Dr. Paul R. Martin was a psychologist, expert witness, survivor of a Bible cult called Great Commission International and founder of Wellspring Retreat Center, a place where cult survivors could go for an intensive two-week rehabilitation program. It was located in Ohio and helped hundreds of cult survivors. In 1993, he authored the book Cult Proofing Your Kids.

I always admired Paul as a smart, courageous mental health professional who was a pioneer in the difficult work of helpful cult survivors. He deserves to be well-remembered for his great contributions to the field. Dr. Martin was asked to submit an analysis of one of Keith Raniere’s groups, Executive Success Programs. He used Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform and gave examples of
what the group did to exert undue influence. That case was later dismissed after many years.

In light of the current trial of Keith Raniere, and the appearance of a prosecution expert witness Dawn Hughes (who is not a cult or mind control expert), I thought it might be helpful to publish this 2003 report by Dr. Martin. Paul Martin, 63, passed away after an 8-month battle with leukemia on August 14, 2009.

When I spoke with Santa Clara Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Scheflin, he explained to me that he thought prosecutors would not wish to bring up cults or mind control at all and just let the facts speak for themselves. “Criminal actions were being described in detail”, Scheflin told me. “Why muddy the waters?” he added. I told him that I was hoping that this case would be a precedent-setting case and that a cult leader could potentially be found guilty of exercising undue influence on his followers to conduct criminal acts. Scheflin said “lawyers do what is reliably going to get the desired result. They will not wish to risk the defense getting into challenging any yet to be determined legal theory of undue influence.” Here is a previous blog I did on Raniere and NXIVM.

With the permission of Barbara Martin, Paul’s wife, I wanted to share what Paul Martin wrote in 2003 applying Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria to Raniere’s group. For more detail about each criteria, see my blog and ultimately, chapter twenty-two of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

1. Milieu Control

Control of communication within the group environment resulting in a significant degree of isolation from the surrounding society. Includes other techniques to restrict members’ contact with the outside world and to be able to make critical, rational judgments about information: overwork, busy-ness, multiple lengthy meetings, etc. Lifton: “The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. [This includes] not only the individual’s communication with the outside…, but also…his communication with himself… [T]hought reform participants may be in doubt as to who is telling what to whom, but the fact that extensive information about everyone is being conveyed to the authorities is always known… Having experienced the impact of what they consider to be an ultimate truth…, they consider it their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this ‘truth.’ [The group member] is deprived of the combination of external information and inner reflection which anyone requires to test the realities of his environment and to maintain a measure of identity separate from it…”

“Phone tree – Each new student will be assigned a Coach (a person of rank yellow or higher). The Coach must not be the person who introduced the student to ESP. Each student will call the Coach, without fail, on a schedule that is to the mutual benefit of the student and the Coach.”
Rules and Regulations
12/2000 page 4

“All materials and information relating to ESP are to be kept in strict confidence. The ESP information and materials are leased to the student for personal use only. They are not to be shared, taught or in any way transmitted to anyone else for any purpose that is not approved by ESP. Anyone needing or desiring this information or materials must become a member of ESP.”
Rules and Regulations
12/2000 page 4

“I will not speak of them, or in any way give others knowledge of them, outside ESP. Part of the condition of being accepted into ESP is to keep all its information confidential.”
12 Point Mission Statement

“Arranging for Coaching Support:
It is your responsibility to set a time with your coach on a daily basis for check-in. The following rules apply:
a) Contacting. Students must speak to contact either by phone or in person daily. This is known as a contact session and is done at a specified time (can be a time range). This time should be written on the graph. Note: Messages left on answering machines DO NOT COUNT!
b) Exceptions. If necessary, the time may vary or days may be skipped only if it is arranged and approved by the contact during the previous day’s contact session.
c) Content. During contact session, student relays the progress of the persistence training and their opinions about it.
Note: This call should not take more than 3 minutes.”
Persistence
3/2001 page 1

“Concepts presented:
1) Difference between Faith and Trust
2) Everything we do is a matter of trust
3) All giving is a form of trust
4) Money is the element that allows trust to exist in the world
5) What gives money its value?
6) What it means if people believe that money is the root of all evil
7) Stages of dependence, independence and interdependence
8) Having money brings out the true nature of people”
Money
7/2001 page 2

