MIND CONTROL IN THE CULTS
"A destructive sect is any group whose methods for
winning over and/or indoctrinating a follower include coercive
persuasion, designed to destroy (destructure) the follower's
previous personality, or damage it severely."
During the 1960s, psychologists in the United States interviewed
American soldiers returning from the war against North Korea.
They focused in particular on those who had suffered a drastic
change in their personality. Under the Communists, these soldiers
experienced brainwashing. Later, other psychologists realised
that some persons involved in cults experienced similar psychological
changes. They recognized that cults used the same mechanism,
which they termed mind control or mind reform. Therefore, it
is very important to know and understand this technique in order
to be able to dialogue with cult members. Otherwise, their unresponsiveness,
a result of the mind control they underwent, could end up deceiving
us. Even though it is true, we would never tell a Jehovahs
Witness, for example, that he is under mind control, because
he wouldnt know what we are talking about. On the contrary,
he would feel attacked. Furthermore, by being on the defensive,
he would think that the Catholic is the one under mind control.
In the book, Combating Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan, we
read that mind control is more subtle and sophisticated than
brainwashing. The one that affects brainwashing through torture
is considered an enemy by the victim, but the cult member who
controls the mind is considered a friend, a good Christian. Consequently,
the victim (the one being indoctrinated) offers less resistance
than if he were being tortured. By co-operating with the process
of mind control, the victim little by little and without realizing
it surrenders his former personality and assumes the one imposed
on him by the cult. He accepts the teachings of the cult, which
are considered biblical.
It is safe to say that mind control does not involve physical
abuse. It is limited, instead, to certain hypnotic processes
combined with group dynamics which create a potent effect of
indoctrination. The individual is deceived and manipulated with
indirect threats to make him carry out a prescribed behaviour.
In the hands of a cult without scruples, these methods become
an effective tool for attracting converts. Not only are they
successful with ignorant and naive people, the best converts
are often persons of high intelligence. Is mind control evil?
Today the use of mind control is an ethical problem, but it is
not objectionable in all of its manifestations. The media attempts
to influence us through advertisements. However, there are certain
methods of mind control which are not considered innocent, and
people who dont realize that they are getting involved
in a cultist group need to be warned before its too late.
Religious cults employ mind control tactics which are kept secret.
These cults dont consider their methods to be mind control,
but rather evangelization. They sincerely believe that they possess
the only answers to lifes problems.
By requiring blind obedience and loyalty, cult leaders keep their
members in darkness. They understand human beings: they know
that a person would be opposed to indoctrination if he knew what
awaited him, and thus they reveal information gradually and at
the right moment.
Controls used by cults
"A person could make an individual decision to join the
Assembly of God ..... but a total submission to authority was
required in order to remain in the group. In such an institution
of legalistic mentality, gossip was an effective form of social
control, especially when the authorities of the church got wind
of it and would call the members to render an account. The pastor
..... of a church was an important figure, even the object of
veneration, due to his charismatic authority. "Its
amazing to see the attention and the reverence which the people
give the pastor" wrote one observer. "They do everything
for him" ..... That the pastor controls everything should
be emphasized ..... Nothing happens without his consent."
1. Control of Information
- American soldiers were only allowed to receive a limited
amount of information from the United States. The Communists
censored their letters, allowed them only to hear radio broadcasts
of Marxist ideology, and indoctrinated them for hours every day.
With all this they prevented them from receiving more objective
information from abroad, thus safeguarding that the soldiers
only heard one version of the story.
- The same happens in cults. They also limit the amount of
information that reaches their members. Reading, listening to
the radio, watching television, or receiving any information
contrary to their doctrines is discouraged. Members are advised
to abstain from what the cult considers worldly and improper
for a good Christian.
- Likewise, in its control of information, the cult does not
reveal all of its beliefs until the person is ready to receive
them. Information is restricted according to hierarchy. The higher
ones authority, the more internal information he receives.
- The Mormon missionaries training cassette instructs
them not to mention, at the outset of conversations, the differences
between Mormon and Catholic beliefs, but rather to show that
they are the same. Further confusion results from the fact that
many cults [spiritualist trinitarian-marian churches] employ
images, songs and rites similar to those of the Catholic Church,
displaying even the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a Catholic
- Part of the control of information consists in prohibiting
communication between an apostate (a person who has been expelled
from the cult) and another member of the same cult. In this way
members will not know the reasons for which the excommunicate
left the cult.
