September 13, 2013
Darya Moskovtseva reports.
A forum in Podolsk today has brought together human rights activists concerned about an issue that many consider a legacy of the late 1990s.
What is a cult? And how to counter this phenomenon? To discuss this problem and ways to fight it, participants from youth and social organizations have gathered here.
The forum’s participants simulated situations in which some played cult members trying to recruit other participants and coax them into giving away this play money that each of us received at the entrance.
The greatest surge in the spread of cults in Russia occurred in the 1990s when spiritual hucksters performed water incantations on television, went around to people’s apartments, and filled stadiums. Though such conspicuous activities are not visible today, they have not disappeared. In Russia alone, the adherents of destructive cults number more than a million. Cults have changed their look and form, but they have not ceased to exist.
Alexander Karelov, Lawyer:
Today’s legislation is fashioned in such a way that shutting down a religious organization is quite complicated. It requires very solid grounds to do so. The forum’s special guest, Gerry Armstrong, is a man whose example both fortunately and unfortunately, as he himself says, serves as a warning to others.
He was personal archivist to the founder of one of the most powerful cults in the world. He revealed that the founder’s biography was full of lies and became disillusioned with his teachings. His mission today is to tell everyone how to avoid falling for spiritual impostors and what to do if this does happen.
I got in really because of the promises they made. And they promise to increase intelligence. They promise to give you superhuman abilities. They promise to make you a better person. And they promise that they are the most ethical organization on the planet and the world’s only hope.
Nikolai Lavrentyev knows first-hand about the detrimental effects of destructive movements. Nikolai’s wife joined the same cult from which Armstrong broke away with so much difficulty. She was looking for a job and became enthralled with the cult’s teachings — occult knowledge, an ancient secret that would help her become more successful and receive everything she wishes for. Many people have fallen into this trap.
They begin to think — this is what they’re told — that they’re receiving privileged information, hidden secrets. And everything unfolds in a way that leads them to conclude they’re superior to others.
A key danger of cults like the one that altered the lives of these witnesses is that they masquerade as ordinary training programs for personal growth, without any theological basis, just personal development and, of course, they require investing money for personal spiritual growth. The higher the degree of initiation reached by cult adherents, the thinner their wallets. For the sake of graduating to higher spiritual levels, some people spend a fortune.
Alexander Dvorkin, Expert on cults:
If they demand that you make a decision immediately, without delay, because later will be too late, this means they simply don’t want to share information with you. Because a trustworthy organization provides full information up front. Then the person can think it over and make a choice. If you must make up your mind now because later is always too late, it means they’re sure that, if you have more information, there’s no way you’ll go there.
Cults are powerful businesses that rake in millions of dollars a year. The psychological methods that cults use range from neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis to blackmail and threats of exposure. Many persons entrust spiritual teachers with the most intimate information about themselves.
By cleverly replacing valid propositions with misleading ones, cults manipulate the mind. For example, at first they say: “Never abandon a friend in need.” This sounds perfectly acceptable. Now consider this statement: “Never fear to hurt another in a just cause.” Who can say which cause is just? But people who can initially be convinced to agree on a few obvious facts can easily accept on faith later statements that contain a destructive mechanism.
Critical thinking and an adequate understanding of the various types of information are the only way to protect yourself and your loved ones and to help persons who may be in the very early stages of involvement in dangerous organizations.
Darya Moskovtseva, Roman Nikiforov Podmoskovye News