Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2014

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/356111

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 43

How cults prey on the vulnerable By Erica Boucher Headlines and into Our Lives Out of the A ny time a cult such as Heaven's Gate or Branch Davidians hits the headlines, shock waves ripple through the nation. We shake our heads in amazement, unable to understand how anyone could be so deluded as to join one of these groups. We think of ourselves as intelligent, educated and worldly wise; surely we would see something like that coming from a mile away, right? Not necessarily. One of the trickiest aspects of a cult—or in sociological terms, "new religious movement" (NRM)—is that it's not always easy to de ne or recognize. And although most experiences are not lethal, they can, as two of my dear friends recently learned, have long-term emotion- al, spiritual and nancial repercussions. Searching for Answers I n 2012, self-improvement books, seminars and retreats were an $11.17 billion market that has grown signi cantly over the past decade. While all of this focus on growth and evolution may be a good thing—and there are wonderful, upli ing organizations—the search for enlightenment comes with risks. It can be such a relief to believe that someone else has all the answers, has life all gured out. We've been groomed to look outside of ourselves for guidance and direction; a er all, it's built into many of our religious teachings. But beware any group—new or traditional—that tells you what to think, rather than encouraging you to think for yourself. My own dangerous dabbling with a cult took place more than a decade ago, and while I didn't understand or like what I was witnessing, I stuck around for the entire initial "training." Although I never went back, it had a prolonged and disturbing e ect on me, and it took me some time to realize to what I had been exposed. e most troublesome part of the experience was watching hundreds of educated and intelligent adults fall prey to psychological manipulation right before my eyes. One by one they adopted a glassy-eyed, blissed out look, as if they'd just been handed the secret keys to the universe. Even though I was standing right next to them, I could no longer feel them. It was like being in a room of zombies. If you didn't join as a new believer, you were outcast. To prove you were a true believer you had to invest in the next level of training at a signi - cant cost, and that was just the beginning of the nancial investment you would be strongly encouraged to make. Not only were you expected to buy in, you were expected to recruit oth- ers. In fact, I myself was there at the strong urgings of people I knew and respected. How could we all be so easily misled? My experience le me shaken, so I did some research and found similar stories—and warnings: 26 wholelifetimesmagazine.com

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Whole Life Magazine - August/September 2014