FINAL REPORT OF THE ENQUETE COMMISSION ON "SO-CALLED SECTS AND PSYCHOGROUPS"
Satanism is a particular source of controversy in this area. However, empirical studies have shown that there is a particularly wide gap between media coverage and reality in this context.
It cannot be denied that there is a risk that the media not only cover and report on "trends", but that they also produce "trends". 43 ) However, it is not only the media that can play a "trend-setter role". Experts and scientists will also have to subject their services and their methods of work to careful (self-) reflection and supervision in this context.
Today, a number of empirical studies are available about the scope of occult practices and concepts - especially among adolescents. However, only very few studies have been conducted with regard to adults.
The concepts and practices of modern occultism are more widespread than organised religious practices. According to various studies, occult concepts and practices are - half jokingly and half seriously - part of the everyday life of about one-quarter of adolescents. 44 ) The share of adults who left the regular school system early and then went to evening schools or other educational institutions is even higher.
Various studies have shown that between 20 and 30 percent of the population - in some cases even more - believe in occult phenomena, 45 ) i.e. effects of hidden forces and powers that cannot be perceived by the human senses; devotees of occultism believe in the force of lucky charms, fortune-tellers, faith healers, astrology, etc. However, these figures say nothing about the question of whether these people actually take their everyday decisions on the basis of horoscopes, the pendulum, tarot cards or similar things.
Depending on the study cited, between 20 and 30 percent of the adolescents are also involved in occult practices such as the pendulum, the reading of tarot cards, the moving of glasses, etc. The more accessible the practices are (pendulum, tarot cards), the higher the share of adolescent devotees. 46 ) It is questionable whether it is sufficient for an individual to participate once or even several times in such practices to suggest that this individual is committed to occultism, or has an occult view of life, or that occultism is relevant for his/her everyday life. 47 ) In 1996, about 1 percent of all adolescents stated that they belonged to occult groups. 48 ) According to two studies, approx. 68 percent 49) and 51 percent 50 ), respectively, of the population strongly reject occult groups; in fact, among the various groups that are rejected, occult groups are number four (following football hooligans, right-wing radicals, and skinheads). However, it should be borne in mind that devotees of occultism are usually individualists who do not tend to join any groups.
Practices that are inspired by Satanic rituals represent only a minor portion of the spectrum of "occult" practices. Various studies have shown that - except for pupils in the eastern part of Germany, where involvement in such practices is only about half as high - only a few percent 51 ) of Germany's adolescents are actively or passively involved in "black masses". 52 ) However, it is unclear in this context what the adolescents mean when they refer to "black masses". It can be assumed that only some of them will actually include Satanic rituals. 53 )
Overall, the horror scenarios presented in the media have clearly been put into perspective by the figures found in studies. Satanic practices, which have been attracting particular attention in the reporting of media, have proven to be relatively rare marginal phenomena.
Occultism is an ideology which has emerged relatively recently and which
is marked by the dichotomy between belief and knowledge, and between
religion and science. Since modern occultism from the very beginning
deceit, temptation and fraud, some scientists avoid using this term and
instead - following M. Dessoir - initially used the term
"parapsychology" and subsequently "extra-sensory perception" (ESP), PSI
capabilities (psychokinesis), etc.
Despite contrary views held in parapsychology, scientists deny that the
natural and emotional phenomena summarised under the term of occultism
exist outside the mind world of devotees of occultism and scientists who
Since, by definition, such phenomena are not be examined by means of
scientifically recognised methods, they are not susceptible to
scientific scrutiny. However, the phenomena involved are not occult in
and by themselves; they only
The question as to whether so-called occult phenomena have an existence of their own, independently of their devotees, is at the same time an explanation of why many people are devoted to such a system of belief. For these people, occultism represents a psychological or religious reality; in the case of esoteric ideological communities, it may also represent a social reality which - like other systems of belief - determines the individual's actions and forms a framework for the individual's views, beliefs and self-image. Wishes, fears, and phantasies are expressed in the practices and concepts of modern occultism in a way that is found nowhere else in the industrial bureaucratic world that we live in. Some occultists and parapsychologists even think that it is possible to find an answer to the question of human mortality by means of occult and parapsychological experiments. 54 )
The current popularity of occultism is probably largely due to the fact that many of the fears, wishes and questions which people have seem to be ignored by the modern sciences, or that people do not recognise themselves in and cannot identify with modern sciences; hence, they try to find reassurance and satisfaction in occult or esoteric concepts and practices - something that they cannot find in social reality, religious doctrines or the arts and sciences.
Devotees of occultism such as esoterics usually do not tend to form any fixed social organisations; occultists are individualists whose social relations amongst themselves usually correspond to the organisational structures of a public or client religion. 55 ) However, Satanic groups represent a distinct exception to this general rule.
The general appearance and the rituals of Satanic groups cannot be traced back to a single source; instead, their background is a patchwork beginning with studies of texts of black masses of the 17th and 18th century, then moving on to groups with a freemason background, sometimes involving anticlerical parodies, and finally finding its way to Crowley. 56 )
For modern ritual Satanism, Aleister Crowley (born on 12 Sept. 1875, died on 1 Dec. 1947) plays a crucial role. Crowley is seen as the "spiritus rector" and the supplier of ideas for a large number of groups and organisations and their rituals.
A key element of Satanism is that, both in its system of belief and in its ritual practice, it is not focused on the figure of Satan, Baphomet, or whatever other name is used. The focus and the primary target is the human being: in other words, the "self-idolisation" of man. The point and purpose of Satanism is to use a ritual system - which primarily consists of sexual magic - in order to promote the recognition of one's own divinity. 57)
In addition, Satanism provides opportunities for individuals - which are successfully utilised by some - to transform their inferiority complexes into a higher appreciation of themselves (ego upgrade). Hence, one reason why some people with a weak ego turn to Satanism is that they want to have the feeling that they can have power over other people through rites and rituals, that they can live out a latent anger, that they seem to be able to change laws of nature to their own advantage. 58 )
As a culture which "transgresses" Christian beliefs and lifestyles, "Satanism" and a Christian religious orientation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. On the contrary: An orientation to the occult seems to be quite compatible with views held by the Churches because a crucial source of Satanic convictions and rituals is the negation of the Christian order - a negation which does not leave the Christian code; instead, it merely reverses the code signs indicating what is "good" and what is "bad", thereby living out conflicts, hurt feelings and crises in the individual's life history by identifying with what is coded as being negative in the Christian order. In this context, there is evidence suggesting that an individual's Christian socialisation (marked by narrow confines, rigidity, a negative attitude toward sensuality, and religious constraints) - either in special Christian communities or in rigorous or traditionalist groups of the major popular Churches, strictly distinguishing between "good" and "bad" systems and powers - may be a background for "Satanic" rebellion and withdrawal as a way of "freeing oneself" from constraints. 59 )
This line of thinking according to which Satanic practices appear to be an integral part of a culture of transgression and breaking taboos also helps to explain the proximity of Satanism to "magic sexual practices" and sexual obsessions. 60 ) This can easily result in or lead to an affinity and attraction to Satanic concepts on the part of individuals who are prone to breaking sexual taboos and to sexual abuse. While there is evidence to this effect 61 ), there are not yet any reliable or well-founded findings.
Satanism research has led to the development of a typology which appears to be a useful tool for systematically categorising various types of Satanism: 62 )
In parallel with this typology as used in religious studies, there are also groups and cults with Satanic tendencies; however, their classification criteria have to be derived from their psychosocial and social environment:
The form of Satanism which is probably most well-known to outside world is youth-centred Satanism. This type of Satanism is not genuine Satanism in the strict sense of the term. Instead, it is more of a youth subculture which wants to offset itself from the adult world. There is a large number of different forms and varieties, including individuals purloining "Satanic quotations" to develop their own adolescent style; some who are fascinated with symbolism of evil; others who are leaning towards Satanic ideas; and yet again others who practise Satanic models. In this context, phantasies of sexualised violence and their enactment do play a role. However, it is not clear yet whether this latter variant is of any major relevance in the field of youth subcultures.
