Final Report of the Enquete
on "So-called Sects and
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
Overall production: Bonner Universit�ts-Buchdruckerei Die Deutsche Bibliothek -
Final Report of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups"
Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups in the Federal Republic
Transl. into English by: Wolfgang Fehlberg and Monica Ulloa-Fehlberg
[Ed.: Deutscher Bundestag, Referat �ffentlichkeitsarbeit]. -
Bonn: Dt. Bundestag, Referat �ffentlichkeitsarbeit, 1998
Sache; 98, 5)
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,
well as highly flexible, mobile and willing to take decisions. This leads to a
great deal of uncertainty.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
the milieu provided by the communities.
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,
whenever crimes are committed under the guise of religion, government cannot
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.
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
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.
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
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
Helmut Jawurek, MP
Hermann Gr�he, MP
Eckart von Klaeden, MP
Sigrun L�wisch, MP
Ronald Pofalla, MP (spokesman) Marlies
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
Roland Kohn, MP (spokesman) Birgit
B�ndnis 90/Die Gr�nen
Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP Volker Beck
(Cologne), MP (spokeswoman)
Jelpke, MP (spokeswoman) Rosel
Professor Dr Ralf Bernd Abel
Department of Business Law at the Fachhochschule Schmalkalden
Commissioner for Ideology Issues of the Lutheran Protestant Church District of
Ursula Caberta y Diaz
of the Scientology Task Force, Ministry of the Interior, Hamburg
Social scientist, Bonn
Theologian, Commissioner for Sects, Pastoral Centre of the German Conference of
Psychologist, Association of German Psychologists, Bonn
Professor Dr Werner Helsper
Department of Philosophy/Education, Teachers' Training College of the Johannes
Gutenberg University in Mainz
habil Hansj�rg Hemminger
Centre for Ideology Issues, Protestant Parish Service for W�rttemberg, Stuttgart
Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior, Munich
Professor Dr Hubert Seiwert
Institute of Religious Studies at the University of Leipzig
Richter am Landgericht Hamburg
Professor Dr Hartmut Zinser
Institute of Religious Studies at the Free University of Berlin
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
Wolfgang Wittmann, social
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
B�NDNIS 90/DIE GR�NEN: Wolfgang Bayer
F.D.P.: Sabine Scholz
Table of Contents
Mandate and Implementation of the Work of the Enquete Commission on
"So-called Sects and
Psychogroups" . . . . .
Description of the Problem, as well as the Commission's Establishment
and Mandate . . .. 19
The Commission's Methodological Approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Phenomenological, Terminological and Conceptual Clarification of the
Subject under Review . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 27
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 . . . . . . . . . .
2.2.4 Understanding of the Phenomenon in Social Sciences . . . . . . .
2.2.5 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 31
The Term "Psychogroup". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 32
Types of Conflict with "Sects" and "Psychogroups" . . . . . . . . .
The Term "Sect" and Religious Conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 34
The Term "Sect" as Used by Governmental Bodies. . . . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 36
Macrosocial and Microsocial Dimensions of the Phenomenon.
Societal Causes of, and Conditions for, the Emergence and Growth of
New Religious and
Ideological Communities and Psychogroups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.1 Preliminary Remarks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 38
3.1.2 From the Traditional Community to the Elective Community . . .
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 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups as
Perceived in Society . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.1 Historical Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 53
3.2.2 Objectives and Instruments of Governmental Intervention. . . . .
New Religious and Ideological Communities and Psychogroups:
A Challenge for Society .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.4 Survey among Various Groups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 59
3.2.5 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 61
Group Structures, Activities and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 63
3.3.1 Opportunities for, and Limits to, a Typology . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 63
Overview of Structural Elements of New Religious and Ideological
Psychogroups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.3 Description of Typologically Generalised Groups . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.4 Mixed Forms, Business and Pyramid Selling . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.5 Potential Conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 72
3.3.6 Digression: Enlistment and Recruitment Strategies. . . . . . . . .
Occultism/Satanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 78
3.4.1 The Scope of Occult and Satanic Phenomena . . . . . . . . . . . .
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 . . .
3.4.6 Areas of Conflict . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 85
The Psycho-market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 87
3.5.1 Issues and Hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 89
3.5.2 Study on the Alternative Life-Counselling Market . . . . . . . . .
. . 90
220.127.116.11 Consumers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 91
18.104.22.168 Providers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . 97
3.5.3 Problems, Risks, Negative Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 101
3.5.4 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 103
3.5.5 Suggestions for Further Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 104
Entry Pathways and Membership Histories in New Religious and Ideological
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
Social and Psychological Effects of Membership in New Religious and
Psychogroups . . . . . .
Information and Counselling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 116
Information Provided by Governmental Bodies. . . . . . . . . . . . .
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
Need for Counselling and the Underlying Conflicts: Findings of the Expert
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
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 . . . . . .
Research and Teaching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 138
Analysis of Specific Priority Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 140
Forms of Social Control and Psychological Destabilisation . . . .
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 . . . . . . . .
5.1.6 Potential Dangers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 151
5.1.7 Interim Summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 153
5.1.8 Opportunities and Need for Governmental Interventions . . . . . .
5.1.9 Ethical Standards, Voluntary Commitments, (Moral) Appeals . .
5.1.10 Institutional Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 156
Recommendation to Fund Research Aimed at Shedding More Light on the
Issues at Stake . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Children and Adolescents in New Religious and Ideological Communities and
Psychogroups . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 157
Conflicts and Approaches to Coping with Conflicts in New Religious and
Psychogroups, as Compared with the Principles of Modern Life-styles. 159
Assessing the Education of Children in the Belief Systems of New
and Psychogroups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 162
The Situation of Children and Adolescents in New Religious and
Psychogroups . . . . . . . . . . .
