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Greetings Grease-Spotters and visitors to this website, I’m happy to announce that on November 22 the Special Offer starts on my website for ordering my book, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International. Before I say more, I want to thank Michael Duffy for providing this online community where we can share our stories. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has posted helpful, informative information over the years and keeps doing so. I wanted this community to know that from Nov. 22 until Dec. 22 customers in the USA can order Undertow at my website and receive a signed copy in the mail. Transactions will be secured on my website through PayPal. Undertow is $24.95 plus tax and shipping. There are 31 photographs included. The e-book version is scheduled for early 2017. Later, all customers, including overseas residents, can find Undertow at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other vendors’ websites and can order it from brick and mortar bookstores, too. (FYI -The print-on-demand company printing and distributing my book says the time it takes for books to become available at Amazon, etc., varies from one retailer to another.) Maybe you suffer or you have a friend or family member who suffers from confusion or emotional abuse after leaving a high-control group, religious or otherwise. Perhaps you are a mental health counselor seeking to help people who have left such a group. Whether you are a professor of New Religious Movements or are a parent, student, clergyman, or simply a person curious about the inner workings of such groups, you can find insights in Undertow. My book may only pull back the curtains on one person's seventeen-year experience as a leader and biblical researcher in The Way, but the story's themes of idealism, commitment, disillusionment, and survival are universal. It offers hope. I'm grateful to share my story and thank everyone who has helped me bring it into the world. Read more here Cheers, Penworks
I wrote the following blog September 9, 2015 at https://charleneedge.com Phenomena known as mind-control or brainwashing have been written about by psychologists, sociologists, and many other “ists.” Now it’s my turn. Note: This post was written in 2015, about one year before I published my memoir, Undertow, about my cult experience. My name is Charlene, and I am a former cult-ist The mere fact I am a former cult follower makes some cult researchers consider my testimony as non-objective, which makes what I say at the very least suspect; at most, unreliable. Their suspicions include: I might have an axe to grind. I probably exaggerate. I let my emotions color the real nature of my experience. Okay. Maybe. But show me a 100% objective researcher. No human being can be 100% objective, but I’d like to think I can add valuable insight into how intense indoctrination hijacked the “real me” and in its place substituted a facsimile, at least at the beginning of my seventeen-year long involvement. This alteration of vulnerable youth is covered in the news nowadays. It’s called ISIS recruitment. The group that altered my identity was The Way International, a fundamentalist cult. Ever since I left in 1987 I’ve been examining what happened to me, what transpired during that era of my journey on the planet. What did it all mean? I’ve written an entire book about this, a memoir I’ve finished and yet to have published. He lost me to a cult Doing research about how the indoctrination that I underwent changed my identity, I asked one person still alive who witnessed the dramatic change in me up-close—my former boyfriend, Rob Ruff. We were together the summer of 1970, just before I went off to college where the cult, founded by Victor Paul Wierwille, recruited me. I broke up with Rob because he would not adopt my cult’s beliefs. Much later, Rob worked in television and became a senior news producer for a major network. He is well acquainted with interviewing people and portraying their stories. We’ve had dinner twice within the last three years and discussed those old times. Here are a few snippets from Rob’s account of me before The Way’s influence and then after I spent three months on The Way’s Ohio farm in 1971 for a 24/7 summer school program of indoctrination into beliefs claimed to be “the accuracy of the Word,” the Bible. Rob writes: “The Charlene I remembered pre-Wierwille was an engaging, bright-eyed, flexible teenager who fit in seamlessly with all around her. There was nothing rigid, obstinate, single or closed-minded about her. It was clear there was a bright bulb inside that was reflected in a personality that fit well within the boundaries of ‘normal.'” “…That August [after Charlene went to Way summer school] our reunion started out well enough, but once religion and The Way took center stage everything changed. You seemed to erect an invisible wall of silence and detachment from the subject at hand—and from me. It was as though someone had taken over your body and transformed you into a single-minded person incapable of normal or ever any interaction with anyone except fellow believers…I was speaking to a wall…the brightness and life that I remembered was replaced by detachment.” He wrote more about this that I plan to use in a longer article, but for now, in light of recent news stories about the power of ISIS to brainwash vulnerable and disaffected young men and women around the world, I felt it was important to address this subject. It is real. It happened to me. Mind control happens Brainwashing happens out of the mainstream, but powerful sociopaths can and do grab a person’s mind when that mind is susceptible and yearning for certainty in a confusing world. Usually the powerful influencer makes appealing promises, like rewards in the afterlife. We see ISIS terrorists on T.V. almost every day grabbing recruits and turning them into killing machines. And we don’t have to look far into the past to find Hitler’s Youth amassing. I’ve been to Germany. I saw the Dachau ovens. We’ve promised ourselves, NEVER AGAIN. The question is: how well are we paying attention to that promise? Cults destroy cherished ideals In his New York Times article, ISIS and the Curse of The Iraq War, John Cassidy asks, “What explains the reluctance among politicians to consider confronting, head-on, a movement that has been intent on eradicating ideals that the United States and its allies hold dear?” Are we too overwhelmed by and under-educated about ISIS to dismantle it? I just don’t know. I do know that there are destructive cults in our own country that eradicate ideals, like free speech and respect for all civil rights that we hold dear. They don’t go around beheading in the name of God like ISIS, but predatory cults can still form non-profit organizations and can get away with unsavory, even criminal acts. Like changing people’s identity. Until someone blows the whistle. Where are the whistles? By: Steven Depolo How do we deal with the single-mindedness I had that Rob described? I exhibited it AFTER I’d been under the influence of a charismatic authoritarian. Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way, was so powerful that he led me to abandon ideals my country holds dear, like freedom of speech and the democratic value of debating ideas, not insisting you have all the right ones. In the cult, I spoke only “the Word” as defined by Wierwille. I derided anyone who did not believe as I did. I de-valued them. I hurt, abandoned, and confused my friends and family. What’s good about that? The good news is that mind control can be undone, but it is not easy. A person has to wake up. This occurs in different ways for different people, if it does at all. Some people never leave cults. For the most part, education was the catalyst that helped me regain some semblance of my old self. After I escaped the cult, I finished my college education and made new friends—ones who loved me for who I was. Identity theft by any destructive cult is something to worry about, something to derail whenever possible. It is real, but it is not always permanent. Returning to interests, hobbies, and people you love helps recovery. For people born into a cult, the task is harder. There is no pre-cult identity to regain. I know some of those people and believe me, they are scarred in ways I am not. I’m grateful I retrieved some sense of the person I was pre-Way (only wiser, I hope!) I’ve tried to get that bright bulb burning again. Many kind and loving people have helped me do it. So has education. Light dispels darkness. Knowledge is power. Critical thinking is essential. Love mends minds. Rob writes: “And by the way, the person I know today in no way resembles the one from 1971!” Two helpful books Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan ***** You are invited to subscribe to these posts by entering your email address in one of the Subscribe to Updates boxes at this site. I never will sell or share your email address. See you next time.