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The Apologetics Resource Center (ARC) is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to reach the minds and hearts of people with the message and truth claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Overcoming the Bondage of Re-Victimization: A Response to "Overcoming the Bondage of Victimization,"
by Robert and Gretchen Passantino
By by Paul R. Martin, Ph.D. and Lawrence A. Pile
with Ron Burks, M.A. and Stephen D. Martin, M.Div.


In their article long-time cult researchers Bob and Gretchen Passantino criticize the radical concept of cult conversion which says that many people’s lives are drastically and negatively altered by powerful and sophisticated thought reform techniques. They assert that this is an erroneous theory, but is used by exit counselors and professionals to explain the changes seen in cult members, and most people accept its validity without question. The purpose of the Passantinos’ article is, they say, to "look behind the assumption of the mind control model and uncover the startling reality that cult mind control is, at best, a distorted misnomer for cult conversion and robs individuals of personal moral responsibility." Then they go on to say, "while mind-control-model advocates rightly point Out that cults often practice deception, emotional manipulation, and other unsavory recruitment tactics, we believe a critical, well-reasoned examination of the evidence disproves the cult mind control model and instead affirms the importance of the informed, biblically based religious commitment."

The present article, however, will show that the Passantinos’ assertions are incorrect and misguided. Specifically, this article will demonstrate that mind control is more than cult conversion; that, while mind control does not rob people of moral responsibility, it mitigates it; and that there is no conflict between biblical theology and the reality of mind control.2 We contend that theological considerations inform our understanding of the sociological and psychological destruction caused by cults. Cults distort one’s perceptions of both natural reality (sociological and psychological) and spiritual reality. Since the former is supposed to reveal the latter, as in the Christian tradition, those interested in spiritual issues must address both sides in order to minister adequately to cultists.

The Passantinos’ article begins with a description of a fairly typical exit counseling. The authors cite former Unificationist and now exit counselor Steve Hassan as stating that the average fee for exit counseling is $3000 plus expenses for about four days of exit counseling. That is probably not too far off the mark. In spite of the authors’ implication that exit counselors make good money, we don’t know of any who has made over $35,000 a year. Because of the nature of their work, exit counselors have to be on call virtually 24 hours a day, like firemen and paramedics. So if they make $3000-4000 they may be on one case a week or a month. A lot of their time is spent in research and preparation, and they have to be willing to move when time demands. Considering the total expenses necessary to a thorough exit counseling, we believe the reaction to the fees charged by mind control experts is a bit unwarranted.

The Passantinos write, "Of course, there were no guarantees: some ex-cultists needed additional inpatient counseling at a special ‘recovery center’..." The implication of this statement seems to be that exit counseling is pretty unreliable, and maybe some other method is preferable, namely what the authors describe as "a scripturally legitimate response to cult conversion: biblical apologetics and preaching the gospel" (footnote 4). Aside from the inherent denial in this statement of psychological distress that needs to be treated professionally, our response is two-fold. First, I [PRM] have conducted extensive research comparing the psychological state of cult members both before and after exit counseling. My research is conclusive: we demonstrated that, as effective as exit counseling is in persuading cult members to leave their cults, it does not usually relieve all the psychological distress. Though it may in some cascs, my evidence doesn’t strongly support this. To my knowledge there has only been one study done on deprogramming failure rates, and it is based (I believe) on anecdotal evidence. No previous studies have looked at the differential effects of post-cult stress relative to method of exit. Recovery typically entails more than exit counseling. Therefore, it seems there is some ethical necessity on the part of post-cult recovery providers to offer the necessary follow-up care, or at the very least, to refer clients to others who are qualified to provide such care.

Second, the Passantinos imply that this entire field of post-cult recovery is a very expensive undertaking. They state that post-cult rehabilitation after exit counseling is an additional expense, and imply that it is most likely unnecessary. However, no one has become rich in the post-cult rehabilitation business. In the case of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, the expenses needed to pay four full-time and five part-time workers, and maintain a lodge and office building, has led to one conclusion — that there is no great financial incentive for working in this field. The financial picture of all previous post-cult rehabilitation centers was typical. Sadly, due to the financial difficulties of operating such rehabilitation centers, all but Wellspring have ceased to exist.

One of the first problems that impressed us in reading the Passantinos’ critique is the "all-or-nothing" fallacy. This is all the more remarkable in that the Passantinos discuss this fallacy in their book Witch Hunt. Under the heading "It’s Not Always Either/Or" they write, "Another problem Christians often have in discerning between good and bad is the tendency to miss some of the options."3 The article under consideration in this response amply illustrates this point from the Passantinos’ own writing. Primarily, this is expressed by the authors’ discussion of those who hold to the mind control model as though every one of them holds the identical view, and specifically that they all believe every cult member is completely under mind control, and totally and always unable to think for him/herself. This assertion is untrue, and is essentially a "straw man" set up by the Passantinos as an easy target. The following passage from their article is illustrative:

In this approach sociological and psychological terminology has been substituted for Christian terminology. Cult involvement is no longer described as religious conversion but as mind control induction. Cult membership is not characterized as misplaced religious zeal but as programming. And the cultist who leaves his group is no longer described as redeemed but as returned to a neutral religious position. And rather than evangelism of cult members, we now have "intervention counseling."

Biblical apologetics have been replaced by cognitive dissonance techniques. A parent’s plea has changed from How can my adult child be saved? to How can my adult child revert to his/her precult personality? Biblical analysis and evangelism of the cults has become overshadowed by allegedly "value neutral" social science descriptions and therapy-oriented counseling.4

Later the authors write,

The cult mind control model is based on a fundamental conviction that the cultist becomes unable to make responsible and rational choices or decisions (particularly the decision to leave the group) and that psychological techniques are the most effective way to free them to make decisions once more. This foundation is nonnegotiable to the mind control model and is at the root of what we consider so flawed about the mind control concept.5

We know of no one who holds the mind control model who would subscribe to the version described by the Passantinos. At least, prominent scholars Robert J. Lifton, Margaret Singer, and Louis J. West hold no such view. In Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism Lifton wrote:

Behind this web of semantic... confusion [regarding the definition of thought reform] lies an image of "brainwashing" as an all-powerful, irresistible, unfathomable, and magical method of achieving total control over the human mind. It is of course none of these things, and this loose usage makes the word a rallying point for fear. resentment, urges toward submission, justification for failure, irresponsible accusation, and for a wide gamut of emotional extremism.

In her recent book, Cults in Our Midst, Margaret Singer writes:

Thankfully, these [thought reform] programs do not change people permanently. Nor are they 100 percent effective. Cults are not all alike, thought reform programs are not all alike, and not everyone exposed to specific intense influence processes succumbs and follows the group. Some cults try to defend themselves by saying, in effect, "See, not everyone joins or stays, so we must not be using brainwashing techniques." Many recruits do succumb, however, and the better organized the influence processes used, the more people win succumb.7

Finally, in an essay entitled "Persuasive Techniques in Religious Cults,"8 West wrote:

The persuasive techniques used by totalist cults to bind and exploit the members, while not magical or infallible, are sufficiently powerful and effective to assure the recruitment of a significant percentage of those approached, and the retention of a significant percentage of those enlisted.9

But of course, the "experts" cited by Bob and Gretchen perpetuate the myth that mind control model advocates believe that the Manchurian Candidate actually can be created by cultic mind control. One of the "experts" cited is British sociologist Eileen Barker, others are David Bromley and Anson Shupe.

The Passantinos failed to mention in their article, however, that Ms. Barker has been co-opted by the Unification Church, with the result that her former Organization, INFORM, had its funding yanked by the British government after a storm of protest from churches, parents and former cult members. Singer’s book Cults in Our Midst documents this, citing a press release from a member of the Houseof Commons.10 Singer also refers to a 1989 Religious News Service report11 revealing that Barker’s book The Making of a Moonie was actually funded by the Unification Church, as were "all her expenses to attend 18 conferences in Europe, New York, the Caribbean, Korea, and South America. ‘My univer~ity and the SSRC (a U.K. government grants council) regarded this attendance necessary for my research,’ she said. ‘They thought if the Moonies paid the bills it would be a big savings for the taxpayer.’" Singer adds, "Not everyone felt that way. One member of Parliament said, ‘Any academic who allows themselves [sic] to be manipulated to lend credence to a cult does harm to families all over the world.’" One may say, "What’s the big deal?" The big deal is that this is tantamount to permitting an allegedly "independent expert" investigate the Exxon Valdez oil spill on a grant from Exxon. Or to allow an "outside researcher" prepare an in-depth report on the Ku Klux Klan using money supplied by the Klan. How objective can we really expect such "researchers" to be?

Singer also refers to Bromley and Shupe, who, in their book Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare, point their accusing fingers, not at the cults, but at former cult members, for allegedly creating the "hysteria" concerning cults. Bromley and Shupe, along with Barker and others, seem to think that the only people who are truly reliable to give the straight dope about the cults are those who are current members. Again, this is as logical as to believe that only members of the Nazi Party could be trusted to tell the truth about what went on behind the gates at Auschwitz.

The second paragraph in the section headed "Assumptions of Mind Control" in the Passantinos’ article contrasts biblical apologetics with psychological techniques. The Passantinos seem to be saying that post-cult recovery involves merely getting somebody converted, but that those who hold the secular mind control model are concerned only with helping somebody recover his or her pre-cult personality. The Passantinos imply that these two notions, the biblical and the secular, cannot be reconciled. They assert that mind control adherents do away with theological concerns. Again, as cited above, the Passantinos write, "Biblical analysis and evangelism have been overshadowed by allegedly ‘value neutral’ social science descriptions and therapy-oriented counseling." We wish to state here that this all or nothing dichotomy is not characteristic of the program we offer at Wellspring, or that others offer.

The Passantinos proceed to list eight "categories" which they say represent "the principal assumptions of the cult mind control model’.. They then summarize these eight assumptions, the first of which is:

"[c]ults’ ability to control the mind supersedes that of the best military ‘brainwashers.’" In a footnote, the authors mention two factors offered by proponents of the mind control theory to account for the cults’ greater success: "(1) greater levels of sophistication, technology, and psychological knowledge; and (2) the addition of hypnosis techniques to the practice." Not mentioned, however, is one factor we believe is perhaps more significant than either of these two, namely, that in military brainwashing the subjects were unwilling participants, and in fact antagonists of the brainwashers (at least in the most well-known instances, Chinese Communist brainwashing of Korean War POWs), whereas in cultic mind control the subjects are generally favorably disposed toward the cult members and indeed toward the teachings with which they are being indoctrinated. This factor must not be ignored.

The second category listed by the authors is: "[c]ult recruits become unable to think or make decisions for themselves." This is another example of what we might call "totalist" or "all-or-nothing" expression. We reject the implied assertion that we accept this statement as it is written. We are well aware that many cult members do retain the ability to think for themselves in many areas of life, even perhaps in matters religious. We have always recognized that there are many degrees of mind control, depending on numerous factors. Among these factors are (1) the type and severity of any pre-cult spiritual or psychological problems; (2) the degree of divergence of the cult’s teachings and practices from the cult member’s prior religious affiliation; (3) the intensity of the cultic indoctrination; (4) the degree to which the cult severs the cult member from his or her previous connections (family, friends, activities, etc.); (5) the kind and degree of any corrective or disciplinary measures exercised by the cult on members who step out of line. Other such factors could be mentioned.

Having said this, we hasten to add that in the nine years of Wellspring’s operation we have seen enough ex-cult members who did have difficulty thinking for themselves and making decisions that we know it to be a real and serious problem, and not one to dismiss as a "pre-cult problem." One girl who came to Wellspring from a well-known "shepherding movement" would sit at the dinner table and wait until she received permission to eat any item on her plate before she would do so. A great many cult survivors we have seen have recognized this problem in themselves and have requested help in decision making.

The Passantinos list as the third category of mind control assumptions "[c]ult recruits assume ‘cult’ personalities and subsume their core personalities." Again, most ex-cult members who come to Wellspring recognize this very thing about themselves while they were in their particular cult. They tell us that while they were in the cult they became more aggressive or more passive, more self-assured or more confused, more judgrnental of others or more arrogant. They’ve told us they’ve lost touch with their own feelings, become emotionally numb, while putting on a happy front when with parents or non-cult friends. We have seen these things ourselves in ex-cultists, and we’ve seen the dramatic changes when they’ve reverted to their normal, pre-cult selves.

But again, we would acknowledge degrees of this "personality replacement." Not every cult member changes to the same degree, and in fact some already have a personality that meshes with the cult, and so they will not change much, if at all.

