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The Cultic Mindset

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Mind-Control vs. Indoctrination
Cultic Mindset
Cultic Mindset and Scientology
Cultic Mindset and Anticultism
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Mind-Control vs. Indoctrination

The key to understand this web site is to realize the fundamental difference between the anti-cult approach of “cult mind-control” and that of “indoctrination”.

The “cult mind-control” line favored by anti-cult groups is a simplistic and dualistic approach, positioning on the one hand the evil cult leader and on the other hand the innocent victims – the first knowingly exploiting the second for money and power.

This approach has historically proven itself to lead to gross human right abuses such as kidnapping and deprogramming of cult members, discrimination towards minorities, and eventually tragedies on a large scale such as Jonestown and Waco.

In contrast, the concept of indoctrination does not demonize the cult leader by portraying him as an evil brainwasher but instead views him as a victim of the cultic illusion himself.

Nor does it de-humanize cult members by portraying them as mindless robots but view them instead as unconsciously helping to feed the cultic illusion for themselves and others.

It also is important to note that this approach does not dismiss the content of the group’s teaching, but puts emphasis instead on the context that brings the group to act in a cultish manner.

 Cultic Mindset

The “cultic mindset” is at the core of the whole cult/anti-cult issue, and therefore of Scientology as well. If only the public would understand this one concept, they would understand everything ex-members and anticultists attempt to say. They would also understand, paradoxically, where anticultists go wrong on that issue.

There is, however, no simple definition. If there was, there would not be a controversy in the first place. I can only attempt to describe here my own understanding of that phenomenon, understanding born out of firsthand experience and years of involvement on both sides of the issue.

At the basis of the cultic mindset is an illusion. An illusion is to believe in something that in reality does not exist, or more exactly does not exist in the way it appears to, like a mirage in the desert. What the mirage depicts is a reflection of something real, but it is only a reflection, and the illusion is to take that reflection for the reality.

Likewise, cults offer a reflection of something real. It has a great appeal for those who seek, who have a deep thirst for true meaning in life, wandering in the desert of our society that only offers them material satisfaction and a superficial, sclerosised, institutionalized, spirituality. The cultic illusion kicks in when the member fails to realize the illusory nature of what is being offered, and when the group itself offers it in such a context as to present it as the real thing, the one and only real thing.

The group’s teaching, and therefore the group’s very existence, becomes the most important, the most vital, thing in the life of the member. It holds his eternal future, saves him from eternal damnation, and represents the only hope for the planet, doomed without it in a relatively short term. This mentality is reinforced by the context in which the teaching is presented. The teaching has to be preserved at any cost, especially towards a hostile and ignorant society that will do its utmost to destroy it. The cultic mindset, the end-justifies-the-means mentality, the us-vs-them mentality, kicks in.

The basis of truth at the heart of the cultic illusion is an important aspect that, as we will see later, makes the difference with the anticult approach.  It also is what makes Scientology such an inextricable controversy, because it is actually a mixture of truths and fallacies.

This may hopefully become more clear through concrete application to both Scientology and the anti-cult movement.

Cultic Mindset and Scientology

Anticultists claim that Scientology is all crap and non-sense and they explain the reason people believe in it through “brainwashing” and “mind-control”. It is impossible to understand what the cultic mindset it through such a prejudiced approach. In fact, as we will see later, it itself is extremely cultic.

Quite on the contrary, Scientology does contain valid aspects. This much better explains why people believe and stick to it. At the same time, it also helps to better understand the cultic mindset.

Faith Leap

Scientology is imparted in a context where cultic conclusions are being constantly repeated. The members don’t realize that, as they buy into the valid aspects of Scientology, they are also unconsciously buying into its cultic conclusions. Because the members end up accepting the valid aspects as great truths, they also unconsciously end up concluding that the cultic assertions must necessarily be true. They thus make a “faith leap” from one to the other. Truth and fallacies starts to become inextricably mixed, and the cultic mindset starts to set in.

There really is no direct link between such notions as “this Scientology insight and process is really significant to me” and notions such as “Scientology is the only hope for Humanity”, which is why I call it a “faith leap”. The first may be their own conclusion, the second is part of the cultic assertions that are sprayed throughout the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. 

It is similar to a drug. At the outset, the “high” the drug provides act as a “revelation”. The dependencies are almost non-existent. Over time, however, the dependencies grow stronger, while the highs (because they were achieved through external, artificial means), fade out and require increasingly stronger doses, which in turn increases the dependencies.  The cultic conclusions unconsciously accepted by the member constitutes the dependencies. The positive effects of Scientology  erodes over time, because they were achieved through external, artificial, means (the Scientology processes), rather than arrived through the person’s own experience through life. Increasingly wild justifications is used to explain that non-persistence, which in turn increases the dependencies and cultic aspects.

Believe System

There is of course another important elements that re-enforces this mental attitude, and this is the fact that the isolated insights and procedures are built into a belief system that appears coherent and that seems to explains everything.

The faith leap between “Scientology really does explain everything” to “Scientology is the only hope for Humanity” is not that a big leap to make anymore. 

However wonderful the system, though, it is still a partial view of reality. Truth is infinite and cannot be frozen into one of its snapshot. Yet, because of its cultic inclination, Scientology turns that partial truth into an absolute. It sells the slice as the whole cake, and therein lies the illusion.

Fear and Guilt

The cultic suggestions built into Scientology come from the leader’s own cultic illusion. It is hardly something done consciously by him, as he himself is the first one to believe in his own system.

By emphasizing Scientology absoluteness and uniqueness, he plays on the members atavistic fears such as those related to the after-life and soul eternity.

He also plays on feelings of guilt, such as the member’s role in the planet’s future. The members become afraid even to consider alternatives. Questioning ends up being a crime that threatens the future of “every Man, Woman and Child on [this planet], and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years”.