22.214.171.124 The Unification Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 164
126.96.36.199 Fundamentalist Currents in Groups and Movements of Christian Origin
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
188.8.131.52 Hindu and Meditative Currents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 167
184.108.40.206 Scientology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 170
220.127.116.11 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 173
5.2.5 Educational Conflict Areas and Potential Hazards. . . . . . . . . .
18.104.22.168 Problem Clusters within the Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 174
Problems and Conflicts in Relation to Schools, Peers, Youth Culture, and
Fields of Experience of
Children and Adolescents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 176
Problems and Conflicts Affecting the Social Integration and
Children and Adolescents
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.6 Digression: Ritual Abuse of Children: An Occult-Satanic
Phenomenon?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
22.214.171.124 Ritual Abuse, Dissociation, Multiple Personalities . . . . . . . . .
. . 181
126.96.36.199 Qualifications and Question-marks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 183
188.8.131.52 How Widespread Are these Practices?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 185
184.108.40.206 Ritual Abuse: Summing Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 186
5.2.7 Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 186
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 . . . . . . . . .
5.3.4 Pyramid Selling as a So-called "Commercial Cult" . . . . . . . . .
5.3.5 Profit Expectation Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 197
International Aspects of New Religious and Ideological Communities and
Psychogroups. . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.4.1 Comparable Problems in Other Countries . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 200
220.127.116.11 Problem Description and the Enquete Commission's Mandate .
18.104.22.168 Scope and Scale of New Religious and Ideological Communities and
Psychogroups . .. . . 203
22.214.171.124 Legal Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 205
126.96.36.199 Legal Disputes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 209
188.8.131.52 International Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 211
184.108.40.206 Perceptions in the Public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 211
220.127.116.11 Counselling and Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 214
18.104.22.168 Parliamentary Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 215
22.214.171.124 European Parliament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 219
126.96.36.199 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. . . . . . . . . . .
188.8.131.52 Conclusions of Parliamentary Reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . 220
184.108.40.206 Implementation of Parliamentary Reports. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 222
220.127.116.11 Conclusions for the Debate in Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 223
18.104.22.168 International Co-operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 224
5.4.2 International Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . 225
5.4.3 Visit by a Delegation to the United States . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 228
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
Terms of Legal
Proceedings. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
22.214.171.124 Typical Difficulties for Individuals in Legal Disputes . . . . . . .
. . . 243
5.5.3 Constitutional Appraisal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 246
126.96.36.199 Article 4 of the German Constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 246
188.8.131.52 Rights of Corporations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 249
5.5.4 Application and/or Extension of the Scope of Existing Law . . . .
184.108.40.206 Association and Tax Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 251
220.127.116.11 Act on Non-Medical Practitioners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 252
18.104.22.168 Provisions of the Law on Parents and Children . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 259
22.214.171.124 Usury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . 261
126.96.36.199 The Act on Psychotherapists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 266
188.8.131.52 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
Psychogroups" . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction of a Legal Regime on the Provision of Public Funds for
Information Centres . . . . . . .
184.108.40.206 Act on Commercial Life-Counselling Services. . . . . . . . . . . . .
220.127.116.11 Introduction of Criminal Liability of Legal Entities and
Associations of Persons . . . . . . . 278
18.104.22.168 Making the Organisation of So-called Pyramid Games a Separate
Criminal Offence. . 280
Opinion and Recommendations for Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Opinion of the Enquete Commission on the General Societal Phenomenon of
Religious and Ideological
Communities and Psychogroups . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommendations for Action. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 285
6.2.1 Constitutional Appraisal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 285
22.214.171.124 Article 4 of the German Constitution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 285
126.96.36.199 Rights of Corporate Bodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 285
6.2.2 New Legal Provisions to be Adopted in Future . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 285
188.8.131.52 Act Establishing a Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . 285
Introduction of a Legal Regime for the Provision of Public Funds for
Information Centres . . . . . . .
184.108.40.206 Act Governing Commercial Life-Counselling Services. . . . . . . .
Introduction of Responsibility under Criminal Law for Legal Entities and
Associations of Persons .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
220.127.116.11 Making the Organisation of So-called Pyramid Games a Separate
Criminal Offence.. . . . . 287
Including Pyramid Selling in the Scope of Application of Legislation on
and Insurance Services
Intermediaries . . . . .
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
Communities and Psychogroups". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 287
18.104.22.168 Association and Tax Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 288
22.214.171.124 Act on Non-Medical Practitioners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . 288
126.96.36.199 Legal provisions on the Relationship between Parents and Children .
. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289
188.8.131.52 Usury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . 290
184.108.40.206 Act on Psychotherapists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 290
Observation of the Scientology Organisation by Germany's Offices for the
Protection of the
Constitution . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2.5 International Co-operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . 291
A Common Approach towards New Religious and Ideological Communities and
Psychogroups in the
European Union . . . . . .
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 . . .
Minority Opinion Submitted by Commission Members Dr J�rgen Eiben, Professor Dr
Helsper, Dr Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP, Professor Dr Hubert Seiwert with Regard
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
the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" with Regard to
Chapter 220.127.116.11 (Rights of Corporations) and the Relevant Recommendation for
Action in Chapter 18.104.22.168 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Minority Opinion Submitted by Ursula Caberta y Diaz, Alfred Hartenbach, MP,
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
SPD's Parliamentary Group in the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects
Psychogroups" with regard to Chapter 6.1 "Opinion of the Enquete Commission
the General Societal Phenomenon of New Religious and Ideological Communities
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
Commission's Final Report . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Minority Opinion Submitted by Dr Angelika K�ster-Lo�ack, MP, and Professor Dr
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"
Regard to the Commission's Final Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305
Research Project on "Drop-outs, Converts, and Believers: Contrasting
Analyses of Why Individuals Join, Have a Career and Stay in, or Leave,
Contexts or Groups" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1 Mandate and
Implementation of the Work of the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and
1.1 Description of the problem as well
as the Commission's establishment and mandate
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).
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
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
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.
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.
German Bundestag's decision to establish the Commission, the latter had the
mandate to deal with four priority areas in its work:
To analyse the objectives, activities and practices of so-called sects
and psychogroups that are active in the Federal Republic of Germany
analysis is expected to
dangers emanating from these organisations for the individual, the State, and
open and concealed societal objectives pursued by these organisations;
national and international interconnections of these organisations, and
the limits to recourse to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion
for more recently established religious and ideological movements,
so-called sects and psychogroups.
