitly requested as such. 140 ) But it is not only the demands for therapeutic methods for "normal" people, 141 ) put

forward primarily with executive personnel in mind, but also the notions of "life-long learning" as a necessity for all employees  --  not just on the level of technical qualifications, but also behavioural control  --  that in part help to convey the readiness for life-long auto- and heterosocialisation.


Against the background of a possibly large grey area between training and personality change, and the  --  in principle  --  social and economic desirability of a far-reaching readiness for psychological mobility as well, establishing such a

line of demarcation promises to be rather difficult.

5.1.9 Ethical standards, voluntary commitments, (moral) appeals


A metatheoretical critique of interventions in an individual's development which employ (quasi-) therapeutic as well as "spiritual" elements has to recognise that the assessment of such "treatments" according to the criteria "healthy" or

"unhealthy" depends mainly on the social recognition of the therapeutic methods used or of those who practise them.

Judgements as to the usefulness of "spiritual" elements in therapeutic practice cannot be made by the government.

Given that there is in general no consensus as to the usefulness or harmfulness of therapies, there is a dispute here that

cannot be resolved by the government alone. Beyond a purely "moral" appeal



139 ) Cf. the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950, BGBl (Federal Law Gazette) 1952 II, pp. 685, 953, as amended by Protocol No. 8 of 19 March 1985, BGBl 1989 II, p. 546.

140 ) Cf. Neuburger-Brosch, M.: Die soziale Konstruktion des "neuen Managers". Eine wissens-soziologische Untersuchung der Managementdebatte in den achtziger Jahren, T�bingen 1996, p. 222.

141 ) Ibid.




to the parties at issue, the government can recommend the development of self-imposed rules concerning the application of certain sorts of knowledge. But where therapeutic procedures may present a danger to health, the government is called upon to take preventive action.


The development and promotion of a general ethics of therapy as a common point of reference for the dispute between proponents of the main conflicting views, as well as for the parties to particular conflicts, falls into the category of

institutional recommendations.


5.1.10 Institutional recommendations


Recommendations addressed to the societal institutions concerned, as already proposed in the decision setting up the Enquete Commission, 142 ) and to others yet to be created, could  --  in addition to the measures already mentioned  --

envisage a (more) regulated approach to dealing with ideological disputes, or they could also be aimed at achieving (out of court) settlements of concrete conflicts.


Already existing proposals speak of "mediation institutions" which might be set up in view of a possible increase in religiously motivated conflicts. Membership or non-membership could also be developed into a stamp of quality as to

whether the members are abiding by certain social rules of the game or not.


On the basis of particular disputes, a pre-trial meeting of the parties might also be considered, with a view to material and ideological arbitration.


Both in the form of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft christlicher Kirchen (Association of Christian Churches), and in the mediation increasingly practised in divorce cases and in the so-called "perpetrator-victim compensation" in criminal law, there are already working institutions and procedures available which might possibly be made use of for the further development of these proposals. Since these ideas will be included in the draft the establishment of a foundation, we do no more than make reference to them here (see Chapters and


The same applies to promoting the development of a general ethics of therapy.


5.1.11 Recommendation to fund research aimed at shedding more light on the issues at stake


In the field of education and further education, research in appropriate institutions should be specifically promoted, since certain trends like the pressure for "life-long learning" favour a proliferation of the services, some of them disreputable, being offered in the field of personality development and personality



142 ) Cf. German Bundestag, 13 th legislative period: Bundestag Doc. 13/4477 of 26 April 1996, p. 3.




modification. In addition, companies increasingly organise further education courses for their employees; this will also lead to a redistribution of the power to define the content available in this particular field of education.


Since in both relative and absolute terms most further education measures fall into the category of further vocational education, a complete abstention by government from exercising its power to set standards would also have an impact on society which would go far beyond the bounds of corporate organisations. 143 )


Since people in positions of executive authority are a particular target group for the sale of social techniques 144 ), quantitative and qualitative knowledge about the effects on corporate culture, and the way power is exercised and main-

tained within a company in the aftermath of personality and management training would also be desirable.


Further research in this area should go beyond the impressionistic and anecdotal, and establish whether the corporate context is deliberately sought out by certain groups or service providers, exploiting its special conditions for their

recruitment strategies. 145 )


5.2 Children and adolescents in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


5.2.1 Background


The family, or the new living structures that are emerging as the family changes, is the place where children are cared for and educated by the parents or the central reference persons, on the basis of a fundamental emotional bond that

encompasses the whole person. This is basically what distinguishes the family from all other institutions of the educational system, in which  --  as a rule, and subject to the practical constraints of individual autonomy  --  only parts of the person are the subject of education, or where instruction, training or counselling are involved, in a more specialised and less intimate relationship. But even here the family still performs the central task of "releasing" children, and especially adolescents, for these expanding and transforming experiences, supporting these experiences and making them possible.


Imparting and passing on values, beliefs and religious conceptions to the next generation is thus a key function of the family or family-like structures and of the milieu in which they are embedded. The handing down of religious ways of life is



 143 ) Cf. K�hnlein, G.: "Verbetrieblichung" von Weiterbildung als Zukunftstrend? Anmerkungen zum Bedeutungswandel von beruflicher Weiterbildung und Konsequenzen f�r Bildungsforschung. In: Arbeit 6 (3, 1997), pp. 261 -- 281.

144 ) Cf. Schmitz, E.: Leistung und Loyalit�t. Berufliche Weiterbildung und Personalpolitik in Industrieunternehmen,1 st ed.: Stuttgart 1978, p. 45f.

145 ) Cf. Poweleit, D.: "Die Anf�lligkeit von F�hrungskr�ften f�r esoterische Lehren", in Organisationsberatung  --  Supervision  --  Clinical Management 2 (3,1995), pp. 278 -- 287.




therefore not a problem as such. The teaching of "dissenting" religious views and beliefs  --  i.e. views and beliefs that are different from those of the established national Churches  --  can also not be seen as problematic, given the growing pluralism of religious and non-religious world views. On the contrary, respect for and recognition of pluralist, culturally heterogeneous life-styles and world views is an inescapable component of a post-traditional ethics of the recognition of diversity.


An upbringing or education based on preconceived religious and ideological notions  --  like any other kind of notions  --  can thus be a source of conflicts and difficulties only by reason of its specific contents, the specific standards and

values that are transmitted, the way children and adolescents are required to be treated, the encroachments, the harm, the cruelty and the abuses that are committed in the name of religious education. The references here are the basic pro-

visions of Section 1 of the Sozialgesetzbuch VIII (SGB  --  German Social Code) (SGB VIII: Welfare of children and adolescents): "(1) Every young person has a right to be assisted in his or her development and to be brought up to become a responsible and viable member of the community. (2) The custody and upbringing of children are the natural right of parents, and their paramount duty.


