This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
. 29, No. 3. (Feb., 1982), pp. 283-297.
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For more than a decade. parents of converts. 1980a). Vol. The Way. rehabilitators. Graduate Theological Union Critics claim the brainwashing techniques cults use to win converts have pathological consequences. Although there has been some discussion of political cults. (3) aggressive in their proselytizing. Examples of movements which are universally stigmatized as cults are: The Unification Church (Moonies)." facilitated this redefinition. psychiatrists. (2) communal and totalistic in their organization. 2465 LeConte Avenue. The most persistent complaint is that these groups employ highly manipulative tactics to recruit and indoctrinate converts. and its conceptualization as a mental health problem. Berkeley. has expanded the jurisdiction of the medical profession into the areas of religion and social movements. Other brainwashing issues in the 1970s and the apparent success of "deprogramming. (4) systematic in their programs of indoctrination. and The Divine Light Mission. These groups are usually: (1) authoritarian in their leadership. BRAINWASHING AND THE MEDlCALlZATlON OF DEVIANT RELIGIOUS GROUPS* THOMAS ROBBINS DICK ANTHONY Center for the Study of New Religions. The opportunities which the medicalization of cults provides for psychologists. Scientology. disillusioned ex-converts and some mental health workers. therapists and deprogrammers for cult "victims" contribute to the medicalization process." which has effectively restored converts to "normality. Nevertheless certain manipulative and authoritarian groups which allegedly employ mind control and pose a threat to mental health are universally labeled cults. and social workers as counsellors. for any group linked to an atrocity such as mass murder or suicide to be labelled a brainwashing cult. and some clergymen (Shupe and Bromley. Shapiro. 3. 29. 1977. Bob Gandossy. 1977). The media currently uses the label "cult" loosely and clear definitions are hard to find. Synanon. (5) relatively new and unfamiliar in the United States. disillusioned ex-converts. C A 94709. 1980a). the United States has witnessed an upsurge of deviant religious and therapeutic movements-popularly referred to as cults-which have elicited intense hostility from church leaders. February 1982 DEPROGRAMMING. however. Enroth. and (6) middle class in their clientele. The medicalization of the cult phenomena. The Children of God. stigmatized groups are generally religious and/or therapeutic in their primary aims. Although the impetus for stigmatizing cults came from the parents of converts. even if its characteristics differ from those listed above. Connie Devilbiss. No. The interpretation of involvements with cults in psycho-pathological terms ignores research indicating therapeutic and integrative consequences associated with conversion to the so-called * The authors thank Fred Decker.SOCIAL PROBLEMS. All of these movements claim to be churches. damage their personalities and mental capacities and render them incapable of rationally evaluating their continued participation (Delgado. even in anti-cult circles (Shupe and Bromley. Correspondence to The Graduate Theological Union. There is some tendency. 1977. These tactics allegedly brainwash participants. Albert Reiss. Thoman Urban and Diane Vaughan for their criticism of earlier drafts. Joseph Schneider. Hare Krishna. The Alamo Foundation. Controversies over mind control by cults entail a redefinition of certain deviant religious movements as induced mental pathologies which require an expansion of the jurisdiction of the medical profession. . the role of the medical profession and the mental health community is becoming increasingly important in giving plausibility to pathological conceptions of cultist involvements. Deprogramming has restored numerous converts to a state accepted by parents and therapists as normal.