Arcane discipline (AD)
Each Satanic organisation (cult), group, lodge or order cultivates or protects its "arcane discipline" (AD). Initiated members are forbidden - often under threat of martial punishment (such as torture, rape, death, etc.) - to disclose any information to outsiders regarding the infrastructure and the level of organisation of their group, lodge or order. Nor are they allowed to talk about different levels of initiation or any details of rituals or other practices. In addition, the initiation ritual binds members to their organisation for the rest of their lives. The way the groups, lodges or orders see it, their members do not have the choice to leave the organisation - unless the organisation is disbanded or the "initiated" dies. Members who want to leave the organisation are told in no uncertain terms, using both psychological and physical means, that the organisation is firmly determined not to let them go that easily. One dropout, for instance, reported that the leader of his group tried to dissuade him from leaving the group by means of bodyguards and by threatening physical violence ("... the only way to leave is to leave forever ...!"). Dropouts are exposed to permanent, primarily physical pressure. They receive parcels with half-decayed black cats and cocks; or ex-members find dead rats, for instance, arranged in the form of a pentacle in front of their doorstep. In this context, it is irrelevant whether the cult involved is devoted to vulgar "traditional Satanism" (i.e. it does not have a very pronounced system of rituals), or whether the group is composed of academically educated intellectuals who are devoted to "rationalist Satanism". 63 )
There are several reasons why such "pressuring mechanisms" work; one has to do with the belief in magic of the individuals involved; another one is that most members are aware of the fact that the rituals or other practices performed by the group often involve criminal offences which are bound to be prosecuted by police and public prosecutors, once they become known. In addition to mentioning ideological reasons, ex-Satanists also give economic reasons to explain why their organisations were so adamant and relentless in punishing any violation of the AD and the often associated exit of those who "violated the AD".
Everyone who leaves the organisation proves with his behaviour that the premises claimed in "traditional occult Satanism" are wrong: Satan does not have "omnipotence" throughout the world; and he is not the "Prince (Ruler) of this world"; and hence, an individual can change his ideological trappings with impunity. If a Satanic group, lodge or order accepts such a step, the Satanic cult concerned will be doomed. In addition, it is by all means also in the economic interest of Satanic organisations to ensure that the involvement of their members is irreversible. This will also guarantee future revenues from a variety of activities including compulsory prostitution of female members, drug trafficking, handling of stolen goods, and extorting "voluntary payments of money". 64 )
The black mass is one of the rituals practised by each and every Satanic group. The black mass is a reversal of the Christian rite, or to be more precise: the Roman Catholic mass. The necessary utensils include black cloth, paraments and insignia, missals, symbols such as the pentacle, the reversed cross and the number 666, as well as black candles and an altar. However, there is no general pattern for the way in which a black mass is held. According to dropouts, brutal and sadistic variants are not uncommon. According to reports from directors of counselling centres, such masses have involved animal sacrifices, physical injuries to human beings (cuts in the arm or in the genital region, broken bones), ritual rapes (often committed by all the male members of the group), and torture under the guise of pain training. Being able to bear pain is seen by the cult as evidence of Satanic progress. According to reports from dropouts, Satanists are tortured, and they torture others. Love is to be transformed into hatred, and the more successfully this is achieved by a disciple, the less likely he is to suffer torture himself. In addition to manipulative techniques (ranging from autosuggestion to trance work), alcohol and drugs are taken for granted as instruments to influence the individuals involved so that they can reach certain conditions of consciousness during rituals. One female disciple pointed out: "Without being high (she means on heroin), you couldn't have taken all that!" 65 )
The Enquete Commission has not been able to obtain reliable information on the question as to whether there are organisations with permanently established structures which deal with Satanic practices. So, this question has to remain open.
A phenomenon which is visible in society, and hence problematic, is the so-called youth-centred Satanism. However, many of the groups which fall into this category usually form spontaneously, and there is no guarantee how long they will last. The rituals practised by these groups are not systematised or fixed; in some cases, the rituals are modelled after sources in literature, magazines or TV programmes of all sorts. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that adolescents and young adults are also involved in organisations with fixed structures. More often than not, membership in Satanic groups leads to dependence, anxiety and obsession syndromes, and to medically diagnosed psychotic episodes. For some, the concept/idea and the belief that they cannot leave their organisation because they are privy to its arcane secrets - in conjunction with their fear of being brought back into the group - makes suicide appear to be the only way out. The counselling and information centres working in this area are familiar with such cases.
If one compiles the views expressed by experts on this topic, as well as the results of relevant empirical studies, there is a consensus to the effect that the so-called youth- centred Satanism tends to be a marginal phenomenon. Reports about incidents where churches and cemeteries were desecrated and parties were celebrated at cemeteries, 66 ) etc. can often not be clearly ascribed to Satanism; instead, they tend to be a variant of aggressive adolescent behaviour in connection with vandalism. The adolescents express their protest by breaking taboos, while at the same time turning symbols of the rulers upside down. The Satanic symbolism used in this context is just embellishment. Other reasons why adolescents participate in such activities include not only boredom, the search for something exciting, for intensive experiences and the ultimate thrill but also the possibility to act out scenes of oneself. When adolescents perform Satanic practices, other causes are also involved to some extent: the fact that adolescents do not see any perspective for themselves in our society; the fact that the individual's life is determined by others, and hence, the fact that the individual has no community attachment. In addition, if one studies the biographies of drop-outs, personal and family-related problems usually also play a major role. 67 )
The key point to remember is that while organised forms of occultism continue to be a marginal phenomenon, occult concepts and practices erode fundamental principles of our society, such as the individual's free choice of how to live his or her life, and the fact that the individual is responsible for his/her own life. In addition, some of the occult views are linked with right-wing radical and neo-fascist concepts. 68 )
As regards the criminal offences which may be committed in this context, the Enquete Commission has requested relevant information from Germany's state-evel Offices of Criminal Investigation and from the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation. Except for isolated cases, this has not produced any concrete findings about any criminal offences committed jointly by individuals who are members of such groups. As far as these official findings are concerned, it should be pointed out, however, that most of Germany's state-level Offices of Criminal Investigation do not cover criminal offences with an occult or Satanic background as a separate crime category. The only exceptions to this rule are the State of Lower Saxony and the State of Brandenburg. The State of Berlin has established an information exchange and collection centre on the topic of "so-called sects", and crimes with a ritual background are subject to compulsory notification. The Free State of Saxony collects data on crimes committed against Church institutions, with special consideration given to "Satanic" groups of perpetrators. In a special report of 1995 on the topic of "Occultism/Satanism", the Criminal Office of Investigation of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia came to the conclusion that Satanism was more of a qualitative than a quantitative problem, and that it had not been possible to verify evidence of isolated serious criminal offences. However, the report pointed out that there was an increase in the number of offences to be ascribed to youth-centred Satanism.
While the Criminal Office of Investigation did not see any immediate need for action, it recommended that the activities and currents in this environment should be monitored with special care. The criminal offences that are on record include bodily injuries, coercion, disturbing the peace of the dead, malicious damage to (public) property, arson, violations of the Narcotics Act, violations of the Animal Protection Act, as well as rape and sexual coercion. In many cases, however, it is not possible to find out whether these offences can be unequivocally ascribed to occult or Satanic beliefs or groups. A search in the data base of the criminal police in North-Rhine Westphalia with regard to the above-mentioned crimes committed in connection with occultism/Satanism did notproduce any relevant data.
However, as in the case of other criminal offences which are connected with conflict-prone new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, the findings obtained by the investigating authorities are sketchy.
Alternative therapies in the field of esoterics, the so-called "New Age" movement, and life-counselling services provided by new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups have been enormously popular in recent years.