The community in the form of the authorities watches over their actions." Intervention by the authorities, i.e. the exercise of the government's supervisory function, in the sense of "assistance with upbringing or education" (Section 27

SGB VIII) or "the taking into custody of children and adolescents" (Section 42 SGB VIII) ensues "if an upbringing or education conducive to the welfare of the child or adolescent is not guaranteed and assistance for his development is

appropriate and necessary" (Section 27, 1) or "if the child or adolescent asks to be taken in custody" (Section 42, 2) or "an imminent threat to the welfare of the child or adolescent requires him to be taken into custody" (Section 42, 3). The

point of reference here is the aversion of a threat to the child's physical, mental and emotional welfare, which is grounds for the withdrawal of the right of custody (cf. Section 1666 German Civil Code). Attempts by the parents to explain, legitimise or justify the inflicting of physical, mental or emotional harm are as a rule irrelevant here. Even where parents invoke the freedom to practise their religion, harm to a child's welfare cannot be thereby legitimised. 146 )

In assessing the impact of actions that are detrimental to the "welfare of the child or adolescent", including those whose effect is to hinder educational, developmental and individualisation processes, considerable problems of diagnosis and assessment generally arise, particularly as concerns the more subtle mental forms of such action. 147 ) These problems in diagnosing the incidence and milieu-specific distribution of abuse of minors are particularly marked in the case of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. At the



146 ) Cf. inter alia the account of existing case law in the Annex, Part A, on working party 4 in the Enquete Commission's Interim Report, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 105ff., and the account of the hearing of legal experts on the situation of children and adolescents in new religious and ideological communities and psychgroups, Interim Report of the Commission, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 24ff.




Enquete Commission's hearing of psychologists and educationalists there was near-unanimous agreement that the diversity of groups, and the state of research into the situation of minors in such milieus, are not such as to allow any reliable conclusions to be drawn. Thus, there is no cogent reason to assert that adolescents growing up in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups are in general at any greater risk of falling victim to physical or mental ill-treatment than in other environments. The ideal, that children should be enabled to become independent, must not lead to government control of the autonomous individual.


That would produce a situation where conventional and traditional ways of life which pursued other educational ideals could be declared as deviant and subject to regulation by the authorities. Parents' educational attitudes may  insufficiently promote or even prevent a child's autonomy, but that is something found in the most diverse educational environments and is in no way a unique feature of "sect childhood" or of families in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups. The impression must therefore be avoided that it is only new religious and ideological groups that practise "child-rearing for dependency".


Therefore it cannot be assumed that the generality of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups espouse highly problematic views about upbringing and education and engage in practices that are damaging to the

intellectual, emotional and physical well-being of children and deny their autonomy. 148 ) At most, it may be supposed that there is a potential for harm, but it would have to be specifically examined and identified in each individual case. 149 )


5.2.2 Conflicts and approaches to coping with conflicts in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, as compared with the principles of modern life-styles


Attitudes toward the upbringing of children in religious and ideological communities are more often than not at loggerheads with the principles of modern life-styles that are needed for coping with the socio-cultural demands of Western society. The onward march of modernity and the associated cultural disruption do



147 ) Cf. the detailed account in Part B of working party 4 in the Enquete Commission's Interim Report, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 94ff.

148 ) On the inevitable tension between the reconstruction of individual cases and a subsuming typology, which professionals must have to hand if they are not to increase the ever-present risk of "malpractice", see the paper in Dewe, B. et al.: Professionelles soziales Handeln, Opladen 1992 and in Combe, A./Helsper, W.: P�dagogische Professionalit�t, Frankfurt 1996.

The second and perhaps even more serious danger inherent in such a generalising typology is that it may give rise to or exacerbate social stigma: Parents who belong to the "sects", religious communities or "so-called psychocults" are child abusers. This can contribute to a hardening of social fronts, a negative stereotyping of specific milieus, and ultimately to a sharpening of the conflict among discrepant life-styles which can only make life more difficult for the milieus and families thus stigmatised.

149 ) Cf. the discussion between Klosinski, G. and Gehentges, U., in: Informations- und Dokumentationszentrum Sekten/Psychokulte IDZ (ed.): Auserw�hlt oder ausgeliefert? Kinder in Sekten und Psychogruppen, conference documents, Cologne 1996, p. 27ff. and 52ff.




indeed present considerable difficulties for traditional religious ways of life.


Attempts to cut oneself off from the outside world or "fundamentalist"-sounding attitudes may also represent an effort to cope with these stresses of modernity.


Destabilisation and the dismantling of tradition can surely lead people to seek new bonds and new sources of security as a counterbalance to the uncertainties of an open-ended life in which they must take responsibility for themselves.

These attempts at coping should in no way be judged in one-dimensional terms as being deficient or problematic, as compared with the usual tenets of modern living. Instead, it should be recognised that these life-styles also provide scope for development and stabilisation, which make it easier to bear the strains of social expectations in modern life (cf. also Chapter 3.1).


This conflict-prone dichotomy with the principles of modern life, which at the same time provides coping options, can take a variety of forms which, without being exhaustive, can be briefly outlined as follows:


a)                    It may take the form of a guilt-based and punishment-oriented demand for ascetic attitudes that are hostile to pleasure and the body, which are at odds with cultural and experiential emancipation, yet at the same time may open the way to a clearly-structured and binding moral order. For adolescents, this can mean being raised in a milieu marked by compulsion, guilt and bashfulness, but  --  provided the parent-child relationship is emotionally secure  --  it may also create areas of socialisation that provide structure and security.


b)                   There may be forms of dependency and subservience vis-�-vis religious teachers and preachers which reach into the very details of daily life, but which also  --  along with the restrictions  --  afford a measure of relief from the demands of autonomy, individual living and decision-making (cf. Chapter 3.1). This can make individualisation processes more difficult for adolescents, if steps towards becoming independent must always depend on the consent of an absolute authority. On the other hand, adolescents growing up in a communal situation may encounter persons they are able to idealise, and this in turn can be important for the development of an individual's ego. 150 )




150 ) It is not possible to address the complex question of whether adolescents need authorities and models to form their identity, whether their absence creates severe problems for ego development, or whether overly powerful authority figures do not rather represent a threat to the formation of identity. The fact is that in the Federal Republic of Germany there has been a sharp decline over the past four decades in the extent to which adolescents look to models.