whose susceptibility to communist propaganda provoked concern. It includes behavioral changes. estrangement from family. These afflictions [are] physical impairments of thought and feeling. The interpretation of each of these issues in terms of brainwashing reinforced the tendency to view brainwashing as a widespread threat. whose son had joined the Hare Krishna sect.S. in the strictest sense. Defining prolonged involvement with a cult as an induced mental illness or incapacity represents the medicalization of the cult phenomenon. drug addiction. as a direct result of indoctrination in cults. Psychiatrist John Clark (1977. Conway and Siegelman. 1975:12). Many conditions defined as illness have been or could be defined as crimes or sins. 1977.. Medicalization refers to a process of "defining behavior as a medical problem or illness and mandating or licensing the medical profession to provide some form of treatment for it" (Conrad. and Scheflin and Opton (1978) have dissented from the emerging medicalization of cults. emphasis in original). BRAINWASHING ISSUES I N THE 1970s The concept of brainwashing was developed in the 1950s.. The Patty Hearst case. and policy-making are downgraded. 1961. using a civil libertarian perspective (Kittrie. He continues: Destructive cultism is a distinct syndrome. loss of personal identity. disinterest in society and pronounced mental control and enslavement by cult leaders. hostages in Iran were three issues of the 1970s that revived public interest in brainwashing. prisoners of war in Korea. Schein et al. in their widely read Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change.284 ROBBINS AND ANTHONY "new religions. or rights.S. and treating violence as genetic or brain disorder" (Conrad. Management of this sociopathic problem requires confrontation. sociologic. The victim sinks into a kind of trance. 1977:80)." So concludes Dr. Some of the influential studies (Lifton.S. the ." Objections may also be raised to the application of a medical model to deviant religions o n civil libertarian grounds. 1969:349). the Jonestown massacre. issue of American Family Physician. Controversies over medicalization tend to involve psycho-emotional problems and the definition of mental illness (Szasz. 1961) combined research on Korea with studies of Maoist thought-reform programs used to re-educate western civilians and Chinese intelligentsia. Robbins (1979). psychotherapeutic and general medical measures (Shapiro. using a religious or moral perspective. A NEW PSYCHOPATHOLOGICAL SYNDROME "Destructive cultism is a sociopathic illness which is rapidly spreading throughout the U. 1978:154). claim that cult ritual and indoctrination can impair a convert's capacity for rational information processing. and the rest of the world in the form of a pandemic. displaying symptoms ranging from "narrowed or reduced awareness" to "the complete dissolution of personality" (Conway and Siegelman. 1975: 12). Examples of pervasive medicalization tendencies in modern society "include alcoholism. 1969). cessation of scholastic activities. treatment. other perspectives on evaluation. 1979) identifies "depersonalization. protracted alterations of awareness and personality that can be diagnosed. This is only one aspect of the current trend in which "the belief system underlying medical science [is being] applied to more and more social problems" (Taber et al. 1971). Brainwashing experts have become recognized and their expertise is generalized to diverse contexts. Eli Shapiro (1977:83). Chorover (1977). in an article entitled "Destructive cultism" that appeared as the cover story of the February. as varieties of informarion disease (1978:151. The Hearst Case: Tapes made by Patty Hearst declaring her solidarity with her kidnappers. When a behavior or phenomenon is medicalized. and the U. Initial attention was focused o n the treatment of U." the drastic and pathological transformation of personality.
MEDICAL MODEL Pathology The medicalization of cults redefines prolonged involvement with stigmatized groups as induced mental pathology. hostages in Iran expressed sympathy for the viewpoints of their radical Islamic captors. Medicalized conceptions of addiction. However. What these cases have in common is the theory of brainwashing. Dr. homosexuality. many observers viewed her sympathetically as a victim of brainwashing by terrorists." Thus Clark (1977) distinguishes between the "original" personalities of cult converts. The process is inimical to normal functions. and a struggle is sometimes posited between the personality and this malign process within. Iran: Interest in brainwashing was rekindled in 1979-80 when some of the U. 1979:52). brainwashing becomes an explanation that avoids the responsibility of looking inward" (Scheflin and Opton. Yet critics have argued that collaborating POWs or hostages. 1978). At her trial for armed robbery in 1974. a dangerous form of mental coercion in which the free mind is attacked. In explaining "how [Jim] Jones and his staff were able to bring the mass murder/suicide to completion. 1978:63-85). testified on behalf of Hearst and in other cases involving brainwashing allegations against cults. 1980:B7)." Involuntary Behavior Essential to Taber et al. To the extent that "sick" persons are the victims of inner pathological processes which interfere with normal behavioral functions. Taber et al. . the issue died down. "When a society would turn its eyes away from the deepest questions of responsibility. the 1978 massacre at Jonestown seemed to vindicate the claims of anti-cult activists (Shupe and Bromley. The media consulted several psychiatric experts on cults such as John Clark.S. which entail cognitively and linguistically impoverished thought and behavior patterns established through indoctrination. psychiatric experts in brainwashing such as Louis J. . Shapiro (1977:81) refers to cultist indoctrination as "menticide .'s (1969) disease model of deviant behavior is the involuntary behavior of deviants. 1980:27). produced widespread speculation that her personality had been systematically deranged by indoctrination in a context of extreme stress. Although Hearst was convicted.Deviant Religious Groups 285 Symbionese Liberation Army. their behavior is assumed to be beyond their control. who had also studied POWs." the media has drawn "largely on the explanations of psychiatrists who have promoted the concept of 'brainwashing' " (Hall. (1969:351) defined pathology as "the belief in an illness process within the organism persisting over time. or children turned cultists or terrorists. 1980a). 1978:50). Jonestown: The link between cults and brainwashing was widely discussed in the mid-1970s. and psychopathology generally entail some notion of compulsion which "denotes that the individual 'cannot help it. Margaret Singer. prisoners in Korea (Scheflin and Opton. In an essay in The Washington Post.S. which emerge from normal socialization and maturation. who equated the mental conditioning of the hostages with the brainwashing of cult converts (O'Toole. are stigmatized as victims of induced mental pathologies so their defection from the family or the nation can be explained in a manner that comforts their families and society and promotes their rehabilitation. and their subsequent "imposed" personalities. which provides the most parsimonious "explanation" for the events. West and Robert Lifton testified that Hearst underwent experiences similar to those of U. How- . 1979). a father who forcibly extracted his son from a Moonie camp commented: "Any parent who has ever seen his child after acult programming can recognize in the hostages' demeanor the chilling signs of mind control" (Adler. But after a California appeal court invalidated a lower court ruling granting conservatorship of adult Moonies to parents who wanted to deprogram their children (LeMoult.' since the behavior is caused by 'forces' beyond his or her control" (Conrad and Schneider.
