North America Poised For a New Era of Cults and Extremist Thinking — About the Author … James C. Tanner is a former professional Investigator who specialized in cult and occult related crime with a targeted emphasis on the ritual slaughter of animals.
North America Poised For a New Era of Cults and Extremist Thinking
North America has tip-toed into a fertile era for the re-awakening and birthing of tangent belief systems ranging from cults to extremist religious activity.
Fact: In 2015, after governing for three terms, Canadians witnessed the fall of the Stephen Harper Conservative government. Historically and mathematically it was impossible for the Harper team to win a fourth term, but the greatest mistake made by this party was not found in it’s policies, but in it’s absolute failure to invest in and raise up a new generation of leadership. Canada’s 2015 federal election was won by a party who’s leader is young, unproven, and very much tied to the reputation of his former Prime Minister father. Consequently, Canada sit’s with a figure head at the helm, who is socially appealing, but unproven and untried, leaving a nation stuck in a leadership vacuum, waiting and hoping to find in Justin Trudeau the national saviour many hope he is.
Fact: In 2015, the United States of America is revelling, and reeling in one of the most colorful presidential campaigns in recent generations. Current leadership has been dwarfed and muted by the personalities of the up and coming hopefuls, while the population grows divided by the extreme personalities, views and opinions of those who jockey at the post for the position of front runner. In the midst of all the political ramblings, raucus, and uproar, the United States of America sits, right now, in what appears to be a deepening leadership vacuum — a leadership vacuum which is creating national division instead of drawing everyone together in unity.
Currently, there are over 5,000 destructive cults or cell groups operating in the United States of America, festering and heating up with a pot that contains approximately 4 million members.
While most world cults have been birthed out of the Baptist and Pentecostal (charismatic) church movements, today’s world of the cults fall into 4 basic categories:
- Religious — these can range from what might be a very small community church with tangent beliefs to extremist forms of Islam (it might strike many a bit strange to know that the Mennonite organization and it’s off-shoots are cult based groups);
- Psychological/Enlightenment — New Age centres or teachings offering what are often expensive “enlightenment” workshops or sessions with today’s newest and most inwardly insightful leaders or gurus;
- Commercial — These can range widely from certain pyramid and multi-level marketing organizations where there is religious overtones to massive international conglomerates (Amway, Monavie, and Herbalife have all made, at one time or another, national listings of commercial cults in the United States of America);
- Political — Often taking on the guise of much needed leadership, these are ideaologies, belief systems, or political dogmas which spring up in the void of leadership vacuums offering salvation to local, regional, and national dilemmas, an example of which is Nazism. Nazism was originally a cult, which gained politcal power, fell, and returned to a hidden populace as a cult ideaology. Today, few political parties exist where cult beliefs cannot be found buried deep within their views and thinking.
For purposes of definition, a “cult” is a group of people, be it a large or small group, who come together and rally around a strong authority figure (this person may or not be in an actual office or position of authority, but be authoritative in delivery). This can be a person in a religious setting who has the ability to control or influence people’s thinking; it can be a political leader; a college or university lecturer (most recruitment into today’s cults occurs in colleges and universities); a police officer or law enforcement community; or a highly successful business person. Often, at the core of every cult leader is one common denominator, an attempt to expand their influence for the purposes of increasing personal power, prestige, social acceptance, or wealth. However, to achieve these ends, destructive cults often utilize a toxic mixture of influence techniques (e.g. brain-washing, excessive power of suggestion, mental manipulations, mind control, etc.) and deception to attain psychological control over members and new recruits.
The cult problem is so prevalent, the chances of a family member joining a cult are greater than a family member catching chicken pox, four times greater than contracting AIDS, 90 times greater than contracting measles, and 45,000 times greater than contracting polio. (According to Dr. Paul Martin, cult expert and director of Wellspring Retreat & Resource Center, Ohio, USA.)
Those of us who have taken time to study behavioural psychology will know and understand that human behaviour is a function of, or an interaction of, both the personality and the environment. This formulation B=f[P,E] is known as the Lewinian Formulation. Tucked away, in the depths of this formulation is the underlying reason as to why so many cults successfully induct new recruits into their rank and file. Many cult leaders know that one of social psychology’s greatest strengths is found in the overwhelming influence that the environment–the immediate situation — exerts on a person’s behavior. Yet, when an outsider tries to identify the cause of a person’s behaviour they will usually attribute it to a person’s personality, not the influence of the environment or indoctrination they are exposed to over a prolonged period of time — this is where a cult belief system can sneak in the back door and the person’s resulting behaviour ends up being blamed on their personality style or social skills with no attention being paid to the environment he or she is existing in. In short, society blames the often innocent cult member, failing to recognize the mind control environment of the cult.
