August 19, 2014

Book: Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver

Available from Cult101 Bookstore.
Buy Now.
Vaccination is still fraught with controversy. Latter-day anti-vaccination activists echo many of the concerns, as well as the tactics, of their nineteenth-century antecedents. Certain spiritual and religious communities object to it as part of an overall rejection of medical treatment in favor of the healing powers of prayer and faith. Such groups include everyone from faith healers in Philadelphia (among whom a 1990-1991 measles outbreak lead to the death of 9 children) to the followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Fairfield, Iowa, where a 2006 outbreak required the quarantine of roughly 1,000 people, as described by Arthur Allen in his book Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver.

May 16, 2014

Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements

Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements
Edited by Eileen Barker, London School of Economics and Inform, UK

Series : Ashgate Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements

New Religious Movements tend to start their lives with a number of unequivocal statements, not only of a theological nature but also about the world and appropriate behaviours for the believer. Yet these apparently inalienable Truths and their interpretations frequently become revised, ‘adjusted’ or selectively adopted by different believers.

This book explores different ways in which, as NRMs develop, stagnate, fade away, or abruptly cease to exist, certain orthodoxies and practices have, for one reason or another, been dropped or radically altered. Sometimes such changes are adapted by only a section of the movement, resulting in schism. Of particular concern are processes that might lead to violent and/or anti-social behaviour. As part of the Ashgate/Inform series, and in the spirit of the Inform Seminars, this book approaches its topic from a wide range of perspectives. Contributors include academics, current and former members of NRMs, and members of ‘cult-watching’ movements. All the contributions are of a scholarly rather than a polemic nature, and brought together by Eileen Barker, the founder of Inform.

Contents: Revision and diversification in new religious movements: an introduction, Eileen Barker; The family international: rebooting for the future, Clare Borowik; The changing faces of God: the Hinduisation of the Hare Krishna Movement, E. Burke Rochford Jr; The post-Sun Myung Moon Unification Church, Michael L. Mickler; The Church of Scientology, Hugh B. Urban; La Mission de l’Esprit-Saint: 100 years of prophecies and schisms in a Quebecois NRM, Susan J. Palmer; The Orthodox Church of the Sovereign Mother of God/the New Cathar Church, J. Eugene Clay; Appendix: Blessed Father John: additional information supplied by the Church; Present truth and theological revisionism among the Branch Davidians, Eugene V. Gallagher; Aum Shinrikyo and Hikari no Wa, Erica Baffelli; The re-invented wheel: doctrinal revisions and control of the Falungong, 1992-2012, James W. Tong; Change and continuity: Hizb ut Tahrir’s strategy and ideology in Britain, Shiraz Maher; The metamorphosis of MEK (Mujahedin e Khalegh), Masoud Banisadr; When history fails: Mormon origins and historical revisionism, Massimo Introvigne; Revisionism in the New Age Movement: the case of healing with crystals, J. Gordon Melton; Intentional communities: the evolution of enacted Utopianism, Timothy Miller; Changes in North American cult awareness organizations, Carol Giambalvo, Michael Kropveld and Michael Langone; Changing vision, changing course: en-visioning/re-visioning and concentration/diversification in NRMs, David G. Bromley; Index.

About the Editor: Eileen Barker, PhD, OBE, FBA, is Professor Emeritus of Sociology with Special Reference to the Study of Religion at the London School of Economics, University of London. Her main research interests are ‘cults’, ‘sects’ and new religious movements, and the social reactions to which they give rise. She has over 300 publications (translated into 27 different languages), which include the award-winning The Making of a Moonie: Brainwashing or Choice? and New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. In 1988, with the support of the British Government and mainstream Churches, she founded INFORM, a charity that provides information about minority religions that is as reliable as possible. She is a frequent advisor to governments, other official bodies and law-enforcement agencies throughout the world, has made numerous appearances on television and radio, and has been invited to give guest lectures in over 50 countries.

