Cults and sects are predominantly led by charismatic narcissists, who promise their followers a new way of thinking and a better way of life. Bitter irony dictates that the “better way of life” often results in death for the hopeful followers, and their power-hungry leaders. With tales of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, entwined with over zealous doctrines and paranoia, cult leaders drive themselves and their followers to early graves.
According to Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias in their book Take Back your Life, there are several key characteristics which the vast majority of cults have in common. If spotted early enough, these warning signs could prevent many lives from being shattered.
Cults and Sects
Aum Shinrikyo first hit headlines across the world on March 20th 1995, when members released the lethal nerve gas Sarin into Tokyo’s subway network. This devastating attack killed 12 people in the hectic morning rush hour. Reports of injuries and afflictions spread across the world, alongside the arrest of over 150 members of the group, including their leader, Shoko Asahara.
Although their sect began almost 50 years before the Waco siege, it was this horrific scene that brought the Branch Davidians into our news papers and television. The ATF raid on the Davidian compound ‘Mount Carmel Centre’ lasted for 50 days and ended with the religious group and their children burning to death.
It was March 26 1997 when 911 operators received an anonymous call, proclaiming that the members of the religious group Heaven’s Gate had committed mass suicide. On entering their mansion in Rancho Sante Fe in San Diego, authorities found all 39 members of the group, including their leader, dead on their beds. Entwining a concoction of Christianity, Science-Fiction and New Ageism into a modern philosophy, Marshall Applewhite led his people to what they believed to be the next level and ultimately their deaths.
This religious group was formed in Geneva in 1984 by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret. Originally known as Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS), the sect became renowned for their mass suicide acts beginning in 1994 and spreading until 1997. In total, 74 members of the Order of the Solar Temple have died in an attempt to escape from a world they see filled with hypocrisy and oppression.
This religious sect, known as a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist group who, under the leadership of Ervil Morrell LeBaron, went on to kill the majority of their enemies. Using their religious doctrine, they justified each murder, leaving a bloody trail of misery wherever they went. Although LeBaron died in prison, the killings did not end. He left his children a hit list, and they continued to work through his list long after he died.
The Manson Family first came to public attention in the late summer of 1969, when the heavily pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends were found murdered at her home. It quickly became apparent that the Manson family were responsible for the fatal attack, and the truth about their group stunned and shocked the western world.
A break-away sect from the Roman Catholic Church, this religious Movement preached the word of Jesus Christ, and of damnation for those who did not follow his word. The Ten Commandments resided heavily in their doctrine, as did the belief that the apocalypse was coming at the turn of the millennium. As the year 2000 passed without the end of the world, the group began to unravel, eventually leading to their controversial end and a death toll of 778 members.
On 18 November 1978, 909 members of The People’s Temple died in Jonestown, Guyana. Many believe this to be the largest mass-suicide in history, whist others believe that it was not suicide, but mass-murder. Did the people of Jonestown want to take their own lives, or were they forced into it by their charismatic leader, Jim Jones?