Extracts from Issue 3 - 2000
At the Annual General Meeting of FAIR on Oct 21st, 2000, the Hon. Tom Sackville was elected as the new Chairman. He sends the following message:
As those who attended the recent AGM will know, I had the honour to be elected Chairman. I have been involved with FAIR for some years, having first heard about it, and indeed become aware of the full magnitude of the problem which FAIR seeks to address, as Member of Parliament for Bolton West.
My reasons for wanting to play an active role in FAIR are based on the following: First, I believe a great many wrong doings are perpetrated by people hiding behind the shield of "religious movements", about which nothing is done. Not only are people generally unaware of the dangers which cults pose, there is precious little help for victims and their families.
Second, in fourteen years as an MP, I never ceased to be struck by the lethargy and ignorance of my parliamentary colleagues, and the cynicism and heartlessness of the civil servants who support Ministers, when it comes to dealing with the evil effects of cults. Although not a campaigning organisation, FAIR plays a vital role as a nucleus of committed individuals, who are aware of the true nature of cult activity, and in a position to warn and inform others, and assist those in trouble.
I have taken over from Audrey Chaytor, a hard act to follow. But no-one should be alarmed that we are losing Audrey, who is carrying on with her central role on behalf of FAIR clients. She will also continue to actively serve on the Committee. I look forward to working with her.
ANNUAL FAIR LECTURE
The Annual FAIR lecture was presented on October 21 2000 at the Royal Society of Medicine, London by Professor Stephen Kent.
He is Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2H4.
His title was "Alternative Religions and Child Sexual Abuse"
The following is a review by Dr. Bryan Tully.
Stephen's Kent's fascinating and scholarly talk began with two qualifications. First in terms of sheer numbers it was probable that more children had been abused within the ambit of mainstream religions. A second, many adherents of alternative religious sects would be as shocked and dismayed at child abuse as anyone else. Nonetheless, the thrust of Stephen Kent's presentation was that historical and documented legal record indicated that there were structural predispositions and theological beliefs, which facilitated child sexual abuse within these sects.
A key fact was the existence of "trusted hierarchies", within such organisations that gave "unguarded access" to children by paedophiles under cover. The second was the belief that members of the "elect" or charismatic leaders, who had brought followers to remarkable spiritual experiences, could not possibly have sexual urges for children or teens.
Stephen Kent told his audience of an early group, the Oneida Community, which abused teens in the mid 19th century in upstate New York. It's founder, John Noyes claimed, "first husband" sexual initiation rights over teens and women. Charles Leadbeater was an early 20th century pederast in England who used his position within the Theosophical Society to engage boys in various forms of "sex magic". Professor Kent has collected cases from many countries and historical epochs. Several organisations are facing legal suits in both Canada and the U.S. currently.
One organisation facing a multi million lawsuit and which has admitted widespread abuse in its boarding schools especially is the Hare Krishna movement. Professor Kent contrasted this with what he called the frustrating cases where there had been a singular lack of investigative and prosecutory success, in spite of well founded allegations. He cited "The Family" (formerly Children of God") as an example. There was thought to be a number of reasons. First the Hare Krishnas had been prosecuted in the U.S. "the world's most litigious country", whilst the Children of God, in spite of having many hundreds of children "confiscated" had faced far less investigation in other countries. The more children had been abused within the ambit of mainstream religions. A second, many adherents of alternative religious sects would be as shocked and dismayed at child abuse as anyone else. Nonetheless, the thrust of Stephen Kent's presentation was that historical and documented legal record indicated that there were structural predispositions and theological beliefs, which facilitated child sexual abuse within these sects.
A key fact was the existence of "trusted hierarchies", within such organisations which gave "unguarded access" to children by paedophiles under cover. The second was the belief that members of the "elect" or charismatic leaders, who had brought followers to remarkable spiritual experiences, could not possibly have sexual urges for children or teens.
