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Paranoia
© Charles Chandler
 
The next threshold that needs to be crossed is paranoia. The reasons for its emergence, and the effects that it will have, are complex.
 
The leader having gained control over the minds of the members, and the members having gained control over their bodies, all of them think that they have risen above society, and achieved a higher level of being. This gives them a heady feeling of superiority. So why would superior beings be paranoid?
 
The ego trip that is driving this whole thing is thriving on getting people to act against their natures. Getting a tired person to go to sleep, or a hungry person to eat, is not an ego trip. But getting a tired and hungry person to work through the night, to prove that a true follower can easily accomplish twice as much as the normal person, gives the leader a rush, especially if the work itself merely serves his own selfish ends.
 
Invariably, getting people to act against their natures involves getting people to go against common social mores. These include things like stealing (or more commonly, committing fraud), and violating laws concerning sexual practices. They would be more likely to get away with such behavior, if it were not for the fact that they are not doing such things for any simple intrinsic merit, but rather, for the ego trip of seeing that they can get away with things that others cannot, because they have no fear, and because they have no morals with regards to interactions with society.
 
In the backs of their minds, the cult members know that they are doing things that society considers to be unacceptable. From the perspective of the leader, it's OK if you can get away with it, and from the perspective of the members, it's OK if it serves a greater good, and besides, society's laws do not apply to superior beings. Nevertheless, all of them know that there is strength in numbers, which they do not have compared to society, and this puts them at a disadvantage. As virtually all societies reserve the right to the search the premises of anyone suspected of committing a crime, the cult members know that they are vulnerable. Thinking that they are superior to society, they (foolishly) think that society is jealous of them, and would sooner destroy them than tolerate the humiliation of the presence of superior beings in their midst. In reality, society looks down on them, and would sooner leave them alone if the cult would simply interact less with society. It is, in fact, the cult's insistence on continuing to interact with society, minus the obligatory respect for society's laws, that invariably brings the cult directly into conflict with society. Regardless, the cult is vulnerable, and it knows it.
 
Enjoying the distinction of being above society, but knowing full well that society has the upper hand, and knowing instinctively that they would not be able to maintain their sense of superiority if forced back into the midst of society, the cult then comes to fear society as a threat.
 
There is also a physiological reason for the paranoia. The release of endorphins is not a steady-state affair, and the psychological disposition of cult members is not even-keeled. Overwhelming ecstasy is matched by deep depression, and punctuated with episodes of anger, frustration, fear, selfishness, and lack of focus. The wild mood swings that result from episodic infusions of pain killers into the bloodstream increase the psychological insecurity of the members, which the leader utilizes to strengthen the bond to the cult. It also opens the door to fringe mind states, such as paranoia.
 
Sadly, fear is a stimulant just like pain, and it triggers the release of endorphins as well. ("Adrenalin junkies" are not addicted to adrenalin, but rather, to the endorphin release that accompanies the sense of danger.) If the cult members learn to suppress their fears, and re-double their commitment to the cult, a bad pattern emerges. The more powerful the fear, and the more effective the redirection of that fear into cult-centered beliefs, the more powerful the "high" that they feel, and the more invincible they think they are. The sense of well-being is twisted, but addictive nevertheless, and unfortunately, it "teaches" the cult members to enjoy the thought that their behaviors will bring them into conflict with society. A cult leader who somehow figures out how to control this phenomenon can lead a group of fanatics into mortal conflict against a far larger force, and get them to look forward to it.
 
Getting people to sacrifice their lives is the ultimate ego trip for a cult leader. At this point, his ego not only craves constant reinforcement, but has, in fact, become accustomed to exponentially-increasing satiation. "Normal" at this point, to the leader, means taking the thing to the next level on a regular basis. If unchecked, this combination of factors leads invariably to the destruction of the cult. And not because they accidentally chose the wrong path, but because they sought it out. In the hands of an egomaniac who has learned how to push people against their natures, and where the people themselves have come to experience ecstasy in the disconnect, the "against their natures" part leads ultimately to their deaths. So it's not that they have lost their way, but rather, that they have found a way to walk away from reality, and they like it.

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