Reviews: ‘This is an impressive collection by major scholars of new religions who address major changes that have occurred in some of the most interesting and controversial of the new religious movements. It is packed with up to date information that will be of interest to scholars of many disciplines including sociology, religious studies, and the history of religions.’
James T. Richardson, University of Nevada, USA

May 1, 2014

Spying in Guruland: Inside Britain’s Cults

  In Chapter 2 Shaw takes us into Emin, an obscure cult that has perhaps 2,000 or more members spread around Britain, North American, Europe, Australia, and Israel. Shaw discovers Emin at a New Age conference, The Festival of Mind, Body, and Spirit. The Emin booth advertised the "Eminent Theatre Journey," and sold a book called The Second Chance at Life. The booth also displayed brochures and an idiosyncratic Tarot deck used by the group. When Shaw inquired about the meaning of "Eminent Theatre Journey" and other esoteric terms in the Emin brochure, a young Emin member gave a response typical of any member of a New Age group: "You have to do it to understand it." So Shaw arranged to attend a meeting.

The Emin Centre turned out to be a rented hall in a gloomy old Welsh Chapel school. The group sets up its props and posters, breaking them down after each meeting. One of the props is a large painting of a woman with angel wings and one exposed breast. Meetings are progressive after the first one in which recruits are taught to experience the human aura and color energy. Shaw paid 45 pounds for a 10-lesson course called "The Search for Truth." Twice a week he attended meetings that went from 7:45 p.m. until midnight. He learned about forces from unseen worlds and how to connect with and understand them. Shaw learned to sense the extent of his aura by chanting "nerve, nerve, nerve," with his hands extended. He noticed that the teachers were heavy cigarette smokers. Members were told not to discuss the course with outsiders, yet after three weeks they still did not know of the existence of Emin or its leader, Leo. A guard always stood outside the meetings to discourage intruders. The information put forth at these meetings got stranger. Shaw learned about "natural laws" that govern the planet, a mystical system of numbers and colors, the Law of Two or opposites, and something called Electrobics. To learn Electrobics, members must wear loose clothing and soft shoes, and perform T’ai Chi–like exercises used by Emin members to cleanse their aura and bodies of destructive electric forces. Some members claim that they can see these forces. When they do, the infected persons are instructed to gather the electric forces with their hands and flick them away.

March 16, 2014

Signs of an Unhealthy Group

"When you meet the friendliest people you have ever known, who introduce you to the most loving group of people you've ever encountered, and you find the leader to be the most inspired, caring, compassionate and understanding person you've ever met... and all of this sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true! Don't give up your education, your hopes and ambitions, to follow a rainbow."

Jeanne Mills, Former member of the People's Temple, 1978

For most UNH students, joining organizations is a great way to explore new and interesting ideas and activities. Every group that seeks recognition from the University must pledge in writing that they consider student development, citizenship, and safety of top importance. Also, every group must permit members to disassociate at any time, and abide by the anti-hazing policy. This helps to establish a basic trust that enhances learning and creates experiences for positive personal growth.
There are times when students form groups through their connections with other students at the University and remain outside of the common mission and values of this community. People in such groups might have characteristics that you may want to observe before considering an invitation to join.

Leaders may be...
  • The friendliest people you have ever met.
  • Too interested in what you like to do.
  • People who think you are wonderful and know you have connections, influence, or financial resources.
  • People who have all the answers.
  • Hiding a greater "truth" from you until a more "appropriate" time. (Estabrooks, 1999)

Signs to look for that mark destructive organizations are...
  • A Totalitarian worldview: A group that approves of unethical behavior while claiming goodness and promotes the goals of the group over the individual.
  • Exploitation: There is pressure to give money, to spend a great deal of money on special projects. Exploitation can be financial, physical, or psychological.
  • Alienation: Separation from family, friends, and society, a change in values and substitution of the group as the new "family".
  • Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs; recruiting and fund-raising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure; use of "front groups".

If you have questions or concerns about these types of groups, there are many people with whom you can talk.


Michele Holt-Shannon Assistant Director of Student Life
Dr. Anne Lawing Senior Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs

Resource: ACUI International Conference presentation "Desperately Seeking Community: The Appeal of Cult Leadership", Mindy Griffith, University of Arizona. March 6, 2000, New York, NY.