Cult

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Ernst Troeltsch's church-sect typology, upon which the modern concept of cults, sects, and new religious movements is based.

In religion and sociology, a cult is a cohesive group of people (often a relatively small and recently founded new religious movement) devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture or society considers to be far outside the mainstream.

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • There are scores of modern religious cults and sects that have been influenced by Hinduism to varying degrees. Werner Erhard, founder of 'Landmark Education's 'The Forum',' and 'est' seminars, which have about 700,000 graduates, was influenced by Hinduism through Swami Muktananda, one of Erhard's principal gurus.
  • Another term coined by Haack is Psychokulte (therapy cults), of which he distinguished two kinds: those with techniques which promise self-discovery or self-realization and establishments with therapies (Therapie-Institutionene)—Heelas's 'self-religions'. The followers of both types show the effects of Psychomutation, a distinct personality change (Haack, 1990a:191). Schneider (1995:189–190) lists organizations, such as Landmark Education, Verein zur Förderung der Psychologischen Menschenkenntnis (VPM), Scientology/Dianetics, Ontologische Einweihungsschule (Hannes Scholl), EAP and Die Bewegung (Silo) as examples of 'therapy cults'. These groups do not immediately suggest religion of Weltanschauung, but reveal ideological and religious elements on closer inspection. Their slogans are 'We have the saving principle' or 'We enable those who are able' and they offer Lebenshilfe (advice on how to live). Such advice is a commodity which is sold in very expensive seminars. The ideologies involved often lie in the grey areas between the humanities, psychotherapies, Lebenshilfe, 'mental hygiene' (Psychohygiene), and religion.
    • Arweck, Elisabeth (2004). Researching New Religious Movements: Responses and Redefinitions. Leiden: Brill. pp. 145-146. ISBN 0203642376. 
  • There has been an enormous growth of the phenomenon known as Large Group Awareness Training represented by such companies as Landmark Forum. Its former iteration was EST, begun by the famous and infamous Werner Erhard. He retired it in 1985 and started The Forum. One of several cults categorized as examples of the human potential movement that started in the 1970s, it focused on exploring and actualizing the self. It has gained great traction in recent decades with professionals working within highly demanding occupations—entrepreneurs, business managers, the fields of acting, advertising, and marketing. EST and The Landmark Forum have had over a million customers.
    • Atkin, Douglas (2004). "What Is Required of a Belief System?". The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers. New York: Penguin/Portfolio. p. 101. ISBN 9781591840275. 
  • There was nothing special about our time with Andrew. We've been members in just another cultish group that make its members feel special. Our experiences are fundamentally no different from countless others in spiritual and political groups. We see clearly that corruption is difficult to avoid when a charismatic individual is given absolute power over a group of followers. All authoritarian groups have more or less the same dynamic. The emphasis on surrender, the initial happiness of merging into something bigger, the dogmatism, the rules and regulations, the suppression of doubts, it's the same everywhere.
    • Andre van der Braak, about how he and another former see their time with Andrew CohenAndre van der Braak (2003). Enlightenment Blues: My Years With an American Guru. Monkfish Book Publishing. p. 215. ISBN 0-9726357-1-8. 
  • Although est and the Forum are frequently characterized as NRMs or 'cults' (q.v.), leaders and participants have typically denied that undergoing the seminars involves following a religion.
  • Years ago recruitment for cultic groups was far more obvious than today because extreme religious groups were easy to identify. They lived isolated from the general population, and the public had become aware of their deceptive recruiting techniques. Today many are attracted to organizations that are less overtly cultic, not overtly religious, and are often linked with the human potential movement, while others operate as businesses, with their tactics focused around financial success. Landmark Forum, for example, is a human potential/business hybrid.
    • Farber, Sharon Klayman (2012). Hungry for Ecstasy: Trauma, the Brain, and the Influence of the Sixties. Lanham, Maryland: Jason Aronson/Rowman & Littlefield. p. 139. ISBN 9780765708588. 
  • Another potent element of the new cult milieu was the therapy sect, which offered believers the chance to achieve their full human potential through personal growth and self-actualization by taking total responsibility for one's actions. The prototypical movement of this kind was est (Erhard Seminar Training), in which intense and often grueling sessions forced followers to confront a new view of reality.
    • Jenkins, Philip (2000). Mystics and Messiahs : Cults and New Religions in American History. London: Oxford University Press. p. 180. ISBN 0195127447. 
  • Erhard Seminars Training, more commonly known as est, was begun in 1971 by Werner Erhard. While not a church or religion, est is included here because it has often been accused of being a cult.
  • Religion, cult, there's no real definition of which is which. It's more like, 'if the shoe fits'. I personally define a 'cult' as any religion with fewer followers than Snooki has on Twitter. Also, Mormonism is secretive, and that's another trait I associate with cults. Catholics own their crazy. It's right on the table. Mormons are more like Fight Club.
    • Bill Maher, referring to the rules of Fight Club in Fight Club: "The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club." — Bill Maher (04 May 2012). "Real Time with Bill Maher, May 4, 2012". Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO). 
  • Outsiders often criticize the extreme commitment of group members. But what is really happening is that leader and followers are conspiring to realize a vision that is falsified daily. For the cult is not paradise, and the leader is not God. Hence the follower is embattled; to squarely confront the many failings of the leader and the group is to call into question one's own great work. Only by daily recommitting himself can the follower continue to work toward his ultimate goal. Each follower works out a secret compromise, acknowledging some things while denying or distorting others. Clearly this is a high-risk strategy that may go awry.
    • Len Oakes (1997). "Followers and Their Quest". Prophetic charisma: The Psychology of Prophetic Charisma. Syracuse University Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-8156-2700-9. 
  • I do not want this material to be considered any sort of mumbo jumbo. It is not a cult in the terms people often consider material that seems to come from a source beyond the individual who gives it. The designations spirit, and medium, and so forth, are ridiculous to begin with. You are simply using your inner senses. These senses are not magical, they certainly are not religious in any sense of the word, and I am not some degenerated secondary personality of Ruburt's. Nor will I be compared with some long-bearded, beady-eyed spirit sitting on cloud nine.
  • Whenever there is an absolute truth at stake, the manners become careless. This applies both to the owners as well as their opponents of that truth and to all people involved.
  • Werner Erhard's highly successful est cult is partly derived from Scientology. Erhard had some experience with Scientology in 1969. Then he worked for a while in Mind Dynamics, itself an offshoot of Jose Silva's Mind Control.
    • Rodney Stark (1985). Religious movements: Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. Paragon House Publishers. p. 167. ISBN 0913757438. 

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