The ones of us who have had family members, friends or just acquaintances in cults have a hard time comprehending how apparently smart and sensible people can fall for irrational dogma. How could Germany, a country with the most advanced science, art and culture, fall so easily into the hands of the nazi cult and its barbarian doctrine less than 100 years ago? Cults are expert in mind control and know how to exploit our innate psychological weaknesses for their benefit. In particular, let us understand how they use anchors to control cult members.
Have you ever noticed that when you are looking to buy a specific car, you start seeing that car everywhere on the street? Or your wife gets pregnant, and suddenly you start seeing pregnant women and babies everywhere?
Our mind is a very sophisticated instrument. Every second, it absorbs thousands of stimuli from our environment but only brings to our conscious self what is relevant so that we may not be overwhelmed. Our mind filters information according our conscious and unconscious beliefs, desires and fears. So if the car you want to buy starts appearing everywhere on the road, it is neither magical nor an act of God, it is simply your brain showing you this car every time it is in your environment while it used to filter this information before.
Our dominant collective vibration is still one of powerlessness. Though all of us may now acknowledge it consciously, we still believe deep inside that there is a higher power, but we often imagine one who is out there to get us. We believe that our successes and failures are first to be attributed to good fortune or a curse and that we have very little control over our destiny. This belief came from our upbringing as most of us felt powerless in the hands of parents and primary caretakers that may have appeared to us as unpredictable, unstable and sometimes even dangerous. Our attachment traumas made us believe we were bad to justify the hurting behaviors of parents that we needed to bond with and idealize for our survival. And if we are bad, we need to be punished. The perception of the world we live in, Source or the Universe is deeply influenced by these early experiences. Therefore, we developed the concept of a punishing God. This contributed to our state of disempowerment, and this vibration is a natural match to superstition.
What is superstition? It is a widely held, but irrational, belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a tradition based on such a belief.
My mother who came from the French foster care system was quite superstitious. She would be terrified if a black cat crossed the street in front of us, and so I learned the same fear. As I was practicing positive thinking in my twenties, I was able to change this association into a positive one. After all, it is highly subjective and depends on the culture you were born into. The British see it as a sign of luck. While in Germany, it is believed that if a black cat crosses left to right, then it is good luck. But from right to left, is bad luck.
I was married for 15 years to a Russian woman. The Russians are probably the most superstitious people on earth. One time I remember bringing my wife 12 beautiful roses. She looked at me like I had cheated on her. What I did not know is that for the Russians, bouquets with an even numbers of flowers are reserved for funerals. She would make us sit down in silence every time before embarking on any journey. This could sometimes infuriate me when I knew we were running late. One year, because of unavoidable travel plans, I made the mistake of suggesting celebrating her birthday a couple of days in advance. I ended up in the doghouse as in the Russian culture you should never celebrate your birthday before the actual day as it means you would be cursed for the coming year.
Superstition is nothing else than a form of confirmation bias, basically the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. It is similar to magical thinking that is so prevalent in the spiritual New Age community.
Cults know very well how to exploit these weaknesses and fears in the human collective mind in order to create dependency.
I was in a cult called the Fellowship of Friends from age 20 and 23. According to its leader Robert Burton, there were 44 angels, or “conscious beings” directly working with his “conscious school”. He claims to be personally guided by Leonardo da Vinci. According to Burton, these disembodied beings were the “Higher Forces”, or “C Influence” supporting him in his mission and helping all cult members to awaken.
Any of you reading this, may think that people joining this cult would be simple-minded and foolish. This was not the case. The Fellowship of Friends had many members that had a high IQ and who would be regarded as very intelligent by the rest of society. There were engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, business executives and many of them had university degrees. As people, we typically hold as truth what other people we trust believe, even if we have no direct experience of it. For example, we adopt the Big Bang theory as absolute truth while it is just that, a theory, plus most of us have not studied all the hypotheses that come with it.
Silly beliefs like the 44 angels of Burton get propagated not only for peer pressure but because they meet important emotional needs in followers:
1- The need for significance.
If I have angels working directly with me to wake-up, I am suddenly someone very important. If the cult has 5,000 members, it means I am one out of a million to be selected by higher powers. If I am connected to someone who says he is even higher than Jesus, that makes me that much more important. If Leonardo Da Vinci works with me, then I must be a very special person. In this way, we develop the cult personality to suppress our hurt inner child that sees itself as worthless.
2- The need for belonging.
Now I belong to a special group of people so this means that I am not alone anymore. I finally have a family and I have friends. I have people that I love and love me in return (not knowing yet consciously this is conditional love dependent upon my membership to the cult). I belong to a community that is guided by another community of supernatural angels guiding the earth. The cult personality is then a way to suppress the hurt inner child that sees itself as unlovable and miserably lonely.
3- The need for meaning.
If I am supposed to build an ark to save the earth, then my life has suddenly become meaningful. I have a mission on this earth to fulfill. I have a purpose and I am out of confusion as a result. I can finally make sense of life complexity by understanding the cult dogmas. The cult personality to gain meaning is a way to suppress the hurt inner child that sees itself as irrelevant, confused, meaningless and lost.
