People often ask, “How are cult members recruited?” And then say, “Are they stupid or what?”

The point seems to be no one normal or intelligent would join a “cult.”

And so often, no one knowingly does.

For example, as pointed out previously, “cult” involvement might begin through a seemingly benign “style” of “yoga class” recommended through a website, magazine or book.

Another example can be seen within the Wichita Eagle newspaper today.

Under the heading “Health Calendar” the Kansas daily lists “Kundalina Yoga” under “Classes,” which is associated with Yogi Bhajan (3HO).

Under “Counseling” there is Scientology ad offering “free personality, IQ and stress testing.”

Not everyone knows the background of 3HO and Scientology. But both groups have been called “cults.”

Maybe someone looking for an exercise class thinks, “Hey yoga might be fun.” Or a curious reader decides to check out their intelligence and/or personality traits by being “tested”?

This could potentially be an unknowing point of entry into the world of “cults.”

That is, just picking up the daily paper and responding to an innocuous ad.

Simple isn’t it?

One yoga website seems to do little if any meaningful research before recommending classes or “styles” to potential yoga beginners.

At Yoga under “choosing a yoga style” “beginners” will find the “most common types” of yoga listed for their consideration includes “Swami Kriyananda,” “Swami Satchidananda” and “Yogi Bhajan.”

Sherry Roberts the editor of the site suggests, “Find a teacher that you can relate to and a style that furthers your own personal growth.”

However, these three teachers have all been historically referred to as “cult leaders.” And former students claimed their “yoga” was often a means of recruitment and basis for abuse.

Roberts writes, “Swami Kriyananda” (J. Donald Walters) “devoted 45 years of his life to studying the teachings of Parmahansa Yogananda.”

But she doesn’t mention that the Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Parmahansa Yogananda has disavowed Kriyananda.

Walters was also sued by the Fellowship for copyright infringement and lost. He certainly must have been busy “studying the teachings.” The swami paid $29,000 in damages.

More importantly Roberts fails to mention the plight of some of Walters former acolytes. Kriyananda lost a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by former students and was forced into bankruptcy.

Swami Satchidananda, now deceased, had his share of sex scandals. Former secretaries said he was more of a predator than a celibate. Many of his followers left in the 90s.

More recently a controversy arose regarding an Integral Yoga International (IYI) student in New York City who attended a 30-day retreat at “Yogaville,” the group’s retreat in Virginia.

That IYI student was only at the ashram for two weeks before marrying one of its “swamis she had never met,” who was old enough to be her father. She stayed on to become a devotee and “yoga teacher.”

Yogi Bhajan of 3HO is perhaps the most controversial figure listed by Roberts.

She says that his “practice is designed to awaken Kundalini energy.”

Well, if “Kundalini energy” means collecting cash and sex scandals, Bhajan certainly has conducted something of a “wake up call.”

The yogi makes money from businesses run by his yoga disciples, but was sued for “assault, battery, fraud and deceit.” He decided to settle out of court.

One of Bhajan’s top leaders and yoga enthusiasts was busted for smuggling guns and marijuana and then sentenced to prison.

Did this “style” somehow “awaken” criminal “energy”?

Ms. Roberts doesn’t appear to do much research before listing “yoga” teachers?

Hopefully, visitors to her website will do some cursory checking before becoming involved with some of the groups listed. Some yoga students say these “common types” are simply “cults.”

It seems that Scientology’s sway over political figures within Florida is on the rise.

Prominent political consultant Mary Repper is shepherding a flock of elected officials and hopefuls for face time at the house that Hubbard built, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

Repper apparently networks with key Scientology leaders and acts somewhat like a proxy priming politicians for them and then ushering them into meetings.

One mayoral candidate in Tampa that attended such an arranged event said, “They were interested in my candidacy.” And added Scientologists “wanted to offer support.”

Has the organization called a “cult,” historically opposed by Florida residents now achieved new status?

Repper says,”Things have changed.”

According to the political consultant county commissioners, city council members and others have attended the recently held meetings.

Repper claims “I work with a lot of elected officials who turn to the church. Everyone goes now and visits…It’s a new day.”

