Cults and Mental Disorders
Posted by robertpriddy on February 24, 2016
Do Cults Produce Mental Disorders? by Mark Dunlop. “My basic thesis is that with cults, it is the belief system itself which is the primary active agent in cult mind control, and the actual controlling of mind is done by believers themselves, as they train and discipline their own minds in accordance with the tenets of their new faith or belief system. The article tries to deconstruct the nature of ‘cult-type’ belief systems, and to analyze how they differ from ‘mainstream’ belief systems. – Mark Dunlop”
Here is a brief statement by Mark on whether cult involvement can create or encourage mental disorders, such as borderline or bi-polar disorders:-
Cults promote a belief system which is utopian/idealistic, and also dualistic and bi-polar in nature. Dualistic in that they see the world in terms of two opposite poles, such as good versus evil, the saved and the fallen, the enlightened and the ignorant, etc.
Cult belief systems are also bi-polar in psychological terms, rather like Bi-polar disorder or manic-depression. Cults promote a vision of an ideal ‘new self’, which members believe they can attain by following the cult teachings. Cult belief systems encourage the aspirant to identify with this imagined ideal new self, and then, from the perspective of this new self, to see their old self as comparatively inferior and flawed. It is ego-utopia or hubris for the new self, and ego-dystonia or shame for the old self.
Believers can experience a sort of religious mania of inspiration, when they are in the hubris phase, identifying with this idealised imaginary new self, with its perfect perception and understanding, etc. They can become addicted to this hubris high, and become dependent on the group and its leadership to validate their spiritual progress and to maintain this inspiration.
There is often a sort of collective arrogance or hubris among established cult members. They see themselves as part of an elite, and look down rather sniffily upon the mores and values of established mainstream institutions.
If members fall out of favour, even temporarily, with the group leadership, or if they begin to doubt if they can achieve the group’s ideals, they may experience a sort of religious depression or guilt, over their seeming inability to free themselves from their ‘old self’, with all its bad habits and weaknesses and lack of faith. This depression reinforces their desire to return to the inspired state, and can reinforce their addiction to the utopian vision of the cult belief system, so there can be a feedback system going on too. At an extreme, believers fear they will become ill or fall into hell if they leave the group.
All this goes on within a cult members mind. A cult does not control its members by using external coercion. It is the belief system itself which is the primary active agent in cult mind control. The actual controlling of mind is done by the person themselves, as they attempt to discipline their mind and reform their personality, in accordance with the tenets of their new belief system. Effectively, a cult, via its belief system, uses a person’s own energy and aspirations against them. (This is just a summary – to read the entire manuscript, go to: The Culture of Cults.)
COMMENT: Could not agree more…indeed a brilliant analysis by Mark Dunlop on the state of those afflicted by such “belief” based organizations that demand complete and blind faith and the root cause that the individual’s belief itself then becomes the Achilles Heel
I say Achilles Heel since the people trapped are by no means incompetent….they are indeed extremely capable people who have just this one weakness of belief on another.
My own sister who worked in Sathya Sai Baba’s hospital is a classic example. She is a brilliant girl who excelled in her academics and her profession…and spent 6-7 years serving at his hospital for a paltry sum of rupees…in the name of faith, devotion and liberation. She served even when her married life was broken by Sai Baba….and as a single mother she fought her battles.
Today after having lost her prime youthful period in serving Sai Baba and getting divorced from her husband based on his messages….she now struggles with depression and various other physical health challenges….Sai Baba is gone…..and now she depends on her parents and brother for support.
A girl who was spirited lively and brilliant could have been such a great value add and contributor to society as well as led a full life herself….if not for her blind belief in a person who was constantly focused on attributing other people’s hard work to himself.
Today people such as myself, my sister or Sudhir Bhaskar or Kasturi or Joga Rao or Robert Priddy who are the REAL embodiments of service and love aren’t known much, but the world believes that Sathya Sai Baba who tortured and used good people was an embodiment of these virtues…What more…these good people who turn away were branded as Judases by the evil minded Sai Baba..
It is very important in this context that people that are service oriented and want to do good, go on their own and not associate with such organizations and groups or for that matter completely dissociate with God and Spirituality….
To be good and to do good one does not need God.