Fewer and fewer adolescents admit to having any model at all. In 1993 only 47 per cent of ten to thirteen year olds said they still had a model. This means that so far as looking to models is concerned, children are now on the level of fifteen to twenty-four year olds in the mid-fifties, whereas by 1984 only 19 per cent of this age group still had a model. Modern adolescence seems almost to be characterised by a "model taboo" and a high regard for autonomy. At the same time, the social location of models is shifting: Models from the immediate social circle (e.g. parents) are constantly receding, while models from further afield in society, usually communicated by the media, are taking centre stage, in the form of idols (Cf. Zinnecker, J.: Jugendkultur 1940  --  1985, Opladen 1987; Zinnecker, J./Stecher, L.: Haben Kinder heue Vorbilder? in: Zinnecker, J./Silbereisen, R. K.: Kindheit in Deutschland, Aktueller Survey �ber Kinder und ihre Eltern, Weinheim/Munich 1996, pp. 195 -- 213). For the general discussion on role model, authority and autonomy, cf. the study by Sennett, R.: Autorit�t, Frankfurt/M. 1985.




c)                    It may also take the form of an exaggerated espousal of modernist notions  -- determination, self-assertiveness, profit-orientation  --  which can become significant as an educational goal even when dealing with children. In a way, such attitudes are entirely in keeping with the demands on children and adolescents that are now prevalent in society. Problems arise where this leads to the loss of compensating areas of emotional stability even for children and adolescents. It is true, of course, that structurally similar problems also arise in worldly milieus, where considerations of status and success  --  salvation through upward mobility, as it were  --  determine the way parents go about bringing up their children. Adolescents may then turn to the new religions as one possible source of relief  --  a "re-sacralisation" of the ego as a reaction to its comprehensive "de-sacralisation". 151 )


d)                   Contemplative attitudes may be observed, a turning away from the world that is antithetical to the principles of an active, responsible life. The result may be that in dealing with children and adolescents too little importance is attached to the need for independence and an active life-style, so that they are insufficiently prepared to cope with the demands of modern society. At the same time such attitudes may also help to put status pressures in perspective, and create areas of compensation without which it is often difficult for adolescents to move out into active life.

e)                    Hedonistic-ecstatic attitudes may be found in new religious milieus, which on the one hand are antithetical to the requirements of rational social action, but on the other hand, they may be beneficial for experience-oriented individuals and they may prevent the sensuous-emotional impoverishment of everyday life (cf. Chapter 3.1). These hedonistic, experience-oriented expectations of parents vis�-vis their children may lead to apparently licentious forms of neglect, but can also offer children an environment rich in emotional and sensuous experience.


f)                    Life-styles may also be found which at first sight appear volatile and marked by rapid changes of context, where people run through various different groups or scenes in the space of a few years, or take part in different religious groups in parallel, forming an individual attachment to each. These forms, also known as "polytheistic", "privatised", "do-it-yourself", "occasional" or "patchwork" approaches to religion, 152 ) can be seen as the expression



151 ) Cf. Helsper, W.: Das "postmoderne Selbst"  --  ein neuer Subjekt- und Jugendmythos? Reflexionen anhand religi�ser jugendlicher Orientierungen. In: Keupp, H./H�fer, R. (ed.): Identit�tsarbeit heute. Klassische und aktuelle Perspektiven der Identit�tsforschung, Frankfurt 1997, pp. 174 -- 207.

152 ) Cf. e.g. Luckmann, T.: Die unsichtbare Religion, Frankfurt/Main 1991; Lifton, R. J.: History and Human Survival, New York 1971; Barz, H.: Religion ohne Institution? Opladen 1992; ibid.: Dramatisierung oder Suspendierung der Sinnfrage? Anomietendenzen im Bereich Religion/Kirche, in: Heitmeyer, W. (ed.):Was treibt die Gesellschaft auseinander? Frankfurt/Main 1997, pp. 414 -- 473;

Fowler, James W.: Stufen des Glaubens, Die Psychologie der menschlichen Entwicklung und die Suche nach Sinn, G�tersloh 1991; Helsper, W.: Neoreligi�se Orientierungen Jugendlicher in der "postmodernen Moderne", in: Ferchhoff, W. et al. (ed.): Jugendkulturen  --  Faszination und Ambivalenz, Weinheim/Munich 1995, pp. 66 -- 82; Fischer, D./Sch�ll, A.: Lebenspraxis und Religion, Fallanalysen zur subjektiven Religiosit�t von Jugendlichen, G�tersloh 1994, p. 271ff.




of severe identity and orientation crises, in the face of the demand for independence of orientation and decision-making. On the other hand, these life-styles may also be seen as an expression of an individualised search, as a productive way of dealing with the radical pluralism which is characteristic of highly modernised or "post-modern-modern" society (cf. Chapter 3.1).


For children and adolescents growing up in such milieus, this can lead to problems of orientation and to chronic uncertainty, since they keep being confronted with changed orientations and group references. On the other

hand, children and adolescents living such lives also have an opportunity to learn very early in life to deal openly and easily with a great variety of novel notions of meaning, thereby becoming socialised in creative interaction with

a comprehensive cultural pluralism.


The essential point is that the "possible" but by no means inevitable lines of conflict always point to a clash with the highly modernised principles of a life-style in which people must take responsibility for themselves. These conflict

lines involve a variety of factors, including suppression of reality, consequential problems and burdens; such problems  --  which are fraught with tension  --  are generated by the exacting requirements imposed by modern life itself. Here too it should be noted: Just because parents belong to a religious community or movement whose values, life-styles and beliefs are antithetical to the dominant modern, Western value system, it cannot be inferred that in general this repres-

ents a threat to children. Holding such  beliefs can also be read as an expression of the parents' active resistance to the prevailing social mores and as partisan advocacy for their children's future  --  as in the criticism of life-styles focused on competition and dissociation, such as children and adolescents may experience at school, where individual performance may be rated more highly than integration as a social principle. 153 )


5.2.3 Assessing the education of children in the belief systems of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


An assessment of the risk that children and adolescents are exposed to when they grow up in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is often based on spectacular isolated cases. For a more accurate judgement of the potential hazards to children, however, the following three points should be taken into account: First, it is inadvisable to jump to conclusions about the actual reality of relations between parents and children or adolescents on the basis of programmatic statements. Parent's views about the upbringing of their children may be influenced by their religious ideas in widely differing degrees, even in apparently closed religious milieus. These religious preconceptions about child-rearing may



153 ) For this argument, cf. Fend, H.: Sozialgeschichte des Aufwachsens im 20. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt/Main 1988.




be tempered by other views held by the parents, so that their importance in everyday life is limited. As between programmatic statements about child-rearing and the actual parent-child relationship, there may thus be many intermediate steps and levels, so that the connection is fairly tenuous. What makes it even harder to arrive at a valid assessment of educational attitudes and actions in new religious groups is the fact that there are no empirical analyses of the way children and adolescents are actually taught, something that was mentioned as particularly regrettable by educational and psychological experts at the Enquete Commission's hearings. This does not of course mean that an

analysis of the educational concepts would be irrelevant. Such an analysis could reveal "educational structures of meaning" which might point to a specific "proneness" to educational problems on the part of the groups concerned  --

though these problems would not necessarily arise in general in dealings with children and adolescents.


Secondly, new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups  --  even those that make a point of shutting themselves off from the world  --  do not constitute homogeneous habitats. True, direct social control and the pressure to conform can become very strong in such isolated settings. But this is not the case in many milieus; and even where it is, there may be micro-political struggles over the "correct" interpretation of the faith, the details of religious life and

its rules, the attitude and the degree of openness to be adopted vis-�-vis the outside world, struggles too for power and influence  --  and, indeed, over the right way to deal with children and adolescents. Hence, new religious and ideo-

logical communities and psychogroups are internally diverse.


