Archive Message - 1995

Since some of the materials which describe the $cientology cult could be considered to be copywritten materials, I have censored myself and The Skeptic Tank by deleting any and all possible text files which describes the cult's hidden mythologies. I have elected to quote just a bit of the questionable text according to the "Fair Use" legal findings afforded to those who report. - Fredric L. Rice, The Skeptic Tank, 09/Sep/95 -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From!!!pipex!warwick!bsmail!plmlp Mon Jul 17 09:48:10 1995 Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology Path:!!!pipex!warwick!bsmail!plmlp From: (Martin Poulter) Subject: Dr Singer's Internet Roundtable (readable) Message-ID: <> Sender: (Usenet news owner) Nntp-Posting-Host: Organization: University of Bristol, England References: <> Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 09:26:46 GMT Lines: 366 This is hopefully a more readable version: Kevin Pursglove : Good evening everyone. Joining us on the Internet tonight is Margaret Thaler Singer. Dr. Singer is a clinical psychologist and emeritus adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the author of "Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives." Dr. Singer has counseled and interviewed more than 3,000 current and former cult members, their friends, and their relatives. Dr. Singer, we welcome you. Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I'm very glad to be with you tonight. Kevin Pursglove : Dr. Singer, what is a cult? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : A cult is a group started by a person who claims they have a special mission and secret knowledge -- either old secret knowledge that they have discovered, or new knowledge that they will share with people who will turn over their decision-making to this self-appointed leader.The important features of a cult, beyond that it is started by an individual as we have just described, that individual then directs the veneration of the followers towards himself, not toward God or abstract principals. The next feature of a cult is that it is elitist. The leader convinces the followers that if they obey him, they will be the elite who will at some point take over the world. Cults are not all religious in nature. Cults can be formed around any theme such as politics, psychology, UFOs, or any other content. Additionally, cults have a double set of ethics. That is, one must tell the truth to members, but it is alright to deceive and lie to non-members because of the elitist outlook of the group. Cults are also totalitarian and totalistic. That means all the power is centered in the leader, and usually controls are exerted over each area of life. Kevin Pursglove : By definition cults currently have a very negative connotation attached to them. By definition are all cults negative? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : All cults, as they currently exist and operate, have varying degrees of negative features. At the mildest level, most cults recruit deceptively so that new members have little idea of what the bottom line of membership will read. At the most extreme end, we see cults such as the Asahara Group in Japan that is getting so much current attention. What is important in producing any negative image that gets associated with a particular group are the various behaviors of that group. What those behaviors are is a direct reflection of theJpersonality, fantasies, and directives of the leader. Therefore, because of the high control, centrality, and command exerted, the way a cult evolves and turns out hinges on the personality of the cult leader. If, like Jim Jones, or Luc Jouret, or David Koresh and other lesser-known cult leaders, who within the past 2 decades have taken their followers with them in firey or poisonous endings, reflects the long-term plan and fantasies of the leaders. Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinryko Cult in Japan by history, has been a man who has sought since childhood attention at almost any cost. I think as we learn more, we will learn what the plans were as to how his group moved from being one more cult into becoming a terrorist organization. Kevin Pursglove : Let me see if I understand the complexity of what you just stated. Is it possible for a cult, through its founders, to start with the best of intention and through the various stages of development you just described, realize its best intention? Or rather, are cults pre-determined, pre-destined to produce negative outcomes? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : Cults could, as many have down through the centuries, start out as I have described the beginning of a cult. But the leader, from my study, does three things that permit a cult to institutionalize, as the term is applied, to cultic groups that exist beyond the lifespan of the man who starts the cult. Cults, if they do three things, can institutionalize. 1) If the leader makes some plans of how the power structure can be shared by others after his demise. Secondly, if the group begins to keep their conduct within that expected by the surrounding society. And 3) If the cult stops attempting to be a sovereign entity, the group can adapt to the surrounding culture and social organization and continue beyond the life of the man or woman who started the group. So far I have referred to men cult leaders. There are a few women cult leaders in the world today. The larger majority of the cult leaders are men. Back to your question...I might add that part of what gets cults on a bad path is there is very little feedback or correction in the social system that evolves. That is, the cult leader keeps such a tight control that he loses the benefit of the free and creative comments that his followers might make. A second feature that causes cults to 1) be viewed negatively and 2) to get an angry, paranoid atmosphere within the group is based upon the fact that most cult leaders attempt to bond the followers to them by making them fearful of the outside world. Cult leaders most of the time convince followers that non-members, the outside world is against them -- that non-members are enemies. Thus, the cult leader can keep whipping up a frenzied devotion to himself, as a means of keeping the followers bonded to him -- not just out of obedience, but obedience combined with fear, combined with the dependency that grows. The dependency on the cult leader comes from the fact that in most cults people become financially, socially, and spiritually, in all ways dependent on the leaders of the group. So that eventually one can see the problems that the cult faces in its existence. If the leader were to do less of the making the followers suspicious, hateful, and negative toward the outside world, a very different organization could evolve. Kevin Pursglove : Tonight's guest is Dr. Margaret Singer. She is the author of "Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives." The book is published by Jossey-Bass Publishers. If you would like further information you can telephone (415) 433-1740. Let us now take some questions from the audience. Wouldn't you agree that all religions including Christianity, Catholic, Hebrew/Jewish etc. are all cults, seeing as how their leader, "God," promises them something better if they "follow" him/her? (question from the audience) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I would agree with that question partially. Each of the great religions as we know them today, I am told by scholars of religion and from my own reading, began as cults, but down through history went through the process I've already described. It wasn't God telling the people. It was people saying that if men and women would follow him he would give them contact with God. (question from the audience) How have the courts viewed cult practices in the U.S. recently? