by Joe Zabel

The graphic novel Rapid Eye Movement has one purpose and one purpose only-- to entertain the reader. However, while inventing the far-fetched mind control cult group known as New Leaf, I had the opportunity to investigate true, documented cases of mind control cults currently active in the U.S. My own conclusions were that mind control cults are real, that they are dangerous, and that they are not well understood by the general public.

Following are some notions I picked up from my research, which I personally think are legitimate; I invite the readers to draw their own conclusions:

* There is a clear distinction between normal religious and spiritual activity and the activities of mind control cults. Religious and spiritual groups, large and small, conventional and unconventional, are open about what they believe and how they operate. Mind control cults, by contrast, are deceptive and manipulative, and they seek to exert an extraordinary and unhealthy control over their membership.

* Unconventional and non-Western religions and beliefs are not inherently linked to mind control cults. In fact, a mind control cult is just as likely to be an offshoot from a Christian sect as from other belief systems. Undue suspicion of 'new age' believers, occultists, and practitioners of Eastern religions is completely unwarranted.

* Mind control cults recruit normal, healthy individuals. Any person of any income bracket or level of education can fall under their influence.

* Many mind control cults are richly financed, and engage in sophisticated promotions involving advertising and corporate sponsorship. In some cases these groups have insinuated themselves into corporate culture under the guise of motivational training centers.

* Mind control cults are harmful to their memberships and to the public. While Jim Jones' People's Temple is an extreme example of suicide-oriented cults, the average mind control cult financially bankrupts its members, makes them fearful and paranoid, and deteriorates their physical health. Mind control cult groups are especially harmful towards the children of cult members, who are defenseless against the neglect and often harsh discipline imposed by the cult.

* Mind control cults use a set of tactics that are very effective in bringing people under their influence. They exert a high level of personal control over their members by subverting normal critical thinking, creating an unnatural dependency that "hooks" them. Tactics such as 'love bombing' give the recruit a false sense of acceptance and caring, when the cult is anything but a nurturing and caring environment.

* The best defense against cult indoctrination is a healthy skepticism. Unfortunately, we live in an age where skepticism about strange beliefs is discouraged. Without offending the diversity of beliefs in our society, we should be more vigorous in teaching young people about logic, reasoning, critical thinking and the scientific method.

* Skepticism should be applied as well to organizations claiming to oppose mind control cults. This is especially true of the Cult Awareness Network. Once among the leading anti-cult groups, CAN was successfully sued into bankrupcy. Its assets and records were purchased, over the objection of CAN leadership, by a Scientologist!!!!

* Some anti-cult groups have been a party to 'deprogramming' activities which involved the illegal kidnapping of adults. Let me state unequivocally that I oppose all such illegal acts, which violate the rights of the individuals involved, whatever the good intentions of the kidnappers. However, the vast majority of deprogramming activities involve voluntary intervention with adults, or work with minors who are in the legal custody of their parents. While the public is right to be wary of deprogramming, it is important to note that most anti-cult organizations are primarily in the business of collecting information and providing an educational function. In this, they richly deserve our support.

Following are some links to cult information websites. Please do not infer an endoresment by me. Since this is a politically and emotionally charged territory, it is entirely possible that any of these organizations could be motivated by hidden agendas.

Factnet, a slick and content-rich source of cult news and information.

Rick Ross, a deprogrammer and cult expert with a large, well-organized website. His site features a debate on deprogramming which is pretty evenly matched between Ross and a commentator who considers him a 'wacko.'

Dr. Margaret Singer, one of the most prominent writers on mind control cults. This link is to an AFF profile of Singer.

AFF, an organization studying the psychological effects of mind control cults.

Yahoo's list of cult-oriented websites.

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