Maybe instead of the old adage “kiss the ring,” this can be seen as more like “kissing ass.”

A one-time Falun Gong follower has apparently decided to end her association with the group and spoke out recently against the “cult,” reports the South China Post.

The Chinese-born American resident was locked up in China for almost three years due to a Falun Gong related conviction and did an interview upon her release from prison.

Apparently disillusioned she said, “Falun Gong is purely an evil cult.” And added, “It has a definite political aspect.”

That “political aspect” is not lost on the Chinese who have always suspected “cult” leader Li Hongzhi of seeking power beyond simply his cult following within China.

There are still others who sadly are willing to follow Li Hongzhi and do his bidding, even when that means criminal acts.

Two Chinese-Americans were recently ordered deported due to sabotage, reports the South China Post.

While Hongzhi sits safely and comfortably in the United States his followers suffer the consequences of their leader’s self-centered agenda. Some have even committed suicide in demonstrations of fanatical devotion.

Hongzhi has been repeatedly exposed as a racist, bigot and apparent delusion-ridden megalomaniac.

Landmark Education originated by Werner Erhard and once called Erhard Seminar Training (EST) has had a troubled history filled with lawsuits, bad press and serious allegations made by mental health professionals regarding its programs.

However, a press release posted on Business Wire this week gushes that the for-profit privately owned company is today “a worldwide leader in the training and development industry.”

That’s “human development” or what has been perhaps more precisely called “mass marathon training.”

Landmark presents many group seminars and courses beginning with the Forum.

Despite the controversy that has swirled around this group it seems that Werner Erhard, once known as a Jack Rosenberg, and his “technology” have not only survived, but prospered and grown bigger than ever.

So successful in fact that Landmark has now launched “Phase II” of their website expansion project.

Not only will Landmark recruit new customers for its controversial courses through the site; the company also envisions a kind of subculture for its graduates made possible through the Internet.

The release says, “Now…’Landmark Connect’…allows graduates of Landmark’s programs to meet each other…capitalize on job opportunities and find roommates.”

Taking courses together, working together and rooming together?

Doesn’t this sound just a little bit spooky?

Don’t expect multi-millionaire Erhard to hook up for a roommate anytime soon.

Werner is happily frolicking with his honey Hanukkah Spits on the beach in the Cayman Islands–as millions keep rolling in annually just as steadily as the tide.

Another “cult apologist” has surfaced through the news coverage of Elizabeth Smart.

Nancy Ammerman of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research previously has spoken about the Branch Davidians.

In 1993 Ammerman claimed within a published report that the FBI was negligent because they didn’t listen to her fellow apologists James Tabor and Phillip Arnold. Both men have been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

Ammerman’s work regarding the Davidian standoff was lauded by Scientology through a full-page article within its own “Freedom Magazine.” And she has admitted that “various political and lobbying groups” influenced her view of that cult tragedy.

The professor’s report about the FBI was later included in a book titled “Armageddon in Waco,” which also contains the work of scholars historically associated with and/or supported by groups called “cults.”

Ammerman observed that “If [Elizabeth Smart] was a devout religious person, and [her captor] wanted to play on those religious sentiments, it’s plausible, just plausible, that she could have understood this to be some sort of religious experience,” reports the Palm Beach Post.

Is a violent kidnapping, rape and imprisonment now somehow to be categorized within the realm of “religious experience”?

Here it seems Ammerman is avoiding the “B” word (“brainwashing“), in an attempt to offer some sort of alternative “religious” explanation.

But isn’t there a more obvious and plausible understanding, which is more consistent with the established facts?

Elizabeth was initially isolated for months. This began when the 14-year-old girl was first held in a boarded up hole at a relatively remote campsite. This is not unlike what happened to cult kidnap victim Patty Hearst in 1974, when she was first confined within a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Elizabeth like Hearst was brutally raped, terrorized and effectively cut off from the outside world. This made Mitchell’s process of coercive persuasion not only possible, but also enabled its eventual success. Mitchell then simply solidified his undue influence.