- Cults keep a person very busy reading the Bible, attending
frequent worship services, and going from door to door, all so
that the person becomes very tired and does not have time to
think and evaluate his situation. For example, Jehovahs
Witnesses have five hours of meetings every week, plus many hours
of preparation for such meetings and for preaching from door
to door. Thats a lot of indoctrinating! The amount of time
dedicated to the cult leaves little time to get other information.
Mormons feel pressured to participate in many services, which
are known as callings. Being tired and busy all the time keeps
the person isolated from people who are not part of the cult.
As a result, a persons way of thinking is gradually changed
and controlled through the lack of information.
2. Thought Control
- "The Hare Krishnas Fourth Principal of Regulation,
prohibit mental reflection ..... Cult members not only uncritically
obey the orders of their leaders, or elder brothers
(those who have been in the way of Truth the longest) but they
also submit to experiencing their own daily reality through a
manipulated and exclusive doctrinal filter."
- Control is initiated by getting the person to focus solely
on cult affairs. Questioning a doctrine is forbidden, since doubts
are considered the work of the devil. The leaders way of
thinking must be adopted by all, and independent thought is considered
to be pride. Members learn to block out all doubts and contradictions,
believed to be of the devil, to such a degree that they are unable
to penetrate their consciences. Since leaders are seen as Gods
representatives, they can teach absurdities, and members believe
- Seen as prophets, leaders interpret the events of the world
and of the lives of their followers. Followers are not even permitted
to discern whats happening in their lives. Interpretation
must be given by the cult, not the individual. For example, "This
earthquake is a sign of the end; Youre sick because God
is punishing you or because the devil is attacking you."
Explanations are arbitrary since as the pastor sees it, sickness
is caused by God or by the devil.
- Leaders claim that they have recovered the Truth which was
lost by Catholics. They claim to be restoring the early Church.
They warn new converts that their family members will try to
get them out of the cult and convince them that they are making
a mistake. And when family members put up obstacles, converts
are convinced that the cult members are right - the devil does
not want them to join - and their trust in the cult is re-enforced.
- By taking advantage of the feeling of persecution provoked
by critics of the cult, cult leaders make their followers feel
special. They are being persecuted like the first Christians
were, they say. Cults confuse normal questioning with persecution.
- As a result of mind control, members see the world solely
in terms of black or white, good or evil. Theres no in-between.
Cults (especially the Jehovahs Witnesses) emphasize the
evil of the world and leave aside the good, inducing a longing
for a new world.
- Cults pressure their members to be perfect. They see themselves
as heroes of the faith. They alone follow the Bible. "We
keep the Sabbath" (Seventh Day Adventists say). "We
reject blood transfusions and we are not of the world because
we dont vote" (Jehovahs Witnesses). "We
have a true prophet like the first Christians did" (Mormons
and Light of the World). "We speak in tongues and receive
direct revelations" (Pentecostals). "Here, Jehovah
comes down from Heaven" (Spiritualists). They have to appeal
to some privilege in order to justify their existence. Why not
start another religion if the rest are evil or if something better
can be offered?
3. Environment and Behaviour Control
- Each cult tries to control the persons environment,
especially the way he or she dresses and eats. Mormon missionaries
dress alike: white shirt, black tie, and a black backpack. Moustaches
and beards are not permitted. Jehovahs Witnesses are always
found to be clean cut, never with beards. Some Pentecostals do
not permit women to wear pants, cut their hair, or at times wear
make-up. Women from the Church of La Luz del Mundo wear long
- Furthermore, ones diet is controlled. Mormons are forbidden
to drink tea, coffee or anything that has caffeine or alcohol.
Seven Day Adventists are forbidden to eat clams and pork. Jehovahs
Witnesses are forbidden to eat foods that contain blood. Members
of the Iglesia Patriarcal de Elia (trinitarian-marian spiritualists)
are forbidden to eat pork or drink alcohol. Pentecostals prohibit
alcohol. All of them prohibit tobacco. While in some cases they
are right, members abstain not because of personal choice, but
because they are afraid of being expelled or at least isolated
from their brethren.