advocates of the medicalization of cults argue that the mental health considerations are so great that other considerations must be excluded. 1981:ll). they may never be able to leave the cult of their own accord. What sociologists call the medical decision rule. "The risk-aversiveness that we ordinarily afford to decisions to impose treatment on possibly competent objecting adults is overborne by consideration of the greater risk of withholding treatment" (Delgado. Similar allegations are made in the proliferating pamphlet campaign against cults. as they interpret it. for the sick must be healed." The conditions of cultist brainwashing or "pseudo-conversion" necessarily "dissociate deprogramming from First Amendment considerations. MEDlCALlZATlON AND DEPROGRAMMING Deprogramming is the process of persuading cult converts to relinquish their involvement with cults. the notion that "the sick person has lost control of his behavior legitimizes the suspension of normal expectations and rights of the patient over his person" (Taber ef al. As one deprogrammer said: "We deal with the Unification Church as a mental health program. Melton. Freedom of religion. "The cult issue has nothing to do with any question of religious freedom" (Siegelman and Ccnway. 1979. devotees "are held against their will because the cognitive and volitional state known as will is removed from the individual" (Sage." Supporters of a medical approach to issues involving controversial movements deny claims that freedom of religion protects the cults from government intervention and coercive deprogramming. 1976:47)." Medical Decision Rule Explicit allegations of coercion aside. means the freedom to rationally and freely select the religion of one's preference. it is now commonly accepted that converts to cults are not voluntary adherents. 1977). Clark (1977:E6895) notes that depersonalization induced by cultist indoctrination "does not respond to the most effective antipsychotic drugs or treatment customarily applied by mental health professionals to restore effective thinking. Delgado (1977) argues that cultists who are unnecessarily detained and treated are merely inconvenienced. 1979:A31). Cult members "are not exerting their own free will. sexual acts. The process is frequently coercive: the convert is abducted from the cult and physically detained during deprogramming." However. 1%9:351). and the sophistication of the psychological manipulations of the leaders" (Merritt. Dr. Shupe et al. 1975:3). 1977:73). Their free will has been given up to the whims of their leaders by the isolation. The allegation of lack of free will on the part of converts neutralizes the arguments of civil libertarians who claim the therapy is not requested by the "victim.286 ROBBINS AND ANTHONY ever. has been used to defend coercive deprogramming. poor eating.. not a religion" (New York Daily News. Kevin Gilmartin. (1977:945) note that anti-cultists "maintain that the freedom of religious worship is not a relevant issue. Shapiro. 1980. methods of forcible therapy or counter-indoctrination developed by non-professionals such as deprogrammer Ted Patrick ap- . stated in an interview that in cults. who supervised the rehabilitation of ex-cultists at the Freedom of Thought Foundation in Tucson. the assumption that it is less reprehensible to impose a possibly unnecessary course of treatment than to risk leaving a pathological condition untreated (Scheff. it cannot also be a civil liberties issue. 1966). Neutralizing the Civil Liberties Argument Supporters of a medical approach to cults propose therapeutic intervention to "rescue" the "cult victims" and restore them to personal autonomy. Arizona. lack of sleep. while if intervention and treatment is withheld. If cultism is essentially a medical issue. Coercive deprogramming has often been described as a confrontational technique in which stress is used to break up "programmed" mental patterns (Kim. Despite the absence of any evidence or widespread physical coercion.
