CULT CRIMES AND SATANIC RITUALS
"A cult is a religion with no political power" (Tom Wolfe)
Bromley & Melton 2002). In short, cults are inherently dangerous. In fact, few things are more dangerous and destructive. Witness the well-known media cases of them, such as the Jonestown massacre, the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, Solar Temple, or Aum Shinrikyo, and one will quickly surmise that they are indeed dangerous, at least as dangerous, if not more so, than terrorism.
Little is known about the causes and dynamics of cult violence. Many people assume that "authorities" have them under surveillance (not true). Infiltration is about the only law enforcement technique that works, and cults are highly sensitive to this. Many people think they aren't a problem as long as they kill their own members (the so-called "somebody else's religion" syndrome). Many people are tolerant of cults because they see them as start-up religions
There are similarities and differences between sects and cults.
Cults, to be fair, tend to mostly produce low-level, small-group violence. They can also produce lone wolf violence. Their pattern is difficult, but not impossible, to predict. They may be most violent when they claim to have invented something completely new and fantastic OR when they claim to have discovered something lost and forgotten. They may come to a sudden demise when their leader dies OR they may remerge stronger and more dangerous under a new leader. Leadership succession is critical, but most cults don't prepare for it. The inability to groom successors is the proverbial downfall of all megalomaniacs and narcissists. Some cult leaders have more serious psychological problems; they can also be a sadist. In other cases, they will manipulate their followers and audiences by playing the role of weak, helpless victim. When the cult has a doomsday orientation, it may be unclear whether they have more suicidal than homicidal tendencies, or vice versa. It may very well be when the group is at its most uncertain when they are most dangerous and destructive. However, standard warning signs exist.
The Four Warning Signs of a Dangerous Cult
|(1) apocalyptic thinking, or
eschatology, that the world is coming to an end, and true believers
will enjoy unique rewards at endtime
(2) charismatic leadership where the leader dominates the followers spiritually, emotionally, and sexually
(3) paranoia and demonization of outsiders, accompanied by intellectual isolation within a cloistered community
(4) preparations of an unusual nature, usually indicated by a buildup of guns, poisons, and/or weapons of mass destruction
Arguably, the most dangerous stage is the paranoia
warning sign. This is usually a highly visible stage. Many cults publish some book or treatise by the leader,
usually rich in paranoia. When they publish, they transform into what are
called "audience cults"
and membership may enlarge to those who have read the book, but never
met. This is often when "lone wolf" radicalization takes place. The "book" may imply a call for the establishment of leaderless cells
or some kind of criminal action, but it will definitely produce a marketable
and measurable effect among the membership. A splinter group or spin-off
group may also emerge in response to publication of a book. In what is the
more usual pattern, an audience cult
usually becomes a "client cult" which describes a group of regular customers who seek to
purchase more products, goods, books, or services that are associated with the
cult. The group becomes mobilized, one individual at a
time, and the membership becomes ready for preparations.
This is how a cult movement gets momentum besides word of mouth and family
Kimball's (2003) book, When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs, is quite informative. His five warning signs include the following which are curiously similar to what terrorist groups do:
(1) absolute truth claims
(2) blind obedience
(3) establishing the "ideal" time
(4) the end justifies the means
(5) declaring holy war
It's often said that something "evil" is something that's disrespectful of other beliefs and all the moral customs and principles of society. By establishing absolute truth claims, a group sets itself up as separate from regular society and lays claim to a "higher moral authority." At this point, they have managed to convert evil into something which looks good. Blind obedience characterizes an authoritarian-like, unquestioning attitude inside the group; rebelliousness and subversion characterize activity outside the group. Discipline is established, almost like a rigid chain of command, with strict rules on how to behave toward insiders and outsiders. Establishing the "ideal" time for total rebellion may or may not be tied to the group's vision of an ideal utopia (if the name and place of the utopia can be named). The exact timing of something is usually a secret kept to the leaders themselves while all the other group members are expected to be in a state of perpetual readiness. Corruption and even more evil become possible with warning sign #4 because this means that the group will do ANYTHING -- even violate its own precepts -- in order to "get back" at the world. At this stage, the group is mobilized for action. Terrorist activity occurs in Stage (5), but by this time, the declaration of war is usually only an after-the-fact event.