Between seven and ten percent of all new publications in the book market fall into the category of "New Age" and "esoterics". 69 )
This has led to the development of a "psychomarket" offering a plethora of healing methods in Germany, too. New Age therapies, which have become market-oriented and commercially organised by now, have evolved from the "psycho-boom" in the 1970s and 1980s, combining elements of occidental psychotherapy and oriental religion and esoterics. The methods available make a wide variety of promises including the healing of specific symptoms, personality development, helping individuals find meaning in their lives, and spiritual growth; most of these methods are embedded in the system of ideas of the "New Age philosophy", whose coherence and religious character are the subject of controversial debate in literature. 70 )
However, there are also numerous organised closed communities which are active in this market, in particular: esoteric groups, faith-healer communities, and new revelationists with a large number of experience-oriented and healing programmes; communities of Asian origin which offer experience, meditation and healing programmes; so-called psychogroups with personality development courses, so-called success courses based on alternative psychotherapy, etc. The so-called "classical sects" as well as political groups are not active in this market.
Like the term "psychogroup", the term "psychomarket" is used to describe the "wide variety of psychological and pseudo-psychological advice available out-side professional psychology and outside the public health sector in the fields of life counselling, life orientation, and personality development" (cf. Chapter 2.3) 71 ); the difference is that advice which is provided by psychogroups to members is available as a commercial service in the psychomarket. These commercial services are available in a variety of ways, including informal activities, print and audio-visual media, books, and lectures, as well as more binding forms such as courses, workshops, seminars, holiday retreats, etc.; and given the right circumstances - i.e. if there is a charismatic leader, a specific group, or a specific doctrine and practise - such commercial services can also lead to group membership, i.e. the establishment of a so-called "psychogroup". In this context, it is possible to distinguish (in accordance with R. Stark and W. S. Bainbridge) between "audience cults" and "clients cults" on the one hand, and "cult movements" on the other. 72 )
Most of these psycho-services are commercial in nature and designed for "audience cults" and "clients cults"; only very few of them take on the form of a "cult movement" with clearly defined membership boundaries. However, it may well be that "psychogroups" at the same time also pursue commercial activities, i.e. they may be active in the psychomarket (e.g. by organising courses); initially, they may tend to be more loosely structured players in the psychomarket (like Scientology during its early days in California), or they may evolve from a psychogroup to a commercial organisation (like the Bhagwan/Osho movement).
Another classification was chosen by B. Grom who distinguished between practical, selective and system esoterics 73 ), thereby describing not only the level of a group's structured development but also the group's "position in the life" of interested individuals: With increasing systematisation, there is also an increase in the ideological character and the binding force of a group's rules on the life of an individual; the less structured a group is, the less binding its rules with regard to the individual's decisions in life and with regard to services selected.
There are four different sources of the methods applied in the psychomarket:
An eclectic approach to the traditions mentioned above is characteristic of the commercially-oriented organisations operating in the psychomarket. Such organisations which are determined by choice are primarily focused on helping individuals to cope with life by means of specific techniques, methods, and therapies. This raises first of all the question of professionalism in all its different facets (qualifications of service providers, validity of services, reference to (psycho)therapy and religion), and secondly the question with regard to the wishes and needs of the "clients" (e.g. problem-coping perspective vs. clarification perspective; see below). Of course, both questions also apply - and in a more intense form - to the so-called "psychogroups".
There are no methodologically sound studies on the actual effectiveness of alternative treatments, and there are only very few sound studies on the needs and motivational patterns of the individuals interested in such therapies.
Against the background of this problem, the following key hypotheses were derived from a project entitled "Affinity to alternative therapies and life-counselling services" 74 ):
These hypotheses can be translated into the following specific questions:
3.5.2 Study on the alternative life-counselling market
This study is being conducted jointly by the Department of Clinical Diagnosis/Intervention and Clinical Psychology of the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie (Institute of Borderline Areas of Psychology) in Freiburg. There has been very little research so far into this so-called psychomarket, so that this undertaking is of a highly exploratory nature.
The fact that organised groups are active in the so-called psychomarket
suggests that their services which address needs in customers and
spiritual pilgrims are similar to the services of providers which are
not organised in closed
communities. For this reason, the findings obtained in a research
project which is aimed at identifying the motives and the perception
patterns of the clientele of the psychomarket should also make it
possible to draw conclusions with
regard to the needs of individuals who can be addressed by radical
communities providing such services. Questions about attitudes towards
religion, spiritualism, and esoterics should provide more information on
whether, or not, it is
The study summarises the findings obtained in a consumer survey conducted among 219 users of unconventional healing and life-counselling methods from all of Germany, and among 233 providers of these methods operating in the regions of Freiburg and Frankfurt. Hence, this was a sample which was pre-elected by the callers based on their own interest.
Data collection, sample
Because of the lack of availability of specific studies on this topic, this was an exploratory study which was carried out with semi-standardised telephone interviews.
In order to ensure that - in keeping with the purpose of the study - only individuals who had personally experienced alternative life counselling would participate in the study, press releases with an exact description of the survey were sent to various press agencies, and newspapers, magazines and radio stations were contacted. As a result, 44 newspapers and magazines as well as three radio and two TV stations published reports calling on alternative users to contact the authors of the study. However, it was not possible to influence the exact wording of the press reports. The interviews were conducted between June and December 1997.
The questionnaire consisted of 61 questions. When a respondent mentioned
any negative experience with a given method, the remainder of the
interview focused on this method; if no negative experience was
mentioned, the inter-
Of the 385 calls which were received, a total of 280 interviews were conducted; 61 individuals were excluded because they only had experience with standard therapy methods, were service providers themselves and had no experience of their own, did not want to talk about it, or had left more than 10 questions unanswered. A total of 219 calls were evaluated, including callers who had attended "personality training courses" in a professional context; these 19 calls were evaluated separately.
The questionnaire covered the following subjects:
Summary of findings
Over 80 percent of the respondents were subjectively satisfied with the alternative life-counselling services they had used, and two-thirds of the respondents were female. Their level of education is above average; the percentage of people among them who have left one of the major Churches is also higher than the national average in the German population; many of them have already undergone psychotherapeutic treatment (51 percent); and they spend approximately DM 2,000 per year on alternative methods. The most frequently mentioned reasons for turning towards alternative methods were: psychological problems (28 percent); physical, functional complaints (22 percent); psychosomatic complaints (22 percent); social problems (14 percent); the desire to change one's own personality and self-experience (14 percent); as well as the search for meaning in life and expanding one's consciousness (13 percent). In many cases, the decision of individuals to turn to an alternative method is triggered by advice from acquaintances and recommendations from a doctor or a psychologist.
The findings in detail: Methods covered in the survey
The 200 callers reported on experience with 104 methods, which were grouped in five categories based on functional similarities:
Compared with the population average, the percentage of divorced persons was higher, while the percentage of married or widowed individuals was lower.
The majority of the respondents lived together with a partner (55.5 percent).
Over two-thirds of the partners participated in the alternative method or approved of the respondents' participation (35 and 34.5 percent, respectively).
These data largely concur with findings obtained in other studies, including some international ones. The data collected by Andritzky in a survey conducted among participants of adult education courses tend to contradict these findings. 76 )
Causes and motivations
The motives mentioned most frequently in literature 77 ) are dissatisfaction or disappointment with regard to orthodox medical / conventional treatments, and the conviction that alternative methods are helpful. Half of the interviewed users of alternative methods had undergone at least one psychotherapeutic treatment in the course of their lives - usually refunded by a statutory health fund - or such treatment was still continuing.
Another set of motives includes the more non-specific desire for change, clarification of a relationship, and "consciousness-raising". The respondents do not ascribe orthodox medicine any competency with regard to this need for clarification and do not expect orthodox medicine to have such competency.
Generally speaking, the respondents' subjective assessment is very positive: 83 percent of the callers reported that their problem had improved. This is also in keeping with findings obtained in international studies. Meditation techniques were given particularly good ratings. This is also a finding which had already been obtained, for instance, in the broadly-based evaluative study conducted by Grawe, Donati, and Bernauer. 78 )
Other factors assessed by consumers were described in their comments on the quality of the relationship with the providers of alternative treatment methods.
When asked about the personal competency of the service provider, the average rating of users was 1.1, while the average rating given to psychotherapists (which many had consulted before) was only 2.3 (German school marks range from 1 = very good to 6 = inadequate).