Elizabeth became “Augustine.” And though she had numerous opportunities to escape and/or identify herself to authorities, she did not do so. Instead, for months “Augustine” passively followed her captors, Mitchell and/or Barzee.

Her actions cannot simply be explained away by her “religious experience,” or written off as just the effects of trauma and the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Ammerman also said, “I suppose he also could have played off of a child’s desire to be obedient to an adult.”

This is a common sense observation almost anyone might make about adult authority.

But attempting to explain Mitchell’s undue influence over the child by linking it to her religious background sounds a bit like “victim bashing.”

Such a conclusion seemingly supposes that if Elizabeth and/or her family were not Mormons, Mitchell an excommunicated Mormon, might not have been so successful.

However, Mitchell’s bizarre religious “Manifesto,” an odd hodge-podge of beliefs taken from many sources, has little meaningful similarity to the Mormon Church Elizabeth attended.

Mitchell may have claimed to be a “prophet,” but Elizabeth must have known through her religious training, that the only prophets accepted by Mormons are those that are acknowledged by their church.

Accordingly, despite Mitchell’s claims, only the current church president could be seen by Elizabeth as a living prophet today.

In actuality Elizabeth’s “religious experience” can be seen more readily as an obstacle for Mitchell to overcome, rather than a common premise or bond that empowered him.

Again, Patty Hearst like Elizabeth Smart had no apparent common bond with her captors. Hearst was not a campus radical and/or left wing political activist. And the Hearst family were conservative and Republican.

But Patricia Hearst nevertheless, due to the process she was subjected to through her confinement, isolation and treatment, succumbed to her captors and became “Tania,” a revolutionary Marxist.

A cursory review of other cult victims in groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, Solar Temple, Aum of Japan and “Heaven’s Gate,” demonstrates a diversity of backgrounds and frequently that personal histories are not in harmony with the cult’s beliefs.

Any attempt to simplistically categorize cult victims seems more like denial than serious examination.

Such claims as, their common “religious” background and/or religious devotion, made the victim vulnerable, appears to surmise that this somehow can’t be done effectively or as easily to secular or less devout people.

And let’s not forget that Elizabeth was abducted not recruited.

Research indicates that almost anyone may succumb to the extreme environmental control and pressures imposed by someone like Mitchell, and almost certainly a 14-year-old child held prisoner.

Perhaps rather than engaging in specious and/or simplistic explanations, Ammerman should have explored the unique circumstances, but common characteristics that define destructive cult indoctrination, often described as “thought reform.”

The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) commonly called the “Hare Krishnas” lost in court again, reports Associated Press.

A judge told the group, which has often been called a “cult,” they cannot wander within municipal airports hawking books.

Instead the court ruled that book sales and solicitations in airports must be restricted to designated booths or boxes.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles International Airport said it’s time “to go back to the boxes.”

However, ISKCON’s lawyer apparently believes that annoying travelers in an airport is a constitutionally protected right and he intends to pursue further litigation.

This court case appears to prove; not much has really changed at Krishna.

In recent years ISKCON has insisted it has “changed,” in an ongoing public relations effort seemingly initiated to offset lawsuits filed against it by children once abused within the group’s boarding schools.

But it appears in the abuse class action lawsuit that is still pending, like its airport litigation, Krishna prefers to pay lawyers rather than seriously seek any meaningful settlement.

ISKCON remains a deeply authoritarian organization. Many of same leaders who ruled over Krishna devotees during its worst period of trouble, which included criminal indictments, are still in positions of power today.

A new website dedicated to the sci-fi novel “Battlefield Earth” by L. Ron Hubbard offers “vivid multi-media excitement,” touts a press release on iWire.

But Hubbard is actually best known as the founder of Scientology, which has frequently been called a “cult.”

And for those that don’t remember “Battlefield Earth” was made into a movie starring Scientologist John Travolta. The critics overwhelmingly panned the film. In fact, it won the not-coveted “Razzie,” and was nominated for “the Worst Movie of the 21st Century.”

After that “stinker” Travolta’s career seems to have been largely on a losing streak.

Never mind.