Category four listed by the Passantinos is: "[c]ultists cannot decide to leave their cults." We don’t know anyone who would make such a blanket statement. It is manifestly contradicted by the hundreds or thousands of ex-cult members who have left their cults of their own volition. What we would assert, however, is that many cult members find it difficult to leave their cult, even when they may want to. This is often due to fear of the threatened consequences of leaving — e.g., forsaking God, being condemned to hell, suffering divine wrath in the form of accidents or disease, etc. Even the thought "What if the cult leader really is a prophet of God or the messiah?" can hold a cult member in a cult long after the bloom has faded. One female member of the Branch Davidians being interviewed for an Australian television broadcast was asked, "Do you believe David Koresh is the Messiah?" Her response as she smiled up at the camera: "I hope so." She was one who stayed and perished in the final conflagration.

As category five the authors state that those who hold the mind control model believe that "[a] successfull intervention must break the mind control, find the core personality, and return the individual to his/her precult status." We would qualify this assertion by acknowledging that most abusive organizations have some redeeming qualities — few are all bad. In cults it is possible to learn the value of giving oneself to a cause, to learn the benefits of hard work, of getting along with others in a working environment, etc. Further, we would emphasize that if the cult in question is a Bible-based organization on the order of the "shepherding" movement or what we refer to as a taco (a totalist aberrant Christian organization) which teaches orthodox biblical doctrine while committing emotional, spiritual, and behavioral abuses, then clearly not everything of the cult needs to be stripped away. Whatever was accurate, orthodox, and healthy can remain, while the inaccurate, aberrational, and unhealthy must be excised. Probably no cult (except some satanist cults) is all bad, therefore one of the most important, and difficult, tasks of the counselor is helping the ex-member winnow out the bad from the good.

Category six is: "[p]sychology and sociology are used to explain cult recruitment, membership, and disaffection." Another blanket statement, this is worded so as to exclude other disciplines as sources for explanations, specifically theology. While many secular proponents of the mind control model might reject the role of theology in seeking such explanations, we do not, nor do other evangelical proponents of the mind control model with whom we are familiar. later in the article the authors quote from an official description of "Wellspring’s Approach to Cult Rehab":

Martin asserts that cult mind control renders its victims virtually unresponsible for their actions or beliefs:

[T]he process whereby he or she was drawn into the cult was a subtle but powerful force over which he or she had little or no control and therefore they need not feel either guilt or shame because of their experience.12

While the Wellspring statement might be slightly overstated, the Passantinos overstate it further in their summary. By itself, the Wellspring statement could be broadly interpreted, as the Passantinos have chosen to do. However, the original context is concerned specifically with joining a cult.13 It was not a blanket statement concerning anything and everything Cult members may have done after they joined. Regardless, our experience, as a result of treating more than 300 former cultists and interviewing hundreds more, is that most people who join cults think they’re joining a good group, a righteous group, a moral group. But this is largely because they have not been afforded full information about the group they’re joining. We would agree that those who join cults are "guilty" of not asking all the right questions, of not examining cult claims thoroughly enough against the records of history and Scripture, and of not adequately applying the rules of logic to cult teachings and explanations. In other words, cult recruits are "guilty" of allowing themselves to be deceived. But is that a sin? Should we rebuke the victim of a con artist for allowing himself to be victimized? Do we blame the battered wife for continuing to love and protect her abuser?

In addition, we feel it is crucial to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. Cult members are constantly made to feel guilty for actions and thoughts which neither society nor the Bible or other sacred scriptures would consider sinful. In such cases the guilt is false and one needs to understand and accept that and move beyond it.14 Where truly sinful, immoral, or illegal actions have been committed they need to be acknowledged and owned by the perpetrators. We insist, however, that to the extent such actions are committed while under mind control, to that extent the perpetrator must be held less culpable (not totally innocent).

Under mind control a man may be persuaded to believe or do things that would have normally violated his conscience. His conscience may tell him that such an action or belief is wrong, but what the cult leader has persuaded him of has so strongly influenced him that it may override his conscience. He may be led to believe that the promptings of his conscience are really of his "lower nature," "of the flesh," and that the mission of the group is of a "higher purpose," that the thoughts of his conscience are doubts that show lack of faith or signs of rebellion. Thus he may still have a conscience, but through the powerful influence of the group he has reinterpreted it.

The Passantinos seem unable to conceive of non-coercive mind control that does allow for some measure of "free will." No one drags people into a cult. They do join freely most of the time — when they don’t, it’s the rare exception rather than the rule. The point here is not whether these people are acting as free, volitional, rational beings. The point is they don’t join a cult — i.e., they don’t see the group as a cult. They don’t see the fine print. This is why we have laws regarding defective products. That’s why we have "truth in advertising" laws. This is why law recognizes the concept of undue influence and coercion. The same principles hold here. The ways in which we are attracted to friends, how we are attracted to groups, how we are attracted to religious groups, don’t vary. The initial stages of cult conversion are usually similar to other types of conversion.

The Passantinos don’t seem to realize that human beings operate by certain laws of human behavior. Consider the case of a Christian college student who goes out and buys a used car, considering herself to be very responsible. Later she finds out that the car is not as "perfect" as the salesman told her it was. In fact, it throws a rod on her way to work. She goes back to try to have the car fixed, but the salesman informs her that the warranty is also not exactly what he told her when she bought the car. So now the unfortunate girl is left with a lemon on her hands. The Church would not castigate her as having some sort of spiritual problem because of this plight, would it? However, if the Passantinos were entirely consistent, they would blame the girl’s problem on lack of discernment.

If the same girl would go out and start attending a Bible study that later turned out to be a Way "twig," then they would put a spiritual twist on it, impugning her motives or her spiritual state that would lead her into a "heretical" Bible study group. But if she buys a car that breaks down, they would hold her innocent. There seems to be double standard here.

One other thing regarding the Wellspring statement quoted above by the Passantinos. By broadly interpreting the statement they have misrepresented us. I [PRM] have testified in a criminal case15 of a cult member who participated in the killing of five people. We didn’t argue that the cult member was innocent and need not feel guilt or shame. We argued that the young man was guilty. The defendant was Danny Kraft, Jr., who had been a member of a small cult led by Jeffrey Lundgren, who killed a family of five in Kirtland, Ohio.16 Nevertheless, in this case we agreed that Danny was guilty. But we also argued that there were mitigating circumstances, namely, that Danny was under the influence of Jeffrey Lundgren through the process of mind control. Therefore he was not acting entirely as a free moral agent because he was suffering from a mental disorder. In other words, he was made to believe something that was not true, namely, that Jeffrey Lundgren was the prophet of God, and thus whatever he said was divinely inspired.

The court unequivocally concurred that these techniques were those of mind control. The court agreed that Danny did indeed suffer a dissociative disorder, identified by the DSM-III-R and DSM-IV as scientific. The term "coercive persuasion" is used in the DSM-IV to describe an established technique also called mind control. The processes that constitute coercive persuasion can produce a mental disorder cal led "dissociative disorder not otherwise specified." Typically, we hear former members lamenting what they had done in the cult. At the time, they did not realize what they were doing was wrong, but after they left the cult they recognized their errors. Yet these same people never intended to do such wrongs (lying, etc.) when they joined. But through the thought reform process, lying, for example, may appear to be justified.

Along this line, the Passantinos write:

Hassan recognizes that the cult mind control model (which he has adopted) is incompatible with the traditional philosophical and Christian view of man as a responsible moral agent:

First of all, accepting that unethical mind control can affect anybody challenges the age-old philosophical notion (the one on which our current laws are based) that man is a rational being, responsible for, and in control of, his every action. Such a world view does not allow for any concept of mind control.17

We are not so sure we agree with Hassan on this point. First of all, "our current laws" do recognize "diminished capacity" in the commission of crime as exculpatory. Secondly, the biblical world view also recognizes exculpation by reason of diminished capacity due to mental under-development (Deut. 1:39) or demonization. So neither Western secular philosophy nor Judeo-Christian doctrine views man as always fully rational and responsible for his actions. In addition, the apostle Paul writes, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you...?" (Gal. 3:1, New American Standard Bible) The word translated "bewitched", baskaino, means "bewitch, as with the ‘evil eye’",18 "to bring evil on one by feigned praise or an evil eye, to charm, bewitch one, ...; hence, of those who lead away others into error by wicked arts..."19 It is doubtful that in the Galatians reference Paul is expressing belief that the Christians have

actually had the "evil eye" directed at them. However, in conjunction with the word "foolish" (anoetos = "not thinking" or "mindless") it seems evident that Paul recognizes that they have been victimized to the point where they are no longer thinking clearly or properly. In other words, the Galatians are under a fornt of mind control!

But more B propos to a discussion of category 6 is the Passantinos’ citing only the one sentence they did from the Wellspring article, while ignoring the following:

When cult members leave their cults voluntarily it is often because they have recognized a few of the serious problems that exist in the group, but have failed to aclcnowledge or come to grips with others of equal or greater import. More importantly, they usually do not recognize the fundamentally invalid and harmful philosophy and methodology that typically underlie the cult’s teaching and practice and give it its reason for being. Thus such a person may leave the cult feeling disgruntled or disillusioned about some aspects of the cult, and yet still hold to other, and more basic, ideas and thought patterns of the cult that will continue to hamper them and prevent them from enjoying a truly satisfying life. In addition, those who have been in a "Bible-based" cult are often So burned by their unpleasant experience that they want nothing more to do with God, the church, or Christians of any type. Some of these people still sense a need for a spiritual dimension in their life, but don’t know how to overcome their lack of trust in God or ministers, and may actually feel that they have failed, that somehow their own inadequacy prevented them from being able to measure up to the high standards of the group. For such individuals rehabilitative counseling of one form or another is imperative.

The plight of people like this was addressed during the International Congress on Totalitarian Groups and Cultism held in Barcelona, Spain on April 23-24 this year [1993]. One of the speakers, "Hero Lucas, from Greece’s Egregorsis Educational Society, cited the dangers of a totally non-judgmental attitude towards the belief system of a destructive cult and spoke of treating human beings as integrated biopsychosocial-spiritual systems requiring a comprehensive approach and the combining of psychiatry with religion."20 In other words, to be most effective, cult rehab counseling must deal with the ex-cultist as a whole individual, considering his or her biological, psychological, social, and spiritual health and the interrelatedness of these facets of the person. With over seven years of experience, we at Wellspring are likewise convinced that a wholistic approach works best in rehabilitating the victims of destructive cults and spiritually abusive organizations. The contents of this counseling and education deal with the dynamics of abusive groups, how these dynamics affect one’s personality and emotions, and how these groups distort and abuse the teachings of the Bible or other relevant sacred texts.

The core of Wellspring’s program consists of psychological counseling and instructional sessions on cultic dynamics and religious and spiritual issues. We emphasize, however, that we fully respect the client’s wishes with regard to any spiritual content in counseling or workshops. The majority of our clients thus far have been former members of "Bible based" groups and have wanted to discuss biblical doctrine with us, which we are happy to do.21

This should make it obvious that Wellspring clearly recognizes the importance of the spiritual dimension in cult involvement and takes it seriously.

We accept categories 7 and 8 as written ("(7) Religious conversion and commitment may be termed mind control if it meets certain psychological and sociological criteria, regardless of its doctrinal or theological standards" and "(8) The psychological and sociological standards which define mind control are not absolute but fall in a relative, subjective continuum from ‘acceptable’ social and/or religious affiliation to ‘unacceptable’").

Bob and Gretchen conclude this section by saying, "According to most cult-mind-control-model advocates, no one is immune to the right mind control tactics used at the right time. Anyone is susceptible." After a quote Hassan, they quote from my [PRM] book, Cult-Proofing Your Kids: "But the truth of the matter is, virtually anyone can get involved in a cult under the right circumstances.... Regardless of one’s spiritual or psychological health, whether one is weak or strong, cultic involvement can happen to anyone."

Claiming to state the views of mind control model proponents, the Passantinos write, "Cult mind control must be distinguished from ‘mere’ deception, influence, or persuasion. A main distinguishing characteristic at the core of mind control is the idea that the individual is unable to make autonomous personal choices, not simply that his or her choices have been predicated on something false."

This paragraph is a further instance of the authors’ fundamental misunderstanding of the mind control model as propounded by most of those who hold it. Advocates acknowledge that those under mind control can make autonomous personal choices on occasion, but also that this ability differs from individual to individual. The quote from Barker included here compounds this misconception by attempting to separate deception from mind control. But mind control includes deception as one of. its common elements. It is precisely because of this that the individual finds it extremely difficult to make autonomous personal choices. One’s ability to make such choices is diminished by deception, but beyond this one’s environment is also manipulated to this end. This is a crucial point. We can’t put an either/or on mind control when it is properly understood. It is not either deception or inability to make choices. Mind control is deception that affects making choices — i.e., the target of the cult recruiter is gradually manipulated to the point where other options are no longer considered viable.

