OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

If we have considered it essential to come and speak to you about this, it is because we  realised that, true to their manner of being, masters in the art of manipulating, these organisations and people have learnt to use the platform that the OSCE, on the occasion of its annual conference, has created for true victims of the breach of human rights and that they dare come forward and present themselves as victims of religious discrimination, persecuted by governments, thus completely inversing the reality of facts.        

The vocation of FECRIS is information and research, and our associations exclusively occupy themselves with the help for victims of totalitarian cultic movements, and contrary to that which was said here yesterday, they do not practise any type of witch hunting.

Several associations and individuals, working within FECRIS, have been defamed.

These false allegations are the illustration of cultic manipulation, and we consider that those who attack us commit themselves against the freedom of expression.

Cultic groups undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms by plunging and maintaining individuals under their influence, pushing them to carry out acts or abstain from acting in a way seriously prejudicial for them.

Here we are speaking of those groups whose behaviour constitutes a true challenge to human rights since they have take refuge behind one of these rights – freedom of religion – better to flout all other rights.

It is a real battle that we are talking about: the interests of these groups, often unclear for those who have not completely understood their operating mode, motivate these actions, scandalous from the victims’ point of view, but coherent for the organisation seeking a freeway to confirm its domination.

These groups very quickly understood that they had to use international institutions like yours, shamelessly placing themselves on the same footing as those who legitimately come to ask for your support and who I greet with respect. Sometimes advancing openly, sometimes masked, these groups seek respectability by the taking part in humanitarian activities or by supporting great causes but their final objective remains to recruit new followers and to create confusion among those who know them only through these misleading activities. 

We who represent the victims of these groups, the men, the women, the destroyed families, we ask the governments not to yield to pressures and intimidation by these organisations. We ask them to take into account their victims and to help them as well as those who accompany them, to apply with necessary vigour the laws which really protect the indefeasible rights of humans to live free and in dignity.

We ask YOU not to let yourselves be misled by the double language of those who come here with, as only objective, to appear in the acts of your work; so as to better delude their victims present and future, by using your renown to recommend themselves and also to try and block the action of national authorities aimed at sanctioning the illegal, immoral behaviour and practices of these groups, only to find their national reputation smeared before the international 

Let us not back the wrong horse, do not be mislead into backing the wrong victims. The noisiest, the busiest are generally not the true victims and it’s an insult to the majority of those who are really concerned and who suffer from the intolerance and totalitarianisms of all kinds to put them all in the same bag.

CULTS ACROSS EUROPE – From the Third Reich to Present Day

By Friedrich Griess, Austria

President of FECRIS


Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,


In 1945 when the war was over and the Nazi empire had broken down, I was a 13 years old boy and during the Nazi time I had to participate at meetings of what at this time was called “Pimpfe” so as not to appear suspicious in the eyes of the authorities of the times. I specially remember three things we were taught: 1.) The thinking we leave to the horses because they have the bigger heads, 2.) We are the elite of the world and everybody else is lower quality. 3.) Those who criticise us are enemies whom we must destroy.


In 1983, one of my 4 children unfortunately joined a Christian group, which turned out to be totalitarian and to have similar ideas as the Nazis. I quote some verses from their German songbook, translated to English:


Hate is necessary, hate gives us progress, and hate gives us victory in the battle of life,

Death for all enemies, I beat ruthlessly, there is no peace in this battle!

Reason and family ties now break with violence!

No longer are reason and form important, we now break any rules!

Reason definitely reject, come to the circle of brothers!


A leader of this group said during a big meeting that one should kill the apostates. At another big meeting a youth leader said that he would like to take the others with him in busses and travel around the world to tear down every church. “And what will we shout then? Hallelujah! Once again: Hallelujah!!!”


A lady, some years younger than I am, still remembers the German invasion in her country during World War II. She especially remembers the tramping boots of German soldiers. And then, when the war was over and her parents joined this group, she had the impression that the tramping boots were back again.


This is also a new type of racism. “We are the best race and everyone who is not one of us is a member of an inferior race.” Some cultists dream that in a couple of years 80% of mankind would have joined their group; the remaining 20% are incurable and have to be locked up in mental homes. Other cultists believe that at a battle at the end of the world, all people not belonging to them will be “annihilated”. On the one hand, racism today is an issue in all committees that monitor human rights, but on the other hand nobody seems to care about this new type of racism.


Such behaviour often tries to justify itself by evoking “religious freedom”, and merely to warn against such groups is called “discrimination of a religious minority”. Therefore I am glad that on 29 June 2007, the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted recommendation 1804 which deals with religious freedom as follows:


“Such freedom is not unlimited, however: a religion whose doctrine or practice ran counter to other fundamental rights would be unacceptable. In any case, the restrictions that can be placed on such freedom are those that “are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others” (article 16)


and further:


“Nor do may states allow the dissemination of religious principles which, if put into practice, would violate human rights” (article 17)


and further:


“freedom of expression as protected under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights should not be further restricted to meet increasing sensitivities of certain religious groups” (article 18)


while recommendation 1805, adopted on the same date, states that


“Any democratic society must permit open debate on matters relating to religion and beliefs” (article 1) and “that under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, signatory parties are obliged to condemn discrimination and take effective measures against it” (article 17).