2. Mystical Manipulation

The claim of divine authority or spiritual advancement that allows the leader to reinterpret events as he or she wishes, or make prophecies or pronouncements at will, all for the purpose of controlling group members. Lifton: “The inevitable next step after milieu control is extensive personal manipulation… Initiated from above, it seeks to provoke specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment… …Ideological totalists…are impelled by a special kind of mystique which not only justifies such manipulations, but makes them mandatory… They are the agents ‘chosen’ (by history, by God, or by some other supernatural force) to carry out the ‘mystical imperative,’ the pursuit of which must supersede all considerations of decency or of immediate human welfare. Similarly, any thought or action which questions the higher purpose is considered to be stimulated by a lower purpose, to be backward, selfish, and petty in the face of the great overriding mission… At the level of the individual person, the psychological responses to this manipulative approach revolve about the basic polarity of trust and mistrust. One is asked to accept these manipulations on a basis of trust (or faith)… When trust gives way to mistrust… the higher purpose cannot serve as adequate emotional sustenance. The individual then responds to the manipulations through developing… the psychology of the pawn. Feeling himself unable to escape from forces more powerful than himself, he subordinates everything to adapting himself to them. He becomes sensitive to all kinds of cues, expert at anticipating environmental pressures, and skillful in riding them in such a way that his psychological energies merge with the tide rather than turn painfully against himself. This requires that he participate actively in the manipulation of others, as well as in the endless round of betrayals and self-betrayals which are required. But whatever his response…he has been deprived of the opportunity to exercise his capacities for self-expression and independent action.”

[Please see examples under “Sacred Science.” In addition, the idea of the white sash has to not be a suppressive person implies the active manipulation of others – the reporting on others – that they must be loyal to the cause of ESP.]

3. Demand for Purity

The world is viewed as black and white and group members are constantly exhorted to strive for perfection. Consequently, guilt and shame are common and powerful control devices. Lifton: “In the thought reform milieu, as in all situations of ideological totalism, the experiential world is sharply divided into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely evil. The good and the pure are of course those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure… The philosophical assumption underlying this demand is that absolute purity…is attainable… …[B]y defining and manipulating the criteria of purity, and then by conducting an all-out war upon impurity, the ideological totalists create a narrow world of guilt and shame. This is perpetuated by an ethos of continuous reform, a demand that one strive permanently and painfully for something which not only does not exist but is in fact alien to the human condition… …Each person is made vulnerable through his profound inner sensitivities to his own limitations and to his unfulfilled potential…[i.e.,] his existential guilt… …The individual thus comes to apply the same totalist polarization of good and evil to his judgments of his own character… He must also look upon his impurities as originating from outside influences… …[O]nce an individual person has experienced the totalist polarization of good and evil, he has great difficulty in regaining a more balanced inner sensitivity to the complexities of human morality…”

“I pledge to purge myself of all parasite and envy-based habits and replace them with the habits of effort and interdependence.”
12 Point Mission Statement

“It is believed that how something is said is more important in the transmission of an idea than in the actual words used. In fact, a study conducted by Robert Birdwistle at the University of Pennsylvania stated that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. Enthusiastic people are better able to communicate and even sell their ideas with ease. They are more successful. The ability to access and utilize and excited state, at will, is a skill that can greatly simplify the road to success. When you have mastered this module, you will have the magic button.”
Building an Excited State
3/2001 page 1

“Homework:
Lifeline of tribute: Make a list of all of your positive and negative traits in your journal. Go through your list and do the tribute process on all of your traits giving tribute to those people and traits that make you who you are.

Practice giving tribute whenever you’re in a position to do so. Think of 3 examples in your life where you could give tribute. How can you remind yourself to appreciate all the gifts you have as a result of the work of others on a daily basis?”
The Fifth Integration

“Rules and Rituals
1. Sashes and Scarves
2. Promotion
3. Stripes
4. Pictures of founders
5. Shoes
6. Explanation of Bowing
7. Stand when high rank enters
8. Explanation of Recitation of Mission – the repetition of this statement brings even deeper meaning to the purpose of ESP.
9. Phone tree
10. Confidentiality and Materials
11. Attire – Standard business attire is required during all ESP sessions [missing page]
18. Handshakes
19. ESP Handshake
20. End of session handshake line-up”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 pages 2, 3, 4, 6

“All materials and information relating to ESP are to be kept in strict confidence. Students are bound to this as a condition of becoming a member of ESP.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 4

“It is important that students take pride in their appearance and become accustomed (if they are not already) to wearing standard business attire.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 4

“Outside Practice: Be sure to shake hands with everyone you meet. Pay particular attention to your dominant foot and notice how it feels.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 8

“Create a chart of all of the activities you do in a week and rate them from 0% (lowest intensity) – 100% (full intensity). It is helpful to break down your levels in divisions of 5%. Once you become aware of your average intensity levels, you can begin to increase or decrease them depending on your goal.

