We invited Claudine Rigal to perform this analysis and this synthesis, as not only did she take part in the entire conference, but she also drafted most of the conference abstracts. This presentation is the result of studying the major points of the conference as seen in the light of several years’ experience in the field.

It does not claim to be exhaustive, and does not pretend to be the only possible one. It merely wants to be a contribution to a fuller assessment and a better consideration of the influence of cults in the field of health.

* * *

“We care about your health!”. So says the slogan of many cults at the moment.

Health is one of the main fields which are invested in and warped by cult groups in order to strengthen their stranglehold on individuals and on society as a whole.

This conference was aimed revealing:


  • a summary of the progress made by the influence of cults in the European medical sector.
  • how associations linked to FECRIS view this influence,
  • how the official authorities view it,
  • a presentation of practical proposals.


The conference opened the debate to 15 speakers, representing 13 European countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden and Ukraine. It gathered about 100 participants coming from 16 countries.

The speakers were all graduates of higher education :

  • Two-thirds of whom were from the medical or scientific sectors: – 5 doctors
    • 3 doctors specialising in psychiatry or neuropsychiatry
    • 1 pharmacist specialised in ethics
    • 1 engineer and member of Parliament
  • The other third consisted in :
    • 2 lawyers
    • 2 professors of philosophy
    • 1 professor of sociology
    • At least five of the speakers held posts in universities :
    • Vienna School of Medicine, Vienna, Austria
    • School of Medicine in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia
    • School of Medicine in Marseille, France
    • University of Dublin, Ireland
    • University of Belgrad, Serbia
    • Six of the speakers are in charge of, or collaborate with specialist bodies for the study of sectarianism and victim support :

– AVPIM- Association des Victimes des Pratiques Illégales de la Médecine, Belgium

      • St. Iraneus of Lyon Center of Religious Studies, Russia
      • AGPF – Aktion für geistige und Psyschische Freiheit e.V., Bonn, Germany
      • AIS – Atencion e Investigacion de Socioadicciones, Barcelona, Spain
      • UVSC – Institut für Staazt-Kirche Beziehungen, Slovakia

– FPPS : Family and Personality Protection Society, Ukraine

        • Three of the speakers work for their respective governments and government committees in an advisory capacity, on sectarian issue :

– Belgium : Dr. Berliner, member of the Centre d’Information et d’Avis sur les Organisations Sectaires Nuisibles (CIAOSN)

– Austria  : Prof. Friedrich, Consultant with the Austrian government

– France : Dr. Grunwald, member of the Steering Committee of the Mission Interministérielle de Vigilance et de Lutte contre les Dérives Sectaires (MIVILUDES) and Secretary General Emeritus of the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins

  • Finally, one of the speakers has significant responsibilities in the political sphere, in the field of Human Rights :

– Slovakia : the MP Mária Sabolová, member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, president of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Human Rights, Nationalities and the Status of Women

* * *

The subject “Health and Sectarian Influence” was treated with a multidisciplinary approach. The issue has therefore been studied from a medical, a scientific, a psychological and a legal angle.

It has also benefited from being under the political spotlight, from an ethical analysis and from philosophical examination.

This multidisciplinary approach raised the following topics:

  • the development of the concept of health
  • complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • psychotherapy and the psycho- market
  • cults masquerading as medical organisations and their characteristics
  • the relationship between cults and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • the relationship between cults and followers, particularly as regards addiction and healthy thinking
  • the relationship between cults and psychopathologies
  • the relationship between cults and official bodies
  • the relationship between complementary, alternative medicine and religions
  • the European Convention of Human Rights with regard to health and ethics
  • cults and the law
  • the psychotherapy market and the law
  • European inter-associations of defence co-operation
  • and finally the initiatives of these associations at national and European level.

The conference was also marked by the variety of the types of approach to the issues of cults health. It gave rise to:

  • The presentation of observations :
    • some regarding cult groups : Prof. Dvorkin and Prof. Petrovic,
    • and others regarding some victims of these cults :

Dr. Armogathe/Didier Pachoud, Dr. Berliner, Mária Sabolová,

  • The presentation of research :
      • on addiction : Dr. Jansà/M. Perlado
      • healthy thinking : Prof. Volkov
      • the psychiatric problems of former followers : Dr. Swartling
      • and CAMs : Dr. Ernst
  • The presentation of analyses of data on :
      • psychiatric information on cults and psychopathologies : Prof. Friedrich
      • legal issues regarding the European Convention on Human Rights : Esko Rimpi
      • ethical issues regarding the relationship between CAM/religions : Donal P. O’Mathuna
      • and philosophical issues regarding the concept of health : Prof. Le Coz
  • The presentation on supervisory measures on :
  • laws for the psychology marketplace : Ingo Heinemann
  • a framework for medical practice : Dr. Grunwald
  • and proposals for a framework for the psychotherapist profession : Dr. Armogathe

