Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Futurism versus Cults of the Past

Sam Ghandchi

NOTE: The Persian version at the following link includes more details about Iranian Communist cults.

آینده نگری و کالت های بازمانده از گذشته




The wording cult has been used and misused to refer to different groupings, some actually being a religious or political cult, such as the Hari Krishna, and some actually not being a religious or political cult.


I believe it is important to understand what a cult is and how it can be recognized, and how anyone, who is entangled in it, can get out of it. For example, how can one answer the question regarding MKO and whether it is a cult?


Lot of times, some groupings that have originally been a cult have become a religion or an open political organization later, and it is no longer proper to call them a cult. Many of the existing political parties and religions have originally been cults.




The FIRST distinction between a religious cult and an open religion is that the belief system of a cult is not openly announced honestly and is not easily accessible to public for public scrutiny. Many times they even tell their members that only believers can see the light.


Nonetheless, the most common mistake in thinking of a group as a cult, is to think that a cult is a cult because of its belief system.


Well, cults are not defined by their *belief system*. For example, the Jesus Freaks have the same belief system as an ordinary Christian follower of Lutheran Church. So it is not their beliefs. In fact, all the major belief systems have been a cult at the beginning. For example, the Christians of Early Christianity or the first Protestants of Middle Ages.  But the more such groups grew, the less they remained esoteric and the more their ideas became open to the world, although basically the ideas were almost still the same.


So the question is not what the beliefs are but rather whether the beliefs are accessible openly or they are hidden in an esoteric manner.  This is also the first distinction between a political cult and an open political organization. Many political parties that were conspiracy groups were cults before coming to power but afterwards they became ordinary parties. Many socialist parties in Europe were as such. Jesuits in religious institutions are another example, as to how they were conspiracy groups instrumental in the European Inquisitions, but nowadays are effective academicians, running open schools of learning such as the University of Santa Clara in Santa Clara, CA.




The SECOND distinction between a cult member and an ordinary organization member is that the cult members are being mind-controlled.


MIND-CONTROL can be SCIENTIFICALLY shown as being possible in a closed-environment. For example, a cult called EST in California has been known for its mind-control methods. It would call the new inductees as piece of s*t in their first encounter sessions, make them feel worthless by using profanity and all kinds of insults to make them unworthy losing their self-respect and breaking their personality. These mind-control technics are even done consciously and some of it has been documented by X-cult members.


Again, the same cults, after reaching a certain size and after losing their charismatic leaders may turn into an ordinary religious or political organization and the original cultish nature may be dropped. This is true about most of the social-democratic parties in Europe where the original parties were that way. For example compare Lafargue's writings with current socialists.  Also the charismatic leaders whom had a power of mind-control in those small closed-circuit groups would lose such power when those cults became responsible to a nation.


In fact, the experience of Gorbachev showed that once opening an organization like Communist Party to outside scrutiny, it evaporated in a short-while and even those who tried to use old methods and make a come-back coup lost.  In fact, criticism of Stalin by Khrushchev in 1956 opened a wedge in the mind-control of that Stalinist cult, the Soviet Communist Party. It is said that Tian Siao Ping of China, who was expelled and ridiculed by Mao, still did not want Mao bashing in China because he was afraid of the wedge that Stalin bashing caused in Russia to happen in China.




The THIRD characteristic of a cult is that it feeds on false non-verifiable information.


So once one studies records and shows the actions of a cult by scientific methods, the cults will start resisting. I tried it in a Shah-maghsoodi cult in US, where they talked as if they were scientists, but opening their doors to open discussion by nonbelievers on scientific grounds made them very resistant. Once shown that the scientific study of its tenets is possible, that a cult can no longer live on non-verifiable hocus-pocus. It is true that a religion may also have the same non-verifiable truths, but a religion does not make it the territory of a few who are in touch with higher consciousness to announce such truths. Prophecy is reserved for prophets who are dead long time ago. The best example is some psychotherapy or new age cults today which evaporate, the moment a major scientific evaluation is pointed at them. The case of Rajneesh cult was a vivid example, a decade ago.




So the above three characteristics are the main areas to study for determining if an organization is actually a cult.


1) FIRST if its ideology is something esoteric or something open and accessible. Its content can be the same as some open religions but it may have something for its believers as a secret and not readily accessible to the public. In other words just having a religious or political ideology does not make a group a cult.


2) SECONDLY, if the mind-control is existing, then you are dealing with a cult.


3) THIRDLY if the scientific scrutiny for verifiable facts are avoided and the non-verifiable prophesies are exclaimed every day that have not existed the day before. The established religions do not come up with new revelations every day but cults do.


CULTS are carriers of INFORMATION DISEASE. They are not a cult because of being religious or political.


For more information, please read SNAPPING by Flo Conway and Jim Sieglemann.


These same authors also had a very interesting article "Information Disease" a few years ago, and it was published on Jan 1982 in Science Digest.


I do not think SNAPPING has been translated to Farsi. I hope it gets translated to Farsi.


Sam Ghandchi

July 21, 1994

* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) on July 21, 1994


Cults and Iranians

One of the unfortunate results of the defeat of progressive movement in Iran has been the attraction of many educated Iranians to some cults to find an answer to this unfortunate dilemma of Iran and Iranians.
In the United States, in California, there has been attraction of some Iranians to cults such as EST, Forum, Dianetics, Scientology, and recently Shah-Maghsoodi. The last one actually has found a strong following inside Iran too.
Elsewhere, one sees other cult attractions among Iranians. For example, one of these cults is the cult of moonies. In fact the moonies, even have a Farsi webpage:
EST and many other psychological cults such as Dianetics try to start attacking one's parents and family first and once the victim feels bad about himself/herself, they start the mind control and brain wash. EST used to start by calling the new attendee an "asshole" and make one believe in it, in their first weeks of indoctrination.
The moonies use the parent and family approach a lot. Please see the following URL's called "True Parents Organization."

They try to seek their roots in esoteric traditions such as Swedenborg, which are not necessarily confirmation of their stand to legitimize themselves:  
Actually Morris Berman, in his "Reenchantment of the World" has written a good presentation of Swedenborg himself:
Many cults such as the cult of Theosophy of Mdm Balavatsky, have also referred to older cults such as Swedenborgists. As I had noted in other articles in the past, Theosophy cult wanted to enlist Krishnamurti as their prophet, and Krishnamurti left them, as he never believed in any cult around himself, although he was a religious thinker, and did not care for any particular religion. His book "Think on These Things" and his collaborative works with David Bohm showed his educational teaching of independent thinking and repudiation of cults.
As far as Swedenborgists, "they follow Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)'s theological writings as being divinely inspired. Swedenborg never intended to found a new religious denomination, but in 1787 his disciples in England were organized as a separate sect by the British printer Robert Hindmarsh. According to the latest available statistics, Swedenborgians in the United Kingdom number about 5000, divided among 75 societies. In the U.S., Swedenborgians are divided into two general organizations, known as the General Convention of the New Jerusalem and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. The former organization has about 2800 members in 47 societies and the latter about 2100 members in 33 societies." 
Finally for good resources on dealing with cults, please visit the following resource center:
Personally I think the book "Snapping" by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman is one of the best books written on the topic. They also had an excellent article, entitled "Information Disease", in Scientific American a few years ago. "Information Disease" is the term they use to describe the virus spread by cults.
A few years ago, I wrote the following article about Cults which may be of interest as well (attached below).


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi
Sept 11, 2001

* The above article was first posted on Jebhe BB  on Sept 11, 2001






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