Spiritual abuse Do you want to copy any text?

We hear about physical abuse in our society. But what about emotional and spiritual abuse? It can be dished out by an individual, a family or a community. It is an area that we need to wise up about so that we can stand confident in accepting love and rejecting abuse of all kinds.

Scapegoating | Projection and Evil | Avoiding the pain of the realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection | Malignant narcissism - an unsubmitted will | Characteristics of malignant narcissism | Group self-absorption | Obedience tends to take precedence over a persons own moral senseTruth always outranks position or title | Legalism | Undefined calls to surrender | Keeping up appearances | Don't Talk rule | The Call to Unity | Attractive leaders | Messianic leaders | Assessing a church for spiritual abuse | Once you realise your church is abusive | Servant leadership | Relationships that build victims | Performance preoccupation | Paranoia | Jesus broke the cycle of spiritual abuse | Introducing the invalidator |The difference between sick and evil people | Profile of evil people | Identifying an invalidator | Introducing the victim | The system of invalidation | What happen to invalidators? | One sequence for handling invalidation? | Community or cult? |

A predominant characteristic, however, of the behaviour of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection. Take a simple example of a six-year-old boy who asks his father, 'Daddy, why did you call Grand-mommy a bitch?' 'I told you to stop bothering me,' the father roars. 'Now you're going to get it. I'm going to teach you not to use such filthy language, I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap. Maybe that will teach you to clean up what you say and keep your mouth shut when you're told.' Dragging the boy upstairs to the soap dish, the father inflicts this punishment on him. In the name of 'proper discipline' evil has been committed.

By Scott Peck

Projection and Evil
Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection. Since the evil, deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world's fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil; on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others. The father perceived the profanity and uncleanness as existing in his son and took action to cleanse his son's 'filthiness'. Yet we know it was the father who was profane and unclean. The father projected his own filth onto his son and then assaulted his son in the name of good parenting. Evil, then, is most often committed in order to scapegoat, and the people I label as evil are chronic scapegoaters. I define evil "as the exercise of political power-that is, the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion-in order to avoid spiritual growth". In other words, the evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgement of one's need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgement, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection.

By Scott Peck

Avoiding the pain of the realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection
Laziness or the desire to escape 'legitimate suffering' lies at the root of all mental illness. Here we are also talking about avoidance and evasion of pain. What distinguishes the evil, however, from the rest of us mentally ill sinners is the specific type of pain they are running away from. They are not pain avoiders or lazy people in general. To the contrary, they are likely to exert themselves more than most in their continuing effort to obtain and maintain an image of high respectability. They may willingly, even eagerly, undergo great hardships in their search for status. It is only one particular kind of pain they cannot tolerate: the pain of their own conscience, the pain of the realization of their own sinfulness and imperfection. Since they will do almost anything to avoid the particular pain that comes from self-examination, under ordinary circumstances the evil are the last people who would ever come to psychotherapy. The evil hate the light - the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception. Psychotherapy is a light-shedding process par excellence. Except for the most twisted motives, an evil person would be more likely to choose any other conceivable route than the psychiatrist's couch. The submission to the discipline of self-observation required by psychoanalysis does, in fact, seem to them like suicide. The most significant reason we know so little scientifically about human evil is simply that the evil are so extremely reluctant to be studied. If the central defect of the evil is not one of conscience, then where does it reside?

By Scott Peck

Malignant narcissism - an unsubmitted will
The essential psychological problem of human evil, I believe, is a particular variety of narcissism. Narcissism and will Narcissism, or self-absorption, takes many forms. Some are normal. Some are normal in childhood but not in adulthood. Some are more distinctly pathological than others. The subject is as complex as it is important. It is not the purpose of this book, however, to give a balanced view of the whole topic, so we will proceed immediately to that particular pathologic variant that Erich Fromm called 'malignant narcissism'. Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will. And adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal. They do what God wants them to do rather than what they would desire. 'Thy will, not mine, be done,' the God-submitted person says. They believe in what is true rather than what they would like to be true. Unlike Bobby's parents, what their beloved needs becomes more important to them than their own gratification. In summary, to a greater or lesser degree, all mentally healthy individuals submit themselves to the demands of their own conscience. Not so the evil, however. In the conflict between their guilt and their will, it is the guilt that must go and the will that must win. The reader will be struck by the extraordinary wilfulness of evil people. They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others.

By Scott Peck

Characteristics of malignant narcissism
Be that as it may, the time is right, I believe, for psychiatry to recognize a distinct new type of personality disorder to encompass those I have named evil. In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:
(a) consistent destructive, scapegoating behaviour, which may often be quite subtle.
(b) excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic - injury.
(c) pronounced concern with a public image and selfimage of respectability, contributing to a stability of lifestyle but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.
(d) intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophreniclike disturbance of thinking at times of stress.

By Scott Peck

Group self-absorption
Necessarily, I have already made note of the fact that patterns of group behaviour are remarkably similar to the behaviour of an individual. This is because a group is an organism. It tends to function as a single entity. A group of individuals behave as a unit because of what is called group cohesiveness. There are profound forces at work within a group to keep its individual members together and in line. When these forces to cohesiveness fail, the group begins to disintegrate and ceases to be a group. Probably the most powerful of these group cohesive forces is narcissism. In its simplest and most benign form, this is manifested in group pride. As the members feel proud of their group, so the group feels proud of itself. Once again, the military deliberately does more than most organizations to foster pride within its groups. It does so through a variety of means, such as developing group insignia-unit standard flags, shoulder patches, even special uniform deviations such as the green berets - and encouraging group competition, ranging from intramural sports to the comparison of unit body counts. It is no accident that the common term for group pride is a military one: esprit de corps. A less benign but practically universal form of group narcissism is what might be called 'enemy creation', or hatred of the `out-group'. We can see this naturally occurring in children as they first learn to develop groups. The groups become cliques. Those who do not belong to the group (the club or clique) are despised as being inferior or evil or both. If a group does not already have an enemy, it will most likely create one in short order.

