Guruphiliac: Culty Criteria

Friday, April 11, 2008

Culty Criteria

File under: Gurubusting

Due to speak at the Mountain States Conference on Cults, Gangs and Hate Groups this weekend, pro cult counselor Nancy Miquelon offers a few of her thoughts on Robert Jay Lifton's criteria for thought reform:
One is to just control someone’s environment, what Lifton called “milieu control.” Sometimes that’s external environment. A lot of groups, as a part of their recruiting, take people to secluded places and unfamiliar places. That leaves you in unfamiliar surroundings, so you don’t have your normal points of orientation and points of reflection and reality checks with family and friends. Another part of milieu control becomes internal, in that as the group begins to do their persuasion and their indoctrination, part of it is repetitive and part of it is taking away your normal system of checks and balances, to where you start believing some of what they’re saying, and you start programming yourself. So your mind becomes part of that milieu, and matching their definition of “the right way to be” becomes part of the internalized control.

Another idea would be “sacred science,” and that’s where a group would say, “We have the real truth.” That kind of thinking is aimed at stimulating your critical thinking, but it really ends up shutting it down.

Another would be setting up what is called the “demand for purity,” where you must be completely perfect or you’re horrible. The demand for purity sets up this impossible standard, which often happens with what we call some “lovebombing” initially — where they say you’re perfect and you’re wonderful and we’re the only people that will accept you unconditionally — but once you’re in, then you have to match this perfect standard. Of course, nobody can quite get there. It’s this carrot.
Now we know where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living cult picked up their recruitment practices.



At 4/12/2008 10:19 AM, Blogger gregory said...

sounds like going to work at any big corporation

At 4/12/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger stuartresnick said...

gregory said...
sounds like going to work at any big corporation

The thing that makes this topic so interesting is that the dynamic is not limited to spiritual or religious groups commonly thought of as "cults." The same issues -- of whether we examine things for ourselves, vs blindly following a group, a dogma, or an authority --are in play in religious groups, political movements, business enterprises, etc.

The most important link in the cult dynamic is the choice, consciously or otherwise, of each individual to ignore, deny, or bury the questions that arrise from their personal perspective. Do we or don't we question the claims of the authority or shared belief-system, from the standpoint of our direct individual experience?

It's not so much a matter of whether this or that spiritual group is a cult, or this or that corporation. It's a matter of whether my own mind falls into following the external authority, rather than wondering, questioning, examining everything for myself.

Sure, there may be some merit to examining particular group phenomenon that seem associated with cultish following. More powerful is an examination of my own thinking, my own choices of whether to be a believer or a questioner.


At 4/16/2008 1:25 PM, Blogger Peggy Burgess said...

Stuart said:More powerful is an examination of my own thinking, my own choices of whether to be a believer or a questioner.
Yes more powerful for you, and anybody who is honest with themselves, i would hope. but this demand for purity is a pretty strong thing too, if it wasn't already strong in us, it wouldn't work.
I guess people hope there is some outside definable truth to get. People can accomplish a lot in big groups, and by following golden rules, it's not all bad if your group allows for individuality. but with any group you agree to something , to meditate a lot , to feed people, to be politically correct.etc. I think anyone who is alive can feel pressure to conform in a group, on the other hand , if you are happy, well adjusted to your group maybe you wouldn't notice your conforming or you have found the level of conforming that suits you..


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