To find out why individuals join so-called sects or psychogroups and
why such organisations are growing in membership
end, the Enquete Commission is requested to
typical case histories, i.e. how individuals become members and what happens
after they join such organisations;
the social and political conditions which lead to an increased willingness to
join so-called sects and psychogroups;
enlistment and recruitment strategies pursued by these organisations, and
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.
To identify problems encountered by individuals during membership
and when trying to leave
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.
To draw up recommendations for action bearing in mind the debate
carried on in society to date
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Composition of the Enquete
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.
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
reasons of confidentiality, most of the hearings of external experts were not
open to the public:
Non-public hearings and talks with
experts from Germany's Offices for the Protection of the Constitution, 14
counselling and information centres as well as initiatives of parents and
affected individuals, 2 December 1996
various groups, 13 January 1997 and 17 February 1997
of a series of three hearings on the "Situation of Children and Adolescents in
so-called Sects and Psychogroups", 20 February 1997
"So-called Sects and Psychogroups and Business Enterprises", 12 May 1997
"So-called Sects and Psychogroups: A Challenge for Society?", 2 June 1997
"International Interconnections", 5 June 1997
"Drop-outs from so-called Sects and Psychogroups", 25 September 1997, 2 October
1997, 9 October 1997, 5 February 1998
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
experts on the topic of "Ritual Abuse", 16 January 1998
an expert from the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on
labour law and social security issues, 12 February 1998
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
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.
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.
the topic of the "Constitutional Background in Dealing with New Religious and
Ideological Movements (German Constitution, Art. 4)", 12 December 1996
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
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
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
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
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".
implementation of this project was entrusted to:
Professor Dr Heinz Streib, University of Bielefeld,
Professor Dr Werner Fuchs-Heinritz, Open Polytechnic University of Hagen,
Albrecht Sch�ll, Comenius-Institut M�nster,
Wilfried Veeser, theologian, pastor of the Protestant Church in W�rttemberg.
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
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
Terminological and Conceptual Clarification of the Subject under Review
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.
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
the attributes ascribed to groupings that are referred to under the heading of
"so-called sects and psychogroups" actually apply across the entire spectrum.
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
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"
"youth sect". In some sources in literature, the meaning of the term "sect" is
also considered to be a given fact.
) In addition,
there are other terms, some of which emphasise other conceptual aspects: Fr. W.
Haack has introduced the
) Furthermore, the terms
"cult" and "destructive cult", which originated in the United States, have been
adopted in the German language
Cf. Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur, Freiburg/Basel 1987, p. 22.
Cf. Haack, Fr. W.: Jugendreligionen. Zwischen Scheinwelt und Kommerz, Munich
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
Hence - although it may appear to be self-evident - the term "sect" itself is
ambiguous and thus problematic.
2.2.1 Historical meanings of the term
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
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
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
(in the 15th
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
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.
Cf. Tillich, P.: Vorlesungen �ber die Geschichte des christlichen Denkens, Part
I, Supplements and unpublished works, Vol. 1, Stuttgart 1971, p. 20f.
being legally legitimated by the Empire.
) 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
term in a misleading manner.
2.2.2 The term "sect" as used in
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.
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
definitions were developed on the basis of analyses of a given historical
situation; hence, they are irrelevant for the problems dealt with by the
2.2.3 The term "sect" as used in
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
in colloquial language for groupings which are referred to as "new religious
Cf. Feil, E.: Religio. Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffs vom
Fr�hchristentum bis zur Reformation, G�ttingen 1986, p. 274f.
Cf. Kehrer, G.: Einf�hrung in die Religionssoziologie, Darmstadt 1988.
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
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
of teaching intolerance, etc.
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
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.
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
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.
) This understanding
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.
Cf. Hemminger, H. J.: Was ist eine Sekte?, Mainz-Stuttgart 1995.
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.
) 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.
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.
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
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.
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"
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"
). 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.
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.
Hemminger, H. J./Keden, J.: Seele aus zweiter Hand, Psychotechniken und
Psychokonzerne, Stuttgart, 1997, p. 7.
2.4 Types of conflict with "sects" and
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
) 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
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
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
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,
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.
addition, it is not only the dissident communities that act when conflicts arise
but also competing and already established religious communities, as well as
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.
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
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
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
2.6 The term "sect" as used by
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
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.
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.
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
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;
the event of a conflict, the interests concerned must be weighed to decide which
of the interests takes precedence in a given concrete case.
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.
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.
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
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
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
the context in which an individual decides to live.
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:
violations of laws;
abuse of power by individuals who take advantage of legal vacuums which
jeopardizes interests protected by law; such abuse calls for regulatory action
violations contra bonos mores derived from the system of fundamental
values, and infringements of social obligations.
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
) . 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."
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.
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).
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
3.1.1 Preliminary remarks
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
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
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.
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
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.
Cf. Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur, Freiburg, 1987; or Stoffers, M.
and Puhe, H.: Neue religi�se Organisationen und Kultpraktiken, project report,
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.
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
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
-- 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
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.
far as organisational forms are concerned, there are two extreme forms of new
religiousness, "in addition to the Churches", i.e. our traditional religions.
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.
) 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.
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
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
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
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".
Cf. Chapter 3.3.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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-
Cf. Identit�tsarbeit heute, (ed.) H�fer/Keupp, H., Frankfurt, 1997.
) 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
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.
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
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".
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.
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
Cf. Table 16 in Daiber, K.F.: Religion unter den Bedingungen der Moderne,
Marburg, 1995, p. 55.
Cf. Eiben, J.: "Neue Religiosit�t" in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Cologne,
1996, p. 42f.
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
which he or she lives and acts.
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.
) 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
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
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
) 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,
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;
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
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,
) 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
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.
Cf. Zinser, H.: Der Markt der Religionen, Munich, 1997.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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).
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
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
said, globalisation and localisation combine to become glocalisation.