By Scott Peck

Obedience tends to take precedence over a persons own moral sense
Even civilians will commit evil with remarkable ease under obedience. As David Myers described in his excellent article 'A Psychology of Evil' (The Other Side [April 19821, P. 29): `The clearest example is Stanley Milgrarn's obedience experiments. Faced with an imposing, close-at-hand commander, sixty-five percent of his adult subjects fully obeyed instructions. On command, they would deliver what appeared to he traumatizing electric shocks to a screaming innocent victim in an adjacent room. These were regular people - a mix of blue-collar, white-collar and professional men. They despised their task. Yet obedience took precedence over their own moral sense.' group to keep its individual members together and in line. When these forces to cohesiveness fail, the group begins to disintegrate and ceases to be a group.

By Scott Peck

Truth always outranks position or title
Among other things, Paul declared by this action that the truth always outranks position or title in the church. Truth and its authority are not rooted in a personality or office. It is derived from the Word of God and the gospel it proclaims. I maintain that 'there is no such thing as 'The Lord's Anointed - 'preachers who are above the Word .... Any claim to divine authority for commands, expectations, revelations, or guidance that are not stated in the pages of Holy Scripture are marks of a spiritual tyrant and Pharisee!

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

The modern equivalent of the "yeast of the Pharisees" is what we call legalism. The term legalism covers any variation on the notion that if we do the proper Christian disciplines well enough and long enough, God will be pleased with us and will reward us. It is the idea that if we do more and try harder, we can make a claim on God's fever so that we need not rely totally upon his mercy and grace. Legalism is the great weapon of spiritual abuse. Multiplying religious rules to gain control over followers is authoritarianism's primary tool. Legalism is an expression of leaders' compulsion to seek security and predictability. If they can enforce an exhaustive list of dos and don'ts, they think, they will gain that security and predictability they crave. Followers cooperate with this abusive regime because they are told that it is the way to please God and gain his favor. Tragically, this kind of conscientious rule-keeping actually takes us away from God. Any religious activity that implies that Jesus' cross is not enough for our acceptance with God leads us away from him, not to him.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Undefined calls to surrender
There is a kind of dehumanizing spiritual abuse that is actually worse than the misuse of God's law. It is expressed in the undefined calls to "enter into the deeper life," to "lay it all on the altar," to "surrender," to "yield" and so on. If these calls are not defined or explained, they can never be put to rest in our conscience. The question sensitive hearts perpetually ask is "Have I yielded or surrendered enough?" This establishes permanent guilt feelings and exchanges salvation by God's grace for salvation through my surrender, in which I can never rest.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Keeping up appearances
There is one variety of abusive leader who is so preoccupied with keeping up appearances as to utterly deny human weakness and the depth of human fallenness. This is typically a very "positive" person always smiles, always up. This pastor's sermons are full of easy answers and glib advice; his or her own dark temptations, marriage problems, failures as a parent are never disclosed. The only personal struggle that is confessed is expressed in the past tense, so that we see how victory has been gained. Often this pastor has gathered a leadership core of "yes men and women" who never confront problems. Since the pastor is allowed to live in denial, no one else is allowed human weakness either. Such denial suffocates honesty and fosters abuse.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Don't Talk rule
One of the most troubling abusive traits in the dysfunctional church or denominational family is the unwritten "no talk" rule. This rule implies that certain problems in the group must not be exposed because then the group might look bad and things would have to change. The "no talk" rule itself is among those things never talked about. Healthy groups thrive on the free flow of information. Members have ready access to each other's opinions and concerns. Sick groups generally suffer from confused, defective or controlled communication.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