Stephen Kent told his audience of an early group, the Oneida Community, which abused teens in the mid 19th century in upstate New York. It's founder, John Noyes claimed "first husband" sexual initiation rights over teens and women. Charles Leadbeater was an early 20th century pederast in England who used his position within the Theosophical Society to engage boys in various forms of "sex magic". Professor Kent has collected cases from many countries and historical epochs. Several organisations are facing legal suits in both Canada and the U.S. currently.
One organisation facing a multi million lawsuit and which has admitted widespread abuse in its boarding schools especially, is the Hare Krishna movement. Professor Kent contrasted this with what he called the frustrating cases where there had been a singular lack of investigative and prosecutory success, in spite of well founded allegations. He cited "The Family" (formerly Children of God") as an example. There was thought to be a number of reasons. First the Hare Krishnas had been prosecuted in the U.S. "the world's most litigious country", whilst the Children of God, in spite of having many hundreds of children "confiscated" had faced far less investigation in other countries. The Hare Krishnas had a proper governing body who could be pressured and appealed to, whilst the real leaders of the Children of God etc were hard to find. The Hare Krishnas owned property, whilst the Children of God or their leaders apparently did not. Stephen Kent felt there was indeed no reason to be optimistic that such hard to penetrate closed communities would be investigated with the vigour required. Gravely he concluded that within these groups, the likelihood of sexual abuse, combined with other forms of abuse, physical, medical, dietary, and religious meant that the lives of some sectarian children was particularly grim.
Stephen Kent's talk has provided a propitious commentary for FAIR's current consideration of how children's rights to a decent life and to make free choices can be promoted within a Human Rights framework.
"Watch out, there's a charity about"
James King says the charity commissioners have no real idea what constitutes a religion - and we are the losers
SPARE some change, guv? Money for the blind, anyone? The season of goodwill approaches, when tins are rattled outside Tube stations, when we all reach for the pound coin that makes us feel good about ourselves; and, when we do so, we might remember that many charities are of course wonderful and reputable. Others are a scandalous abuse of public generosity and public subsidy.
There is no better example of the chaos in Britain's law on charitable giving than the affairs of the Panacea Society, a small sect based in Bedford. Adherents study the speculations of a farmer's daughter and feminist, Joanna Southcott, who believed itwas her fate - in the words of the Book of Revelation - to `bring forth a male child to rule the nations with a rod of iron'.
At the age of 64, Joanna, a spinster, declared herself pregnant with a son by the Holy Spirit. Her followers prepared for a virgin birth. Then, in December 1814, she died. Her prophecies are allegedly sealed in a box which, say her devotees, can only be opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of 24 Church of England bishops. The chairwoman and controller of the sect, -year-old Mrs Ruth Klein, tells me that this `Ark of the Testament' is `about the size of a small coffin, bound with strong cord, sealed with copper nails and weighing 1561b'. She will not say where it is; only that it is somewhere in the Bedford area.
For the last 75 years the Panacea Society has been promoting its doctrines of anti-Semitism, as well as its plans for world domination by the end of this year. The five elderly surviving members of the movement have a cash fortune of about 15 million, and also own a property empire of 29 rented houses, worth additional millions, in favoured locations - all of it acquired thanks to generations of followers who have left money in their wills, on the understanding that they were making a contribution to the establishment of a `New Jerusalem' in Bedford.
And the truly amazing thing is that the sect does not pay tax on any of it. The Panacea Society was registered as a charity in 1926 and its status has never been called into question. The society continues to file its annual accounts with the Charity Commission,
listing among its religious activities the acquisition of property and the accumulation of funds.
The truth is that the Charity Commission, and British law on charities, are a shambles. The legislation originally dates from 1601 and was refined in 1891 to give four classifications for charitable uses of money: `relief of poverty, advancement of education, of religion and other purposes beneficial to the community'. Desperately trying to apply these principles are the five charity commissioners, based at Harmsworth House in London: commissioner John Stoker, second-in-command Michael Carpenter, and three wise men referred to, for someunaccountable reason, as part- timers. There are also 547 administrators and 50 so-called investigators. But the Charity Commission has no fewer than 187,200 charities on its books, and the officials are nowhere near establishing in their minds what a religion is, or what a charity is, or what it means to be religious in a charitable sense. Two years into the first-ever review of the list, Mr John Stoker and his colleagues would appear to be in a state of terminal muddle.