Cults show a double face: to the outside they appear as harmless; to the inside they are suppressive. We must listen to the victims in order to understand what cultic real goals are, and then bring this up in a public debate. This debate is not directed against people because they may act in good faith, and not in the first place against groups either, but against an unacceptable behaviour that violates human rights, and especially the rights of children and young people, as the Norwegian association Redd Barna, Save the Children, has exposed in a paper which has also been brought to your knowledge[1]. Federated under the FECRIS banner the associations try to help victims, to warn the public and to alert the authorities, institutions and professionals, politicians, judges, lawyers, civil servants, teachers, medical and social workers, so that they might understand the problem. FECRIS tries to coordinate this activity and represents our common interest at the level of the European authorities and institutions.


Several years ago already, the Council of Europe became aware of this issue. Attempts were made to report on this question also within the European Union, but finally it was decided to leave this subject to be treated by the individual countries. The attitudes of the authorities in those countries with regard to cults are rather variable. Some countries really seem to have understood what is going on. This is especially true for France, Belgium and Germany, but also for the countries in Eastern Europe, because they remember very well the suppression of human rights in Communist times, while some other countries seem to be ignorant, lazy or even reticent to act.


I hope that Europe will also become more and more united with respect to the attitude towards destructive cults.


Thank you for your attention.






by Danièle Mulller-Tulli,

Vice president of FECRIS, president of ASDFI[1], Geneva




Through Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1178 (1992) on sects and new religious movements and 1412 (1999) on illegal activities of sects and the reply by the Committee of Ministers (2001), the Council of Europe has put forward ideas and lines of action for tackling a problem it regards as serious and worrying in a manner compatible with our societies’ democratic principles.


Recommendation 1412 clearly stresses the need to preserve freedom of conscience and religion, advocates state neutrality and equal protection before the law and calls upon state authorities to refrain from taking measures based on value judgments concerning beliefs.


In Recommendation 1178, the Parliamentary Assembly recommended that the Committee of Ministers take measures to inform and educate young people and the general public and requested that corporate status be granted to all sects and new religious movements which had been registered


In paragraph 5 of Recommendation 1412, the Assembly concludes that it is unnecessary to define what constitutes sects or to decide whether they are religions or not.  However, it notes that “there is some concern about groups that are thought of as sects, whatever religious, esoteric or spiritual description they adopt, and this needs to be taken into account.”


The Assembly adds that it is essential to ensure that the activities of these groups are in keeping with the principles of our democratic societies and, in particular, with the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning freedom of thought, religion and conscience, as well as being legal.


To have reliable information on the relevant groups, the Parliamentary Assembly recommends the establishment of independent, national or regional information centres on new religious movements.  For its part, the Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to providing the public with information and mentions the possibility of the Council of Europe having a role in setting up an information exchange network.


The Parliamentary Assembly places particular emphasis on educating children and teenagers, referring to non-enrolment at school, which is common practice in some new religious movements, as a risk factor for the well-being of the children concerned and of society, and states that the teaching of history and of the main currents of philosophy, thought and religion is particularly important for the development of these future citizens.


In Recommendation 1412, the Parliamentary Assembly also underlines that it attaches great importance to protecting those most vulnerable, and particularly the children in religious groups, in case of ill-treatment, rape, neglect or brainwashing.  It therefore calls on member states, particularly in central and eastern Europe, to encourage the setting-up of NGOs for the victims, or the families of victims, of religious, esoteric or spiritual groups.


The Assembly also recommends understanding, tolerance and dialogue with religious, philosophical and esoteric groups and encourages states to take firm steps against any action which is discriminatory towards minority groups.


The Committee of Ministers says it is in full agreement with the recommendations.

The two recommendations above provide the framework for the issues covered during the study day by clearly indicating:


1.       The pitfalls to avoid:

·         Defining sects.  Defining sects would restrict the problem to dogmas, beliefs and doctrines, leaving out that of excesses.  Definitions would also differ depending on whether the analysis approach was sociological, philosophical or anthropological.

·         Conducting the debate on the level of religion.

2.      The level from which to tackle the issues:

·         Politically

·         Legally

·         In relation to human rights


Current situation


It is worth noting that Recommendation 1178 is 15 years old and Recommendation 1412 is eight years old.


So what is the position today?


Have the two recommendations been followed and in what way?


Are the provisions adopted by the various states adequate and are citizens properly informed and protected?


Have central and east European countries received the promised assistance?


Have support centres been opened for victims and their families?

These are questions which Europeans may ask in relation to their rights and the protection of human rights.


In the case of the first question, only six countries in Europe have drawn up parliamentary reports on the respective situations in their countries in this area.  The countries concerned are France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and Germany (at Länder level).


Only France, Belgium and Germany have adopted specific legal provisions to deal with the situation.  Moreover, the relevant provisions have been the subject of much criticism, it being claimed that they do not comply with the individual and collective values set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.


In this connection, it is important to go over the articles of the convention which refer to the above values:


Art. 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion


It should be noted here that this article is divided into two paragraphs:

Paragraph 1 sets out the right, in this case the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, while paragraph 2 sets out the limitations on the right.


Everyone therefore has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion insofar as, in a democratic society, public safety, the protection of public order, health or morals and the rights and freedoms of others are guaranteed.


Art. 10 – Freedom of expression


Paragraph 1: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.  This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.


Paragraph 2: The exercise of these freedoms carries with it duties and responsibilities and is subject to certain conditions necessary in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, and for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.


Art. 11 – Freedom of assembly and association


Paragraph 1: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions.