The Call to Unity
Another abusive result of the don't talk rule is that when people from inside the group finally break the silence and begin to talk about the group's problems, they are persecuted. They are told that everything was just fine until they started causing trouble. (Incestuous families react in exactly this way toward the first daughter to blow the whistle on her father and her family) If the whistle-blowers reveal the group's problems to the outside world, the group will mobilize to discredit them. Sometimes trumped-up countercharges are aired, but most often the troublemakers' mental and emotional state is brought into question. Almost never are the actual issues raised ever admitted, let alone dealt with. The real problems are not acknowledged; instead, the whistle-blowers themselves become the problem. Thus honest examination is averted and denial maintained. To sum up, I would say that if abuse is minor and rare, we should probably shrug it off. If it is significant, we should confront the perpetrator. If it is systematic, ongoing, unrelenting and well defended, we probably need to leave.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Attractive leaders
First of all, abusive spiritual leaders gain followers because they are, in one way or another, attractive. Their attractiveness may very well be their genuine commitment to the work of God and their sincere desire to train mature disciples. The intention to maim people may not be present in them at all. I know several pastors whom I consider to be significantly abusive. I know them well enough to say that they are not deliberately abusive. Members of their congregations recognize their sincerity regarding the things of the Lord and so continue to support them, and thus continue to absorb their abuse. We must be clear, however, that leaders' good motives should not permit them to continue hurting people. After all, the Pharisees whom Jesus opposed were also intensely sincere toward God. They loved God and his Word. They worshiped him. They thought they were pleasing God by teaching others what they sincerely believed. But a person may be as devastated by a well-meaning father as by a sadistic criminal. But heroic leaders have never outgrown their childhood fantasies.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Messianic leaders
The soul of the true narcissist has managed to withstand the process of maturation. Adult narcissists cling to the dream of one day doing something truly exceptional and unprecedented for adoring fans and for God. They fantasize about writing a bestseller that will change the course of church history, or evangelizing the nation, or establishing the one true church, or alleviating world hunger, or becoming a commander in God's end-times army. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They feel entitled to unlimited success. They believe that they deserve human adulation as well as divine fever. They are potentially dangerous because they need followers to applaud their vision and virtues and to justify their actions. Their greatest fear in life is being unimportant, nameless and faceless. The most accessible platform for such a leader, sadly, is the pulpit. His initial session behind the pulpit may be the first time he ever experiences the attention and power he craves. If he is truly gifted and is willing to work hard, he sees the possibility of realizing his dream. When a measure of that dream is realized and the messianic leader finally tastes the power he craves, he wants more of it. It becomes a kind of addiction. In order to achieve the public support he needs, these leaders often make extraordinary claims for themselves or have others make them in their behalf. Such claims may include a special anointing, unusual personal sacrifice, unprecedented encounters with God, unique training, a singular teaching or leadership gift, a revelation of truth that is not available to others, or secret knowledge of God's end-times purposes. These and other claims imply that God has a special calling on this leader, and so it is the "unspecial" people's duty to admire and follow him, which they often do in droves. Once the leader's claims to specialness and importance are established, it becomes very difficult for mere followers to challenge him. In time this leader breaks free of all accountability. This enables him to act as he pleases while exercising control over followers. But it's not always easy to keep control. People have needs of their own, and sooner or later they feel them and want them met. The messianic leader tries to keep them from acknowledging or expressing their needs by promising them something better in the future. In order to subvert them from living honestly today, he promises them, "Revival is just around the corner," or "The great move of God is just ahead." Keeping his followers out of touch with today enables him to continue operating in his own interest. Another tactic of keeping people out of touch with the present is to foment confusion, punctuated by crisis. Policies may be handed down and programs launched which seem to fit no coherent pattern. Prophecies are given that conflict with the ones uttered last week, but no explanation is offered. The resulting turmoil keeps people from finding out what is really going on. This serves to cover up the fact that almost no productive activity may be occurring and that the little that does happen requires an inordinate amount of effort. Because no one (except those at the top) knows what is happening, gossip is rampant. Crisis is sometimes needed to further muddy the waters. Enemies - demonic, political or ecclesiastical - are invented to promote an "us-versus-them' siege mentality. The leader often sounds as if his group is at war with the world. This keeps followers looking outward so that they will have no energy or will to examine their own painful emotions and broken relationships. A most effective means of control for a messianic leader is to convince his followers that they are on an extraordinary mission with him. If a leader successfully convinces his followers that he is the unique instrument of God, that makes them unique by virtue of their support of him. This group may say or imply such things as "We are a special move of God," "We are the only group proclaiming truth," "We are the faithful remnant ... .. We are God's cutting edge for this generation," or "We are in training for God's end-times army." Once this attitude is rooted in a group, the combination of pride and fear keeps followers in formation. Everyone wants to feel special, and some get hooked on the exhilaration of being part of an elite. Others fear leaving lest they miss God's will and be accused of deserting his special calling. This leads us to the question of who gets hooked by messianic leaders and who volunteers for the abuse they inflict. Revelation 12:11 refers to the violent death of Christ on the cross. And so it is by a proper understanding of the death of Jesus that we neutralize the accusations of Satan and spiritual abusers. In Colossians 2:12-15 Paul shows how this is so: "You have been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Assessing a church for spiritual abuse
To aid in assessing your church and deciding what you should do, let's briefly review the symptoms of abusive religion according to Jesus in Matthew 23:
Abusive leaders base their spiritual authority on their position or office rather than on their service to the group. Their style of leadership is authoritarian.
Leaders in abusive churches often say one thing but do another. Their words and deeds do not match.
They manipulate people by making them feel guilty for not measuring up spiritually. They lay heavy religious loads on people and make no effort to lift those loads. You know that you are in an abusive church if the loads just keep getting heavier.
Abusive leaders are preoccupied with looking good. They labor to keep up appearance. They stifle any criticism that puts them in a bad light.
They seek honorific titles and special privileges that elevate them above the group. They promote a class system with themselves at the top.
Their communication is not straight. Their speech becomes especially vague and confusing when they are defending themselves.
They major on minor issues to the neglect of the truly important ones. They are conscientious about religious details but neglect God's larger agendas.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Once you realise your church is abusive
If your church rates high on these negative indicators, it is significantly spiritually abusive. Now something must be done. You may choose to stay and fight for change. Bear in mind, however, that most abusive religious systems are very well rationalized and well defended. Abusive leaders are unlikely to respond well to your rational objections and constructive criticisms. Spiritual abuse is never the result of confused thinking. It is caused by a lust for power. Leaving may be your only option. But it may not be easy. One of the major indicators of an abusive system is the difficulty people face in leaving it. Jesus made it easy for people to leave him. The back door was always open. Leaders who truly follow Jesus also allow people to go when they choose to. Abusive leaders, on the other hand, erect significant obstacles to deserters. In order to surmount these obstacles, ask yourself, "Didn't Jesus himself tell us not to trust the Pharisees and not to follow the blind guides?" Ask yourself if you can go on giving your time, energy and money to support something you now know is destructive. Can you go on placing your family at risk by continually exposing them to the toxins of spiritual abuse? Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for abusive leaders is to leave them. Sometimes the most humane act is to let an abusive church die. If you must leave an abusive church, you may go through a painful period of anger, depression, even despair. These are normal responses. Take time to take care of yourself. Resist the well-meaning exhortations of friends who tell you to "snap out of it in Jesus name". If you were hit by a bus, you would need time to recover. Something almost as serious as that has happened to you. Take time. Let yourself heal. Finally, resist the temptation to stay away from church just because of a bad church experience. There actually are more good churches out there than bad ones. Find a church where you can safely tell your story and find healing. Never give up on the church. God doesn't.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Servant leadership
Of course church leaders need power to function. I now understand, however, that they gain authority not by succeeding at power games but by succeeding as servants. This principle applies not just in the body of Christ but also in the world. Power and influence are given to those who serve or appear to serve. Serve people well and in time they will usually grant you authority. George Grant recognizes the operation of this principle even in some functions of government: "There is a fundamental principle of dominion ... through service. This principle is understood by the modern welfare state. The politicians and planners recognize that the agency that supplies charity in the name of the people will gain the allegiance of the people. So they 'serve' and so they gain dominion."' Even secular institutions have discovered power through service. While it may be perverted by some, God has built this principle into the structure of creation. Servanthood is the God-ordained path to power and influence. Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all, led the way. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them. ... But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.... I am among you as one who serves!' The question "How can servants also be strong leaders?" displays ignorance not only of the Bible and social forces but also of church history. The greatest leaders down through the church age did not depend on hierarchical or institutional power but on the voluntary support of their followers. When leaders serve faithfully and effectively, people grant them more and more freedom to lead. Most people understand that if someone is dedicated to building them up and solving their problems, that person can be trusted with power. True servants diffuse any fear of their leadership. This dynamic should also work in reverse, so that when leaders begin to abuse the power entrusted to them, followers withdraw that power. This kind of accountability of leaders to followers not only protects the people from spiritual abuse but also delivers an effective wake-up call to budding spiritual abusers. Accountability initiated by the congregation also serves as a kind of preventive medicine. If a congregation makes clear at the outset that the only power it allows leaders is the power to serve, those with a conflicting agenda will look elsewhere. When the only authority offered to a leader is the authority to build others up, those wanting authoritarian power are repelled. Leadership Styles While a true leader uses his or her power to serve others, this does not imply a fixed style of leadership. An important component of a servant's heart is flexibility in dealing with the variety of human needs he or she is faced with. A servant leader may act nondirectively with one person and exactly the opposite with another. A true leader may help one group reach a consensus while he or she functions almost as an autocrat in other groups. People's needs and level of maturity must determine how the servant leader serves them

