I remember being struck by one of the early stories about 1993’s siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas...
Tag Archives | Cults
BANGKOK, Thailand — After Cyclone Nargis left a trail of corpses along Burma’s coast in May 2008, foreign aid workers clamored to enter the military-controlled backwater. Despite the world’s pleading, Burma’s paranoid generals forbade most foreign relief workers from entering the disaster zone. A frustrated U.K. threatened unauthorized air drops. The U.S. Navy was forced to float vessels loaded with life-saving supplies offshore. But among the few who managed to access Burma’s worst-hit areas included adherents of the California-based Church of Scientology. According to the church, miracles ensued after Scientologists touched down. Their team sought out traumatized Burmese for Scientology’s touch-healing techniques, professed to revive the spirit...
No, the above isn’t hyperbole. The New Yorker has a fascinating and authoritative exposé on Scientology. The experiences of Hollywood director and ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis are the starting point, but the piece hits upon everything from the cult’s origins to its use of violence and child labor to John Travolta magically healing Marlon Brando’s leg via touch:
… Read the rest
In December, 2009, Tricia Whitehill, a special agent from the Los Angeles office, flew to Florida to interview former members of the church in the F.B.I.’s office in downtown Clearwater, which happens to be directly across the street from Scientology’s spiritual headquarters.
Whitehill and Valerie Venegas, the lead agent on the case, also interviewed former Sea Org members in California. One of them was Gary Morehead, who had been the head of security at the Gold Base; he left the church in 1996. In February, 2010, he spoke to Whitehill and told her that he had developed a “blow drill” to track down Sea Org members who left Gold Base.
Lawrence Wright’s forthcoming tell-all book about the Hollywood uber-cult Scientology (The Heretic of Hollywood: Paul Haggis vs.The Church of Scientology) has been in the news often the past few weeks, mostly concerning speculation about whether or not award-winning scribe Paul Haggis “officially” collaborated with Wright.
The book still hasn’t been scheduled for publication and considering the cult’s propensity for litigation it might face considerable delays. For those who can’t wait, Wright has contributed a fascinating and lengthy essay on the topic to the current issue of the New Yorker.
It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the cult of Scientology. Here’s the beginning:
… Read the rest
On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote.
Did you know that Satan has a presence in all of our homes? For a clue, just take a look at your computer’s USB port — it’s branded with devilish trident symbolism. Luckily, a Brazilian evangelical cult is spreading the warning, the Guardian reports:
The evangelical cult “Paz do Senhor Amado” (“Peace of the beloved Lord”) in the interior of Brazil forbids its followers to use any USB technology by contending that it uses a symbol that shows sympathy for the devil.
Its founder, the “Apostle” Welder Saldanha, says that this is just another symbol of Satan, which is always present in all Christian homes.
“The symbol of that name [a name which he doesn't even like to pronounce] is a trident, which is used to torture souls that go to hell. Use only a symbol of those shows that all users of that vile technology are actually worshipers of Satan,” explains the” Apostle.”
Measures were taken so that all the USB connections of his followers were exchanged for common connections and even the Bluetooth, which according to Saldanha Welder is permitted, for “Blue was the color of the eyes of our savior Jesus Christ.”
Thirteen members of a Southern California religious sect, including children as young as 3, who went missing this weekend were found alive and well at a California park today. Steve Whitmore, the spokesman for the LA Sherriff's Dept., announced the news this afternoon that the group was found at 11:55 a.m. at Jackie Robinson Park in Palmdale, Calif. Believed to be led by Reyna Marisol Chicas, a 32-year-old woman from Palmdale, the group left behind cell phones, identification, deeds to property and disturbing letters before disappearing on Saturday, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Captain Mike Parker. Authorities said it appeared they had gone off to await an apocalyptic event...
A sad tale of a modern-day cult, only with more money — a lot more money — than usual. From the New York Observer:
… Read the rest
The heiress wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. She wanted the Dalai Lama to be her friend. She had been obsessed with him for two and a half years.
“I was literally in my bedroom one day listening to his tapes and thought to myself, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing!'” Sara Bronfman told an Albany AM radio host last year. When His Holiness arrived in town the next day, Ms. Bronfman could take credit for his presence.
During her dilettantish early 20s, Ms. Bronfman continued, she never would never have conceived of such an ambition, but for the previous five years she had been immersed in Executive Success Programs (ESP), a self-help regimen administered by the local organization NXIVM (pronounced Nex-ee-um). It was an experience she found singularly emboldening.
Beyond Growth – Technoccult interviews Duff McDuffee and Eric Schiller:
… Read the rest
Duff: Ok. Well, from what I understand it largely emerged in the early 20th century when New Thought religious ideas became popular and were applied to worldly success. The basic idea was contained in such books as Think and Grow Rich and As a Man Thinketh.
The notion was that you could create stuff with the power of your mind. The correlary is that if you aren’t getting what you want, you need to do a kind of mental hygeine and clean up your stinkin’ thinkin’ (to quote Zig Ziglar).
So you have people like Napolean Hill, who died broke by the way, writing books on how to get rich by visualizing and affirming one’s future wealth.
Eric: In Douglas Rushkoff’s book Life Inc. he argues that ‘personal development’ or self help found its place in corporations, in order to help the remaining staff become more efficient after job cuts.
Dead at 89, Paul Schaefer sounds like a monster out of a horror movie, but he was terrifyingly real. Strangest detail: “He had a glass eye, having accidentally gouged out his right eye while trying to untie a shoelace knot with a fork.” The Washington Post reports:
… Read the rest
Paul Schaefer, 89, a German-born evangelical preacher who was convicted of sexually abusing 25 children while leading one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semitic and apocalyptic sects, died April 24 of a heart ailment at a prison hospital in Chile.
His enclave in southern Chile, Colonia Dignidad…doubled during the 1970s and ’80s as a detention and torture center for opponents of right-wing dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
At the time of his death, Mr. Schaefer was still under investigation in the 1985 disappearance of mathematician Boris Weisfeiler, an American citizen who went missing while hiking near Colonia Dignidad.
Mr. Schaefer turned to preaching after serving in the German military during World War II.