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
Cf. Globalization, London, 1992.
time, however - and this is the global dimension - there are relatively small
groups which establish themselves as international organisations operating
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
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.
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
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
"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.
image which the media present to the public about new religious and ideological
communities and psychogroups is often focused on sensational events.
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
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
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.
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
According to Gerhard Schulze,
) 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.
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.
Cf. ibid.: Die Erlebnisgesellschaft. Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart, Frankfurt,
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
himself as the object whose condition is to be manipulated".
) 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
the past few years, the various contemporary sociological diagnoses have been
evolving into a theory of the communication society.
) 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
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
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
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
concerned, this means: regulation and not control,
) as well as stimulation
Cf. inter alia the theories developed by Beck, Habermas, Luhmann, Mayntz oder
inter alia M�nch, R.: Die Dialektik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft, Frankfurt,
1991; Die Dynamik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft, Frankfurt, 1995.
Cf. Mayntz, R. and Scharpf, F. W. (ed.): Gesellschaftliche Selbstregulierung und
politische Steuerung, Frankfurt, 1995, in particular Chapters 1, 2, 4, 7.
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.
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
fulfil its traditional functions without a certain measure of institutional
transcendence and continuity.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Subsequently, the phenomenon was referred to as
"youth religion" or "youth sect".
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
) the problem was
first and foremost a youth problem.
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
psychogroups, governmental bodies also began to express their views about this
issue in the course of the 1970s.
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
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.
the very beginning, public authorities benefited from work done by the Church
commissioners and groups of parents and other affected individuals.
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
In its Interim Report, the Commission described this development in great
detail. Cf. The findings of Working Group 1.
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.
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).
result, the governmental bodies themselves had to assume greater responsibility,
which made it necessary for them to compile know-how of their own.
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
3.2.2 Objectives and instruments of
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 22.214.171.124 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 -
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.
role of government is to protect the citizens and to preserve social peace.
connection with the conflicts arising in the field of new religious and
ideological communities and psychogroups, there are four types of governmental
the legal setting,
education and information and, where necessary, warning the public with regard
to the activities of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups
"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,
necessary, mediating in conflicts between religious groups, or between citizens
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
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
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
) 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
) 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.
summary, the hearing of the social groups mentioned above led to the following
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".
Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, Chapter
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
concerned that the current "criticism of sects" might turn into a blanket
criticism of religion.
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
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.
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.
Enquete Commission asked the groups invited to answer the following questions:
What is your assessment of the public debate conducted by the media,
politicians, the official Churches, etc. with regard to your community?
What is your assessment of decisions, if any, taken by
governmental/public institutions concerning your community?
Are you aware of any members who have suffered disadvantages due to their
What is your assessment of the Enquete Commission's Interim Report?
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
Verband Evangelischer Freikirchen (VEF - Association of Free Protestant
Churches) to answer the questions.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
findings described above show that there are two trends in society with regard
to new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
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.
Cf. Chapter 3.5 for more details.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
3.3 Group structures, activities and
3.3.1 Opportunities for, and limits
to, establishing a typology
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
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.
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
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
Hence, the following points should be clearly stated from the onset:
have an effective global or international organisation and are structured
groups with an international or global organisation are equally conflict-prone.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
point of reference is an individual who is considered to be the leader, master,
source of revelations, mediator of salvation or healing.
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
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.
practices and rituals.
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.
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).
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.
small informal groups develop into larger and better organised groups, it is
possible to distinguish between six phases or aspects which are of particular
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).
Satellite units - i.e. other groups with permanent ties to the primary
group - are formed, usually at other locations or even in other countries.
Theory and practice are codified and generalised.
A larger or large organisation evolves, which may be active
internationally or world-wide.
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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,
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
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
promoting or mediating reactions of the environment. This can be illustrated by
means of the two following examples:
1930s, Jehovah's Witnesses developed under Rutherford from a loosely organised
community of "serious bible researchers" to an organisation with authoritarian
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
various development steps are described below. This description is based on
concrete groups which, however, have been generalised for the purpose of this
a. Master circle
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.
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,
b. Transition from
a circle to a group
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
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
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.).
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.
operating nation-wide or internationally/world-wide
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.
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
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
development abroad, mainly in the United States, and then went to Germany as
more or less developed international/global religious organisations.
may also give rise to specific conflicts (inculturation problems).
d. Groups with
sub-organisations and subsidiary organisations
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
3.3.4 Mixed forms, commercial
enterprises and pyramid selling
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.
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
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
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
Employees in management positions enjoy almost the status of a cult figure.
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,
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.
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
The doctrines advocated in the groups can also lead to conflicts, if
these doctrines are associated with
ideologisation tending towards a total absence of experience,
simplification of reality, going as far as a loss of any sense of reality,
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
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).
Some groups provoke either permanent or temporary conflicts with the rest
of society in order to strengthen their internal solidarity.
Some groups mix their religious beliefs with commercial activities, or
they use religious objectives as a pretext for pursuing commercial and political
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.
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;
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;
measures which in colloquial language are referred to as "psychotechniques"
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Cf. Chapter 5.1.
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
hearing reports of "dropouts".
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.
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.
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
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
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
information magazines to publicise courses and information events where the
"entry package" is often offered on a free trial basis.
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
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
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"
) have with other
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,
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,
) Cf. e.g. Haack, F. W., Findungshilfe 2000, Apologetisches Lexikon, Munich
that some feel relieved of their relevant problems, at least temporarily.
) 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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
group's advertising is addressed to all social strata or all professional and
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.
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
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.
cannot be denied that there is a risk that the media not only cover and report
on "trends", but that they also produce "trends".
) However, it is
not only the media that can play a "trend-setter role". Experts and scientists
will also have
subject their services and their methods of work to careful (self-) reflection
and supervision in this context.
Cf. M�ller, U.: "Zur Konstruktion von Wirklichkeit", in Jugend & Gesellschaft,
3.4.1 The scope of occult and
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.
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.
) 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.
) 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.
