Today, I came across this definition of a cult on www.meadowhaven.org. Meadowhaven is treatment center for former cult members. Each of these 8 points describe my “school” experience to a t:
Robert J. Lifton, in his seminal work on thought-reform, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, proposed the following eight characteristics of a high-control group.
- Milieu Control – Control of communication from without and within the group environment, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from the surrounding society. Includes other techniques to restrict members’ contact with outside world and to be able to make critical, rational judgments about information: overwork, busyness, multiple lengthy meetings, etc.
- Mystical Manipulation – The claim of divine authority or spiritual advancement that allows the leader to reinterpret events as he or she wishes, or make prophecies or pronouncements at will, all for the purpose of controlling group members.
- Demand for Purity – The world is viewed as black and white and group members are constantly exhorted to strive for perfection. Consequently, guilt and shame are common and powerful control devices.
- The Cult of Confession – Serious (and often not so serious) sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed, either privately to a personal monitor or publicly to the group at large.
- The “Sacred Science” – The doctrine of the group is considered to be the ultimate TRUTH, beyond all questioning or disputing. The leader of the group is likewise above criticism as the spokesperson for God on earth.
- Loading the Language – The group develops a jargon in many ways unique to itself, often not understandable to outsiders. This jargon consists of numerous words and phrases which the members understand (or thinks they do), but which really act to dull one’s ability to engage in critical thinking.
- Doctrine over Person – The personal experiences of the group members are subordinated to the “Truth” held by the group – apparently contrary experiences must be denied or re-interpreted to fit the doctrine of the group. The doctrine is always more important than the individual.
- Dispensing of Existence – The group arrogates to itself the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. Usually held non-literally, this means that those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” or whatever, and that they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost. If they refuse to join the group, then they must be rejected by the group members, even if they are family members. In rare cases this concept gives the group the right to terminate the outsider’s life.
For more info visit: http://www.meadowhaven.org/problem.html