Deeper Perception Made Practical

Cult Recognition Quiz — THE ANSWERS



Merriam– Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary doesn’t define cults well.  (See Carol’s excellent Comment 10 in our Cult Recognition Quiz. Just in case you ever wanted to read a dictionary definition for “cult.”)

Of course, the dictionary business is different from doing deprogramming or helping people exit from cults.

Similarly, it isn’t accurate (IMHO) to define a cult as “any group with an us-them mentality.” That could be a way to define “obnoxious,” not necessarily “cult.”

Which goes to show how otherwise savvy, smart people can miss the point(s) about what a cult really is. Why is this knowledge so important?

Breaking free from cult mind control is a requirement to become Enlightened. (Ironic, I know, when some cults aim for Enlightenment.)

Graduating from cults is a requirement for many of us. Recognizing cults is helpful as we evolve, moving one from teacher or path to another.

In that pursuit of energetic freedom and clarity, here are answers to our previous post, the Cult Recognition Quiz. To enjoy today’s post the most, take that Quiz cold. Then come back here.

Tricky, this cult business

Do I demand that you agree with every one of my answers? Or any one of my answers? No, that’s what COMMENT sections are for.

Keep in mind, if I did demand that you agree with Rose Rosetree on everything, that would not mean I was leading a cult. It could merely signify a revolting lack of respect for your self-authority.

But that isn’t the same thing as leading a cult.

New Age teachers like me are especially at risk for stirring up spiritual hypochondria. Let’s not go there.

In the same way, it’s useful to be aware of the existence of sexual abuse. That doesn’t mean it’s useful to see “sexual abuse” everywhere. If somebody pats you on the back, that doesn’t necessarily mean “sexual abuse.”

Yes, it’s very useful to know what is and isn’t a cult. If you are concerned about whether or not a group qualifies as “cult,” all the topics discussed below will be helpful.

1. Cults involve religions.

False. Cults are groups with an insidious kind of dynamic. Being mainstream or religious or oddball religious has nothing to do with it.

Some of the most dangerous cults are popular religions. Others are political organizations, social clubs, even multi-level marketing groups.

2. Cults refer to themselves “Cults.”

False. This is one universally true thing about cults. Never does a cult consider itself a cult.

Cult members do often call themselves “The Movement.”

 3. Cult members are weak, self-engrossed, selfish, and easily manipulated.

False. Many cult members are some of the biggest idealists around. Many are trying to make the world perfect. Others are trying to make themselves perfect. Often cult members are going for both, sacrificing far more than they know.

All cult members have a vulnerability. It could be a long-term problem or a situational vulnerability, such as being a young adult or recently divorced.

Sometimes cult membership is part of a family culture, so the child is vulnerable to pressure of the family system.

It’s pretty cruel to call cult members “selfish,” etc. Unbeknownst to themselves their behavior may sure seem that way. One person’s fear becomes another person’s perceived “selfishness” or “self-absorption”.

 4. Cult members feel superior to everyone outside their cult.

Trick question. True for beginners. They feel increasingly secure, as if all their problems have been magically solved… or soon will be.

But false for rank-and-file members. Despite believing they’’re “saved” by virtue of membership in the group, secretly, cult members tend to feel guilty.

Over the years, what happens? Despite following all the rules of the cult, perfection hasn’t been reached. And what does it mean that all problems haven’’t been solved? The cult member “must” have worse shortcomings than others in The Movement.

Little do long-term cult members know that the unofficial motto for every cult is “You’’ll never be good enough.”

 5. Each cult has the greatest leader in the world.

True, if you’’re a believer. If not, maybe not.

As a non-cultie who is also an aura reader, you can spot coercive hooks emanating from a charismatic cult leader. Or find them when researching cord items as part of cutting a cord of attachment.

 6. Cults take your money.

False. Not at first, anyway. With deeper involvement, more may be asked of you, though.

 7. Cults brainwash their members.

True, except that being a True Believer in any system never feels like being brainwashed.

Instead, you’’re intellectually thrilled because this new belief system makes sense like nothing you’’ve heard before. Special terms become your favorite way to interpret reality. In The Movement, you wind up making this jargon your own, then speaking it constantly.

It’’s hard for spiritual organizations to stay pure. Money and power corrupt.

8. Cult leaders tell you the truth.

True. Inside information, secrets, deep esoteric information — such is the appeal of many a cult.

