How Cults Work - A New Look

Discussion in 'Cults in General' started by mockingbird, Jan 9, 2019.

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  1. mockingbird

    mockingbird Silver Meritorious Patron

    This is the eleventh post in a series dedicated to the book Terror, Love and Brainwashing by Alexandra Stein.

    How Cults Work 11 - Fright Without Solution

    Stein described the totalist indoctrination and isolation and engulfment in the last post and went on to describe the creation of fright without solution:

    "Now the follower's social life and time are under the control of the organization. The group has removed other close attachment relationships - either actual or potential - and established itself as the remaining, and only, safe haven. But isolation and engulfment are not enough. To brainwash a person - so that they will do your bidding regardless of their own survival-interest - the group must lock in their control of that person's emotional and cognitive life. This is the essence of totalist indoctrination. To isolation and engulfment must be added a third ingredient: threat. Any kind of threat will do, so long as the isolation and engulfment has fairly effective and the group has been successfully established as the only safe haven." Page 69

    Stein described examples from several cults that use various methods to create fear and also techniques that inhibit independent and critical thinking such as sleep deprivation, high stress working conditions and yelling at people by senior cult members. I mean senior in authority.

    All these are routine in Scientology and it is jam packed with fear and stress creating conditions by design and also has lots of sleep deprivation, yelling by senior cult members with stress a constant companion as you never are doing enough, fast enough or bringing in enough money to satisfy Scientology.

    Stein continued "Fear on its own is also not sufficient. We all experience fear - fear usually wants us to keep safe. As a rule it is highly adaptive. When we experience fear we seek ways to escape it, to remove the cause of it, to resolve it in some way to ensure our survival. What happens in totalist groups (or for that matter in a variety of abusive, controlling relationships) is the inculcating of fear where the follower cannot resolve the threat. Where the follower is helpless to resolve the threat fear then becomes terror. Terror is the state that attachment scholars call "fright without solution," and is the state that can produce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in those who have experienced it. " Page 70- - 71

    "The preceding isolation and engulfment ensures that under threat the follower has nowhere to turn except to the source of threat itself: the leader or group. In this way fear under conditions of isolation becomes terror" Page 71

    "And of course we can see, along with the deliberate inculcation of fear, the group positions itself as the supposed safe haven - even though it is the group itself creating the threat. This inculcation of fright without solution, of terror, creates a crisis in the follower. But after the crisis - created by the group - lo and behold ! the group itself is there to save the terrified, broken person, to pick up the shattered pieces." Page 71

    Scientology consistently uses an approach of creating distrust with outsiders and the message that the only hope anyone has to avoid utter ruin for eternity is to apply Scientology technology to their lives.

    This twin message of absolute threat from the outside world and even anyone who isn't completely in submission to the authority of Scientology and totally complying with no deviations with the doctrine and practices of Scientology to all survival and the need for complete submission to survive for an escape from this threat, really the only possible escape from this threat, is presented nearly constantly in Scientology doctrine and indoctrination.

    It is pounded into cult members with immense repetition as the references in Scientology are filled with these messages and the references often like Keeping Scientology Working have the message front and center and it is studied hundreds or thousands of times in Scientology as well as being bolstered by variation as the central message is presented over and over in thousands of references and altered very slightly over and over.

    It rapidly becomes clear in Scientology that you have no other hope for survival or happiness.

    Stein went on "Once in this state of terror or fright without solution, even small gestures on the part of the group begin feel benevolent and caring, increasing the sense that it is the group that will protect one, the group who will save one from the threat." Page 71

    In Scientology there are people to turn to for help including word clearers on courses and auditors. You also have ethics officers and chaplains so you always feel like there is someone in Scientology to help you no matter what your issue is, as long as you have not been expelled or declared a suppressive person.

