|Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
|An organization ostensibly led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which claims to have volunteer fighters from all over the globe, has arbitrarily declared the establishment of a 'Caliphate' (an 'Islamic State') - comprising parts of Iraq and Syria, forcing many minority communities to flee their homes.
|Prof. Margaret Singer
Another giant in the field of academic research into the cult phenomenon, is Prof. Margaret Singer (1921-2003). Her major work which was published in 1996, is 'Cults in Our Midst.' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cults_in_Our_Midst). In this, Prof. Singer set out 'six conditions' in which totalistic thought-reform can be achieved:
- 1). Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.
- 2). Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.
- 3). Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.
The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviours of the group and speak an in-group language.
Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.
Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.
As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgement and understanding of the world are diminished (ordinary view of reality is destabilized).
As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.
This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.
- 4). Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behaviour that reflects the person's former social identity.
The target's old beliefs and patterns of behaviour are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.
Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviours and negative feedback for old beliefs and behaviour.
- 5). The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviours.
The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.
Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviours expected by the group.
The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.
Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviours and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviours. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.
- 6). Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.
Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.
The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.
Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behaviour in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviours.
Building on Lifton's and Singer's solid foundation (and after much research) I concluded that pernicious cultism is an evolving criminogenic phenomenon which can be briefly defined as:
'any self-perpetuating, non-rational/esoteric, ritual belief system established or perverted for the clandestine purpose of human exploitation.'
However, since phenomena cannot be accurately defined; I set down the following, essential, and universal, identifying characteristics of a pernicious cult and I published these in 2005:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, ideal love, etc.
- believes that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
- requires excessive admiration.
- strong sense of self-entitlement.
- takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
- lacks empathy.
- is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
- arrogant disposition.