The Neglect of Victims of Destructive Cults
By Paul Martin
During the 1980s an
unprecedented 15 million Americans joined some 500,000 support
groups. Now in the 1990s there remains a growing interest in the
recovery/codependency movement and its 200 different kinds of
self-help groups, often modeled on the 12-step programs pioneered
by Alcoholics Anonymous.
A recent survey of
national drug and alcoholism treatment centers shows that there
are currently 13,893 such centers. There are 1200 women's shelters
in the United States. Prior to 1975 or so there were none. Special
hospital wings for the treatment of victims of Satanism and ritualistic
abuse have sprung up all over the United States as well.
During the 70s and
80s a number of post-cult rehab centers were established in various
regions of the United States; I know of at least ten besides Wellspring.
Currently there are only two such rehab centers in operation anywhere
in the world: one in Germany, and Wellspring.
The Council on Mind
Abuse of Toronto (not a residential rehab facility, but a counseling
and information agency) recently closed its doors, having been
forced into bankruptcy by the cost of defending harassing libel
suits. COMA's director, Robert Tucker, said, "We have no
choice. We can't pay the legal bills anymore. They've won....
I'm fatigued; it's incredible stress to live under. I'm tired
of being followed, of being intimidated."
In addition, the Positive
Action Center of Portland, Ore., another cult information and
counseling center, ceased operation.
Why is it that there
has been on the one hand a mere handful of under-funded post-cult
rehab centers, most of which have had to fold for lack of money,
and on the other hand well over 13,000 drug and alcohol treatment
centers and over 500,000 support groups for a multiplicity of
other pains and needs? Some estimate the number of alcoholics
at 16,000,000 and the number of drug abusers at about five million
Americans. So there is one treatment center for every 1511 alcoholics
and drug abusers. If cult victims received equal attention, and
if there were only 500,000 cult members in the U.S., there should
be 330 post-cult rehab centers! The most conservative
estimate of members of destructive cults has been 2,000,000. Clearly,
something is seriously amiss here.
Federal funding last
year for treatment and prevention of drug abuse was around $15
billion. Federal funding of cult victim research and treatment
proportional to the government funding of alcohol and drug abuse
sector would be $1.5 billion -- if there were only 2 million
members of destructive cults in the U.S. Yet not one
penny has ever been given by the government for research and treatment
of ex-cultists, and the combined budgets of all
counter-cult organizations and rehab centers is less than 1.5
million dollars per year!
There are several possible
explanations for this horrific discrepancy between funding and
facilities for drug and alcohol problems on the one hand and for
treating cult victims on the other. Either the facilities for
alcoholics and drug abusers are grossly out of proportion to the
need; or perhaps cult members and victims have no such need; or
the need simply has not been recognized. The first suggestion
is clearly not correct, as evidenced by the numbers seeking treatment
who are placed on waiting lists.
Critics of counter-cult
organizations claim that what we call destructive cults are not
destructive at all, and they maintain that we are a bunch of bigots,
crying wolf when there is no wolf.
Are our critics correct?
Is there no problem? Are all the suicides, hospitalizations and
wrecked lives of former cultists to be explained away? I am convinced
the evidence is overwhelming that a desperate need does
exist, but there is little awareness in our society of the problem
and that people need help with it.
Relatively few understand
the nature of the cult problem. We know it will take time to eradicate
this ignorance. But our recent advertising of Wellspring's Victims
Assistance Fund has shown us that there are people who know they
need help but simply lack the resources to get it.
The investment in the
people we have helped has already produced many gainfully employed
members of society who are making a contribution to their communities
and churches. It has also helped to educate people about cults.
Our investment in these people will serve to influence even more
needy people to perhaps seek Wellspring's help.
Typically the church
has viewed such cult-victims as self-willed "backsliders."
This is often an excuse to ignore them, and the church does this
all too often. I know of very few church related organizations
that have given funds to help cult-victims. I pray that this trend
will change. At Wellspring we see former members as those ravaged
by wicked and worthless shepherds (see Ezekiel 34). They are people
who cry out for, and deserve, our assistance.
Therefore, we at Wellspring
consider it a tremendously worthwhile investment for our Wellspring
supporters to contribute to the rehabilitation of those who so
desperately need it. The spiritual and emotional recovery of cult
victims is of ultimate benefit to the entire society.
Siren Call of Modern Pied Pipers
By Lawrence A. Pile
[The following is a
condensation of an article written by Wellspring staffer Larry
Pile, and published in the January issue of Employee Assistance
and small throughout North America are increasingly looking for
ways to augment productivity (and profits) by helping their employees
to more effective performance through stress reduction, self-regulation,
accelerated learning, and accepting a greater share of responsibility
for themselves and their companies. To accomplish these commendable
and even necessary goals, numerous businesses are turning to a
mushrooming crop of training and consultation firms offering workshops,
seminars, and courses which claim to transform employees into
highly motivated and efficient visionaries and producers.