The respondents' average duration of contact with the provider of the alternative treatment is well over one hour, which is much longer than most appointments with doctors. Often, patients have a more enthusiastic, positive attitude towards alternative practitioners.
According to an older secondary analysis, alternative practitioners are believed to be more patient-focused. 79 ) Attitudes towards religiousness When asked whether they belonged to any religious community, 51.5 percent of the respondents said that they did not belong to any such community, 35 percent mentioned the Protestant Church and 10.5 percent mentioned the Catholic Church. Some 40 percent said that they had left a religious community in the course of their lives; 24 percent stated that they once were a member of the Protestant Church, and 14.5 percent said that they once belonged to the Catholic Church. However, the fact that these people have left traditional forms of religion does not mean that they are disinterested in religious matters: When asked about their attitudes towards religion, 62 percent of the respondents described themselves as "religious" or "spiritual", while 12.5 percent referred to themselves as "esoterics" and 12 percent as "atheists".
When asked about major influences on their current world view, 43 percent of the respondents mention Christianity, 29.5 percent Buddhism, 13 percent Hinduism, 8 percent Judaism, and 7 percent Islam. The differences between the former West Germany and the former East Germany are substantial: 55 percent of the respondents in the western part of the country but only 26 percent of the respondents in the eastern part mentioned Christianity as having a major influence; and while 41 percent of the respondents in the west mentioned Buddhism, only 12 percent did so in the east. A study conducted on the alternative health culture 80 ) came to the conclusion that, while general interest is the most frequently mentioned motive for attending courses, individuals select courses with their specific problems in mind, and their health behaviour is generally controlled by relevant systems of ideas.
Qualification of service providers
A glance at the consumers' ratings of the qualifications of their service providers shows that the formal and the informal health sectors overlap. According to the callers, 20 percent of the practitioners they consulted were doctors, approximately 12 percent were psychologists and 15 percent were non-medical practitioners. The majority of the treatment providers (roughly 54 percent) did not belong to any of these three groups.
The study showed that the individuals interviewed spent an average of DM 1,952 per year for the use of alternative therapeutic methods. The highest amounts were spent by users of body therapies (DM 4,650 / DM 93), while the lowest spenders were users of alternative medical methods (DM 1,044 / DM 60); users of esoteric methods (DM 1,523 / DM 111) and of meditative/spiritual methods (DM 2,119 / DM 280) were in between these two extremes. The second figure given in the brackets is the average price per hour. Users of vocationally oriented personality training courses Personality training seminars are very popular, not only in the framework of in-company further education and personnel development activities but also among private consumers. Far more than 1,000 providers of such courses are active in the German market.
More than anyone else, managers are increasingly expected to acquire vaguely defined skills such as intuition, empathy, flexibility, and conflict settlement, and the application of these skills is associated with their success. There are hardly any reliable data with regard to the effectiveness and the risks involved in personality-oriented training. According to Micklethwaith and Woolridge, the primary purpose of these management techniques is to reduce the feelings of anxiety which exist in the higher management echelons. 81 )
A small percentage of the callers (19 persons) reported attending occupationally-oriented personality training courses; they were asked about their experience, as well as their motives and the general setting for attending such courses, and they were also asked whether these courses had had any effect or led to any changes.
One-third of these callers had already attended over five seminars. Fifteen of the respondents said that their "experience had been relatively positive", while the others had "mixed feelings" about the seminars or perceived them as being relatively "negative". For a more detailed assessment, the callers were asked to select one seminar which had left the strongest impression upon them. The findings described below are based on the accounts given by the respondents in this context: General setting: All the courses described had a minimum duration of two to three days. About two-thirds extended over a period of more than three days. Respondents said that the effectiveness of the seminar was primarily due to the setting in which the seminar was held, involving the absence of amenities, self-catering or the absence of alcohol, cigarettes, telephones and the seclusion of the group. The beauty of the surrounding nature was also mentioned over and over again.
However, the living conditions thus created were also a reason for some people to reject the seminar immediately.
Costs: Participants spent an average of DM 3,000 for the seminars. For about two-thirds of the participants, these costs were born by their companies. Over half of the participants had attended the seminars only because their companies had requested them to do so.
Motives and expectations:
Despite the strong involvement of their companies, about three-quarters of the callers said that they had a personal motive for attending the seminar. The reasons given included not only restructuring or re-orientation processes in their companies but also problems with private relationships and personal crises. The presence of a strong need for clarification would have to be studied more closely against the background of the fact that the participants were all middle-aged. In fact, one of the respondents said: "Somehow, they were all in their forties, had achieved everything in their careers, and you had the feeling that they were all somehow looking for meaning". This illustrates this state of mind.
What is striking is that there was a broad spectrum of methods as well as a combination of various methods. It is hardly possible to classify or categorise the seminars on the basis of certain theoretical schools, as this is done in the field of psyhotherapy. The main emphasis is placed on self-experience and group dynamics.
Effects and changes:
According to the course participants themselves, they see the strongest effect in a strengthening of their self-confidence based on the confidence in their actions conveyed to them and a more conscious way of dealing with themselves and others. This, in turn, provides a basis for a number consequential changes in terms of the individual's ability to take decisions, cope with conflicts, and pay attention to their employees' concerns. One of the most important effects is that the participants continue to work to improve themselves based on the many ideas they have been given.
The authors of the survey did not write to any of the new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups for information. Such groups rarely try to attract new members openly in the scene. In the questionnaire, however, the various providers were asked whether they were members of, or affiliated with, such a group. The samples, which were obtained at the lowest level, the private organisational level, were analysed to find out whether there was any common identity or any interconnections between the providers with regard to ideological leanings and affiliations.
By analysing brochures and advertisements, the authors of the study identified, and sent questionnaires to, some 280 providers in 1996 in the Freiburg region and approximately 480 providers in 1997 in the Frankfurt region. The rate of returns was close to 40 percent in Freiburg and about 25 percent in Frankfurt.
In terms of the results of the analyses of brochures, the two sub-samples proved to be representative as far as the range of methods and the ratio of men and women were concerned. A total of 233 providers participated in the questionnaire study, 111 from Freiburg and 122 from Frankfurt.
Summary of findings
According to this survey, providers on average use a conglomerate of eight or nine methods which in most cases come from a variety of different fields: approximately 80 percent draw on the vast fund of body therapies; about three- quarters work with consciousness-altering methods; while almost half use creative methods, esoteric treatments or esoteric interpretation methods; 20 percent also offer assistance based on extraordinary capabilities of a medium. Cluster analyses enabled the study authors to identify not only one highly eclectic type of provider but also five other types offering a more specific range of methods: esoteric interpretation, alternative healing, body therapy, psychotherapy, or meditative self-experience.
The study also showed that the majority of the providers had left the traditional Churches. The respondents showed an affinity to both old religious traditions and modern spiritual doctrines, without developing a firm commitment to any specific ideology; only rarely is there a concrete reference to gurus such as Osho or Sai Baba. However, there are some common guiding religious/spiritual ideas which can be summarised as follows: the respondents are convinced that there is a higher reality which transcends normal consciousness, and that it is possible to experience this reality by using certain methods.
The findings in detail: Sociodemographic data
Women accounted for an average share of 67 percent; the average age of the respondents was 43 years. Over half of them lived together with a partner (married or not); 37 percent were married; a relatively large share (26 percent) were divorced; 55 percent had children.
About half of the respondents were graduates of university and other higher education institutions; one-third of them had been trained in a human services occupation: 21 percent had an educational occupation (educators, teachers, remedial and social education workers, social workers); 12 percent had been trained in nursing (nurses for hospitals and old-age people's homes, physiotherapists, sports masseurs); and 4 percent had an academic degree in psychology. Due to the approach adopted by the study authors (collecting advertising pamphlets and advertisements), the share of medical professionals (doctors and academically trained psychologists) was very limited. Another one-third of the respondents had been trained in a commercial occupation; the remainder came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds.
