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CULTS AND THEIR METHOD OF BRAINWASHING


CULTS, THE OCCULT, AND BRAINWASHING

 

 

 

BRAINWASHING CULTS

 

 

By Synthia Esther

 

The word brainwashing came to be used in the United States in an effort to explain why, compared to earlier wars, a relatively high percentage of American GI's defected to the Communists after becoming prisoners of war in Korea. Later analysis determined that some of the primary methologies employed on them during their imprisonment included sleep deprivation and other intense psychological manipulations designed to break down the autonomy of individuals. These same methods are used, as witnesses attest to, within PSI/EST seminars. Lack of sleep, inadequate food breaks, emotional unrest and exhaustion, are common problems voiced by many participants in attendance.

 

ROBERT JAY LIFTON, MD – AMERICAN PSYCIATRIST AND AUTHOR

Robert Lifton, MD, is known for his studies and expertise pertaining to the psychological causes and effects of war and political violence and for his theory of thought reform. In 2006, Lifton appeared with fellow psychiatrist Peter A. Olsson on the History Channel in a documentary of Cults, titled “Decoding The Past”. Lifton outlines 8 characteristics used in brainwashing techniques. I have included a summary of each of the characteristics according to his findings.

  1. Milieu Control – Control of information and communication.
  2. Mystical Manipulation – Personal manipulation by a person or organization that creates a mystique around themselves, making them appear to have knowledge or a unique position/relationship to God.
  3. Demand For Purity – Disowning anything that makes life complicated, seeking the pure truth.
  4. Cult Confession – Purging of wrong thoughts, deeds, and/or actions (confession sessions).
  5. Sacred Science – Their truth is the truth. There is no other truth. Only their truth works, prevails, is tested, and achieved.
  6. Load The Language – The use of thought terminating cliches.
  7. Doctrine Over Person – Subordination of human experience to doctrine. They are right....you are always wrong, unless of course you agree with their doctrine.
  8. Dispensing Of Existence – The organization has all rights because they know what is right. If you do not agree with the organization your rights are terminated, or you are made to believe you don't have a right to life.

 

MARGARET SINGER AUTHOR OF THE BOOK, “CULTS IN THE MIDST”

Author of the Book “Cults In Our Midst”, Margaret Thaler Singer writes, “The critical news is that you create everything. In short – you caused everything that has ever happened to you. Your loss of a job, your broken relationships, and your negative attitude – everything that you suffer from is your fault. You are responsible! Essentially, your life is not working and you need it fixed! The answer is always the same. The seminar is your answer to every problem you have ever faced”

  • Clinical psychologist and former professor emeritus of the University of California – Berkeley, Author, Margaret Thaler Singer, (1921 – 2003), “Cults In Our Midst” (with Janja Lalich). In the 1960's Singer began to study the nature of cults and mind control and served on the board of the American Family Foundation. Dr. Singer's main areas of research included schizophrenia (reported nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for her work in schizophrenia), family therapy, brainwashing and coercive persuasion. She gave expert testimony in several cult-related trials, including the 1976 trial of Patty Hearst, who had previously been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the 1977 hearing for five members of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Having interviewed more than 3,000 cult members, and assisted in over 200 court cases, Singer played a role in the trial of Kenneth Bianchi, in the “Hillside Strangler” case. Singer concluded that Bianchi had faked symptoms of multiple personality disorder, in order to escape responsibility for the murders of several women in Los Angeles. She was a guest on the PBS Frontline, speaking about the trial, in a special show entitled: “The Mind of a Murderer.” Singer asserted that Bianchi was a psychopath. Margret was a leading researcher in the field of psychosomatic medicine, and was made President of the American Psychosomatic Society in 1974, having been the first female president of the Society.

 

NUMEROUS AWARDS

Having served on President Gerald Ford's Biomedical Research Panel she has won numerous awards including the Leo J. Ryan Memorial Award, for research on cults, from the Citizens Freedom Foundation, Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, Hofheimer Prize, American College of Psychiatrists, 1966, Stanley R. Dean Award from the American College of Psychiatrists, Research in Schizophrenia, 1976, Achievement Awards – Mental Health Association of the United States, McAlpine Award for achievement in Research from the Mental Health Association of the United States, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Award for Cumulative contributions to Research in Family Therapy. In 2004, the international Cultic Studies Association created the “Margaret Singer Award” in her honor. The American Psychological Association (APA) in 1983 asked Singer, who was one of the leading proponents of coercive persuasion theories, to chair a task force to investigate whether brainwashing or “coercive persuasion” did indeed play a role in recruitment by such groups The task force was title APA Task Force On Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC).