- Perhaps the clearest case of control of the environment of
followers is that of the La Iglesia Luz del Mundo, which imposes
isolation on its members by making them live in colonies made
up almost entirely of other cult members. There they interact
exclusively with other members of the same cult. One example
is La Hermosa Provincia, Gozo de toda la Tierra, colony in Guadalajara,
Jalisco (Mexico). Similarly, that of the followers of Jesus Adame,
the Holy Chieftain, who lives in the Province of Jerusalem colony
in Cuernavaca (Mexico).
4. Special Language
- Each cult has its own particular language. This creates in
the group a special identity and way of thinking, and at the
same time is useful for isolating the followers. Some examples
are: the use of the word brother (Mormons). El Santo Varon
de Dios <The Holy Man of God> (Luz del Mundo) and
being in the truth (Jehovahs Witnesses), and the way in
which followers of the Apostolic Christian Church ... the Truth
... bless themselves while greeting each other.
- Control of the environment allows the cult to make personal
decision for the followers. How and where to live and work, what
to study, who to marry, etc.
5. Control of Feelings
- Cults employ tactics to create feelings of fear and guilt.
For example, "I dont think youre serving God
the way He wants you to, brother."
- Helen White, the confusing prophetes of the Seventh Day Adventists,
wrote: "Christ is looking over his church. How many there
are whose religious life constitutes their own condemnation!"
- The use of fear is extensive. "The end of the world
will come soon and those outside our group will be destroyed.
Watch out! The devil wants to possess you, brother." This
fear forces one to stay in the cult. The Jehovahs Witnesses
say that anyone who leaves the cult will fall into vice. They
mention people to whom this has happened. The directors of the
trinitarian-marian spiritualists warn that those who leave will
suffer terrible punishments that will only go away if they return.
- They constantly speak of the end of the world in order to
incite fear, because it is difficult for a person to imagine
that such an important cosmic event could take place without
him participating in it. Subconsciously the person rejects the
idea of not participating in the divine event of the end of the
world. Therefore, the signs of the end attract his attention.
One example of the predominant use of fear and guilt can be seen
by the cult, Light of the World. During its worship services,
one of the leaders records a list of all those absent from the
- Guilt and fear encourage conformity to cult rules. Jehovahs
Witnesses and Mormons threaten their members with expulsion.
Members of the cult are forbidden to associate with a fellow
member who has been expelled. Fear of losing family, work, and
friends keeps a person in, even if he doesnt believe in
the cults teachings. One Mormon bishop commented that,
even though he does not believe in their doctrines, he remains
a Mormon because he doesnt want to lose his job.
- Speaking of those who criticize and try to correct the leaders
of the church, the president of the Mormons, David O McKay said
"Their souls have become embittered, their minds distorted,
their judgements inaccurate, and their spirits depressed".
- In almost all cults there is confession of sins. But it is
not like our Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which one can chose
to remain anonymous. Cult members make their confessions publicly,
usually in the presence of more than one person. Jehovahs
Witnesses and Mormons confess in front of a three to five member
committee, whereas in some evangelical fundamentalist cults sins
are revealed to the entire congregation.
- At first, one feels very positive and experiences a lot of
love (which in fact is false, or at least superficial). There
are promises of an earthly paradise (Jehovahs), peace in
the world, or a special place in heaven. Through visits, attention,
and sometimes even gifts, one feels overwhelmed with so much
kindness. This makes a person lower his defences.Despite the
fact that each cult promotes negative feelings, leaders know
that nobody should experience only negative feelings. Therefore,
many cultish groups makes sure that their members have spiritual
experiences such as visions (Pentecostals and Spiritualists),
or inner sensations of God (Pentecostals, Mormons: burning in
the bosom). We are not saying that the emotions one experiences
in the present of God are false, but rather that they can be
artificially induced. We see this in sports, where players psyche
themselves up before a game. In some cults [La Iglesia Luz del
Mundo], it is common to see the entire congregation, beginning
with the preacher, fall to their knees and begin to scream and
cry out in great wailings. It is not coincidental that some leaders
weep while praying or explaining a vision of Jesus.
