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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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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