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WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors

Cults & Mind Control

What is a Cult?

A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leader, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.

These groups tend to dictate, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel, claim a special exalted status for themselves and/or their leader(s), and intensify their opposition to and alienation from society at large.

Because the capacity to exploit human beings is universal, any group could become a cult. However, most mainstream, established groups have accountability mechanisms that restrain the development of cultic subgroups.

How Many Cults Exist and How Many Members Do They Have?

Cult-education organizations have received inquiries about more than 3,000 groups. Although the majority of groups are small, some have tens of thousands of members. Experts estimate that five to ten million people have been involved with cultic groups at one time or another.

What is Mind Control?

Mind control (also known as "brainwashing," "coercive persuasion," and "thought reform") refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s). Such methods include the following:

  • extensive control of information in order to limit alternatives from which members may make "choices"
  • deception
  • group pressure
  • intense indoctrination into a belief system that denigrates independent critical thinking and considers the world outside the group to be threatening, evil, or gravely in error an insistence that members’ distress-much of which may consist of anxiety and guilt subtly induced by the group-can be relieved only by conforming to the group
  • physical and/or psychological debilitation through inadequate diet or fatigue the induction of dissociative (trance-like) states via the misuse of meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, and other exercises in which attention is narrowed, suggestibility heightened, and independent critical thinking weakened
  • alternation of harshness/threats and leniency/love in order to effect compliance with the leadership’s wishes isolation from social supports pressured public confessions

 

Who Joins Cults and Why?

Contrary to a popular misconception that cult members are "crazy," research and clinical evidence strongly suggests that most cult members are relatively normal. They include the young, the middle-aged, elderly, the wealthy, the poor, the educated, and the uneducated from every ethnic and religious background. There is no easily identifiable type of person who joins cults.

How Do People Who Join Cults Change?

After converts commit themselves to a group, the cult’s way of thinking, feeling, and acting becomes second nature, while important aspects of their pre-cult personalities are suppressed or, in a sense, decay through disuse. New converts at first frequently appear to be shell-shocked; they may appear "spaced out," rigid and stereotyped in their responses, limited in their use of language, impaired in their ability to think critically, and oddly distant in their relationships with others. Intense cultic manipulations can trigger altered states of consciousness in some people.

Why Do People Leave Cults?

People leave for a variety of reasons. After becoming aware of hypocrisy and/or corruption within the cult, converts who have maintained an element of independence and some connection with their old values may simply walk out. Others may leave because they are weary of a routine of proselytizing and fund-raising. Sometimes even the most dedicated members may feel so inadequate in the face of the cult’s demands that they walk away because they feel like abject failures. Others may renounce the cult after reconnecting to old values, goals, interests, or relationships, resulting from visits with parents, talks with ex-members, or exit counseling.

Is Leaving a Cult Easy?

People who consider leaving a cult are usually pressured to stay. Some ex-members say they spent months, even years, trying to garner the strength to walk out. Some felt so intimidated they departed secretly.

Although many cult members eventually walk out on their own, many, if not most, who leave cults on their own are psychologically harmed, often in ways they do not understand. Some cult members never leave, and some of these are severely harmed. There is no way to predict who will leave, who won’t leave, or who will be harmed. ?

Adapted from: Cults Questions and Answers, by Micahel D. Langone, Ph.D.Copyright AFF, 1988

_

 