To practice: Do one activity a day like your life depends on it, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

Finding the switch: Allowing yourself to let go of control and move into fight or flight requires turning off the control switch that we usually utilize in everyday life. This is very different, as it requires a shift into another type of brain function, a lower more primitive functioning. It is usually necessary to practice finding the switch for several days to develop the ability to use it on demand.”
Intensity
12/2000 page 3

“Contacting. Students must speak to contact either by phone or in person daily. This is known as a contact session and is done at a specified time (can be a time range). This time should be written on the graph. Note: Messages left on answering machines DO NOT COUNT!”
Persistence
5/2001 page 1

“Make a list of 8 of your personal values. Be sure to ask the question again and again until you have a list of at least 8 answers. It is important for you to ask yourself this question several times because many times our most important values are not immediately obvious to us.”
Work and Value
5/2001 page 2

“Skills/Concepts Presented:
1. Definitions
2. Listing and defining my personal values
3. Difference between a right and a privilege
4. What makes human beings different than animals?
5. What is a slave?
6. Intellectual contribution vs. physical contribution
7. What is valuable?
8. What makes something more or less valuable?
9. Virtual work
10. What is work?
11. Why are we here, mankind’s work?”
Work and Value
5/2001 page 4

“Completing the worksheet is essential in converting perceived needs and desires into preferences. This process will free you from addictive desires and give you the ability to be more consistent.”
Honesty and Disclosure
6/2001 page 2

4. The Cult of Confession

Serious (and often not so serious) sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed, either privately to a personal monitor or publicly to the group at large. Lifton: “Confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal, and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself. There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed. Such demands are made possible not only by the ubiquitous human tendencies toward guilt and shame but also by the need to give expression to these tendencies. In totalist hands, confession becomes a means of exploiting, rather than offering solace for, these vulnerabilities… The assumption underlying total exposure… is the environment’s claim to total ownership of each individual self within it… …[T]he cult of confession makes it virtually impossible to attain a reasonable balance between worth and humility…

“Upon completion of the Mission Statement, all recite, ‘Thank you Vanguard’ as tribute to its author.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 4

“Phone Tree – Each student will call his or her Coach at least twice a week. Students involved in the more advanced aspects of ESP will speak to their Coaches at least once a day.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 4

“When working with individuals there are 4 projective questions to include in your Exploration of Meaning:

  1. Blow their cover! – Invitations to project and reveal self:
  2. a) What’s a person like when they’re (x)?
    b) Who do you know who is (x), describe them…
    c) Think of an incident when someone was (x), what were they like?
    d) Tell me of a time when you (someone) were/was (x)? This also gets more meaning!
  3. Project out the details! – Getting more data:
  4. a) How do you know when they’re (x)?
    b) Imitate someone who is (x)…
    c) Teach me how to be (x)…
    d) What would you need to be like/have to be the projected person?
    e) How do you think they feel?
    f) How would you/they feel in the future/past state if you/they were (x)?
  5. Finding the direct projection! – This question elicits their values, to get it ask yourself, ‘Why would they go there now?’
  6. a) Why is that important to you/them?
    b) What would happen (it be like) if that wasn’t/didn’t happen? (was no x)
    c) How would your/their life change if you/they had (x)?
    d) How would the past have been different if you/they had (x)?
  7. Get the Inner Deficiency! This question gives you a direct answer to the inner deficiency:
  8. a) What do you/they get out of it?
    b) What would happen if you/they didn’t (x)?”

Projective Questions for Facilitators

“Find an example in your life when you copied and did not give tribute. Apologize out loud for the group to the person who you copied from and verbalize the benefit you received from copying.”
The Fifth Integration

“Have you ever considered why people have the need to blame others, justify or simply be right? Have you ever found yourself needing to prove to another individual that you were justified in your actions? What is this behavior about and why do we expend so much energy on these stories? How do blame and responsibility affect each other? This practice session will answer these questions and give you a whole new understanding of the state of responsibility.”
Blame and Responsibility
3/2001 page 1

“Personal values are expressed in abstract concepts that have a different meaning to everybody. Some examples of values would be concepts like success, satisfaction, achievement, family, education, etc. Each person has a different perception of the concept of ‘success.’ Defining these terms helps us understand ourselves better.

