David M. Williams

Cult recruiting techniques
The Christian Counter Project
      In a majority of cases, those who join cults do not
 necessarily hold to the beliefs of the cult.  Rather, the
 cult meets some needs or desires of that person.  Meeting the
 needs of a person can amount to many things.  The following
 is a summary of needs, encompassing both interactive and
 felt needs.

      1.  Social needs.  People need others to feel normal
          and human.  Interaction with others is a necessity
          for a fulfilled and balanced person.

          a.  affirmation - the need to be recognized as
                            having value.

          As Christians, we possess two kinds of affirmation.
          Affirmation of the Spirit says that we have value
          because of Christ's sacrifice.  Affirmation of
          Fellowship says that we have value to others,
          because we recognize the value of others, due to the
          sacrifice of Christ.

          b.  security - the need to have a consistent social
                         environment; a somewhat predictable
                         habit of social contact.

          As Christians, we have security through Christ, who
          is our environment, and who is a constant.  Note the
          theme of God's faithfulness and providership in Scripture.

          c.  attention - the need to have a personally
                          directed response to our thoughts
                          and actions.

          As Christians, we have a personal relationship with
          Jesus Christ, who directs and affirms our thoughts
          and actions.

          d.  leadership - the need to have a goal or purpose;
                           sometimes a reason for life.

          As Christians, our leadership is through Christ,
          augmented through those appointed to lead us in
          discipleship to Christ.

          e.  philosophical - the need to reason and find
                              rationale for what happens, or
                              what is perceived.

          As Christians, we find our reasoning and rationale
          in revelations, naturally occurring through God, and
          in the nature and being of God.

          f.  power - the need to control and not be
                      controlled.  The need for an aspect
                      of order in our own personal life.

          As Christians, our lives are controlled by Christ,
          who provides the order in our lives, and becomes
          the enabler for our aspirations.

      2.  Physical Needs

          a.  food

          b.  shelter

          c.  health and medicine

          Dependency upon God to provide is a consistent theme in
          Scriptures.  Note that God's faithfulness is constant,
          while human faithfulness is not.

      3.  Emotional Needs

          a.  dependence

          b.  comfort/contentedness

          c.  emotive social response/response to hurts

          d.  compassion

          e.  justice

          Emotional needs are met in the community of Christ,
          where care and understanding are modeled in the first
          chapters in the book of Acts.

      4.  Spiritual Needs

          a.  God-shaped emptiness within each person

          b.  justice/balance

          c.  worship

          As evidenced by the wealth and consistency of writings
          throughout the ages, man has a need to worship and
          acknowledge a constant.  Some contemporaries that have
          been examples of this need are Herman Hesse, Blaise
          Pascal, Bonhoffer, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, and Joseph


       The following techniques are actively used by all cults,
 whether they be religious or political, to varying degrees.

      1.  repetitive recitation:  makes responses automatic,
          and is most closely affiliated with what has been
          termed "brainwashing".  It reduces the natural
          inquisitiveness of a person to an automatic,
          homogenous "parrot" of the ideas that are taught
          in this repetitive way.  Often, victims are told
          to meditate on an idea, or become part of a group
          that uses peer pressure to enforce the activity.

      2.  Scripture twisting:  appeals to the need for rational
          thinking, and depends on a pre-existing confidence
          in Scriptures, or a possible confidence in
          Scriptures.  Misinterpretation, discouraging question
          asking, and extreme authority are often utilized in
          conjunction with Scripture twisting.

      3.  Emotional incentive:  social needs are met only when
          the "proper" response is given.  Often coupled with
          peer pressure, once a target is drawn into the group,
          conformity to the group's ideas and "rules" is
          enforced by providing and/or withholding emotional

      4.  Emotional teardown:  breaking down the individuality
          of a person encourages replacement of the individual
          with the ideas and thoughts of another.  Related to
          ideas of self-esteem, emotional teardown consists of
          a leader or group emphasizing negative traits in an
          individual.  Through this process, individuals with
          low self-esteem, or have a low self-confidence, will
          strive to satisfy the "new" attitudes of the group,
          thereby reducing the group's concentration on the
          individual's "negative" traits.  Often, emotional
          teardown is utilized when an individual can be
          isolated from society, family, and friends. (i.e.
          retreats, camps, "training" schools)

      5.  physical incentive:  physical needs are met only
          when the "proper" response is given.  Conformity
          is enforced by providing or withholding physical
          needs.  Often, the targets are not able to be
          self-sufficient, or they have "lost" these skills
          due to the influence of the group.

      6.  spiritual incentive:  secret or mystic "truths" are
          revealed only when the "proper" response is given.
          Often, secret oaths and horrifying penalties for
          the disclosure of these "secrets" are utilized,
          although some groups are known to reveal "inner"
          secrets only to those that have proven loyalty to
          the group.  A defined hierarchy of authority is
          usually the case with these kinds of groups, with
          the revelation of "secrets" used as a method of
          enforcing conformity.

      7.  physical teardown:  a sensual experience is
          generated through physical deprivation.  Affects
          emotional and rational needs.  This takes
          advantage of a medical phenomenon whereby an
          individual becomes more suggestible under a
          physically weakened state.  Sensory deprivation
          is also related to this, to a certain extent.
          The most common occurrence of physical teardown
          occurs when individuals are isolated, encouraged
          to "meditate", and are fed at the end of long
          intervals.  Repetitive recitation often follows.

      8.  spiritual teardown:  current belief system is
          challenged and ridiculed.  A new, or modified
          belief system is proposed to replace it.  The
          technique plays on emotional and spiritual needs.
          In pseudo-christian cults, scripture twisting
          is common.

      9.  social incentive:  social needs are met when the
          "proper" response is given.  An individual who
          does not conform to the group is shunned, harassed,
          or persecuted.

     10.  peer pressure:  needs are met when the expected
          "proper" response is given.  Acceptance of an
          individual into a group is dependent on conformity
          to group ideals and actions.  This is often tied
          to any and all of the incentive methods.

     11.  graduated indoctrination:  the actual basis, or belief
          system, is introduced to the target so slowly, the
          victim assimilates information without checking
          it against previous information.  Most commonly,
          truthful principles are utilized initially, then
          the true beliefs and policies of the group are
          intermingled.  An individual may subjectively
          perceive the new ideas of the group as being very
          consistent with his/her own belief system, even
          though those ideas were originally perceived as
          being contrary to that individual.


      The information presented here is a short summary of
 some techniques used by known cults.  Not all cult groups
 use the same methods or appear to be using these same
 devices for recruitment.  The focus of all of these
 techniques is the manipulation of individuals, with disregard
 for personal choice in all stages of decision.  For information
 on groups that you may be concerned about, contact the Christian
 Counter Project.

 Presented by: The Christian Counter Project

               P.O. Box 957215
               Hoffman Estates, IL  60195

 Copyright 1989, 1990 The Christian Counter Project

 Reproduction permitted only if text is intact, not within the body
 of any other text, and is not sold for gain or profit.  All
 transmissions of this document must include the copyright notice and
 the statement "Reprinted by permission of the Christian Counter Project."

 Revision 1.1 February 1990     

[Theological Essays] davidmwilliams@oocities.com

David M. Williams

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