The respondents had been active as providers of alternative methods for an average period of 8.5 years; the minimum was 4 months, and the maximum was 26 years. Close to 60 percent of them worked for an average of 31 hours per month; the remaining 40 percent stated that they worked fewer hours per month, and hence, their work in the psychomarket was probably more of a sideline job. Most of these "part-time providers" spent the rest of their working month in permanent employment.
Overall, half of the respondents used to be salaried employees and 20 percent used to be self-employed; the remainder either used to have other types of employment, or they were unemployed.
Advertising, information, access
Most of the providers in the psychomarket benefit primarily from word-of-mouth propaganda by their clients (92 percent) and from referrals by other providers (72 percent). Over half of the respondents recruited their participants or clients occasionally or frequently from among their acquaintances. Just as many of them establish personal contacts with the participants or clients whom they meet in the course of their work.
However, providers used a wide variety of different channels for advertising their services: 65 percent used notices and brochures in health food shops and book shops; 56 percent used special-interest information magazines published in the regional esoterics scene; and 52 percent used classified ads in general-interest advertising freesheets. National magazines such as "Esotera" or "Connection" played a less important role; only 27 percent of the respondents used such magazines. An equally low percentage of respondents can be found in classified telephone directories (25 percent).
Over half of the respondents (55 percent) work in their own practice or in a group practice with other providers. About two-thirds (37 percent) use rooms in their own private home; and almost as many (31 percent) rent premises for a short period of time, e.g. for weekend workshops. In addition to using the premises of community colleges (18 percent) and training institutions for non-medical practitioners (11 percent), some providers also hold their courses outdoors.
Since the respondents were able to give multiple responses, the percentage sum is over one hundred.
The clientele and their problems
In the Frankfurt sample, a more thorough analysis was made of the problems which the clients had: 41 percent of the respondents said that they often had clients who were looking for "new experiences" without having any specific difficulties. 16 percent stated that this was true for all their participants. Apart from that, tenseness, back problems, anxieties, depression and partnership problems were at the very top of the list of problems.
On average, respondents used seven different methods or techniques in Freiburg and ten in Frankfurt. Roughly three-quarters of the respondents regularly combined the methods they applied during one teaching unit, consultation or treatment. The range of these methods can be sub-divided into seven major categories: body therapies, psychotechnics, esoteric treatments, psychotherapeutic methods, creative methods, esoteric interpretation methods, extra-sensory perception.
Body therapies and psychotechnics (e.g. trance, meditation, imagination) play the most important role; they were used by three-quarters of the respondents, followed by esoteric treatments (e.g. reiki, Bach blossoms, crystal therapy) and psychotherapeutic methods (e.g. gest alt therapy, client-oriented therapy, psychodrama) which were applied by about half of the respondents. Creative methods (e.g. dancing, painting, playing musical instruments) and esoteric interpretation methods (e.g. astrology, tarot) were used somewhat less frequently. About 20 percent of the respondents stated that they used extra-sensory perception (e.g. telepathy, clairvoyance, channelling).
Training and qualification
With regard to the question as to how the respondents acquired their professional skills, there were major differences between the two regions. Relative to Freiburg, on average about twice as many respondents from Frankfurt stated that they had taught themselves. In both regions, the rate of self-education was very high among respondents practising esoteric interpretation methods (between 40 and 60 percent) and extra-sensory perception (between 63 and 77 percent). In Frankfurt, education by private teachers was more common than in Freiburg. In Freiburg, a relatively high percentage of the respondents was trained at institutes.
Over one-third of the respondents in Frankfurt were registered as non-medical practitioners; in Freiburg, no data were collected on this question.
Ties to denominations, spiritualism and esoterics
The majority of the respondents had left the Church. Only one-third of the respondents had a Christian denomination (17 percent were Protestant, 14 percent were Catholic); 10 percent said that they were members of other denominations. Hence, a total of 60 percent of the respondents were not formally affiliated with any denomination.
However, it was possible by means of a factor analysis to break down overarching religious affinities or orientations towards traditional models into two groups.
The first group included attitudes derived from Buddhism, Taoism, Tantrism, and Shamanism. The second group included attitudes derived from Christianity, Christian mysticism, Judaism and Kabbala. Orientations towards Sufism and different schools of thought in Hinduism could not be clearly ascribed to either of the two groups. However, only about 20 percent of the respondents could be assigned to one of these two groups, while 10 percent stated from the onset that their current view of the world was not influenced by any of the traditional religious beliefs.
According to 83 percent of the respondents, new religious, spiritual or psychological movements were important for their own personal vision of the world. In the regions covered by the survey, respondents stated that they were influenced by the following factors in a variety of combinations: C. G. Jung (24 percent); Baghwan/Osho (16 percent); anthroposophy (15 percent); transpersonal psychology (12 percent); Sai Baba (11 percent); Krishnamurti, and Wilhelm Reich (5 percent each). Over 150 other factors accounted for less than 5 percent. However, this distribution reflects local particularities; other surveys produced other frequency distributions.
A. Findings of the study
In the course of the study awarded by the Commission, the authors tried to obtain information on any negative experience which consumers had had with the alternative life-counselling market; however, to no avail. Although negative experience was specifically addressed in the advertisements, and although separate telephone lines were dedicated for callers with negative experiences, the only calls received came from journalists, and not from consumers. Renowned social research specialists think that it is certainly possible to obtain negative data in this way. Other telephone surveys (e.g. on the respondents' experience with medical treatment) did reveal negative experience with medical treatment and the treatment by medical personnel, so that the method chosen - i.e. addressing respondents by means of advertisements and interviewing them by telephone - cannot be blamed a priori for the lack of negative reports.
Methodologically, however, interviews of individuals are subject to very narrow limits. Possible consequences for family members or the social environment cannot be adequately identified when using this method. Most of the users said that there was a high level of acceptance of these alternative methods in their social environment; however, there were also calls from family members pointing out that users of such methods had become alienated. Since the questionnaire was designed for users, such comments could not be evaluated.
If one interprets the results of the study, they probably provide more information about the level of acceptance of alternative methods than about the objective effects of such methods, and they illustrate how difficult it is to find a direct cause/effect linkage between these methods and conflicts, or to separate such conflicts from other conflicts.
B. Results of other studies and of a meeting of the Enquete Commission with experts
In other studies, however, attention was drawn to potential risks. The two experts Niebel and Hanewinkel, for instance, pointed out that some meditation methods, when applied over long periods of time, could provoke interventions in brain functions which showed epileptic patterns. 83 ) In patients who are anxious anyway, relaxation could reinforce their feelings of anxiety. 84 )
Specific enquiries were made into the dynamics and the effects of so-called "psychotechnics" and their psychoanalytical action factors 85 ), which are applied in the context of training and influencing methods aimed at behavioural therapy.
These enquiries led to the following findings:
In their study on traditionally religious, newly religious, esoteric and non-religious individuals, Zinser, Schwarz and Remus drew attention to the fact that the empirical basis for many of the psychological assumptions made with regard to members and followers of new religious movements or in esoterics was insufficient, and that these assumptions were based on a selection of people who had problems with their new orientation in life and who, for this reason, underwent psychotherapeutic treatment or "dropped out". 86 )
Overall, when assessing the literature available, it is important to
determine whether publications are scientifically well-founded and
objective. In a bibliography on yoga and meditation, for instance, only
210 of the 1,021 publications
As far as unconventional methods are concerned, this means that a more systematic approach should be adopted in dealing with problematic experiences, and thus with the problem areas of methodology, execution, diagnostic and methodological responsibility, as well as quality assurance. The present user sample, for instance, has demonstrated that esoteric-magical methods are preferred in particular by many users who, according to their own accounts, suffer from severe psychological disorders. The findings obtained in the survey conducted among the service providers suggest that it is at least questionable whether all providers of alternative methods are properly qualified.
With regard to the problems which may be caused by an improper application of alternative methods and by applying such methods to unsuitable groups of clients, the planned legislation on life-counselling activities will provide precautions designed to minimise such problems (see Chapters 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124).