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Relationships that build victims
People learn to be or to act powerless by experiencing relationships that have either prepared them to be abused, or not prepared them to not be abused. We refer to these as "shame-based" relationships. Shame is not to be confused with guilt. Let us remind you again that guilt is an emotional indication about wrong actions or attitudes. It is the flare that explodes in our conscience and says, "I did something wrong and I feel terrible about it." Guilt is a constructive signal, telling us to correct bad behaviors. Shame, on the other hand, is a destructive signal about you and your worth. It is the belief or mindset about yourself - that you are bad, defective or worthless as a person. Shame-based relationships are relationships based on messages of shame: "You are so weak and defective that you are nothing without this relationship." Shame, then, is the glue that holds things together. It is the force that motivates people to refrain from certain behaviors and to do others. Families, churches or any group of interrelated people who are shame-based send messages to their members that they are:
Not loved and accepted.
Not even lovable or acceptable.
Only loved and accepted if, when, or because they perform well.
Not capable, valuable, or worthwhile.
Very alone, not really belonging anywhere, to anything, or with anyone.

If you have come from shame-based relationships in which you were spiritually abused, you may hold to these or other unspoken rules:
God rewards spirituality with material goods.
"If I am spiritual enough, things won't affect me emotionally." "I can never say no to those in religious authority."
"Everyone in the ministry is called by God, is appropriate, and must be trusted."
"God needs me to do ministry."
"The existence of trouble in my life indicates a lack of faith."
"Talking about problems will make God 'look bad'."
"Unity means agreeing about everything."

As you can see, shame-based relationships have significant effects upon those who have experienced them. The relational applications of these effects are far-reaching. As pertaining to spiritual systems, the application is clear: Shame-based relationships build on an emotional foundation that undermines relational honesty; hinders a maturing individual relationship with God; and fosters dependence upon another, who grows in power as a false leader, building an unhealthy system in which appearance is more important than reality. These systems victimize people and set them up to be trapped in future abusive relationships.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Performance preoccupation
In abusive spiritual systems, power is postured and authority is legislated. Therefore, these systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members.

One characteristic of a spiritually abusive system is an unbalanced approach to living out the truth of the Christian life. This shows itself in two extremes:

Extreme Objectivism
The first extreme is an empirical approach to life, which elevates objective truth to the exclusion of valid subjective experience. This is seen in religious systems where even though the Holy Spirit's work might be acknowledged theologically, on a practical level it would be suspect, or denied. This approach to spirituality creates a system in which authority is based upon the level of education and intellectual capacity alone, rather than on intimacy with God, obedience and sensitivity to His Spirit.

Extreme subjectivism
is the other manifestation of lack of balance is seen in an extremely subjective approach to the Christian life. What is true is decided on the basis of feelings and experiences, giving more weight to them than to what the Bible declares. In this system, people can't know or understand truths (even if they really do understand or know them) until the leaders "receive them by spiritual revelation from the Lord" and "impart" them to the people.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

In the church or family that is spiritually abusive, there is a sense, spoken or unspoken, that "others will not understand what we're all about, so let's not let them know - that way they won't be able to ridicule or persecute us." There is an assumption that
(1) what we say, know, or do is a result of our being more enlightened than others
(2) others will not understand unless they become one of us
(3) others will respond negatively.
In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy "us." This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave - because they will then be outsiders too. While it is true that there is a world of evil outside of the system, there is also good out there. But people are misled into thinking that the only safety is in the system. Jesus declared: "But you have made it a den of thieves". The tragic truth was that in this system, the least likely place to meet with God would be in the temple.

Excerpt from "Healing Spiritual Abuse" by Ken Blue

Jesus broke the cycle of spiritual abuse
The unhappy news is that, for many, this is still a reality today.. There are people longing for God, and they hope that the logical place to discover the truth about God is in a place that claims to be the church. But when they go, all too often what they discover is a system that gives them more work to do in order to be "close" to God. Sometimes tired out Christians leave church and give up on God altogether. Sometimes they stay, though, hoping things will change. They lower their expectations. They decide that this is as good as it gets. ("No church is perfect. And all our friends are here" ) But they pay and pay and pay, and rarely experience the kingdom - the true reign of God. Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders today: "Woe to you, if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men." But there is always hope beyond the warning. Jesus fights for us, against all empty religious performance- even our own particular denominational brands. Picture Jesus, standing in the courtyard of the Gentiles, standing against a powerful religious system that presumes to speak for God. He is breaking the "can't-talk" rule that silences honesty and allows the system to perpetuate itself. He breaks the cycle of abuse. When He did, during His earthly life, it so enraged the religious pretenders that they nailed Him to a cross. It was, in fact, three days after the cleansing of the temple that they executed Him. Did Jesus know what was coming? Do you think He knew that these words of His would be the "last straw"? That it would cost Him His life? We think He did, and it makes us grateful. It makes us want to worship. It makes us want to do what He did, and say what He said. It makes us look at our lives and our ministry and ask the question: Are we door-openers, or door-closers? Another fact that lies beyond Jesus' warning not to rely on performance but to trust in God's grace is this: When we do, people are set free and healed. The poor, blind, lame and others were right in the middle of the violent explosion when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple (Matthew 21:12-16). And it was then, when they saw His authenticity, that a most wondrous event happened. "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them" (v. 14). With the false system overturned - with feathers filling the air from scurrying doves, and coins clanging and scattering across the floor as the moneychangers run for cover - the lame and the blind come to Him. The Pharisees were afraid of Him, but these wounded people knew Jesus was safe, approachable. They knew He was fighting for them, and they came for His touch. There is a serious reminder for us in this. Before Jesus cleared the temple, blind and lame people were a hindrance to its operation. They were beggars, always in the way, a problem to be pushed into corners, out of the way. Today, too many hurting people in a church are "bad public relations." But when Jesus turned over the tables, the hurting were no longer a hindrance to the operation of the temple, they were the operation of the temple! "And He healed them" (v. 14). We believe the word to the church today is this. When the Jesus of the Bible is clearly heard in the church, trivialities will be revealed, tables will be turned over, and religious pretenders will run for cover. But in the end, the "blind" and "lame" will be strangely drawn and wonderfully healed.