    Stein described a crucial turn the relationship takes "Once in this state of terror or fright without solution, even small gestures on the part of the group begin to feel benevolent and caring, increasing the sense that it is the group that will protect one, the group who will save one from the threat." Page 71

    "I, too, remember calculated acts of " apparent kindness. " In her book Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman insightfully refers to these as "capricious grantings of small indulgences, " Page 71

    "The momentary lifting of pressure resulted in feelings of gratitude as well as some guilt about my own often-rebellious behavior. But beyond that they made me feel as if the leader - who remained unknown to me - was, indeed, benevolent, perhaps even loving and tender. As in the Stockholm Syndrome, thus does the abuser become the perceived safe haven - a person or entity to whom one can turn for help, mercy, forgiveness, comfort.

    When the group creates a sense of fear and threat, the isolated and engulfed participant seeks out the group as a perceived safe haven for protection and comfort. But as the group itself is the source of threat, this is a failing strategy. This failed strategy results in, first, the creation of a strong emotional tie to the group, and second the participant disorganizes cognitively with consequent confusion, dissociation, disorientation and cognitive lapses. " Page 71 - 72

    Stein described why a strong emotional tie is created in next section which I will take on in the next post. Before I move on to that it is worth looking at the revelation here.

    In Scientology Hubbard carefully places little rewards and even had a system of rewards and penalties in Scientology. If you perform extremely well and consistently and never ever get on the bad side of anyone who has power in Scientology you can get commendations, little certificates and all sorts of things.

    Hubbard even packed the doctrine with extremely strong compliments for Scientologists and has specific ones for greater and greater levels of commitment to Scientology. Training as an auditor carries a claim of being able to free beings and high character and intelligence. Being a Scientologist at all carries a range of compliments. Being on staff brings status and being in the Sea Org brings a truly elite level.

    Celebrities get special treatment and treated as higher beings building new worlds. They now get additional status based on how much money they donate to Scientology and for hundreds of thousands can get their picture taken for Scientologists to see in internal magazines. If they donate millions they even get nice trophies and special titles.

    The effect that status rewards and occasional kindnesses creates is a deep loyalty and sense of belonging for many Scientologists. It is a mistake in my opinion. Scientology used the isolation, engulfment and terror or fright without solution it created and continues to create to make people so desperate, so needy they absolutely want comfort and security and so they accept a poor substitute and convince themselves it is genuine, as their need is so dire.

    I still sometimes encounter independent Scientologists and freezoners who - despite seeing all the evidence of fraud, abuse and crimes by Scientology, Hubbard and Miscavige - desperately cling to the illusion that Hubbard was good and loved them. That illusion has become crucial to them.

    I used to hang onto that myself for years and was devastated when I realized in a flash that Hubbard never created OTs or clears and the only way this could have been and been so well hidden for so long was if Hubbard knew it was lies from the beginning. Otherwise he would have seen it or let others see it.

    My whole world was changed. Hubbard had virtually remade me into a copy of who I thought he was and I realized I never knew him at all and the facsimile of a person or pseudo identity I had taken on had no justification as it was intended to fulfil Scientology goals and serve Scientology but with no beneficial results to achieve via Scientology it became a realization that I had used evil means to result only in evil ends when I had assumed they would achieve good ends. Those good ends were exposed as empty promises, very generous empty promises.

    That is the truth about the generosity and benevolence in Scientology - it is empty promises and a beautiful lie. Jefferson Hawkins used the phrase counterfeit dreams and it is appropriate. Hubbard makes you think he has these beautiful dreams and he promised he can fulfill them all - but it was never real, none of it, not the dreams, not his care or friendship and certainly not his promises
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  2. CaliMule

    CaliMule Work Hard and Bray

    Thanks for the reference. I looked this up at


    and found this excellent observation:

    According to British psychologist Ian Parker, " . . . Like a weed, a cult is something that is growing in the wrong place. We would want to ask 'wrong' for who, and whether it might sometimes be right for us."​

    I love it when someone provides me with a brilliant way to put it. People who have sought over the decades to disempower me and gratify themselves by hurling the perjorative "cult" at me are really just saying I'm inconvenient to them, like a weed. A weed is merely a plant that is not in the right place in the opinion of whoever is calling it a weed: there is no special botanical classification that defines a weed in any other way. There is nothing wrong with the plant - it is merely inconvenient to someone where it is.
  3. programmer_guy

    programmer_guy True Ex-Scientologist

    No, many freezoners/Indies admit that Hubbard had severe personality faults.