Resources

+ AFF News, 03.01: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What are They? Do They Work? - The Therapeutic Relationship
< Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. - profile
< Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. - profile
^ Langone, Michael: "Mental Health Update on Cults" - Cult Observer 13(1), 1996
Chambers, Robert, Ph.D. et al.: "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale"
Chambers, Robert, Ph.D. et al.: "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale" - abs
Cialdini, Robert B. Ph.D.: "Influence"
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D. "Strongly Held Views...New Age...Critics Versus Experts"
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D.: "Is The New Age Movement Harmless? Critics Versus Experts" - abs
Dole, Arthur A., Ph.D.: "Is The New Age Movement Harmless? Critics Versus Experts" - abs
Giambalvo, Carol: "What is a Thought Reform Consultant?"
Langone, Micahel, Ph.D.: "Deception, Dependency & Dread The Conversion Process"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D. & Nieburg, Herbert, Ph.D.: "Treatment of Satanism"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: " Secular and Religious Critiques of Cults"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Academic Disputes and Dialogue Collection: Preface"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Letter to a Former Member of a Meditation Group"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "On Dialogue Between the Two Tribes of Cultic Studies Resarchers"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Outline: Child Literature"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Psychological Abuse: Theoretical and Measurement Issues"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "The Comet and Its Tail"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "The Two Camps of Cultic Studies"
Langone, Michael Ph.D.: "Cults and Violence"
Langone, Michael, D. Ph.D.: "Group Psychological Abuse Scale"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "An Investigation of a Reputedly Psychologically Abusive Group that Targets College Students"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Are “Sound” Theology and Cultism Mutually Exclusive?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Boston Church of Christ Movement Study"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Business and the New Age Movement: A Critical Perspective"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Child Custody and Cults"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Children and Cults -- excerpt from Recovery from Cults
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cultic Studies Bibliography 2003"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults and Mind Control"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults, Conversion, Science, & Harm
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults, Psychological Manipulation, and Society
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults: Questions and Answers"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Definitional Ambiguity"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Helping Families"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Large Group Awareness Trainings"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Mind-Manipulating Groups: Are You or a Family Member a Victim?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "New Religions and Public Policy"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "On Using the Term "Cult"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Questionnaire Study: Preliminary Report"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Reflections on Post-Cult Recovery
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Research on Destructive Cults
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "The Art of Hoping: A Mother’s Story"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "The Cult Problem in Japan"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "We weren't Crazy; We were Fooled"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What Is New Age?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What Should be Done about Cults?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What You Might Want To Know About ICC
Langone, Michael: "Deprogramming, Exit Counseling, and Ethics: Clarifying the Confusion" - Cult Observer 10(4), 1993
Langone, Michael: "Mind-Manipulating Groups Checklist"
Lifton, Robert J., M.D.: "Cult Formation"
Lifton, Robert J., M.D.: "Cult Formation" - abstract
Lifton, Robert J., M.D.: "Lifton's Eight Criteria for Thought Reform"
Lifton, Robert J., M.D.: "Lifton's Eight Criteria for Thought Reform"
Lifton, Robert, J. M.D.: "Cult Formation"
Singer, Margaret T., Ph.D.: "Undue Influence and Written Documents: Psychological Aspects"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work?"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "Psychotherapy Cults"
Singet Margaret, Ph.D.: "Thought Reform Exists: Organized, Programmatic Influence"
Tobias, Madeleine: "The Role of Cognitive Distortion"
Zimbardo, Philip, Ph.D.: "Mind Control: Psychological Reality or Mindless Rhetoric?"
Ω Conference 1997: PA Presenter
Ω Conference 2000 WA: Speakers
Ω Conference 2002 FL: Presenters
Ω Conference 2003 CA: Presenter
√ Langone, "Michael: Satanism & Occult-Related Violence"
√ Langone, Michael: "Recovery From Cults"
√ Lifton, Robert, J.: "Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism"
√ Video: "Symposium - Theory and Cults: In search of the Perfect Explanation, Sociological Theories, Psychological Manipulation: The Abuse of Women Conference"
≈ Cult Information Center - UK
≈ ex-morninglanders.com - link
≈ FactNet - link
≈ InfoCult - link
≈ Religious Groups Awareness Network - REGAIN - link
≈ Skeptic's Refuge - link

 

 

 

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Our E-Library contains full text articles and other resources related to the information below.  Click here.

WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection
 

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

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