Make a list of 8 of your personal values. This is done by asking yourself one of the following questions:
1) ‘Why is (x) important to me (job, career, or relationship, personal or professional development or achievement)?’
2) ‘What’s important in my work, relationship, career, personal or professional development, etc., what must be there?’ ‘What is important to me about succeeding?’
Work and Value
5/2001 page 2

“Is it possible for us to have total honesty with others? Is full disclosure a good thing or a bad thing? How do we stay in integrity with others and ourselves so that we can build sound relationships personally and professionally? How do our needs and desires interfere with our ability to have what we really want in life? This module will help you answer these questions and change the way you relate to others in surprisingly positive ways.”
Honesty and Disclosure
6/2001 page 1

“Homework: Find someone whom you trust and want to be close to. Get agreement and start by disclosing the things you discover about your filters and values. Have your partner do the same thing. This will help you begin to learn about each other’s filters and values, creating the basis for very special relationships. Remember: Knowing our filters helps us to be consistent in our behavior patterns.”
Honesty and Disclosure
6/2001 page 1

“A tribute to the Negative Habit:
Each student to tell the group:
1) The benefit of this habit to their survival. The student should feel free to use a real-life example.
2) The drawbacks of this habit
3) A positive habit that gives the same benefits without the drawbacks
4) A thank-you to the habit for the benefit it has given and a pledge to now replace this habit with the new updated beneficial habit through ESP and other endeavors.”
Tribute – the 5th Integration
7/2001 page 5

“Are you aware of examples when you did not give tribute (stolen) in the past so that you will be more conscious in the future?”
Tribute – the 5th Integration
7/2001 page 6

5. The “Sacred Science”

The doctrine of the group is considered the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or disputing. The leader of the group is likewise above criticism as the spokesperson for God on earth. Lifton: “The totalist milieu contains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself. While thus transcending ordinary concerns of logic, however, the milieu at the same time makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute ‘scientific’ precision. Thus the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science; and the man who dares to criticize it, or to harbor even unspoken alternative ideas, becomes not only immoral and irreverent but also ‘unscientific.’ …The assumption here is not so much that man can be God, but that man’s ideas can be God… At the level of the individual, the totalist sacred science can offer much comfort and security. Its appeal lies in its seeming unification of the mystical and the logical modes of existence… For within the framework of the sacred science, there is room for both careful step-by-step syllogism, and seeping, non-rational ‘insights.’… …[S]o strong a hold can the sacred science achieve over his mental processes that if one begins to feel himself attracted to ideas which either contradict or ignore it, he may become guilty and afraid. His quest for knowledge is consequently hampered…”

“Handshaking is a sign of respect and affords us an opportunity to make direct physical contact with others. We believe that many of society’s problems have developed because people have come to view each other as objects rather than human beings. The handshake is a way to greet others in every professional and personal context and is a sign of respect in ESP. Here in ESP, we use a two-handed handshake. This conveys warmth and a sense of community. Placement of the left hand denotes rank. Individuals of higher rank place their left hand on the top. Individuals of the same rank shake vertically. Lower rank places the left hand on the bottom.

Purpose: To introduce students to the rules and rituals so that they will develop a deep appreciation and understanding of ESP.

Definitions:
Crux of the hand is the portion of the hand between the thumb and forefinger, where they form a right angle. Wrist cock refers to the angle of the wrist, which can be used to gain control of the handshake. It is important for control to cock the wrist slightly down as you move into the handshake. Positioning of the feet determines dominance. Stepping into the handshake with the right foot creates a more dominant position, expressing strength for the hand-shaker. Stepping into the handshake with the left foot, will be perceived by both people as a more passive expression. The middle and ring fingers are used to gain control of the handshake.”
Rules and Rituals – Segment 1 Handshaking
12/2000 page 1

“Sashes or Scarves – Students are introduced to the school and presented with sashes at their first official practice session, after Rules and Rituals. Each student shall wear an official ESP neck sash or scarf.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 2

“The ESP information and materials are leased to the student for personal use only. They are not to be shared, taught or in any way transmitted to anyone else for any purpose that is not approved by ESP.”
Rules and Rituals
12/2000 page 4

“Since most adults have been using parasite strategies all of their lives successfully, they may see no reason to change them now.”
Parasite/Producer III – Practice
12/2000 page 1