Excerpt from "The Subtle Powers of Spiritual Abuse" by David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen

Introducing the invalidator
It's hard to recognize an invalidator, because a truly good one can bypass the scrutiny of your logical mind, and you find yourself feeling bad without knowing why. The invalidator is underhanded, and the person being invalidated is often unsuspecting except for knowing that he or she feels bad. The invalidator actually feels inferior to some other person, so he or she tries to make that other person feel small. Thus, the invalidator can control the victim. Have you met anyone like this? Whether you are completely aware of it or not, you probably have. You probably know one, or several, invalidators.

The invalidator uses various suppressive mechanisms to chop away at your self esteem. He pretends to acknowledge something you are proud of, then later makes some negative insinuation about it. He feels out what you think your shortcomings are and then exploits them at calculated times when he knows you are vulnerable. The invalidator may persist in invalidating you until you succumb. He has to control you because he perceives you as being superior to him. He takes accusations that have "some truth", and fires them at you "in all honesty," "just being your friend,""to help you."

The difference between an invalidator and a real friend is that a real friend will tell you one negative thing about yourself and then back off to give you space to consider it. An invalidator will lay many of your faults out for you and persist until you feel as big as the period at the end of this sentence. An invalidator will pick out the qualities about yourself that tare most important to you and then tear them apart. An invalidator will listen to you share something that you don't like about yourself and then later use it against you. This is all done in such a subtle way that you are unaware of it.

If you do confront an invalidator on what she is doing, she will say something like, "Oh, come on now! I love you. I'm your friend. Where did you get these silly ideas?" And she may really like you. She may really want to be your friend...but only on her terms and only after she has you in her control. She will make you look silly for even thinking such things about her. She may make you feel guilty or cheap in font of your friends for accusing her of invalidating you. She may get angry at you for your accusations. Whatever she can do to invalidate you again...until later when you are unsuspecting.

In short, the invalidator does whatever is necessary to control you. He is control crazy, and any time he perceives himself to be not in control, he will be scared.

Excerpt from "Nasty People: How to Stop Being Hurt by them Without Becoming One of Them" by Jay Carter

The difference between sick and evil people
Given the state of world affairs, it's impossible to overlook the reality of evil if you are thinking with integrity. But there is widespread denial in our country. Many downplay evil or hesitate to see it for what it truly is, in part because they don't want to appear to be acting arrogant or holier-than-thou. Indeed, it is quite common to read newspaper articles that describe those who commit a range of human atrocities as simply "sick." As a psychiatrist, I believe the word "sick" is more appropriately applied to those who are afflicted with something for which treatment or a cure is possible - and also desired. Although the evil are operating from a "sick" perspective, the difference is that many of those who are "sick" deal with their venom internally, turning it painfully upon themselves if they choose not to seek help. Those who are evil go another way. They fail to suffer. Because they lash out at others and use them as scapegoats, it is the people around them who must suffer, Think of the ill effects caused by those who are addicted to a high opinion of themselves, to complacency and self-righteousness or far worse.

By Scott Peck

Profile of evil people
Indeed, most people who commit evil are usually seen as ordinary citizens. They live down the street - on any street. They may be rich or poor, educated or uneducated. Most are not designated "criminals. " More often than not, they are "solid citizens" who fit in well with society, who do and say most of the right things on the surface. They may be active leaders in the community, Sunday school teachers, policemen or bankers, students or parents. The case of Bobby and his parents, described in People of the Lie, is a compelling example of the kind of major evil that can be committed by so-called normal people in everyday life. After his older brother, Stuart, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22 rifle, fifteen-year-old Bobby recalled all manner of little incidents and began to feel guilty for having called his brother names or having hit or kicked him during a fight. To some degree, he felt responsible for Stuart's death. Consequently, he began judging himself as evil. That was not surprising. If someone close to us commits suicide, our first response after the initial shock-if we are normally human, with a normal human conscience-will be to wonder what we did wrong. Had Bobby lived in a healthy family environment, his stable, blue-collar parents would have talked to him about his brother's death and attempted to reassure him that Stuart must have been suffering from a mental illness and that it was not Bobby's fault. But his parents did not do so. And without this reassurance, Bobby became visibly depressed. His grades plummeted and the school advised his parents to take him to a therapist. They did not do this either. What they did do at Christmas, although he had not asked for it, was to give Bobby a .22 rifle-the rifle-as his "big present." The message this sent was chilling. Given Bobby's obvious depression and lack of sufficient maturity to understand his parents' motives in giving him this "gift," the message he received was in essence: "Take your brother's suicide weapon and do likewise. You deserve to die." When confronted with the horrific nature of this gesture, his parents responded in a way typical of the denial and self-deception inherent in evil. "It was better than any other present we could afford," his parents told me. 'We're just working people. We're not sophisticated, smart, and educated people like you. We can't be expected to think about these kind of things Of course, an evil deed does not an evil person make. Otherwise, we would all be designated evil, because we all do evil things. But 1 believe it would be a mistake to think of sin or evil as simply a matter of degree. Sinning is most broadly defined as "missing the mark," which means we sin every time we fail to hit the bull's-eye. Sin is nothing less than a failure to be continually perfect. And because it is impossible for us to be continually perfect, we are all sinners. We routinely fail to do the very best of which we are capable, and with each failure we commit a crime of sorts - against ourselves or others. Of course, there are crimes of greater or lesser magnitude. It may seem less odious to cheat the rich than to cheat the poor, but it is still cheating. There are differences before the law in defrauding a business, claiming a false deduction on your income tax, telling your wife that you have to work late when you are being unfaithful, or telling your husband you didn't have time to pick up his clothes at the cleaner when you spent an hour on the phone with a friend. Surely some of these deeds are more excusable than others-and perhaps all the more so under certain circumstances-but the fact remains that they are all lies and betrayals. The reality is that we do betray ourselves and others routinely. The worst of us do it blatantly, even compulsively. The noblest of us do it subtly and self-centeredly, even when we think we are trying not to do it. Whether it is done consciously or unconsciously is of no matter; the betrayal occurs. If you imagine you are sufficiently scrupulous never to have done any such thing, then ask yourself whether there is any way in which you have lied to yourself. Or have kidded yourself. Be perfectly honest with yourself and you will realize that you sin. If you do not realize it, then you are not perfectly honest with yourself, which is itself a sin. Thus, we are all sinners to one degree or another. But those who are evil cannot be strictly defined by the magnitude of their sins or the illegality of their deeds. It is not their sins per se that characterize them; rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. And underlying this consistency, what distinguishes those who are evil, like Bobby's parents, is the extremes that they will go to in order to avoid the consciousness of their own evil.