Paragraph 2: These rights must not undermine national security or public safety, public order, the prevention of crime, the protection of health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.


The question is whether these values vital to democracy are respected both by sects and new religious, philosophical and esoteric movements and also by states.  While claiming your rights is easy, recognising their limits is probably the crux of the matter.


What is the position regarding the goals of certain private groups that claim to be “religious” specifically for the purpose of enjoying the above rights, which set up multimillionaire, multinational companies or far-right political parties?


And what is to be said of groups whose commercial activities are far removed from spirituality or religion and whose wealth is largely based on arms production, whereas elsewhere they campaign for peace in the world under the cover of NGOs with consultative status with the UN, the humanitarian sector being a very popular one for obtaining charitable or equivalent status.


Selected bibliography


Abgrall, Jean-Marie, Les Charlatans de la Santé, Document Payot, Paris, 1998

Abgrall, Jean-Marie, La mécanique des sectes, Payot et Rivages, Paris 1998

Ariès Paul, Les sectes à l’assaut de la santé, Golias, Villeurbanne, 2000

Aouchiche Samir, L’Enfant sacrifié à Satan, Filipacchi, Levallois Perret, 1997

Boyer Jean-François, L’Empire Moon, La Découverte, March 1996

Edelstam Anne, Mon voyage avec la Vierge de l’Apocalypse, Publibook Paris, 2001

Fouchereau Bruno, Les Sectes, Cheval de Troie des Etats Unis en Europe, Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2001

Guillet Nicolas, Les difficultés de la lutte contre les dérives sectaires, l’Harmattan, March 2007

Hassan Steven, Combating Cult Mind Control

Introvigne Massimo, Melton Gordon, Pour en finir avec les sectes, joint work, Cesnur & Di Giovanni Milan 1996

Lardeur Thomas, Les sectes dans l’entreprise, Editions d’Organisation, Paris 1999

Miller Russel, Bare-faced Messiah, Penguin Books, 1987 / le Gourou démasqué, Plon, Paris 1993

Plume Christian Pasquini Xavier, Encyclopédie des sectes dans le monde, Henri Veyrier, 1984

Ritchie Jean, The secret world of cults, HarperCollins, 1991

Stucki J-P, Munsch C, Sectes, des paradis totalitaires? Desmaret, Strasbourg, 2000

[1] Association Suisse de Défense des Familles et de l’Induvidu

Jean-Pierre JOUGLA


Contribution to the INGO working day in the Council of EuropeJune 28, 2007.


The approach to the question of cults usually triggers off passionate reactions by defenders of these movements inclined to claim a religious dimension under the contestable name of “New Religious Movements” or under the even more pernicious label of “minority of conviction”. I do not think that our day of reflection can escape a systematic attempt by cultist movements to exploit the recurring topic of a pretended attack to fundamental freedoms of which they are the supposed victims. The title of our debate will certainly be interpreted by them as a provocation: 

“Cultic drifts: a challenge to democracy and human rights”.


The cults would certainly have preferred that the INGO conference continues to follow them in their customary inversion of values which have become the leitmotiv of their lobbying activities when complaining of the alleged attacks against fundamental freedoms by national policies aiming at assisting the victims of cults/sects (assistance to the victims and not anti-cult). Each year, cults further attempt to involve various international institutions, whose good faith can sometimes be abused[2], in the direction of pretended “attacks against religious freedom”.


Little by little however it seems that, except within cultic special interest groups, more and more people are beginning to understand that contemporary cults have nothing in common with the old interpretation of the word “cult” which meant a religious dissidence. 


One of the first criticisms to which I expose myself is to hear my general approach of the phenomenon invalidated by some people who will argue that one cannot speak of one or another cult in the same manner because each one has its specific characteristics. I am not unaware of this criticism, which aims to cut short any reflection, but I maintain that there are also some unvarying cultic characteristics, fundamental ones, around which a useful debate can be launched.


Contemporary cults have nothing in common with religion


The cults assert and use this confusion, with a certain success, for several reasons:

–        to obtain a form of legal immunity under the pretext that convictions should be respected

–        to obtain tax exemptions attached to religious status,

–        to benefit of social recognition,

–        to produce a cultic group cloned on the basics of a religious organisation: a practice in which cults excel,

–        to legitimate the guru by giving him the status of spiritual guide,

–        to show the guru as a reassuring being, worthy of a blindly granted confidence, 

–        to induce the conviction that the guru and his cult are altruistic and charitable,

–        to introduce a misleading confusion between religion and spirituality 


To continue viewing the question of contemporary cults from a religious angle results in  that the essence of the phenomenon is today overlooked in the fields of health,  wellbeing, personal development, psychotherapy, business training, science, culture, etc.


The confusion between cults and religion strengthens the error behind which cults hide with all the more virulence that they manage to persuade their followers to spread their delusion, bringing it figurative life and making of them militants and propagandists of their cause.


Actually, the purpose of this confusion is to inhibit the analysis of the cultic phenomenon in its essence because the cult’s core is an exclusive and totalitarian idea. Religion is only one of the masks, among many others, adopted by certain cults to attract and make future followers feel good.


The analysis of Max Weber, still used by some, (which believes that the sect constitutes the first phase of religion) is a XIX th Century concept which does not take into account the XX th Century’s totalitarian experiment. I am tempted to say that NRMs (New Religious Movements) are actually very often NTMs (New Totalitarian Movements).


