A destructive cult is most often defined by its dependence upon a living leader that controls and defines its purpose. His or her personality is the pivotal element and focus of the group.

Leading cult expert and author Margaret Singer said within her book Cults in Our Midst, “In most cases, there is one person, typically the founder at the top…decision making centers in him or her.”

However, the “one person” that defined Aum of Japan is now gone and isolated from his followers.

As a direct result Aum devotees appear to be “flailing” in a “vacuum,” reports The Japan Times.

Shoko Asahara, imprisoned pending final sentencing for his poison gas attack upon Tokyo’s subways, cannot direct his followers who are “starving for direct messages.” And “die-hard members are wondering whether there is any point in preserving the group.”

This current dilemma amongst Aum devotees reflects that rather than creating a “new religion,” Asahara actually brought forth a cult dependent and based upon his personality. And it is apparently not a viable religious belief system that can sustain itself independently without him.

Robert Jay Lifton, author of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism wrote a paper titled Cult Formation. He noted that despite a destructive cult’s claims it is really “a charismatic leader” that defines such a group. That person “increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power.”

One Japanese devotee put it this way, “Everything tied to Aum, including its religious goals, doctrines, training programs and organizational structures, is based on Asahara’s presence as leader.”

An old analogy comes to mind.

A destructive cult without its leader can be seen much like “a chicken with its head cut off.”

“Flailing,” but ultimately collapsing in a heap without its head.

Asahara won’t be coming back. It appears almost certain that the cult leader will be sentenced to death and hang for his crimes–ending his life “flailing” himself.


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