The Mechanics of Cults

As an author’s preface to the following information, it should be noted that the work from which many of the facts below were derived – “Soul Snatchers: The Mechanics of Cults” was written by a Neo-Freudian with a very cynical attitude towards the usefulness of any religious or mystical sentimentality and arguably seemed to be as vehement about his psychological theory as some mystics are about their sacred tenants. Because that is exactly the way Sigmund Freud was, too, we should take everything we read here – or in the credos of the kinds of groups that will hitherto be mentioned –  with a grain of thought.

The author below sees all manifestation of mystical experience as pseudo mystical and all expressions of the intuitive/spiritual to be intrinsically indicative of personality dysfunction, an attitude that I believe is at best overgeneralized and at worst emphasized to the point of fanaticism.

Again, however, some elements of his report hit very close to home by describing qualia of the psychic phenomena experienced in cases of psychic programming, mental handling, and cult conditioning – a process that is extraordinarily powerful and often nearly impossible to undo (deprogram)


Cult gurus tend to be frequently paranoid as it is their persecution and isolation that confer them with special status and is seen as the proof of divine will manifest in the guru. Frequently said paranoia is manifest in four major ways: ego inflation, warped judgement, mistrust and psycho-rigidity. He entreats his disciples with the notion that the outside world is persecuting them, or even the cosmic neighborhood which the cult is immersed. The dynamics of mistrust are central to group psychodynamics which culminates in hysterical paranoia.

His convictions are absolute and the guru is psychologically incapable of questioning his ideology or of handling criticisms with reason. Criticism is recast as aggression or an embodiment of evil.


Mythomania brings out a character that replaces the mediocrity of reality with a seductive game intended to attract followers by giving them something new to identify with.

At the more advanced stages of the disorders, the subject is caught ‘between two worlds’, the unreal cult world and that of social reality. He sees himself as the product of ‘a mutation’ which places him apart from other humans while still being human. … Feelings of strangeness and unreality, characteristic of depersonalization disorders, increase.

 …Sometimes the disorders manifest only in intermediate states involving just one psychic sector … The cult member thus may be unable to drudge up memories of one element or isolated episode of his life, creating a partial amnesia that generally corresponds to denial of past reality…

Six stages of schizoid personality are adopted by the cult/post-cult personality:

1: withdrawal [moderate], isolation, superstitious, believes oneself in possession of a sixth sense, recurrent ‘illusions’ (feeling invisible paranormal influences or presence)

2: problems differentiating consensus reality from personal consciousness or group/cult consciousness. integration of fantasy with logic. odd/delirious religious ideas or nihilism. blunt, abrasive, inappropriate manner of relating to others and speaking.

3: adamant defensiveness with delirious topics. appearance of living a hermetic life while maintaining minimal contact with the outside world. deterioration of job performance, personal relationships, and hygiene (as is often seen in cases of mental illness)

4: psychotic break – loss of contact with consensus reality, total immersion in cult ideas. Unable to criticize or notice illusions. Logic is replaced by delirious narrative.

5: total dissociation/loss of structure. life is constant paranoid delirium. paraphrenia. aggravation, inconsistency in behavior. disorganization, loss of coherency.

6 (generally pretty uncommon to get here except in cases of severe and prolonged mental trauma): Heboidphrenia. loss of original personality. catatonic stupor. catatonic position/rigidity. “spaltung”/fission.

Trance/Hypnotic Induction

                Directed daydreams can be invoked to hijack psychic planes by guiding a system of images and symbols to the a subject and presenting this narrative at the subject’s reality while depriving the subject of sensory or social access to consensus or prior elements of his reality and identity. Often these guided imaginal experiences intentionally invoke states of distress in order to manipulate existential anguish.

                Other relationships between follower and handler are utilized for manipulative means, in which the handler encourages a mutual trust while utilizing that trust to maintain control over the cognitive homeostasis of the handled subject. States of dissociation or partial hypnosis may be taken advantage of by a handler in order to more deeply understand the underlying psychological conflicts buried within the id and ego, and can use these psychological sore spots in subtle ways to influence what may be conceived of as a mental ‘shock collar’ reaction, aversion taking place on a preconscious level when the sore subject is mentioned, not painful enough to be recognized consciously but painful enough that it alters reactive behavior.