When looking at the informal sector, the institutions of the formal health sector should bear in mind that the motives cited by users of alternative methods include not only the desire to alleviate physical symptoms but also other reasons which - implicitly or explicitly - are associated with personality changes and an expansion of one's consciousness. Academic medicine and psychology as well as other professional curative disciplines should pay greater attention to the patients' needs for "coping with life". This would have consequences for the theory, research and practice in the fields mentioned above; it would have to be ensured that dealing with existential questions and problems that are a concern for many clients will be integrated into professional treatment.
In the alternative sector, there are obviously also different patterns which prevail with regard to the relationship between the treatment provider and the client and with regard to the individual's responsibility for his own health; these different patterns could provide a modernising impetus in the context of increasingly individualised living conditions. 88 )
A particularly problematic phenomenon is the eclectic application of
mixtures of methods in companies; first of all because such application
may involve coercive elements due to the fact that employees are
particularly dependent on their employers; and secondly because the very
fact that various methods are combined reduces the transparency of the
services offered and makes an assessment more difficult, both for
company buying agents and for the individual
employee who is confronted with such measures.
Many methods have not yet been the subject of scientific research. Some of the alternative methods are not suitable for scientific studies because they do not have a standardised "canon" of methods.
The social, economic and practical health implications of this part of the health sector which is not subject to any legal regulations have not yet been studied because for a long time such studies were hampered by prejudices and professional interests. 90 ) For this reason, it is desirable to pay increasing attention to this sector, which obviously does not play a merely secondary role, whether in quantitative or qualitative terms. 91 )
3.6 Entry pathways and membership histories in new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups; results of the research projects on "Drop-outs, converts, and believers: Contrasting biographical analyses of why individuals join, have a career, and stay in, or leave, religious/ideological contexts or groups"
In its decision to establish the Enquete Commission, the German Bundestag gave the Commission the mandate to find out "why individuals become members of so-called sects or psychogroups". However, it turned out that very little research had been done on this subject in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Only very few findings were available with regard to the importance in an individual's life history of joining new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups, or particular differences in membership histories, or "careers" in such groups and contexts, or the reasons why individuals develop a desire to leave those groups, or the separation processes which can be quite lengthy in some cases, or the question of what happens to individuals after leaving a group. In this context, it should also be mentioned that current approaches to dealing with this subject in research have been given very little consideration so far. 92 )
For this reason, the Enquete Commission awarded contracts for four research projects which were interrelated in terms of the topics they covered 93 ) and which provided information on the subjective importance of the events mentioned above in an individual's biography. The biographies of individuals who dropped out and others who stayed in the groups were studied in various religious and ideological contexts; types and profiles of the biographies of "stay- ins" were identified; and information was obtained on the question of how the individual's own actions and their need for finding meaning in and shaping their lives interacted with group activities and structures.
So the question/field to be studied was the broad range of different levels of subjective and socio-cultural importance and meaning ascribed by the individuals concerned to their "immersion" in such contexts and groups. It is only through these assessment processes that these contexts and groups are transformed into important contexts for the individuals. By means of such an interactive perspective, which incorporates patterns of meaning and importance, the individuals become identifiable not only as passive victims of clearly defined "groups of perpetrators" but also as social designers of their own life history and their social interactions. This "contribution of their own" is a particular challenge for any adequate and systematic analysis of potentially dangerous group structures, and has not been sufficiently considered in the past because of the lack of scientifically founded evidence.
The current status of research
There are various ways of approaching the problem of identifying the profile of a career in the context of a given religious or social group, including research into conversion processes, research into causes, and research into case histories.
Some of these approaches can be applied to different problem clusters. There are different notions which can be employed to understand conversion processes. 94 ) What they all have in common is the concept of a radical change in an individual's view of the world or personal identity, associated in some cases with profound effects on the individual's social environment and his or her ensuing actions in life. Characteristics of such change include the reconstruction of one's biography to match one's new guiding principles; the adoption of a new ethical pattern as a basis of one's future behaviour; the rejection of alternative patterns of behaviour and perspectives; and the adoption of the role of a convert in all social situations. 95 ) Such a concept raises the question as to what motivates individuals to change their view of the world so radically. In an attempt to find a biographical explanation of conversion, Wohlrab-Sahr 96 ) adopts a functional perspective, asking what the function of conversion is in the biography of an individual. One could also say that he asks what problem in an individual's biography is resolved by the radical change in that individual's view of the world. In this context, it is important to emphasise quite strongly that this problem in the life of an individual is not always perceived as such by the individual concerned. In addition, religious contexts are not the only important factor involved when individuals solve their problems by means of conversion. Other, non-religious ways of finding meaning in life and coping with life can also be involved.
When assessing conversion accounts for the purpose of analysing conversion processes and conversion causes, it must be borne in mind that each of these accounts on an individual's life is retrospective in nature, and that if one assumed that biographical conversion accounts were completely dependent on an individual's context, then it would be generally impossible to subject such accounts to a scientific biographical analysis.
Aside from this, current conversion research suggests that any change in an individual's view of the world leads to a radical change in the self-perception of that individual, and hence, a major change in that person's biographical profile.
This blocks and obliterates any consideration of alternative profiles.
With regard to the research into causes, there are two approaches: one emphasises the individual's disposition, and the other focuses on group structures and methods of manipulation.
At the level of the individual's disposition, isolated biographical variables or aspects of an individual's personality structure are seen as reasons. Problematic socialisation conditions in the family 97 ) in conjunction with ruptured or disturbed social relationships during childhood and puberty 98 ) can lead to identity problems, and to communication and relationship problems, which the individual tries to resolve by turning towards alternative promises of meaning and therapy, or by means of a religiously biased restoration of the original family and the associated development of emotional ties within a group. Various authors have emphasised the important role which specific tensions and demands during adolescence can play as a potential cause. Others have drawn attention to the lack of meaning and orientation 99 ), pessimistic expectations with regard to the future 100 ), crises due to greater social mobility with frequent passages of status especially during adolescence 101 ); and yet others have emphasised the indi- vidual's alienation from the political, social and cultural structures of society 102 ), and the disappointment about, and the turning away from the established Churches. Psychosocial crises of a professional or private nature, as well as susceptibility to depression or acute tensions in an individual's every-day life prior to joining an alternative group have also been cited as causes.
However, all of the variables mentioned above can only map non-specific cause/effect relationships. They cannot explain an individual's specific choice or fit of a given option offered by religious or ideological groupings or life-counselling agents. Hence, it remains unclear why only very few individuals who have the disposing factors or personality features outlined above or who are in the midst of the crisis-ridden phases in their lives as described above, actually join such groups; while others who share the same characteristics remain within their conventional life pattern or choose other ways of coping with their problems. 103 )
Characteristics that are specific to certain groups and manipulation methods have also been discussed as factors leading individuals to join groups. According to such views, prospective members of "destructive cults" 104 ) are seen as "victims" of various manipulation methods, some of which are associated with fraudulent cover-up attempts on the part of a group. What all theories have in common is that they primarily try to explain an individual's decision to join a group through influencing methods used by, and the totalitarian structure prevailing in, the group. In the scientific debate, both the methodology and the substance of these studies, whose results are often summarised under the catch- word "brainwash theory", have been criticised, and some of their findings have been proven to be wrong. Generally speaking, it is questionable whether it is possible to apply a model - which was originally developed in studies on prisoners of war - to "so-called sects and psychogroups". It is hard to provide any empirical proof for the effects described above, and it is equally hard to establish an unequivocal causal relationship with group membership. Studies which suggest that there is such a relationship suffer from fundamental methodological deficiencies. In view of the absolute number of group members, stagnating membership growth, and the high number of people leaving groups 105 ), the alleged risks described are ultimately not very convincing. 106 )
Research into case histories is devoted to identifying and describing the case histories of individuals as they turn to, join and eventually leave a given group.