“Student Notes:
What is the mission of our school? How does understanding ESP’s integrated matrix help us determine destructive patterns of human behavior and give us clues as to what is to come? We are now at the highest level of technological advancement in human history. The lifestyle current technology affords us has never existed before on the planet. Human civilization has had rises and falls for centuries; yet it is our belief humanity cannot survive another fall. All members of the human team must understand the historical reasons behind this tendency so we can change it and survive. We believe this is the ultimate cause because it means our existence and all other causes and our existence depend on this knowledge. The mission of ESP is to develop an integrated ethical framework of human experience to stop the destruction of value in the world and move humanity forward. This practice session explains ESP’s mission and gives students a clear knowledge of how and why we need to act to change historical trends.”
Mission
3/2001 page 1

“It is one of ESP’s goals to remove fear-based activities from the world. When people act from an ethical foundation, they are not afraid of the consequences of their actions.”
Mission – Important Points
3/2001 page 1

“ESP’s hypothesis: Business and entrepreneurial spirit were human inventions and noble achievements but to shifters the very thing that made them exceptional hurt them in their gut. Because shifters cheat they win any game they play. Their buts [guts?- ed.] work like Geiger counters bringing them to the noblest pursuits, in this case business. Because they cheat, they climb to the top of the game and destroy it.”
Mission – Important Points
3/2001 page 1

“In the field of psychology the phrase, ‘Perception is projection’ is commonly used, but until now there has never been a concise explanation of how this complex process works.”
The Face of the Universe – Projection
3/2001

“Vanguard has provided us with something that no other model could. In this practice you gain a full understanding of what self-esteem is, how people inadvertently lower it and how to raise your own self-esteem and the self-esteem of others.”
Self-Esteem
3/2001 page 1

“Ethics are well formed consistent postulates by which we live. An ethics is an internal guide, something that we have personally derived from our experience and is personal to us. Sometimes ethics are rules that we have internalized. Example: Thou shall not kill.”
Crime and Punishment
3/2001 page 1

“What we all need is to wipe the slate clean and start to build the inner knowledge of our world from scratch. This should be done privately, without coercion, pressure or unrealistic expectations. How is this possible in a world where our commitments are demanded daily? This module shows you how so that you may possess an untarnished, fully powerful way of causing your desires to become reality through commitment and persistence.”
Persistence
5/2001 page 1

“This practice session will give you a clear definition of work, an appreciation of civilization and what it has given us, humankind’s purpose, and our own value in the world.”
Work and Value
5/2001 page 1

“All of us are born parasitic or dependent on others for our survival. The hope is that as we grow we will learn effort strategies, which will enable us to become independent. Some people never make this transition and most people only make it partially. It is impossible to grow up without utilizing any parasite strategies. Unfortunately, all inappropriate taking lowers our self-esteem. In order to raise our self-esteem, we must rid ourselves of as many parasite strategies as possible. Once taught, most people can recognize them easily. To become successful it is necessary to notice these patterns in ourselves and make a conscious effort to change them.”
Parasite/Producer Module II – Strategies
7/2001 page 1

“As you retake the practice sessions, the demonstration of your understanding of concepts will greatly benefit the class.”
Tribute – the 5th Integration
7/2001 page 6

6. Loading the Language

The group develops a jargon in many ways unique to itself, often not understandable to outsiders. This jargon consists of numerous words and phases which the members understand (or think they do), but which really act to dull one’s ability to engage in critical thinking. Lifton: “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis… Totalist language, then, is repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon, prematurely abstract, highly categorical, relentlessly judging, and to anyone but its most devoted advocate, deadly dull: in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, ‘the language of nonthought.’…”

“All parasitic strategies lower self-esteem, and therefore, destroy value.”
Parasite/Producer III – Practice
12/2000 page 1

“Most people (non-Espians) who use parasite patterns are unaware that they are doing something harmful (harmful because it lowers self-esteem).”

Parasite/Producer III – Practice
12/2000 page 1

“Cult – this is a label that conveys no meaning but devalues the group. It is designed to keep people away from the group without saying what is wrong with it. Example: ‘That’s a cult.’
Strategy Name: ‘Counter culture.’ Response: ‘What specifically makes the group a cult?’ Or, ‘What do you mean by cult?’ ‘What do they do that’s wrong?’ Key: The dictionary definition is a system of religious beliefs and rituals.”
Parasite/Producer III – Practice
12/2000 page 6

“Motivational States: These are the emotional states that move people to become interested and excited enough to take action. There are two directions in which human beings can focus their energy and attention to drive motivation. They focus on and move towards goals or objectives, or they focus on and move away from problems or perceived consequences.

