Conversion and Deconversion

Subject: Re: DIANE: PUT UP OR SHUT UP!
From: Bernie@bernie.cncfamily.com (Bernie)
Date: 1997/05/13
Message-ID: <349ef06a.241513876@news.Belgium.EU.net>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology

Terrykr:
>>>Okay, Diane:

>>>So, the "cult mind control" theory is out. And "brainwashing" is out, as well as a multitude of other theories soundly dismissed by "authoritative scholars."

>>>I have a question.

>>>What is YOUR theory, YOUR "opinion" regarding individuals who say they felt "psychologically controlled," "manipulated," or "brain-raped" by a cult?

Diane Richardson:
>>I think they allowed themselves to be manipulated by a group to whom they were initially attracted.

[snip]

>>I think everyone reading this has probably bought something he didn't really want, just because the salesman caught him at the right time and used the right come-on. There's something deeper than that going on in the heads of people who are suckered into cults. It's not just a one-time purchase -- the contact continues, on average, for a little under two years before the person leaves.

Terrykr:
>But what is this "something deeper?" This is the part I don't understand, and the part no one can seem to explain to me.

Bernie:
Let me try to have a go at it.

>I have trouble believing that ALL people who are converted into cults are unlike you or me. that they're stupid, or weak, or victims of circumstance, or life. I mean, I can't *see* myself ever being sucked into one, but I never expected my close friend

[think more like sister]

 of 20 years to be sucked into one either. And she is

[was]

far more *stable* than I am.

The fact that cult members are in the group because they are stupid or weak is something that even the anticult proponents have rejected. In that, they are right. Suffice it to look at this newsgroup. Dennis, Martin Hunt, Joe Harrington, Ralph Hilton, Heidrun Beer, Monica, Tovaresh, William West, and the vast majority of ex-cult member we saw posting here are hardly stupid or abnormal - at least not more or less than non-cult members (I don't want to be too kind, eh?)

The psychological and spiritual incentives to join a cult have, IMO, nothing to do with the mind or the character. The needs being addressed are what could be called spiritual needs, be they positive or negative. You can be a genius in your field, and still a child when it comes to the spiritual questions. By spiritual I mean, among other things, questions like: what are the true values, why are we here, what is my place in the world, how to achieve lasting happiness, how can we better live together, etc, etc.

The manipulation, if there is a manipulation, is calling on these needs, and they are not necessarily linked to mental capacity or to a peculiar disposition of character. This is also my understanding of what Diane calls deeper: if you make a decision to join a cult, it involves your whole future and life. It's a radical commitment, it isn't just buying an hoover. What is involved are spiritual and personal questions, and these have an even greater impact in periods where you are searching your way or questioning your basic assumptions.

I do not make any comment as to whether the group adequately answers or not to these needs, but they certainly address them, at the same time as they are playing on the insecurities, fears and guilt of the person.

>Because he wants so desperately to believe the cult's promises? Okay, sure. The promise of a cure-all is extremely powerful. Still, this explanation does not demonstrate to us why they *stay* after they find out the truth? Are they that desperate to "believe" in something, anything? Too humiliated after they find out they've been duped? Blackmailed into staying? All or none of the above?

You are assuming that there is a difference between joining and staying in the group. That, once in the group, the members see the truth hidden behind the facade, or that it is sufficient to present them with the "truth" about the cult. It isn't as simple as that.

The reasons why they stay are basically the same as the reasons they join, and the same reasons that makes it hard for anyone to pull them out. Let me try to make this whole discussion more concrete by drawing on my own experience.

I joined Scn because it appeared to me that this was the group that had the answer. I wasn't sure about that, but despite a great amount of reading, speaking with members and non-members alike, seeking advice and information, I could not ascertain for sure that what Scn claimed were either false or true. Since I was a student at the time, I had no money to afford more course than the communication course, so I joined the staff. It wasn't an easy decision, and it took me several weeks before making my mind. There were also two additional incentives. The first one was that the staff was composed of friendly and bright individuals, and I enjoyed their company. The other was that I wasn't satisfied with my studies. I was studying psychology, but I was far from being enthusiastic about it. One of the main reasons for such a judgment on my part was that psychology wasn't taking into account such things as the spirit, past lives, etc... All things I already believed long before my encounter with Scn.

Two Scn assertions particularly attracted me. The first one was that it worked. They were so assertive on this point, they spoke so casually of things like "exteriorization", that I actually came to believe that they had something that the other religions and alternative religions did not have. The second was the assertion that Scn was a potent force in actually doing something for a better world. As I said, I was somewhat bored and not really satisfied with my current life, and Scn seemed to offer to me something valuable and worthwhile to do in the world, together with an adventurous exploration of the terra incognita of the spirit.

When I joined the group, this impression, instead of wither away, as you seem to assume, took, on the contrary, an additional dimension. There was no doubt in my mind that I did the right thing. We shared together an exhilarating sense of being pioneer in a yet unaccepted truth, of sharing a sense of purpose and meaning, working towards a bright future. We were among like-minded individual, sharing a common goal and supportive or each other, exploring together many a novel idea and practices. This only ingrained more for us the fact that Scn was "THE" truth (tm).

There is no point where you all of a sudden discover an other reality than the one being presented by the cult on the outside. If you start to question the principles presented, it happens on a gradual process, in which you accumulate the doubts and unanswered questions. Of course, there can be peaks in this process, that may appear as something sudden, but on the whole it doesn't happen any more suddenly than the leafs blossoming in spring. It is the result of a process that goes much "deeper".

