I was in a cult for a long time. I will give you some idea of how it worked and how evil it could be. Then I will describe part of how I recovered. When I used to do a book tour most people could relate to these dynamics in some way, and they became like a seminar on abuse.
A cult is designed to play on ones vulnerabilities in the worst way. It beats down one’s already low self-esteem, and beats out one’s normal sense of self-protection. The leader made him self the central hub of all relationships and manipulated men and women to always be suspicious of each other and their ability to be together. He manipulated and controlled relationships so that no one could really have them and everyone remained dependent on him for healing and answers; putting people together, tearing them apart, fabricating crisis, and healing crisis. There was always a sense that you could be on the hot seat with little rational, one felt very out of control. We were starved for affection and sexual contact, and felt we were evil if we acted on our natural impulses.
We were supposed to practice being neutral when doing psychic readings and hypnosis sessions, sounds reasonable. The cult defined neutrality as the ability to be in your center and be unmoved by what you see. In practice to be nuetral actually meant to dissociate from your true feelings, and to see yourself as above those you are dealing with. The reason it manifested this way is because everyone was given the promise of being the next leader, to be a true disciple, and at the same time were deeply afraid of being on the hot seat. Constanly given a carrot on a stick. The leader slowly removed members natural instinct of self-protection, – so that everyone would accept being treated abusiveley. So to be nuetral in the cult really meant to deny your healthy anger and other emotions. This is subtle and sinister mind control. The effect of this is that those who undergo it have a constant underlying rage that they cannot recognize; and when it did peek through, the leader pounsed on it as proof that there was something terribly wrong with your soul. Then we would be put on the hot seat and publicly shamed in front of everyone; this imbeded self condemnation and created a viscious cycle of disfunction.
Most cult members are victimes; they are good intelligent people pursuing a worthy cause, but if this viscious cycle becomes chronic it can suck their soul away. In other words if the member really begins to enjoy being in rage and feeling superior to others they are in trouble, because then they begin to enjoy perpetuating the evil. This is why it is so hard and painful to leave, becuase we have to deal with the rage that has been trapped within us by the mind control, and even worse, we have to unravel the toxic shame and self condemnation that became habituated. Besides one is conditioned to feel the world is an awful place and if you leave – your life will be aniliated.
In a real spiritual place the leader does everything to tether them self to and serve Gods purpose. But in the cult members are unconsciously tethered to the subversive emotions of the leader, far more than to any spiritual source. The leader was playing out his own psychodrama at the expense of others, using them as pawns. The leader claimed to be an ex-ray claivoyant, his perceptions inviolable and would address the ‘spirits’ in a persons space for hours, sometimes days on end, sometimes in humor, more often supposedly beating them out of the persons space. It was license to abuse and control.
The cult feeds and compounds the impulse to dissociate. They practiced hypnotism and and psychic reading, Bible teaching, and all sots of new age training, always giving the promise of elite high awareness. We took in the salvation phantasy, which carried a deep appeal, causing us to be willing dissociaters. Instead of doing the rigorous work of self-examination, repentance, and forgiveness, we had almost daily gatherings for a ‘group high’. There is a distinct pleasure in this high, there is no doubt. The pleasure was much greater when the super charasmatic leader was there to ‘whip the energy into a frenzy’. But the high hides the dark underbelly, while the leader and his inner circle gain greater and greater control and power. What is worse is that this chronic dissociating distances people from the ground and innocence of their being – makes them think they are highly elite and superior. This is why members of these groups tend to have kind of a glazed look, and an odd social manner – they are to some degree chronically dissociated. They think they are unique, and superior, above others. This is what the leader often called ‘turning people’s minds to mush’, claiming that it was the world that was the culprit, while he was the one doing it, and who knew how to save everyone from it.
While people were dissociated the leader could plant his suggestions over and over to take their money, have free labor all day, use their kids, and whatever else he could, and drive them to rage over other things. In his own words he wanted people’s souls. This was the natural end of his perverse master manipulating. He would say he was God of the place. He made it work for a long time on a lot of people. But it could not be sustained. Evil eventually destroyus itself. Some people left and fought off the mind control, and revealed levels of it to others. Eventually the leader himself basically committed suicide as he was unable to deal with the fact many of us began to see through what he was doing. He couldn’t keep up the con to himself, but he certainly couldn’t face it – too long to evil. It finally crushed him.