Thirdly, any judgement of child-rearing in these communities, groups and movements is never more than a snapshot of what is a developmental process, and must therefore be regarded as subject to change.


The following examples of ideas about the upbringing of children should be read with the above qualifications in mind, as should the reports on the way children and adolescents are treated in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


5.2.4 The situation of children and adolescents in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups


Experts estimate that perhaps 100,000 to 200,000 children and adolescents are growing up in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups in the Federal Republic of Germany. Here too there is a lack of reliable statistical data. But even the lower limit of 100,000 shows clearly that there are very large numbers of children and adolescents growing up in these milieus and life-styles.


On the basis of the available reports and studies, reference is made in what follows to educational risks which may typically arise in specific groups and movements. Examples are drawn from individual groups and movements ranging




from Christian or Christian-oriented groups, through the occult, far-eastern or Hindu-oriented groups, to the more recent therapy-oriented and life-counselling groups, and finally those that lie at the triple intersection of politics, commerce and faith. The Unification Church


In the Unification Church of the Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon, which links the Christian and far-Eastern traditions, family and parenthood are of central importance. Reverend Moon and his wife are seen as the "true parents", who function as God's regents, with the task of founding a "perfect family", which is supposed to make possible a perfect humanity. The mission of the "true family" is to make possible the "restoration" of a perfection that was

forfeited through the Fall. As a new, perfect Adam and a new, perfect Eve, they are to redeem the Fall  --  which was caused by Satan's seduction of Eve  --  and thereby to complete Jesus' work of generating a new, sinless, perfect family.

Moon's 1960 wedding to Hak-Ja-Han in 1960 is understood as the "wedding of the lamb" and as reparation for the crucifixion, and is said to have paved the way for the begetting of "sinless children" and the founding of a blood line that does not belong to the "line of Eve and Satan" but initiates a divine lineage of human perfection, of the "Kingdom of Heaven". The goal is to make this "Kingdom of Heaven" an earthly reality, through a kind of final struggle or "World War III" with the Satanic forces, and at the same time to release the spirits of the dead from their limbo  --  an attitude which, all in all, explains the Church's intensive missionary activity. 154 )


In the Unification Church "family" and "parenthood" are particularly highly prized, albeit in strict subservience to the "true family", an exemplary expression of which is the "vow". 155 ) The ritual "blessing" of couples (also known as

"mass wedding") shows this with particular clarity, for in the "blessing" the couples are said to be "adopted" and thus become children of the "true family". The "marriage" thus culminates in a new "childhood relationship", and the founding of one's own family  --  which occurs at least in part at Moon's suggestion (the so-called "matching"), even if this is not generally the case and it is possible to refuse consent 156 )  --  puts the parents back into the status of children, this time children of the "true family". 157 ) This can be seen, for



154 ) Cf. more about the Unification Church in Kehrer, G. (ed.): Das Entstehen einer neuen Religion  --  das Beispiel der Vereinigungskirche, Munich 1981; Reller, H. et al. (ed.): Handbuch Religi�se Gemeinschaften, 4 th completely revised and enlarged edition, G�tersloh 1993.

155 ) Cf. Reller, H. et al., loc. cit., p. 837f.

156 ) This also transpires from the information given by the Unification Church in connection with the Enquete Commission's hearing on 13 January 1997.

157 ) Cf. Eimuth, K.H.: Die Sektenkinder, 1996, p. 159 and in particular the analysis of Moon in Sch�ll, A.: Zwischen religi�ser Revolte und frommer Anpassung, G�tersloh 1991, p. 184ff. Here Sch�ll uses a case study on Moon followers to demonstrate in an understandable and plausible fashion how Moon's central position and the subservience demanded of his followers can culminate in a denial of autonomous living.




example, in the rules and regulations which reach deep into the privacy of everyday life. 158 ) However, this tends to devalue the parents as independent individuals and figures children can identify with, and on the other hand, the

children of a given family are above all also children of the "true family". This may also explain the frequent practice  --  always voluntary, of course, as the Unification Church emphasises  --  of adoption, whereby children are given to

childless couples.


Against this background, problematic attitudes towards children in the Unification Church can mainly be seen in the fact that children too  --  like the adults  --  are encouraged to accept Moon's unconditional "divine" authority. This acceptance of an irrefutable authority, and the trend towards invalidation of the parents as responsible persons with whom the children could identify, may make it more difficult for adolescents in the family to establish their autonomy. 159 )


Besides, relations between parents and children may become distant, a distance which is felt on both sides. The foundation of a non-interchangeable emotional parent-child relationship can be thereby impaired. 160 ) Thus, Sch�ll

has shown in an empirical case study that, in the case of members of the Unification Church, there is a danger that their family orientation may remain superficial, being sacrificed to an overriding commitment to Moon. In terms of practical living, this may well give rise to a failure of social and interactive relatedness. 151 ) Although these findings cannot be generalised, they do point to an educational problem area in the parent-child relationship among followers of the Unification Church. Finally, it can be particularly stressful for children to be caught up in the struggle against the Satanic forces and the salvation of humanity in an all-embracing "plan of salvation and rescue", and to find themselves under missionary pressure as members of the first generation born without sin. Therein lies a danger that, under heavy pressure from their earliest years and facing high demands and expectations, they may in case of "failure" develop powerful feelings of guilt at being complicit in the perpetuation of the Satanic forces and thwarting the plan for salvation. Fundamentalist currents in groups and movements of Christian origin


These movements form a multifaceted conglomeration of smaller circles, communes formed around charismatic individuals, and larger groups that are becoming increasingly popular, mostly outside the mainstream Churches and the Free Churches, but overlapping with the Churches' areas of interest. 162 )



158 ) Cf. Reller, H. et al., loc. cit., p. 836.

159 ) Cf. Sch�ll, A., loc. cit., p. 184ff.

160 ) Cf. Eimuth, K.H., loc. cit., p. 166f.

161 ) Cf. the analysis in Sch�ll, A., loc. cit., p. 184ff., especially the analysis of marriages of Unification Church members, p. 221ff. and the summary on p. 245ff.




Because of the great diversity of these groups, communes and smaller circles, it is hardly possible to present a coherent account of their basic beliefs. 163 ) In what follows, therefore, only some of the problems that arise in dealing with adolescents will be outlined, those that are particularly marked in certain groups and that may be associated with specific beliefs. It is stressed that the following phenomena are in no way equally applicable to all currents in this religious spectrum, and even where they are more clearly marked, they can in no way be generalised.


Thus, there is sometimes definite approval of physical discipline, even if extreme forms of corporal punishment are rejected and criticised. 164 ) To put this into perspective, it must be noted that approval of such practices is also found in other religious milieus. In any case, the acceptance of corporal punishment is not peculiar to religious groups, but is also to be found as an educational orientation in other, non-religious life-styles and milieus. If one is to believe a representative survey carried out by the EMNID Institute, only 39 per cent of fathers and mothers reject corporal punishment. 165 ) This is not to play down the problem of corporal punishment in groups of this religious persuasion, but it does show clearly that this is in no way a unique phenomenon in specific religious groups.


