© Charles Chandler
Cults are psychotic, but they are not inhuman. It is the best within us — the search for a higher purpose in life, and the desire to overcome our limitations — that makes suicidal cults possible. A rare coincidence of factors, in the hands of someone who must manipulate, and ultimately destroy, in order to be satisfied, is all that it takes to twist healthy people into suicidal psychotics.
It is simply the responsibility of people who understand these patterns to educate others. To the unsuspecting believer, the ecstasy of devotion "proves" that one has found truth. A better informed individual clearly recognizes that sleep deprivation, hunger, manual labor, and psychological abuse will trigger the release of endorphins, and when the leader implies that the "rush" is a sign of truth, the better informed individual recognizes that the leader is attempting to redirect a simple physiological response to the fact that he's being a pain in the ass. We could have just skipped the physical and mental abuse, and saved the endorphins for a truly higher purpose, like muffling the pain that we might feel after busting our knuckles up side his head.
At the same time, we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. Chances are, the "gimmick" is going to sound like something good. We cannot dismiss every message just because it sounds good. Unfortunately, those who have suffered under the delusions of a cult leader will forever be skeptical of all good things. Trust issues are painful ordeals, because of the initial violation of our trust, and all the more so because of the lingering mistrust that makes us refuse help. Then we hurt ourselves, and in ways that have nothing at all to do with the original issue.
But generalized mistrust is not the lesson to be passed on. Rather, it is a specific set of tricks that multiply the effectiveness of the cult leader, and these are all very distinctive. If we know them when we see them, and know to run like hell in the other direction, we can stay free of this menace. He may have a good message, and we may be feeling a personal need for a good message. But to the cult leader, goodness is a gimmick that he can use to get people to do bad things. And that's not good.
So mistrusting everybody, and refusing to bond, is not the answer. The lesson is to mistrust the one who attempts to break the bonds of family, friends, and society, for it is in isolation that we are the most vulnerable. If the message sounds like it can be applied directly to our daily lives, then it might be realistic, and it is not necessarily manipulative. It the message requires that we leave society, then it is definitely not realistic, and it is probably manipulative.