This conference has also been characterised by a wide diversity in the audience’s reaction. This was expressed through a vast range of evidence, of analyses and of opinions. This plurality was rooted in the differences of experience, of reference system or of sensibility. Such democratic expression gave rise to constantly vivid and occasionally lively debates.




All European countries unanimously report the same worrying feature: the phenomenon which is already very important everywhere and moreover clearly on the increase and in the process of diversification throughout the continent.


The importance of the sectarian grip as regards health results equally from:


  • the excessive number of sectarian groups which have entered this domain
  • the holistic nature of the promises made by these groups which boast of bringing not only physical, but also psychic and even, for many, spiritual health
  • the wide diversity of proposals used as bait by these manipulative groups
  • the extraordinary range of techniques and methods diverted or created by these sectarian structures; we should bear in mind the clear predilection of cults complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), in particular those relating to energies

– the multiplicity and gravity of harm generated by this grip by cults on the victims and on society.


This expansion goes hand-in-hand with a diversification of the phenomenon which values equally:

  • a diversification of the aforementioned sectarian structures; in the face of the huge international cults (Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Transcendental Meditation for example..) and the national cults (Sanatan in Serbia, the Church of the New Testament in Russia for example…) we are witnessing the growth, in exponential fashion, of a myriad of microstructures frequently connected to a self-proclaimed “head-of-therapy”;
  • as a corollary to this previous point, a diversification of participants in the spread of sectarian influence. Doctors, carers and paramedics always have a key role in sectarian groups. They participate either as touts, as teachers or as practitioners. In all cases they make use of the scientific credibility of their diploma, of their position and of the confidence of their patients to draw them towards sectarian ways. Alongside these health professionals, there exist, as we have just stated, more and more people without real training who call themselves therapists, practitioners or healers ;
  • a diversification in the domains infiltrated. So it is that the field of psychotherapy has become one of the choice targets of manipulative groups ;
  • a diversification in the categories of people targeted: for example, certain children deified and baptised “indigo children” by the Kryeon group;
  • a diversification of techniques and methods used, often of an occult nature and lacking any scientific, university or institutional validation.

The participants in this conference unanimously deplored the almost complete absence of training for psychiatrists and psychologists in sectarianism.

The conference has also allowed us to review certain facilitating elements for the sectarian infiltration into health affairs.

  • Infiltration into the therapeutic field by manipulative groups is helped by the poor standard of ethical structure in these practices and by the absence of a contractual law for the psycho-market.
  • The implication of general practitioners in certain sectarian groups is, in part, a response to the failure to take adequate account of their grievances which makes them more susceptible to the propositions of new alternative therapies and to the new powers which they promise.
  • The veritable explosion of sectarian proposals linked to health in Russia is a direct consequence of the insufficiency and inadequacy of the health system in that country.
  • Finally, and more generally, this type of sectarian expansion is rooted in our Western societies in the out-and-out fixation on making illnesses psychological and in the modern holistic concept of health made official at an international level by the definition of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1947 and very widely propagated afterwards by the New Age trends.




It can be characterised by three terms: heterogeneous, progressive, inadequate.

This perception is marked firstly by a great heterogeneity among the different countries.

This consideration is often correlated with the democratic history of the country, with the age of the sectarian phenomenon, with the funds allocated to the associations of defence and also with the degree of sensitivity of the society as a whole.

The more recent the democracy, the more explosive the expression of sectarianism; the less the funding held by associations, the less aware is society and the less reactive are the official bodies.

It is in this light that the Russian, Serb and Slovak representatives deplored the apathy of their countries. Certain delegates even went as far as denouncing serious collusion between certain cults and certain authorities.

For example in Serbia, where the Minister for Health once supported the “Committee for Spiritual Consistency and the Invincibility of the Citizen” a branch of Transcendental Meditation.

As a further example, in Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan where support for the “Premières Dames – First Ladies” of those countries allowed valeology (the science of health of the Porfiry Ivanov cult) to establish itself in schools, orphanages and the army.

