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Introduction
© Charles Chandler
 
The list of cults that have gone off the deep end continues to grow. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Shoko Asahara... Yet the general understanding of this phenomenon is lacking.
 
Understanding?
 
That's right — understanding. It's easy to dismiss abnormal psychology as just plain weird, and thus put it out of our minds. But understanding gives us better control. Things beyond our comprehension will always simply happen to us, and we are defenseless against them. But if we know how something works, we can anticipate it, and hopefully keep things from getting out of hand. So this phenomenon needs to be brought into the light of day.
 
Not all "cults" are the same, and the word itself is actually a bit difficult to define. But there is a distinctive pattern, and that pattern is the topic of this paper.
 
The opinions herein are the author's, and while the author agrees with much of the literature on this topic, this paper makes no attempt to represent the mainstream thinking on cult psychology. In fact, there is little consensus on what makes a cult behave as it does, and this leaves society without a working concept of how to deal with cults. It is that void that this paper attempts to fill.

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