So…let’s do this. Let’s dive in and explore together the differences between the healthy, ideal of a community that lives together as with one heart and mind and which hold things in common for the common good, vs. the toxic and dangerous nature of communities like cults or communes or geo-political entities. Remember, I am not an “expert” in cults or the like but have taken this opportunity to go and research a basic level of knowledge in order to continue to foster a healthy dialogue around this subject among us. To begin, I watched the Netflix docuseries called, “How to Become a Cult Leader,” produced by Peter Dinklage.

Cults and Cult Leaders

A cult is defined as, “…a system of religious veneration directed at a particular person or object.” In other words, it is a group centered on the personality of one person or family selling a set of beliefs or a dogma that they have created around themselves and which they are ready to change for their own personal gain and perceived glory. Cult leaders tend to be narcissistic individuals who don’t really care about anyone but themselves and yet are quite charming and persuasive. They have an ability to find people in states of emotional vulnerability or fear and to use and manipulate that to their own advantage. They know which buttons to press and play in a person’s emotional and mental state of being – of what to offer a person who is feeling a great need for something in their lives. And ultimately, cult leaders are those who live for self-exaltation, claiming to be something beyond ordinary, creating and marketing images for themselves marked by a sense of “transcendence” or “sacredness.”

Marks of a Cult

Beyond the cult leader, marks of a cult include community and unity via mind control and complete domination and authority over all free thought and speech. The goal of a cult is to eliminate questions and any vestige of individual identity. Cults tend to live in isolation, REQUIRING their members to give up all other family, friends, relationships and physical possessions, turning all things over to the cult leader “for the sake of the community.”

It starts with a smooth picture of an imagined utopia as the answer to all the problems of the world. Non-believers will only ruin this idyllic life so one must sever all ties. Possessions are turned over to the cult as a sign that one cares for the cause with all of their heart and soul. Again, this is not a voluntary gift or spontaneous act of generosity, but a REQUIREMENT. It is a show of one hundred percent loyalty to the cult – and really, to the cult leader. And, if you are not loyal…if you in any way show any sign of questioning or doubting, of being afraid or wanting to leave…if you show any signs that you are not ONE HUNDRED PERCENT LOYAL to the cult leader…

From Idyllic to Dangerous

Complete isolation is generally the form of punishment or “discipline” to get you back in line. Removing you from the general community…putting you into a medical “care unit” and raising questions about your mental capacity…forcing you to certain types of work details….even drugging you…cult leaders will stop at nothing to keep anyone from exposing them or creating the possibility of outside interference with their power and control.

Not quite the utopia anymore, is it? For utopia – or an idealized community that lives more for the good of each other than for the self – utopia is just a means to an end for the cult leader. There will always be a shift internally, while the show must go on for the media and anyone from outside trying to investigate.

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