With regard to the process that attracts individuals to a given group, it is important to examine how prospective members or participants first come into contact with a given group and what type of contact successfully leads to the recruitment of new members for the group. It should also be examined what type of contact has the most favourable impact on the new member in terms of that individual's own expectations and its subsequent biographical profile. In this context, the groups' recruitment efforts are as important as the searching efforts or interests of prospective members or participants. For many authors, however, it seems to be easier to have access to the groups' strategies and actions, so that they currently feel that the key to understanding the lead-in processes is "structural availability", i.e. physical, temporal, social and ideological conditions that facilitate contact. 107 ) An individual's social relationships are a particularly important condition for the stabilisation of that person's membership. In literature, only very few attempts have been made or models proposed to explain why individuals leave their group. 108 ) According to these explanations, the beginning of the alienation process is marked by general or situational crises of legitimacy which put into question the plausibility of the doctrine, the leader, or the group structure. Such crises and frustrated expectations with regard to the individual's development or the development of society lead to a phase of uncertainty during which the sceptics can no longer ignore new experience which conflicts with their expectations. If their doubts are compounded by crises which they experience, they begin to question their membership and to search for alternatives. However, the actual act of leaving the group is usually triggered by one key event. This is followed by a phase during which the ex-members are "floating" between the two worlds of symbolism, finally leading to a phase of social and cognitive reorganisation. The process models described provide isolated insights into the entry, adaptation and membership phases, and into the estrangement process. However, they do not combine these findings with the motivational or dispositional biographical dimensions of these processes; nor do they say very much about biographical consequences and coping mechanisms.
Finally, there are also authors who feel that the trend towards searching for new ways of finding meaning in life and coping with life is due to processes of change in society. They contend that these change processes allow conclusions to be drawn with regard to the conditions for the emergence, and the functions, of "so-called sects and psychogroups" in modern Western societies. 109 ) For methodological reasons, however, they are not willing or able to answer the question as to why individuals decide - under specific circumstances in their life and/or as a result of specific biographies - to join specific groups, while others who are in a comparable situation make completely different choices in their lives.
In order to attain such an ambitious research objective, it is necessary to apply a suitable method. All four research projects are interview studies, use narrative interviews and basically apply the methodology of qualitative biographical social research, which can be characterised as follows: Qualitative biographical social research follows a different research logic and applies different methodological principles than quantitative social research and public opinion research. It does not see society as universe which can be observed and measured from outside on the basis of methodological rules; instead, it sees society as a "communicative sphere" which, inter alia, is formed and modified by permanent interpretations of the members of society. For this reason, it is not possible in qualitative biographical social research from the outset to determine the characteristics of interest in a given subject; the characteristics of the subject under review are not defined prior to the collection of data (by means of operationalisation, etc.); instead, the research process is kept open for as long as possible, waiting for what the subject itself "says". Qualitative biographical social research tries to "nestle up" to the communicative character of social life by using data collection instruments which are as close as possible to the customs in social life. The collection of data by means of narrative interviews fulfils this requirement. The purpose of this method is to ensure that the experiences and the interpretations of the respondents can be expressed, where possible, without any theoretical bias from the interviewer and without any bias due to categories specified in a questionnaire or in an interview handbook.
In qualitative biographical social research, the subject under review is not perceived as the sum of a number of cases in which statistical methods can be applied to search for constellations of characteristics; instead, each case is seen as an expression of and a carrier in society; each case is treated as a representative of society and is seen as providing information on the latter. For this reason, qualitative biographical social research is not interested in any proportional data (percentages, etc.); it does not apply any conclusions draw from a sample to the entire universe (statistical inference); instead, it sees the characteristics and structures identified in cases as providing information on society.
However, this information provided by specific cases is relevant because it is possible to identify a structure in each individual case and, more importantly, because it is possible to identify a dimension in several cases; by means of this dimension, it is possible to organise the cases in the form of a typology from which contrasting types of cases can be abstracted. The result of qualitative biographical social research is then such a classification or typology, which maps the different variants as a mosaic or repertoire of possible attributes of the process or the constellation of theoretical interest. This typology is the theory developed on the basis of the cases with regard to the envisaged process or constellation - the theory which has been the purpose of this research.
Since such a theory applies only to the subject or the social process under review, its scope is much more limited than that of "macrotheories" commonly used in social science or of medium-scope theorems; however, its advantage is that it is an empirically based theory, i.e. a "grounded" theory.
The findings in brief
The result of the four studies described above is not the identification of typical "careers in sects" or "sect-prone dispositions"; instead, the result produced by these studies is the variety or variance of biographical case structures which can then be classified in a typology. It is not possible to identify specific socialisation variables or certain typical biographical constellations as the sole causes or determinants for an individual to be interested in and turn to certain contexts or groups. Instead, a lot of chance/coincidence is involved when individuals turn towards certain contexts or groups.
However, a biographical relevance was demonstrated for individuals turning to such contexts and groups. In all the cases analysed, it was possible to identify problem complexes - so-called "life themes" - which the individuals had encountered in the course of their lives: a cluster of practical life issues and challenges which the individuals tried to come to grips with in a variety of contexts, in some cases consecutively. With regard to the groups and contexts studied, it was possible to identify a connection in the respondents between their life themes and the specific group context through which these life themes can be tackled. The life themes generate pressure for change, and the individuals concerned usually continue working on these themes until they find a satisfactory solution or "fit".
According to these findings, the most clear-cut lines of contrast were therefore not found between "drop-outs" and "stay-ins". In fact, this contrast was not very revealing, especially with regard to groups which do not tend to be very closed to the outside world and whose members are not highly organised (e.g. in particular esoteric contexts and psychogroups). Hence, the overall findings revealed neither the typical entry process nor the typical exit process. For an analysis of the biographical interviews, it was too simple to distinguish merely between "stay-ins" and "drop-outs"; instead, it was necessary to look for more differentiated concepts.
A much more meaningful contrast than the one between "drop-outs" and "stay-ns" is the contrast between various biographical consequences, between various ways and various results of individuals working on their life themes.
Whether an individual stays in a given context or group for a longer period of time, or whether he or she changes or leaves this context or group again, depends on the "suitable" ways used by, and the options available to, individuals working on their life themes. The question as to how individuals work on their problems and life themes is therefore less influenced by the nature of the contexts and groups involved than by the fit between individuals and the groups. Hence, the question as to whether turning to a group and having a "career" in this group will aggravate the individual's problems or whether it will be beneficial and solve the problems (and if so, to what extent) will also largely depend on the degree of the fit between the group's profile and the individual's disposition towards a given problem. What happens to individuals in such contexts obviously depends not only on the context or group involved but also - and more importantly - on the resources and the scope for action which an individual commands when joining a religious group or esoteric context. However, the studies can certainly not provide any "objective" information on the groups involved; instead, such information is always provided from the perspective of the respondents. Based on the overall findings obtained from the biographical interviews, it does not make sense to speak of "sects". Nor is it reasonable to describe a given group as being generally "radical" or "dangerous".
In view of the imponderabilities in terms of the fit, scope for action and biographical consequences, the biographical connections and life themes identified in some of the cases analysed suggested that there was a need for resocialisation and counselling on the part of the individuals concerned. In addition, it became clear that such counselling should not be primarily aimed at helping individuals leave a given group. If - contrary to a widely held belief - there is no such thing as a typical exit process, there can also be no typical counselling for individuals who want to leave a given group. Instead, counselling must be focused on biographical patterns, the individual's personality development and personality structure and the individual's problem constellations.
The issues discussed in this Chapter are of particular relevance for the overall debate. For this reason, the Enquete Commission awarded the contracts for the research projects mentioned above. In order to underline the relevance of these issues, the findings of these studies are included in the Annex to this Report.
When studying social phenomena, it is common practice to discuss not only the problematic aspects but also the unproblematic aspects of new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups.
Without any doubt, the conflict potential associated with some new religious and ideological communities and psychogroups is one of the negative aspects.
On the positive side, however, attention is drawn to the fact that membership in such groups provides social reference fields for some people who would otherwise have to do without such anchorage in their lives.
These aspects are being debated in international scientific literature. For this reason, the Enquete Commission decided not to have a separate complex empirical study conducted on this issue but to award a contract for an expert report designed to analyse literature on the question of the social and psychological effects of membership in new religious movements.
