Thursday, April 30, 2009

Can Cult Recovery Be Put into a Scheme?

Some people are trying to put cult recovery into a certain scheme. One of them is Lawrence Wollersheim, a former Scientologist, a co-founder and former executive director of anti-cult Factnet website, and executive director of New Age "Integrative Spirituality" website (a number of people consider that this New Age group is a mind-controlling cult).

Wollersheim wrote two versions of cult recovery schemes that he promotes in Factnet. The first version contains five steps, the second version contains seven steps.

Well, I disagree with the idea that cult recovery can be put into a definite scheme. Everyone is different, and everyone's experience of cult recovery is different because it depends on many factors such as pre-cult and cult experience, individual traits, and so on. In principle, Wollersheim can define some principles of his cult recovery, but it will be only his own experience.

Regarding his 5 steps, I am aware of his lawsuits against Scientology (step 3). However, I do not think that every ex-member has to sue his or her former cult. Moreover, this step may lead to unsuccessful lawsuits that can cause the cult's legal actions in turn and depression that will not help in the cult recovery at all.

Then, regarding getting specialized therapy (step 2), I do not think that all the former members need it as I wrote many times in my blog.

Regarding joining anti-cult activism (step 5), as I wrote in another post, there are some dangers when people join it soon after leaving their cults. Also, I do not think that all the ex-members of cults have to join this activity at all. I am not sure that this activity really helps in the cult recovery.

Then, regarding spiritual quest (step 4), again, I am not sure that it is absolutely necessary for psychological recovery. Well, on the one hand, it can be helpful. On the other hand, I do not think that people who do not have desire for the spiritual quest will never get psychologically recovered.

So, among Wollersheim's 5 steps, I definitely agree only with learning about cults and mind control (step 1).

His 7 steps are completely different. First of all, it is important to mention that he claims that he was "personally mentored" by Dr. Margaret Singer for 20 years as the ground for his expertise. However, this is simply not true. He was not "personally mentored" by Singer. Also, he claims that his 7 steps come from Singer while it is definitely not so. These 7 steps have nothing to do with Margaret Singer. In fact, many of the ideas for these steps (for example, step 6) come from the New Age cult where Wollersheim probably has a high position. So, these steps look like an instruction how to leave one cult in order to join another cult.

Wollersheim claims that he won 9.2 million dollars as a result of his lawsuits against Scientology. However, he always asks for donations for Factnet. Almost 2 years ago, I was quite concerned that a certain cult was using Factnet discussion board and that the only information people were able to read about that cult in Factnet was that cult promotion. I informed Wollersheim about this situation. He did not express any concern at this situation in his reply. His reply was: "Please consider making a significant donation to Factnet to help us cover our operational costs via pay pal. It is a good sign to us when someone is also supporting us financially especially in situations where considerable extra work is being requested." (This is a direct quote from his e-mail). Well, I guess it is a clear indication that he is for money much more than for anti-cult work.

Pavlov's Classifications of Brain Activity

Russian scientist Ivan P. Pavlov (who is famous for his experiments with dogs and bells) said that temperaments depend on the type of the central nervous system. The types of the nervous system depend on three factors:

* Strength of the nervous processes
* Balance of the nervous processes
* Mobility of the nervous processes

There are four types of temperament:

1. Sanguine temperament is characterized by a strong, balanced, and mobile nervous system.
2. Phlegmatic temperament is characterized by a strong, balanced, and inert nervous system.
3. Choleric temperament is characterized by a strong, unbalanced, and mobile nervous system.
4. Melancholic temperament is characterized by a weak, unbalanced, and inert nervous system.

In addition, he used another classification that was based on the activity of cerebral hemispheres and divided people into three types:

1. Thinking type is characterized by predominance of activity of the left cerebral hemisphere.
2. Artistic type is characterized by predominance of activity of the right cerebral hemisphere.
3. Middle type is close to the balance of activities of both cerebral hemispheres with insignificant predominance of one of them.

Considering these classifications, I think that all these differences will somehow affect cult recovery. For example, I belong to the thinking type. I like to think and analyze everything, using my logical abilities. So, what was the most important in my experience of recovery was to get the information and think it over and also to consider about my cult experience. I guess that for the artistic type people it may be different because they have picture-thinking, great emotionality, vivid imagination, and vivid perception of the reality, but they are not very skillful in logical thinking. This means that their way of cult recovery, probably, will be different.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Do We Get Knowledge?