Furthermore, the ultimate choice turns out not to be the ideal that attracted the person in the first place. lii other words, the full or real agenda of the group is concealed, and the facts concerning other choices and options are distorted by various techniques of thought reform — for example, the restriction of information or the interpretation of events to make them seem mystical. Over time one is gradually drawn farther into the mind control environment in which information is more and more controlled, in which there is a systematic effort to restructure the self, in which there is a clear program of rewards and punishments, and in which there is a constant demand to confess (via group and peer pressures) ideas, thoughts, or actions contrary to group dogma, and as a result choices are "funneled" or constricted The broader arena of choices, then, for the cult member is limited by a number of factors: lack of information, fear of considering certain choices, and perceptual narrowing due to the dissociative processes typically practiced in such groups, e.g., prolonged singing, chanting, tongue speaking meditating, listening to charismatic speakers, etc.


The Passantinos begin this section of their article by alleging a "contradictory embrace and rejection of the brainwashing connection" to the mind control model on the part of its advocates. The mind control model advocates say, according to the authors, that the early methods of mind control were ineffective; the later methods are more effective and require less coercion and also employ techniques like hypnosis. The Passantinos write, "However, it stretches one’s credulity to believe that what highly trained and technologically supported CIA, Russian, Korean, and Chinese experts could not accomplish under extremes of mental, emotional, and physical abuse, self-styled modern messiahs like David Koresh (high school dropout), Charles Manson (grade school dropout), and Hare Krishna founder Prabhupada (self-educated) accomplished on a daily basis and on a massive scale with control methods measurably inferior to those of POW camp torturers." In a footnote (number 20) the authors add that they are not alone in their skepticism, citing Bromley and Shupe as also sharing it.

However, the citation from Hassan two paragraphs earlier offers the response to this objection. Hassan points out that "[m]ind control... is more subtle and sophisticated. Its perpetrators are regarded as friends or peers, so the person is much less defensive. He unwittingly participates by cooperating with his controllers and giving them private information that he does not know will be used against him. The new belief system is internalized into a new identity Structure..."22 The subtlety of mind control is the key to its effectiveness, and "love bombing" is the key to its subtlety; the overwhelming "friendliness" of the cult recruiter tends to disengage the potential recruit’s defenses, catching him off guard, and luring him into the net.

The Passantinos clearly would be absolutely shocked if they ever really saw or heard the evidence that indicates that Manson, Koresh, the Hare Krishnas and many others actually have done a lot better job than these CIA, Russian, Korean, and Chinese experts did. One factor contributing to their skepticism is their failure to realize that the early brainwashing literature didn’t concern only prisons and torture and sleep deprivation. It also describes the revolutionary colleges that operated in China and the mass conversion of Chinese citizens to the Communist system. Theodore E. H. Chen, for example, amply documents that half a million Chinese Christians signed pledges of allegiance to Mao.23 Lifton’s best-known research24as actually largely about the effects of these revolutionary colleges that practiced thought reform. There was no physical restraint or confinement in those environments. There was very little overt coercion, and yet there was massive thought reform. Edward Schein also found that the Communists effectively used thought reform without using physical restraint or coercion.~ The Passantinos seem to assume the earlier techniques of thought reform were completely in the context of coercive physical confinement and torture. However, there were some early non-physically coercive methods like those of the revolutionary colleges that were highly effective.~

Hypnosis as a factor in cult involvement is dismissed by the authors in toto. They miss an important point in their own references. In their notes (footnote 5) they quote the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Altogether then hypnosis should not be considered as a technique for achieving supernormal performance or control. Rather it is a collaborative enterprise in which the inner experience of the subject can be dramatically altered.27

The dramatic alteration of inner experience is precisely what cults hope to effect by their efforts. A predictable internal experience can be induced on willing participants and then cosmic, supernatural or spiritual significance can be ascribed to it. Then, what is actually a physiological process takes on a cosmic perspective. This is essentially what Lifton called "mystical manipulation": "If you do what we say, this good thing will happen, to you or in the universe." We would suggest that mystical manipulation is a prime pathway to the other seven criteria listed by Lifton. Profound control can then be achieved and maintained by appealing to the initial event of dramatically altered "inner experience. It is thus not without reason that, for example, cult recruiters tell their prospective converts to ask God for a "sign" as to whether their movement is the true path to enlightenment or their church the true church. Those who see the "divine light" or receive the "burning in the bosom" as a result of their earnest prayer easily interpret it as the sought-for "sign."

The Passantinos conclude this section with an apparent attempt at humorous sarcasm: "Do we really believe that what the Soviets couldn’t do to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn during years of forced labor and torture in the Gulag, Sun Myung Moon could have done by ‘love bombing’ for one week at an idyllic wilderness retreat?" In their support, they once again cite Bromley and Shupe, who express disbelief that "these diverse and unconnected movements had simultaneously discovered and implemented highly intrusive behavioral modification techniques."28The techniques of mind control, however, are not such that they must be studied and carefully and deliberately applied. It is thus not necessary to assume that cult leaders are more sophisticated than the "CIA, Russian, Korean, and Chinese highly trained and technologically supported experts." And more fundamental to thought reform than "behavior modification" is "milieu modification" (the former typically is brought about by the latter). Perpetrators of mind control are interested in followers who want to be under their control. They cannot use sound reasoning, intellectual precision of argument, and legitimate appeal to emotional sensibilities to hold followers. They must employ psychological and social coercion and manipulation of "inner experience" in order to prepare the seeker to follow blindly. In other words, those who have come to see must be blinded before they can be led.

We insist the authors have misunderstood the mind control model in their assertion that (according to mind control model proponents) brainwashing happens against a person’s will — that is not in fact what proponents of the model argue. The Bromley and Shupe quote only highlights this misunderstanding. Especially telling is their reference to "claims that such rapid transformation can routinely be accomplished by neophytes against an individual’s will." Again, the fact is the transformation is not against an individual’s will. He no longer sees things as he once did, he does not have adequate information to make an informed choice, and he has been manipulated emotionally to make the choice chosen for him by the cult. The cult recruit is brought to the point where he gives up his own will in order to be taught and directed by someone (the cult leader) who knows better than he. As former Children of God member Rick Seelhoff said in the Moore Report program "Thy Will Be Done",29 wanted to put myself over onto someone that knew better than I did... I willed to not will."

Lifton repeatedly shows that coercive persuasion can occur in the absence of physical restraint, and so the comparison between Moon and the Gulag is inapt. The authors should be comparing Moon vtith the revolutionary colleges in China discussed at great length and detail by Lifton.

The citations the authors offer throughout this section in evidence of the alleged contradiction in the writings of mind control model advocates do not support their contention. The Langone quote is not a rejection of any connection of mind control with brainwashing, as we read it; it is only a rejection of the misrepresentation of mind control model advocates as asserting that cult mind control produces mindless robots B la The Manchurian Candidate. Langone is not saying there is no connection, only that the extreme view is not representative of mind control model supporters. By the same token, the Passantinos misread Dr. Singer if they think she is "embracing" a brainwashing connection to mind control. We believe she would agree that there are significant differences between brainwashing and cultic mind control, while at the same time there are similarities.


The authors’ objection as expressed in this section is also grounded on their fundamental misunderstanding of the mind control model. In short, the Passantinos misstate the fundamental concepts of mind control, imply that many counter-cult workers do not support the mind control theory and maintain that the mind control concept is counter to or incompatible with biblical Christianity. We have previously defined what we believe mind control to be and have contrasted this with the Passantinos’ formulation. And do their claims that many counter-cult workers do not support mind control have any justification? How have they determined this? We do not know of any polls taken on what views are held by counter-cult workers. In addition, truth is not decided on the basis of majority vote. And as for the position that the concept of mind control is Counter to biblical Christianity, we have already offered evidence, and will offer additional arguments, to demonstrate why we believe the two concepts are not incompatible at all.

Part of the marvelous power of the human mind is its ability to analyze information and make value judgments about that information. However, as with electronic "minds" (computers), its conclusions are only as good as the information it receives. When the mind receives erroneous information about a subject in the absence of correct information about that same subject, it will make erroneous value judgments. The mind can also discount its own abilities in favor of the abilities of another mind it believes to be more trustworthy. It will then tend to reject conflicting data, not because it is illogical or fails to correlate with previous experience, but simply because it does not line up with the external mind it has "freely decided" to trust. It has then made decisions about itself and the nature of reality that leave it no longer free in any meaningful sense.

The authors state that "many cults have made deceptive claims, used faulty logic, misrepresented their beliefs, burdened their followers with unscriptural feelings of guilt, and sought to bring people into financial or moral compromise to unethical demands. Yet it does not necessarily or automatically follow that these pressures, practices, or demands remove an individual’s personal responsibility for his or her actions."30 But choices that "have been predicated on something false"31 are not truly free choices. The outcome is predetermined by the skill of the information provider, not the ethical or even rational faculties of the agent making the "choice." What sense can be made of "free agency" when choices are based on false data? If "free choices" result in the agent’s being Cut off from any further source of information for a lifetime, is the agent free in any meaningful sense? Further, in what sense can an agent make a free choice to return to a life in which it will continue to be deceived? Might the agent’s capacity to make informed choices (his mind and will) be under the control of the one who controls the information? If an agent responds to personal experience or outside data on the basis of false information about the consequences of certain actions, is the agent making free choices when he rejects true data on the basis of lies? In what sense is such a person truly responsible for his or her decisions?

We are reminded of a couple of biblical passages. While hanging on the Cross Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."32 Jesus also said, "that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few."33 In other words, the moral responsibility taught in the Scriptures is based on how much one knows. If one has been deceived, if one has been pressured, if one has been denied access to information, or if the truth has been made to seem like a lie, then one is held either completely guiltless or regarded as only partly culpable. There is a degree of diminished capacity or less culpability than with the person who knew what he was getting into. We have yet to meet one person in 9 years of working in this field full-time who says, "I knew what I was doing; I knew I was joining a cult. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway." That is exactly what the Passantinos are attempting to force the ex-cult member to admit — "I knew it was wrong" and so if the ex-cult member denies that he knew it was wrong then the Passantinos are faced with the unfortunate dilemma of saying, "You are either lying or you’re deceived." The morally realistic response is to conclude that the Passantinos have defined mind control in an extreme way that makes the defense of mind control intolerable. As a consequence of holding this extreme view of the mind control model, they turn around and create an extreme view of human culpability with regard to joining cults which in our view is frankly unbiblical.

The Passantinos’ position, by way of extrapolation, would hold every battered wife responsible for ending up married to an abusive husband. To be consistent, the Passantinos would have to argue that these women knew what they were getting into. I [PRM] have explained the dynamics of thought reform to hundreds of former cult members and have asked them, "Did you know that this was what your group was doing when you decided to join?" The ex-members have all answered "No." I then ask them, "Would you have joined if you knew they practiced thought reform??? Again their answers were all "No."

We must take issue with the authors? conclusion in their statement quoted above. As already mentioned, there are degrees of culpability, even in biblical tradition. If a person has been lied to, defrauded, or pressured into doing something, there are consumer protection and other anti-fraud laws that offer recourse. There is major culpability on the part of the con man or cult leader, only minor culpability on the part of the person conned or the cult member, in situations like this. lack of knowledge has, throughout the history of law, been used to reduce a person’s culpability, and the same is true in the case of cultic deception and mind control. We feel Bob and Gretchen have confused bearing responsibility with facing consequences. An investor who is conned into committing resources to a fraudulent enterprise must face the consequence that those resources may never be recovered. The investor is in every sense a victim of the con. It is, however, not the investor but the con artist who is morally and legally responsible for the investor’s flawed decision. Those of us who are interested in encouraging legislation believe that those who use the free marketplace of ideas in a fraudulent way must also be held morally, and eventually legally, responsible.

In the current legal climate, a con artist who cheats investors out of $20,000 faces prison, fines, and/or Court ordered restitution, but a cult leader who precipitates wrongful death by discouraging or prohibiting medical care on the basis of false or misleading information faces no legal penalty. It seems the Passantinos would absolve the cult leader of his or her responsibility in such a case, laying it completely at the feet of the follower. The injustice of the present legal system, we hope, eventually will be rectified in spite of such reasoning, but the psychological damage caused by blaming the victim may never fully heal.


