Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies
Our Articles on Cults
George's Articles on Cults
Much of George's spiritual seeking took place outside of mainstream religion. Several of these groups in which he studied had cultic characteristics. Indeed, several of them were labeled as cults by researchers. [See My Spiritual Journey to learn more about these groups.]
Characteristics of Cults
So what is a cult? While researchers do not completely agree, many of them list common themes such as:
Cults have a charismatic leader that demands exclusive obedience and devotion.
They require their followers to remain in an altered state of consciousness for extended periods of time. This is sometimes found together with labeling the personality or normal waking state as evil, or as a delusional state to be rigorously avoided.
They insist upon the full dedication of followers' lives to the leader and his/her mission. This can include turning over all funds and possessions, leaving school and employment, and volunteering full time to help the leader. It may also mean breaking off relationships with family and friends not affiliated with the group.
Cults devalue other teachings and beliefs. This may take the form of regarding the leader's teachings as Divine revelation, or as an exclusive and final truth.
Cult followers may be given new names and identities. This may take the form of wearing special clothing or pictures of the leader.
The leader may initiate the followers into secret mysteries, known only to a select group of initiates.
Cult followers create a mystique about the leader that invites others to treat him or her as superhuman or even Divine.
Why We Study Cults
George studied cults because he wanted to recover from the sequelae of his own extended cultic experiences, to inform his own teaching work to avoid the excesses of these groups, and to help others recover from them.
George's Scholarly Writing about Cults
George began writing on cults in his early Mystics and Dreamers manuscripts. His senior paper at UCLA was titled "Altered States of Consciousness and Their Role in Religious Conversion." His graduate school research paper also explored "Therapy with Members of Religious Cults."
We will include his popular treatments of cults in this section. We hope to add his scholarly articles to this section in the near future. Click on the links to your left and your right to read them.