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1979 the Cult Phenomenon in the United States - Flo Conway Jim Siegelman

1979 the Cult Phenomenon in the United States - Flo Conway Jim Siegelman



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Published by Frederick Bismark
The Cult Phenomenon in the United States - 1979 - Joint-Congressional Proceedings, Chaired by Senator Bob Dole. IFORMATION MEETING ON THE CULT PHENOMENON IN THE UNITED STATES, February 5, 1979, 318 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
The Cult Phenomenon in the United States - 1979 - Joint-Congressional Proceedings, Chaired by Senator Bob Dole. IFORMATION MEETING ON THE CULT PHENOMENON IN THE UNITED STATES, February 5, 1979, 318 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

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Published by: Frederick Bismark on Sep 25, 2007
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The Cult Phenomenon in the United States (1979) ("Statements of Flo Conway and JimSiegelman.")Joint-Congressional Proceedings,statements by Flo Conway, Ph.D., Jim SiegelmanINFORMATION MEETING ON THE CULT PHENOMENON IN THE UNITED STATES, February 5, 1979,318 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. P.45-53. of Transcript ofProceedings.Senator Dole. The next witnesses are Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman.STATEMENTS OF FLO CONWAY AND JIM SIEGELMAN.Senator Dole. I might say, as they are being seated, as a matter of furtherintroduction, I happened to preview last night an hour and 40 minutes of the DavidSusskind show with Dr. Clark as well as Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman. I hope youcan be aas enlightening this morning as you were on that particular show when itwas taped.Ms. Conway. We will try, Senator Dole.Senator Dole. You have to pull the mike up a little bit.Ms. Conway. I would like you to tell me if you can hear my voice.Senator Dole. Maybe a little closer.Ms. Conway. Good morning. My name is Flo Conway.For the last five years my colleague, Jim Siegelman, and I have been studying aphenomenon of sudden personality change that we believe has reached epidemicproportions in this country. Our study of this phenomenon is based on eight yearsof my master's and doctoral work in communications sciences and more than fouryears of our collaborative field research.We found the most dramatic examples of sudden personality change in America'sreligious cults and in our research, we identified what we believed to be thecause of these sudden changes in a set of techniques applied skillfully anddeceptively by most cults to bring about and to maintain comprehensive changes inhuman awareness, behavior, and expression.There are two points that I would like to emphasize this morning.First, the cult phenomenon that has exploded in the United States in the seventiesis something brand-new in this culture. Never before has any society witnessed sowidespread a pattern of sudden drastically and remarkably similar personaltransformations.Second, in our opinion, the issue being addressed here today is not one ofreligious or personal behavior; rather, it is a mental health problem with far-reaching medical, legal, and social implications.Mr. Siegelman. We focused our investigations on the five largest cults: the HareKrishna, Scientology, Divine Light Mission, Unification Church, the WayInternational and to smaller groups.We also investigated the largest and most popularly marketed self-helpmethodologies.Almost invariably these groups solicit new recruits with the promise of some life-
changing experience, religious ecstasy, bliss, a personal encounter with God,moments of cosmic consciousness, a change to get it as in est or to experiencewhat Scientology calls "becoming clear."These appeals are powerfully seductive, when made by cult members, because of thecontinuing friendliness.In most cults we found a single moment of conversion and transformation.This usually occurs in the course of a cult ritual or therapeutic technique thatis deftly orchestrated to create the experience of a momentous psychicbreakthrough.We found the most vivid example of this in the Hare Krishna's erotic ceremonywhere amidst burning incense participants jump and dance until they are physicallyovercome.Following such overwhelming experiences, cult members may become physically highand extremely vulnerable to suggestion.It is during this time we found that nearly ever major cult makes suggestions orcommands the individuals to surrender, to let go, to relinquish hold upon thewill, to stop thinking and questioning, or merely to let things flow.These are commands which in our view constitute a covert form of hypnoticsuggestion.Finally, to maintain this hold upon its converts, nearly every group we studiedinstructed its members in some method of stilling their own throught processes andthus eradicating their natural doubts, questions and emotions.The Hare Krishna accomplish this by chanting the mantra for hours each day.In The Way International it is done through a contsant process of speaking intongues.In the Divine Light Mission as in transcendental meditation, it is achievedthrough rigorous meditation.In the Unification Church there is a similar promise called "centering."In Scientology, nearly identical effects are achieved through the repeatedpractice of strict training regimes and auditing therapy.It is this common cult technique, the ritual stilling of the mind over extendedperiods of time, that is, in our opinion, the most dangerous and destructiveelement in the cult experiences.By these techniques we find an individual's personality may be totallyreorganized; fundamental information processing pathways in the brain, the so-called wiring of the human computer, may become altered or destroyed, causing thedisruption of basic capacities to think, feel, and make choices.Profound hallucination and illusions and in extreme instances violent or self-destructive behavior.Ms. Conway. In the last five years we talked to people who believe they could fly;to individuals who said that after prolonged periods of meditation they began
seeing blue and purple auras around people; to otheres who said that after monthsin a cult their own thoughts began to sound like a very weak telephone signal; andto one young man who was convince he could cure cancer by chanting Hare Krishna.We had dozens of conversations with people who said they would have killed fortheir cult-leader, that they made such plans and even attempted to carry them out,and that they would have had no qualms about committing suicide, if told to do so.We believe that these states of mind can be and must be looked at from ascientific point of view.In engineering these life-changing experiences, cult and group leaders are using awhole new kind of technology to manipulate human awareness and personality.This technology is based on decades of research in persuasion and propaganda, inattitude-changing modification, group dynamics, and as yet little understoodelements of nonverbal communication, light, color, sound, texture, eye contact,touch, and the direct induction of suggestion.Add to this knowledge from our Western science, ancient Eastern rituals, such aschanting, meditation, fasting and other modes of aesthetic exercises and youbeging to see the scope of the body of knowledge that has been brought together byskilled entrepreneurs and marketed without restraint in the guise of religion.The abuse of this knowledge has now raised serious physical and mental healthproblems that are quite outside bounds of dianosis and treatment used inpsychiatry and other mental health disciplines.The only remedy currently available for treating the states of mind produced bycult experience is the controversial method of deprogramming; and we belive thatdeprogramming should be recognized as a new and valuable form of mental healththerapy.The newness of the cult phenomenon is reflected in the almost complete absence ofresearch at the professional level. There is a critical need for study of culttechniques, the states of mind they produce, as well as the deprogramming process.We recommend that the federal body so empowered make available research funding inthis area to universities, hospitals, and other responsible individuals andinstitutions.We need a comprehensive picture to help establish criteria for medical and legalintervention and an ambitious campaign of public information to help laymen andprofessionals alike distinguish for themselves between a legitimate religion and acult and between a valid form of mental health therapy and a dangerous form ofphysical and emotional abuse.We are witnessing the exploitation of a powerful new technology.In requesting further inquiry and research, I repeat we are not talking about anynew group's religious beliefs.We are talking about a clear and present threat to the substance of this societyand our democratic process, the systematic destruction of the individual and hishuman right ot freedom of thought.Mr. Siegelman. There are existing statutes under which many of America's cults mayalready be prosecuted. We have come here today to request direct action at the

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