The first paragraph in this section is puzzling. The authors write, "Hassan provides no means of knowing, testing, or proving whether people who are under emotional pressure, personal Stress, or actual deception are in fact not responsible for their actions or are not making free choices." It seems to us that it should be self-evident that such people are not making free choices. How can one make a free choice "under emotional pressure, personal stress, or actual deception"? Do we really need a test to determine this? This section on the double bind or circular reasoning is rather curious. The Passantinos assert that the exit counselor provides no proof to the cultist that his or her group uses coercive persuasion. The authors say, "If you leave the cult as a result of deprogramming (or exit counseling), that proves you were under mind control. If you return to the cult, that proves you are under mind control."

To illustrate the weakness of this objection let’s say there is documented, scientific proof that the local swimming hole is contaminated — there are chemical toxins in the water that will be absorbed through the skin, and if the local kids continue to swim there they will develop some serious neurotoxicity that may render them brain damaged or paralyzed. So you get the neighbors together and present them with evidence that they are in danger of being poisoned, and as a result of your information a lot of people leave the pond. The ones who don’t leave but go back and swim in it do so for various reasons. Maybe they don’t believe the evidence, even though it was overwhelming; or they say, "I don’t care, I like the swimming hole. I’m going to die anyway, I might just as well die here"; or, "Yeah, I know it’s poisonous, but so what, they’ll find a cure for it someday"; or, "I’m pretty tough. I don’t get sick much and it will probably kill everybody else, but it won’t kill me." The point is that the reasons people go back to the swimming hole are similar to the reasons an exit counselor would say cult members return to their cult — they still don’t see the danger.34

One problem with the Passantinos’ argument is that it assumes the exit counselor does not present objective facts when he asserts that the group in question does indeed practice mind control. In other words, the implication is that the exit counselor simply makes accusations without the kind of hard evidence to back them up that Robert Lifton had when he described the techniques and practices of the Chinese Communists. However, this implication is simply an assumption (or perhaps a presumption) on the part of the authors that is itself unsupported by evidence. It is the role of the exit counselor to provide the evidence that the organization in question has created an environment in which mind control does exist, and that the group member is being manipulated by that environment.

The authors are simply mistaken when they say, "The standard for determining mind control is not some objective evaluation of mental health or competency, but merely the assumed power of mind control the critic accords to the cult." However, exit counselors arrive on the scene with suitcases full of evidence. Good exit counselors will have documentation on the practices of the group and how those practices relate to principles of mind control. Such documentation may take the form of personal testimonies of former members of the group, relatives of members or former members, or of law enforcement officials who have investigated the group or otherwise had dealings with it. The documentation may be from news reports on the activities of the group, or the case notes of mental health professionals. Exit counselors will also have a history of how the cult member has changed his/her personality since joining the cult. Exit counselors will note the member’s reactions to their presentation of information about the group and its practices. For example, contrary information may be met by the cult member with a response such as, "All this stuff is just a bunch of lies of the devil." A good exit counselor will show the cultist that such remarks really do not settle the issue of whether the information is correct. The exit counselor will challenge the cultist to examme the evidence, to put the evidence to the test of veracity.

The next part of this section in the article has to do with definitional issues. The authors say that Ronald Enroth’s 1977 book, Youth, Brainwashing, and the Extremist Cults, reflects a basic acceptance of the mind control model, and then they quote a recent letter from Enroth to the effect that he has not "had time nor inclination to update" his position in this area. We are a little troubled here by the Passantinos assertion that what they identify as Enroth’s "reluctan[ce] to be perceived as a mindcontrol-model-advocate" indicates that he has "problems reconciling a classic cult mind control model with other religious considerations..." We question this representation of Enroth’s position.

In the next few paragraphs the Passantinos quote some of the authors from the book Recovery From Cults, edited by Michael Langone35 — namely, Zimbardo, Andersen, and Galanti, Zimbardo, et al. do seem to muddy the waters a bit. It appears that sometimes they imply that mind control is a synonym for persuasion, and at other times it’s persuasion plus manipulation. The Passantinos are on target when they complain that we don’t define our terms well. We would insist that mind control is not simply a matter of influencing someone to do something against his will. It does include persuasion and manipulation. There is an element of deceit involved, and there’s an element of restricting information. We must not simplify the concept of mind control, because if we do we create something that will invariably get us into the dilemma of having, on the one hand, nothing but persuasion, or, on the other hand, nothing but some sort of technique that takes away the will. There is something in the middle, and it’s called mind control.

In regard to Galanti’s visit to a "Moonie indoctrination center, where, contrary to expectations, she was allowed plenty of sleep and food," etc., this is also what we would expect to find were we to make a similar visit, particularly if the Unificationists knew who we were. The visitor or new recruit is not usually permitted to observe the inner workings of most cults right away. Mind control is not only subtle, it is also gradual. The cult conceals its true nature from visitors and new members at first. In the case of the Peoples Temple newcomers were escorted into a separate room for introductory sessions, rather than to the sanctuary where Jim Jones was. Thus the new members could not witness what Jones was doing to the longer-term members, who had been subtly and gradually deceived and manipulated over a period of time.36

The Passantinos’ next paragraph is worth quoting:

A definition of mind control that removes its involuntary component is intrinsically at odds with the prevailing teachings of Singer, Hassan, Martin, and others that cult victims are unable to think for themselves or make decisions. Instead, it is more in agreement with the case we have been arguing — that cult members are capable of independent thought and rational choice, but because of factual arid spiritual deception, faulty presuppositions, fallacious reasoning, and improper religious commitments, they make unwise choices and adopt false beliefs instead.37

Again, there is a little truth with error here. We reiterate: we do riot believe Singer, Hassan, and others hold this robotic view of mind control that the Passantinos attribute to them — certainly, we do not. Further, the authors1 description of cult dynamics in the above quote fails to recognize that through spiritual deception cult members have been taught that "independent thought and rational choice" are "rebellious," "factious," "divisive," and/or "of the devil." This is not to say that cult members are totally incapable of independent thought — on the contrary, in many areas most are still able to make their own decisions; but these are typically areas in which the cult has not made rules or pronouncements. We would also expand the authors’ description of cult dynamics to be more specifically applicable to spiritually legalistic or restrictive cults. Such groups present a form of religious legalism (rule-keeping) which, through cunning and clever reasoning, a "spiritual leader" is able to persuade his followers is indeed the will of God. The cult member, convinced that this is of God, is driven by guilt and fear to the point of exhaustion. Such an environment can lead to severe depression, anxiety, or even, in some cases, nervous breakdown and attempted or successful suicide.38

In addition, how do the Passantinos know that cultists’ problems are solely because of spiritual deception, faulty presuppositions, fallacious reasoning, improper religious commitments, and unwise choices? Have they interviewed hundreds of ex-cult members? Do they have evidence? Where do they get this list? This sounds incredibly like "blaming the victim." If a person joins a cult, according to the Passantinos, he’s been spiritually deceived. Well, how do the authors know? Have they talked to him? The Passantinos may respond, "Well, yeah, we did, but he denies he’s deceived." So the Passantinos could end up in circular reasoning themselves. If the ex-cult member admits he was spiritually deceived, then the Passantinos are right. But if he denies he was spiritually deceived, the Passantinos are still right because it seems like they have embraced these beliefs about how people are lured into cults on the basis of their own presuppositions. Bob and Gretchen would say, "Well, they must be spiritually deceived." Maybe the question of why people join cults is an empirical issue that has to be decided by looking at the facts. If one looks at the facts in these cases, as I [PRM] have for nine years, these people are not simply spiritually deceived. They were searching for God, many were born-again Christians from good Christian homes, raised in evangelical churches. Some were graduates of some of the finest seminaries in our land, and yet they ended up in cults or abusive churches. We believe this poses a problem for the Passantinos.

The last paragraph in this section says that "mind-control-model advocates want to have the best of both worlds. They want to distinguish cult recruitment from normal socialization activities... But as soon as anyone asks for concrete evidence and qualitative definitions, mind control becomes just another term for the myriad forms of noncandid persuasion. To one degree, mind control is non-candid persuasion, but it entails much more than this, namely, a systematic program of changing one’s beliefs and behavior in a controlled environment through subtle and unethical manipulation. When people ask me [PRM] what a cult is, I give a very simple definition: a cult is a group that practices mind control, that has all the criteria of thought reform.


In this section the authors argue that all the relevant literature shows that brainwashing is not particularly effective. This is very curious. Are the Passantinos saying there is no such thing as brainwashing, or are they saying there is brainwashing, but it doesn’t work very well? Are they saying, "Brainwashing does work, but only on a few people"? It seems like they have jumped from one thing, saying there can’t be any brainwashing because people have free agency, but on the other hand the research evidence says, "Yes, it works, but it doesn’t work ver" well." If it works on one in a million people, then there must be something to it. In other words, it seems like the Passantinos are suddenly jumping from presuppositional arguments against brainwashing of any kind to admission on empirical grounds that there is brainwashing of an involuntary, robotic Manchurian Candidate type, but that it doesn’t happen very often. Which way do the Passantinos want it? Do they discount brainwashing on biblical and other presuppositions? If so, then they can’t allow for even rare cases of brainwashing on the basis of empirical evidence.

They go on to State that basically a lot of the Koreans and Chinese used extreme forms of physically coercive persuasion, but very few individuals changed their basic worldviews and commitments. However, the footnote attached to this remark (number 36) quotes psychologist Gary Collins as writing, "Fewer than 15% of the prisoners in Korean detention camps collaborated with the enemy. When the war was over and prisoners were given their freedom, only a few chose to remain in Communist China. Of these, several later rejected the Communist way of life and returned home."39 The figure of 15% seems to us, however, to be staggeringly high considering that this was a time when the older brothers and uncles of these same soldiers had just overcome the "evil" Axis Powers. It was a simpler time when Americans "could do no wrong." In fact, so effective were these techniques that in Vietnam twelve years later, military intelligence warned troops not to resist them. Instead GI’s were told to do whatever it took to stay alive.40

Further, what about the huge numbers who were radically transformed in the revolutionary colleges mentioned earlier? What about the large segments of the Chinese Christian community that succumbed to Mao? What about the classified military experiments that were discontinued because those conducting them could not devise effective means to resist brainwashing?41 Why would mothers in Iran during the Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime send their eight-year-old children into the mine fields to explode mines so that the soldiers could then cross the fields? History is replete with examples of this horrendously irrational behavior that people engage in when under the influence of mind control. We have talked to many women who, while members of the Children of God, willingly engaged in "flirty fishing" at the urging of their leaders. When they came Out of the group’s mindset they said, "I just can’t believe I did that. I wasn’t in my right mind." Any historian can document the most radical things that have ever been done in history, especially current history, had been done by men who had put masses of people under mind control. We only have to look at Hitler, Stalin, Khomeini, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Jeffrey Lundgren. I [PRM] have heard hundreds of desperate parents tell me, "Our son isn’t the person we once knew. We don’t know what has happened to him." If mind control doesn’t exist or is ineffective, I would hate to see something that is effective.

The Passantinos state further that Korean and Chinese "techniques of torture, beatings, and group dynamics", and the CIA experiments with drugs, all failed to produce even one potential Manchurian Candidate, and the CIA program was finally abandoned. They have chosen the most infamous examples of failed attempts of using mind control, and then try to use them to debunk the effectiveness of all methods of mind control. This seems like another instance of the authors’ violating one of their own cautions from their book Witch Hunt, namely, "Similar Does Not Prove Same."42 They have failed to take account of West’s study of downed American pilots in Korea and how many of those were led to believe that the US was engaging in germ warfare — well over 50% of the American pilots not only signed statements that America was engaging in germ warfare over Korea, but they believed it. We don’t call 50+% success ineffective. If the Passantinos are going to Cite the mind control literature, they should cite all of it, including the studies that point to the remarkable successes of some mind control programs.

The Passantinos say, "Some mind-control-model advocates bring up studies that they feel provide objective data in support of their theories. Such is not the case. These studies are generally flawed in several areas: (1) Frequently the respondents are not from a wide cross section of ex-members..." This is not true in my own [PRM] studies; in fact, they never cited mine. I have now studied more than 300 people. I have people in my samples from a wide variety of different categories. The data is limited because controlled experiments would not be ethical. However, I have cited a number of good studies in the article "Post-Cult Symptoms as Measured by the MCMI Before and After Treatment."43

The Passantinos continue: "[A] disproportionate amount [of those included in studiesj are people who have been exit-counseled by mind-control-model advocates who have told them that they were under mind control" — again, not true. A good third to half of the people who come to Wellspring are walkaways and they know hardly anything about mind control. They just sort of figured out on their own that they were in a cult.

