Examining the causation that forces a person to entrust the entirety of their wellbeing to another person can take years of psycho analyzing; session after session to peel back the layers of the onion to ascertain the reason that a person would or could be vulnerable enough to follow through with the often unfortunate requirements to be a cult member can be, both, exhausting and daunting. A cult is defined as a religious or social group that have socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices.
Marcia Rudin comprised a list of some common characteristics of a cult member. Among these characteristics are (1) swearing allegiance to an “all-powerful” leader who they believe to be the Messiah, (2) the discouragement of rational thought, and (3) manipulation of guilt to the cults advantage. We are to assume that extenuating circumstances lead a person to participate or become vulnerable to a cults advances. The questions always asked, or that should always be asked, are “Is the person who accepts or seeks membership into a cult community in their right mind? Has this person undergone some type of mental break that makes them justify the propaganda of the occultists, Is susceptibility based on circumstance or psychosis? Are there people who are genuinely predisposed to joining a cult?
Most cults are the deviant offspring of a mated incestuous relationship between doctrine and manipulation. The “fruit” that are produced from this union has the capacity to create a class of truly vulnerable and impressionable individuals. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Charles Manson and the Manson Family, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple are all unfortunate examples with first hand accounts of the havoc that these sects can wreak.
Most of the cults that have been reported have a religious based foundation. No surprise there right? The leader of these cults are seen by its members as Messiahs who will usher in the second coming. These people plant themselves as effigies into the lives of their followers and dare to be uprooted. Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple are one of the most notable cases in which a charismatic leader took advantage of the flock of people that he was supposed to be leading. Jim Jones, the leader of The Peoples Temple incited his followers to sell all of their worldly possessions to pool money to create an Eden of their own, which they called Jonestown. Jim Jones and more than 900 of his followers left the United States of America and traveled to Guyana to bring this dream of a modern day Eden to fruition. The commune that they created was mostly self sufficient. The houses were built by hand by the followers as was the crops that they produced to maintain sustenance. Under the ruling of Jim Jones at Jonestown the followers suffered physical, mental, and verbal abuse. They essentially became hostages.
This is one of the most notable and heartbreaking stories because of the promises that were made to these people; the false hope that they were given sustained them. Jones’ idealism and theories became increasingly irrational. He lost a lot of support from the officials who helped him gain recognition in the United States because of his views and actions. In the wake of the public scrutiny that Jones was facing he devised a plan that would be the be all that would end all. In November of 1978 California Congressman Leo Ryan and a few other people traveled to Jonestown on a campaign to bring the people of Jonestown home. When Congressman Ryan got to Jonestown the tensions became increasingly volatile. While trying to bring a few of the people from the commune home who wished to defect the Congressman and the individuals from the commune where shot and killed at the Guyana air strip from which they landed. Back at Jonestown the 900 followers of The Peoples Temple were incited to drink Flavor Aid that was laced with cyanide, more than a quarter of them being children. After inciting his followers to poison themselves Jim Jones shot himself. The psychotic and sociopathic implications that come along with being influenced by a cult are apparent and wouldn’t even be considered implications. In the last few decades there have been an increasing number of sects being born and maintained by more charismatic and bad intentioned leaders. The question that still remains is, “Are there people who are genuinely predisposed to cult susceptibility?” Is the vulnerability based on circumstance or genetic predisposition?