An extreme example is how Mormons build entirely separate structures for people who haven’t yet entered their community of “saints.” It’s seemingly a privilege to learn the real truths of one’s cult.

To learn more about how the Church of Latter-Day Saints can be a cult for many members, see an amazingly powerful book by the great Martha Beck, Leaving the Saints.

False. Every cult leader lies. Sooner or later, deeper into cult involvement, each member may be informed about some of the lies. Yet, by that time, the mind control goes so deep that a cult member will usually push the truth into denial or otherwise justify the lie.

For example, the mantras used in Transcendental Meditation are the names of Hindu gods. From the very first TM talk, new meditators are told that these mantras are “meaningless sounds whose effects are known.”

When I was on my TM Teacher Training Course in Mallorca, Spain, in 1971, one fellow came up to the microphone to ask our leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. about this. The guy was a Sanskrit scholar. I don’t believe Maharishi ever answered that question. I don’t believe that man was allowed to stay on the course, either, although I can’t be sure.

I do know for sure that, in 1986, I stumbled across a TM-Ex website that listed mantras and the corresponding Hindu gods. Only years later did I remember that aberrant episode, and the magnitude of Maharishi’s lie about mantras.

This started my own process of cult exiting. For the following year or so, I realized that Maharishi had lied in other ways, including some personal conversations we had. One important step in deprogramming from a cult is locating the lies, pulling them out of your subconscious mind as needed.

9. Cults show great respect for their members.

True. At the beginning. It’s such a courtship, wow! The new cult member is making such great progress!!!!!!!

False. Deeper into the cult process, members are treated with indifference, cruelty, or worse. Certain people are rewarded while others are disrespected.

This dynamic helps cult members to stay hooked. Why are they not being rewarded? Aren’t they good enough? How much harder do they need to work to recruit new members, or do volunteer work, or meditate, etc?

Maybe then they will become good enough to be treated with respect again.

10. Courage is required to live free from cults.

True. It takes enormous courage. Ironically, this is different from the kind of courage you’re told about if you belong to a cult. (Any of you Blog-Buddies know what I mean here? Stories invited!)

Not being involved in a cult, you lose out on glamour and having all the answers. Instead, you need to think for yourself.

Saying goodbye to a cult, you may not be considered “right” all the time. You might have friends with different beliefs. You might not agree with everything said by everyone who matters to you.

You will need to use internal validation, an internal locus of control, rather than having the group tell you when you are right, or valuable, or “making progress.”

All of us long to belong. Only you can decide for yourself what price is exacted for any group’s gift of belonging.

My favorite resource for cult exiting

Steve Hassam has written a couple of books in the field of exit counseling. The one I have read is Combatting Cult Mind Control. Superb!

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  1. 1

    Just a bit more on the idea of defining a cult as “any group with an Us-Them mentality.”

    Sometimes a person needs to draw distinctions in life. This doesn’t necessarily amount to an “Us-Them mentality.”

    One of our blog comments recently accused me of doing this by having an Enlightenment Life List.

    How horrible is it, making a distinction between people who really are spiritually Enlightened, all the way down to their chakra databanks, versus those who are not?

    It’s necessary, not horrible. New Age is rife with “Let’s make no distinctions because all distinctions are sooooooo hurtful.”

    Surely there is a difference between using one’s ability of discernment versus cult mind control. We live in a world based on polarities like hot-cold, up-down, day-night. To pretend otherwise is not a way to become more spiritually advanced.

  2. 2

    Thank you for addressing this, Rose. This is an important topic and one I am very familiar with, having spent 11 years in a cult.

    A few more things to ask yourself if you wonder if your group is a cult:

    * Can you have open discussions about the validity of the teachings in the group?

    * Is dissent allowed? Can you question?

    * If you decide to leave the group, will you be harassed or blacklisted?

    * Is there secrecy about the leader?

    * Does the leader live what he/she teaches?

    I agree that we all want to belong. I see this with my grandson who has joined the Marines.

    In some ways, one could consider the military a cult, political groups, churches, etc. etc.

    But for most of us who are spiritual seekers, freedom of thought and choice, and the freedom to question, are important.

    I left the cult I was in. It was difficult and it did take courage because I left all that I had known and committed to for 11 years.

    But once I saw the truth, I couldn’t go back.