- Cults take advantage of people who are in moments of crisis,
when they are feeling alone or weighed down with doubt and sadness.
Parents who have lost a child in an accident, widows and those
recently divorced all ask themselves "Why is this happening
to me?" They are invited to prayer services and are offered
an attractive vision of a world without problems. For a Jehovahs
Witness, who sees Catholics having a good time while he goes
from door to door each Saturday, the idea that the end of the
world is fast approaching is attractive and helps him to persevere
even though the demands of the cult may be overwhelming him,
because its not fair that he has to suffer while Catholics
are having fun.
Do only non-Catholic cultish groups use mind control?
No. There may be groups and organizations whose roots are
Catholic (Nueva Jerusalen), political (Lyndon La Rouche, Neo-Nazis),
and even economic (Amway Products). They all employ one or more
of the above mentioned tools because these tools are more psychological
than religious. The cult, Nueva Jerusalen, which was started
when Gavina Sanchez received a revelation from Mary, Our Lady
of the Rosary, is one example. This group, lead by the priest
Nabor Cardenas, is described as "the most heterogeneous
community of the country..... The men work the fields and the
women leave home only to go to church... Believers who decide
to join the community renounce independence and marriage, as
well as the consumption of alcohol, which is prohibited. They
may leave to visit their families only if Papa Nabor
grants permission... Their dress should be heavenly,
unadorned, and of plain fabric.... Those who do not conform to
the rules as defined by Papa Nabor are simply expelled
from the community and may never return" (Epoca, August
9, 1993, pp20-21).
Each one of the above-mentioned techniques by themselves lack
much force, but when taken together, they are effective in controlling
the mind. Because of their subtlety, one is caught unaware. There
is little communication between members who are experiencing
doubts or anxiety. They are unaware that there are others who
feel the same. On the outside everyone appears happy, and the
person who has doubts thinks he is all alone.
Psychologists say that it is harmful for a mother to send
mixed signals to her children. She says "I love you"
and later says, directly or indirectly "Get out of here.
You are always bothering me." This increases the childs
insecurity and his attachment to his mother, because he is unsure
of his relationship with her. The same thing happens in a cult.
they send these same kind of signals. "God is love. God
is going to kill everybody, including children, who are not with
us. god speaks through us, but we are not his prophets. Each
person must follow his own conscience, but one must not think
independently from the leaders". (Here are other examples
of double messages taken from the Jehovahs Witnesses
magazine, The Watchtower: It teaches that the world is under
Satans control, and yet that world leaders to not always
serve Satans ends; they should be obeyed. It
proclaims Christian liberty: "Stand fast in Christian freedom
(11/15/90, p23) but it does not recognize the freedom of its
people to read other literature: "Do not yoke yourselves
with unbelievers" (11/1/89). It complains that people dont
read the Bible when its accessible to all, yet at the same time
claims that it cannot be understood without the help of Watchtower
publications (8/15/81, pp28-29). the Jehovahs Witnesses
teach that the leaders of their religion, who are in New York,
must be obeyed, and yet at the same time, they often proclaim
that one should not place his trust in men.
Sour Grapes and Sweet Lemons
Psychologists say that a person who has opposite thoughts
and convictions feels anxious and searches for coherence in his
situation. The fable about the fox who wanted grapes but could
not reach them is an example of this psychic phenomena. In the
end, he decided that the grapes were sour. He convinced himself
that they must be sour so that he wouldnt feel bad for
not being able to reach them. Sweet lemons is another example.
A person spends a large amount of money to buy a car and afterwards
discovers that there is something wrong with it. Then he has
two thoughts: Im a fool for having bought it and/or I dont
want to think that Im a fool. He then rationalizes that
there is nothing wrong with the car. He sweetens the lemon by
denying the real condition of the car. He emphasizes the cars
good qualities while ignoring the bad ones.
- These two examples, sour grapes and sweet lemons, apply to
all of us. They apply to cults also, and therefore although we
may show cult members all of the evils of their group, they persevere
in the cult, sometimes with more conviction than ever! The person
cannot live with the idea that he has lost 10 or 20 years of
his life to the cult and that he is wrong. He will stress the
good things and disregard the evidence that his group does not
have the truth.
- (Source: http://www.double-cross.com/)