The commission is at odds with other European countries, who think that the Jehovah's Witnesses are a destructive cult. On the contrary, the commission continues to believe that the Witnesses are `charitable in concept', with the untold tax advantages that brings. And yet we in Britain can't quite agree with the Americans, approve of the Church of Scientology. Our charity commissioners say there is no deity central to Scientology's beliefs, and therefore John Travolta and others do not hold to a proper religion, and certainly not one that qualifies for charitable status.
No wonder, in the current confusion, that Tom Spring, the American lawyer retained by the Scientologists, is arriving this week in London to challenge the ruling against his peeved clients. He believes the classification is unfair and prejudicial and contrary to the new Human Rights Act, and who shall say he is mistaken? He has only to look at what the Jehovah's Witnesses have achieved to see how the intellectual fog can be exploited.
We think of the Witnesses as mumsy housewives in crimplene and shiny-faced, smiling men in neat Sixties suits and polyester ties calling at homes to warn the occupiers that Armageddon is about to strike (but not before they've bought a magazine or book). They are the butt of endless jokes and are considered harmless - loopy but harmless.
A growing number of countries within the EU are beginning to see things differently. The movement was classified as 'a dangerous cult' by the French government two years ago and was consequently denied charitable status in that part of the European Community. A penalty of FF300 million was imposed fornon-payment of backdated taxes, and a lien was declared on all French property belonging to the organisation.
The case went to appeal, but judgment was upheld on 4 July. More than six million followers of the movement swamped politicians on both sides of the Atlantic with letters of protest. Full-page announcements appeared in the New York Times and newspapers across France seeking public sympathy and support. Twelve million copies of a leaflet -- `People of France, You Are Being Deceived' - were delivered by `Les Temoins de Jehovah' as thousands marched through the streets of Paris calling for an end to `the defamatory statements spread about us'. Witness children were insulted and harassed at school, and some adults lost their jobs and were threatened because of their religion.
President Clinton has appealed for `tolerance toward religious sects', while President Jacques Chirac declared that the subject would not be on the agenda in future bilateral talks. Alain Vivian, of the ministerial committee which sat in judgment on the Jehovah's Witnesses, accused the Clinton administration of compromise and deference towards ' religious sects in exchange for political finance.
Developments in Europe have been constantly monitored from Watchtower Headquarters, the Brooklyn-based nerve-centre of the Witnesses' billion-dollar printing and publishing empire. In an effort to ward off further discord on the subject between Washington and some EU countries, a team of Jehovah's Witness accountants and lawyers have made legal 'readjustments' which will utilise the UK's expansive charity laws.
Arrangements are now in hand to transfer `substantial amounts' of cash from the American headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses to the London branch, to be invested in tax-free UK-based holdings. Additionally, legal connections with the `mother organisation' have been severed. The British arm will be used as a safe haven for staggering amounts of money, protecting thewar chest from a slew of `class action' lawsuits threatened by dissenters in America. Opposition to the French government's crackdown on cults will, in future, be mounted, sustained and financed directly from London.
What does our Charity Commission say about all this? `There are stringent tests and controls which are applied to all religious charities in the UK. Any mere disapproval of the tenets and practices of a religion does not amount to grounds for withholding registration. In the absence of clear and adverse public-interest factors, the commission cannot decline registration of a religious charity. The choice of religion is a personal one and capable of provoking strong feeling. The Watchtower Society [of Jehovah's Witnesses] is established for religious purposes and there is no legal requirement for it to help people in need.' Try telling that to Chirac.
The Witnesses perform no recognisable charitable work which benefits the public; members have even been excommunicated for making contributions to the Red Cross. Does a charity merely have to advance religion, or does it have to advance religion in so far as it is beneficial to the community?
A high-ranking tax inspector commented on the lucrative tax-free status of certain religious charities which actually perform no charitable acts or recognisable public service: `Unless it can be shown that the Exchequer is wilfully and unlawfully being deprived of funds, the Inland Revenue is powerless to act.' What is needed is legislation to clarify in law just what 'charity' is, and whether religious belief without `charitable works' can be deemed charitable in itself.