    And after a period of denouncing all things spiritual, I returned to my basic metaphysical beliefs which had made sense to me since childhood.

    I like to think that the mysteries of God are sacred, but not secret and exclusive. I believe that at our core, we are all Enlightened spiritual beings. It is just a matter of remembering. I am seeking to truly “belong” as well–to all of humanity. But hey, feel free to question and disagree!

  3. 3
    Carol Mories says:


    Being the one who defined a cult as any group with a Us-Them mentality I want to clarify that by adding that I was thinking of that mentality as a Us Superior versus Them Inferior or losing out on The Great Truth or Salvation.

    I, personally, feel that we are all on the same journey towards Enlightenment and will, eventually get there. I also feel acutely our Oneness in this as well as, learning the individualities.

    Therefore, anyone’s attainment of Enlightenment is helping me to attain Enlightenment is an expression of that Oneness. Someone further along in their Enlightenment is not in the Us-Them catagory in my mind.

    Likewise, anyone not as far along in attaining Enlightenment is not “less than” me – just as, when I was in high school the kids in grade school were not “less than” in any respect except less formally educated and younger and less experienced in dealing with the education system and it’s demands and judgments. Is that a little clearer?

    Having my roots in the Mormon religion, and knowing someone who got caught up in the Amway Cult, I am very familiar with and agree with your definitions of cults.

    I guess I was thinking more of all the subtle grey areas of “cults” as in family groups. But, if you are in that family group that fits the definitions of a cult I guess it wouldn’t be so subtle and grey in its effects.

    There is a very interesting book and psychological/sociological system of explaining the development of individual and civilzations development through various stages of Enlightenment called “Spiral Dynamics”.

    I found it very helpful in understanding the necessity of going through all the various stages of development and the value of each stage.

    One of the stages is called the Blue stage when the Us-Them mentality (American vs Non American; Democrat vs Republican; etc.) is very prominent.

    There are valuable lessons to be learned in that stage, and if you don’t learn them you will have great difficulty in advancing to the next stage of development. So, instead of judging someone who is in that stage, I was able to discern when someone was in that stage and whether they were effectively learning the lessons or just staying stuck there out of fear of moving on.

    Another example where the label, and knowledge associated with that label, were helpful to me in my own (then) stage of developing deeper, and more effective intellectual and spiritual discernment and skills – like the skills you are teaching.

    In essence, we all have to go through the various stages of development and we have to embrace and learn the lessons (potty training, etc.) before we can advance to the next stage.

    It takes enormous courage to move from any of the stages to the next one. I can appreciate that and only feel compassion for us all as we struggle with our fears and, at the same time, heed our internal drive to keep going.

  4. 4

    Wow, SUSAN SCOLASTICO. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. 5

    CAROL, how helpful.

    Thanks for ALL your recent comments. I like this one as much as the one about sex. 😉

  6. 6
    Amanda says:

    Hello Rose and thank you for all this thought-provoking work.

    I was just having a conversation about making distinctions in the car with my son. He said it sounded terribly snobby and superior to say that he and a boy in his class (who has been bullying him) had been brought up differently.

    I ended up saying that emotions can come up alongside making distinctions which do feel superior, uncomfortable etc – however, those emotional additions don’t have to be there and I’d be very happy if he could drop them.

    So I was able to say, “You’ve been brought up to behave in different ways to one another” quite calmly and without any emotional content. When he thought the same words, a sense of superiority came up.

    It showed me it’s in the mind of the beholder, really – and one way is certainly more comfortable than the other.

    Certainly I know for myself that there are some areas I haven’t healed where all sorts of emotions come up! It doesn’t mean my recognition of differences is at fault, just that I’m not yet sane in that area.

    The operative word in that sentence being ‘yet’!



  7. 7
    Gladys from the Empath Protection Program says:

    Hi Rose,

    Re your observations in #8 on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who is also #2 on the Enlightenment list — what are your thoughts about this seeming dichotomy? Might be an interesting column…

    Your buddy,

    Gladys from the Empath Protection Program

  8. 8
    primrose says:

    I think confronting the dysfunction in a family of origin is very similar to breaking away from a cult. Perhaps that’s what entering a cult could be about – re-playing the old childhood wound of being in another unsafe family, and this time trying to make it work.