To introduce today’s presentations, I should first clarify what I mean by such concepts as “cult” and “cultic drifts”.


The concept of cultic drift


The term “cultic drift” in the title of today’s working group, should be understood as covering those new media of influence of a cultic nature which escape the definition of the term “sect/cult” in its religious old-fashioned meaning. 


A clarification of vocabulary: the concept of “cultic drift” bears in itself the seeds of possible confusion. It could ultimately make one believe, wrongly, that only the “drifts of cults”, i.e. ordinary penal acts that cults might possibly be blamed for, should be taken into account, which we can assume is merely a useless tautology and could be interpreted by cults as a proof that they are not dangerous because the victims do not often promote legal actions.


On the contrary, the concept of “cultic drift” must be understood in the more open sense whence ideologies, practices or techniques mainly of new age inspiration can drift towards a cultic form.  But as soon as the drift becomes clear, i.e. when within a group an individual is subjugated by another who has, via doctrines and practices, auto-declared himself leader, it is a cult we are dealing with and all beating about the bush is superfluous. I therefore prefer to call a spade a spade!


This being said, I am not tempted to become a totalitarian fanatic and remain resolutely in a non ideological and respectful approach of the convictions of others, convictions that, furthermore, do not interest me apart from the intellectual analysis which can be made of them.


For over thirty years, I have been consulted by, listened to and tried to help cult victims. 

This work has taught me, on the one hand, to attach importance, with understanding of course, to the victim’s words (that cults purely and simply deny and dismiss by describing them as “words of apostate“) and, on the other hand, to note the fact that no former follower ever spoke of drifts but simply of the relation of influence of which he/she had suffered.


Cults today are mainly abusive structures of power and they should be approached under that angle. The main objective is to protect the followers from the aggressions to their personal freedoms to which they are subjected as members of a group and secondly to ring the bell at political level against the cults ultimate bid for power.


To stay close to the title of this working day, I shall consider the aspect of “challenge to human rights” as constituted by cults – or cultic drifts – firstly by describing the processes of deconstruction under influence to which followers are submitted inside cultic groups. Then I will endeavour to explain the “challenge to democracy” by cults. Two chapters therefore: one on the individual within the cultic group, the other on the cultic group and its existence in civil society.


Cultic undue influence is a violation of human rights 


The concept of influence, of course, is contested by the cults and shall briefly be developed below. 


Two contemporary definitions of the concept of the cult will give you an idea of what this term covers:


The definition given by  the CNCDH[3]   (National Advisory Commission of Human Rights) qualifies them as “groups which arbitrarily give themselves a totalitarian social status tending to make of their members  subjects out of the norm and the laws, thus preventing them from making free and voluntary decisions”.


A second definition is given in article 223-15-2 of the French penal code (Law About-Picard  of  June 2001)  which allows a clearer idea to emerge by explaining the process of constraint:


“a cultic movement is a grouping which undermines human rights and fundamental freedoms  (title of the law), with has as objective or result to create, maintain or exploit psychological or physical subjection of individuals taking part in these practices, subjection  resulting from the exercise of serious or reiterated pressures or of techniques likely to deteriorate their judgement, while fraudulently misusing their state of ignorance or their situation of weakness, thus leading these people to carry out an act or abstain from acting, in  both cases events seriously prejudicial for them. The guru is the de facto legal leader of such a group.”


These two definitions help to understand that today the cultic group can no longer be defined as having a religious dimension even if sometimes the latter is used as a façade.


Another definition falling within the concern of  the Council of Europe which considers that cults are  organisations which may  have illegal activities to an extent which deserves that notice be taken at a level  of competence of the public authorities and that of  policy guidelines for actions to undertake in view of prevention and sanction”.


The two definitions which I have pointed out above have the merit of initiating the notion adding to other current infringements (i.e. physical violence and damage to property) that the illegal activity of cults also causes a loss of freedom to persons under influence. But these definitions do not account for the “challenge to democracy” except to consider, rightly, that democracy is not an immediate achievement but is built brick by brick by dedicated individuals but that cults could possibly break it down.


The specificity of cultic victimisation


A short explanation on the subject of the uniqueness of victimisation due to cults and “cultic drifts”: cult followers are chronic victims who undergo prolonged and repeated victimisation in an undefined lapse of time with multiple traumatisms. They are always (whatever the cult) victims of undue influence and whose state of weakness has been abused. Contrarily to current victims of tangible aggressions, visible or sudden, caused by a third person, the cult followers are unaware of their state of victim and are not conscious of the mental influence of which they are the object.  One can thus affirm that they are deprived of the lucidity which should accompany the freedom of assent to which the decisions of the European Court of justice attach so great an importance. Not being subject to any visible constraint (threats, burglary, aggression, rape or sequestration) the follower believes he is free to come and go, free in his choice and acts.  In fact, this pseudo freedom consists of becoming dependent of the guru who has persuaded him that he is a prisoner only of himself and of his personal determinisms from which the guru can release him… provided that he blindly follows what the guru orders.


The unconditional trust and love given by the “victim–follower ” to the “aggressor–guru”, combined with a child-like relationship, loss of character, dependence, created by the “Master” leads the follower (whatever his age) to suffer a kind of an incestuous  traumatism  or its contrary, an incestuous atmosphere in a non incestuous environment.  This is what the jurist would have to analyse as an attack on human dignity.

