Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame

Given the recent talk of Golden Dawn "cults", with one person claiming that they exist and another person denying their existence, I thought that this would be a good time to blog about cults.

The problem with cults is that they look remarkably like legitimate religions, political groups and fraternal organizations; or at least until the Kool-aid, guns and multiple wives are brought out into the open.

As for cults existing in Golden Dawn, let's be honest: the potential is there, even if no cults are currently active today. My own experience reminds me that bad things can happen when the wrong leaders step forward. I am especially suspicious of anyone who wants to be a leader.

(I would like to remind everyone that I am an elected officer. I did not ask for the job; I was just guilty of doing the tasks of the office, and too slow to get out of the way of the voting members when they decided that they did not want to do it themselves. Not that I can blame them for not desiring the job; my desk is buried under enough work to keep me busy for the next decade.)

One of the best things to know about cults are the signs of what a cult act like. Remember a cult always hides behind a cloak of respectability, clear up to the day that the FBI kicks in the door.

And one of the best handouts I have ever seen on the subject is the Cult Danger Evaluation Frame from P. E. I. Bonewits.

It is a set of fifteen subjects that you assign a number from one (low) to ten (high). Without further ado, the fifteen categories of cult behavior as outlined by Bonewits are:

1 INTERNAL CONTROL, amount of internal political control exercised by leader(s) over members.

2 WISDOM CLAIMED by leader(s); amount of infallibility declared about decisions.

3 WISDOM CREDITED to leader(s) by members; amount of trust in decisions made by leader(s).

4 DOGMA, rigidity of reality concepts taught; amount of doctrinal inflexibility.

5 RECRUITING, emphasis put on attracting new members, amount of proselytizing.

6 FRONT GROUPS, number of subsidiary groups using different names from that of main group.

7 WEALTH, amount of money and/or property desired or obtained; emphasis on members' donations.

8 POLITICAL POWER, amount of external political influence desired or obtained.

9 SEXUAL MANIPULATION of members by leader(s); amount of control over sex lives of members.

10 CENSORSHIP, amount of control over members' access to outside opinions on group, its doctrines or leader(s).

11 DROPOUT CONTROL, intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts.

12 ENDORSEMENT OF VIOLENCE when used by or for the group or its leader(s).

13 PARANOIA, amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies; perceived power of opponents.

14 GRIMNESS, amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines or leader(s).

15 SURRENDER OF WILL, emphasis on members not having to be responsible for personal decisions.

As a general rule, the higher the numerical total scored by a given group, the more dangerous it is likely to be. Though it is obvious that many of the scales in the frame are subjective, it is still possible to make practical judgments using it, provided that all numerical assignments are based on accurate and unbiased observation of actual behavior (as distinct from official pronouncements).

Those who believe that relativism and anarchy are as dangerous to mental health as absolutism and authoritarianism are, should count groups with total scores nearing either extreme (high or low) as being equally hazardous.

1 comment:

Pallas Renatus said...

IMO, anyone in any organization (magical or otherwise) should ask themselves these questions on a regular basis.