    But they are still stuck on "the tech" (pseudo-science) and that's their major failure in moving forward in "peeling off the onion layers".
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  4. PirateAndBum

    PirateAndBum Gold Meritorious Patron

    Unlike plants which are growing in the wrong place, the Co$ cult is not just one of many in the class of groups. I suppose if you like being in a place that practices totalitarian control and relentless extraction of your time, money and support then the cult is just the perfect place for you to be.
  5. CaliMule

    CaliMule Work Hard and Bray

    People who want some change in their lives but can't make this happen themselves generally welcome an external source of authority or motivation to try to attain the change they seek. This is why people get involved in high demand religions, in any kind of therapy, in educational systems, etc.

    You can despise them all you want, but at least they are trying to make up for how infinitely inferior to you they are by taking some step they hope will work. When they find it doesn't work, they can quit. That is what the overwhelming majority of people do - quit Scientology. Most people accomplish this without anyone massively superior to themselves hurling the perjorative "cult" at them, though some people who think they are massively superior to anyone in a high demand religion still find it important to go around name calling and hurling perjoratives at their inferiors in "cults".

    Is the real point whether it is totalitarian or not, though? If only Scientology actually delivered on any of its promises, I don't know why anyone would care that it is totalitarian, nor that it extracts the most important resources of your life such as time, money and such. On the other hand. if it delivers on none of its promises, even the slightest extertion of authority or control is unjustified.

    God might be totalitarian. If he delivers on his promises, he's a good God. Maybe totalitarian isn't really the big issue.
  6. JustSheila

    JustSheila Crusader

    So what you're saying is there are people out there just waiting to be conned who aren't happy until they're conned so cults are actually doing them a favor by taking advantage of them and abusing them and should be proud of themselves.

    That's how a sociopath would think, anyway.
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  7. Enthetan

    Enthetan Master of Disaster

    Have you taken a look at "The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer? I found it valuable in getting a deeper understanding of how people get sucked in.

    Originally published in 1951. I'm wondering if Hubbard read it for helpful hints...
  8. strativarius

    strativarius Inveterate gnashnab & snoutband

    The word you're looking for is pejorative.

    stratty - temp esmb grammar & spelling nazi. :biggrin:

    I only discovered this myself a few weeks ago. That's the way I used to spell the word too.
  9. chewbacca980

    chewbacca980 New Member

    somewhere, in some talmudic text somwhere, we are plagued by radical uncertainty which is something one must become comfortable with in z/he new life.
  10. Veda

    Veda Sponsor

    Appreciate minions gather beneath the giant LRH symbol

    "I have high hopes of smashing my name into history... That goal is the real goal as far as I am concerned...
    In a hundred years Roosevelt will have been forgotten, which gives some idea of the magnitude of my attempt..."

    L. Ron Hubbard, August 1938, from a letter to his wife, written soon after the writing of the unpublished manuscript 'Excalibur'.

    It's a cult.

    Deal with it.​
  11. PirateAndBum

    PirateAndBum Gold Meritorious Patron

    Are you implying that I think I am massively superior? If so, you are seriously mistaken.

    Hubbard's cult IS a cult. It qualifies as the primo, super-perfecto, without-a-doubt, ideal example of CULT.

    A cult that promises "Total Freedom" while trying to accomplish total control of its membership is a big issue dude. And as you point out, If only it delivered.... well it doesn't deliver, so its exertion of control IS totally unjustified.

    Don't bring Mr Big G into this. There is no such a fellow in my reckoning.

    The last thing that a person looking for change in their life needs is a stint in the RPF or to be hoodwinked and bankrupted by a pie in the sky fraud.
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  12. Gib

    Gib Crusader

    I haven't been able to determine if Hubbard read that book, but I do know he read Le Bon's book:

    Le Bon uses the word crowd, just sub it with cult.

    Le Bon's earlier book is:

    I have no doubt hubbard used the principles in those books to create the cult(crowd) of dianetics and scientology.

    I first mentioned it on my Dean Wilbur Rhetoric tread.