Ideas about a constant threat from an ever-present "Evil One" can also impel adolescents to be constantly monitoring and controlling themselves, to the accompaniment of strong guilt feelings and self-inflicted punishments, all of

which is thoroughly typical of rigid and rigorous superego formation. 166 ) Intense notions of demonology can be particularly damaging to the integrity of the adolescent psyche. 157 )


A strict dualism interpreted in demonological terms can, together with the ego crises and developmental processes of children and adolescents, lead to powerful anxieties, occult notions and persecution fantasies. These fears children



162 ) Cf. Horst Reller et al., loc. cit., pp. 136ff., 146ff., 167ff. and 217ff.; cf. also the Berlin Senate Administration for School, Youth and Sport (ed.): Information �ber neue religi�se und weltanschauliche Bewegungen und sogenannte Psychogruppen, Berlin 1995, p. 27ff.; also the contributions in Meyer, T.: Fundamentalismus in der modernen Welt, Frankfurt 1989 and for some theoretical background Beck, U.: Die Erfindung des Politischen, Frankfurt/Main 1993, pp. 99 -- 149.

163 ) Cf. Gasper, H. et al.: Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen, Freiburg/Basel/Vienna 1995, pp. 135ff., 456ff., 812ff.

164 ) Cf. Eimuth, K.H., loc. cit., p. 204ff.

165 ) Cf. the EMNID study on attitudes to corporal punishment in: Das Beste, 1997, Vol. 4, p. 4 ff.

166 ) Cf. particularly the work of Klosinski, G.: �ber blasphemische �u�erungen und religi�se Vers�ndigungsideen im Kindes- und Jugendalter, in: Acta paedopsychiatrica 45, 1980, p. 325ff.; ibid.: Psychokulte, Was Sekten f�r Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996, p. 75ff. and various contributions in: ibid. (ed.): Religion als Chance oder Risiko, Bern and elsewhere 1994. In the course of the Enquete Commission's hearings of former group members and other concerned persons, there were clear indications of such problems, including Jehovah's Witnesses.

167 ) Cf. the remarks on demonology in the writings of Wolfgang Margies, e.g.: Margies, W.: Befreiung, Berlin 1993, p. 41ff.




and adolescents have of being pursued by evil forces or taken over by dark powers find fertile soil in demonic notions.

These kinds of beliefs are in no way confined to this religious spectrum, but are also widespread in traditional Catholic or strict Protestant milieus. But here, too, things need to be kept in perspective: Powerful anxieties of this sort in adolescents, the feelings of persecution and the urge to self-inflicted punishment, probably only arise this dramatically where the parent-child relationship is itself highly ambivalent.


For it is then that the ambivalence of good and evil, protector and persecutor, love and hate also takes shape as a structural element in the relations between parents and children. Then these ambivalent childhood relations can become linked with the world of demonic notions, drawing from it its images of persecution and invasion. With the crisis of adolescence and the processes of separation, a young person may begin to oscillate between good and evil, eventually more or less identifying with evil as an expression of separation from and negation of the family tradition. This may also find expression  --  as the cases studies show with exemplary clarity  --  in the shape of "Satanic" practices and notions. 168 ) Hindu and meditative currents


The range of groups and practices associated with Hinduism is also too wide to permit the formulation of general principles here. 169 ) So far as the problem of children and especially adolescents is concerned, it was above all the so-called "youth sects" or "youth religions" of the seventies and eighties, those influenced by Hinduism and meditation, that were significant. 170 ) Groups such as Bhagwan, Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation, Ananda Marga and the like were representative of this current. Back then the list of concerns was headed by conflicts over the breakdown of relations between adolescents and their families, isolation from the outside world, authoritarian structures and demands

for submission within the groups, exploitation of youths and young adults by the groups, and finally destructive extremes in the form of self-immolation, suicide, death threats and infringements of the law in connection with the establishment of group centres (e.g. Osho (formerly Bhagwan) in Oregon, Hare Krishna in the



168 ) Cf. also the section on Occultism/Satanism (Chapter 3.4) and in particular: Klosinski, G.: Okkultismus bei Jugendlichen: Jugendreligionen im neuen Gewand? AJS Forum NRW 4, 1990, p. 18ff.; ibid.: Der Hang zum Okkulten  --  Esoterisches und Magisches bei Jugendlichen, in: Wege zum Menschen, Vol. 2, 1994, p. 227ff.; ibid.: Psychokulte, Was Sekten f�r Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996; Streib, H.: Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination, Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die Praktische Theologie, Kampen 1996; Helsper, W./Streib, H.: Okkultismus in der Adoleszenzkrise, in: Wege zum Menschen 46, Vol. 4, 1994, pp. 183 -- 198ff.; Helsper, W.: Okkultismus  --  die neue Jugendreligion? Zur Symbolik des Todes und des B�sen in der Jugendkultur, Opladen 1992.

169 ) Cf. the relevant chapters in Reller, H. et al. (ed.), loc. cit.; also Gasper, H. et al., loc. cit.; on the basics try: Ram Adhar Mall: Der Hinduismus, Seine Stellung in der Vielfalt der Religionen, Darmstadt 1997.

170 ) Cf. the relevant account in the Enquete Commission's Interim Report on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", p. 52f. and p. 56f.




Rettershof incidents, etc.). Since then, however  --  as has already been pointed out  --  there have been important changes and developments within these groups and movements. 171 ) In Osho, a critical view is now taken of the Oregon phase and the guru's position, and especially in the case of ISKCON, there are clear signs of self-critical reflection and of efforts to enter into a dialogue with critics, parents, the region and the public at large. 172 ) These mainly concern the role of women and hence also gender-specific stereotypes and child-rearing in ISKCON, a playing-down of the isolation from the outside world in temples in favour of a more marked "community orientation", less emphasis on children attending only "Gurukula" schools and relatively closed milieus in favour of more integration in the surrounding culture, and above all a clear turn away from the previous treatment of parents and families of adolescents who join ISKCON. 173 ) This is probably a "learning process" on the part of a former "youth religion" which must now come to terms with the fact that the "children of the movement" cannot be denied the opportunity  --  despite alternative beliefs and views about life  --  of integrating into Western culture. Even if the ideas about child-rearing and education are still sharply at variance with the standard Western life-style, the attempt to strike a balance between the Krishna orientation and the Western life-style is plain to see. The possibilities for a reflexive social integration of children and adolescents in a ISKCON context are thereby enhanced.



171 ) Cf. the account in: Hummel, R.: Gurus, Meister, Scharlatane, Freiburg 1996.

173 ) Cf. the accounts and documentation of reactions in: 25 Jahre ISKCON-Deutschland, Konferenz der Akademie f�r Vaishnava-Kultur am 29. Januar 1994 in Wiesbaden, 2 nd edition, November 1996; this was also manifest in ISKCON's presentation to the Enquete Commission and in its efforts to exchange views with members of the Enquete Commission.