Sociology student and former cult member Jerry MacDonald published a seminal piece in the Cultic Studies Journal44 in which all be did was interview people who bad no exposure to anything having to do with mind control, brainwashing, "cult," or anything. Yet he found the same results, i.e., ex-members tend to describe their experiences in ways that are similar to those who received exit counseling. What is very interesting is that my results show that the distress levels of the people who come to Wellspring are virtually identical whether they have been exit counseled, deprogrammed, or just walked away. About a third of my sample is from each type of cultic group, so I would say that my samples are very representative of many age ranges, religious backgrounds and other demographic characteristics. In addition, Wellspring has treated former members from over 120 different cultic groups.

The Passantinos continue: "Frequently, the sample group is so small that results cannot be fairly representative of cult membership in general." But what is small? Yeakley1s study involved nearly 1,000 members of the Boston Church of Christ.45 My studies have involved well over 100 people in one study and well over 100 people in another study. When one looks at clinical research, for example in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, one observes that the average of the study size is usually fewer than 50. We have studies now using hundreds of people. The American Family Foundation has conducted research on approximately 9000 former cultists.46

The Passantinos also say that it is "almost impossible to gather data from the same individuals before cult affiliation, during cult affiliation, and after cult disaffection." That is like studying post-traumatic stress disorder with Vietnam vets. There was no way to study them before they suffered PTSD, yet some excellent studies have been done. We are trying to follow the same research designs here. The Passantinos offer a very poor representation of the studies on brainwashing and what we know about these situations. It is very interesting, too, that even the studies done by people who are more sympathetic towards cults, like Marc Galanter47 still show that former cult members have been harmed by their cult experience. We have data from 120+ different cult groups, just at Wellspring alone, so the authors have really not given a fair treatment of what the literature indicates. Furthermore, if the Passantinos’ theory of mind control is correct, then those who join cults are also responsible for the harm they received. Perhaps the Passantinos’ article should have been entitled, "Accepting the Bondage of Total Responsibility."


On page 37 of the article the Passatinos raise an objection to the mind control model on the basis of "low recruitment rates." They write, "Studies show that the vast majority of young people approached by new religious movements (NRMs) never join despite heavy recruitment tactics... Eileen Barker documents that Out of one thousand people persuaded by the Moonies to attend one of their overnight programs in 1979, 90 percent had no further involvement, only 8 percent joined for more than one week and less than 4 percent remained members in 1981, two years later." In our opinion, the fact that almost 4% stayed in the group after one overnight program is remarkably successful! That is amazing compared to Billy Graham’s crusades in which only about one percent of the attendees come forward for counseling. Thus Unificationist recruiting is 400 times more effective than Billy Graham’s most effective evangelism techniques; and he is considered one of the best evangelists in history, in spite of the extremely low rates of conversion.

But again, no one ever said that mind control is 100% effective on everyone who comes under its influence. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is no such thing. That is like saying Tylenol is no good because not everyone who takes it finds relief from his headache. Are the Passantinos saying mind control must be 100% effective in order to exist at all? Ale they again shifting from a presuppositional position, saying that mind control can’t exist because people can’t lose their free will, and turning to an empirical argument, saying mind control does exist, people do lose their free will, but it doesn’t work very well because only a very few people succumb? What do they really wish to say?

The Passantinos point to low rates of recruitment to cults as evidence against the effectiveness of any attempts to use mind control techniques on potential members. But how about rates of recruitment to other thought reform systems? Many scholars contend that thought reform was practiced to a considerable extent in the former Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany, and is practiced in countries like Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and among fundamentalist Muslim extremist groups like the Hezbollah. When one claims recruitment rates are low, one must be reminded that a significant portion of the world’s population both has been and is being influenced by various kinds and degrees of mind control. There are, to this day, people in Germany who talk about how good Hitler was, and Russians talking about how good Stalin was. We have seen TV newscasts showing Russians marching for a return of Communism, carrying posters of Joseph Stalin, and lamenting the loss of the "good old days." When the Passantinos talk about low recruitment rates, what are they talking about? Low recruitment rates to cults in America? Maybe so. Maybe it’s only 4%, but that’s still 400 times more effective than Billy Graham. Or are they talking about low recruitment rates to totalistic political or social systems that employ thought reform tactics? That’s not low at all. A third to a half of the world’s population is under the spell of thought reform of some kind.

Bob and Gretchen say this "low rate of recruitment" is surprising "if we are to accept the inevitable success of cult mind control techniques." Again, we don’t know which advocate of the mind control model believes that absolutely anyone who comes within brain wave of mind control is inevitably going to turn into a zombie. In my [PRM] book Cult-Proofing Your Kids I wrote, "Why do people join cults? Doctrinal issues.. .have little, if anything to do with why most people join cults. The three main reasons why people join are: (1) healing for emotional hurts, (2) establishing friendships and relationships, and (3) spiritual growth."48 Dr. Margaret Singer elaborates on these reasons when she writes:

According to their own reports, many participants joined these religious cults during periods of depression and confusion, when they had a sense that life was meaningless. The cult had promised — and for many had provided — a solution to the distress of the developmental crises that are frequent at this age. Cults supply ready-made friendships and ready-made decisions about careers, dating, sex, and marriage, and they outline a clear "meaning of life."49

And in an extensive paper describing the cult phenomenon and Wellspring’s program, we wrote:

How is it possible that seemingly firmly committed Christians could be lured into cultic involvement? [Harold] Busséll writes, "In all my discussions with people allured by cults, 1 have talked to only one person whose attraction centered on doctrine."50 This has been confirmed over and over: most people are not attracted to cults because of what the group believes and teaches, but because of other factors. Basic human needs are met, or apparently met, through membership in the cult or cultic group: emotional, social, material, and sometimes even physical needs. Such things as acceptance, belonging, security, challenge, commitment to a cause, and assistance in trouble are all offered by the cult to the individual seeker. And virtually no one is immune to such enticement, at least at some time in his or her life...

But young people are not alone in their vulnerability to the cults. Anyone who is idealistic, humanitarian, morally sensitive, insecure, looking for direction, and currently uncommitted to a cause but looking for one is a cult candidate. Also, anyone recently shattered by a personal or family crisis rnay end up looking to a cult for comfort and reassurance.51

In other words, at least some of us who accept the mind control model recognize that there are times when individuals become more susceptible to mind control techniques than they are normally. And this means (one would hope) that most people are so vulnerable only during rare periods of their lives. Thus low recruitment rates would be expected.

Another factor to consider in this regard is the non-religious attitude of many in our society. Most cults exploit the desires of people who choose to be religious. As numerous studies have shown, most cult members were previously members of traditional mainline churches — anywhere from 71% to 80%52 — and overall, 87% had some religious affiliation in general before joining a cult.53 At the same time, there are cults which appeal to the non-religious, but would not appeal to the religious — "human potential" cults, political cults, psychotherapeutic cults, etc., which hold out promises not directly related to spirituality.54


The passantinos’ next objection is a corollary to this, namely, "high attrition rates." The authors assert that the fact that many people who join cults eventually leave them within a year or two without outside aid is "deadly to the mind control model." If mind control did exist, they imply, no one would be able to break its hold on them by themselves. What they’re really saying, though, is if their misconstruction of mind control exists, no one could break its hold on them by themselves. The issue is not whether there are high attrition rates or low conversion rates. The issue is whether it exists or not. We know of no one who insists that mind control is 100% effective. On the other hand, if one looks at the history of the world one sees that it is still horrifyingly effective. How else do we explain the mass suicide of 912 people in Jonestown?55 What kind of spell did David Koresh have over his followers that made them stay in the building after the FBI started spraying tear gas into it? They had from about 6 o’clock in the morning till about noon to leave before the building finally caught fire. They could have left. What kept them in there? What made one woman run back into the fire after she had run out of the burning building? We could get story after story of similar incidents. What led an innocent boy from a small town in Illinois, Danny Kraft, to participate in the killing of a mother, a father, a 13-year-old girl, an 11-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old girl? What led the Nazis to gas Jews by the millions? Mind control doesn’t exist? Objections over low recruitment rates and high attrition rates are beside the point. Does it exist, or does it not? Is there unspeakable horror committed in the name of God, or in the name of the dialectic of history, or is there not?

Again, the authors are assuming an extreme and total concept of mind control that few if any proponents accept. To reiterate: the effectiveness of mind control depends on numerous factors, a few of which were listed above. By the same token, the effects of mind control can be broken by numerous factors, only one of which is deprogramming/exit counseling. In a workshop at the CAN conference in New Jersey a few years ago which she shared with me [PRM], psychotherapist Madeleine Tobias mentioned a young woman in an ex-cult member support group who described her own voluntary exit. Every time she had a doubt or a question about the group she would put it on an invisible shelf so she wouldn’t have to deal with it. But then one day "the shelf caved in." In other words, eventually there were just too many doubts and questions, and she was no longer able to ignore them; she had to deal with them.

Another mind control breaker, perhaps related to the last, is any traumatic event that occurs either in the cult member’s life, or in the group as a whole. This could be a beating administered (or threatened) by the leader or another member at the leader’s behest. Laura Haferd and William Outlaw describe one such incident involving Rose Watson Thomas, a member of an obscure cult named the Christian Alliance Holiness Church. They write:

Rose was terrified of what would happen when [an expected phone call from the imprisoned leader] came through. Since the night before, the commune residents had harangued her and threatened her with punishment.

And she had seen the punishment that Bishop Thomas [her father-in-law] meted out to those who displeased him in his Christian Alliance Holiness church — merciless bloody beatings that left men and women with flayed skin on their backs and flowing wounds for days afterward.

This time, Rose felt sure, she was going to be the one who would be beaten...

...She was sure the bishop’s next orders would deal with the punishment to be inflicted upon her.

So Rose had decided to take her son and run away from The Frontier [the cult’s compound in eastern Ohio.]56

The ability to leave a cult on one’s own is not necessarily a sign of health, i.e., that the individual has been unaffected by the group. To say and acknowledge that many people do leave cults on their own does not address the question of why they leave, or whether they have been detrimentally affected during the time of their involvement, in spite of the fact that they are eventually able to walk away. We believe it is a gross error to assume that those who leave cults on their own are as healthy psychologically and spiritually (or even physically) as when they joined.

One thing we have observed in those who come to Wellspring for counseling is that it is much more common for "walkaways" to be burned out on religion than it is for those who have received some form of exit counseling. We have no scientific data, but it may be that, in many cases, those who leave cults on their own do so because they have become thoroughly disillusioned with the group, possibly because of physical, sexual, and/or financial abuse in addition to spiritual abuse. As a result, they may want nothing further to do with religion of any kind; they are unable to trust religious leaders again. If they haven’t quite reached that extremity, they may still be looking for another group or church that has elements of their former group that they haven’t yet recognized as being harmful, but that doesn’t have the things they have recognized.

However, when cult members are exit counseled, most often they are able to maintain their interest in spiritual things, because exit counselors do not typically attempt to "break the faith" of cult members or "take religion away" from them — at least this true of the several exit counselors we know personally.

We would like to suggest that the power of mind control is not unlike the pull of a whirlpool. Near the edge of the whirlpool its attractive force is limited. However, as an object (or person) is drawn farther into the vortex, the power increases. The centrifugal force of the whirlpool doesn’t affect every object to the same degree, however. The size, shape, and weight of the object all determine the force that the whirlpool will be able to exercise. And ultimately, objects pulled into the center of the whirlpool are expelled again, though often damaged or broken.57

In the case of destructive cults, this process often takes many months, years, even decades to come full circle with the "ejection" of the cult member — often it never does, and the member remains the rest of his or her life (which may be unnaturally shortened by life in the cult.) To recommend to parents, as the Passantinos would, that all they need to do is preach the gospel to the cultist son or daughter and he or she will be delivered, is naive in the extreme. One father, known to Ron Burks, was probably told that very thing and initially believed it in 1972 when his daughter disappeared into a group known to use female members as prostitutes. After 21 years she has still not managed to leave. Nor has he managed to forget.

Attrition or not, it still remains true that an estimated 5-15 million people are currently involved in some religious and other types of cults in America alone.58 Thus, whether cults succeed in recruiting or retaining what some might regard as a large percentage of those they contact, the numbers they do recruit and retain are not insignificant.59


The Passantinos’ next objection to the mind control model is "the anti-religious bias of mind control assumptions." Basically the authors say brainwashing is a value judgment rather than an analytical concept, and that the brainwashing/mind control model almost inevitably arises from or creates an anti-religious bias. They quote Thomas Robbins, a well-known cult apologist, saying that the mind control model derives from Enlightenment ideals that seek to liberate man from religion. Then they quote William Sargant, who argued that Christian evangelical preaching techniques are similar to Communist brainwashing methods. Finally, they refer to Conway and Siegelman, who criticized fundamentalist Christians in the first edition of their book Snapping.

