The below is a warning about two cults I have been involved with, it is my personal opinion based on my extensive experience and involvement with the two groups
Recovery from cults, my story… Part 3
I read about Damanhur in a book called ‘Utopian dreams’. I studied utopias in my degree, and was now tasked by Channel 4 with starting my own Utopian commune for a prime-time TV series I would present, called ‘Jack’s Village. The author was critical of Damanhur but some aspects of his description appealed to me. This was because I’d done the ‘advanced’ brainwashing course of ISA (called the GIT). When I read about Damanhur my ‘cult personality’ felt the pull to get its needs met. That is to become the perfect copy of the guru from isa, to get ‘enlightened’ and save the world.
I visited Damanhur with a friend to do a work exchange and unbeknownst to me at the time immediately succumbed to the seduction. Damanhur has an elaborate PR machine at its front – potential new recruits are seduced from the start: we were invited to a wedding of two people from the cult, fed and housed with the cult members, and given a tour of their ‘temple’. My mate had also done ISA but not got as sucked in as me, and he managed to keep a critical distance with Damanhur which I did not.
The new age ideas and artwork enticed me to think the group could offer me everything I was looking for and more. They talked of Time Travel, of going back to Atlantis – a former bastion of humanity that was destroyed by war and of doing meditation through working with their hands (slave labour). Yes these ideas were fantastic, and I didn’t fall for them immediately. But I did fall for the charisma of the authoritarian leader, who controlled everything and became a millionaire through that control (while the cult members slaved away with no pay).
I went back to Damanhur months later, alone. I was in a personal crisis because of a relationship breakup and the breakdown of my business. I paid a couple of hundred for a course lasting a few days, and at the end of that course got delivered the sales pitch for their ‘school of meditation’. It all sounded esoteric, exciting and new. It was however the beginning of cult indoctrination that leads to people giving all their money and property to the cult, of signing up to work for the cult, for free, for life. And of adopting a bizarre and complex new set of thoughts and concepts that the leader espoused were the true basis of reality as we know it. Things like ‘not trusting relatives’ and a lot of other nonsense.
They gave me a book called ‘the book of synchronicity’ which I could consult with questions about my life, and receive answers through dice rolls. It intrigued me and became an obsession. I didn’t realise it at the time, but by following the ritual described in the book I was daily brainwashing myself and taking their absurd ideas into my own mind, replacing my own thoughts with theirs, word for word.
When I came back to the UK my TV project with Channel 4 fell apart. I’d been brainwashed by Damanhur and no longer wanted to make an eco-commune. I wanted to make a spiritual commune, and emulate the charismatic leader of Damanhur. This is something the project could not include, and so it was cancelled.
The cult eventually rejected me, and despite many attempts to rejoin I (thankfully) wasn’t able to. I’ve contacted a former member, also from the UK, who had a much longer and rougher ride with the cult. She sent me in the direction of ‘Take Back Your Life’, a fantastic book which describes how cults manipulate and seduce in order to change your mind and bend you to their will. Recovery involves many things, such as evaluating my experience and speaking out against the groups – like this.