By Scott Peck

Identifying an invalidator
Perhaps you have met someone who has flattered you by being possessive and jealous. Then later you were puzzled when this person treated you condescendingly. This person would be interested in you especially when you had the attention of others, but then became bored with you when you devoted most of your time to him. He might become enraged when you did something against his will or against his opinion. When you demonstrated you had a mind of your own, he might become more enraged. Making love to this person would seem like more of a satisfaction of his libido than a sincere expression of love. Everyone probably has these tendencies sometimes, but the invalidator has them to a great degree.

To deal with the invalidator, first you have to be able to detect one. Methods of invalidation can be so clever, so sneaky, and so suppressive that you might not be able to see them. If you know someone that you always feel bad with, it could be your insecurities, or it could be an invalidator at work. Probably both.

Simply stated, your insecurities come from past experiences that you never really noticed or understood or accepted, that have been embedded in your subconscious and wait, ready to cause pain or defensiveness or introversion at odd moments when you least suspect they are at work. A clever invalidator finds your most sensitive spots, and plays on them to gain control over you by making you feel vulnerable.

The important thing to look for is not the various traits of an invalidator. The important thing to look for is how you feel over a period of time when you are in the presence of a possible invalidator. It is not necessary to see all the mechanisms an invalidator uses. Somewhere you will pick up the way things are going with this person.

Excerpt from "Nasty people: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them." by Jay Carter

Introducing the victim
People are born willing to listen, but after many years of being put down, a person may stop being willing to listen. People are also born willing to be wrong. But after an invalidator points out constantly what we do wrong, we may stop being willing to be wrong about anything.

Invalidators abuse willingness to listen by making so many critical or cutting remarks that the victim closes up and stops listening completely, to escape the terrible feeling of always appearing to be wrong. This defense allows the victim to stop hearing the invalidator and stops some of the pain of invalidation, but the reaction to the invalidator may also cause a person not to listen to appear totally righteous. The victim has lost the willingness to listen and the willingness to be wrong.

You may know someone who doesn't listen much and talks a lot. Was there an invalidator in his or her past?

Another person who has been injured by an invalidator may be very quiet and shy. He is afraid to open his mouth out of fear of being invalidated. He may seem to reject friendship with anyone, but that may spring from his fear. A shy person may be naturally quiet and reserved, or he may have been connected to an invalidator who stepped on his self-esteem whenever he spoke up for himself. There is a difference between choosing to be quiet and feeling stifled.

Still another product of an invalidator is someone who is very stubborn. He may call himself "strongwilled." He has had it with invalidators, has decided to stand his ground no matter what, and will not change his mind under any circumstances. He is never wrong.

 How can we correct our behavior if we can't listen to others and if we can't afford to be wrong? The ruination of our God-given gift of communication is one of the most destructive things that one person can do to another. Equally devastating is the part we ourselves play when we allow someone else to force us to limit or distort our communication ability because of our fear of invalidation...what most people are unaware of is the flowing sequence of events:
1 Joe hurts Fred (i.e., Joe invalidates Fred).
2 Fred is unaware that Joe hurt him, but nevertheless he feels bad.
3 Joe sees that Fred feels bad and also sees that Fred is not going to return the hurt.
4 Joe, in order to be righteous about his actions, begins to invent "reasonable" excuses why he hurt Fred. He looks for motivations for having hurt Fred. Joe may say to himself, "Well, anyone who would let me walk all over him deserves to be hurt," or he could say, "That's just the way those fill-in-the-blank people are, so they deserve to be stepped on."
5 Once Joe has justified hurting Fred, he will continue to hurt Fred on the basis of his trumped-up motivations.
6 Joe loses respect for Fred because Fred allows himself to be hurt.

Excerpt from "Nasty people: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them." by Jay Carter

The system of invalidation
The mechanism of invalidation gets past on from one person to another. There is really no such thing as an "invalidator." There is a person, and then, besides the person, there is the mechanism of invalidation. A person my use this mechanism, but the mechanism is not the person. You may sometimes be attached to invalidation so closely you cannot see it. Sometimes you may feel the effect of invalidating. You may know you are doing it, and you don't want to, and you don't like yourself for doing it to people, and still you just keep doing it. It can be so frustrating that you finally give up and accept yourself as a SOB. You define yourself as "bad" and you dramatize invalidation. You constantly find yourself invalidating, just as you yourself were invalidated. You feels compelled to do it. It seems to happen automatically sometimes, because you identified with the invalidator. You think you have only two choices:
1 Be like the invalidator and survive.
2 Be like the invalidated and succumb.

 You may come to believe that you must hurt or be hurt, control or be controlled. After all, in your past experience, the invalidator won and you lost. You re-act. Get it? You repeat the whole drama, but this time you try to be the winner, the SOB who can't be defeated.

You may re-act in certain situations, almost like a machine. That's not you out there; that's just your dramatization of negative experiences you had years ago. When you are re-acting, or invalidating someone automatically because it was once done to you, who really gets invalidated?