" According to Conway and Siegelman (1978:69). The use of justification as a defense often leads to the introduction of psychiatric testimony about mind control in religious rituals and practices (LeMoult. "verbal abuse targeted at the cult believer. role theory (Shupe and Bromley. Clark (1977:E6895) views this effectiveness as a "rather compelling piece . grand juries are hesitant to indict. evidence" that deper. adherents to cults were said to be disabled. 1978). Judges frequently instruct juries in the "choice of evil" rule. 1978). Thus. that his actions. in a large number of cases. and hence such roles may be easily undermined by removing cultists from their socially supportive milieux. 1979). LEGAL STATUS OF DEPROGRAMMING Deprogrammers who physically confine an adult convert on the authority of the convert's parents are usually not penalized. have not been under his own controls. According to Shupe et al. Early accounts of deprogramming emphasize its stressful and confrontational nature. 1977. sonalization is in fact produced by cult indoctrination. for only through deprogramming does it become apparent to everyone. including the cult member. a fairly rapid return to the old language skills and memories. Galanter. This interpretation is consistent with recent analyses of deprogramming processes in terms of reference group theory (Solomon. and even his expression. and cult leaders is a fundamental tactic of deprogramming. The effectiveness of deprogramming has been interpreted as confirming the psychopathology c c cultist involvements. 1979:44). prosecutors are reluctant to press charges. 1980. In Katz v. 1981). Skonovd. Superior Court (1977). Given the significant voluntary turnover in cults (Bromley and Shupe." Overt violence and confrontational trauma has diminished in more recent deprogrammings. and appearance. 1980. Bromley and Shupe. it is likely that some deprogrammed ex-converts would have eventually left their movements anyway. It is demonstrated to him how Bible passages have been torn out of context and misused [by cultist leaders]. a critic of deprogramming has conceded that it "works without spectacular brutality or fancy 'counter-brainwashing' methods" (Robbins. and juries often do not convict. 1978). speech. 1981). Judah. LeMoult. 1979. 1979a. The effectiveness of deprogramming in producing identity transformation and restoring pre-conversion "normality" in a short time period has proved to be a potent factor in increasing the acceptance of both deprogramming and medical model perspectives on cults. Indeed. a California Appellate Court invalidated sections of the California Probate Code (under which conservatorships had been issued to parents of five Moonies) on the grounds that . and hence fit subjects for forcible restraint under existing conservatorship and guardianship statutes (LeMoult. but are experimenting with a novel and exciting role (Balch. his beliefs. "deprogramming confirms that some drastic change takes place in the course of cult experience." The widespread success of deprogramming has helped discredit the cults by suggesting that cult conversions are not authentic (Shupe and Bromley. 1979b). original personal relationship patterns and of course the old problems. 1980b).Deviant Religious Groups pear to have been effective in "liberating" converts from cultist bonds. "The deprogramming process as it is now practiced effects. Shapiro (1977:81-82) notes the use of "abreactive" techniques: "Much emotional turmoil is produced in the mind of the cultist as he hears blasphemous allegations against his charismatic leader and his beliefs. 1980a). (1977:950). However." The arousal of excitement and anger are thought to be necessary to break down behavior patterns produced by conditioning. and symbolic interactionism (Kim. whereby they may clear the defendant if they believe that parents and deprogrammers were justified in their actions by the sincere and plausible belief that involvement in a cult was injurious to the deprogrammee (Kirsch. such deviant and innovative roles may require immediate and continuous reinforcement. By the mid-1970s deprogrammers began to obtain court orders authorizing their activities. Many cultists are not deeply committed to a deviant belief system. Police frequently sympathize with parents.
