Mind-Manipulating Cults: "Anonymous" Groups Fit the Model

Mind-Manipulating Cults: "Anonymous" Groups Fit the Model
by Ken Ragge

The following checklist of characteristics of mind-manipulating cults is from the book Cults: What Parents Should Know by Dr. Michael Langone. Thorough documentation of the comments is available in More Revealed.

checkbox image The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

From the AA literature, "Unless each A.A. member follows ... our suggested Twelve Steps of recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. ...We must obey certain principles, or we die." Group members are under the threat of death to work the Steps. Step number twelve calls for members to "carry the message," which means recruit others. "Each group's primary purpose is to carry the message..."

checkbox image The group is preoccupied with making money.

Individual twelve step groups are not preoccupied with making money. However, in the broader perspective of the treatment industry, the bottom line is of primary importance. "Counselors", whose only qualification is often group membership, as well as other industry employees, work for less than in comparative fields because they believe they are doing "God's work" in the indoctrination centers. Those who answer the phones at treatment centers are often on commission. Recently hitting the news in the Los Angeles Times are stories about massive fraud involving government money in Southern California half-way houses.

checkbox image The group is focused on a living charismatic leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, is held in great reverence. His words are quoted as the final, irrevocable answer to all questions of doctrine. Many meeting rooms have pictures of "Bill W." and "Dr. Bob" displayed on both sides of the podium around which the AA service usually revolves. In Mexico, the pictures are saluted with hand raised at a 45 degree angle, palm held outward.

Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, is held in great reverence. His words are quoted as the final, irrevocable answer to all questions of doctrine. Many meeting rooms have pictures of "Bill W." and "Dr. Bob" displayed on both sides of the podium around which the AA service usually revolves. In Mexico, the pictures are saluted with hand raised at a 45 degree angle, palm held outward.

The fact Bill Wilson is dead is often used as a reason AA is not a cult. However, if Reverend Moon should die, will the Moonies overnight not be a cult?

checkbox image Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Disagreeing with twelve step doctrine is considered a disease symptom. The response to disagreement with doctrine or elders can run the gamut from patronization to threats to shunning. In "treatment," disagreement can result in "the hot seat" and other forms of humiliation and abuse.

checkbox image Mind-numbing techniques (for example: meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group or its leader(s).

Step Eleven specifically addresses meditation. Thought-stopping techniques are also used. New recruits are frequently admonished for their "unspiritual" criticism of doctrine or elder authority with "Take what you want and leave the rest," "Sit down, shut up and learn something," and other slogans. Anyone who continues to voice criticism is likely to be shunned by the group.

checkbox image The group's leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, to change jobs, to get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, how much and what type of makeup to put on, how to discipline children, etc.)

It is the norm for "sponsors" to dictate all these things to their "babies." In the groups, one is to turn one's "will and life over to the care of God." There is no distinction made in AA theology between AA and God, so refusal to turn one's "will and life" over to the group is very much equivalent to defying God. In the groups, "God" requires suppression of normal human emotion. (e.g. Anger "when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. ...we drink again. And for us, to drink is to die.")

checkbox image The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).

The "Big Book," a sacred text, tells how Bill Wilson was planning to "save" the world. Members, being "spiritually awake," believe they have special knowledge of God that "normies," due to their never having the disease in question and never having worked the Steps, don't have.

checkbox image The group has a polarized, "we-they" mentality that causes conflict with the wider society.

The groups believe that members are inherently different. There are "alcoholics" and "normies." "Normies" can't understand alcoholics. "Only another alcoholic can understand." This is true in all twelve step groups, all of which build a fortress mentality. They are, however, very careful not to openly engage in conflict. They are to always show "Humility," which means that, even though they have special knowledge of God and know better than others, they are to never argue. This together with "Anonymity," is at the core of their ability to infiltrate.

checkbox image The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).

There is no accountability for any leader in any of the groups. For example, an Elder with 35 years told a newcomer, a young man, his sobriety was no good because he was taking medication for high blood pressure. The newcomer, on the advice of the Elder, quit his medication, had a stroke, and is now crippled for life. Was the Elder held accountable to anyone? No. Are elders ever? No.

checkbox image The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means (for example: collecting money for bogus charities) that members would have considered unethical before joining the group.

The members of the groups are so restricted in their ability to think that they often engage in dishonest behavior without even being aware of it. For example, Elders will "let God speak" through them, telling the congregation at meetings how wonderful life is in the groups as a result of working the steps, and later, at after-meeting coffee, tell how they have been contemplating suicide but didn't mention it because they didn't want to confuse the newcomers.

checkbox image Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family, friends, and personal pre-group goals and interests.

The most outstanding public example of this is Rosanne Barr, who publicly denounces her parents. On the more mundane level, family members of a grouper are considered sick too, and if they resist "help," the grouper may be advised to abandon his family.

checkbox image The group's leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.

Guilt is only secondary to fear as a motivating factor for group members. The manipulation of guilt is identical to the Red Chinese Communist "brainwashing" techniques. Members must make written confessions of their character defects and an important part of meetings is "sharing" for confession.

checkbox image Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.

New members are to attend "90 meetings in 90 day." Since all the diseases are considered "spiritual diseases," and the groups don't claim to cure any of them, a member must stay a member, attend meetings and work to convert others for the rest of his life.

checkbox image Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

Even when not required, the results of indoctrination are usually a narrowing of a grouper's relationships to only other groupers. Only other group members can "understand."