) In 1996, about 1
percent of all adolescents stated that they belonged to occult groups.
) According to two
studies, approx. 68 percent
and 51 percent 50
of the population strongly reject occult groups; in fact, among the various
groups that are rejected, occult groups are number
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.
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.
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.
Cf. Helsper, W., loc. cit., 1992 und Streib, H., loc. cit. 1996.
Cf. Silbereisen, R. K. et al.: Jungsein in Deutschland. Jugendliche und junge
Erwachsene 1991 und 1996, Opladen, 1997.
Ibid., p. 64 f.
Cf. Jugendwerk der Dt. Shell (ed.), Jugend 1997, Opladen 1997, p. 365.
(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
) of Germany's
adolescents are actively or passively involved in "black masses".
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.
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),
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;
become occult by being interpreted as such.
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
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.
Cf. Zinser, H.: Jugendokkultismus in Ost und West, Munich 1993.
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.
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
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.
) However, Satanic
groups represent a distinct exception to this general rule.
3.4.3 Modern Satanism
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
to groups with a freemason background, sometimes involving anticlerical
parodies, and finally finding its way to Crowley.
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
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)
Cf. Driesch, H.: Parapsychologie, 4th edition Frankfurt/Main 1984.
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.
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.
Cf. Christiansen, I.: Bedeutung und Brisanz von Sekten, Destruktiv-Kulten und
Weltanschauungen f�r Jugendliche in unserer Gesellschaft, G�ttingen, 1997, p.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
), 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:
Satanism (involving the establishment of an order),
Satanism (Satan as a symbol or code),
58 ) Ibid., p.
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.
Cf. Introvigne, M./T�rk, E.: Satanismus, Paderborn 1995.
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.
occult Satanism (Satan is God's antagonist),
Satanism (sadistic, orgiastic and drug-consuming groups),
(Satan and Lucifer as objects of worship).
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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".
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
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
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
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
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
Cf. Christiansen, I.: loc. cit., p. 292.
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
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
consciousness during rituals. One female disciple pointed out: "Without being
high (she means on heroin), you couldn't have taken all that!"
3.4.6 Areas of conflict
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
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
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.
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,
) etc. can often
not be clearly ascribed to Satanism; instead, they tend to be a variant of
aggressive adolescent behaviour
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
adolescents participate in such activities include not only boredom, the search
for something exciting, for intensive experiences and the ultimate thrill
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.
Cf. auch Ruppert, H.-J.: Satanismus, EZW 140, Berlin, 1998.
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
the individual's life is determined by others, and hence, the fact that the
individual has no community attachment.
addition, if one studies the biographies of drop-outs, personal and
family-related problems usually also play a
major role. 67
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
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.
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
Cf. Billerbeck, L./Nordhausen, F.: Satanskinder. Der Mordfall Sandro B., Munich,
Cf. Eschebach, I./Thye, E.: Die Religion der Rechten. V�llkische
Religionsgemeinschaften, Aktualit�t und Geschichte, Dortmund 1995.
the criminal police in North-Rhine Westphalia with regard to the above-mentioned
crimes committed in connection with occultism/Satanism did notproduce any
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
Between seven and ten percent of all new publications in the book market fall
into the category of "New Age" and "esoterics".
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.
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.
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.
so-called "classical sects" as well as political groups are not active in this
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.
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.
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
); 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.
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
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
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
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,
Cf. Hemminger, H./Keden, J.: Seele aus zweiter Hand.
und Psychokonzerne, Stuttgart 1997, p. 7.
Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W.S.: The Future of Religion, Los Angeles 1985.
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.
religions and religiousness, e.g. traditional religious beliefs and practices of
indigenous peoples, such as shamanism.
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
reason for an affinity to alternative therapies is not primarily the desire to
acquire coping strategies but the increased need for clarification
on the part of users.
This project, which is managed by E.A. Straube and J. Mischo, will probably be
completed by March 1999.
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.
treatments do not satisfy this greater need for clarification; instead, they
tend to increase this need and keep the "psychomarket" going.
(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:
and motives are addressed by alternative therapies and counselling services
(phase of first contact)?
are subjectively satisfied or even created in the first place by an individual's
participation in alternative treatments?
factors influence an individual's affinity to alternative life-counselling
How is a
given method chosen?
positive or negative effects are ascribed by consumers to alternative
connection is there between subjective physical and psychological stress and the
connection is there between attitudes towards religion, spiritualism and
esoterics on the one hand, and the use of alternative methods on the other?
the general conditions of the alternative therapy setting (providers, duration
of therapy, costs, etc.)?
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
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".
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
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
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,
justified to categorise this scene as belonging to the fringe of new religious
and ideological communities and psychogroups.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
questionnaire covered the following subjects:
and negative experience with alternative methods,
information for the initial contact,
cost of the services offered,
on alternative methods,
interest in alternative methods,
assessment of the effectiveness of the method and the competency of the service
subjectively perceived changes due to the application of an alternative method,
provided by the treating physician,
of alternative methods,
simultaneous or earlier psychotherapy,
individual's satisfaction with his/her own life,
psychological stress factors,
towards religion, esoterics, and spiritualism,
Summary of findings
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).
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
The findings in detail: Methods covered in the survey
200 callers reported on experience with 104 methods, which were grouped in five
categories based on functional similarities:
healing methods (e.g. Reiki, kinesiology, Bach blossom therapy), unconventional
interpretational and occult practices (e.g. astrology, use of pendulum, fortune
movement therapies (e.g. yoga, qigong, Feldenkrais, bioenergetics),
unconventional medical methods (e.g. natural healing methods, acupuncture,
meditation/spiritual psychological methods (e.g. Zen meditation, chakren work,
therapeutic methods (e.g. gestalt therapy, autogenic training, neurolinguistic
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.
majority of the respondents lived together with a partner (55.5 percent).
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-
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
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
of these recommendations do not refer to a certain method but to a certain
motives mentioned most frequently in literature
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.
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
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.
Other factors assessed by consumers were described in their comments on the
quality of the relationship with the providers of alternative treatment methods.