However, we fail to see what relevance the anti-religious sentiments of some authors have to do with the modern concept of cult mind control as held in particular by evangelical proponents of the model. Just because some people in the field are biased against religion that doesn’t mean the concept itself is anti-religious or necessarily leads to such a bias. Mind control theories are value free. They can apply to a religious setting, a psychotherapy setting, a political setting, a business setting. The question is not whether a group is religious. The question is, does a group practice the techniques of mind control and thought reform, or does it not? There’s nothing either irreligious or religious about it. It’s a concept that can be measured by whether or not a group uses those techniques. Ron Enroth, well-known for his evangelical convictions, cannot be accused of an anti-religious bias when he says there are churches that abuse. Rather, he speaks as a modern prophet against mistreatment of God’s flock. Did the prophet Ezekiel have an anti-religious bias when he rebuked the wicked shepherds who were exploiting, harming, and destroying the people of God? The authors have employed an ad hominem argument in this section that is rather poorly thought out. If we were to employ this form of reasoning, we might conclude that the Passantinos are guilty of an "anti-secular" bias. It seems the authors once again have violated their rule "Similar Does Not Prove Same,"60 or guilt by association. Thus, because some advocates of the mind control model evidence an anti-religious bias does not mean that all do, or that the mind control model either presupposes or necessitates an anti-religious bias. And while the authors cited may speak for many advocates of the mind control model, they do not speak for all.

The Passantinos believe that the inability to draw a clear-cut line between a legitimate religion and a cult is final proof that mind control does not exist. Would they use the same reasoning regarding domestic abuse? When does a husband’s verbal criticism of his wife become verbal abuse? When does spanking a child become child abuse? Where are the clear-cut lines in these cases? Or where is the clear-cut line between political authority and dictatorship? If the authors can locate it they will be in great demand all over the world.

The last paragraph of this section is particularly troubling. The Passantinos write, "In short, there is no objective, evidential way to define groups that are ‘good’ (not using mind control) versus groups that are ‘bad’ (using mind control)." But this is simply not true. A group can be measured. Does it use certain techniques, like Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform? That is, does it use milieu control, mystical manipulation? Does it have a sacred science? Does it practice doctrine over person? Does it have a loaded language? Does it have a "cult of confession", the demand for purity? Does it dispense with the existence of non-members, whether spiritually or physically?61

The last sentence in this paragraph is particularly galling to me [PRM] as an evangelical psychologist: "Although this is not the focus of this article, we note here that as evangelical Christians we openly admit that we make religious judgments regarding the cults, and that those religious judgments are based on the Bible, not on our own subjective opinions or some consensus of social science professionals." Their implication that all mind control model advocates base their judgments about cults on a "consensus" of social science is without foundation. One can look at empirical facts about the nature of these groups; one doesn’t need a consensus. Is there evidence for mind control? I believe the evidence is abundantly clear.

Right now, we at Wellspring are conducting research on all the ways that different ex-members have described their former groups. We1re running this in a factor analysis design and demonstrating the conclusions. Therets a consistent pattern that ex-members report about the nature of their groups. Organizational structure is objective fact that has been documented in group dynamics and sociology and social psychology. To say that there’s no way of defining groups that are "good" versus groups that are "bad" is simply not true. One can ask questions and clearly discriminate groups that have open boundaries versus those that have closed boundaries. One of the most famous books in psychology deals with the open and the closed mind and how these systems work.62 We have all kinds of literature in the social sciences about controlling, tight organizations versus loose organizations. There are criteria in political science for what is a totalitarian system. Can there not be criteria in other disciplines for what is a totalitarian cult? The scientific methods used in this field do not stand independently of the kind of consensual objective observation, the fact that it exists in political science and social sciences as well.


The Passantinos object to the mind control model because, they say, it "creat[es] victims." We would argue instead that it is mind control, not the mind control model that creates victims. We would also argue that cult survivors are re-victimized by those such as the Passantinos who lay all or most of the blame for their plight at their own feet.

The authors introduce this objection by writing:

Many people who join cults want to help the needy, forsake materialism, or develop personal independence from their families — not necessarily bad goals, although misguided by false cult teachings. The cult mind control model, however, attributes cult membership primarily to mind control and thereby denigrates or discounts such positive activities and goals, misaffiliated to cults as they are.63

This is one more evidence that illustrates the Passantinos’ failure to clearly understand what mind control model advocates actually say. Mind control is not exercised in a vacuum — it needs information to work with, whether it is cult-generated doctrine, or the hopes, dreams, fears, and hang-ups of the potential recruit. Thus the goals listed by the Passantinos above may be used by the cult recruiter as "hooks" to draw the target into the sphere of mind control. We do not denigrate such goals at all. We applaud any positive aims and activities. The problem is, these things can be used as lures to attract new members, or as ploys to achieve legitimacy in the community. Most of our clients at Wellspring say, "This is why I joined the group. I wanted to help the needy, forsake materialism, develop some personal independence from my family, grow up. I wanted to serve the Lord." Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple took over nursing homes in the San Francisco Bay area, significantly improving them to the benefit of the residents. Peoples Temple members also helped drug addicts kick their habits and obtain education. These and many other activities of the Peoples Temple were highly commendable, and regardless of the tragic end of 913 cult members, those benevolences were worth doing — except to the degree they led people to their deaths.

The Passantinos go on to say:

The mind control model also fails to give proper weight to the role natural suggestibility plays in making people vulnerable to the cults. Highly suggestible people are especially susceptible to religious salesmanship as well as many other "sales pitches."64

On the contrary, this is just the point we have made. Suggestibility does make people more susceptible to mind control.65 Some people are naturally more suggestible than others by nature, others go through periods in life in which they are more suggestible than at other times. As stated above, there may be times of crisis, bereavement, or transition of some kind or another. And in such a condition people may be victimized, whether by a con artist, a Lothario, or a cult recruiter. It is not "[a]dopting a victimization perspective" that "strips the cult member of his capacity for rational activity." Rather, it is the victimization itself which does this — though we acknowledge that it does so to varying degrees in different people according to the factors stated above.

Next they write, "The cult mind control model instead focuses on victimization, claiming that a cult member joins as a result of mind control and not as a result of personal choice." Again, the Passantinos return to their straw man of mind control according to which the person has completely lost his will. But the person hasn’t lost his will; he has willed to choose something other than what he had anticipated. (Remember Rick Seelhoff’s statement cited earlier in this article.) In this response he has become a victim — one who is still making choices, but choices in regard to which he was unaware of the consequences.

Further, we suggest that the new recruit hasn’t yet really experienced "full blown" mind control. He or she was drawn into the cult by fairly standard techniques of influence and persuasion, usually mixed with deception. It is only after committing him or herself to the group that mind control really begins in earnest. The stages can be illustrated as follows:

Deception, with initial,

"Mild" mind control

Choice Mind control
which may involve:

" a good appearance;

" an acceptable appeal;

" "love bombing";

" manipulative and specious


based upon what

seems to be

a good group

involves gradual


and exploitation

The Passantinos assert that "the cult mind control model epitomizes a ‘victim’ mentality." They quote Hassan’s remarks about the cult member being caught in a trap as an illustration of this "‘victim’ mentality." We find it surprising that the Passantinos should object to this in light of the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Colossians, "Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ."66 In another place Paul reproaches the Christians of Corinth for "...tolerating somebody who makes slaves of you, makes you feed him, imposes on you, orders you about and slaps you in the face."67 If these Christians were not under mind control, they were nevertheless not in their right minds! Therefore, from a Christian perspective (i.e., the perspective of Bob and Gretchen) there can be no objection to the possibility of people, including Christians, being unwittingly trapped in a situation not of their own making and from which they may see no way out. After investigating the unspeakable tragedy of Jonestown, and interviewing numerous former members of Peoples Temple, seminary professor and minister Mel White reported, "I learned what I didn’t want to know. Jones’ victims were our brothers and sisters. They grew up in Christian homes and churches... and they were deceived."68

Next it appears the Passantinos are digressing into a victim bashing section in which they take potshots at John Bradshaw and his dysfunctional family theory, adult children of alcoholics, the various twelve-step programs, and the claims of repressed memories.

Regarding the latter, there have been several highly publicized cases of people who have accused their parents of childhood abuse on the basis of claims of alleged recovered memories, some of which have later proved to be false memories. Some would argue that it is only due to the exertion of mind control by unethical or incompetent therapists that false memories of abuse could be implanted. But is that the only explanation? We would agree with the Passantinos that just because a person develops false memories in therapy doesn’t mean the therapist was practicing thought reform. Yet ironically, false memories are sometimes produced by thought reform. So the Passantinos pose a dilemma: how can they believe in false memories (and they strongly do) and yet deny the powerful influence techniques such as thought reform? Also, the therapist may have been practicing hypnosis or emotional manipulation under which new memories" may have arisen. One doesn’t need a cult or mind control to Create new "memories," but with or without mind control, false memory produces more than one victim: not just the one(s) falsely accused of abuse, but also the one in whom the false memories have been inculcated. Unethical or incompetent therapists perpetrate the abuse, but So do those who blame cult victims by labeling them as "not truly defenseless victims."69

Then they write that if mind control victimization really does exist, how can you possibly "protect yourself or your loved ones in the future?" The obvious answer, of course, is that people need to be educated so they can recognize the characteristics of mind control. This is the whole problem to begin with — people don’t know how mind control works, how it is used, how one can be recruited. They don’t know how to ask questions before joining new groups or initiating new affiliations. But one is not helpless against it. One can be educated, one can be trained to be healthily suspicious.

The Passantinos quote Eileen Barker again, who says, in the last sentence of this quote, "Research has shown that, unlike those who have been deprogrammed (and thereby taught that they had been brainwashed), those who leave voluntarily are extremely unlikely to believe that they were ever the victims of mind control." This is precisely what we would expect. If someone has no knowledge of what happened to him, how can he conclude he was a victim of mind control? One must be exposed to the information. Barker’s conclusion is that this belief in mind control is inculcated into hapless victims, that they have been deceived again into believing that they were under mind control. Another alternative, however, is that these people are sufficiently responsible individuals that when presented with information about the techniques of mind control and examples of it they are able to compare their own experience with that information and reach their own conclusion that "that’s exactly what happened to me."70

Whether voluntarily exited cult members attribute their cult involvement to mind control or not is not the crucial matter. What is crucial is the fact that many such people leave their former cults with detrimental baggage they did not take into the cult. A large number of former members still believe the cult was right, but they simply couldn’t "hack it." They believe that somehow they were at fault for not being able to live according to the group’s rules or standards, and thus in their eyes they have "failed God." Often "walkaways" have recognized some real problems with the group, but not all, and they search out another group that offers those unrecognized harmful aspects of the first group, and are caught in a second trap.

It appears that the authors are implying that exit counselors and others who hold the mind control model are the real deceivers, making cult members think they are victims when in fact they are not. However, research conducted at Wellspring and elsewhere has demonstrated that cult members who go through exit counseling and a post-cult rehab program like that offered at Wellspring are generally healthier than those who walk away but don’t receive any counseling.71

As for the authors’ allegation that "an improper victimization model... does not provide the... mechanisms necessary to protect oneself from further victimization,"72 we confess we have difficulty following the logic here. The model employed has little or no bearing on the issue of protection or prevention. Whether one tells a person who has been robbed that he was an innocent victim of a thug, or that he was at least partly responsible for the mugging because he carried his wallet in his hip pocket where every thief would look, suggestions can still be offered as to how he might prevent additional attacks. Similarly, advocates of the mind control model also offer guidelines for recognizing psychological and spiritual manipulation and other techniques of mind control so the ex-cultist can more easily avoid further victimization. And those who insist that the cultist is responsible for his or hcr own plight could also fail to offer such suggestions, leaving the person to his fate. The particular model employed by the would-be counselor does not determine whether the latter gives or does not give help in protection from future cult involvement.

The authors’ attempt to separate cult victims from "true victims — ... small children; victims of rape robbery, or murder; those who truly are unable to predict or prevent their victimization..." implies that cult victims could have predicted their victimization, and assumes that the trap was obvious right from the beginning. This also implies that those who get caught by cults have full, or at least adequate, knowledge about the nature of the organization before they join. This is patently absurd. Almost all cults deliberately hide their full nature from potential recruits and new members, often with the rationale that they are not sufficiently "advanced" spiritually to understand or accept the full truth, which is really for their own "good."

Then the Passantinos assert that according to today’s pop psychology "[e]veryone is a victim. One doesn’t need to be saved from one’s own sins as much as from the sins of others. Psychology and sociology have replaced Scripture for understanding human behavior and developing emotionally and spiritually healthy persons. Yet nowhere in Scripture do we find support for the complaint first voiced by Eve that ‘the devil — or the cult leader — made me do it.’ One cannot remove human responsibility without also destroying human morality." Once again, these remarks are based on their extreme view of mind control and an "either/or" approach to understanding human behavior — either psychology and sociology, or the Bible. However, we do not see the necessity of such a dichotomy, though we recognize that some psycho-sociological and theological theories and approaches leave much to be desired. Bob and Gretchen seem to disallow any reference to prior abuse as even a partial explanation for the current problems many people experience. We believe this is both unfair and detrimental to the individual’s healing.