There's lots of money to be made in cult deprogramming, and the work tends to be similar to work in the VIP protection field. Wikipedia has a rather unusual (and long) entry on cult deprogramming. Evidently, there are a lot of self-made "experts" in this field, and I understand the more accurate term nowadays is "cult counseling" or "exit counseling." Public opinion and the law have not been good for deprogrammers. None of their "expertise" holds up as a forensic science in court, and certain cult groups, like Scientology, have been quite successful in winning court cases when they have sued a deprogrammer. Many cult groups have no shortage of money and/or legal resources. Thus, modern deprogramming is best done under the following safeguards:
obtain a conservatorship (court order over someone who is mentally ill or
financially irresponsible). These are usually only good for 30 days or so.
2. Make sure your deprogrammer establishes rapport. It is best if they are an ex-cult member themselves (the same or similar cult), but being well-versed in the group's doctrine is essential to establish credibility because these people are great intellectualizers.
3. In a secure location, try to establish "illumination" by getting the poor, brainwashed person to focus on their initial contact with the cult. Don't focus on recent events or the middle years.
4. Some deprogrammers recommend a full-fledged discrediting of the cult leader, but this has resulted in some legal liability, so a safer step is to try to get the member to recognize that part of the group's doctrine is inconsistent or hypocritical with the actual brainwashing procedures they use.
5. Expect a mourning stage. Once the member seems ready for recovery, they will need grief counseling, and also a lot of unconditional love.
One of the largest, richest, and most powerful groups in the world are the so-called "Moonies", named after Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Like many cult leaders, he believes he is Jesus (or the second coming of Jesus), and like many cults (where it all goes back to Jesus), his "religion" claims that the original Jesus didn't finish the job of producing "perfect children." Thus, he performs mass weddings in athletic arenas and places like Madison Square Garden pairing up hundreds and thousands of couples a year. Each "arranged" marriage is designed to alleviate original sin and remove the curse from Adam and Eve's fall from grace. Some 40,000 "weddings" are performed every year, but the thing about them is that they are illegal, and further, nothing prohibits someone who is already legally married from marrying again in a "celestial" or "blessed" wedding. Even further, once a man has been married to someone by Rev. Moon (or his wife), they can then carry out or officiate wedding ceremonies themselves. According to Wikipedia, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan (as well as lots of self-made imams in the Muslim world) have participated in Moonie weddings and claim the power to officiate such weddings. It is a religion which claims to promote family unity and world peace thru arranged marriage.
The Rev. Jim Jones (of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre - "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" fame) led the world's largest mass suicide and carried out the only assassination of a U.S. Congressman in the line of duty. His doctrine consists of the idea that Jesus was demon-possessed and Mary was a whore. This, to him, meant that mankind was cursed by homosexuality (either manifest or latent), and that He (the Messiah) was the planet's "only true heterosexual." Therefore, all the boys and men in his cult had to be forcibly sodomized (by him usually) to point out to them their curse of homosexuality. All the girls and women had to have regular sex with him in order to remove any tendencies toward lesbianism. There's a lot more nuance to this group's doctrine, but I think I've fairly described the "sex cult" aspect. Toward the end of his reign, Rev. Jones started believing that the world was coming to an end, and that only a mass suicide would carry his "chosen people" to another planet.
David Koresh (of Waco, Texas Branch Davidian fame) likewise managed a "sex cult" which involved 140 wives in the group, all ranging in age from 12 to 73. Evidently, he preferred older women because his lover, who indoctrinated him into Branch Davidianism in the first place was Lois Roden. Her doctrine involved the idea that God could be female, or that a female-figure at least co-existed with God. Koresh did not necessarily think he was the Messiah, but he did think he had to randomly have sex with as many members of the group as possible because any one of the offspring could turn out to be the "chosen one." He was also into storing and stockpiling as many guns and weapons as he could get his hands on.
Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon church) believed an angel of God commanded him to become a polygamist, and that all secular government was demonic. He had 49 wives, ranging in age from 14-53. He was also into guns. After the forced move to Utah, he connected with Brigham Young (then governor of the Utah territories), who was also a polygamist (with 27 wives), and the two of them carried out a scheme to pay the Indians (Native Americans) to massacre and kill any settlers coming into the area. Eventually, the U.S. military had to take action. Mormons believe in stockpiling commodities for the upcoming Armageddon.