Prof. Dvorkin also denounced the pro-sectarian intervention by high political officials in America in certain instances in their country.

The consideration of the sectarian phenomenon in health by official bodies is also characterised by the existence of undeniable progress. Including these numerous advances:

– in Germany, a plan for a contractual law for the psycho-market, a plan which has just been submitted to the Bundestag (Mr. Heinemann);(however, it has just been rejected by the Bundesrat),

  • in Austria, in Belgium and in France, the presence of doctors among the referents for sectarian phenomena in their governments (Prof. Friedrich, Dr. Berliner and Dr. Grunwald respectively),

– in France, the safeguards put in place by the Conseil de l’Ordre des Médecins as regards sectarian movements and non-approved medical practice (Dr. Grunwald),

– still in France, the law of 12 June, 2001, the so-called About-Picard law which cracks down on the abuse of frailty and which is applicable to abuse carried out in the domain of health (Dr. Grunwald and Marie-José Aube-Lotte, magistrate representative to the head of Affaires criminelles et des Grâces in France),

– again in France, the work carried out by two successive governmental bodies, the MILS and the MIVILUDES, in connection with several referents among which the Conseil de l’Ordre des Médecins (Dr. Grunwald),

– in Russia, the signature in 1996 by the Minister of Health of two decrees aimed at the fight against cults in public medicine (Prof. Dvorkin),

– in Serbia, the banning, by the Ministry for Minorities, of SANATAN, a cult ostensibly therapeutic but in reality with terrorist aims (Prof. Petrovic),

– still in Serbia, the prohibition by the Commission for Mental Health to apply transcendental meditation techniques to the mentally ill,

– in Slovakia, the wish of the MP, Mária Sabalovà, member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, to have sectarian problems written into the agenda of two Parliamentary supervision bodies.

However, considering the breadth, the depth and the diversification of sectarian infiltration into matters of health, the reaction of official bodies in all countries remains very largely inadequate and very clearly unsuitable – and this in spite of the notable advances which we have just outlined.


Among the main shortcomings highlighted during this conference, we will pick out:

– the absence or inappropriateness in almost all countries of regulations against sectarian proselytising of civil servants or their like in the exercise of their work, especially in the domain of support for the handicapped,

– the absence of supervision of psychotherapeutic practices in almost all the countries represented,

– and the absence in all European countries of contractual laws for the psycho-market.

We will cite among the principal demands:

– the call by Prof. Dvorkin for reinforced support by Europe and FECRIS for the Russian St-Irenaeus Centre of Lyon Centre of Religious Studies,

– the request by the MP Mária Sabolovà for information and support for UVSC, Slovakian government single structure dealing with sectarian movements,

– the request by the MP for meetings with other MPs in other European countries specialising in the sectarian domain,

– the request for the supervision of the psychotherapeutic profession in all countries. The conclusions of the French psychiatrist, Dr. Armogathe, could serve as one element of the discussion. Information could also be sought from the Organisme central de Protection des Consommateurs in Brussels and from the Swiss Office fédéral de l’Économie which is already fighting against certain dishonest parties,

– the request for measures aimed at fighting against sectarian proselytising of certain civil servants. The status of the French civil service could serve as a base from which to work.

We will also quote as major proposals:

– the creation in Sweden of a centre for studies of the sectarian phenomena since nothing similar yet exists in the country (Dr. Swartling)

– the compilation of a dictionary on cults aimed at handicapped people (Mária Sabalovà, Slovakia). The French law on the rights of the sick could offer a framework for thought,

– the putting in place in all countries and in particular in Slovakia of training on sectarianism aimed at psychologists and doctors with particular leaning towards psychiatrists,

– the development of research on manipulative psychological groups – this to be more adapted to their great variety and to offer better therapeutic solutions (Dr.Jansà/M. Perlado),

– the development of research into the healthy thinking and the integration of recent discoveries of psycho-sociology on the subject (Prof. Volkov),

– the creation at the instigation of FECRIS of a European documentation centre (Prof. Dvorkin),

– and finally, the wish that FECRIS should seek to have adopted among European institutions a law for the psycho-market.

The European Cults/Healthcare problem is a social issue and not, as is believed in some quarters, a product of people’s imagination or some kind of small phenomenon you only hear about second-hand or anecdotally. This problem can therefore only be resolved through the mobilisation of associations defending society against cults. In order to be effective, this solution will require some development in people’s way of thinking and institutional decision-making to match the danger posed to society.”


Claudine Rigal

Marseille, avril 2004