Cult warning

Recovery from cults, my story… Part 2

The below is my personal opinion of the groups described, based on extensive experience with them:

Recovery from cults, my story… Part 2

My first awareness of cults came in my late teens. My parents had once been scientologists (before realising it was a cult) and on holiday with mates in Amsterdam I was horrified when we were approached by Scientologist recruiters on the street. I explained my anger to my friends and that was that. However this insight wasn’t enough to be immune to more subtle coercion from a different cult a couple of years later.

I worked in London in a decent I.T career. I wasn’t thrilled with my involvement in the advertising industry, but the money was good and I was doing well in life. A co-worker started telling me about a ‘seminar’ he regularly went on, which gave him a big boost in his life. He waved an enrollment card at me. I wasn’t interested but he continued mentioning the group to me for about a year. When another co-worker went to the group with him my curiosity in the group emerged. The second co-worker seemed to be more chilled after going on the seminar and I felt jealous of the secret chats the two shared about the mysterious seminar.

I resigned from work to start a new job in a ski season (a significant change making me vulnerable) and after much persuasion reasoned there would be no harm in giving the seminar a try before I left the UK for France. BIG MISTAKE.

The seminar was called ‘the isa experience’ and is the first stage of recruitment for a sophisticated and highly experienced money-making and power-trip ‘new age’ cult, wrapped up as a spiritual path to enlightenment. When I got there it looked like a cult and smelled like a cult. At some level I already knew I’d made a mistake. But I was a long way from my home in London (in Bradford), with no transport and a big commitment of around £400 already spent. Plus from the moment you enter the hotel where the ‘seminar’ is held the thought reform process begins.

You are greeted by ‘overly smiley’ strange looking cult members who comprise the core of the cult. And not left alone from the start , so not given the chance to use your critical abilities to evaluate what you’re being told and what’s going on. The authoritarian, charismatic leader begins the seminar with various ground rules (no watches, don’t sit next to anyone you know, no side-talking, no eating and drinking) in a room devoid of natural light. That’s where the seminar will unfold for the next two evenings and days (one of which goes from 10am to 10pm at night). You are persuaded to put aside your own doubts and thoughts in favour of ‘learning something new’ a suggestion from the authoritative leader that actually means you suspend your ability to think for yourself.

By the end of that weekend I had been well and truly brainwashed and turned into one of the smiley, strange looking folks who would go home and try and sign everyone he knew up to the seminar. I know that’s cutting a long story of the weekend short, but really there’s nothing else to say. The books on cults document how these seminars work, in detail. How they manipulate and control you. I’d been given a ‘peak experience’ which felt good, but which came at a terrible cost.

At some level I still knew it was a cult and vowed i’d take the good from it and never do the ‘advanced’ course (£600+) with even more control techniques introduced. And certainly i’d never ‘assist’ – the ‘process’ they call it that gives you the real fast-track growth, but which is in fact where you become a full on recruiter for the cult, tasked with recruiting as many people as you can and ‘supported’ to do so under the false statement that it’s for ‘your own personal growth’.

A few years later i’d done both the ‘advanced course’, been an ‘assistant’ and recruited around 20 friends or family to the cult. This, by the way, made the cult around £5000, of which I received nothing. I’d been brainwashed. My thoughts and behavior had changed so much that my friends and family were worried about me. Most of those I’d recruited had smelled a rat and wanted nothing to do with the cult. I however was on a path to destruction, bent on becoming ‘as good’ as the charismatic leader, punishing myself for all my short comings and imperfections. Short comings and imperfections that the cult induced me to believe I had, by the way.

It was disastrous being an ‘assistant’. I alienated many friends, ran up a £200 phone bill and my business fell apart – all in a ‘process’ that I was told would fast track me to the wealth, happiness and success I wanted; andmake the world a better place.

Eventually I left the ‘process’ but still bent on fulfilling the goals of the cult in my own life I fell for a second cult, that seemed an easier option….

Read more in Part 3: Damanhur.

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Cult warning

Cult warning: ISA experience and Damanhur

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

 

Cult warning: If you ever come across the new age group ‘damanhur’ or ‘isa experience’ stay away and educate yourself to protect yourself. Both groups are damaging cults and cause a great deal of harm. More soon.

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Cult warning

Cult Warning: Damanhur

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.

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