173 ) The document "25 Jahre ISKCON-Deutschland" (loc. cit.) contains the following comments: "Minors may join a temple community only with the express written consent of their parents. Persons engaged in education or training are urged to complete their course before beginning their studies with ISKCON. Today we no longer encourage anyone to drop out of education, but point out to everyone that over 80 per cent of temple members move out of the temple after a period of three to five years in order to start a family. We also do not advise anyone to abandon his professional or family responsibilities." (p. 62) As concerns dealings with families whose members join ISKCON, tensions and problems are regretted, for which inter alia "immature and insensitive behaviour" (loc. cit.) on the part of ISKCON is conceded.

The result: "To this end, ISKCON has for example organised family meetings, in co-operation with members of the Vaishnavas, which serve as a communications forum. It is also a matter of principle with us not to admit any new applicant to our community until we have talked to the parents. Such get-togethers and family meetings may not perhaps produce a definitive solution to all problems, but they do prepare the ground. Regular contact with the family is a serious concern for us, and we do everything possible to maintain it." (loc. cit.) In the course of the hearing of persons concerned with the situation of children and adolescents in so-called sects and psychogroups, one young woman suggested that this attitude to families might also be prompted by tactical and presentational considerations.

Admittedly, she had not been present at any meeting with parents, and her information had less to do with children of the second generation. Even so, what she had to say must be taken seriously. But even if there are tactical motives at work, and even if there are discrepancies between the announced changes and what really happens, these public and self-critical attitudes on the part of ISKCON do point to an effort to deal in a new and more productive manner with existing conflicts.




Given the changes and developments, it is by and large hardly possible to develop a coherent picture of the attitudes to education and upbringing, or the treatment of children and adolescents, in the spectrum of groups associated with

Hinduism and meditation. Thus, a former member of Ananda Marga 174 ) told the Enquete Commission, at its hearing on the situation of children and adolescents, that she  --  at least in Europe, though she had encountered other child-rearing practices in India  --  had witnessed mainly positive relations between Ananda Marga members, most of them alternative and counter-culture sorts of people, and their children  --  relations characterised by laissez-faire attitudes and a large measure of freedom. The way the children were treated seemed to her to be loving.


By contrast, the Commission heard about practices involving compulsory meditation for children, also from the nineties, mainly among the followers of Sant Thakar Singh  --  practices which represented clear forms of abuse and harm. 175 )


Thus, one woman told the hearing about her life with her two-year-old child in one of the group's centres. The two-year-old had to meditate for ten or twelve hours a day with his right ear sealed and his eyes blindfolded, while his father kept a tight grip on him. In those six months he had no toys, was sometimes bathed in cold water only, and allowed to eat only wearing a blindfold. After a few days of this forced meditation, the child abandoned all resistance. To the adults who were following the teaching of Sant Thakar Singh, this was a sign that the child now felt well, his negative mood was broken and his soul was pure. The failure to attend to the child's needs, such as hunger and thirst,

together with his experience of being completely ignored, produced in him a state of total apathy. With this behaviour, she said, he was considered in the centre to be a model child. The child's traumatic experiences and their aftermath had necessitated a prolonged period of therapy, which was still continuing, after the mother's withdrawal from the group.


It can in no way be assumed that all Hindu-oriented groups practise these forms of compulsory meditation for children. 176 ) But this extreme example does



174 ) This rather positive account is not intended as an overall evaluation of Ananda Marga. What this former member had to say included some highly critical views, particularly as concerns authoritarian features of Ananda Marga focusing on discipline and subjection. Cf. also the experience report of Roth, J.: Der Weg der Gl�ckseligkeit, Frankfurt/Main 1992; for a general view: Hummel, R.: Gurus, Meister, Scharlatane, Freiburg 1996, p. 210ff. and Gasper, H. et al. (ed.): Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen, Freiburg/Basel/Vienna 1996.

175 ) Cf. Eimuth, K.H.: Die Sektenkinder, Freiburg 1996; Berlin Senate Administration for School, Youth and Sport: Informationen �ber neue religi�se und weltanschauliche Bewegungen und sogenannte Psychogruppen, Berlin 1994, p. 13; on the effects on children of prolonged meditation with the right ear sealed with a silicon plug and blindfolded, see also the report of the Institute of Social Pediatrics and Youth Medicine at the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, of 20 April 1994.

176 ) Thus, one former member of Ananda Marga reported that in her eight years with the group in Europe she had not encountered drastic forms of compulsory meditation such as those found in Sant Thakar Singh. Meditation as practised by small children had been very brief, only a few minutes; in the case of older children it lasted fifteen to thirty minutes. In kindergartens run by Ananda Marga, the attempt to introduce meditation for children had largely failed in practice.




show the way forms of intensive and prolonged meditation, 177 ) potentially dangerous even for adults, can lead to far greater stresses and dangers for young children. That the psychological methods used in new religious and ideological

communities and psychogroups can indeed have a more intense and potentially more damaging effect precisely on children who are going through sensitive phases of development, have not yet formed a strong ego, are heavily dependent on others and have few experiences which would help them to put things into perspective, was pointed out by the psychological experts in the Enquete Commission's hearing on the situation of children and adolescents. Scientology The Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) is the branch of the Scientology Organisation concerned with education and training.


L. Ron Hubbard formulated the mission of ABLE as being designed to rehabilitate the whole field of education through the spread of the only functioning technology of study: The L. Ron Hubbard study technology. 178 )


The book "Dianetics for Children" may be taken as a statement of the Scientology Organisation's educational ideal for parents. It thus forms the basis for the upbringing of children in Scientology.


Since the founder of Scientology assumes that a child is nothing other than a "thetan" in a small body, the entire course programme is considered to be compulsory for children too. Children's fantasies are defined in "Dianetics

for Children" as a form of mental illness. To L. Ron Hubbard, it is therefore "not surprising that children seem to display a similarity to psychotics and schizophrenics." 179 )


To treat this allegedly pathological behaviour, the technique of "auditing" is practised on children as well as adults. The aim is to eradicate the traces of painful experiences, in order to eliminate the so-called "reactive mind". Hubbard

considers that children can be audited as soon as they learn to talk. "Heavy processing", however, he recommends from the age of five only. Regression to prenatal events, says Hubbard, should wait until age twelve.


Among the rules of Scientology, there is also a "security check" for children, which starts with the question "What have you been forbidden to tell?" 180 ) The child is confronted with a questionnaire containing over 100 questions. The pro-

cedure has the nature of an interrogation, and is intended to elicit from the child



177 ) Thus, there are recurrent reports that certain meditation techniques may lead to psychological decompensation. One former adept of Transcendental Meditation told the Enquete Commission's hearing of former group members about alarming experiences he had had, reminiscent of drug experiences, in connection with the use of mantras.