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
1 = very good to 6 = inadequate).
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.
Ibid., p. 62.
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.
Attitudes towards religiousness When asked whether they belonged to any
religious community, 51.5 percent of
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".
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.
study conducted on the alternative health culture
) 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
their health behaviour is generally controlled by relevant systems of ideas.
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
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.
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
Cf. Hewer, W.: The relationship between the alternative practitioner and his
patient: A review, in: Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 40 (1983), pp. 170- 180.
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.
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.
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
requested them to do so.
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
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
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
important effects is that the participants continue to work to improve
themselves based on the many ideas they have been given.
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
work, their clientele, their methods, and their religious or spiritual
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.
analysing brochures and advertisements, the authors of the study identified, and
sent questionnaires to, some 280 providers in 1996 in the Freiburg region
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.
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.
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)
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
respondents had been trained in a commercial occupation; the remainder came from
a wide variety of professional backgrounds.
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
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.
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
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).
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
Since the respondents were able to give multiple responses, the percentage sum
is over one hundred.
The clientele and
According to the respondents, women account for 73 percent of their clientele,
and 45 percent are university graduates or students. The age group between
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.
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.
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,
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).
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).
Frankfurt, education by private teachers was more common than in Freiburg. In
Freiburg, a relatively high percentage of the respondents was trained at
one-third of the respondents in Frankfurt were registered as non-medical
practitioners; in Freiburg, no data were collected on this question.
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.
denominations, spiritualism and esoterics
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.
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
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
Findings of the study
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
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.
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.
of other studies and of a meeting of the Enquete Commission with experts
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.
) In patients who are
anxious anyway, relaxation could reinforce their feelings of anxiety.
Specific enquiries were made into the dynamics and the effects of so-called
"psychotechnics" and their psychoanalytical action factors
), which are applied in
the context of training and influencing methods aimed at behavioural therapy.
These enquiries led to the following findings:
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.
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.
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.
Ibid., p. 24.
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.
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.
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".
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
listed can be described as independent original publications.
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
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
alternative methods (as subjectively perceived by users and providers) with
other medical and psychological methods.
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
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
86 ) Cf.
Zinser, H., Schwarz, G. u. Remus, B.: Psychologische Aspekte neuer Formen der
Report on an empirical study, T�bingen 1997, p. 50f.
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.
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.
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 126.96.36.199 and
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Cf. for general information: Stenger, H.: loc. cit., p. 130ff.
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.
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"
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.
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
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 )
this reason, the Enquete Commission awarded contracts for four research projects
which were interrelated in terms of the topics they covered
and which provided information on the subjective importance of the events men-
tioned above in an individual's biography. The biographies of individuals who
Cf. Andritzky, W.: loc. cit., p. 9.
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.
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.
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
individual's own actions and their need for finding meaning in and shaping their
lives interacted with group activities and structures.
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,
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
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
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
) 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,
) 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
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.
Snow, M./Machalek, R: The Sociology of Conversion, in: Annual Review of
Sociology, 1984, 10, pp. 167-190.
Cf. Wohlrab-Sahr, M.: Konversion zum Islam als Implementation von
Geschlechtslehre, in: Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie, 1996, 25/1, pp. 19- 37.
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.
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
blocks and obliterates any consideration of alternative profiles.
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
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
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
expectations with regard to the future
crises due to greater social mobility with frequent passages of status
especially during adolescence
and yet others have emphasised the indi- vidual's alienation from the political,
social and cultural structures of society
), and the disappointment
about, and the turning away from the established
Cf. inter alia Kuner, 1983, loc. cit.
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.
Cf. inter alia Berger/Hexel 1981, loc. cit.
) Cf. inter alia Barker 1984, loc. cit.
) Cf. inter alia Schibilsky, M.: Religi�se Erfahrung und Interaktion. Die
Lebenswelt jugendlicher Randgruppen, Stuttgart 1976.
) 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.
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"
) 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-
"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
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
alleged risks described are ultimately not very convincing.
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
regard to the process that attracts individuals to a given group, it is
) Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W. S.: The Future of Religion: Secularization,
Revival and Cult For-ation, Berkeley 1986.
) 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.
) Cf. Levine, S.: Radical Depatures: Desparate Detours to Growing Up, San Diego
1984; Wright, S. A.: Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection, Washington 1987.
) 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.
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
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.
) 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.
) 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,
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
be drawn with regard to the conditions for the emergence, and the functions, of
"so-called sects and psychogroups" in modern Western societies.
) 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.
) 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.
) 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.
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
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
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
it is an empirically based theory, i.e. a "grounded" theory.
The findings in
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-
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
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
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
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
structure and the individual's problem constellations.
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
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.
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.
major findings of this study are presented below.
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?"
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.
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
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
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
) 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.
) 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.
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
this context, professional help can be both necessary and helpful.
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
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.
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
involved have not yet been sufficiently studied.
findings of the report are summarised by the author as follows:
does not confirm the assumptions that new religious movements are generally
destructive and that members generally have a premorbid personality.
crises in the lives of the individuals concerned and emotional instability often
seem to precede membership.
differences in the psychological structure of members, depending on the group
involved, it cannot be assumed that there is something like a consistent "sect
As a rule,
the personality traits of members do not differ from the personality traits of
similar groups in the general population.
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
This is not
necessarily due to the group involved but, among other things, to
socio-psychological processes associated with an individual's role change.
Information and counselling
Information provided by governmental
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
sections of the various state-level ministries responsible for such issues
cooperate with local apex organisations, the police, etc. Information is also
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
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).
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.
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".
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.
) Cf. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW) 1989, p. 3269.
) Cf. Council of Europe, European Commission of Human Rights, First Chamber,
Decision as to the Admissibility of Application No. 29745/96.
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,
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.
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".
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
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
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
) However, the reports
) 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
) Cf. Chapter 188.8.131.52.
) 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.
) 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
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
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.
