People like attention. Being liked and followed on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, having 5k+ followers on Instagram sounds cool to a majority of people. However, there are some who find a way to gain hoards of followers – far more secretive, interesting, built around beliefs that are far from rational thinking. These people successfully form something known as a cult.
The word cult comes from the Latin word ‘cultus’ meaning to till or cultivate. Initially, it referred to the offerings to divine power in order to gain or more appropriately cultivate their favors. However, with time, it has got a different meaning and it is an umbrella term for every new pseudo or modern religion based on an unorthodox belief system or commandment as we shall soon see.
As per the experts who have studied copious details of hundreds of them, a cult is something that is a result of a social phenomenon. For example, India has seen many like Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ram Krishna order, etc. The same has the case over other parts of the world, across different eras.
Coming to what makes a cult have that kind of an impact and garner followers at that scale. It all starts with a charismatic leader who is authoritarian and one who demands respect from the members. It makes a perfect recipe or step-one to get people to do what he or she wants them to do or believe. Then follows a thought reform which is more of brainwashing but done so subtly that cultists do not even get to know what has happened to them subconsciously. The most interesting part of all is that initially most members do not even know they are part of a cult and by the time they get to know, they are so much deep into it that rest does not matter much to them. What follows the thought reform process aka. mind control is some sort of exploitation, mostly financial or sexual and when the shit gets real it costs them their lives and even instigates them to do some of the most horrible things anyone can commit.
Let us see a few of the most infamous cults of all time.
1. The Church of Scientology (the 1950s):
Founded in the early 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, it is said to be a twenty-first-century religion formed as an extension of a self-help group called ‘Dianetics’ originally intended to practice a new form of psychotherapy. The members of the church see themselves as spiritual beings endowed with abilities way beyond that humans normally envision and strive to achieve spiritual freedom and something that they otherwise would not have even dreamt of. The church has been in controversy for many reasons and has been deemed by courts to be a cult and a profit-making business. Thankfully the church has kept its teaching secret as it believes that the preaching may not be easily comprehended by unprepared. High-level gyaan. Well, that is fewer people feeling duped of their money in the name of being helped.
According to L. Ron Hubbard, in Scientology scriptures, 75 million years ago an alien dictator named Xenu brought billions of humans to Earth and killed them by putting them into volcanoes while simultaneously detonating bombs. This released ‘thetans’, an immortal spiritual being which is called to be the creator and exists in the members’ souls.
It is rather awkward to know that a person who had been removed from the US Navy for having ordered his crew, in 1947, to attack and sink US-allied Mexican submarine, thinking it was Japanese – was able to cook up this whole story of aliens and come up with a mental health group of his own.
2. Nuwaubianism (1967):
Nuwabianism is a cult founded by Dwight York aka. Malachi Z, in New York City, in 1967. Its members are identified by the name – Nuwaubians. However, with time the name of the cult was changed many times, much like the founder himself. Few of the earlier names of the movement include – Ansaru Allah Community, Holy Tabernacle Ministries, United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
Nuwabianism is a Black Muslim group whose teaching was inspired by Judaism, Islam, and Christianity but alongside it also promoted bizarre beliefs which were solely lead by the leader who proclaimed himself to be an extra-terrestrial being or of divine origin. To list a few, the members believe that aborted fetuses are living in the sewers and they plan on taking over the world. An alien invasion is ‘written’ and it will take 144,000 chosen people away from the planet in flying objects. I wonder if Men-In-Black is based on this cult. For some reason, aliens are only interested in invading America, like the rest of the world has nothing to offer to them.
Another very specific belief held by Nuwaubians is that Satan’s child has been born in New York City, the mother of which is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In addition to this, it is known that Pope was present at the birth and the child was raised by Richard Nixon.
The ‘charismatic’ leader Dwight York was sentenced for imprisonment in 2004, for more than a century, 135 years precisely, for the biggest case of racketeering, child sex slave trafficking, and child molestation in terms of the number of victims and incidents in the US.
3. Osho Cult (1970):
Bhagwaan Shree Rajneesh aka. Osho and Ma Anand Sheela started the Osho cult in 1970 in Pune (then Poona). On knowing that he has found out the meaning of everything, Osho started a commune preaching his followers about eastern mysticism, capitalism, meditation and yes, open sexuality. In 1981, the base of the movement had to be shifted to Oregon after a crackdown by the Indian government, revoking the tax-exempt status of the ashram or The Rajneesh foundation, requiring it to pay a sum upwards of Rs. 20 Million.
Within months after the taxation changes the Indian sex guru flew to Oregon after his ally, Anand Sheela bought a ranch of 110 square miles there. From there began the second chapter of the so-called betterment of the commune members which commonly knowledge says, includes drugs, passport scams, etc. Just like the old days in India, money kept coming in from the front door from rich people’s pockets. Only this time it was bigger and the people were changed from Indians to rich Americans, Europeans, and Australians.
Osho saved nothing of what he had but do not let it give you the idea that he was a simple man because he lived like a king and Anand Sheela thought of herself nothing less than a queen. The deadly duo. As per her, Osho had the perfect intangible product – ‘enlightenment’, for which people would pay a high price and she had the practical skills to rope such people in.