178 ) Quoted from the report of the Hamburg Senate, Doc. 15/4059

179 ) Quoted from: "Kinderdianetik", Copenhagen 1983, p. 76

180 ) Cf. Eimuth, H.H., loc. cit., p. 79ff.




anything painful or negative that can serve as the starting point for the eradication of "engrams". Through auditing and the Scientology Organisation's house rules, children seem to be exposed at a tender age to the attempt to eradicate

everything stressful, weak or emotional in them, to make them strong and insensitive to pain and weakness, thereby creating "supermen" without sensations. 181 )


We gather from a report 182 ) by former members that children are encouraged to take on a daily learning programme about which they have to keep a sort a statistical diary which is used for the purpose of systematic evaluation. These

practices may be understood as an early introduction to forms of subjection to control by others.


If the parents comply with the prescribed educational ideal, the children grow up in the closed ideological system of Scientology. To ensure that they actually do so, the children are sent to the organisation's own kindergartens and schools.


From the available reports and instructions, it can be inferred that children in the Scientology milieu are required early on to carry out a daily programme similar to that of the adults. In all the parents' activities, the foremost consideration is always supposed to be the benefit to the organisation. Characteristic of this is an internal instruction issued to the Scientology elite "Sea Org", calling upon parents to give up for "production" even the one hour a day allowed for the family. 183 ) This makes it at least difficult to establish close, dependable and lasting parent-child relations, and the child learns early on  --  via its parents  --  that work for Scientology has absolute priority. This can even lead to parental neglect of the children, since Scientology parents have as a rule internalised the notion that the highest goal is the expansion of the Scientology Organisation, and they hold the view that they must have their children

brought up to think the same.


The most extreme form for children inside the organisation applies to those who grow up in the Sea Org. Since the Sea Org is regarded as the elite unit within the Scientology Organisation, it is the ambition of many Scientology parents

that their children should have a Scientology career.


Particular reference may be made here to the testimony of a young ex-member who grew up in a Scientology family and at the age of eleven came to Germany.


Until age seventeen or eighteen her experiences with Scientology were limited.


She had only tried working for Scientology for a few weeks during the school holidays, and because of family problems  --  the idea being that she should get on better with her step-mother  --  she had been sent on a communications course, followed by an introductory course in Scientology, which initially she had found fun. Overall, the most powerful influence seems to have been her



181 ) This emerges from the comments by Prof. Dr Linus Hauser at the public hearing held on the "Situation of children and adolescents in so-called sects and psychogroups" on 13 March  1997.

183 ) Cf. Anonymous: Entkommen, Reinbek 1993, p. 101ff.

183 ) Cf. Eimuth, K.H., loc. cit., p. 84ff.




upbringing in the family, and in particular her father's attitude. She reports that she was never allowed to say at school that her father and step-mother were Scientologists. By and large she had grown up in isolation. Her father's attitude

towards her was that she could do anything, that any difficulties were her own problem and that she herself must know best. From her earliest years, even when there were problems at home, he had said that she was not four years old

(her age when her mother died), but a thetan, and must cope with things herself.


Her conclusion was that Scientology parents expect a great deal from their children, too much in fact.


When she was sixteen or seventeen the family problems got worse. Her father's new girlfriend, following his separation from her stepmother, did not want her around and declared that she was unwilling to have the girl in her house. Her

father had said she was a thetan and that it was up to her to decide what she wanted to do. She could work in the organisation, he said, which would give her a roof over her head. She did that for a few weeks, and never did really know where to put herself.


At this point, she was approached and asked if she wanted to become a staff member. Recruiters from Flag, Copenhagen and Saint Hill had also tried to sign her up. She was told she was highly qualified, intelligent and competent, which pleased her greatly. She finally opted for Saint Hill and the Sea Org, and her father too signed the "trillion year contract". That was important for her father, she said, because he himself had earlier failed in the same endeavour and now put his hopes in his daughter. This contract "solved" her problems, since she was now provided with board, lodging and care.


Describing her work at Saint Hill, the young ex-member reported that she studied from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon, doing the courses for the Sea Org. Afterwards, she was drilled, she said, and then there was physical work. No breaks were allowed, and during the entire day, there where only two half-hour pauses for meals. She had to jog everywhere and there was no rest, because she had to achieve optimum production. She hardly ever had any spare time, and the remuneration was less than promised and paid only infrequently. She had also hardly ever been to school. That had also been the experience of a thirteen-year-old friend, who was at the same time her superior. They had been helping to build a sauna, more often than not working through the night and going straight on to their classes the next morning with little or no sleep. She had been very exhausted, had started having back problems, and she found the work very hard.


She never got enough sleep. Even when ill she had had to work, and nobody paid any attention to occupational injuries. They were not supplied with adequate protective clothing, not even for hazardous work, e.g. when they were handling

acid. They were told a thetan could do anything.


After six weeks, she wanted to go back home, partly because she felt lonely and everything was so impersonal. Thereupon, she was obliged to spend hours writing down all her mistakes, and she was put under pressure by being told




that if she left now she would be a failure and a shame to her family. When she continued to defend herself, she was shouted at and publicly humiliated. The work became even harder, and sometimes, she was not allowed to take

meal breaks. When she tried to run away, she was seized by security guards and locked in a room for hours. After that, she was systematically watched and monitored. Attempts to resist were particularly difficult, she said, because there was nobody one could confide in, everything was immediately passed on. Moreover, the telephones were bugged, and letters were opened. She herself had also been involved in this system, had spied on others, and opened their mail. Only when she pretended for a while that she conformed completely, did they let down their guard, whereupon she had managed to spin a credible tale about her father being seriously ill. That way she was given three weeks leave in Germany. She used this opportunity to leave Scientology, but was able to do so only with the support of others. Her father did not understand her and said she shouldn't be a failure in Scientology the way he had been, and if she didn't return to Sea Org she would no longer be his daughter.


Although she had been very glad to get away from Saint Hill, she had gone into crisis because she had lost her friends, both those from Scientology and her previous friends. She was also dropped by many of her relatives, who blamed her for her father's misfortunes and, because of his failing health, his imminent death. All in all, she tended to be withdrawn, feeling that she was too old for her fellow students and peers, not like eighteen, more like forty. The positive side was that she was able to go back to school and gradually build up new friendships, albeit with older people.


This account is valid for parents who bring up their children strictly according to the rules of the Scientology Organisation. There are also cases where parents do not follow Hubbard's rules in bringing up their children. Summary


In conclusion, it remains to be noted that these brief accounts of various new religious and psychocult groups and currents point to potential dangers that are obvious if one looks at the groups' programmatic statements and are in fact confirmed by reports. In no circumstances, however, should these indications be misunderstood as a description of the way in which these groups generally treat children. In actuality, it must be presumed that there is a wide scatter in terms of the way in which children are treated and the quality of parent-child relations, even in these new religious milieus and groups. 184 )



184 ) Cf. the reservations about judgements as to the upbringing of children and relations between parents and children in new religious movements and groups in Section 5.2.3 of this Chapter.




