Groups of devoted followers who are manipulated into believing that their charismatic leader offers something unique and outside their usual scope of parameters are cult members. Every cult needs a leader who exhibits highly self delusional belief in their own right ways and dismissal of others who do not share their beliefs. Contrary to popular belief not all cults center on religion, but they all share the common feature of actively recruiting new members and filling their leader’s coffers.
Most cult leaders offer some kind of salvation or revolution to their devoted followers, manipulating them with ‘coersive persuasion’ or ‘thought reform processes’, two methods of control which were identified by Dr. Singer. She made a study of cults for over fifty years in her role as a clinical psychologist, and is regarded as an expert in the field.
Those who join cults are generally magnetized by a leader they perceive to be charismatic and dominant. Cultists do not want to incur the disfavor of their leader by independent questioning, and there is usually some kind of totalitarian structure in place to ensure the group line is towed and the leader above criticism.
When religion is brought into play then the leader is perceived as being on a higher plane. India’s Sai Baba is a prime example of a cult leader who has convinced followers he is a divine creator. He has successfully manipulated politicians, plus millions of devotees, leaving him immune from investigation when allegations of child abuse are made against him. Gold pours into his hands as his worshippers donate to him.
There is a visible difference in those who join cults, especially when they live within the confines of the group. They undergo personality changes and often remove themselves from family ties. Often the cult encourages this. There are allegations that Gwen Shamblin’s Remnant Fellowship church recruited cult members through her diet program, and that church members are then persuaded to drop those who do not share their beliefs.
The evidence is there that church members have changed as women become openly subservient to their husbands, whilst children become remarkably well disciplined through the use of corporal punishment. Members do not want to bring Gwen’s disapproval on themselves. Cults do not like to be labelled as such as people are generally wary about the use of the word. Those who have exited cults usually require help to break away from the lack of rational thinking which kept them devoted and essentially brainwashed.
Many cults have of course exhibited more than merely greed and power. Some have become dangerous. The cult following which Charles Manson commanded in the ‘Manson family’ was one which bred such devotion that many of his cultists remained faithful to him for years. It is now revealed that many of his devoted simply towed the line out of fear and because of threatened reprisals against their families if they spoke out.
Whilst there is nothing essentially wrong in a person joining a cult and handing over their material wealth and possessions to the leadership, it is disturbing when children are subjected to such an environment. It can also bring heartache to family members. Cult members do often leave cults though and once on the outside the leader loses their influential hold over them, though ex cultists may feel guilt for a long time afterwards.
Blind devotion to a leader, lack of independent thinking and the usual glazed look typify cult members who are easily manipulated by a totalitarian cult.