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : Courts in the U.S. have looked at the behavior in all cases. I can guarantee that at no point have the beliefs of cults been under attack in our courts. In each case that I'm familiar with, the conduct is what got the group in either civil or criminal court. (question from the audience) Could many network/multi-level marketing groups be described as cultic? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : Many such groups could better be described as brainwashing or thought reform programs. But what's important about the multi-level marketing programs is that they use so many centuries old manipulations to try to get people to think that they can become very wealthy in a short time by staying with the group. I know that we haven't talked about what is brainwashing or thought reform programs. These two terms simply refer to pre-planned influence programs that are organized by the person or persons running a program, in which they wish to convince people through psychological and social manipulation to do their bidding. (question from the audience) What can one say to those who think that cults don't exist, and that survivors of abuse at the hands of these monsters must have been imagined? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I am aware that most people think no one could get them into a cult. And I'm aware that many citizens think that only the ignorant, stupid, crazy, or weird get into cults. But what I've come to find is that as we have more and more cult veterans who are appearing both on the electronic media, on the TV, and are writing of their experience in cults, citizens are becoming far more aware that cults recruit and actually seek out good people, intelligent people, obedient people, and simply pick up an ordinary human being at a down time in their life. That is, the public is coming to see that people get recruited when they're depressed, a bit lonely, not quite knowing what to do with their lives. And a cult recruiter offers them a solution. Kevin Pursglove : Dr. Singer, you have talked with, counseled, interviewed some 3,000 people who in some way have been associated with a cult. Are there any examples where people have gone through such an experience and considered it to have been positive -- not only considered it to be positive, but feel their lives have benefited from the experience? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I have not found people who said everything about their cult experience was good. I have found people who said that the most frequent answer is that the major part of their cult experience was not good. People have told me that the friendship, the good parts of being in cults was they made some good friendships with their peers. But most of the time they couldn't really trust the friendship because within the cult, people were obligated to tell everything they knew upward to the cult leader. The basic things people bring out of a cult is saying they learned to live in a group. And if they had been fundraisers or recruiters for the cult, they tell me that they got used to being rejected so often that now that they are out, they are much less hurt when people say no to them. Very few people have looked back upon their time in the cult with comfort and gladness. I have interviewed people that were very high up in the leadership of the cult, and they said that the entire time they had their power, they knew that at a moment's notice they could lose all of their status, which often happened to them many times while in the group. But few people after they get away from the cult, do much more than tell you about certain aspects that were good. But they feel that on the whole, they wished that they had never given the years of their lives to the cult. (question from the audience) What suggestions would you have about changes that we, as a society, might make to make the atmosphere in modern society less conducive to groups such as you describe? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I do hope that we get into highschool and college education, churches, synagogues, youth groups -- more education about how to think critically and evaluatively about things people tell us. Also, as a society I think we need to, in some way, make it easier for the transiently or temporarily lonely people to be able to affiliate with groups of people who will not use them. What I mean is while there are many groups in the U.S., it's very hard for lonely people to know where they might fit in, where they might give service, find friends, and both get their needs met and do something for society. I hope others will join in and think of other ways. I mentioned only two -- better education so that people are not overly gullible and taken in by the offerings of other people. And secondly, to help our society to become aware of the neediness we all have for some sense of community and group to affiliate with. But it needs to be, I think, more around projects and shared activities so that people don't get recruited by cults, who will recruit them deceptively and use them. (question from the audience) How can you consider yourself an expert by only interviewing EX-cult members? How can someone be an expert unless one has interviewed people who consider that the group is good and helpful, unless one has been inside the facilities and the group itself? