The War of the Cults

Wayne Sage - Human Behavior, October 1976



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Patrick's Methods













Ted Patrick || Joe Alexander || Michael Trauscht

Parents' Organizations

Meanwhile, the parents' organizations are increasingly showing signs of mass hysteria. A list of "cults" they now keep tabs on includes Esalen Institute; the Garden Grove Community Church of Orange County, California; the Integral Yoga Institute; sensitivity classes on college campuses; feminist consciousness-raising groups; and some 60 other organizations that parents have blamed for turning family members against them. The deprogrammers says, privately, that they would like to use their techniques against Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. [The National Council of Churches, perhaps sensing a threat, has come out with a statement condemning the practice of deprogramming.]

Meetings of local parent's groups have turned cultish in their own right, and members turn furiously on social workers and mental health professionals who don't agree with them. In Arlington, Virginia, a group of parents stand guard on an elementary school playground because they believe the Unification Church is trying to steal their children.

To some extent, it may be not the parents and their children who are being victimized by the cults, but the other way around. The cults, according to anthropologist Irving Zaretsky of the School of Divinity at the University of Chicago, often become scapegoats for the problems of both parents and their sons and daughters. Zaretsky is coeditor, with Mark P. Leone, of "Religious Movements in Contemporary America." He has been studying fringe religious groups for the past 10 years.

If such groups are practicing brainwashing as such, they are doing a tremendously sloppy job of it, according to Zaretsky. Many people join the group expecting it to fulfill the major needs of their lives. When the group fails to solve all their problems, they frequently turn against the group and become very bitter and disillusioned, without the help of a deprogrammer. According to Zaretsky, this pattern is a much more common one.

"young people get involved with such groups because they want to get involved," says Zaretsky. "How it affects their home life depends on the relationship with their parents. The parents feel helpless when all of a sudden there is nothing they can do about it. What little information has been available through the media has simply reflected parents' concerns back to them. They seize upon the mind control because it is handy to condemn something like this that they have little information about and fear a great deal." They become desperate, according to Zaretsky, and in their hysteria play the systems of authority - religion, psychiatry and the law - against one another.

Zaretsky notes that we are actually coming out of a period of rapid growth in such groups. Those that have shown some staying power are focal points for the wrath of parents against the experiments in consciousness and lifestyles that the groups have incorporated. According to Zaretsky, such groups are actually very good at resocializing people who during the tumultuous '60s got too far off the social mainstream to fit back into the workaday world.

In some respect, deprogramming signals a clash between modern rationalism and medieval faith, that is, a clash between the sort of science that questions whether or not one's allegiances are healthy and the sort of faith that requires one to give up such skepticism, a sort of faith that we may be tolerating less and less in a secular age as religious involvement become more casual. Some victims of deprogrammings have ended up the casualties of what amounts to a layman's attempt at a psychiatric assault on religious fanaticism.

Lane Petri, 26, was legally removed through a court order obtained by her parents (with the aid of Trauscht, Gilmartin, Howard and deprogrammed ex-members) from the commune of the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation at Saugus, California. The special forces division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department descended on the commune with helicopters, vans, squad cars and 30 armed officers to forceably remove her. She offered no resistance.

She was escorted to Burbank in a police caravan and put through a deprogramming. A few days later, she was brought to a hearing. The judge asked one question - did she want to return to the foundation or go with her parents? She stated simply that she wished to go with her parents, and the hearing was closed. She is now living with them in the Arizona desert, where she is still "floating."

Says Petri, "Sometimes [following the deprogramming] I would go to sleep and wake up and wouldn't want to let go of what I had lived and believed in so many years. Because I so firmly believed it and I liked what I was living.

"It was a chance to totally commit myself to what I believed in. There was such enthusiasm and involvement that I wanted to become involved, too. We gave to one another from what we learned in our faith. We felt very victorious, very glad to be saved and alive and able to tell others about our beliefs. It caused me to trust completely."

The mind cannot trust completely and question at the same time. Deprogramming is not by nature a rational assault. It is an emotional bombardment, perhaps the best way to break total devotion. How many of us could hold on to our most adamantly held beliefs if forced to admit the reasons we hold them so dearly? The deprogrammers did not break Petri, but they did manage to convince her by what seemed well-documented evidence that the fund in which she thought she was a shareholder was being funneled into the personal accounts of the Alamos.

"I was told the typical reaction was anger," Petri continues. "I never felt that. I think I will when I come to fully realize that I've been had. Now I just feel rather defenseless. I've come to evaluate quite a bit lately. I look at the family structure that used to be so close-knit now separated by miles and jobs. The churches have been totally undermined. Kids are out looking for that again. The Alamos took advantage of that.

"But how do you determine God's will? I know it's a state of being. Happiness is not just where you are but your inner being and your relationship with yourself, with God and other people. The church on the corner doesn't offer that. That's what I felt the foundation was, but if I had stayed, I would be contributing to a crime. Even if I were free to go back, I guess my uncertainty would keep me from going back.

" But faith can't ever really be betrayed. Not if it's sincere. I would never have left on my own."

Michael Trauschtic_top.gif (764 bytes)ACLU Reports on Conservatorship