Under cultic influence, the follower inevitably feels guilty when he doubts,   when he uses his discernment, just to think for himselfto dare criticize the words, the acts, the writings of the guru, to disobey. 

He is also guilty of blocking his own development (or what is presented to him as such by the cult), of slowing down the cult’s development, of polluting and “pulling down” the guru. The follower, persuaded of his guilt, feels guilty for having failed in the mission for which he believes that he is “predestined”.

You can legitimately ask yourselves about the conditions set up for this breaking down of the individual inside the group?


At this stage, having ruled out any existing confusion with a religious dimension even though the group may claim this dimension, if only to proclaim itself an “atheistic religion” or to cynically assert their religious dimension as a tool for financial profit, we should explain what a cultic group is.


The concept of « cult »

The cult whatever its size has a dogmatic state-like official structure.


Official structure because the cult is a genuine “mini-State” organised and managed    by its own created government.


This dimension, not detectable at first sight, except in cults like the Japanese “Aoum of  supreme truth” which had distinguished itself by criminally spraying Sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway and had gone as far as setting up its own government, becomes obvious if one thoroughly analyses the cultic movement’s operating mode.


Official structure as the cult has all the constitutive attributes of a State legitimating, on the one hand, the guru’s sovereignty in the eyes of the followers and, on the other  hand the cult’s prevalence on profane society. These royal attributes are articulated around a certain number of concepts:


·        Gouvernemental empowerment


o       Legislative: the guru, generator of internal standards, enacts his own laws which will, depending on the specific cult be more or less elaborate. The cult’s legislative system considers itself above national law, (this justifies false evidence for example in legal procedures and the theft of files…)


o       Executive:  The guru empowers himself to apply his own law inside the group.

o       Legal: it is the guru himself who sanctions any failure to respect the cult’s standards.


·        A territory, be it real, has surveyed limits registered in the cadastre,  or  be it symbolic, will be either “a place of energy” or “vibrations”  the purity of which  has to be protected by borders which little by little become prisons to the followers.

·        A people: constituted by the group of followers consolidated around a conviction and considering that it is an elite.

·        A leader: the guru is the head: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent be he dead or still alive.


The artificial and phantasmal construction of this new form of State, built around several components reinvented by the guru’s delirious imagination, into a very “new age”“change of paradigm” pack. Concept of change of paradigm which hijacks all the “new methods” which are sometimes themselves “cultic drifts” which, when examined under the loop, are nothing but old warmed up recipes.


Among the components of royal attributes of these mini-states, one can find:


·        A specific form of speech   (a kind of Orwellian language)

·        A registry office (each follower receives a new name)

·        A filial relationship and genealogy, often founded on karmic bonds

·        An educational system for the children

·        Teachings  for adult followers

·        A medical system

·        A collective mythical history in which each member receives a predestined role including the gurus hagiography

·        A stereotype aesthetic mostly of painfully poor quality  

·        A group culture (sterilised and sterilising).


This state-like cultic structure is a hegemonic structure insofar as it implies supremacy,   political and social superiority… over other institutions (thence the need to penetrate the social structures, when it does not seek to participate in a puerile project aiming at an implication in a “world government of wise men”). This hegemonic official structure is also totalitarian because all power is held by a single party (the guru’s) and any form of opposition is banished.


Such aspects, which could be illustrated by many cases drawn from current cultic groups, should alone make you understand why the cult, the cultic scheme of things, is a challenge to democracy. The invasion of the countries of the ex-communist block by cults illustrates this process of power grabbing disguised under the pretext of helping to introduce democracy whereas they were only attempts to replace a collapsed order by an old-fashioned tribal one which is that of the cults.


This state-like hegemonic structure that contemporary cults represent is headed by an absolute self-appointed authority, the guru, who declares himself invested of “superior” knowledge, and has been incarnated on earth to carry out a “divine mission”.  This leading authority has no counter-checks since it does not benefit of any internal or external anti-establishment force made impossible by the confusion of power in the guru’s hands, therefore no possible control emanating from other sources of civil society (medical, social legal, educational, etc.) It was extraordinary to hear the hullabaloo made by cultic sympathisers in France on the occasion of a surprise visit to a cultic group by the ad hoc parliamentary board of inquiry investigating  the delicate question of children in cults, to measure the degree of cultic rejection of all counter evaluation!


I should stress the fact that there is no separation of power inside the cultic group (legislative, executive and legal) which makes the guru an uncontested and undeniable totalitarian leader and refer you to Montesquieu’s writings[4] on the subject. It is this absolutist capacity, exerted by only one person, which characterises one of the main cogs of the concepts of  guru and cult. Just a brief word on cultic judicial power which ignores the elementary requirements for the protection of the person on trial, like the double level of jurisdiction, rights of defence or representation, deficiencies which would certainly be severely judged by “secular” jurisdictions.


But the authoritarian state-like structure constituted by the cult could not exist if the group which it directs was not driven by a utopian project. It is at this level that the criticism about each cult being different, applies. I quite agree with this criticism and it is essential, once the fundamental cultic basics have been exposed, to know and analyse the specific ideological contents of each cult in order to understand how the influence on the followers was perpetrated. There is no time here for this kind of analysis but it is fundamental, particularly within the framework of assistance to the victims, who happen to be the victims of one cult in particular.


The hegemonic state-like structure that constitutes the cult uses mental manipulation to subjugate the individual follower.