So what are the charity commissioners going to do? What results can we expect, after two years of contemplation of their 187,200 beneficiary organisations? Mr Stoker isn't saying, and has refused repeated requests for an interview.
One of his few actions has been to excommunicate the Pagan - an organisation which embraces a loose understanding of druids, witches and the Viking god Odin, in conjunction with an affiliated Pagan Hospice and Funeral Trust. Under the old rules this organisation was granted tax-free charitable status ten years ago; the Charity Commission has recently decided that paganism does not now constitute a religion `in the charitable sense'. But if the Pagans do not qual\ify, why do the members of the Panacea Society? If the Scientologists are off-side, why do the Jehovah's Witnesses meet with Mr Stoker's approval?
It is time for Stoker to stand forth and explain his reasoning, and he might begin by making a special pilgrimage to Bedford, where the Panacea Society's annual net income - from property and investment - is currently in excess of £540,000.
From her headquarters in Albany Road, Mrs Klein tells me, `We believe the town of Bedford is situated at the geographical centre-point of England, and was long ago chosen by God to be the future location of the "New Jerusalem" - British seat of world government to be administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury under the direct guidance of Jesus Christ and his spiritual sister Octavia, both of whom are expected to make an appearance in our private chapel towards the end of this year.' (Octavia is the `spiritual name' of Gertrude Blanche Hallwood, the founder of the sect, who died in 1934.)
How many of you are there? I ask her. `We never give numbers, but I understand our private chapel sometimes had as many as 50 or 60 attending - but that was before the war, of course.'
Where, exactly, is the box, and why don't you just send it to Lambeth Palace for the Archbishop to open there?
`The sacred box is in the safekeeping of one of our members and will never leave Bedford.'
Is all this in the Bible?
`Of course it is - Revelation - you can read it for yourself: "And the temple of God was opened and there was seen the Ark [our box you understand] of His Testament." This is our ministry. We are guardians of the sacred manuscripts of Joanna Southcott and devoted to persuading the bishops of the Church of England to assemble here for enlightenment. We have written continuously to them but most of our letters are not even acknowledged. All we ask is a little obedience from the Archbishop. The fate of the nation, and the world, is in his hands.'
Come on, Stoker: tell us why we're subsidising these people.
Reproduced courtesy of The Spectator.
POSSIBLE PREDISPOSITION FOR CULT INVOLVEMENT
The contribution to empirical research of a possible predisposition for cult involvement is rarely available on an international scale. The current observations, experiences and statements made to this theme are indeed countless but are also often extremely inconsistent. So it is claimed, for example, that many cult members come from dysfunctional families or that a psychopathological disorder was already existent before joining a cult. In opposition to this include those who hold the opinion that cult members come from completely normal, functional and protective families who clearly have no history of psychopathological illness. The proposed work should be ascertained whether such a disposition to joining a cult actually exists and if so, which factors could be responsible.
All the data of conducted inquiries included in this study were derived from families who consulted the author for advice because one or more of their family members decided to join a cult.
The basis of this inquiry represented a semi-standardised questionnaire of case histories which was sent to the affected families, partners and/or friends before the initial consultation. Hence, the questionnaire was an external assessment in the form of a written examination. It managed to achieve the quantitative and qualitative data of a sample of 110 cult members aged between 12 and 50 years.
This is (at least for the Federal Republic of Germany) the largest sample ever conducted in relation to this theme.
The following focal points should be thoroughly examined:
The family background and the personality of the cult members, as well as the situational conditions and the psychological state just prior to joining the cult.
The most significant results are as follows:
The majority of persons, who were single before joining the cult, came from either middle-class or upper-middle-class families and were aged between 21 and 25 years. In addition, they were raised with several brothers and sisters in small provinces and rural towns (astonishingly, from the total amount surveyed, only 3 individuals were without siblings). The standard of education was comparatively high. Most of the parents were married.
