How to start a cult #Inform

The first person I met here today was a guy who had been going to the Andrew Cohen thing in islington and witnessed their implosion after their leader decided it wasn’t fun anymore.

I gave him the old Oh, it’s so easy to start a cult*, the more outrageous the beliefs the better. Just make something up. Not a big deal at all. He asked a good question: what would be the most difficult thing when starting a cult? I said probably getting rid of your own scruples about messing people’s lives up completely.

Because really, starting a cult isn’t a big deal. You need to find a theme, a dogma, write some scripture, invent a mythology (or find an existing mythology you can establish yourself as the absolute authority on), establish the old ‘us and them’. Then find some way to exploit people’s insecurities, ‘save’ just a few people with the right set of hangups to be your first disciples. Then you build a framework of rules and regulations and routines that is so difficult to follow that nobody is able to, and when they come to you with problems you can blame it on the fact they aren’t following your instructions.

This framework should be imbibed with a generous helping of evangelist spirit so that if, as a member, you feel that if you are too weak to follow the rules, preaching will purify you and make you stronger. Because you are pleasing the master and when the master is happy, god is happy, and then you are happy. Because you’re a part of god, or the universe, or spirit, or something. Obviously.

The combination of framework, backup plan, religion and preaching means that as the top of the pyramid you don’t have to work hard at all. You just be the charismatic star of the show who only shows themselves once every couple of years, whipping your flock into a frenzy of holy love, so they can run around and work for you a bit longer. Not too much so they don’t get to see you really.

And when the older crew finally run out of steam you say to the newer ones ‘oh, they weren’t strong enough to withstand the power of the illusory energy, they have fallen by the wayside, ignore them, they have turned into enemies. This should be doubly easy because you can now busy yourselves exploiting the positions of power they left.’

And thus the world turns.

*cult is a very non-PC word and of course, at the conference I was at yesterday, the word of choice was ‘New Religious Movement’. I personally think that’s a cop-out and since ICSA, INFORM’s slightly more confrontational sister organisation in the States, still has the word in its name, I’ll just keep using it.

The story of me going there is that I found out about the event on Friday night when I got an auto-reply mail back from Dr Dossett at the Uni of Chester re their accreditation of Hare Krishna courses, saying she would be there. I had a look at the programme, found a Hare Krishna guy on the panel, found I had some background knowledge about his separate identities (his Hare Krishna name which is connected with child violence is very carefully separated from his passport name George Kilmurry under which he is a trustee of the ifoundation which runs the Hindu schools) and figured I’d stand up after his talk and speak out about it.

I did that, it was great, people talked to me about it afterwards, I met some other interesting people dealing with post-cult issues, both family members and ex members themselves, a lady from the Department for Education who was interested in what I had to say about the schools, etc. So it was great, I’m glad I went.

As a last and final side note, I would have loved to stand up and talk about what I think is more important, what makes the Hare Krishnas into a cult and why they are destructive and shouldn’t be allowed to run schools or be given any credibility by any UK authorities, but that would have been difficult to fit into one little question. So I went for the more sensationalist stuff. Sad really.

2 responses to “How to start a cult #Inform

  1. INFORM is part of the cult apologist cabal of academics which dominated the Comparative Religion field for decades. The next generation of scholars are increasingly ignoring them and their gravy train conferences at which they avoided saying anything bad about cults for fear of upsetting the dialogue they imagined they were having with them.

    Sadly also decades ago the government picked INFORM as their ‘official’ recipient of grant money, leaving other more robust groups reliant on private support.
    Declaration of interest: I’m a critic of the Church of Scientology and heartily dislike these people!

  2. Thanks for your comment Harley. If you know other groups who might like a very informed and vocal ex Hare Krishna devotee as a source of information, do let me know.

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