                Hence in true spirituomystic endeavors, why it is generally encouraged to decrease reactive behaviors and thoughts and come into contact with ‘thyself’, and one’s dark side in particular, that it may not be used as a psychodynamic conditioning collar.

                Identity fracturing and diffusion is indeed possible by these subtle methods, though they call for a special social/environmental background to frame the manipulation. Sensory priming is a very effective method for constructing underlying psychosocial compartmentalization, as a stimulus can be paired with an emotionally salient theme or symbol in order to slowly train the stimuli as a ‘trigger’.

                Confusion, isolation, and sensory deprivation create the sort of psychosocial ‘wonderlands’ that can only arise out of combining the power of collective ‘delusion’ with sensory priming and hypnotic depersonalization (used to fracture ‘alters’ or ego states).

Panic attacks and Phobias PTSD and Acute Stress

memories of cult experience may ‘rise’ unbidden to consciousness, causing the subject to experience spontaneous panic attacks and confusing their perceptions of reality….in the outside world, the subject fears he will go insane, be attacked, or incapable of dealing with reality. can be strengthened by neuro-vegetative symptoms such as sweat, palpitations, and feelings of oppression.

Stages of phobia build as the subject’s interest in the outside world decreases, his affections are constrained, and his stress levels reach a hyperacute baseline level – causing him/her to feel always on the alert. Often this leads to memory disorders as a side effect of the cult, due to the parasitized experiences the cult life scars him/her with. the cult itself, while generally recognizing the follower’s onset of depressive symptoms, engages with them as further parts of the conditioning process, increasing cult realiance by cutting off the follower from his former family and friends.

Why do intelligence agencies tend to recruit followers who have little family or social support systems? Those forgotten or abandoned by society? not so incidentally, it is the identical profile used in profiling new cult recruits : those with weak family ties and social support systems are prime territory for membership. conditioning, whether it prescribes for an overhaul in behavior that allows a subject to function effectively as a military operative or a spiritual agent, is essentially the same process in either case.

breaking from the cult does not alleviate the phobic stress or panic the cult inductee feels as a susceptibility to PTSD often develops in ex-cultees precipitated by trauma bonding that conditions feelings of anxiety and depression in the absence of the regulatory mechanisms provided by the cult. also, meeting with consensus reality generally exacerbates depression because it reminds the subject of how their identity was once defined by their exclusion from general society, and being a part of it feels like a betrayal of the romance found within cult life.

Finally, the cult follower has problems in managing ‘contradictory thought and reference systems’ – that is when affiliated with the cult, he/she had adopting a unique relational style and codified understanding of the ‘parallel language’ used within the cult. Reconciling these habits with general society often proves confusing or problematic.

Thus the problem of deprogramming has historically been a very tricky one, often with results indicating that the only way to override cult conditioning is a complete reconditioning that does not differ in means from the original process, but only in message or content.


Sensory Deprivation

                Studies on outmoded sanitariums showed that isolation actually supported the appearance of paranoid disorders and delirium. These disorders came from the subject finding it imporssible to apply real ideas to situations that might come up. Isolation and prison constraint prevent the individual from expressing himself because of the deprivation of space-time references. With the subject’s sense of time disrupted, his reference points are made all the more meaningful since they are rarer.

[…prisoners exposed to such deprivation] experienced psychotic delusions the subject of which was primarily cosmic or religious, with alternatives including the desiring of power, of being persecuted, hypochondria, and sometimes a loss of identity. The various experiments on sensory deprivation underscored general disorders independent of the technique employed.

The subjects have no focal point to concentrate on and gradually begin to lose their sense of time. In its place general feelings of anxiety arise…increasingly…until eventually the subject has completely replaces his or her external reality with an internal one.

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