The majority of persons suffered simultaneously from several burdening experiences before joining a cult. Further, most of them experienced a dysfunctional family background and were confronted with difficult life situations (critical life events) immediately prior to joining a cult.
Only a small amount of persons indicated a psychopathological disorder. Specific differences in gender could be proven. An increasing number of female cult members came from small towns and Protestant families who rarely attended church. These women viewed their family situation as incriminatory and the communication as restrictive. While the women were more dissatisfied with their life circumstances, the male cult members were described as being increasingly introverted. Furthermore, the male members were more interested in the doctrine/ideology of the respective grouping.
Further, it succeeded by presenting a profile of 3 cult categories: Christian-Fundamentalist groups, Guru Movements and Psycho-Cult/Esoteric Movements.
In the following, the profile of these 3 cult categories shall be presented in more detail. Those who joined a Christian-Fundamentalist cult, were mainly aged between 21 and 25 years. A majority reported to have attended church on a regular basis and were reared in families who showed a lack of communicative competence. Further, they often regarded a sense of community, a binding doctrine and the search for a meaningful life as being significant reasons for joining.
Those who joined the Guru Movements, were aged between 16 and 20 years. A majority of these members were men and first-born children who mainly attended secondary school without having completed their matriculation. Regular church attendance took place. Fewer persons were reported to have experienced incriminatory family situations whilst more claimed to have experienced competent communication within the family. They were considered as being neither altruistic nor depressive, but rather introverted. Further, they claimed to be searching more for a binding doctrine and less for a meaningful life.
The members of the alleged Psycho-Cults and Esoteric Movements entered these groups at a notably older age, between 26 and 30 years. These movements were predominately made up of female members who rarely attended church and came from split families.
Approximately half of those surveyed were described as being altruistic, sensitive and lonely. Only a quarter of those surveyed were found to be naive, unstable, introverted, idealistic and/or denoted a lack of self-awareness.
According to slightly more than half of the cult members (after individual statements were made), the decisive factor for joining a cult was the desire for a binding doctrine. Only a small amount regarded self-realisation or discontentment as a motive for joining. Further, they experienced increasingly burdening family situations and suffered from problems relating to work or school immediately before joining a cult. They were not regarded as being introverted but were described as having egoistic personalities. In addition, they considered that neither the search for community nor the need for a binding doctrine were relevant reasons for joining a cult.
These results helped to gain an initial insight into a largely unsearched area. Furthermore, they contributed towards the clarification of the specific biographical and thematic backgrounds which may suggest a predisposal to cult membership.
This examination has clearly demonstrated the complexity involved in joining a cult and should therefore be taken into consideration when working with ex-cult/cult members and their relatives. Both sides should be given equal consideration - not only the cult (referred to as, `The Lock´) and its internal dynamics, but also to the person (referred to as, `The Key´) and his/her individual needs.
The results of this study clearly suggest, among other factors, that persons with similar life histories are increasingly confined to specific cult categories. Some pre-disposed factors are responsible for joining a cult. However, it also becomes clear that the reason for joining a cult is not purely generated by a few concise factors but rather by multiple causes.
It could be proven that the majority of persons had to simultaneously cope with several and unsolved problems immediately before they joined a cult. For instance, within their family, their relationships, at school and/or at work. Because of the increasing existing pressures in the various areas of life, and because of the subjective valency which was ascribed to these occurrences, the persons involved in this report were joining cults which were undoubtedly promising solutions and a sense of superficial relief.
Dieter Rohmann, was born in 1960 and completed a Diploma of Psychology in 1999 in the University of Eichstätt, Germany. He himself joined the cult `Children of God´ in 1979 and was involved there for 7 months before he was able to leave by his own. In the beginning of the 1980´s, he worked on a project in Goa, India with Western dropouts who were drug addicted and psychologically disturbed. Since 1984 he has been working as a freelancer to inform (talks, interviews, workshops) and advise people in the area of totalitarian movements. From 1984 to 1987, he accompanied the then only existent Cult Recovery Centre in Europe (`Johanneshof e.V.´) near Bonn. In 1994, he was appointed to the advisory board for the `AFF News´ of the American Family Foundation. In the beginning of 1999, he was involved in the conception and establishment of the new Cult Recovery Centre (`Odenwaelder Wohnhof e.V.´).