According to epistemology, there are four main ways of getting knowledge:

1. Empiric knowledge. This is the knowledge obtained through our senses and through experiments.
2. Rational knowledge. This is the knowledge obtained through logical thinking and considerations.
3. Aesthetic knowledge. This kind of knowledge comes from appreciation of beauty of creation and arts.
4. Knowledge gained from authorities. This is knowledge gained from teachers, books, mass media, and so on.

Since modern people have no way to check everything through experiments and logic, they learn most things from authorities. Cult leaders use this fact for recruiting and indoctrination. They present themselves as authorities and people tend to believe them and uncritically take the information gained from them.

After leaving cults, ex-members need to restore their capacity of independent thinking. This means that they need not just to take everything that authorities say, but to use their logic and sometimes their experience to check this information. Of course, it is impossible to check everything. However, I believe that it is necessary to do that in the matters that are important for them.

What is Faith?

Since there are many definitions of faith, first of all, I want to make clear that in this post I will use this word in religious way. There are two kinds of religious faith: objective (the objects of faith) and subjective (the act of believing).

Objective faith includes doctrines of a certain religious system and the contents that an adept of this religious system should believe in, that is, certain concepts of God, mankind, universe, angels, Satan, and so on.

Subjective faith is the person's act of believing. Of course, objective and subjective faith are related because subjective faith is the act of believing in the objects of objective faith.

By the time I left the cult, I completely lost my faith which, of course, means that I lost ability to believe. I know that some other ex-members of mind-controlling Bible-based cults had a similar experience. For quite a long time, I felt disappointed that I was unable to believe without any reasonings and doubts as I used to do. Then, I read something that really encouraged me.

There are two kinds of faith. The first is when you believe just because you follow what somebody tells you to believe. This is the imitative faith, and it is promoted in cults and cultic churches. The second is when you had your own considerations, examined pros and contras, and made your own conclusions. This is the reasonable faith. Actually, the second kind of faith is considered to be higher and more matured.

I realized that I do not want to just follow others. I want to consider and examine everything and make my own conclusions before believing in something. This means that I do not want to have just an imitative faith, but I want to have a reasonable faith.

More about Spiritual Recovery

The more I consider about spiritual recovery, the more I come to conclusion that spiritual recovery as well as psychological recovery are different for different people. All the people are different and have different experiences.

Also, there are some questions regarding what should be considered to be spiritual recovery and how to determine that somebody has recovered spiritually. I guess that it is commonly believed that a spiritually recovered person believes in God, reads the Bible, prays, and goes to church. He or she is supposed to be a member of a church.

On the other hand, the word "recovery" implies that a person is supposed to reach the same spiritual condition that he or she had before joining an abusive church or a cult of Christianity. Then, what about a person who was an atheist before conversion? Does he or she need to become an active member of some Christian church in order to be considered spiritually recovered?

Well, the more I think about these questions, the less I am clear what is the difference between spiritual recovery and after-cult spiritual quest. Is it the same thing or not? I do not know. I guess that if an ex-member of an abusive Christian church becomes interested in Buddhism or another religion, it can be considered to be spiritual quest and not spiritual recovery. But what about an ex-member of a Buddhist cult who becomes interested in Christianity? Is it spiritual recovery or not? I guess Christians will say that it is spiritual recovery, but Buddhists will say that it is not so. So, it seems that the concept of spiritual recovery depends very much on the belief system of the person who defines spiritual recovery.

In order to be objective, I prefer the following definitions. Post-cult psychological recovery is the process that has a purpose to completely eliminate psychological damage caused by the cult. I guess many people will agree with this definition. I think that likewise, post-cult spiritual recovery is the process that has a purpose to completely eliminate spiritual damage caused by the cult.

This means that if a person was an atheist before joining a religious cult, he or she does not need to become a believer in order to be considered spiritually recovered. If a person was not an active member of a church before joining a mind-controlling Bible-based cult, he or she does not need to become an active church member in order to be considered spiritually recovered. For these people, conversion into Christianity or church membership would be spiritual quest or spiritual growth, but not spiritual recovery. This is, of course, just my opinion.