Many people on the outside gave me their "advices", saying that I was naive, and they started to explain, as if they knew it all, how cults are growing in an uncertain world, how they prey on the innocent to control their life, or they started to throw rubbish they gathered from newspaper articles. The only result this had was for me to see them as ignorant, ill-informed, illogical people, talking about things they did not know, while deluding themselves in their own self-importance. I was therefore, on the contrary, strengthened in my vision. It's a bit like when a drunk person starts to tell you all you need to know in a field you know well. They just make a fool of themselves.

You should not expect that just because you are presenting what you consider as THE TRUTH, the members will just snap out of it. Your truth is only just one of the many possible interpretations. If you are going to help, for one or another reason, a person out of a deeply ingrained belief, you would need to argue your points with the same persuasion power as the cult did to recruit and keep the person. The cult didn't do it overnight, nor will you.

>Personal experience makes me believe leaving a cult isn't as simple as you say. When I walked out of the "church" I had been "born and raised" in, no one batted an eyelash. (Well, okay, maybe my mother did.)

Leaving a cult is not a simple process at all. It is a much more difficult process than joining, because you already spend so much in the group, and already invested so much, and now you have to question all the things in which you so vehemently believed, and start a new life. Furthermore, if it may look very bright when you join a cult, it often looks very grim when you have to get out. There are no bright promises to sustain your outlook to the future, and you have to start thinking and operating on other basis than the ones you so strongly embraced.

But the fact remain: all you need to do is to say no and walk out. That's what I did when I had so many doubts that I just couldn't stay anymore. I didn't know for sure whether it was the right thing to do or not, but I wanted to take some distance of it all and see things for myself. So, I went to my boss in the GO, who at the time was the highly "evil" and "dirty-tricker" Kevin Kember, and told him: "listen boss, I want to leave, please route me out". I didn't "blow", like many people do. I suppose that maybe I wanted to test them out. They tried all kinds of things to keep me in the fold. Security checks, condition formulas, make me produce to give me more moral, argue with me, etc, but they soon found out that their own beliefs weren't too assured if they were arguing with me for too long, so at some point they guarded themselves from that. The highly "evil OSA" Kevin Kember even gently engaged with me in a conversation about the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti, and I lent him a book. He narrated his own experiences prior to Scientology and said he checked Krishnamurti also but decided for Scn because Krishnamurti "didn't hold water". I discovered a reasonable and searching soul behind what may appear as a "dedicated" man in his work. But nothing changed my mind, and at some point they hardly had any other choice than to route me out. I basically did what is alleged here: say no and walk out. No need to make a big mess out of it. Of course it was never easy. Not before, nor during, nor after. But the choice was always mine.

>From what I have witnessed, the co$ doesn't make it that easy.

The Co$ will try absolutely anything to keep you in. It's a personal failure for the leaders and the members to see someone turn their back to what is for them the only way to salvation, and this after this person have been active in the group and knows most of the precepts from it. The only way they can interpret the member leaving is that he either became insane, or has been manipulated/brainwashed in his decision, or that he is an evil-intentioned individual. They always hope that they will "come to their sense" and come back. Actually, many do go back. Not because they came to their senses, but because they cannot cope with the outside word, or because they find it to be just as empty as before they joined, or because they get so sick by the accusations and absurdities of the know-it-all-about-"mind-control" people, that the Co$ starts to sound reasonable again to their ears.

>Often members of religions are highly encouraged to socialize with other members, and highly discouraged from socializing with those outside the "church," [naysayers]. IMO, the co$ [and other cults] does [do] this to an incredible degree.

It is something that happens almost automatically, without anyone having to lead or induce you to separate from your former friends. Because you believe you discovered something invaluable, you naturally want to share it with your family and friends. When they don't appear to be as enthusiastic as you are, or even understand what you find so special in your new faith, you start to have other ideas about them. They don't "understand" you, and what is a friend if not someone who understands? If your friend then start to attack you and say that you are a naive individual and are caught in a dangerous cult, then for sure you begin to think that you made a mistake into believing they were your friends in the first place.

>Certainly the socialization is important, and religious conviction does play a big part. But here's the crux of the matter. Why, after the truth is out, do they still *stay?* In my opinion, it is at this point that some form of "control" is exerted by the cult.

But what "truth" are you referring about? What is the truth that is supposed to be out?

>Hey, I'm not necessarily insinuating *brainwashing* here

[good grief, let's not get into THAT],

and I'm certainly no expert. But I'm rabid about this. If the TRUTH is slapping you in the face, how can *desperately wanting to believe in something,* or *religious conviction,* be enough to make you continue to believe--unless someone/thing is busy convincing you otherwise?

If you consider something as invaluable, you are going to hold to it with all your might. The cult members have identified their deeper aspirations with the cult. It fills up for them the basic void, the basic insecurity that lays at the core of every humans. We each have our own peculiar ways to fill up this void. Maybe it is a comfortable bank account, a loving family, a passionate work or study, maybe it consists of shouting our lungs out every Sundays at men running after a ball, or maybe it consist of "speaking sense" through the net to the poor deluded people believing in BTs, and warning the world of the hideous threat the cults are posing to society. But for the cult members, it is their belief in the cult precepts. We all need, more or less desperately, to believe into something and to escape to our own void and many interrogations. We can either recognize this as being the case or run in a forward race away from ourselves.

>>I think the process is pretty much the same for all converts, be they converts to conventional religions or cults.

>And I must disagree with your last point. IMHO, there is a wide variance from cult to cult, as well as from religion to religion.

The basic process of conversion and de-conversion is very much the same whether it be a cult, a religion, an anticult, a political party. The difference mainly lays in the way you are able to put your experience in perspective and see it in a greater whole. It lays in the way you are able to step back from it and consider it objectively, weighting on the one hand its overall usefulness and benefice for the whole, and on the other hand, its limits and potential dangers. This act of discernment is in itself more "religious" than many superficial religious, or other ready-made need-to-believe, systems.


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