Does not Ezekiel indict the rulers of ancient Israel for victimizing the people? He proclaimed:

"Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up. the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field arid were scattered.’73

Would the Passantinos blame the Israelites for their plight? It is clear that God didn’t.

One thing that troubles us is that in some evangelical and fundamentalist circles the Bible is viewed as the only textbook necessary for psychology or mental health as well as for doctrine and morality. But the Bible does not make such a claim for itself. Are we to view it as the only textbook necessary for geology, geography, or architecture? Shall we make all engineering students study only the Old Testament because it contains instructions on bow to build the tabernacle or the temple and thus all construction must be based on those models? Or shall we base medicine only on what is in the Bible? Why all of a sudden are human sciences suddenly limited to what is in the Bible? Who drew this arbitrary line and said, "We can study astronomy, geology, medicine, whatever, but the Bible must be the only textbook for the human sciences"? That is absurd. The facts refute this. Does the Bible talk about manic depressive illness? Does the Bible talk about psychotic depression? Does the Bible talk about panic disorders or agoraphobia — what causes them, how they are cured? Does the Bible distinguish between organic and functional psychoses? Does the Bible explain what learning disabilities are, what hyperactivity is? Does the Bible explain what a personality disorder is, how a dependent personality can be distinguished from a borderline personality? This statement fails to reflect reality. It is like barring a person from attending medical school and then making him a doctor. To believe a person can become knowledgeable about human behavior without studying psychology and sociology is mind boggling. But an engineer doesn’t have to throw out the Bible to be an engineer. Neither do we feel we have to throw Out the Bible to practice psychology.

Most disturbing about this section of the article is the authors’ attempt to use the writings of C.S. Lewis to justify a position of extreme responsibility. In a typically uncritical manner, they simply copy Em Griffin’s mistake in his book The Mind Changers, in which he quotes from Lewis’ classic volume, The Abolition of Man. Griffin writes, as quoted by the Passantinos:

C.S.Lewis notes that a deterministic view brings about the abolition of man. In an impassioned plea he argues that you cannot strip men of autonomy without denuding them of responsibility: "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and we are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."74

This passage appears to add Lewis’ considerable credibility with evangelicals to the authors’ unbalanced and simplistic views. Griffin takes this passage violently out of its Context and attempts to use it to attack any system that interferes with personal responsibility. But Lewis is arguing in this passage for the importance of trained emotions to virtue. Without both thought and passion the heart is cut out of morality. The context is virtue, not freedom and responsibility. The truth is that Lewis had a rather liberal view of responsibility. Ironically, a little too liberal for most evangelicals if they understood him. His views in this regard are developed in his book Mere Christianity.75 With powerful examples, he argues for a view of moderated responsibility. He suggests that everyone can only be held responsible for the light they have. Agree or not, his grasp of the complexities of this most important issue is critical for informed evangelical scholarship.


From a theological standpoint, the Passantinos appear to undervalue the role of deceit in the introduction of sin into the world of humans. They write,

If the cult recruiter’s skill and manipulation is considered so coercive that members are not responsible for their own beliefs, actions, or even the decision to join/stay in the cult, then many biblical affirmations about personal responsibility and decision making are jeopardized. To a secular mind-control-model advocate, this may seem a trivial objection. But several advocates are Christian Evangelicals and must come to terms with the theological inconsistencies introduced when the cult mind control model is adopted.

For example, in the Garden, Satan personally appeared to orchestrate the temptation of Eve — and who could be more persuasive? Our first parents succumbed to the temptation and were cast out of the Garden, and all of humanity thereafter have been penalized by this primal sin. If our fnst parents could be held morally responsible when confronted by the ultimate tempter, how is it that we seek to excuse ourselves or our offspring when confronted by human tempters of far less power, skill, and charisma?76

The simple answer to that is that the analogy between the serpent’s beguilement of Eve in the Garden of Eden and what happens in cult recruitment is inappropriate. It’s comparing apples with chimpanzees. God had explicitly told Adam and Eve in advance, "Don’t eat of this tree." The tree was identified, the tree was located. They knew what it was, they knew where it was, they knew all about it. God had given them complete and adequate information. To refer again to Our earlier example of the girl who buys a car that breaks down, it would be different if the girl’s father had said, "Don’t go to this used car lot, and for goodness’ sake, don’t buy that yellow Pontiac — it’s a lemon. Don’t do it, you’ll be sorry." Most of people we know who have joined cults did not have anyone saying, "Don’t join this group, it is evil, and here is the evidence." But that is basically what God did with Adam and Eve. No such thing occurs with people joining cults. It would be just as if God put Adam and Eve into the Garden with no forewarning. They see the fruit on the tree. It looks so good, like the best fruit in the world. The serpent is dangling from a branch and says, "This is good fruit, eat it." They eat it and then God comes along and says, "Hey, you two! You just sinned!" They say, "What? We sinned? How did we sin?" "You should have known better than to eat that fruit." "Why should have we known better?" "You were spiritually deceived." "Well, you never told us not to eat that fruit!" "But if you were more spiritual you would have known."

A major area of weakness in the Passantino’s article is the notion that all people need is the gospel and they will be better. What about people who are already horn again church-goers? The Passantinos fail to state that most of the warnings in the Bible about false prophets are given to the Church! The authors don’t deal with the pastoral obligations towards those who have been led astray, of a shepherd going after the lost sheep or binding up the broken sheep. The straying or wounded sheep needs a shepherd. Another thing is that the Passantinos fail to say anything about the personality of cult leaders, i.e., that one thing is consistently clear with regard to cult leaders and abusive pastors. They are not like the typical pastor down the road. The cult leader proves to be a sociopath in almost every situation, and the trouble is we have not trained our children to beware of sociopaths.

This leads to another thing: if this is a problem of spiritual deception, then the sword cuts both ways. If the cult member is deceived, then where is the Church’s discernment? Where is the discernment of those not in cults? Why hasn’t the Church been able to recognize the wolves and warn the flock? Where was the Church speaking before Jonestown? Where was the Church when Hitler came along? Where was the Church when Mao Tse Tung came along? Where was the Church when David Koresh came along? Where was the Church when Jeffrey Lundgren came along? Who was warning these people?

There was great silence in the Church. There is still great silence in the Church. So if it is onty a deception issue, then we’re all wrong, we’re all deceived. Or maybe we all are uneducated, or maybe we’re all equally culpable. But to say that one group is more deceived then the other when the Church has consistently sat on its hands in the face of this cult problem and has provided virtually no resources for cult victims is to engage in self-righteous blame-shifting.

One of the most shameful tragedies in the history of the Church is the appalling neglect of the cult problem. Hardly anything is taught about cults in seminaries and Bible schools.77 Pastors know very little about cults, apart from some of the major doctrinal aberrations of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is only one cult rehab center in the world currently, and that is Wellspring, and it is not supported by a single church or denomination. If we are going to talk about discernment, then we better talk about the discernment of the Church and heeding the prophetic voice that warns about cults and spiritually abusive churches. That has not often been the case. The Church usually speaks out only after the fact. The responsibility for the appalling silence and even complicity of the Church in Nazi Germany rests on the heads of evangelicals as fully as it does on those of liberals and Catholics. The appalling silence of the evangelical Church with the rise of Red China rests on our heads, too. We could just go down the list. The discernment issue applies equally to other abuses besides those relating to cults.

The last paragraph of the article reads:

As Christians who believe in an absolute standard of truth and religious reality, we cannot ignore the spiritual threat of cults. We must promote critical thinking, responsible education, biblical apologetics, and Christian evangelism. We must recognize that those who join cults, while morally responsible, are also spiritually ignorant. The power of the gospel (Romans 1:16) erases spiritual ignorance and provides the best opportunity possible for right moral and religious choices. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).78

We wholeheartedly agree that we "must promote critical thinking." The authors, however, would blame the uneducated even though those who should educate them have not done so. Almost 3000 years ago King Solomon wrote:

Rescue those being led away to death,
hold back those who are being dragged to the slaughter.
Will you object, "But look, we did not know?" [sic]
Has he who weighs the heart no understanding,
he who scans your soul no knowledge?
He himself will repay a man as his deeds deserve.79

Those who fail to educate, warn, intervene, etc., when it is in their power to do so are the guilty parties, along with those who actually perpetrate the offense.80

We believe we have shown that this is much more than an issue of spiritual ignorance. Mind control works in fields outside of religion. This is an issue that affects the entire Church, not to mention society as a whole. A subject for another paper at another time is to show that, on the contrary, mind control (or thought reform, coercive persuasion, or whatever one may call it) is not merely a secular concept. It is also a biblical concept related to the problem of evil and how all men and women are affected by evil. There is no one group of Christians that is any less immune to thought reform than any other, so that there are different classes of Christians in regards to discernment, spiritual or otherwise. What produces discernment? Is it obedience, is it more Bible reading, is it going to seminary? Is it education? But education is not a uniquely spiritual issue. Are the discerning more holy or righteous? Well, if they are, it is by God’s grace.

There are implications in the Passantinos’ statements that affect the Reformation concepts of the grace of God, the corruption of sin, and justification by faith alone. They appear to assume that humans are capable of unassisted evaluation of data concerning God, and making unassisted free choices in relation to spiritual matters. The biblical understanding has been more accurately described as a motif of revelation and grace. Humans may examine the universe and their own nature to learn its complexities, but they may only know about God as he has revealed himself, either in it or to them directly. Furthermore, they may only make free choices for or against that revelation by the grace of God. Without grace, they are only capable of rejecting whatever revelation they might receive. Any other view denies the utter sinfulness of the human condition and subverts the unmerited grace of God. Humans, then, are only responsible for thoughtfully and purposely rejecting revelation and resisting grace, not for making "flawed choices from bad data."

Assuming that somehow there is a spiritual hierarchy in which some are less susceptible to cults than others, on what basis are they less susceptible? If it is based on works (acquiring information and critical thinking skills), then, according to the Reformation tradition (and the Passantinos are staunch Lutherans) it has no spiritual value.81 But if cult-avoiding discernment is based on faith, then all Christians have that. That gives the Passantinos a grave problem, because the empirical evidence unequivocally shows that numerous Christians have joined a variety of cults. Where, then, does discernment come from? Is it always a sin issue in the Scripture, or is it an issue of education, knowledge, and awareness? Discernment may be lost because one willfully chooses to sin, but discernment may also be lacking because people have not been trained, or warned, or whatever. Is one group (cult victims) culpable but the other (the church or society that fails to warn about cults) not? Is evil the underlying process and factor with both kinds of discernment deficits? In other words, is our ability to be deceived part of the human condition, part of our fallen nature? If so, and we believe it is, then the cult victim and the silent Church and society alike suffer from Adam’s fallen nature. But in saying this we are not saying this is a sin problem per se that must be dealt with evangelistically. Rather, the cult problem for the Church and cult victim alike is akin to the problem of physical disease. Illness, as well as death, is a direct result of the Fall. But the cure for disease is not evangelization leading to spiritual redemption. The solution is via the avenues of medicine and education. Through much of history the Church has been largely responsible for the advancement of medical science in the world. Likewise, the Church needs to see the problem of cults fundamentally as a problem of evil whose solution is, to be sure, bathed in the prayers of believers, but realized via science and education as well as theology.

The Passantinos’ conclusion is a call for evangelization of cult members. But their vision in this regard is, in our opinion, a truncated view of Judeo/Christian ethic and theology. Christians and others have traditionally had an interest in opposing sinful Systems as well as providing spiritual comfort for those caught in them. The desire for the salvation of the souls of those bound in the literal chains of slavery was admirable, but without the courage of Christian statesmen like William Wilberforce, strongly supported by John Wesley and other Christian leaders, we might still have slavery in Britain and America. Evangelizing those "who have very real spiritual, emotional, and social needs" and who 91are looking for fulfillment and significance for their lives" without working against the oppression that enslaves them is hypocrisy. We believe God loves cultists and wants us to work for their freedom, whether or not they choose to follow him the way we do.

We gladly agree with the Passantinos when they bemoan the proliferation of "victims" in our contemporary society. There are multiple thousands of "pseudo-victims" in America today, and there indeed does need to be more emphasis on taking personal responsibility.82 Having said this, however, we insist that victimization does exist in the cult milieu. Deception of any kind, by definition, produces victims.