CONTROVERSIAL NEW AGE TRAINING COURSE - SINGER

In 1996, Landmark Education (an EST company), sued Singer for defamation. Singer mentioned Landmark Education in “Cults in our Midst; it was unclear whether she labeled Landmark Education as a cult or not. Amanda Scioscia, 2000, reported in the Phoenix New Times that Singer never called Landmark a cult, but that she described it as a “controversial New Age training course”. She also stated that she would not recommend the group to anyone, and would not comment on whether Landmark uses coercive persuasion for fear of legal recrimination from Landmark.

  • Singer comments on Landmark, “I do not endorse them – never have”, in her 70's at the time, she said she can't comment on whether Landmark uses coercive persuasion because “the SOB's have already sued me once.” “I'm afraid to tell you what I really think about them because I'm not covered by any lawyers like I was when I wrote my book” - wikipedia.org

 

 

HOW DO CULTS INDOCTRINATE?

On March 22, 1997, Marshall Herff Applewhite and 37 of his disciples decided the time had come to shed their bodies – mere “containers” - and be whisked up to a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet, en route to heaven's gate. So they put themselves to sleep by mixing phenobarbital into pudding or applesauce, washing it down with vodka, and then fixing plastic bags over their heads so they would suffocate in their slumber.

On that same day, a cottage in French Canadian village of St. Casimir exploded in an inferno, consuming five people – the latest of 74 members of the Order of the Solar Temple to have committed suicide in Canada, Switzerland, and France. All were hoping to be transported to the star Sirius, nine light-years away.

Sun Myung Moon's mixture of Christianity, anticommunism, and glorification of Moon himself as a new messiah attracted a worldwide following. In response to Moon's declaration, “What I wish must be your wish,” many people committed themselves and their incomes to the Unification Church. In 1978 in Guyana, 914 disciples of Jim Jones, who had followed him there from San Francisco, shocked the world when they died by following his order to down a suicidal grape drink laced with tranquilizers, painkillers, and a lethal dose of cyanide.

In 1993, high-school dropout David Koresh used his talent for memorizing Scripture and mesmerizing people to seize control of a faction of a sect called the Branch Davidians. Over time, members were gradually relieved of their bank accounts and possessions. Koresh also persuaded the men to live celibately while he slept with their wives and daughters, and he convinced his 19 “wives” that they should bear his children.

Under siege after a shootout that killed six members and four federal agents, Koresh told his followers they would soon die and go with him straight to heaven. Federal agents rammed the compound with tanks, hoping to inject tear gas, and, by the end of the assault, 86 people were consumed in a fire that engulfed the compound. Why would people be persuaded by cults or organizations that employ brainwashing techniques? What must a person do to safe-guard themselves from such destructive programing? Reviewing social psychology research provides clues into cult phenomenon and the people who are attracted to the dynamics they employ.

 