For more information, please consult his website: http://www.kulte.de
Those interested in obtaining the complete empirical study (which unfortunately is only available in German) should contact the Social Science Publishing House: Edition Soziothek, eMail: soziothek@freesurf
HONOHAMA SANPOGYO (Japanese 'Foot Cult')
Japanese police continued their crackdown on a cult that promises to cure illness diagnosed by "reading" the soles of the feet.
Nine officials of Honohana Sanpogyo were arrested on suspicion of fraudulently persuading followers that they could escape illness by making large donations to the cult.
The latest round-up brought to 24 the number of Honohana leaders under arrest over a fraud said to have netted more than £560M. The leader, Hogen Fukunga, 55, who claims to have supernatural powers, was arrested after a four-year investigation. Police say he used much of the money on a lavish life style.
The Times - June 21, 2000
CYPRUS - Nicosia
Seminar - September 25-29 2000
A Seminar, the first of its kind in Cyprus, was organised by the Ministry of Justice and Public Order (J and P) and the Pancyprian Parents Union (P.P.U)*. Although Cyprus is a small Island it attracts many Groups, some of them known as destructive. The Ministry is concerned about the rapid expansion of sects and cults on the Island. The aim of the meeting was to educate Government, Police and Church officials about the Political, Social, Legal, Educational and Financial problems relating to the activities of cults.
Opening the meeting the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Mr N. Koshis, said that over 200 cults are currently operating on the Island, "ushering in negative consequences" which could only be stemmed by a massive cult awareness programme. He compared cults today to icebergs, whose tip is only visible above the water line and the rest hidden deep below.
The General Director of the Ministry of J and P, Mr. L. Savvides, stated "in no case do we wish nor do we intend to deprive any person from his right to the freedom of religion, as it is written in the Cyprus Constitution and in the European Convention for Human Rights." He stressed that "although we protect the civil right for religious freedom as stated in Article 9 of the European Convention for Human Rights, we are ready to fight, protect and safeguard public order, national security, and national sovereignty."
President of P.P.U., Archimandrite Christophoros, presented the preliminary results of an island-wide survey about Satanism and Occultism. According to this survey 18.9% of High School children had some experience of Satanism and Occultism, 67.1% said that T.V. was their first source of information about both Satanism and Occultism. 54.6% expected Schools and 47.5% the Church to provide more information on the dangers of Satanism and Occultism.
The results of a survey from High Schools in major Cypriot towns indicated that children considered rock and heavy metal music as satanic. When listening to it the survey indicated that the children experienced the following:
The survey took place during June 2000 and covered a number of High Schools in major towns.
Presentations were given by representatives from France, Greece and Cyprus to the 100 delegates attending. Lectures were followed by lively and interesting discussions. Distinguished lecturers were: Alain VIVIEN, Henri Pierre DEBORD, Jean Yves DEFAY, George KRIPPAS, Anastasios MARINOS, Archimandrite Christophoros TSIAKKAS, Stelios TAMASIOS, Neophytos KANIAS, Dina PAPATHANASOPOULOU and others. The Seminar was successful and informative about the Government's response to and public opinion about cults. Media coverage of the seminar had gone a long way towards educating the Cypriot public about the dangers associated with Cults.
*Pancyprian Parents Union for the Protection of the Greek Orthodox Culture, the Family, and the Individual (P.P.U), is an independent non-profit organisation which was established in 1994 in Cyprus.
The above mentioned organisation was formed from the perceived need by parents to inform the public as well the government on Sects and Destructive Cults and their true nature and it is the only organisation in Cyprus of this type.
It assists individuals involved with sects and destructive cults by counselling and supporting them to leave the group and reunite with their family and society.
It publishes several books and magazines including the monthly bulletin "ENIMEROSIS" (Information), and the biannual "TEKMIRIOSIS" (Substantiation), which are sent free to many people on the Island and abroad.