The press release calls the book the movie was based upon an “epic novel” and “compelling saga.” Even though one critic writing for USA Today essentially said this story is “deeply dumb” and “depressingly derivative.”

The new website “Battlefield” has “interactive features, special sections, and free downloads.” And noted musician and Scientologist Chick Corea is featured in a special performance.

But if you want to hear the jazz musician play you must first fill out a form on line, which includes your name, email address and zip code.

Visitors also are told they can subscribe to “Battlefield Earth News.”

Hmmm, is Scientology trying to develop an e-mailing list?

However, you won’t find the word “Scientology” easily on this site, not even within L. Ron Hubbard’s biography.


It seems strange that Scientology, which controls the rights to “Battlefield Earth” and this website, doesn’t want to focus on the crowning achievement of its patriarch.

FYI–they also left a few details out of that bio.

Interestingly, many say that Scientology is actually based upon a sci-fi story concocted by Hubbard.

Could it be that Scientology is hoping the new website might afford a new avenue for recruitment? The site does seem to be skewed towards kids, it even has a “teacher’s guide” and a “lesson plan.”

What’s up with that?

Parents watch out; your children just might get into more than you bargained for while surfing the Internet.

L. Ron Hubbard lived the “good life” and apparently this included riding around in style back in the 60s.

While some of his devoted following probably managed on less, especially full-time Scientologists known as “Sea Org” members, it seems Mr. Hubbard traveled in style within a luxurious custom built Lincoln stretch limo.

And now you can have the Hubbard experience.

Not by paying for costly courses through his creation Scientology, but by riding around in the founder’s old limo.

That is, if you’re the highest bidder at eBay.

Yes, the 1966 “stretch limo originally built by Ford…for L Ron Hubbard” is up on the block. And the starting bid is only $10,000.00

Like the seller says this is “unique transportation” and “one of a kind.”

However, as of this morning, there are no bidders.

Maybe Scientologist John Travolta, an avid buyer of luxury cars and jets, should take a look?

But beware.

Reportedly, according to Scientology invisible alien creatures from outer space called “Body Thetans” negatively influence earthlings.

Hubbard claimed that these “BTs” could be dealt with effectively through his “technology,” though this can get pretty pricey—after all how do your think that limo was paid for?

Perhaps potential buyers of this piece of Hubbard history should therefore be cautious?

Could the car still have a lurking residue of those pesky little BTs hanging around within its “red interior”?

The odometer shows 80,000, assumedly all on this planet.

The family of Elizabeth Smart has spoken with another cult kidnap victim Patricia Hearst in an effort to better understand how to handle certain issues with the fragile girl, reports the New York Times.

Elizabeth’s grandfather told reporters that her father has spoken with Hearst who advised not to press the 15-year-old about the details of the nine months she spent with self-proclaimed “prophet” Brian Mitchell.

Speaking for the family the grandfather said, “I’m going to let her tell me those stories at her own pace. We won’t try to rush it.”

It seems that Elizabeth is doing well back at home. 14 years as a member of the loving and tightly knit Salt Lake City family by far outweighs the 9 months she spent with Mitchell.

But the family has noticed that at times Elizabeth appears distracted, with something on her mind.

The Smarts say they still don’t know “the evil things that were done to her.”

Immediately after her abduction Elizabeth was kept isolated from the outside world. She spent two months alone with Mitchell and Barzee at a canyon campsite. Subsequently, the girl was moved to another isolated spot and lived with her captors in a “teepee.”

This largely parallels Patty Hearst’s early months of confinement after her abduction. Then a 19-year-old college student, Hearst was broken down and “brainwashed” by a political cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

It took Hearst time to heal after more than a year spent within a cult. She was found and arrested along with SLA members after a bank robbery. Fortunately, Elizabeth doesn’t face the legal complications Hearst endured.

Perhaps Patricia Hearst, more than anyone else, can empathize and clearly understand how Elizabeth feels right now.

Hopefully, the Smart family will continue to consult Hearst and seek her insights. And it might help Elizabeth better understand her own experience and the recovery process, if some day she actually met with Hearst.