ATTITUDES FOLLOW BEHAVIOR

  • Deindividuation -Loss of self-awareness and evaluation apprehension; occurs in group situations that foster responsiveness to group norms, good or bad. Deindividuation can occur when one loses one's social identity and behaves in a manner in which one would not behave (Nelsen, 2005).
  • Reward theory of attraction: The people who reward us, or who we associate with rewards, we like. This is especially true if the relationship is more profitable than alternative relationships (Burgess & Hudston, 1979; Kelly, 1979; Rusbult, 1980). We not only like people who are rewarding to be with; we also, according to the reward principle, like those we associate with good feelings. “If the cult and its trainer or charismatic leader provides you with the magical solution to your problems in life, you feel better about yourself, even if the solutions are a problem” - Synthia Esther. Theorists Donn Byrne and Gerald Clore – 1970, Albert Lott and Bernice Lott – 1974, Jan DeHouwer and colleagues – 2001, conditioning creates positive feelings toward things and people linked with rewarding events. Linking by association principle (Paul Lewicki, 1985).
  • In everyday life people associate mostly with others whose attitudes are similar to their own. People also tend to select friends and marry those who are a good or equal match not only to their level of attractiveness (Bernard Murstein - 1986), but intelligence as well. Liking another person is greatly aided by similarity of attitudes, beliefs, and values. Cult members share the same cult experience, attitudes, beliefs, and values. A person's liking for another “does” predict the others liking in return (Kenny & Nasby, 1980).
  • “Most of a person's everyday life is determined not by their conscious intentions and deliberate choices but by mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment and that operate outside of conscious awareness and guidance” - John Bargh, Tanya Dhartrand (1999).
  • Conformity grows if judgments are difficult or if the participants feel incompetent. The more insecure we are about our judgments, the more influenced we are by others. Someone who punctures a group's unanimity deflates its social power (Allen & Levine, 1969, Asch, 1955, Morris & Miller, 1975).
  • Conformity is highest when a group has three or more people and is cohesive, unanimous, and high in status (conformity is played out in PSI/EST group games).
  • Obedience, conformity, and conscious. Milgram (1965, 1974) experiments tested what happens when the demands of authority clash with the demands of conscience. Electrical shocks administered as explicitly commanded, succeeded in pressuring people to go against their own consciences. In the Milgram obedience experiments, a powerful social pressure (the experimenter's commands) overcame a weaker one (the remote victim's pleas). Torn between the pleas of the victim and the orders of the experimenter, between the desire to avoid doing harm and the desire to be a good participant, a surprising number of people chose to obey. Most cult members do the same, proving they are a good participant.
  • People see not only what they expect, but also correlations they want to see – Illusory correlations. One of many research studies that prove this correlation exist was done by Mariette Berndsen and co-researchers (1996).
  • Associating a message with good feelings makes it more convincing. People often make quick, less reflective judgments while in good moods. Emotionally packed messages that are vivid and arouse fear can also be effectively utilized, particularly if the participant can take protective action. Usually face to face appeals work best. By breaking you down, the cult trainer/leader than becomes the savior who builds you back up. As a means of self preservation you accept the savior and the message which makes you feel better. Then you celebrate your brainwashing in the happy, happy, joy, joy cult after party. Proverbs 19:2, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” God's Biblical knowledge leads to wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 2).
  • Attitudes follow behavior. New recruits or converts soon learn that membership is a very serious privilege. Therefore they are encouraged to become active members of their new system of belief's by compiling to group norms and rituals. Bringing in new converts, family members and friends who can share in their new found cult experience. The more recruits and converts they bring into the organization the more they feel they belong, are accepted, and indeed “get it”. As those in social-psychological experiments come to believe in what they bear witness to (Aronson & Mills, 1959; Gerad & Mathewson, 1966), so cult initiates become committed advocates. The greater the personal commitment, the more the need to justify it. The more money is spent, the more the need to justify the spending. Cult members may state, “This experience changed my life!” The Bible states, only Jesus Christ can change a life!
  • Emotionally packed messages as well as the warmth and acceptance the group showers lonely or depressed people can be profoundly appealing: *Trust the trainer, join the family; we have the answer, we know the way. This message is reinforced through participation in group activities, small group discussions, group exercises, or direct social pressure. Occult techniques such as visualization, subliminal indoctrination, hyper awareness, and hypnotism techniques are often utilized. *Authorities backed by institutions wield social power (Robert Ornstein, 1991).
  • Trust is another aspect of credibility. Margaret Singer (1979) noted that middle-class Caucasian youths are more vulnerable to recruitment because they are more trusting. They lack the “street smarts” of lower-class youths (who know how to resist a hustle) and the wariness of upper-class youths (who have been warned of kidnappers since childhood). Many cult members have been recruited by friends or relatives, people they trust (Stark & Bainbridge, 1980).
  • Higher status people tend to have more impact (Driskell & Mullen, 1990)
  • Potential converts are often at turning points in their lives, facing personal problems or crises, vacationing or living away from home. They have needs; the cult offers them an answer (Singer, 1979, Lofland & Stark, 1965).
  • The cult usually separates members from their previous social support systems, friends and family so as to isolate them with other cultists. Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge (1980) call this tactic “social implosion”. External ties weaken until the group collapses inward socially, each person engaging only with other group members. Cut off from families and former friends, they lose access to counterarguments. The group now offers identity and defines reality.

 

TACTICS FOR RESISTING INFLUENCE

1st Corinthians 15:33, Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Ephesians 5:6-7, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (7) Therefore do not be partners with them.”