Many of the trainers,
however, use techniques and promote philosophies at variance with
the moral and religious convictions of employees who are urged,
and sometimes required, to attend the workshops. Most
often, these techniques and philosophies arise from the broad
and variegated matrix of the so-called New Age Movement. And this
fact has caused a great deal of controversy in and around the
workplace. The core of the controversy is highlighted by the words
of Arthur Johnson, "There's a fine line between corporate
culture and corporate cults."
Why all the fuss? Simply
that many of the seminars and workshops being offered promote
New Age concepts to which some employees object, and they have
been charged with using methods and techniques that instill these
concepts without the participants' realizing what is happening.
Underlying all of these
programs, to one degree or another, are the following concepts:
All of reality is part
of one essence. This is the Eastern philosophical view known as
monism, which teaches that "all is one."
This means that God
and man are the same--"If you don't see me as God, it's because
you don't see yourself as God," Shirley MacLaine told an
attendee at a seminar in the New York Hilton.
If man is God, then
man has unlimited potential, able to accomplish anything he desires
and is able to visualize -- an attractive idea, no doubt, to many
Further, if "all
is one," then there are not only no distinctions between
God and man, there are also no distinctions between truth and
falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil. In fact, all distinctions
are mere illusion. Thus, the problem of humanity is that we have
forgotten our own divinity. This lapse of memory must be overcome
by undergoing what is called a "paradigm shift," a drastic
change in the way we view the world around us.
This paradigm shift
is accomplished by any one or more of numerous "psychotechnologies."
These "intentional triggers of transformative experiences"
include "sensory isolation and sensory overload...; biofeedback...;
'consciousness-raising' strategies...; hypnosis and self-hypnosis...;
meditation of every description...;" etc.
The frequent result
of all such techniques is that the individual comes to sense the
dissolution of his person and a oneness with the Universe, referred
to in Eastern religions as enlightenment, cosmic-consciousness,
Though there often
are positive results, there are also frequently negative results
not commonly admitted by the trainers.
Researchers have found
serious problems occurring in a significant minority of individuals,
possibly as many as 15%, including psychotic episodes, posttraumatic
stress disorder, "atypical dissociative disorders,"
"relaxation-induced anxiety," and "miscellaneous
reactions... such as difficulty in concentration...; self-mutilation;
phobias; suicide and homicide;" and psychologically induced
strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and other ailments. In rare cases
participants in such seminars, specifically EST and Lifespring,
have actually died during sessions, largely as a result of inadequate
screening for people with delicate constitutions and lack of properly
trained staff to intervene in a timely fashion to prevent serious
Further, the fundamentally
religious presuppositions underlying most of these New Age training
programs would seem to make them off-limits for corporations,
at least so far as being required of employees. In the
words of Richard Watring, personnel director for Budget Rent-a-Car,
"Private corporations that are not church-affiliated should
neither attempt to change the basic belief systems of their employees
nor should they promote the use of techniques that accelerate
such change; and while spiritual growth is important, corporations
should not prescribe the methods whereby employees grow spiritually."
As for the stated goal
of many of the business-targeted programs to forge greater employee
loyalty and cohesiveness, these are certainly necessary qualities
in any workplace. But if a byproduct of their generation is a
mentality that "insists on the primacy of good feeling and
the validity of one's own reality," then the time-proven
creativity-enhancing clash of ideas among coworkers may well be
inhibited. According to New Age thought, "It is not possible
to be wrong, just different." But companies must allow for
failure and support risk-taking, both when it works and
when it doesn't. This implies being able to say, "Your idea
sounded good, but it proved to be wrong." Saying "Your
idea was valid according to your reality, but our customers have
a different reality" doesn't cut it in the business world.
TM Offers "Cure"
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
the chief guru of Transcendental Meditation, issued a pre-Christmas
offer to 60 major cities of the U.S.: for a fee, he would rid
the cities of all crime. As attractive as this prospect is to
mayors as well as citizens, no one has yet taken the Maharishi
up on his offer.
have been put off by two unavoidable considerations. Though described
as a "bargain," the fees solicited are not inconsiderable.
The Maharishi asked a mere $93 million from the city fathers of
San Diego (compared to the fees requested of other cities, that
may be a bargain -- Atlanta was asked to cough up $105.7
would the cities get for their money? According to Arthur Brice
in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution of Dec. 18, 1992,
Maharishi would send in "specially trained teams of Transcendental
Meditation experts...to create balance and raise positively through
meditation." But, as TM publicists pointed out, since these
meditators would be staying in city hotels, eating in city restaurants,
and making other purchases in city shops, much of the money would
remain in the city.
a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor David Dinkins, said, "[Maharishi]
can assist us...outside the context of a contract. We believe
in the power of prayer, and we hope we have the Maharishi's prayers."
as Brice remarked, "There's not a prayer that the Maharishi
will offer a free program anywhere."
a Billion Dollar Company?
to Dun's Marketing Services, the Watchtower [Bible and Tract Society,
or Jehovah's Witnesses] has benefited from the new donation arrangement
where the Witnesses in effect give double for the literature (once
at the literature counter when picking up the literature, then
later setting aside the contributions received at the door). The
1990 report (Duns number 00-128-0973) indicates $1,012,200,000
in sales, and the 1991 record shows $1,248,400,000 in sales!
Free Minds Journal, January/February 1993]