    Realising it won’t work and you have to heal the old wound yourself could be a powerful lesson.

    My experience of leaving my family and then leaving recovery helped me grow up a lot.

    It’s lonely to feel that no one can rescue me and that I don’t have a substitute family, or parental figures any more, but somehow it’s healthier for me to feel that aloneness. It feels more true.

  9. 9

    AMANDA, PRIMMIE, I am really enjoying your comments. As for you, GLADYS FROM THE EMPATH PROTECTION PROGRAM, long time no blog! Great to have you here again.

    In response to your comment, there is no dichotomy about having someone who is spiritually Enlightened do something that you or I or others do not, personally, like.

    Yes, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi met the criteria of Enlightenment. Some people love the Movement he founded, teaching Transcendental Meditation. Some left it.

    Some of us who left it have learned an awful lot about becoming spiritual teachers BEFORE we left it, including John Gray, Barbara DeAngelis, Harold Bloomfield, Peter McWilliams, and me.

    An Enlightened person brilliantly fulfills his or her role in life. In this complex world, that’s plenty.

  10. 10
    Truthseeker says:

    Rose, the timing of this post last weekend was amazing for me (because I had to attend a large gathering). It was like the final signal in whats been my “awakening” from the religion I grew up in.

    All those traits are present. Yet, like you said basically, I still gained a lot from my experiences.

    Wherever you go, you have to make the best of whats available to you. But now I can move forward. Amazing timing, thanks.

  11. 11
    Amanda Flood says:

    Well, that’s the end of my twice weekly Tai Chi classes then!

    It is, however, the beginning of hopping around playing with Tai Chi and pretending I’m a storming martial artist at home (such fun) and every now and then taking a tutorial with a an amazing non-cult-oriented teacher who teaches me a huge amount with lots of laughter included.

    No. Contest.

    Thank you Rose and all for making it feel like a simple decision.



  12. 12
    Jim Curry says:

    Sorry for this, if it is inappropriate. However…

    In my own experience, some corporate cultures are rather extreme versions of cults.

    You see, a corporation is really NOTHING. It is a stack of formalized, signed legal papers that sit mindlessly in a vault somewhere. It isn’t even alive. It has no being at all.

    Still, it is possible to find any number of middle managers ready to sacrifice their family lives and the wellbeing of their children. And any amount of employee stress “the corporation” or “our common goals.”

    I strongly believe that this often amounts to corporate cultism. I write this so you can correct my error. (Please be gentle.)

  13. 13

    What error, JIM? You’re absolutely right.

    “Cult” is in the mind of the discerning beholder, someone who can tell when a particular corporate culture, political organization, social club, religion, multi-level marketing scheme, etc. meets criteria like those discussed in our quiz.

    Any one person, working for the XYZ Corp., could sacrifice the wife and kiddies, could turn obnoxious extolling the wonders of “our common goals.” Yet that person might not work for a cult at all.

    When everyone at the office does such things, and is expected to, that’s worth flagging as an organization that might be a cult.

    You might ask questions like these about the culture in that particular corporation:

    1. Is that business going to change the world in a way that is, supposedly, essential for everyone on earth?

    2. Is that business a Movement or a way of life? Or does the company simply sell goods or services or both?

    3. Are people in that organization simply earning a living in an honorable way? Or is there a secret subtext, a message being transmitted “for people’s own good”?

    4. Does everyone working for the company share a set of extreme beliefs about what “should” happen to everyone?

    5. Is lying an accepted part of the corporate culture?

    6. Are customers or business partners brought in under one set of terms and, later, asked to sacrifice or commit in a much bigger way?

    7. Does working for that company require being a phony?

    8. Do employees constantly worry in secret about “being good enough”?

    9. Is someone in this company revered with God-worthy devotion? Does this person demand being treated in like a God?

    10. Does the group claim secret knowledge or special powers that others cannot attain unless they attain acceptance by the inner levels of the organization?

    Any self-respecting business has a competitive edge and claims to be “the best” in some way. But I would wonder about a company that claims to save the world. I would question any organization that claims to be so far beyond any other group that might be considered a competitor.

    Yes, I’d agree with you, Jim. Such a company might be a cult.

  14. 14
    Sylvia says:

    Blog-Buddy SYLVIA just began a comment here, and I took the blog exec liberty of moving it over here instead, so it and the response would be easier for everyone to find:

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