or the Divine Light Mission have emerged as competitors of licensed psychotherapy (Anthony et al. 1981) has twice been passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature but has been vetoed each time by the governor. Such a bill (State of New York. 1978). the dominant medical system has the power to sanction strongly or to eliminate competing systems" (McGuire. Gelper. 1977. Most state statues now require that a court must find an individual "gravely disabled" to issue a custody order." (1970:251). Cults. nevertheless. Controversial spiritual masters such as Baba Muktananda or Bhagawan Rajneesh and controversial movements such as EST. there are other factors involved in the opposition to cults. Furthermore..g. However. Extra-legal deprogramming is also flourishing and rarely results in criminal convictions.. smoking) are dangerous or that certain individuals are to be absolved from responsibility for violating rules. 1980). 1979) as well as their tendency to attract individuals already afflicted with emotional problems (Galanter et al. Mental health and mind control issues have been raised in attempts to prevent the opening of spiritual retreats. Defending the Medical Monopoly As Freidson notes. 1979). Singer. 1979). New York Times. "The medical profession has claim to jurisdiction over the label of illness and anything to which it may be attached. chiropractic and faith healing. Christian Science. the definition of pathology and its causes. osteopathy. Sorlien. naturopathy. 1977.288 ROBBINS AND ANTHONY they were unconstitutionally vague regarding the criteria for forcibly confining an adult. although professional deprogrammers who "treat" numerous individuals each year risk eventual conviction (Kirsch.. Connecticut. They have stressed the psychological hazards of participation in cults (Clark. 1979). 1976. The monopoly of the medical profession extends to healing practices. rehabilitation services and counseling of converts and ex-converts expand vocational opportunities for mental health workers.g. The Katz decision is not legally binding beyond California but has proven influential. Scientology. "many states permit court proceedings to start without notifying the cult member. Trials of civil suits and zoning hearings involving cults generally feature psychiatric testimony about brainwashing (e. an individual must be "gravely disabled" to justify deprivation of freedom of action and association (LeMoult. Texas and Oregon. "in contrast to established religion. Non- . The history of medicine in the United States has witnessed a successful struggle on the part of the medical profession to stigmatize and eliminate competitors. It is thus still possible for superior and probate court judges to issue court orders granting temporary custody of cult members to parents. but the results have been mixed (Babbit. Unsuccessfully deprogrammed converts have attempted to sue parents and deprogrammers for false imprisonment or deprivation of rights. Marshall. Bills aimed at legalizing deprogramming through guardianships or conservatorships have recently been promoted in several state legislatures including New York. A number of deprogrammed ex-devotees have sued cults for damages and received awards (Siegelman and Conway. including homeopathy. The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that forcible confinement of an adult by parents or their agents does not constitute a deprivation of personal liberty sufficient to support a judgment of false imprisonment if parents have a reasonable belief that the child's judgment has been impaired and if the child at some point in the process (not necessarily at the outset) consents to what is being done (Peterson v. 1979. in turn. have sued critics. who is unable to present his or her side of the issue until later" (Slade. According to the court. and the power to declare that certain phenomena (e. deprogramming. 1981). 1979:81). ROLE OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION Psychiatrists and psychologists have been in the forefront of the drive to medicalize cults. 1979). Psychiatrists and psychologists are understandably concerned about the mental health consequences of authoritarian movements. 1978).. Nevertheless. 1981:181).
he may not immediately appreciate the degree to which the medical profession as a whole is under attack by these organizations. If there is to be a national health insurance plan. For one thing. Cults present a threat to the medical monopoly of healing: Though the physician is all too likely to become aware of the more destructive effects of cult memberships through clinical experience. supplementing Ted Patrick's basic deprogramming method with various psychiatric and psychological tools" (Conway and Siegelman. almost all embrace magic in many forms. the initial impetus for 1. Levine. In practice even those cults who occasionally use medical facilities are extremely reluctant to seek this help or to pay the bills (Clark. . 1977." Decision-making in medical diagnosis and classification of disease syndromes is sometimes influenced by questions of whose institutional interest is served (Goleman. and now it wants to reap the institutional rewards that other forms of medicine have won in the U. is flourishing on the West Coast. However. The need for extensive medical and therapeutic assistance for exconverts after deprogramming has been widely affirmed (Clark. A psychiatrist has urged the use of government funds for therapy for Jonestown survivors (The Advisor. 1977. a closed meeting of officials of the National Institute of Mental Health and deprogrammers and other cult critics was interrupted by demonstrating Moonies (Washington Post. 1972). some arguments have made deprogramming conditional upon medical supervision and follow-up treatment (Delgado. Moreover." a non-coercive process in which professional counselors assist individuals to leave cults.Deviant Religious Groups scientific factors such as monopolistic considerations sometimes intruded into these disputes (Wardwell. but also wishes to exclude "unscientific" therapies from these programs (Marshall. The psychiatric profession favors increased subsidies for psychiatric care. they reject modern medicine and consider physicians as enemies. 1980. In the summer of 1979 there was speculation in anti-cult circles about government support for the rehabilitation of cultists. 1979:A3). except for those forms practiced by psychiatrist. 1977. 1978). These concerns are particularly salient where the channeling of vast resources associated with third-party health and insurance plans are at stake. Therapy has also been urged for families traumatized by the involvement of a child in a cult (Schwartz and Kaslow. 1978. although defenders of cults have questioned the voluntary nature of the process. 1979). for example." . Subsequently. Shapiro." Marshall (1978: 19) notes that "psychiatrists who want to receive an insured income must get the public to believe that all forms of mental therapy are hogwash. Psychologists for Social Action (1980:3) complain that cults offer a "substitute for therapy. 1980). Discussing psychiatry's "image problem. Expanding the Opportunity Structure "In recent years. . Psychiatrists and Families The factors identified above partly explain the receptivity of the medical and psychological profession to the application of a medical model to deviant cults. Professional involvement in deprogramming and rehabilitation will continue to grow as long as cults continue to be stigmatized and medicalized. psychologists or their assistants. 1978:85).S. Singer." One aspect of "the fraud issue" arising from cult proselytizing and indoctrination entails "the substitution of the closed logic system of the cult for desperately needed professional therapy. Schacht and Nathan. 1979). "Exit counseling. 1977). 1979:280). including faith healing. Psychiatry has proclaimed itself a science. the APA [American Psychiatric Association] wants it to be 'non-discriminatory'-by which it means that psychiatric care should get the lavish subsidy that is given to physical health care. No gurus or social workers are to be allowed in on their own. 1979). and in their general rejection of their surrounding culture discard scientific linear thinking: Thus. . Yet the APA would impose an important limitation: mental therapy is not to be subsidized unless it is given under the direct supervision of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Levine. a small number of psychiatrists and psychologists around the country have begun deprogramming efforts.
