The fame of Indian Guru called “Sai Baba” has spread among non-Indians all over the world. Millions of devotees are making a trip to Puttaparthi (India), to get his blessings. Unification Church (The Moonies) is one of the well-known cults in the western world. Heaven’s Gate group’s mass suicide depicts the cult behaviour. What is ‘cult’? Cult is a group or movement, which exhibits excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing.
These cults dictate how members should think, act and feel which alienates them from society at large (http://www.csj.org/studyindex/studymindctr/study_cultmindctr.htm , 1998). Figure 2 Dark side of the game Cult behaviour is present throughout society and it is particularly evident in the military where fanatical support with arms has resulted in the brink of extinction (Deikman, 1990). Recent ongoing tactics of Bush against Sadam, would make us be aware of the influence and manipulation employed in order to maintain power and promote war. Why do people allow groups or individuals to influence or persuade them so dramatically?
The process of persuasion determines the behaviour in the cult. Therefore the concept of persuasion in cult behaviour is known as ‘mind control’, ‘coercive persuasion’, and ‘thought reform’. It refers to a process in which a source deliberately uses communication methods to alter or change the targeted recipient, and where the target experiences little choice ( Moghaddam, 1998) . There are several methods to persuade the target to conform to the wishes of the manipulator. Instilling feelings of guilt and obligation, constant reminders, and threats of misfortune weakens the mind and then bends the will of the member through persistent argument, emotional manipulation, or through sleep or food deprivation (http://www.mindspring.com/~bab5/BIB/cult.html ,1996).
Figure 3 Evangelicals believe that only home for mankind is through religion The Evangelical calling as cult believes and preaches that if anyone who does not join their religion would be ‘not be ‘born against Christian’ and who does not believe in their doctrines, would be going to hell (http://www.mindspring.com/~bab5/BIB/cult.html ,1996).Cults also use another method of persuasion, which damages the individual’s emotions. When an individual is in a situation needed to maintain order and meaning in their life, where they have to act not in accordance with their self image and values which is known as ‘cognitive dissonance theory’ (Groenveld, 2003)In other words control of behaviour, control of thoughts, control of emotions and control of information would restrict the individual’s ability to think for himself.
Chanting, meditating, singing and humming are several ways to short circuit a person’s ability to test reality. Guilt and fear controls the person’s feelings, so this creates an outside enemy ( us versus them) and also the fear of punishment for not following the cult (Groenveld, 2003). There is psychological gun held to their heads which eradicates former beliefs and replaces them with new beliefs (Groenveld, J,2003). Persuasion is not only brainwashing it is also manipulation of the human mind causing an opinion shift by another individual (Moghaddam, 1998). A group called Woman empowering Women(WEW) claims to generate twenty-four thousand pounds for any one who invests three thousand through a radio talk show. The Isle of weight with one hundred and thirty thousand residents heard the talk show and was gripped with the pyramid scheme fever.
The banks ran short of money, a story which hit the media (Teeman, 2001).WEW viewed as a cult with the dubious scheme, has manipulated the residents of the island. Therefore, easy messages are persuasive when shown or heard in the media and difficult ones, when written (Moghaddam, 1998). Figure 4 I want you – US army recruitment poster The artist , James Montogomery Flagg, used himself as a model for World War I recruitment posters and these were revived during World War II.
This poster has been described as the best known of any era, and has attracted more recruits into the army. The other example is how an Indian guru “Sai Baba”has attracted many non- Indian followers. Millions of them fly over to Puttarparthi, wait for hours and hours to see him and get his blessings. The media has displayed him as a ‘Sadhu’ or Saint. It makes one wonder what beliefs he has created in his followers.