What Exactly Do Cults and Extremist Groups Do To Change The Mental State Of Their Members?
First off, one must understand that since Aristotle recorded his principles of persuasion in Rhetoric, humans have attempted to define and refine the principles of successful influence. While belief systems have existed as long as mankind has existed, the modern age of social influence is relatively young, originating in World War II.
In World War II, President Roosevelt grew increasingly concerned that Americans would lose the will to fight after winning victory in Europe. Political exhaustions among an electorate is not an uncommon problem, and knowing this, President Rossevelt recruited leading social psychologist Carl Hovland. It was Hovland’s job to motivate fatigued soldiers to continue fighting against Japan. Since World War II, social influence has politically become an expanding field of study devoted to discovering the principles which determine our beliefs, create our attitudes, and move the masses to a unified action, or result.
In a cult environment, influence is altered into a more agressive form known as coercive persuasion, the seeding of coercive psychological systems, or excessive untilization of coercive influence. It is the constant wearing down of one’s mental state to where one thought can be replaced with another.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, coercion is defined as, “to force to act or think in a certain manner; to dominate, restrain, or control by force; to bring about by force.” The utilization of coercion, in many jurisdictions is an illegal practise.
For those who are not familiar with the brain-washing methods found in many cults and religious extremist organizations, coercive psychological systems are behavioral change programs (mental re-programming or indoctrination) which utilize some form of psychological force (such as mental bombardment of a teaching or philosophy) in a coercive way which causes the learning and adoption of an ideology or designated set of beliefs, ideas, attitudes, or behaviors. For those who are highly skilled in this form of influence, their essential strategy is to systematically select, sequence and coordinate different types of coercive influence, anxiety and stress-producing tactics over continuous periods of time.
There are often 7 prevailing tactics used which make psychological coercion so successful.
TACTIC 1 —Increase suggestibility and “soften up” the individual through specific hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as:Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills, Excessive exact repetition of routine activities, Sleep restriction and/or Nutritional restriction.
TACTIC 2 — Establish control over the person’s social environment, time and sources of social support by a system of often-excessive rewards and punishments. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered.
TACTIC 3 — Prohibit disconfirming information and non supporting opinions in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An “in-group” language is usually constructed.
TACTIC 4 — Make the person re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control and defense mechanisms. The subject is guided to reinterpret his or her life’s history and adopt a new version of causality.
TACTIC 5 — Create a sense of powerlessness by subjecting the person to intense and frequent actions and situations which undermine the person’s confidence in himself and his judgment.
TACTIC 6 — Create strong aversive emotional arousals in the subject by use of nonphysical punishments such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques.
TACTIC 7 — Intimidate the person with the force of group-sanctioned secular psychological threats. For example, it may be suggested or implied that failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequences such as physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.
(From Dr. Margaret Singer former professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley the acknowledged leading authority in the world on mind control and cults. http://factnet.org/node/357)
Today, in 2015/2016 the North American populace sits ripe for the often unrealized harvesting of cults and destructive belief systems.
Cults will often target people who they know are vulnerable making it easy for a “mark” to develop an emotional dependency on the group. These “marks” may have wealth or access to those who do have wealth.
Students are particularly vulnerable to cult recruiters as students live in a world full of ideals, making them impressionable while they search for meaning and identity in their own lives.
Cult recruitment often results from an invitation by a family member, or friend, to an inspirational lecture designed to whip up strong emotions in attendees making them more open to additional lectures or materials.
As nations, we cry out for strong leaders to guide us through difficult times. We sit most vulnerable in times of “leadership vacuums”, for in these seasons it is easy to innocently attach ourselves to the first popular saviour who comes our way.
Ignorance is never an excuse. It falls upon each and everyone of us to be wise, and discerning in who’s influence we allow to creep into our lives.
“If you run with skunks, eventually you will stink like a skunk!” — George F. Tanner