Then, what should be included into spiritual recovery? I think that psychological and spiritual recovery are quite related. For example, many ex-members of Bible-based cults reject God because they had very traumatic experiences in their cults when these experiences were interpreted as God's will. In my opinion, these people should deal with this problem in two ways. On the psychological side, they need to cure their traumas. On the spiritual side, they need to learn that their experiences had nothing to do with the actual will of God. They need to learn what the Bible, not their cult leader, says about God.

Then, many ex-members do not want to read the Bible because this reading reminds them about the doctrines used by cults in order to support their authoritarianism and abuses. Again, they need to learn what the Bible really says and reject these wrong teachings.

Also, many ex-members do not want to go to church because they do not trust other people and because they fear that they will be abused again. I think it is more a matter of psychological recovery - they need to learn to trust people again and learn how to identify manipulative and abusive churches. So, in my opinion, psychological recovery helps in spiritual recovery.

Well, I do not think that if a person is an active church member, he or she is completely recovered psychologically and spiritually. He or she may still have many problems. On the other hand, I do not think that if a person is not an active church member, he or she is not recovered. It depends on many factors.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mind Control Made Easy or How to Become a Cult Leader - Video

A video on mind control techniques with quite a bit of humor. Well, in spite of the humor, this video contains the information on many techniques, used by cults.

Mind Control Made Easy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Post-cult After Effects: Independent Thinking Difficulties

In the beginning, I will point out again that not all the ex-members of cults and abusive churches experience all the post-cult after effects. It is normal to experience only some of them. If you did not notice that you experienced some post-cult after effects, do not try to find them out in your experience. You may never experience them.

As I wrote in one of the previous posts, I experienced independent thinking difficulties only in religious matters. In this post, I would like to share my experience in dealing with this problem.

Of course, it is good to read Christian literature and listen to sermons in order to learn sound Christian teachings. However, there is one problem. There is still a possibility to take others' words uncritically and think something like: "In the past, I believed in this and that because the pastor of the abusive church told us so. Now, I believe in so and so teachings because my new pastor tells so." In principle, there is not much change. Actually, this new pastor also can be equally abusive and may also distort the Bible.

There is a good biblical principle in Acts 17:10-11 (New King James Version):
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

These Bereans questioned the teaching of Apostle Paul himself, and Luke, his co-worker and the author of Acts, praised them for that!

Westminster Larger Catechism, question 160, says:
Question 160: What is required of those that hear the Word preached?

Answer: It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine: What they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

Again, those who listen sermons are encouraged not just take what they here, but to examine what they hear by the Scripture. Neither the Bible nor Westminster Larger Catechism, highly respected among evangelicals say that Christians should take uncritically everything they hear in sermons. Rather, Christians are encouraged to use the Bible to check what they hear.

Then, how can we know what does the Bible say? By reading the Bible itself and studying it, using hermeneutics in order to interpret it. Personal Bible study is indispensable for Christians, including those who left abusive churches.

There is another problem. It is easy to take uncritically the words of a person who is considered to be a kind of authority or a person who you like. These two points are mentioned among Chialdini's six principles of influence applied to cults by Margaret Singer in Cults in Our Midst, chapter 7:
4. Authority. We have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority figures.
5. Liking. We obey people we like.

4. Authority. If you tend to respect authority, and your cult leader claims superior knowledge, power, and special missions in life, you accept him as an authority.
5. Liking. If you are the object of love bombing and other tactics that surround you, make you feel wanted and loved, and make you like the people in the group, you feel you ought to obey these people.

Actually, I like to consider and compare two or more views of the same matter. I realize that when there are two people who disagree with one another, it is easy to uncritically take the opinion of a person who you like more - just because you like this person and do not like the opponent. However, I prefer to use my logic ability to consider their arguments in order to make my own conclusion who is right. Sometimes, I agree with one of them. Sometimes, I agree with something that one of them says and something what the other says. Sometimes, I have my own opinion that does not match the opinion of neither of them. Of course, my opinion is not the most correct. I do make mistakes. However, I do like to make my own conclusions rather than to uncritically take others' opinions.

Studying the Bible, I prefer to do two things:
1. Apply the hermeneutics principles in order to understand what the verse or paragraph means.
2. Read different Bible commentaries that give different interpretations of this portion and then make my own conclusion which interpretation is better.

Actually, when I study Christian theology, I also like to read what different authors say and consider what teaching is more correct.

I found that this practice not only helped me to know the Bible and Christian theology better, but also helped me to develop my ability to think independently in religious matters and release my mind from the cult indoctrination.