Osho’s love for diamond watches and Rolls Royce was something to see as he had ninety-one of those gleaning cars. Spending a quarter a million a month alone he once had to buy trucks to ship the Rolls Royce to him when the company was not able to do it for him.“I believe in luxury. I cannot make everybody live in luxury at least I can manage to live myself.” That explains a lot. However, even till this point, the crazy does not hit the roof, it does when it involves killing people terrorism and chemical warfare. The followers tried to take over the Wasco County government by poisoning the entire town by contaminating salad bars in the local restaurants. It resulted in making 750 people falling ill and 45 getting hospitalized. People from the cult have also been alleged to be responsible for attempted murders.
Netflix also found this subject interesting enough and has a six-part documentary called “Wild Wild country”.
4. Raëlism (1974):
Claude Vorilhon or Rael, as he happens to be called by his followers founded Raëlism or Raëlian church in 1974. Rael is a pop singer who did not do too well as a singer and changed his career to being a sports car journalist and then a test car driver for his own car-racing magazine. Sounds cool already.
It all started the day Rael was kidnapped by an alien group called Elohim in the early 1970s when he was bestowed upon with the knowledge about how the world functions and how humanity found its origin on the planet Earth. It was through advanced cloning technology used by aliens to create humans. In different eras throughout the entire history, there have been messengers of aliens on our planet such as Jesus, Buddha, etc. to prepare humans for a time when humans can join them in space. The religion he founded is to pass on the last message of aliens to humans to become a peaceful, democratic and more self-aware species before we meet the extraterrestrial beings in space.
If for a moment you thought about whether it is a religion or a cult, the line of difference is rather blurry here. It has been less than 50 years since this belief was spread by someone, and it has thousands of followers today. Who knows with time it happens to be millions in the future, after all, it has taken people time for them to believe in things and grow in number. At some point in time Jesus or any other founder of religion would have possibly been seen in the same light, some cults stayed long enough to become a religion and rest either went bust because of some reason or are in process to step up to the next level.
There are well-maintained websites and written materials about religion. The members believe that mind transfer is possible, cloning is a form of reincarnation and vouch for open sexuality. In 2002 there were claims made by Clonaid, a company started by Rael, then run by a raëlian bishop that an American woman underwent a standard cloning procedure that led to the birth of a daughter, Eve. Also, tens of thousands of members comprising many women believe that women must sleep with Rael for cloning (or reincarnation).
5. Order of the Solar Temple (1984):
Joseph Di Mambro, a homeopathic physician and Luc Jouret, a lecturer founded Order of the Solar Temple or International Order of Chivalry Solar Tradition, in 1984 in Geneva. It was not a religious movement that started from scratch by the two but rather has a history that dates back to the 12th century.
It was inspired by a similar military religious order, Knights Templar which was suppressed in the 14th century by a different group with different religious beliefs, Palpal infallibility command. In 1805, Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat tried to re-create the original religion back by claiming that he was the head of Knights Templar. Although that was not as successful as people got divided into different factions with time. Luc Jouret, a member of one of the factions started the Order of solar temple and kept the fire torch burning.
The most dearly held belief of the original religion and new one revolves around an imminent end of the world, which was to happen sometime in the mid-1990s. In order to prepare themselves for the apocalyptic event, it was required for the members to reach a higher spiritual plane. The motive of the cult also involved preparing its believers for the second coming of Christ and unification of Islam and Christianity.
What they were perhaps not detailed about is the process it would follow, and even today the cult still remains as one of the most atrocious cults involving several dozens of deaths. On October 4th and 5th, 1994 in Switzerland, Canada, and France, 53 members of the cult were murdered by bullets or smothering or committed suicide with poison and the buildings in which they died were set on fire. A year post this incident another 16 members killed themselves, and still 5 more died similarly in March 1997, taking the total to be 74.
This is not the only or even one of the only few unorthodox religious movements which have had such events of mass suicides or murders. But, it for sure is one of the most famous ones.
6. The Church of Euthanasia (1992):
Founded by the Software developer and DJ Chris Korda and Robert Kimberk aka. Pastor Kim in 1992 is a service, hopefully, one of its kind. It is an organization that is federally identified as a non-profit educational foundation aimed to restore the balance of humans and other species on the planet. Coming to how the service intends to educate people about saving the planet can give any sane person an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach. The church of euthanasia is a suicide cult which means availing the service or being a member cult is the same as accepting to give away one’s life for the planet (or so they believe).
The billboard at the website created in 1995, politely said, “Helping you every step of the way! Thousands helped, how about you?” Just in case a person is, say, trying to shoot himself but does not know how to get the safety lock of the gun off, things like that. An actual suicide helpline!
The founders of the religion made a famous appearance on ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ in the year 1997 and the show is actually something to watch. The entry made by the founders, the clapping and hooting for the people who want to be a part of it and Korda’s enthusiasm for the religion, is very interesting. It was on this popularly watched show where she drew a comparison between human flesh to that of a pig. Once a person is blindfolded they would not be able to tell the difference and hence humans are animals as much as a pig. After this explanation, it will be easier for you to understand the basic pillars of the religion and the ultimate commandment as well. Commandment says ‘Thou shalt not procreate’ and the four pillars are – suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy. The members of the cult even feel okay to eat the flesh of the aborted babies.
The website is still up and running, but you may not want to visit the same. Why, you ask? Because you may get pop-ups and notifications the next time you use Jio Saavn App, (just saying!). We do not know how well planned is their digital marketing. Apparently, they even have a legit playlist on Spotify!
Do you know any other religion that went a little too far in making this world a better place, that it ended up sucking the life out of people? Did you feel drawn towards any of the cults mentioned on the list? Tell us in the comments section.