5.2.5 Educational conflict areas and potential hazards

Educational conflicts and the resulting dangers for children and adolescents have to do, first, with the internal reality of the family, i.e. the parent-child relationship itself, and with the impact of the group and milieu in which they are

embedded; secondly, with adolescents' relationship with other educational institutions and the extra-curricular activities of children and adolescents; and thirdly, with the consequences of the respective life-styles, and the educational

beliefs and practices, for the individualisation and reflexive social integration of adolescents. This section therefore outlines  --  in a necessarily simplified form  --  only the problematic and potentially hazardous aspects of these kinds of movements, groups and milieus for children and adolescents. Aspects that tend to promote stability, encourage development and open up possibilities are not addressed here, 185 ) and will need to be scientifically studied in the future. It should not be concluded that the involvement of children and adolescents in these groups and movements displays only harmful and problematic aspects. 186 )


The potential hazards  --  as discussed at the hearing of educational, psychological and medical experts before the Enquete Commission  --  are briefly listed below. Problem clusters within the family


As the experts made clear, a distinction should be drawn here between the situation of children and adolescents who grow up in the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, and the position of adolescents and young adults who have recourse to such groups as part of the process of separation and becoming independent, or who spend time in new religious milieus as they experiment with alternative life-styles. Be that as it may, the problems outlined below cannot accurately be regarded as typical only of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups and families.


Analogous problems and conflicts are also found in other religious and non-religious milieus and life situations with quite different agendas.


For the group of children and adolescents who grow up in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the following problem clusters may be noted:



185 ) Cf. the remarks on the attitude of these movements and groups to the requirements of modern life in Section 5.2.2 of this Chapter; cf. also the comprehensive, interdisciplinary and multi-perspective account of the relationship between youth and religion in terms of both problems and opportunities in Schweitzer, F.: Die Suche nach eigenem Glauben, Einf�hrung in die Religionsp�dagogik des Jugendalters, G�tersloh 1996.

186 ) Cf.  --  at least for the processes that attract adolescents and post-adolescents to these groups and movements  --  the research project on biographies in such groups in Chapter 3.5 of this Report, and in the Annex.




There is the danger that parents may have insufficient autonomy and be too dependent vis-�-vis the groups, so that the way they deal with their children may also be determined by group pressures.


Particularly where the parents are heavily dependent in material terms, or where social resources and networks outside the new religious groups are largely lacking, parents may remain bound to the group even though things are going badly wrong. The parents' lack of autonomy and independence in the practical matters of life may then have far-reaching implications for the development of their own children's autonomy, because the parents are no longer effective as models of autonomous behaviour, or because the parent-child relations may be subject to outside control and adaptation to prescribed principles.


The heavy demands made on parents' time in the new religious groups may lead them to "neglect" their children. 187 )

The counterpart to this in other, more secular milieus and life-styles would be the "neglect" of children because of

absolute priority given to a parent's career or the pressures of the labour market, which can minimise the time parents are able to spend with their children.


Problems and conflicts with partners may arise where one parent becomes involved with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.


These conflicts are exacerbated if the parents have sharply divergent religious views. A surprise conversion of one parent can place a particularly heavy strain on the family system, to the detriment of the children. This can lead to constant arguments in the family, which the children get drawn into and which can be very emotionally stressful for adolescents. Children who find themselves caught between two different religious views of life can face problems of loyalty, under pressure to "side with" one parent and "betray" the other. 188 )


It is above all in adolescence that acute generational problems may arise, as the young person strives to separate himself, and this is especially the case  --  as was emphasised by the educational and psychological experts  --  within relatively closed groups and those that make absolute demands on their members.


The independent individual development of adolescents is then not just experienced as a loss, but at the same time as a fundamental calling into question of the parents and their whole way of life. This is often also interpreted as the road

to sin and perdition, whereby children may become "traitors" to the cause and find themselves on the side of the enemy.

This too, however, is in no way an invariable feature of the new religious or psychocult milieus. Similar problems

are encountered in other communities of like-minded people or groups with a pronounced ideological or political bias; they may also accompany changes of status, or the transition from one social milieu to another and sharply different

one in the course of social mobility.




187 ) Experience reports and reports from former members submitted to the Enquete Commission's hearings also contain indications, e.g. about Scientology, das Universelle Leben (Universal Life), or VPM.

188 ) Cf. the case study recounted in Klosinski, G., 1996, p. 82f.




A particular difficulty arises in the case of divorce, when decisions must be made about custody and account is taken of one or other parent's involvement in neoreligious milieus. Neither the mere fact of a parent's belonging to one of

these new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, nor appeals to "freedom of religion" as the basis of problematic parental behaviour towards children, can form an adequate basis for decision. The view of the legal experts called by the Enquete Commission was that no general regulation is possible here, but that each case has to be examined on its merits. 189 )


For adolescents and young adults who, as part of their adolescent and post-adolescent processes of separation and orientation, associate with new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the following problem clusters may be identified: Adolescents's search for orientation, even when pursued within new religious, spiritual or psychocult milieus and currents, can be understood as the expression of processes of becoming independent and separating from the family that are typical of adolescence, and as an experiential quest for meaning carried on outside the traditional institutions. This view of the matter was stressed by the educationalists, who indicated that social condemnation of unconventional forms of the search for meaning and choice of life-styles was not appropriate,

and could cause adolescents to become entrenched in their views. This more nuanced approach can help prevent a one-sided "dramatisation" of the processes whereby adolescents or young adults become involved with groups. 190 )


Of course, the new ties can themselves become problematic, again hampering the young persons' drive towards independence.


Parents frequently experience their "children's" involvement in new religious and psychocult groups as a loss or alienation. If they try to win their children back by using compulsion or "force", this can further strain the relationship

between adolescents and their parents, or completely destroy it. Problems and conflicts in relation to school, peers, youth culture and other fields of experience of children and adolescents


The involvement of children and adolescents in areas of experience outside the family is of great importance for their individualisation and reflexive social integration. In particular, the network of school and out-of-school friendships within the same age group plays a central role in the learning processes and socio-cognitive development of adolescents. 191 ) But the availability of wide-ranging



189 ) Cf. Information and Documentation Centre on Sects/Psychocults IDZ (ed.): Auserw�hlt oder ausgeliefert? Kinder in Sekten und Psychogruppen, Cologne 1996 and the account of the hearing of legal experts in the Interim Report, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170 p. 24ff., p. 25.

190 ) Material that supports this more nuanced approach may also be found in the research project, commissioned by the Enquete Commission, on biographies in new religious and psychocult groups and movements; cf. Chapter 3.6 of this Final Report, and also the Annex.

191 ) Cf. Krappmann, L./Oswald, H.: Alltag der Schulkinder, Weinheim/Munich 1995 and Youniss, J.: Soziale Konstruktion und psychische Entwicklung, Frankfurt/Main 1994.




opportunities for education and training is also becoming ever more critical for adolescents's future. Major obstacles in either of these areas can therefore entail serious prob