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
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)
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
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
) Schmidtchen, G.: Sekten und Psychokultur. Freiburg/Basle/Vienna 1987
) 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
have shown that it is not possible to draw a clear-cut line between esoterics,
occultism and free spiritualism in terms of the demand
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
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
) Progress was achieved
in this field as a result of the Commission's
) 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
) 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,
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
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
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
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
) 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
centre provides the following services:
on questions of ideology,
for individuals, couples, and groups,
counselling for staff working in youth welfare departments, psychosocial
services, and in juvenile court relief services,
of the individuals involved in the course of a given case in the field of new
religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
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
) 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.
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:
personal problems and problems with relationships were the reasons why
individuals wanted counselling.
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.
who came for advice varied widely in terms of their ages, as well as their
professions, their levels of education, and other demoscopic data.
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
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.
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
practice -- or when such a community with its doctrines and practices interacts
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-
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
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.
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
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.
dissociating themselves from, and leaving groups because of personal development
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).
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
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
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
4.2.4 General conditions of
Expert report on the "Qualifications required for counselling work in the
field of so-called sects and psychogroups: Criteria and strategies"
) 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.
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,
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
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.
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
) 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
this purpose; and that qualification criteria and profiles for counsellors as
well as qualification strategies could only be developed as a subsequent step.
defining the various areas of responsibility, the authors of the report
identified three major fields for counselling services:
psychological counselling/therapy, and
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-
players involved in the counselling process, i.e.:
psychosocial counselling centres,
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.
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
Mediation was already successfully being applied in many fields of societal
problems (divorce, neighbourhood conflicts, environmental conflicts, etc.).
Quality characteristics of information and counselling provided by
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-
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
number of specific responsibilities for information, assistance and counselling
private information and education,
counselling sessions, helping individuals to help themselves,
contacts for medical, social, legal, educational help, etc.,
ethical and ideological orientation,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
oldest, still active initiatives of affected individuals date back to those
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.
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
stances it may be beneficial to blend personal contacts with the provision of
features used in literature to describe lay helpers can be summarised as
and side-line activity,
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,
assume less responsibility for the influencing process, or they leave more
responsibility to those who seek help,
towards having a symmetrical role distribution in the relationship between
helpers and individuals seeking help,
everyday terminology and everyday forms of communication,
to individuals who come for help or towards their situation (no general
to the perception and explanation patterns of those who seek help.
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
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
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.
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
However, they have also shown that counselling is seen in a broader context.
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.
) 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
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.
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.
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
) 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.
) 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;
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
(school, university, etc.) and statutory protection of young people in public
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)
) 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
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
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
) Cf. Hemminger, H./Thiede, W.: Kindheit und Jugend bei den "Kindern Gottes",
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 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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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),
welfare offices and other agencies in charge of the statutory protection of
youth in public places,
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
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
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
4.3 Research and teaching
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
5 Analysis of specific priority issues
5.1 Forms of social control and
the following chapter, the Enquete Commission states its views on the question
of psychological manipulation. In particular, the Commission seeks to answer the
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?
these causes could be described as manipulation of the individual by the groups?
of manipulation lead to psychological dependency?
of manipulation should be characterised as immoral or possibly even unlawful?
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
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.
In part these theories are based on the assumption that manipulative methods of
) 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.
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
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.
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
influence exerted on the individual, and the deliberate attempt to monopolise
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.
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
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").
potential dangers of social techniques can only be assessed to the extent that
we can identify the associated human images, value systems and theories.
) Cf. Interim Report of the Enquete Commission, loc. cit., p. 29.
) Cf. Barker, E.: Authority and Dependence in New Religious Movements, p. 237,
in Wilson, B. (ed.): Religion: Contemporary Issues, London 1992, pp. 237 -- 255.
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
5.1.3 Levels of psychological
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
view also suggests comparison with political and family forms of dependency,
which are based on the exercise of power, actual or potential.
usefulness of this term is examined below, and a working definition will be
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
) 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
must also be borne in mind when evaluating the behaviour of members of extremist
groups, before any attempt is made to explain individual behaviour.
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.
well-researched properties of groups are important for an understanding of the
behaviour of members of extremist communities:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
factors in society,
and life-cycle factors,
associated with the convert's own disposition,
potentiated by recruitment efforts, manipulation and deception on the part of
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.
findings as regards personality factors are not clear-cut, and the following
points are under discussion:
moods, including feelings of meaninglessness and homelessness,
personal and family situations, severe personal crises,
decline, unemployment, the sense of having no prospects in life,
models used to explain problems, religious patterns of behaviour,
"locus of control" (attribution of causality to others, dependence on the
judgement of others),
narcissistic personality structure,
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.
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
important factors are:
persuasiveness and trustworthiness of the recruiter,
by reference individuals or the establishment of positive relations with
techniques for inducing dependency.
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.
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,
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 )
Generalising on the basis of the published experience reports, we may identify
the following components of the concept "psychological dependency":
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),
) 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
) Barker, E.: loc. cit., p. 237.
or loss of previously possible or actual reality-testing,
activities are largely controlled from outside, measured against normal forms of
temporal and sexual exploitation (again measured against demands in such areas
normally made on other people,
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,
erection of strict truth boundaries vis-�-vis former reference persons (parents,
other relatives), and in other relations with outsiders,
importance or even suspension of generally applicable moral principles,
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"),
conformity among the followers, measured against the customary range of
behaviour and dispositions of ideological communities,
veneration of authority figures, personality cult.
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.
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.
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
Enquete Commission awarded a contract for an expert report to answer the
question "What are the characteristic features of religious dependency?"
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
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.
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
author which comes closest to a specific treatment of the subject is Eileen
Barker, a sociologist of religion.
) She takes a clear stand
against so-called sect criticism, arguing that dependency is induced in the same
way and to the
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
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.
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-
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.
far as the genesis of so-called dependency is concerned, the relevant conversion
models are primarily those which, beside the steps from initial
) 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.
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
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
the group objectives and group rules. A distinction may be made here between:
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.
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
) 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.
Thus, the milieu control identified by Hassan
), consisting of
behavioural control, mental control, emotional control and information control
cannot, in every case and as a matter of principle, be characterised as
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.
