Inside the head of a new cult member

Allen Tate Wood, a counselor who specialises in the mental and spiritual rehabilitation of former cu

Much of the early discourse on the reasons for cult involvement missed the boat entirely by focusing on real or suspected pathology in the newly converted cult member. Though individual psychopathology should not be entirely dismissed, my experience as a cult member, cult recruiter and cult workshop director and ultimately as an exit counselor and educator on the cult phenomenon has consistently led me to consider the psycho-technology of the group in question. Psycho-technology, simply put, is the combination of a cult's teachings, doctrine and recruiting/training procedures.

The goal of cult psycho-technology is the production of a series of peak experiences designed to make an impression on new recruits. For many cult members, these behaviorally and environmentally induced "spiritual experiences" lead from a healthy, open and questioning attitude to a complete regression into dependence and reliance on the cult group.

These experiences, occurring often as they do within the highly charged, tightly controlled atmosphere of the cult, are not subjected to the kind critical scrutiny that they ordinarily would be. Instead they are metabolized and socialized within the language and doctrine of the cult. They are the occasion for increased approval from the group. Phenomenologically speaking, they initiate the "divine history" of the individual, and they reinforce the history and mythology of the group. What is perceived as a flash of illumination and liberation becomes, in fact, the first step in a march toward moral slavery and psychological bondage.

The successfully socialized cult member has entered a world in which submission to authority, blind obedience and conformity have supplanted such "outmoded" notions of character formation as the development of self-reliance, the capacity for critical thinking and the need for openness and compassion in human relationships. Successful indoctrination into a destructive cult results in the repudiation of the individual conscience, rejection of one’s critical faculties and the colonization of the imagination understood as a supernatural experience.

Allen Tate Wood has spent the last 30 years helping cult victims and their families overcome the negative influence of destructive cults. An authority on the subject, Wood has been invited to speak at universities all over North American and Europe.
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How a small tax rise exposed the SNP's anti-austerity talk for just that

The SNP refuse to use their extra powers to lessen austerity, says Kezia Dugdale.

"We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity."

With those few words, Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year that the SNP were a party opposed to public spending cuts. We all remember the general election TV debates, where the First Minister built her celebrity as the leader of the anti-austerity cause.

Last week, though, she was found out. When faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future or imposing cuts to our schools, Nicola Sturgeon chose cuts. Incredible as it sounds the SNP stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to vote for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts to schools and other vital public services, rather than asking people to pay a little bit more to invest. That's not the choice of an anti-austerity pin-up. It's a sell-out.

People living outside of Scotland may not be fully aware of the significant shift that has taken place in politics north of the border in the last week. The days of grievance and blaming someone else for decisions made in Scotland appear to be coming to an end.

The SNP's budget is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. It will impose hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local public services - including our schools. We don't know what cuts the SNP are planning for future years because they are only presenting a one year budget to get them through the election, but we know from the experts that the biggest cuts are likely to come in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For unprotected budgets like education that could mean cuts of 16 per cent.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. The Scottish Parliament has the power to stop these cuts, if only we have the political will to act. Last week I did just that.

I set out a plan, using the new powers we have today, to set a Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would raise an extra half a billion pounds, giving us the chance to stop the cuts to education and other services. Labour would protect education funding in real terms over the next five years in Scotland. Faced with the choice of asking people to pay a little bit more to invest or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, the choice was pretty simple for me - I won't support cuts to our nation’s future prosperity.

Being told by commentators across the political spectrum that my plan is bold should normally set alarm bells ringing. Bold is usually code for saying something unpopular. In reality, it's pretty simple - how can I say I am against cuts but refuse to use the powers we have to stop them?

Experts - including Professors David Bell and David Eiser of the University of Stirling; the Resolution Foundation; and IPPR Scotland - have said our plan is fair because the wealthiest few would pay the most. Trade unions have backed our proposal, because they recognise the damage hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts will do to our schools and the jobs it will cost.

Council leaders have said our plan to pay £100 cashback to low income taxpayers - including pensioners - to ensure they benefit from this plan is workable.

The silliest of all the SNP's objections is that they won't back our plan because the poorest shouldn't have to pay the price of Tory austerity. The idea that imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools and public services won't make the poorest pay is risible. It's not just the poorest who will lose out from cuts to education. Every single family and business in Scotland would benefit from having a world class education system that gives our young the skills they need to make their way in the world.

The next time we hear Nicola Sturgeon talk up her anti-austerity credentials, people should remember how she did nothing when she had the chance to end austerity. Until now it may have been acceptable to say you are opposed to spending cuts but doing nothing to stop them. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. It makes for the most important, and most interesting, election we’ve had in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of Scottish Labour.