Mohammed (founder of Islam - and yes, I know, it is regarded an insult to Islam to talk about this, but I mean no insult) had 11 wives and 2 sex slaves, ranging in age, and all with which (according to legend) he had sex with every night. The beating of a wife was permitted if she did not want to have sex, and also, "temporary marriages" were permitted in times of war (a justification used by the invading Iraqis in Kuwait and also the Pakistanis in Bangladesh). When he first "received" his revelations, he initially thought they were the voices of Satan (hence, the "Satanic Verses" storyline), but this was quickly re-interpreted to be the voices of God or his angel. So, the Prophet carried out his commandment to engage in a 10-year war of terror against the "infidels" in Mecca and Medina, where he established "holy places" by getting rid of all idols, except for one, the meteorite stored in the Kaaba in Mecca.
Joseph Franklin Rutherford was the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Scientists. Similarities and differences exist, but one of the common themes is that there are no "souls" but there are "minds" which inhabit people, similar to the minds of entities which groups like Scientologists and Heaven's Gate believe in. The Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe Jesus is the son of God, but the adopted son of God. They also believe that all other Christians are agents of the devil. They despise the pagan origins of Western history and civilization -- things like Egyptian, Greek, or Roman influence. They do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, or birthdays. Their religion forbids military service and blood transfusions. They believe the "end days" have already happened; Satan won, and we walk a "cursed Earth."
Aum Shinrikyo, headed by a self-made Buddhist guru named Shoko Asahara, carried out a devastating, sarin-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system in 1995. They hold the distinction of being one of the few terrorist groups that successfully pulled off a Weapons of Mass Destruction attack. Known nowadays as Aleph, they are still quite a large group, even though most of their first-generation members have gotten the death penalty. Their membership consists in good part of former scientists, college professors, and well-educated people. Their doctrine involves a belief in "Lamb of God" sacrificial action (to purge society of sin), and that no heaven and hell exist, but there are several "planes" or "realms" or "dimensions" or "continuums" upon which different beings live. Paradise consists of the realm inhabited by the 33 Gods. Degree of "enlightenment" determines which realm one is headed for. Anyway, their ideology involves a strong streak of anti-government feeling, and they especially dislike the U.S. government (who continually put them on a terrorist watch list -- for good reason).
Others in no particular order: Aleister Crowley (the founder of a thousand different types of magic and astrological cults), Gerald Gardner (founder of Wicca), and Anton LaVey (founder of Satanism).
hand -- used to make medicine that improves one's business or financial situation
genitals -- used to make medicine that helps people with fertility problems
lips or tongue -- used to made potions that will silence a critic or witness in a court case
brains -- used to make medicine that improves intelligence
body fat -- used as a common ingredient in many types of folk medicines
skull -- buried in the foundation of your own property for good fortune; or buried on another's property to bring misfortune
eyes -- used to make medicine that helps anything which symbolizes vision
blood -- used to make medicine that gives vitality, protection, and longevity
Wikipedia Entry for Satanic Ritual Abuse
Bennett, W. & Hess, K. (2007). Criminal investigation, 8e. Belmont, CA.
Bromley, D. & Melton, J. (Eds.) (2002). Cults, Religion, and Violence. NY: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Dawson, L. (1998). Cults in Context: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Ellis, M. (1997). Unholy alliance: Religion and atrocities in our time. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Kimball, C. (2003). When religion becomes evil. NY: Harper.
Bloom, H. (1997). The Lucifer Principle. NY: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Holmes, R. & S. Holmes. (2009). Profiling Violent Crime: An Investigative Tool. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Labuschagne, G. (2012). "Muti murder: Murder for human body parts." Pp. 146-161 in K. Borgeson & K. Kuehnle (eds.) Serial Offenders. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
Perlmutter, D. (2004). Investigating religious terrorism and ritualistic crimes. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Wallis, R. (1976). The road to total freedom. NY: Columbia Univ. Press.
Zacharias, G. (1980). The Satanic Cult. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Last updated: Apr.
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright restrictions apply, see Megalinks in Criminal Justice
Citation: O'Connor, T. (2012). "Cult Crimes and Satanic Rituals," MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/4050/4050lect06.htm.