Need to Believe

The whole process is reinforced by the members’ own need to believe. This prevents them from questioning the system deeply enough and quite on the contrary leads them to participate in its reinforcement.

It is important to note that this is something that they do to themselves and to others, not something done to them by an evil brainwasher. Actually it reinforces the cultic illusion of the leader himself.

The members only see the valid aspects of Scientology. They are unaware of their own cultic attitude, brought about by cultic suggestions they unconsciously accepted. Critics only see the members’ cultic attitude. They are unaware of the pull exerted by the truths contained in Scientology and therefore try to explain it through an equally cultish notion of “brainwashing”.

We therefore get in a situation of impossible mutual understanding, where each side is at the same time right and wrong.

Only through an “external” view of the controversy, away and beyond both extremes, is it possible to get a glimpse of what really goes on.

Cultic Mindset and Anticultism

We have seen in the above section that what makes Scientology cultic is the extension of a valid basis into unwarranted territories. The same phenomenon explains why anti-cult opposition to Scientology turns out about as cultish as Scientology itself.

Anti-cultists are basically right in their core arguments. They point to a mindset that turns what could be a genuine religious movement into a group that could easily derive into a totalitarian society and where individuals entrap themselves in a system that conditions and limits them, and may turn them into blind fanatics.

Where anti-cultists go wrong, however, is when they themselves build this basic truth into an absolute and intolerant believe system of their own.

To make the parallel more clear, I will follow the same pattern to explain that mindset as the one I followed to explain the cultic mindset of Scientology.

Faith Leap

Forcible deprogramming, as practiced by Ted Patrick, is a good example on how the anticult faith leap is brought about. The assertion that the members is under mind-control is constantly being repeated to him, together with arguments that point to the actual cultic mindset. When the member ends up seeing the truth part of the cultic mindset, he make a faith leap and accepts the false assertion that he is under mind-control.

After I left Scientology I was puzzled by the phenomenon of Deprogramming. How could one, through force, turn allegiance around? For a while, I thought that what Patrick was doing was in fact brainwashing itself. It is only later on that I realized that even that wasn’t brainwashing. The core of what Patrick was talking about, the cultic mindset, was in fact true. The fallacy was brought about through the faith leap that extends this basis of truth way further than what was warranted, and into cultic conclusions. No force is necessary to achieve it. To this day anticultists continue to fall for it and continue to believe in it, as witnessed by the introduction to Operation Clambake, the most prominent anti-Scientology web site.

Believe System

The anti-cult believe system built around the notion of cult mind-control seems to explain everything in relation with the member’s involvement. Anticultists become unable to see or interpret the phenomenon outside of this framework and think it is the only possible explanation.

Fear and Guilt

Cults, rather than being phenomena that could be explained through down-to-earth indoctrination, become, in the mind of anticultists, highly conspirational and dangerous groups that threatens society as a whole. Cult members become brainwashed zombies ready to kill at a word trigger. Dissenters, moderate ex-members and scholars who disagree with such a conception are deluded or ill-intended, part of the conspiracy or bought by the eeeeeeeevil cults. In fact, the amount of anger and cultic attack against dissenters I personally witnessed among Scientology critics is unparalled with anything I ever saw in cults.

Need to Believe

The cult mind-control theory offers a convenient explanation for ex-members and relatives that justifies to others how they ever got involved in such a “stupid crap”. Rather than acknowledge their own responsibility and recognize their involvement as the life growing/seekers mistake/illusion it was, they now claim to have been complete helpless victims of a totally evil and diabolic cult leader who brainwashed, hypnotized, and duped them by means of as yet unexplained and dreadful mind-control techniques.

Anticultists and ex-members who have fallen for that mindset will go to incredible length to justify their theory. Any major court case or academic debate lost are explained by them through corruption of the justice system or of scholars. Anticultists just can’t be wrong in spite of the tremendous amount of evidence built against their pet theory, and as they try to explain the opposition away, their justification become increasingly ridiculous.

Once again it is important to realize that anticultists are not wrong when they point out to the cultic-mindset. They are only wrong when they extend this into their own set of cultic beliefs.

Tragedies like Jonestown and Waco can be directly traced to anticultists involvement that encouraged an hysterical reaction from authorities and the public, which in turn increased the cultic reaction of the groups involved and ended up in hundreds of atrocious dead of innocent people whose only “fault” was to seek out a better world.

Because the end result of the anticult theory as proven so dangerous, with kidnapping/deprogramming, hysterical mob reactions, witch hunts, and other gross human rights abuses, it is of utmost importance that the theory been debunked and scholars have done a tremendous job in this respect. It is not accepted as a justification for forcible deprogramming anymore, and groups like the FBI have now learned better than listen to anticult groups’ advices. Anticultists are still exploiting the ignorance of the public through a great amount of web site, the media, and social pressures, but as the public get more educated they learn to relativise the issue and to place it in a more realistic context.

This being said, scholars have not really addressed the issue of the cultic mindset. Anticultists may legitimately feel misunderstood because the truth they do see is not being addressed. An increased interest for that aspect on the part of scholars and a reform of the anticult movement to purge itself of its own cultic behavior would prove beneficial to everyone.

Related Pages

What is a Cult? - Taking various definitions from Lifton, Singer, CAN, Bonnewits, etc, removing some of the dubious criteria, and mixing the whole thing with my own experience, I delineated five main slots in which cultic characteristics can fall.

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Disclaimer :

This web site is NOT created by a Scientologist. It is created by a Scientology EX-MEMBER who is critical of Scientology. However, this ex-member is ALSO critical of the anti-Scientology movement. This does not make him a Scientologist, nor a defender of Scientology.

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