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
be compensated for by excessive commitment. However, this is not an
) 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:
http://www.lermanet.com/brainwashing.htmc). 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.
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
social techniques in the business world, see Chapters 5.3.4 and 5.3.5.
) 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.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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,
) Cf. the remarks by Prof. Klosinski on the particular need for prudence when
techniques with children, in the public hearing of experts on the "Situation of
adolescents in so-called sects and psychogroups" on 13 March 1997, Enquete
Commission's Interim Report on "So-called sects and psychogroups", German
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.
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.
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.
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
a sick or
and effectiveness, i.e. the intensity of the method,
totality and the group pressure of an organisation, and
qualification and seriousness of a practitioner, and his inclination to exploit
) See also Chapter 3.5.3.b.
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
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
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.
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,
legal constraints placed on potential abuse.
5.1.7 Interim summary
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
of demarcation promises to be rather difficult.
5.1.9 Ethical standards, voluntary
commitments, (moral) appeals
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
) 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.
) 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.
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.
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
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
envisage a (more) regulated approach to dealing with ideological disputes, or
they could also be aimed at achieving (out of court) settlements of concrete
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.
the basis of particular disputes, a pre-trial meeting of the parties might also
be considered, with a view to material and ideological arbitration.
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 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11).
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
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
) 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.
Since people in positions of executive authority are a particular target group
for the sale of social techniques
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
recruitment strategies. 145 )
5.2 Children and adolescents in new
religious and ideological communities and psychogroups
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
) 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.
) Cf. Schmitz, E.: Leistung und Loyalit�t. Berufliche Weiterbildung und
Personalpolitik in Industrieunternehmen,1 st ed.: Stuttgart 1978, p. 45f.
) 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.
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
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.
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"
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).
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
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.
) 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
) 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
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
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.
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
) Cf. the detailed account in Part B of working party 4 in the Enquete
Commission's Interim Report, Bundestag Doc. 13/8170, p. 94ff.
) 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.
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.
) 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).
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:
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.
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.
) 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,
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".
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.
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.
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,
) can be seen as the
) 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.
) 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 --
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.
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).
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
comprehensive cultural pluralism.
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
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
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.
5.2.3 Assessing the education of
children in the belief systems of new religious and ideological communities and
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
) For this argument, cf. Fend, H.: Sozialgeschichte des Aufwachsens im 20.
Jahrhundert, Frankfurt/Main 1988.
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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".
) 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
-- puts the parents back into the status of children, this time children of the
"true family". 157
) This can be
) 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.
) Cf. Reller, H. et al., loc. cit., p. 837f.
) This also transpires from the information given by the Unification Church in
connection with the Enquete Commission's hearing on 13 January 1997.
) 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
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
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.
) Thus, Sch�ll
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
) 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.
) Cf. Reller, H. et al., loc. cit., p. 836.
) Cf. Sch�ll, A., loc. cit., p. 184ff.
) Cf. Eimuth, K.H., loc. cit., p. 166f.
) 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.
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.
) 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.
) 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.
) 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
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.
Intense notions of demonology can be particularly damaging to the integrity of
the adolescent psyche.
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
) 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
) Cf. Gasper, H. et al.: Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen,
Freiburg/Basel/Vienna 1995, pp. 135ff., 456ff., 812ff.
) Cf. Eimuth, K.H., loc. cit., p. 204ff.
) Cf. the EMNID study on attitudes to corporal punishment in: Das Beste, 1997,
Vol. 4, p. 4 ff.
) 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.
) Cf. the remarks on demonology in the writings of Wolfgang Margies, e.g.:
Margies, W.: Befreiung, Berlin 1993, p. 41ff.
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.
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.
18.104.22.168 Hindu and meditative currents
range of groups and practices associated with Hinduism is also too wide to
permit the formulation of general principles here.
) 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.
) 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
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
) 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,
) 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.
) 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.
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.
) Cf. the account in: Hummel, R.: Gurus, Meister, Scharlatane, Freiburg 1996.
) 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.
) 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.
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
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
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
) 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
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.
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.
can in no way be assumed that all Hindu-oriented groups practise these forms of
compulsory meditation for children.
) But this extreme
) 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,
) 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.
) 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
the way forms of intensive and prolonged meditation,
) 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.
22.214.171.124 Scientology The Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) is
the branch of the Scientology Organisation concerned with education and
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.
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
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
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".
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?"
The child is confronted with a questionnaire containing over 100 questions. The
cedure has the nature of an interrogation, and is intended to elicit from the
) 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.
) Quoted from the report of the Hamburg Senate, Doc. 15/4059
) Quoted from: "Kinderdianetik", Copenhagen 1983, p. 76
) 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
everything stressful, weak or emotional in them, to make them strong and
insensitive to pain and weakness, thereby creating "supermen" without
sensations. 181 )
gather from a report
) 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.
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.
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.
) 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.
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
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.
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
) 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.
) Cf. Anonymous: Entkommen, Reinbek 1993, p. 101ff.
) 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
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
age when her mother died), but a thetan, and must cope with things herself.
conclusion was that Scientology parents expect a great deal from their children,
too much in fact.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
) 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
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
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,
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.
potential hazards -- as discussed at the hearing of educational, psychological
and medical experts before the Enquete Commission -- are briefly listed below.
clusters within the family
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.
the group of children and adolescents who grow up in new religious and
ideological communities and psychogroups, the following problem clusters may be
) 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.
) 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.
heavy demands made on parents' time in the new religious groups may lead them to
"neglect" their children.
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
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.
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.
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
sin and perdition, whereby children may become "traitors" to the cause and find
themselves on the side of the enemy.
too, however, is in no way an invariable feature of the new religious or
psychocult milieus. Similar problems
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
in the course of social mobility.
) 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.
) Cf. the case study recounted in Klosinski, G., 1996, p. 82f.
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.
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,
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.
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.
and conflicts in relation to school, peers, youth culture and other fields of
experience of children and adolescents
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.
But the availability of wide-ranging
) 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.
) 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.