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I have talked with dozens upon dozens of current members of several hundred cults. I have visited the facilities of these numerous cults, so that you misunderstood the source of my information. I have interviewed many, many hundreds of ex-members, but I have done the interviewing of people while they're in. And one of the fascinating things has been that many people that I met while they were in the cult, later when they left, re- contacted me to let me know things that they had said when they met me while they were in the cult, were not the full picture that they would like to present at this later point, after time has gone by and they left the group. Has Dr. Singer received any personal harassment due to her outspokenness towards cultic groups? (question from the audience) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I have received considerable pestering, harassment, death threats, threatening letters. My house was filled with rats on one occasion. I have been picketed when I've given talks not on cults. But I am a professional lecturer on other topics. On one occasion, I had to have an armed guard take me from my hotel to the courtroom and pick me up, because of the dangers and anger of the group about which I was talking. But the thing is one must be honest. And I realize that the cults who dislike me because I have helped so many of their ex-members and I have written and spoken, they realize that I am honest. They may not like me. What thoughts do you have about the propaganda that cults are a concept much more based on hysteria than reality? People seem so willing to dismiss cults as "no big problem." (question from the audience) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I think many times a certain number of citizens don't want to pay attention to the misery and pain that families have that have lost people into cults. And it's just easier for some citizens to pretend that there is no problem. They act like the ostrich in the proverb who puts his head in the sand so he won't have to see what's going on. Kevin Pursglove : Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer is our guest tonight. She is a Clinical Psychologist and Emeritus Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She has interviewed and counseled more than 3,000 current and former cult members, their relatives, and their friends. She is the author of "Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives." For further information please telephone (415) 433-1740. Dr. Singer, my roommate is a Jehovah's Witness, and I've often wondered about the changes in his behavior since he joined. Would you classify the Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult? (question from the audience) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : I personally don't. They've been around quite a long time and have institutionalized themselves into the society. But I know many people notice the changes that come along with "high demand group" joiners. There's also a group of people who are ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who might be able to help you understand your roommate's changes. Not all groups that she has criticized have called her 'honest'. In fact the Scientologists, for example, have a great deal of literature allegedly showing how her theories have been discredited and not accepted in courts etc. How does she respond? (question from the audience) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : One can always expect certain groups to put out propaganda and this is propaganda, meaning it's simply untrue. (question from the audience) Could we, the United States government, offer services to those people who think that they need to belong to a cult in order to survive in our society? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : That's a puzzling question. I don't quite see what the writer has in mind. But what I was talking about was hoping that somehow, that at a community level there be more easy getting into groups where one could give some service. I know we have many volunteer groups, but so often people are unaware. And so often after people have gotten out of a cult, they say they wished they had known about some of the service groups. When they had gone to churches,they said they had not felt welcomed. And it has been my observation that most groups, whether they are church groups, political groups, social groups, do not pay enough attention to what are called "outreach" programs -- meaning looking to see who's at the edge of the social group, who are newcomers, and making them feel more welcome. Question from the audience: I was once at an EST meeting. Do you consider EST a cult? (by the way, I found everyone there to be very friendly, overly so, and robotish.) Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : No, people on the whole do not consider EST a cult. Many people high up in the organization have described cult-like features in theorganization. I agree that part of the training at that organization is to produce smiling, outgoing people to sell the program to others. Question from the audience: An acquaintance of mine was introduced to a cult and dropped out of college to join it. Could anything (and should anything) have been done? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : Yes. When you first see that your friend or relative is starting to be recruited by a group, it's very helpful to learn everything you can as to the name of the group. Get information about the group from your library, or if you are pretty sure it's a cult, call the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago and ask if they have any literature that they could send you, that you might offer to your friend or relatives so that you could all let the person know what the world knows about the group. The Cult Awareness Network phone number is (312) 267-7777. Information is really needed by friends and family in order to see if they can't present information that the about-to-join person should have access to, that you know the cult is not likely to give them. Question from the audience: What do you think of "deprogramming" essentially by kidnapping? Is that a civil-rights violation? Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : Yes, you can not go out and kidnap people. The so-called involuntary deprogramming has to my knowledge evaporated. But for a number of years we have so many ex-cult members who can work with family, friends, and relatives in order to set up a voluntary meeting, if possible, with the cult member, so that people who know about the particular group and about thought reform or brainwashing can be available to that person. And what 's described now as Exit Counseling is the current term that's used to describe the educational process of meeting with a cult member, who is open to hearing and perhaps making a re-decision about their membership. There are hundreds of ex-cult members available, and some very excellent, really professional-level Exit Counselors who do not snatch people off the street. That happened back in the 70's when the cults were just getting going, and parents did not know what to do and were desperate to see if they could get young adults to reconsider. Since the early beginnings in the late 60's and early 70's, the cults no longer just recruit young adults but recruit people of all ages, and in recent times have been targeting the elderly. Kevin Pursglove : I believe we are out of time. Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer : It's been enjoyable to be here. Kevin Pursglove : Thank you everyone. -- MARTIN L: Postgrad. studying "Probability and Belief" at Bristol University POULTER : KNIGHT NATASEVOLLLEWYLLOJI WWW Home Page & Scientology Critics' OF Scientology is a dangerous cult stuff: XENU -warn your family and friends.


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