Desire State: This is a motivational state that can be accessed at will to drive motivation. It is a ‘toward’ state.
Toward: These patterns focus directly on goals and objectives. When people are utilizing towards patterns, their effort and attention moves them to have, get, obtain and achieve something as a result of desire.

Away From: These patterns focus directly on identifying circumstances to avoid, and problems that need solving. People who are utilizing circumstances to avoid, and problems that need solving. People who are utilizing away from patterns focus energy on what should be avoided, gotten rid of or not happen. Threats and fear energize them.

Trigger: A stimulus-response mechanism that starts a behavioral pattern is a trigger. In this context, the trigger is the internal image, word or sound; external event or stimulus that happens that causes the emotional state to occur. It is important to identify the trigger so that it can be used to bring back the emotional state, in this case, the motivated state at will.

Key Elements: This is the exact set of physiological components that make up and trigger the emotional state of a person.”
Motivation, Building Desire – Definitions 3/2001 page 1

“Cult: Using the term as a way of devaluing a group that is doing nothing wrong. It puts unsubstantiated doubt in the minds of non-critical thinking people and creates doubt.”
Shifter
7/2001 page 2

“All of us have copied at some time in our lives.”
Tribute – the 5th Integration
7/2001 page 1

7. Doctrine Over Person

The personal experiences of the group members are subordinated to the “Truth” held by the group–apparently, contrary experiences must be denied or re-interpreted to fit the doctrine of the group. The doctrine is always more important than the individual. Lifton: “This sterile language reflects another characteristic feature of ideological totalism: the subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine… [W]hen the myth becomes fused with the totalist sacred science, the resulting ‘logic’ can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience. Consequently, past historical events are retrospectively altered, wholly rewritten, or ignored, to make them consistent with the doctrinal logic… The same doctrinal primacy prevails in the totalist approach to changing people: the demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one’s special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold… The underlying assumption is that the doctrine–including its mythological elements–is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or human experience. Thus, even when circumstances require that a totalist movement follow a course of action in conflict with or outside the doctrine, there exists [a need to erect] an elaborate façade of new rationalizations designed to demonstrate the unerring consistency of the doctrine and the unfailing foresight which it provides… Rather than modify the myth in accordance with experience, the will to orthodoxy requires instead that men be modified in order to reaffirm the myth… …The totalist environment… counters…’deviant’ tendencies with the accusation that they stem entirely from personal ‘problems’…derived from untoward earlier… influences…”[No examples.]

8. Dispensing of Existence

The group arrogates to itself the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. Usually held non-literally, this means that those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” or whatever and that they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost. If they refuse to join the group, then they must be rejected by the group members, even if they are family members. In rare cases, this concept gives the group the right to terminate the outsider’s life. Lifton: “The totalist environment always draws a sharp line between those whose right to existence can be recognized and those who possess no such right… [O]ne underlying assumption makes this arrogance mandatory: the conviction that there is just one path to true existence, just one valid mode of being, and that all others are perforce invalid and false… For the individual, the polar emotional conflict is the ultimate existential one of ‘being versus nothingness.’ He is likely to be drawn to a conversion experience, which he sees as the only means of attaining a path of existence for the future… The totalist environment… thus stimulates in everyone a fear of extinction or annihilation… A person can overcome this fear and find… ‘confirmation,’ not in his individual relationships, but only from the fount of all existence, the totalist Organization. Existence comes to depend upon creed (I believe, therefore I am), upon submission (I obey, therefore I am) and beyond these, upon a sense of total merger with the ideological movement. Ultimately of course one compromises and combines the totalist ‘confirmation’ with independent elements of personal identity; but one is ever made aware that, should he stray too far along this ‘erroneous path,’ his right to existence may be withdrawn.”

“All materials and information relating to ESP are to be kept in strict confidence. They are essential assets of ESP acquired at great time and expense. The unauthorized use of them is strictly prohibited, constitutes theft and will cause irreparable harm.”
Rules and Regulations
12/2000 page 4

“Remember that Espians understand the model but non-Espians do not.”
Parasite/Producer III – Practice
12/2000 page 1

Note: Paul Martin founded Wellspring Retreat in 1986 and was located near Albany, Ohio. We are grateful for his lifework as he has helped so many people directly as well as for his interviews, data collection, expert witness work, and academic writings. He would be very pleased to know that Keith Raniere has been in jail for months and has some of his top leadership speaking out against him. I am sure that he wishes all cult leaders to be found responsible for the harm they have done.

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Steven Hassan

About the Author: 

Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (mind control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member and as a clinical professional.

Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives.  Steven pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members.  The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

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