If there ever was a Satan, he wouldn't have wanted to work very hard to pollute souls. He probably would have resorted to inventing a set of nasty archetypes that would spread from one person to another by contagion. It would be easier to throw a couple of turds into still water and watch it ripple. So he invented invalidation! And he made it contagious. We did the rest.

Maybe sometimes you are not into invalidation and sometimes you are. It may almost seem that you are two different people, one who has good intentions and is very supportive, and one who sometimes takes over, making you into an "invalidation entity." This evil entity is not you, but a role you are playing: the role of invalidator.

You probably feel a sense of unreality when you are in that role. You act very controlling, but you may feel that you are being controlled. You may appear to others as very demanding and authoritative. Bur inside you feel very helpless and scared. That demanding, authoritarian, invalidating entity is your act, which you re-act, re-act, and re-act.

Excerpt from "Nasty people: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them." by Jay Carter

What happen to invalidators?
Two things happen to invalidators. Some of them see that invalidation doesn't work in the long run. This can happen through life hints. If a person gets enough of these hints and is paying attention, his or her behavior changes.

But not everyone gets the hint, and then what happens is rather sad. There is a natural cycle that people go through when they hurt others:
1 Hurt someone.
2 Admit wrongdoing, at least to oneself.
3 Feel guilt - not neurotic guilt, but real guilt.
4 Atone - do something to make up for it.

The invalidator's problem is that he can't admit being wrong, so he doesn't go through the natural cycle. He has more of a deny-and-suppress pattern.
1 Hurt someone.
2 Justify hurting that person, to oneself.
3 Suppress guilt, which eventually turns into a "bad mood."
4 Avoid atonement.

The suppressed guilt stays inside and gathers until the invalidator begins to feel depressed Or he may become psychosomatically ill.

Maybe you've met a person who behaves this way. The demonic personality is a kind of manic state. The person seems to have no conscience; he seems to enjoy manipulation and putting other people down.

In this phase, the invalidator is care free. He doesn't notice and doesn't care about the feelings of others. He goes right on doing selfish things like drinking, playing around on his wife, or belittling others until, unexpectedly, he suddenly falls apart.

Now he enters an exaggerated state of remorse, or gets very sick, as his relationships with everyone start to fall apart. He gets sick, especially if his spouse leaves him, so the spouse feels obligated to come back and take care of him. The illness punishes him and gets the spouse back at the same time.

Beware of the invalidator who doesn't get sick and does not have remorse. This one is bad news. His cycle is different. He is extremely selfish. He is conscious of his invalidating and probably even works at perfecting it. This is the Hitler.

You've watched this one-percenter destroy people. The people around him are afraid of him, but in his control. He is not a total devil; no one is. Most of the time he leads what looks like a normal life. It's just that he is so selfish and possessive. And, every once and a while, he does something that will make a lasting scar on someone close to him. By the time he is done living his lifetime, the world is worse for his having been there.

You may have seen people like this in action. He is selfish. He has no conscience. He is controlling of others and manipulative. He has no sympathy and no mercy. You may have watched him drive someone crazy or lead someone to commit suicide. You wonder how he gets away with it. You wonder why he lives that way. You wonder what will ever happen to him. I think I can tell you that...You use these mechanisms on a "buy now, pay later" plan. Sure you can run around feeling carefree, not caring about others, for a while. But sooner or later you are going to end up alone and lonely. People eventually catch on, no matter how gregarious and fun-loving you are. Once people realize that you are completely taken up with yourself, they get turned off. Besides, there seems to be a natural law that eventually leads to the destruction of a person like this. After all, how can a person remain a human being and constantly destroy his or her own foundation as a human being?

If you repress remorse, you repress all feelings to that same degree. You also give up part of your ability to gauge how other people feel. So each time you repress real remorse, you die a little. You cannot lose touch with your own conscience without loosing touch with your others, because your conscience is the bridge that connects you to others.

The worse thing that can happen is that you become so selfish that you mess up all your relationships. You lose contact so badly that you can't understand other people at all. You lose your own feelings so that you can no longer experience love, beauty, friendship, or any of the meaningful experiences in life. You have to resort to booze, drugs, or degrading sex to feel anything at all. It's only the fleeting sensations, the "wow" moments, that are fun. You avoid anything meaningful.

You don't have to take my word for all this. I am sure you have met people who are so far gone into themselves that they have lost their ability to understand others. They constantly invalidate others. They are also prone to moodiness or depression because nobody can stay in that totally selfish pattern forever.

Excerpt from "Nasty people: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them." by Jay Carter

One sequence for handling invalidation?
People who have great reasoning capabilities sometimes have a great deal of trouble understanding cause-effect solutions. Their world is very logical, and they may have had great success solving situations their way. They tend to believe that almost anything can be handled with reason and logic. They tend to be philosophical about life and try to be very fair about everything. And perhaps they are a little afraid of things that are irrational or beyond comprehension. (These are the people who were incapable of believing that Hitler was herding Jews into gas furnaces by the millions.) These people are easy to invalidate because they naively believe in the good intent of everyone. They think it was a joke or slip of the tongue if someone cuts into them.

Then there are people who do not put much stock in logic, reason, or philosophy. These people have been manipulated by it, lied to, and deceived by it. They have learned to pay more attention to what people do rather than to what they say. These are the ones who fire you because you called in sick too much...no matter what the reason. They may appear to be listening to you, but actually they will be looking at your expressions and actions, trying to size you up by your appearance rather than your thought process....Thank goodness most of us are somewhere in between.

There is no set of rules to handle invalidation that work every time, but let's take a look at a sequence that has had some success.

First try reason.
Handle the invalidator with...Humor
Specific, impersonal, but personable comments
Words that tell how you feel
    Make him or her wrong
    Be righteous
    Make it personal
    Act out your angry feelings, or
    Make him or her feel guilty

If reasoning doesn't work, try cause-effect:
Hurt him when he invalidates
Invalidate him. (Show him how it feels.)
Do something outrageous. (Talk loudly. Act crazy. Squirt him with a water gun. Pee on his flowers. Laugh shrilly as if he just told you a joke. Wink at him. Make flatulent noises.)
Insult him.
Squeeze his cheek.
Raise your eyebrows at him.
Stare at him unwaveringly.