Mental manipulation[5] is in fact a psychological process obtained by repeatedly exerting serious pressure on an unsuspecting person so as to create or exploit a state of weakness or dependence, and to influence this person without her being conscious of it to carry out seriously prejudicial acts (the subject being always under the impression that he carried out the act by his own free will and judgement). To be strictly accurate the cult has industrialised the state of weakness.


This mental manipulation and state of control can only be achieved by applying the interpretative grid of magic thought:  every act,  every event,  every thought, every emotion,  is interpreted in a projected way  through a reading grid distorting reality, resulting in the follower’s being plunged in permanent confusion in a reorganised illusory cultic world.


This process of mental manipulation pilots the follower towards psychological, intellectual, emotional and, occasionally, physical deconstruction. Physical deconstruction is the only symptom which can sometimes be perceived by outsiders when it leads to acts which break the penal code.  Between the guru and the follower a relation of dogmatic dependence is established: alienating, addictive and controlling.


Through a subversive and insidious approach of mental manipulation, the follower loses little by little all the former marks of reference structuring his being and becomes transformed according to a fantasy and virtual standard to become a kind of psychic clone.


Progressively losing contact with reality, the follower, isolated from all his former emotional ties becomes a social and professional drop out and slips into a state of deconstruction and depersonalisation.


This deconstruction makes the follower lose his personal dimension as an individual and a citizen.  Adhesion to a cult constitutes the end of a person’s specific story and of every individual project this person may have had as well, it is replaced by the group’s mythical story and by a shared mission.


The state of cult follower is contradictory with that of citizen. 

It is in this regard that a cultic project also constitutes a danger to democracy. The Charter of basic rights signed by European Union on December 18, 2000 recalled that the European Union is based on indivisible and universal values 

of human dignity (chap. I of the Charter)

of freedom (Chap. II)

of equality (Chap. III)

and of solidarity (Chap. IV)



The utopian cultic project, which genuinely cements the group, makes each follower believe that having wiped out impurity, the good (the cult) will overcome evil (the outside unbelieving world).  Then the realisation of paradise on earth will begin where only the cult’s chosen people will survive.


This utopian project aims at the creation of an “ideal superman”, without ego, doted with super human capacities (aimed at imitating those that the guru claims to have) and able to carry out higher instructions to perfection (to exist only as a false copy of the central system) in order to serve the ideal taught by the guru. This stage, once reached, is akin tofanatism!


At this point the cult concept also becomes a challenge to democracy. 


The cult as a challenge to democracy


This utopian project also aims to create a fantasy world that the guru, “god” who incarnated on earth, dictates. It’s about an ideal society, a kind of science fiction, organised along a predetermined model composed of flexible, obedient and robotised subjects who will mildly carry out the guru’s fantasy. 


It goes without saying, although the mainly esoteric message is only destined for followers, that in such an ideal society the temporal is subordinated to the guru’s self referenced spiritual beliefs, “spiritual” herewith understood as ideological content. 


It means to regress into the historical confusion between secular and spiritual power known in the past by civil society, and that constitutes the essential danger of cultism as regarding  social aspects and politics insofar as the model’s vocation is to duplicated itself and overcome all secular structures under cover of a “change of paradigm”. This concept of change of paradigm used by the cults is passed under silence most of the time, whereas it is working all the time through the “new age” phenomenon which undermines the fields of health, education, well being, etc., privileged spheres where “cultic drifts” are rampant. 


Personal dramas experienced by many followers, who had been sincere and convinced of the founded effectiveness of delirious medical practices, who later wished to testify (often before dying from these practices) about  the fraud of which they were victims, convince me that such madness should never be considered as part of human rights.


One of these changes of paradigm has recently attracted the attention of the Council of Europe worried about the dangers of creationism in education[6] : it’s about the destruction of the scientific paradigm which the theory of evolution represents. There is some pressure to replace this by a paradigm known as creationism or “intelligent design”.  Beyond the concept of creationism that some people wish should be taught in schools, the paradigm of science is in cause.


The refusal on June 26 2007 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to vote the resolution about the dangers of teaching creationism in schools against the theory of evolution, either illustrates the difficulty of understanding what represents a danger to democracy in the form of an antiquated theory that various cults have been teaching their follower’s children for a long time, or shows the influence of the fundamentalist lobby. The next retrograde step could be a declaration that the earth is flat which no one will want to contest under the pretext that one has to respect the balance of doctrinal beliefs.

 These indivisible and universal values can be protected only if they are based on the principle of democracy and the State of law. The Charter thus places the person in the centre of its action by instituting citizenship of the Union and by creating a space of freedom, safety and justice.


The European Union contributes to the safeguard and the development of these common values and the preamble to the Charter stresses the need to reinforce the protection of  basic rights in the light of the evolution of society, social progress and scientific and technological developments…this should be enough, it seems to me, to throw back into a forgotten past  the cultic obscurantist ideology expressed from diametrically different points of view, opposed to social progress and to science while asserting high and strong for changes of paradigms which amount to denying and fighting the values on which modernity is being built in Europe.


The Charter recalls that the benefit of basic rights involves responsibilities as well as duties to the rest of society, the human community and future generations.


It’s time to open one’s eyes and no to allow cultic groups to fool us, past masters as they are to  using the pretext of human rights for their own benefit, whilst their members, no longer apt to use them against their own cultic masters, are deprived as they are of any critical vision.