  • Before encountering other personal opinions and judgments, make a public commitment to your position. By standing up for your convictions you are less likely to become susceptible or fall into temptation by exchanging your belief's for someone else's. In mock civil trails, straw polls of jurors can foster a hardening of expressed positions, leading to more deadlocks (Davis & Others, 1993). “The more you know what you stand for, the more difficult it is for another to cause you to doubt what you know.After several sessions during the seventh and eighth grades, the "inoculated" students were half as likely to begin smoking as were the "Un-inoculated" students at another junior high school that had an identical parental smoking rate.” - Synthia Esther
  • Attitude inoculation – Exposing people to weak attacks and arguments pertaining to their attitudes and/or beliefs, so that when stronger attacks come, they will have refutations available (Jacks & Cameron, 2003). A research team led by Alfred McAlister (1980) had high school students “inoculate” seventh graders against peer pressures to smoke. The seventh graders were taught to respond to advertisements implying that liberated women smoke by saying, “She's not really liberated if she is hooked on tobacco.” They also acted in role plays in which, after being called “chicken” for not taking a cigarette, they answered with statements like, “I'd be a real chicken if I smoked just to impress you.” After several of these sessions during the seventh and eighth grades, the inoculated students were half as likely to begin smoking as were un-inoculated students at another junior high school that had an identical parental smoking rate.
  • An attack or argument, if refuted, is more likely to solidify a person's position within a cult than to undermine it, particularly if the threatening material can be examined with like minded persons. Cults use this tactic by forewarning members of how families and friends will attack the cult's beliefs and doctrines. When the inevitable occurs the cult member is ready and able to counter argue. An ineffective unprepared appeal or persuasion can be worse than none because those who reject an appeal have been prepared and inoculated against most appeals.
  • Proverbs 2:1-11, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” It is the desire of Synthia Esther Ministries to lead the world to this profound Biblical truth. God's word is all the wisdom and understanding you will ever need or desire in life. By staying within the word of God you are planting His seed of success, victory, personal achievement, and power from on high within your heart, mind, and soul.

 

“ ALL THAT WE ARE IS A RESULT OF WHAT WE HAVE THOUGHT” - BUDDA

 

 If this sounds familiar you may attribute these same sentiments to “The Secret Law Of Attraction” principles in the movie “The Secret” and book released by Australian author Rhonda Byrne. The movie claims in principal, like attracts like, choices both good and bad are fueled by our thoughts, everything that's coming into your life you are attracting etc. You are responsible for all that has happened in your life. Sounds like another documented quote from a PSI/EST seminar.

 

THE LAW OF ATTRACTION PRINCIPLES CAME THROUGH ESTHER HICKS WHO CHANNELS ENTITIES CALLED “ABRAHAM”

 

 The law of attraction principles used within the movie “The Secret” came through spirit entities called “Abraham” channeled by Esther Hicks. The Abraham entities are referred to as “we are you in the future”. God finds such demonic/occult practices detestable (Deuteronomy 18:10-16). For additional information concerning “The Secret” with Biblical insights you can reference my article, “The Secret Law Of Attraction – A False Reality Of A Conceptual Manner.”

 The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, John Ankerburg's website has an excellent reference article under new age; Is “The Secret” compatible with Biblical Christianity? By staff correspondent A by ATRI, “Oprah guest and “Secret” promoter Michael Beckwith, founder and paster of Agape International Spiritual Center describes his theology as being in the “New Thought – Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality. Russ Wise suggests he is the most troubling of the Secret teachers “because he represents a pseudo – Christianity. He has the greatest ability to be used to deceive those whom God has touched by His Gospel.”

The article goes on to give comment to a question on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, when an audience member asked a question about heaven and hell. Beckwith responded, “Jesus the Christ said the kingdom of heaven is within. He didn't say it was out there somewhere – he said within. And so is it possible to consider that the kingdom of hell is within as well?.. The kingdom of God is actually in us, and what comes out of your mouth, what you think about, how you express- you're either participating in the realm of ever-expanding good or you're cutting yourself off from the realm.”

James Swan of Alpha and Omega Ministries explains the problem with one part of Beckwith's answer. “Notice the context of the Biblical phrase kingdom of God was completely devoid from the answer. In Luke 17, the Pharisees wanted to know when the Kingdom would come. When would God's people see their prophesied theocratic leader? Certainly Jesus didn't believe God's kingdom was within these religious leaders. He considered them religious hypocrites.

In Romans 14:17, Paul states, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves God this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” Jesus is actually rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, pointing out that the kingdom is an inner righteousness, not an outward righteousness of eating and drink, rules and regulations. We are given Christ's righteousness in justification. The Holy Spirit performs his work of sanctification, making our works pleasing to God.

The answer given by the Oprah show does more than misquote a Bible verse. It denies the Gospel.” The Gospel, as any careful reader will discern, is not the only Biblical doctrine or claim that is denied. In his review of “The Secret”, Donald Whitney says, “It is no exaggeration to say that this book implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) denies virtually every major doctrine in the Bible.” B.B. Warfild once said:

“He who begins by seeking God within himself may end up confusing himself as God”.
God puts it this way, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” - Psalm 188:8.

 

 

* For information on how you can accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior,  please visit our salvation resource page by clicking the hyperlink: "A Free Gift!"

 

Copyright - 2007-2010, Synthia Esther.  All Rights Reserved.