professional therapists and new religions compete for converts to their models of reality. 1971.. which it sees as an obstacle to the triumph of objective rationality. Lasch. 1972.brainwashing. 1979). Chorover. The cults are at least as different from each other as they are from the mainstream. 1977. Tipton. Today's religion is not supposed to challenge the compartmentalization of life into mutually exclusive religious and secular spheres. lifeconsuming religion. Petersen and Mauss. Downton. 1980.. Robbins. social scientists and courts) in subduing their children's desertion of the family and their world. authoritarian sectarianism.. Behind the medicalization of cults is the latent premise that certain kinds of religion -emotionally fervent religion. Medical attitudes toward cults reflect these values. Robbins and Anthony. 1977. psychiatrists. 1975. 1979). 1980. Yet parents are nevertheless still held "responsible" for how their children turn out. Shupe et al.g. Modern psychiatry has extended the influence of secular rationality as a value orientation in modern life. 1974. Robbins et al. (2) renewed vocational motivation (Mauss and Petersen. they hope to enlist the aid of those institutions to which they have ceded their authority (e. (3) mitiga- . stridently supernaturalist religion.. A number of scholars have argued that the integrity of the family is declining in part because psychotherapy and social institutions such as schools. MEDlCALlZATlON AND SECULARIZATION Modern medicine values rational and scientific problem solving and derogates magic and mystical-intuitive orientations toward life. Groups which depart from these norms appear to many to be not legitimate religions but psychopathologies and sinister infringements on the personal autonomy of the individual (Beckford. the new religions and therapies are thriving while the mechanistic conception of human nature embodied in traditional psychotherapy is under assault (Anthony et al. conventional psychotherapy has been critical of religion. Civil libertarians have also criticized deprogramming (LeMoult. By using the medical-psychiatric style of explanation to account for their children's behavior. 1978. These criticisms can be divided into several issues. 1977). Beginning with Freud's The Future of an Illusion. 1977. 1981). 1979. The more authoritarian and totalistic movements also repudiate the segregation of religion from other social spheres. 1975. 1977). CRITIQUE O F MEDlCALlZATlON A number of social scientists have criticized the application of brainwashing and medicalization concepts to cults (Anthony. They are drawn to a style of argumentation identified with the institutions which have appropriated their authority and upon which they feel dependent. 1977). but they all repudiate the modern ideal of the rationalized psyche. 1979). Allegations of brainwashing against cults can be seen as a rhetorical counter-attack designed to restore the cognitive hegemony of traditional mental health values.to account for the apparent repudiation of conventional family values by young persons who have joined cults. hospitals. Socio-Emotional Consequences of Involvement in New Religions Critics of cults are generally slow to acknowledge their documented therapeutic benefits. Furthermore. These include: (1) termination of illicit drug use (Anthony and Robbins. social welfare agencies have appropriated many of its functions (Keniston. Parents of cult members are caught between their own allegiance to conventional society and their children's repudiation of it. Within this context.290 ROBBINS AND ANTHONY stigmatizing cults has not come from the medical profession but from the families of cult members (Shupe and Bromley. Harder and Richardson. spiritual ecstasy and mysticism-are socially regressive and thus hostile to mankind's deepest aspirations. Parents have adopted a psychiatric metaphor. written in 1928. Robbins and Anthony. Kelley. 1973).
