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February 17, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

Cult Leaders: Brainwashing

Cult members who recruit others into their group are typically very friendly, showing much love and care, and offering to meet needs. Through these demonstrations of love, care, and meeting needs, the new member establishes trust in the other members and the leaders, developing quasi-fulfilling friendships. Once they are in the group, however (having no idea that it is a destructive group), the insidious and eroding mind control process begins.

I learnt of the cult leader by way of association. I had just established close ties with the member of the group and did not know who the cult leader was. He did not even come off across as a leader nor was it apparent that here was an actual cult; he was displayed as a confidante or an advisor, not someone who was trying to control people. Since the members of the group seem to come from a background similar to mine and were educated, I thought nothing of their cult leader.

He apperently had followers in many countries and he would have smaller gatherings so as to raise suspicion.

“Brainwashing is a very deceptive thing. People do not know when they are brainwashed. Brainwashing happens when somebody gives you one side of the story and they give it long enough to you that you believe it. That’s exactly what happened to us.”

First, the cultists all too broadly define “unbelievers” as “everyone outside our group”, by all too narrowly defining their own group as the only true believers in the Prophet. This is a key reason that cult rulers try to limit their member’s contact with the outside world: in order to have greater control over them.

Within ten days, the cult leader told me, in a gathering of the members, that there was no way my family would ever understand the relationship we all had with the leader and what he stood for and so it was better if I refrained from telling my parents because their views were too liberal.

Second, unbelievers are simply those who do not follow the Prophet.

Milieu control in cultic groups is often accomplished through teaching their members not to listen to outside information – information such as:

• What parents and friends say about the group.

• Any negative news reports about it.

Such negative information is automatically counted as “evil”, or simply dismissed as, “It can’t be true because this group is so wonderful.” Often they label negative information as “persecution” that is evil but expected. Some believe it is a sin to even listen to negative information about someone, especially about the leader.

I remember that a few members of the group had brothers and sisters that were concerned with the close association of the cult leader. When the cult leader became aware of the situation, he reacted by telling those members that their family was jealous. The leader said that it was best to hide whatever took place within the group because these concerned brothers and sisters had ‘evil’ thoughts towards the members and the members should protect themselves by sticking closer to the cult leader.

Some leaders may tell you something like, “You are going to hear faultfinders who criticize our group. Do not listen to it! A critical spirit is evil.” Is this true? After all, isn’t it nobler to disregard negative comments about an organization that is apparently doing so much good? However, the criticism may be valid because of some evil happening alongside some apparent good. In addition, the cult leaders often discredit the messenger rather than deal with the validity of the criticism.

They also discourage their members from listening to other doctrines, with emphasis upon listening to and using material from “our teachings only”. They often do this by making their own teachings look enlightened and therefore true, while labeling anything else as a being false or of significantly lesser value.

I enjoy reading a lot of books on religion. When the cult leader realized that I would ask him less questions and I would conduct my own research he would try to advise me constantly that there was no need to read those books. He was the entire ‘university’ and if I followed what he did and said I would acquire my ‘degree’.

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