The examples which will be evoked by other speakers should convince you that one cannot use one’s rights (right of association and belief) to undermine another’s rights (dignity, freedom, equality of the individual). If the jurisdictional authorities both national and European, became aware of the reality of the cultic phenomenon, they could finally consider that dignity should always be placed first, particularly when the criterion of free acceptance becomes illusory because of the constraint. The European institution could then, if it’s not too late, play the role which any society must play via the legal authority, that of the intervening actor ready to restore balance between those who are vulnerable, who have became followers, and the dominant that represent cultic power. Dare I hope that this working day will help to awaken awareness?

[1] UNADFI, Union Nationale des Association de Défense des Familles et de l’Individu victimes de sectes, association reconnue d’utilité publique, 130 rue de Clignancourt 75018 PARIS tél. 00 33 1 44 92 35 92 ; http://www.unadfi.org

[2]See for example the recent report of Mrs. Asma Jahangir, “special rapporteur on the freedom of religion or conviction” in the United Nations of March 8, 2006.

[3] CNCDH  (Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme)

[4] Montesquieu:  “When legislative and executive powers are in the same hands or of the same governing body, there is no freedom” and he adds “Freedom is also absent if the power to judge is not independent of legislative and executive powers”.


[5] Many different interpretations of « mental manipulations » exist in English with different nuances i.e. mind control, undue influence… (translators note)

[6] Doc. 11297 8 June 2007

The dangers of creationism in education

Report : Committee on Culture, Science and Education



An Overview

Prof. Alexander L. Dvorkin, MoscowRussia


Today we increasingly encounter various shapes and forms of totalitarian and destructive cults. In my country, the cults have been actively working, developing and spreading for over fifteen years, and naturally, many features of the phenomenon are very similar to the rest of the world. Nonetheless, we have our own specific characteristics.

When the cults had arrived en masse into the USSR (later in CIS) at the late 1980’s they’ve encountered a wide spread ignorance about them, wide spread admiration to everything western, and a situation where for a very insignificant for Western standards sum of money one could rent a huge stadium, for example. The ideological vacuum and a large number of disoriented people had eased the recruitment work for the cults.  Another factor in favor of the cults was the benevolence of the authorities. Since in soviet times everything religious was either forbidden or barely tolerated (the only exception to that was ironically Hare Krishnas, who started their organization in Russia in 1981, most likely with the knowledge and consent of KGB), after the collapse of the Soviet power the pendulum has moved as far into the other direction. Even Gorbachev when in 1989 he had received Moon as a state guest, most likely had done it out of ignorance. However, his later support of Moon cannot be explained by this factor: we can suppose that the monetary factors probably had played the key role. Probably the same factors were the most important in the support of scientology, Hare Krishna, Aum Shinrikyo and other notorious cults by the Russian authorities. Scientology, for example, had the first presentation of “Dianetics” in the Kremlin, then it opened L. Ron Hubbard reading room in Moscow StateUniversity, found a lot of support in the Ministry of Health and even in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the case of Aum Shinrikyo it went as far that Mr. Oleg Lobov, their main high positioned supporter – the secretary of the Defense Council of the state – allegedly even sold to them the recipe of sarin and a combat helicopter.

Since then some things have changed. Initially all cults were so to say, on the streets, recruiting new members. They used all means (mostly deceit and bribery) to obtain this goal and they did succeed to large extent. Now the presence of such multitude of the cults is not visible to such degree.  So many superficial observers conclude that the situation has changed and the cultic totalitarian organizations have failed in Russia. There is nothing so far from the truth!

The cults had not changed themselves; they just gradually changed their tactic. After having collected a body of members each group realized that the street recruitment cannot bring them to the desired goal – the control of the entire society. Nor can it even make them a really large body to influence the society by sheer numbers.

Of course, people – and the authorities did get more information about the cults. Ironically, the more the cults did succeed in the short term, the worse it turned out for them on a long term: with each more person recruited, the number of cult-related tragedies did increase as well. Our Center of Religious Studies, founded in 1993 had become nationally known. I and my colleagues very often comment cult issues on the national TV, giving more information about each cult.

So by now we should say, each of the large cults became notorious and people, armed by knowledge about cultic tragedies became much more cautious. So the new cultic tactic is such: the main thing for them is to entrench, to build the lobby, to mass property, including the real estate and industries, to silence their critics, and eventually to show themselves as a permanent part of Russian reality. We should add that 15-20 years ago the cults were seen as almost entirely foreign phenomenon. Now according to our estimate up to half of them are native Russian cults (Probably, the most notorious of these cult leaders is Mr. Gregory Grabovoy, who offered to Beslan mothers to raise their children from the dead for about three thousand euros per person). More over, some of these new Russian cults have moved part of their activity to the West, so the situation can be described by the familiar title: The Empire strikes back. But the patterns of behavior of both groups are very much similar. So we deal with groups that are either international or are internationalizing very quickly. On the other hand, the foreign groups are trying to acquire Russian appearance and to look as native as possible. Both foreign and Russian cults after their names become notorious either change the name (some do it on regular basis) or create a multitude of front organizations with ‘innocent’ sounding names.