The cause-effect reactions you give an invalidator make him uncomfortable whenever he invalidates...If your invalidator actually like any of the above cause-effect reactions and enters into a game with you, stop doing what you are doing and move on to the next step in your cause-effect plan.
...specific things you can try:
You just look at the person who invalidated you in such a way that you show you know exactly what she is doing. A long pause or knowing smile, resting your chin in your hand, or leaning forward slightly can et her know she had better not mess with you.
Asking the person to repeat the invalidation will many times water it down, especially if it was an insinuation or something that he was trying to sneak by you.
A lot of invalidations are double messages riddled with insinuations, voice inflections, tone, and other clues besides the actual words. All you need to do is to size up everything and tell the invalidator what you heard.
People who embarrass you in front of a group use the group for their power. If you get them alone, you may find that they squirm in their seat and become apologetic. They learn to have respect or you because they know you will confront them instead of hiding behind a group.
When someone accuses you of something you didn't do, check to see if he or she has done it. When someone threatens you with something, threaten that person with the same thing. (Chances are he or she is threatening you with what he or she is most afraid of.) When someone accuses you of being prejudiced, guess who doesn't like whom? Guess who is prejudiced? When someone tells you that you must choose A or B, tell the person you are not going to choose, and he or she can choose what to do about it.

Excerpt from "Nasty people: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Becoming One of Them." by Jay Carter

Community or cult?
there is a big difference between a community and a cult. Community draws people in by its interconnectedness; community applies no pressure for people to stay; community glories in the extraordinary differences of its members. Cults, on the other hand, are characterized by the brainwashing of their members, by a tremendous pressure to join and not leave, and by a certain sameness of the people in them.

To help make the distinction, I have identified ten characteristics of what makes a cult:
1. Idolatry of a single charismatic leader The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, acclaimed by Moonies as "The Lord of the Second Advent," is an obvious, overtly religious example of such idolatry. So were Jim Jones and David Cherish, charismatic men who led their followers to disaster and death. There are many "gurus" who encourage adoration of themselves.

2 A revered inner circle Not even the most ambitious charismatic leader can single-handedly manage an organization beyond a certain size. He or she needs trusted disciples. Generally, all large cults have an inner circle of members who are revered by others almost as much as is the leader. They are held in awe; they are feared; they are envied; they are gossiped about. This revered inner circle is not an utterly distinctive feature of cults; it exists to a greater or lesser degree in any large organization, government, business corporation, university, or church. The question is the degree of reverence or awe and hence the potential for the abuse of power.

3. Secrecy of management One of the distinguishing features of cults is the great secrecy with which these inner circles operate. Again, this secrecy is characteristic of a great many nonreligious organizations. Think of the executive branch of our government and its obsession with secret documents and security classifications. Think of the industrial secrets of our business corpora Think of the boardrooms, the smoke-filled rooms, the seemingly casual breakfast meetings that really count. But cult leaders do not maintain even the pretense of accountability for their actions.

4. Financial evasiveness Some years ago, Lily and 1 had the opportunity to spend the better part of a day with the top leadership of a New Age peace organization. One of the many disheartening things about that day, which led us to conclude that the organization was a cult, was the group's evasiveness concerning its finances. Why the secrecy? we wondered. The organization was nonprofit, and presumably its finances were a matter of public record and could be investigated by anyone who wanted to take the trouble. 1 could only assume that the secrecy characteristic of cult leadership was so habitual that it unnecessarily contaminated this most important, public area. It was not the only way in which this organization seemed evasive to us; it was just the most surprising. In any case, financial evasiveness, for whatever reason, does seem to be a characteristic of many cults.

5. Dependency Perhaps the major reason cults are justifiably feared is that their authoritarian leadership nurtures the dependency of the followers. Rather than encouraging their followers to become a group of all leaders, cults tend to discourage the capacity of their members to think for themselves. This used to be a problem in the Catholic church. Now it can be a problem of flocking to the East for our spiritual answers. It is actually a tradition of Hinduism for its gurus to teach their disciples to look upon them as gods.

6 Conformity This, to me, is the saddest feature of cults. The leaders of the peace organization 1 mentioned earlier struck me with their sameness. They varied in age from thirty to seventy; they were men and women; some were dressed formally, others informally. Yet 1 have never sat in a meeting in the military or government or anywhere else with twenty people who seemed so oppressively the same.

7 Special language It is natural for any group of people who work closely and intensively with each other to develop a special internal language - that is, a set of words that have a special meaning to them often incomprehensible to people outside the organization. The more closely the organization moves toward being a cult, the more special this internal language tends to become. Ultimately, it is like a secret language, known only to initiates, and quite untranslatable. For instance, 1 receive mail from a variety of New Age organizations attempting to enlist my interest. They might succeed if 1 could take them seriously, but 1 have a hard time connecting with phrases like "resonating core groups" or "reevolutionizing." Such groups have become so imbued with their special language that they have lost the capacity to communicate effectively with the outside world.

8. Dogmatic doctrine One cult used to be fond of saying that they were in the process of "developing" their theology and that they wanted to enlist the aid of outsiders, such as myself, in this development. 1 think it was largely a ploy. As far as 1 could assess the situation, their theology was already quite developed and most of its doctrines had long since become doctrinaire.

9. Heresy All organizations exist in relationship to God, consciously or unconsciously, whether they like it or not. In the case of a business corporation, it is usually a relationship of at least passive denial of God. In the case of a satanic cult, it is a relationship of active, vehement denial. The relationship between cults and God is virtually always out of kilter and heretical.

10. God in captivity In their skewed relationship to God and their satisfaction with dogmatism, cults-one way or another-feel they have God all sewn up. They have captured God. But the reality is that God is not ours to possess, we are His/Hers to be possessed by, individually and collectively. If you are trying to evaluate a particular organization, let me point out that to be a cult, a group does not have to satisfy all ten criteria. If it meets three or four, 1 would be suspicious. It is also important to realize that cults are a dime a dozen and that a great many businesses are cults. 1 believe that IBM used to be something of a cult, exerting tremendous pressure on its employees to dress the same, look the same, and behave the same.

By Scott Peck