and (8) general problem-solving and therapeutic assistance (Anthony et a/. Pilarzyck..e. Wuthnow. 1978). 1978. 1979. Snelling and Whiteley. Apostacy from a stigmatized group may be viewed as a social role mandating both recriminations against the group and interpretations of one's prior involvement as unmotivated (Bromley et al. (4) suicide prevention (Horton.. 1979). . 1979. the accounts of such persons have been negotiated with significant others such as parents. The Divine Light Mission (Anthony et al. 1977. Pilarzyck. 1982. Some of these difficulties may reflect the traumatic manner in which some of these persons have been removed from sects and subjected to confrontational deprogramming (Melton. Marx and Holzner. 1979). Enroth. Galanter et a/.. 1979).. Former members of cults develop interpretations of their experiences in a difficult context. Methodological Considerations Studies imputing brainwashing and serious psychopathology to converts tend to draw inferences largely from interaction with and observation of persons who have left (or have been abducted from) cults. 1979). non-residential) groups.* Positive therapeutic consequences of involvement with cults are not incompatible with the possibility of serious pathological effects. 1980). Zaretsky and Leone. 1979. 1980." such as the Unification Church (Galanter er al. Petersen and Mauss. As Beckford (1978) has pointed out. 1975). Galanter and Buckley. Sirnrnonds. Stone. 1980. Many studies identifying converts as victims of mind control are based largely on retrospective accounts of ex-converts (Conway and Siegelman. 1979. 1973. or to the difficult situation of ex-devotees who are stigmatized for their past involvements with a cult. 1974. 1980). what is judged to be permanent cognitive or personality derangement 2. 1977). 1977. 1977. Singer (1979:80) describes the guilt experienced by ex-cult members and the "agony" they experience in trying to make others understand why they joined. Problems of adjustment subsequent to leaving an authoritarian communal milieu are understandable and d o not warrant stigmatization of either the "victim" or the group. 1974.. 1979.. 1977).e. Thus. 1980. 1979. 1981). Although some of the above studies deal with "moderate. 1977. Singer. many of whom have been deprogrammed and/or have undergone intensive therapy. Solomon's (1981) study of 100 ex-Moonies has revealed that both hostility to the Unification Church and interpretations of Moonies' experiences as brainwashing are correlated with the degree of "intervention" (i. Singer. deprogramming. and deprogrammers. Galanter and Buckley. 1974. rehabilitation. Anthony and Robbins. 1973). therapists. 1971. 1981). Ex-devotees have manifested psychological disabilities (Clark. (5) decrease in anomie and moral confusion (Anthony et al. Simmonds. 1977. Nevertheless. 1977. Bird. Ungerleider and Wellisch. Nordquist. Most studies of cults or cultists are limited "snapshots" without a time dimension. 1978. An absence of non-superficial personality change (for better or worse) has been observed by several researchers (Balch. deterministic interpretations of brainwashing may be psychologically rewarding for ex-converts by absolving them of responsibility for their involvement. Downton. Gordon. (7) clarification of ego-identity (Gordon. 1979. and other close-knit cornrnunal groups (Harder and Richardson. Tipton.Deviant Religious Groups 29 1 tion of neurotic distress (Babbie and Stone. 1979). or therapy) experienced during or after leaving the movement (see also Skonovd. (6) increase in social compassion or social responsibility (Nordquist. 1978. 1974). 1974). who have assisted them in the reconstruction of their past experiences. others refer to groups frequently labeled "destructive cults. Robbins and Anthony.. the anti-cult publicity has presented a one-sided picture of a complex situation (Anthony. 1981). 1978. Although Singer does not draw this conclusion. Ungerleider and Wellisch (1979) found an absence of mental illness in their study of present and former participants in several cults." (i.. Hare Krishna (Snelling and Whitely. rather than longitudinal studies.