But the most important drive of the cults is to the circles of power. The Moonies reach many important power figures via their peace ambassadors program. The scientologists try to recruit business elite through so called Hubbard College of business administration (as they claim in Russia Hubbard College had trained the personnel of such thriving companies as Boeing, Chanel, Volvo, Coca-Cola, etc.). Hare Krishnas try to impress the authorities by their connection with Indian government. Others have other means to find a structure up on high that would protect them. But the most successful were the Neo-Pentecostals – so far the most numerous cultic movement in Russia and CIS. Their leader Sergey Ryakhovsky couple of years ago had become a member of the Presidential Council for the contacts with religious organizations, and little over a year ago was included in the newly founded Presidential Chamber of Public Representatives. He had very actively used the membership in both of those bodies to advance the cause of his organizations throughout Russia. I must add that the Neo-Pentecostals have been very active in advancing their political goals and infiltrating the power structures not only in Russia but also in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and, perhaps, the most successfully, in Latvia. The most known Neo-Pentecostal leader of CIS Alexey Ledyaev have published a book named “The New World Order” in which he described a kind of totalitarian theocracy with Neo-Pentecostal leaders at the top. This is really a political program for the entire cultic movement. All of this, naturally, causes a very serious concern. In fact, I did voice this concern in a popular program on Russian TV. It happened in September a year ago. After that Mr. Ryakhovsky had sued me in Moscow court. In May the process had concluded by my victory. In September the Moscow city court has rejected Ryakhovsky’s appeal.

So, all cults that have reached a certain size begin to build very actively their lobby. The lobby consists of several groups: pro-cult scholars, pro-cult human rights defenders, journalists, psychiatrists, lawyers, and finally pro-cult politicians.

The role of scholars is taken in Russia by former communist professional anti-religion propagandists. With the fall of communism, they lost their well-paid sinecures. After looking for new jobs a lot of them realized that the newly arriving cults would pay well and offered their services to them. Now they call themselves “experts-religious scholars”. During the last few years though, there have begun to appear some young and newly made sociologists of religion actively propagating their “progressive” methodology.

As for the second group it should be said that many former professional dissidents  and human rights activists having also lost their raison d’être in the post-Soviet period, have now decided that they must defend the rights of small and defenseless “religious minorities” suffering terrible persecution and discrimination at the hands of an aggressive majority. Perhaps, the most well known of them, the Moscow Helsinki group, as it was proven several times, has been receiving money from Scientology. More over Moscow Helsinki group actively participates in virtually every public event organized by Scientology. Just recently the head of Moscow Helsinki group Ms. Alexeyeva had publicly proclaimed: “Many people tell me to stay away from Scientology for the sake of my good reputation. But I will always remain deaf to these advises”. I should say that two groups: Scientology and Falun Gong (Falun Dafa) have been leaders in using “human rights” community in their own goals. By the way, both of them cooperate very actively with each other. Falun Gong (which, incidentally in Russia consists mostly of ethnically Russian adepts) have been pursuing its own personal vendetta against Chinese government, and has successfully recruited most of “human rights” community to fight their battle.

There are not many journalists who professionally explore the field. Among them there is a small but very noisy group of “professional revealers of truth” and “fighters against retrogrades” which is close to dissident-human rights defenders circles and who are ready to publish under their names any text that the cults will offer them.

As for the lawyers specializing in the area of cults, there are very few of them and in fact, the most well known of them are those who represent the cults in various proceedings. Some of them are tightly connected to Scientology (out of then the most notorious is member of the board of Scientological Citizen’s Human Rights Commission – Ms. Galina Krylova who recently had represented Scientology in Strasbourg Court of Human Rights), while others are at least partially funded by the State Department of the USA (the best known of these is the Slavic Center of Law and Justice headed by Mr. Anatoly Pchelintsev and Mr. Vladimir Ryakhovsky – the brother of the chief Neo-Pentecostal of Russia who was mentioned above). Of course, both groups do receive income from many sources, both cultic, and pro-cultic.

Russian pro-cult psychiatrists have incorporated themselves into the Independent Psychiatric Association closely connected with the very same former dissidents-human rights activists and being at least partially subsidized by the cults.

As for the last group – the pro-cult politicians – a lot of them could be named (and some were named above). There is an entire political party: “The Union of Right Forces” which takes consistent pro-cult position. A former deputy education minister Mr. Alexander Asmolov had been an active supporter of the Moonies and some other cults. Another notorious case is Mr. Sergey Kirienko who had gone through several Hubbard college courses before Mr. Eltsyn had appointed him for a prime minister post. Now Mr. Kirienko is the Minister of Nuclear Energy.

These are just a few examples. I could have easily mentioned much more names.

The last thing I should mention that I do not see the cults as mere religious organizations concerned primarily with spiritual goals. These are power and money hungry bodies that care nothing about human lives, human dignity and human well being. There are multiple cases of people who suffer because of them in Russia. More over, we have many cases of outright crimes committed by cult members and cult bosses in my country. These crimes range from swindling and racket to drug traffic, pedophilia and murders. And the number of these crimes does multiply.

We often hear from cult lobby that these organizations constantly change for the better. According to this viewpoint, the new religious movements (NRMs) have already outlived their initial, fanatical phase and have now become respectable and “main-line.” We are often accused of treating such organizations according to what they were long ago, and not what they really are today. However, the Russian experience shows otherwise. Most of these groups came into Russia at the end of 1980-s. They started from scratch in my country and had a chance to show that they were really different. However, it did not happen, and what we see in Russia is exactly the same modus operandi and modus vivendi that these groups exhibit in virtually every country they operated in before; there are no changes whatsoever, except, perhaps, a better and more aggressive PR. And it proves that until these groups continue to violate the basic rights of their members we could not expect from them to play anywhere near a positive role in our societies.