From the Editor’s Notebook: Cults, part 9

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Capsule Comments On The Cults
(Part 9)

The Charisma Of The Cults

According to George Gallup, the American pollster, some 16 million Americans have been involved with cultist religions and Eastern mysticism. It is estimated that most of these mesmerized followers are between the ages of 16 and 25.

In previous articles we have surveyed eight cults, most of which are well known and firmly established. They are: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science, Spiritism, Theosophy, Bahaism, Unitarianism, and Seventh-Day Adventism. There are, of course, many other more recent and flourishing cultist religions, particularly of an Eastern mystical flavor. In fact, they are so numerous that it is not the writer’s intention or desire to research in detail their various titles and teachings. However, among the more prominent ones are the following:

1. Children of God. The leader of this group is David (Moses David) Brandt Berg. The cult is characterized by belief in the occult, reincarnation, and sexual permissiveness. Berg’s followers believe him to be the only end-time prophet, that the group represents the remnant church of the last days, and that its authority is absolute.

2. The Church Universal and Triumphant. The leader of this group is Elizabeth Claire. The movement also goes under the names of Summit International and Summit Lighthouse. It is characterized by a mixture of Eastern religions, Theosophy, Christianity, and several other influences. Elizabeth claims to be one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11, while her late husband, Mark, claimed to be the other. Jesus is viewed as a man who had the Christ consciousness within him.

3. Divine Light Mission. The once boy-leader of this group is Guru Maharaj Ji. Having eminated from India with a following of over six million, DLM established its headquarters in Denver, Colorado, in 1971. With some 10,000 adherents in the United States, its beliefs centre in a sometimes personal and sometimes impersonal God, teaching that he has appeared in a body at different times through such leaders as Krishna, Jesus, and Buddha. The latest incarnation is, of course, Ji himself. It is taught that oneness with God is the goal of human life. As might be imagined, it is a mixed bag of religious rubbish.

4. Krishna Consciousness. The leader of this western brand of Hinduism is His Divine Grace, A. C. Bhaktivedants Swami Prabhupada, a Hindu monk in his 60’s, who moved to the United States in 1965. This cult claims a following of 10,000 in the United States and 5,000 abroad. Krishna doctrine is based on the writings of Swami Prabhupada and on his translations and commentaries of Hindu scripture. The group teaches the worship of a personal god, who is everything and can be present in anything, including the images of wood or marble constructed and cared for by Krishna followers. It is also taught that Krishna has been incarnated in people, the first of these having been 5,000 years ago, though there have been at least 25 since then. Swami Prabhupada is the guru of ISKON and is treated with god-like devotion.

5. Scientology. The leader of this group, L. Ron Hubbard, claims to have found the spiritual technology to dispense the one “true way” to man. It is a process working through levels of self-knowledge and knowledge of the past lives to awaken primoidial deity within until a person is able to regain total godhood. Christ is viewed as a man who achieved a “state of clear” but not the higher state of “Operating Thetan” (whatever that may be!).

6. Transcendal Meditiation. When the people of India wouldn’t buy the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he came to America to sell his system to people that he said “are in the habit of accepting things quickly.” Initially, he spent two years in a cave in India, having developed TM, a new method for an old Hindu result. TM is a technique of deep meditation that anyone can practice in order to achieve “bliss consciousness of Absolute Being.”

TM was incorporated by Maharishi in California in 1959, the slow start of the movement having been turned around in 1960 when the Beatles, Shirley McLaine, Mia Farrow and the Rolling Stones took an interest in it. When its popularity subsided, the resourceful Maharishi dumped the religious jargon and wrapped TM in scientific and psychological terms, claiming that TM was a “scientific technique helping a person to achieve a high rate of mental relaxation and simultaneously to attain his full potential.” The results were phenomenal. By 1976, TM claimed 6,000 teachers and an annual income of 20 million dollars.

TM teaches that the purpose of life is happiness sought through an endless cycle of incarnations and reincarnations. To find happiness we must bypass our mind and through the liturgy of the mantra (i.e., a hymn or portion of text chanted or intoned as an incantation or prayer), we ultimately discover “bliss consciousness.”

7. The Unification Church. Originally, The Unification Church was called the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. It was founded in Korea in 1954 by millionaire industrialist Sun Myung Moon. As a boy 16, Moon claimed to have had a mountain-top vision of Jesus Christ that changed his life through which he says he was instructed to carry out the work that Jesus had failed to accomplish while on earth.

From South Korea, where true Christians denounced his work as non-Christian, Moon established his work in Japan and in the United States by 1958. In 1965, Moon made his first world tour, and in 1973 he moved his church’s world headquarters to the United States. Today the “Moonies” or “Moon People,” as they are called, claim a worldwide following of two million, with 30,000 members and 7,000 core members in the United States. Moon, however, still finds time to carry on his massive business ventures.

The teachings of The Unification Church are nothing short of blasphemous. It is taught that man’s fall in the garden was the sin of adultery: Eve had sex with Satan, thereby corrupting the entire human race. Jesus, who it is taught is not God, was sent to start a new sinless line of humanity. He was supposed to have married the perfect woman, have perfect children, and adopt perfect people into his family. Unfortunately, he failed in his assignment and ended up on the cross — dead. The result? Jesus accomplished spiritual salvation only. Because of his failure, Jesus was dismissed from the Trinity, and God went looking for a new saviour. Finally, after centuries of searching, he found Moon. This explains why Moon’s followers reverence him as “Father,” and his wife as “Mother,” and together as “True Parents.” Through Mr. & Mrs. Moon all humanity will be saved, freeing God to abolish hell.

8.The Way International. This group is led by Victor Paul Wierwille, The Way being a very close counterfeit of Christianity. They believe in God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, salvation and eternal life, but deny the Trinity. They also teach that Jesus is not God, and that the Holy Spirit is a synonym for God.

In 1950 Wierwille resigned as a minister of the United Church of Christ to begin what he claims is a non-denominational Biblical research and teaching ministry, a rather materialistically oriented class often taught by video tape and called “Power for Abundant Living.”

Why have so many of the cults realized such great success, particularly in the United States? In answer to this question many reasons have been given, and among them are the following:

    1. Many of the cults have highly trained, efficient representatives whose confidence and charisma attract the unwary.

    2. Cults play upon the ignorance of multitudes of people who know little or nothing at all about true Christian doctrine.

    3. Numerous cults carry a Biblical or Christian name (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Children of God).

    4. False teaching in local churches has laid a foundation for many people to become intrigued with “new teaching” and thus be misled into error.

    5. Various cults propagate teachings that are acceptable either theologically or ethically to the natural mind.

    6. Some cults offer what multitudes of people in our callous, confused, chaotic society are desperately seeking: friendship, a sense of belonging, hope, and an awareness of worth and meaning to life.

    7. Obviously, Satan and his demons are behind the growth of today’s cults (see 2 Cor. 4:3-4: 1 Tim. 4:1) .

    8. The intense zeal, devotion and commitment on the part of adherents to various cult groups, especially young devotees, have done much to further their teachings in the lives of those who have become bitter, disillusioned and unfulfilled in their religious experience.

On this last point I am sadly reminded of what one cultist said, “Looking at Christianity, I didn’t see the devotion there that I did in the Hare Krishna movement.” No matter how anyone may try to rationalize that statement, it should cause true Christians to do some soul-searching.

(The Editor wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness and appreciation to the Detroit Metropolitan Youth for Christ for their pamphlet, “Report on the Cults,” from which various statistics and other information have been obtained and incorporated in the foregoing article.