1979. Judah. Freedom of Belief Delgado (1977:59) offers a sophisticated defense of legal deprogramming: "The refusal of treatment of an indoctrinee may be overridden. 1976. and a lesser degree of isolation and information control in sects (Robbins and Anthony.. Several sociologists have interpreted the seeming depersonalization or sudden personality alteration of cult converts as reflecting merely roleplaying and rapid role learning (Bromley and Shupe. but this "enthusiasm phase" (Downton. Kim. 1972). Shapiro. Supporters of the medicalization of cults assert that devotees have lost their critical reasoning ability and are therefore incapable of leaving cults without assistance.. 1980. 1981. 1977.. in other words to define oneself as having been "awakened" rather than "brainwashed" (LeMoult. some scholars will question whether religious behavior or beliefs can be adequately conceptualized in purely mechanistic and reactive terms as products of conditioning (Hargrove. consistently. 1977. and (5) the context of a secular culture in which religion is expected to "know its place. 1980a). Richardson et al. 1977." Opponents of medicalization interpret this tendency as a threat to religious liberty. Balch. These include the absence of physical coercion or brutality in cults (Galanter et al. Finally.. 1980). deprogramming frequently entails direct assaults on the content of belief systems (Kim. (2) the interests and orientations of the medical profession. 1981).292 ROBBINS AND ANTHONY may actually be a temporary effect of the euphoria and enthusiasm of recent conversion. Downton. 1976. In contrast. 1977:867-873) usually passes. with traditional notions of liberty and nonsubstitution of judgment if it appears that the indoctrinee is incapable of fully understanding the conditions to which he has been subjected that account for his recent change of outlook. 1979a. Scheflin and Opton. absence of a "stripping" or deconditioning process preceding positive indoctrination (Barker. but should not overtly attack cult beliefs. Shupe et al. persuasion becomes propaganda. disgruntled members. Scheflin and Opton. 1977." Psychiatrists may interpret "blissed out" devotees as depersonalized. (3) the occurrence in close proximity of several brainwashing issues in the 1970s. 1978. On the other hand. 1980). and convents become prisons. retreats. Skonovd. (4) the seeming efficacy of deprogramming. But it can also be argued that freedom of belief includes the freedom to define one's experiences within an ideological group. holy ritual . 1979:157) or "honeymoon period" (Anthony et al. 1978). imposed treatment should try to make the convert comprehend the brainwashing he has undergone. Some studies (Anthony et al. Skonovd. Shupe et al.. 1979) have identified initial euphoric phases of conversion in which the convert feels "blissed out. missionaries become subversive agents. These include: (1) the distress of some converts and ex-converts." Thus. (1977:954) affirm "that such cults do in fact witness defections of conscious. 1979b. proselytization becomes brainwashing. they protest the arbitrary labeling and radical transvaluation of religious processes: A religion becomes a cult. 1979. Coercive Persuasion and Free Will Several scholars have identified key factors distinguishing conversion processes in relatively authoritarian cults from classic brainwashing contexts such as POW camps. Shupe and Bromley. CONCLUSION Several factors have encouraged the medicalization of cults. 1978:614). Ofshe. monasteries. 1978). for Delgado and others." A number of observers have concluded that even highly authoritarian groups such as the Unification Church or Synanon manifest a large voluntary turnover (Bromley and Shupe.
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Brainwashing.0. 1975). Stable URL: http://links.org/sici?sici=0037-7791%28198202%2929%3A3%3C283%3ADBATMO%3E2. 1972). No. pp.org LINKED CITATIONS . Stable URL: http://links. No.CO%3B2-O Cults.0. 1982). Stable URL: http://links. Vol. 23. Dick Anthony Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 11. Please visit your library's website or contact a librarian to learn about options for remote access to JSTOR.jstor. 122-140.jstor. 78-90..jstor..CO%3B2-6 Getting Straight with Meher Baba: A Study of Mysticism. pp. 283-297.org/sici?sici=0002-7162%28197911%29446%3C78%3ACBAC%3E2. If you are trying to access articles from an off-campus location.http://www. Vol. 1979). Dick Anthony Social Problems. (Feb. Drug Rehabilitation and Postadolescent Role Conflict Thomas Robbins. [Reference] The Discovery of Hyperkinesis: Notes on the Medicalization of Deviant Behavior Peter Conrad Social Problems.org/sici?sici=0021-8294%28197206%2911%3A2%3C122%3AGSWMBA%3E2.jstor. No.CO%3B2-O This article references the following linked citations. The Uneasy Boundary: Church and State. Stable URL: http://links. 3.0. Vol. pp.org/sici?sici=0037-7791%28197510%2923%3A1%3C12%3ATDOHNO%3E2.. Dick Anthony Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. 2. (Jun. (Nov. 29.. 12-21. and Counter-Subversion Thomas Robbins.jstor. you may be required to first logon via your library web site to access JSTOR.Page 1 of 2 - You have printed the following article: Deprogramming. 1. Brainwashing and the Medicalization of Deviant Religious Groups Thomas Robbins. (Oct. 446. pp.0.CO%3B2-F .
Harold Mark. Herbert C. pp. Quay.org LINKED CITATIONS .jstor.CO%3B2-4 .jstor. 3.org/sici?sici=0037-7791%28196924%2916%3A3%3C349%3ADIAMHR%3E2. Stable URL: http://links. (Winter. Vol. 349-357. 16.http://www.Page 2 of 2 - Disease Ideology and Mental Health Research Merlin Taber. Vicki Nealey Social Problems. No.0. 1969).
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