The Judicial Power Prohibits Judges and Public Prosecutors from being Members of Secret or Cultists Societies
The entire assembly of the Judicial Power General Council (Consejo General del Poder Judicial, CGPJ), that finished a debate about proposals to reform justice, is not going to include among those proposals the change of the system for parliamentary elections of their 20 committee members (…) The committee member Enrique Arnaldo withdrew his amendment to that respect. On the contrary, the Javier Moscoso's (amendment) to prohibit the membership of judges and public prosecutors in secret organizations or those that generate discipline and obedience tests on their adepts, which according to some of the councillors, would include the Opus Dei. The approved text, based on the constitutional prohibition for judges to be members of parties and unions, enlarges into other organizations and says "Judges and magistrates as well as public prosecutors, while on active service, will not be able to enrol in political parties, unions, secret societies or those that work without public transparency, regardless of the judicial shape that they take, they can generate discipline and obedience ties detached from the mandates of the constitutional laws."
EL PAIS, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday 26th July 2000
Zen and the Brain by James Austin MD
This is a very large and intimidating looking book but for only £17.95 in paperback it is excellent value. The author is Professor of Neuroscience and has an excellent knowledge of his subject and will lead you in the book on an understandable trip around the brain with particular reference to problems of memory, dreaming, hypnotic states and other alternative states. His original authorities are Williams James and Hewlings Jackson, both of whom were pioneers and leaders in their respective fields.
Professor Austin presents brain function and the chemistry thereof simply, but he makes it clear to the reader that we are in fact looking at something which is about as simple as the chemistry of cooking or the mathematics of a butterfly wing fluttering in absolute space. However, in his view the alternative states which people acquire through meditation can be equated to dreaming, and understood with reference to anaesthesia and LSD trips.
Philosophically Professor Austin is a Buddhist, and this is the only book which I have read which makes clear that the aim of meditation is to purify the mind so that it is freed of all desires, rendered devoid of hang-ups, and able to follow only those ends which are altruistic and desirable. Unlike other meditative religions the ultimate aim is one which relates purely to the individual, as there is no concept of God implicit within the philosophy. The author makes it clear that with any meditation, particularly any meditation which is badly supervised, people can become mentally ill, because of the chemistry of their brain at the time meditation is undertaken. He is also aware that when people abandon their hang-ups or attempt to do so they undertake a troublesome task which may be conflict-ridden and hence require guidance.
To the member of one of the religions pertaining to "the Book", that is the Bible or the Koran, the absence of ethical rules or of a personified God may appear empty, and to the politically minded, the aims of meditation and a life devoted to it may appear less selfless than the disciples of the various Buddhist disciplines make it out to be.
The special problem for the parents and families of the people who join cults, is that the alternative ethical code and living practises into which they are persuaded differ from the underlying rules of behaviour, and beliefs and the codes of the family. The conflicts which arise within an individual may give rise to a state in which the subject appears brainwashed, abstracted, fixed and with the 1,000 mile stare. Even worse, they may be precipitated into what appears to be frank schizoid or bipolar reactions, or the unclassified acute mental illness which is caused by extreme stress.
As Professor Austin points out, in meditation a hypnotic state is induced and people who are in this hypnotised state are highly suggestible. Hence when this is a pathway to recruitment it offers the recruiter the increased power, those recruited become more likely to adopt the alternative ethical codes and ways of life suggested to them that they would have in their normal state. He is clear that gentleness and proper guidance into meditative techniques are needed if the student is to avoid damage.
Dr Elizabeth Tylden MA MB BCh(Camb) MRCPsych
Dr Tylden is a Consultant Psychiatrist who worked at Bromley Hospital from 1949 to 1969 and at University College until 1985. Since retiring she has continued a private practice and gives evidence as an expert witness in personal injury and family matters. She has a special interest in people who have broken down because of their involvement with cults, a condition she first encountered in the 1970's.
Full printed copies of FAIR NEWS can be obtained from FAIR, BCM Box 3535, PO Box 12, London WC1N 3XX
DONATION ENCLOSED £
Please make cheques payable to FAIR
Your information will be kept on a database,