Being part of a cult is a coping mechanism not to face some deeply and painful feelings from the inner child. The cult is able to provide beliefs and experiences that repress these aspects of us we are so afraid to bring to conscious awareness. All these fears are the incentives for creating within ourselves the cult personality.
Anchors created by the cult then reinforce these beliefs. In NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), “anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some external or internal trigger so that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, reassessed.
Any time we would inadvertently see the number 44 whether it was on a license plate, a street address or any other impression, we would think “Influence C” was speaking to us, reinforcing the belief we were special, on the right track and that we belonged. These emotions are very addictive especially as we feel the exact opposite deep within us in our hurt inner child. Furthermore, when we would see 44, we would mention it to other cult members as it gave us a sense of superiority. In order not to face these painful repressed feelings, some people get addicted to alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, porn, video games or food. Other people like me join a cult.
This is another reason why it is so difficult to leave cults. Leaving the cult means losing the 44 angels that were there before to protect you. There is no bigger fear in the human psyche than being abandoned by God. Leaving the cult means stopping feeling special and significant. It means losing your friends and family. You are now back in the mass of regular people that you used to despise and feel superior towards. As you leave the group, the anchor now acts in reverse reflecting your own loneliness, purposelessness and nothingness.
Anchors with numbers are widely used by cults of all sorts.
One of the Jehovah witnesses’ early belief was that God would only spare 144,000 souls during the last judgment while the rest of humanity would perish in hell. Of course, you had to become a Jehovah witness to belong to the 144,000 chosen ones. As they became a very successful cult with millions of members, the leadership had to adapt the belief to say that there would actually be many more souls that could enjoy a happy eternal life after death to accommodate their growing membership. However the 144,000 were the ones to be joint heirs with Jesus and to be kings and priests over mankind. The members of the governing body, the little group of men that control the entire religion, would however all belong to the 144,000 select ones. This was a very smart move as they converted an embarrassing contradictory belief into something that could motivate their members to aspire to join the leadership and serve the cult to a higher level. Now, if a Jehovah witness sees the number 144, he can interpret it that Jehovah wants him to belong to the special 144,000 that are supposed to work side by side with Christ.
The number 322 appears in Skull and Bones’ insignia and is widely used by a number of secret societies whom many of our world leaders come from. Many of the members are programmed to wake up at 3:22 AM to perform cult activities.
In Scientology, the number 33 has two important significances. For starters, the church was founded in Phoenix, AZ on the 33rd parallel, and second, the number is considered to be the master teacher number for Scientology. Actually, Tom Cruise, probably its most famous member, divorced all his three wives when they turned 33. This gives you a sense of the power of belief.
The Church of Satan founded by Anton LaVey used the number 666, which is said to be the number of the beast according the scriptures.
A number of New Age groups use 11:11 as an anchor stating this is the number used by angelic beings and guides to manifest their presence to you.
Anchors do not have to be limited to numbers. They can extend to specific gestures, words, smells, sounds, objects or even apparel.
In the Mormon Church, a temple garment is a type of underwear worn by adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement after they have taken part in the endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any adult who previously participated in the endowment ceremony to enter a temple. The undergarments are viewed as a symbolic reminder of the covenants made in temple ceremonies and are seen as a symbolic and literal source of protection from the evils of the world. So here, the cult leverages peoples’ innate fear of evil spirits to indirectly send other powerful messages:
1- Your belonging to the Church is more important than your relationship with your spouse (for the same reason women are not allowed to know their husband’s temple name)
2- Your sexuality belongs to the Church. Sexuality is only to be used to have children
3- You belong to a very special group of people and you can only be in a relationship with other Mormons (I guess non Mormons would laugh at the garments)
Freemasons have a secret handshake to communicate their rank in the cult without a single spoken word! Masonic handshakes are mainly used for social purposes as a form of recognition.
The Jehovah witnesses are not allowed to celebrate birthdays or partake in toasts.
You can see why it is then so difficult for former cult members to rejoin the rest of society. They have been programmed this way so that they would only feel a sense of belonging, significance and purpose with other cult members. On the opposite, their habits and way of being is often at odds with mainstream society so that they would resist integration and therefore always come back to the cult. The cult’s true goal is to create a cult personality in the new member that can take control of the whole person. This new cult personality would dedicate itself to the advancement of the organization by channeling the person’s financial, emotional, mental and sometimes even sexual resources to the group.
By becoming more aware of mind control mechanisms, we can learn to break free and live a life in service to our authentic self rather than toxic organizations. Each of us is unique, and we have special gifts to share with each other in simple ways. Anchors are not only used by cults but are also adopted by many marketers and political groups. Learn to recognize these anchors in your life so that you may make free choices for the benefit of all of us.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
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This is a great article! I noticed this pattern as well, and was on the verge about writing something on it too. I’m glad you brought it up in such a detailed way full of examples.