Cult Test
Identifying Traits of Abusive Groups

Cult Test

If You Are In Doubt

Source: The Leaving-Nityananda-Institute website.

We offer a shorthand list followed by a longer list of cultic traits compiled from: Recovery From Cults, by Michael D. Langone, Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, 'Crazy' Therapies, by Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich, Combating Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan.

Michael Langone, in his article 'Cults, Violence, and the Millennium,' suggests the following three characteristics as essential in the definition of a cultic group:

1. centralized control by a charismatic leader
2. an us-versus-them mentality that isolates
3. a lack of tolerance for dissent

Compiled list:

1.Control-oriented leadership - leader claims to be an all-knowing, liberated being.

2.Hierarchical structure with an elite inner circle - including leader's assistants.

3.Group leader not accountable to any authorities, as are, for example: military commanders, and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations.

4.Polarized us-versus-them, black-or-white mentality causing conflict with wider society.

5.Manipulation of members by alternating guilt/anxiety/fear/ostracism and attention.

6.Group perception of being spiritually unique/elite and separate from normal culture.

7.Denunciation of other spiritual/religious leaders and groups.

8.Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about group and leader.

9.Spiritual practices emphasize experience rather than rationality.

10.Sexual abuse - leader uses power to sexually exploit members.

11.Economic exploitation of members by leader and assistants.

12.Confidentiality of members private affairs (legal, medical) violated by leader and assistants.

13.Members' subservience to group causes them to cut or weaken ties with family, friends, and personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining group.

14.Reliance on outside professional help, doctors, therapists, etc., discouraged.

15.Leader poses as self-sacrificing divine agent who only promotes members' well-being.

16.Service is inner directed toward the group not the surrounding community.

17.Revamping of members' cultural/moral values to suit leader's lifestyle and program.

18.Conformity to group's/leader's values, life style, mode of dress, diet, esthetics, and so on.

19.Promotion of dependence on group/leader - often disguised.

20.Important personal decisions must be approved by leader - members seek his blessing.

21.Phobia induction vis-à-vis leaving the group/leader.

22.Painful exit process - ex-members ridiculed, threatened, and dumped.

Note: If you check any of these items as characteristics of the group you are concerned about, and particularly if you check many of them, you should reexamine the group and your relationship to it. Such reexamination usually runs against the dictates of the group leaders and will be difficult for the member to do. Begin by speaking to outside health and legal professionals and ex-members. If your group is indeed healthy and non-abusive, there is nothing to fear from taking these cautionary steps.

Source: The
Leaving-Nityananda-Institute website.

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