1. Robert and Gretchen Passantino, "Overcoming the Bondage of Victimization," Cornerstone, Vol. 22 Iss. 102-103, 1994, 31-42. Hereinafter cited as "Passantino and Passantino."

2. In a letter to the editor from Douglas Groothuis published in a later issue of Cornerstone the writer demonstrates some of the same errors of the original article. He focuses on two points: first, "the mind control theory is antithetical to biblical anthropology." We contend that only in its extreme form as set up by Bob and Gretchen as a straw man is it antithetical to biblical anthropology. We agree that men and women are "responsible moral agents", but we also contend that we can occasionally and under the right (or wrong?) circumstances be led into unwise, bad, or downright evil decisions for which God will hold us, if not totally guiltless, at least minimally culpable. We briefly refer to a few such instances in this article, viz., mitigation of guilt by reason of diminished capacity due to youthfulness (Dt. 1:39), demonization, or other factors (one of those other factors would be lack of full knowledge — see Matt. 11:20-24). Indeed, in some such cases God still holds the individual guilty, but our point is he holds him less so.

Groothuis’ second point is what he calls a "crucial philosophical distinction. People who join cults on the basis of propaganda and psychological deception do so through their decision making, although their decisions are ill conceived." He says, "This is not equivalent to people losing their ability to decide because they have become passive victims of irresistible cult indoctrination. A poor decision is still a decision; to call it a non-decision because it is unwise is even more unwise." We are afraid Groothuis has bought Bob and Gretchen’s counterfeit mind control model.

3. Robert and Gretchen Passantino, Witch Hunt (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), 113.

4. Passantino and Passantino, 32.

5. Ibid.

6. Robert J. Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1961, 1989), 4. Emphasis added.

7. Margaret Singer with Janja Lalich, Cults in Our Midst (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995). 61. Emphasis added.

8. Louis J. West, "Persuasive Techniques in Religious Cults," in Marc Galanter, ed., Cults and Religious Movements (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Press, 1989), 165-192.

9. Cited in Margaret Thaler Singer and Marsha Emmer Addis, "Cults, Coercion, and Contumely," in Anthony Kales et al., The Mosaic of Contemporary Psychiatry in Perspective (New York, Berlin, etc.: Springer-Verlag, 1992), 130-142. Emphasis added.

10. A. Meale, "INFORM — Cut in Funding by the Home Office," Nov.15, 1993.

11. A. Carley, "Government Grant to Cult Watchdog Stirs flap in Britain," July 10,1989, 6-7.

12. Passantino and Passantino, op. cit.

13. We believe the Passantinos have failed to distinguish the question of guilt regarding sin/crime from the additional matter of whether the cult member should be held fully responsible for joining the cult, staying in the cult, accepting and obeying the teachings of the cult leader, and ending up on the one hand confused, depressed, anxious, or delusional, or on the other hand hostile to non-cult members, exclusivistic, judgmental, or even heretical. Consider the following scriptures:

Matthew 18:6 — "‘...but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.’"

Matthew 18:7 — "‘Woe to the world because of its stumbling-blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling-blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling-block comes!’"

Our understanding of these verses is that the one who leads someone else astray from the truth, or otherwise misleads a person, will be judged far more severely than the one misled. And this is not talking about leading another into criminal activity or sin in general, unless one includes believing a lie in the category of sin.

Bob and Gretchen did allow for some element of deception in their original article — but that was all, and they still seemed to hold the cult member responsible for allowing himself to be deceived. A bit disingenuous, we believe.

14. The authors imply as much when they refer later to "unscriptural feelings of guilt" (Passantino and Passantino, 33).

15. Case No. 90CR 012, Court of Common Pleas, lake County, Ohio. It is worth quoting from the statement of the presiding judge at the sentencing of Danny Kraft:

I hope this tragedy and resulting sentence serves as a warning to all parents and families on the destructive nature of religious cults. That we, as a society, are mindful of the ease with which it can destroy, just as we recognize the destructive capacity of alcohol and drugs.

16. Lundgren was a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who split off from the RLDS Church believing he was a true prophet of God.

17. Passantino and Passantino, 33.

18. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 137.

19. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph Henry Thayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonde~an Publishing House, 11th printing, 1972), 98.

20. Edward A. Lottick, M.D., "International Congress on Cultism," The Cult Observer, Vol.10, No. 5, 1993.

21. "Wellspring’s Approach to Cult Rehab," Wellspring Messenger, Vol. 4, No. 5, November/December 1993,1.

22. Steve Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control (Rochester VT: Park Street Press, 1988, 1990), 56. Cited in Passantino and Passantino, 33.

23. Theodore E. H. Chen, Thought Reform of the Chinese Intellectuals (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press [Oxford University Press], 1960).

24. Lifton, Op. cit.

25. See Schein, E., Schneir, I., & Barker, C. H., Coercive Persuasion (New York: W.W. Norton, 1961).

26. As an aside, Jerry Walls, author of Hell, the Logic of Damnation, remarked in a private conversation with Wellspring psychological assistant Ron Burks that Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform are perversions of the normal conversion process every individual goes through while changing from one proposition to another in response to new evidence or perspective.

27. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropedia, Vol. 9, 138. Cited in Passantino and Passantino, 40.

28. David G. Bromley and Anson 9. Shupe, "Public Reaction Against New Religious Movements," in Marc Galanter, ed., Cults and New Religious Movements: A Report of the American Psychiatric Association (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1989), 325-26. Cited in Passantino and Passantino, 33.

29. WCCO, Channel 4 TV, Minneapolis, Minn., January 3, 1980.

30. Passantino and Passantino, 33. Their reference to "unscriptural feelings of guilt" seems to contradict the general implication of their article that cult involvement is sinful.

31. Op. cit. 32.

32. Luke 23:34.

33. Luke 12:47-48a, New American Standard Bible. See also Matt. 11:20-24.

34. There are probably cases in which an exit counselor may say, "I don’t believe he is under mind control, but he just doesn’t accept our facts as credible."

35. Michael D. Langone, ed., Recovery from Cults (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993).

36. Mel White, Deceived II, (Muskegon, MI: Gospel Films).

37. Passantino and Passantino, 34.

38. To take an obviously extreme example of such a cult, consider the "Garbage Eaters," led by Jim Roberts, aka "Brother Evangelist." They believe they are more "spiritual" than others because (for one thing) they seek not to depend on the "sinful" world to meet their needs — hence their "dumpster diving." Can anyone conceive of someone in his or her right mind "choosing" to live this way? If these people are not under mind control, what are they under? They &e certainly not in their right minds. They have been led to believe that this kind of lifestyle is truly righteous and holy. After all, they are not being conformed to the world and its systems. It seems to us that "simple deception" is inadequate to explain such behavior.

39. Gary Collins, Search for Reality (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1969), 148. Cited in Passantino and Passantino, 42.

40. Dr. Daniel Langer (former military intelligence officer in Vietnam) in personal conversation with Ron Burks.

41. See Louis J. West, et al., Symposium No.4: Methods of Forced Indoctrination: Observations and Interviews (New York: Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Publications Office, 1957); Louis J. West, "Psychiatric Aspects of Training for Honorable Survival as a Prisoner of War," American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol.115, No.4, October 1958; Louis J. West, "Brainwashing," in A. Deutsch, ed., The Encyclopedia of Mental Health, Vol.1 New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1963).

42. Passantino and Passantino, Witch Hunt, 111.

43. Paul R. Martin, Michael 9. Langone, Arthur A. Dole, Jeffrey Wiltrout, "Post-Cult Symptoms as Measured by the MCMI Before and After Treatment," Cultic Studies Journal, Vol.9, No.2, 1992, 219-250. See also my chapter in Michael Langone, ed., Recovery From Cults.

44. Jerry Paul MacDonald, "‘Reject the Wicked Man’ — Coercive Persuasion and Deviance Production: A Study of Conflict Management," Cultic Studies Journal Vol.5, No.1, Winter 1988, 59-121.

45. Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., The Discipling Dilemma (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1988), 23-28.

46. See Michael Langone, ed., Recovery From Cults.

47. Cults, Faith Healing and Coercion (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

48. Cult-Proofing Your Kids, 41.

49. "Coming Out of the Cults," Psychology Today, January 1979, 72. Emphasis added.

50. Busséll, Harold, Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983), 15. Reprinted as By Hook or By Crook: How Cults Lure Christians (New York: McCracken Press, 1993).

51. Helping the Hurting, 3-4.

52. Walter Martin, Cult Explosion (Hemet, CA: Jeremiah Films); J.L. Williams, Identifying and Dealing with the Cults (Burlington, NC: New Directions Evangelistic Association; Chambers, Langone, Dole, and Grice, "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale," Cultic Studies Journal, Vol.11, No.1, 1994, 93.

53. Chambers, et al., ibid., 93.

54. Some, to be sure, like Transcendental Meditation, promote themselves currently as non-religious, even though they are unavoidably religious at root.

55. We are aware that authorities later determined that as many as a couple hundred of the cultists actually died of gunshot wounds, including Jones himself. The question still remains: if there is no such thing as mind control, what was it that drove the 6 or 700 others to drink the poison and administer it to their children?

56. Laura Haferd and William Outlaw, "Out of the Wilderness," Beacon, the magazine of The Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio, February 21, 1993, 5.

57. A fascinating description of this process is contained in Edgar Allan Poe’s tale "A Descent into the Maelstrom."

58. It is virtually impossible to give an accurate count of cult members, since many cultic groups do not keep such records, most that do do not make them public, and there are any number of differing definitions of "cult." The figure given here is meant to give an idea of the usual range of cult membership suggested, though some cult researchers suggest lower, others higher figures.

59. Also to be considered is the fact that a sizeable percentage of those lost by one cult end up attracted by another. Several former cultists who have sought counseling at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center had been members of up to three and four different cultic groups.

60. Passantino and Passantino, Witch Hunt, 111.

61. It appears that the problem for the Passantinos is that some of their favorite Christian groups are indicted by the mind control model, even though they claim to be based on the Bible.

62. Milton Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind (New York: Basic Books, 1960).

63. Passantino and Passantino, 38.

64. Passantino and Passantino, 38-39.

65. In a footnote (number 57) the Passantinos refer to Anthony and Robbins for further support of their contention that most mind control advocates discount human susceptibilities as a factor in cult recruitment. However, this is a matter for empirical study. Has there been research published on it? How does one measure susceptibility? What are they basing their point on here?

66. Col. 2:8, Jerusalem Bible. Emphasis added.

67. 2 Corinthians 11:20, Jerusalem Bible. Emphasis added.

68. Mel White, Deceived (Muskegon, MI: Gospel Films).

69. Passantino and Passantino, 39.

70. Ex-cult members are not likely to say "I’ve been under mind control", unless they know what mind control is. A person who feels physically sick often does not know the cause until he hears a doctor’s diagnosis.

71. Paul R. Martin, et al., "Post-Cult Symptoms as Measured by the MCMI Before and After Residential Treatment," 219-250.

72. Passantino and Passantino, 39.

73. Ezek. 34:2b-5.

74. Em Griffin, The Mind Changers (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1976), 29-30. Cited in Passantino and Passantino, 40. The original Lewis quote is from The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1947). Either Griffin or the Passantinos misquoted the passage, however. It actually reads: "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and we are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful" (Collier Books edition, 1962, 35. The underlined words were omitted from the passage.

75. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1943, 1945, 1952).

76. Passantino and Passantino, 40.

77. Denver Seminary in Colorado and Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC are two rare exceptions we know of that offer more than a cursory glance at cults.

78. Passantino and Passantino, 40.

79. Prov. 24:11-12, Jerusalem Bible.

80. See also Obadiah 11 for an even stronger statement in this regard.

81. Works, or human endeavor, in this sense have no spiritual value in relation to one’s standing with God. Or the Passantinos may argue that works are simply a religious requirement of moral obedience. But moral obedience implies that one knows what is moral or correct. But the problem is that the uniform testimony of former cultists is that there was absolutely nothing they saw that was immoral, illegal, or suggestive of disobedience to God. Consequently, the Passantinos have to answer the following questions:

1) What moral or doctrinal mandates have the cultists disobeyed?

2) Are these moral and/or spiritual mandates sufficiently clear that any reasonable person would still act knowingly in a reckless and negligent manner to join a cult in spite of hearing and understanding the mandates?

3) Who is responsible to present these moral or doctrinal mandates to the potential cultist?

82. There have been far too many cases of "pseudo-victims" who are so ready to sue, for example, a manufacturer for not warning them against every possible misuse of their product, blaming the company for the consequences of the individual’s own carelessness or even stupidity. Such cases, however, do not discount the reality of victimization by cults.



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