The following was
excerpted from a web page offering information on cults and their development.
If the shoe fits.......
"People who end up in cults are normal
people. They are usually intelligent, open-minded and honest. They're willing
to make sacrifices for the greater good of the group. They're interested in
self-improvement and in the improvement of the world. The best kinds of people,
in a way, are targeted by cults. Their very decency makes them desirable as
Dr J W West, Professor of
Psychiatry, University of California
of a cult
The Concise Oxford
Dictionary defines a cult as "a system of religious worship; devotion,
homage to person or thing". Nowadays, in the public mind, the word
"cult" is more likely to be associated with brain-washing,
manipulation of followers, public scandals over cult leaders' sex lives, murder
and mass suicide, rather than religious worship.
One of the difficulties
of defining a religious cult is that it is an organization in a condition of
gradual change. A religious cult may be encountered in its early, middle or
late stages of evolution.
At its beginning the cult
consists of a small group of people focused around a benign leader to whom
individuals are attracted. At its end, it can become a manipulative,
exploitative, multi-national organization. What most people mean when they
speak of a cult, is a New Religious Group (NRG) which has acquired the
characteristics of mid-late stage evolution.
It is possible, by using
an evolutionary line, to identify at which point the group you are in or are
considering joining, has evolved to, and how it might be expected to develop.
There are approximately
40 characteristics of cult life. However, in identifying a NRG which has
evolved into a dangerous cult, it is really only necessary to observe the
lifestyle of the leader and the attitude of members to the leader, to make a
By the time a NRG has
evolved to its mid-late stage, the leader is authoritarian, declaring herself
or himself to be divine (added by ExTwi - or having a special relationship with
God) and is considered to be so by many of the members.
Following the leader is
believed to be the only route to enlightenment or salvation - as defined by the
cult. The leader lives in luxurious circumstances at the members' expense,
removed from the main body of the group. The leader is largely inaccessible
except to a privileged few.
The leader makes
prophecies of future events which the group prepares to encounter. The members
manifest almost unquestioning submission to the leader treating him or her like
a celebrity or saint.