The major findings of this study are presented below. 110 )
The Commission's interest in this area was focused on the following primary/key question: "What psychological and social effects does membership in new religious movements have on individuals?"
The author of the study states that the methodology applied in the study submitted to the Enquete Commission was aimed at analysing from a psychological perspective the international literature available, primarily from Anglo-American sources. The author points out that the analysis is based on data base searches and bibliographies, in particular review articles, meta-analyses, quantitative empirical studies and major qualitative studies (however, no case studies or reports by drop-outs because such publications would not be sufficiently representative and would not provide enough scope). In this context, the author draws attention to the fact that further research is needed to apply the findings of his analysis of international literature to the conditions prevailing in Germany. 111 )
As far as recruitment is concerned, the author points out that this is not a passive event; instead, the recruit is actively involved in the conversion process.
Overall, the author states that it is possible from the perspective of religious psychology to interpret the joining of a religious movement as conversion. He points out, however, that not every individual is open or receptive to the offers made by new religious movements. In many cases, individuals join such movements after a period of emotional instability and lack of orientation. According to the author, there is evidence suggesting that there is a higher share of premorbid personalities among members of new religious movements. He points out, however, that such individuals often seem to become more stable psychologically and socially as a result of their membership.
Individuals seem to be particularly susceptible to joining new religious movements during adolescence while middle-aged individuals seem to be less susceptible; however, this may vary from one group to another. Hence, the author concludes that there is no such thing as a consistent "sect member personality". For this reason, he feels that the notion of a single concept of new religious movements must be discarded.
Findings in the literature vary with regard to the meditation methods used in some groups. Individuals can have either a positive or a negative experience with meditation. It all depends on the characteristics of the individual, the method and the setting involved. In addition, parts of the literature analysed for the expert report suggest that membership can have therapeutic effects. However, this issue is still far from being certain.
The author states that it is usually possible for individuals to leave new religious movements voluntarily without any help from third parties. However, the individuals concerned perceive this break-away as a major crisis which considerably upsets their stability. However, this is not so much an indication of the "destructiveness" of the preceding experience of membership; instead, this is a side-effect which is associated with any emotionally important role change. In this context, professional help can be both necessary and helpful.
What is crucial for a later assessment of membership by the ex-member is the way in which the individual left the movement. This assessment will be much more negative if an individual was forced to leave, while it will be seen in a more positive light if the individual left the group on his own initiative.
According to the author of the study, it is not possible to clarify all the aspects or give answers to all the questions associated with the complex of "Psychological Effects of Membership". It is possible, however, to draw a few conclusions.
The author points out that membership in new religious movements cannot be generally labelled as being harmful. The empirical studies available have shown that the psychological condition of members is within a normal range, comparable to those parts of the population that are not members of such movements.
The author points out that religiousness can be a relevant factor during critical development phases (e.g. adolescence); it can be experienced as either helpful or hampering. It is important to distinguish between the various ways in which individuals access a given group or orientation; individuals can either be "born" into membership or become members on their own initiative during adolescence. The authors draws attention to the fact that this issue and the dynamics involved have not yet been sufficiently studied.
The findings of the report are summarised by the author as follows:
43 ) Cf. Müller, U.: "Zur Konstruktion von Wirklichkeit", in Jugend & Gesellschaft, 4, 1988.
44 ) Cf. Zinser, H.: Zur Verbreitung des Okkultismus "Jugendokkultismus in Ost und West", Munich 1993; ibid.: "Moderner Okkultismus zwischen Glauben und Wissen" in ZMR, 78, 1994.
45 ) Cf. Noelle-Neumann, E./Köcher, R.: Allensbacher Jahrbuch der Demoskopie. 1984- 1992, Vol. 9, Munich inter alia 1992; Terwey, M.: Zur Situation von Glauben und Kirche im vereinigten Deutschland, in: Information Nr. 30 des Zentralarchivs für empirische Sozialforschung, Cologne 1992, pp. 59- 79.
46 ) Cf. Zinser, H., loc. cit.; Mischo, J.: Okkultismus bei Jugendlichen. Ergebnisse einer empirischen Untersuchung, Mainz 1991; for an overview, cf. Helsper, W.: Okkultismus - die neue Jugendreligion? Die Symbolik des Todes und des Bösen in der Jugendkultur, Opladen 1992; Streib, H., Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination. Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen 1996.
47 ) Cf. Helsper, W., loc. cit., 1992 und Streib, H., loc. cit. 1996.
48 ) Cf. Silbereisen, R. K. et al.: Jungsein in Deutschland. Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene 1991 und 1996, Opladen, 1997.
49 ) Ibid., p. 64 f.
50 ) Cf. Jugendwerk der Dt. Shell (ed.), Jugend 1997, Opladen 1997, p. 365.
51 ) Cf. Streib, H.: Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination, Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen, Niederlande, 1996, p. 9 ff.
52 ) Cf. Zinser, H.: Jugendokkultismus in Ost und West, Munich 1993.
53 ) Cf. Streib, H.: Entzauberung der Okkultfaszination, Magisches Denken und Handeln in der Adoleszenz als Herausforderung an die praktische Theologie, Kampen, Netherlands 1996, p. 9 ff.
54 ) Cf. Driesch, H.: Parapsychologie, 4th edition Frankfurt/Main 1984.
55 ) For more information on public and client organisations, cf. Stark, R. and Bainbridge, S.: "The Future of Religion", Berkeley 1985, p. 24 ff. and Zinser, H.: "Der Markt der Religionen", Munich 1997, p. 122 ff.
56 ) For a biography of Aleister Crowley, cf. Dvorak, J.: SatanismuS, Geschichte und Gegenwart, Ffm, Eichborn, 1989; Schmidt, J.: Satanismus, Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Marburg, 1992; Symonds, J.: Aleister Crowley, das Tier 666: Leben und Magick, Munich, 1996.
57 ) Cf. Christiansen, I.: Bedeutung und Brisanz von Sekten, Destruktiv-Kulten und Weltanschauungen für Jugendliche in unserer Gesellschaft, Göttingen, 1997, p. 262.
58 ) Ibid., p. 263.
59 ) Cf. Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte. Was Sekten für Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996; Helsper, W., loc. cit. 1992; Streib, H.: Teufelsbeschwörung und Jesus-Zauberspruch - magische Handlungen mit heilender Kraft?, in: Heimbrock, H. G./Streib, H. (ed.): Magie - Katastrophenreligion und Kritik des Glaubens, Kampen/Weinheim 1994 as well as loc. cit. 1996.
60 ) Cf. Introvigne, M./Türk, E.: Satanismus, Paderborn 1995.
61 ) Cf. Fröhling, U.: "Vater unser in der Hölle", Seelze-Velber, 1996.
62 ) Cf. Introvigne, M.: Auf den Spuren des Satanismus, EZW 5/92, pp. 161- 178, EZW 7/92, pp. 193- 202.
63 ) Cf. Christiansen, I.: loc. cit., p. 292.
64 ) Ibid., pp. 292- 293.
65 ) Cammans, H. M.: Satanismus in der Beratung, in: Friemel, F. G., Schneider, F. (ed.): Ich bin ein Kind der Hölle, Leipzig, 1996, p. 37.
66 ) Cf. auch Ruppert, H.-J.: Satanismus, EZW 140, Berlin, 1998.
67 ) Cf. Billerbeck, L./Nordhausen, F.: Satanskinder. Der Mordfall Sandro B., Munich, 1997.
68 ) Cf. Eschebach, I./Thye, E.: Die Religion der Rechten. Völlkische Religionsgemeinschaften, Aktualität und Geschichte, Dortmund 1995.
69 ) Cf. Gross, W.: Was eine alternativ-spirituelle Gruppe zur Sekte macht: Kriterien zur Beurteilung von Destruktiven Kulten, p. 29, ibid. (ed.), Psychomarkt - Sekten - Destruktive Kulte, Bonn 1994, pp. 27- 50.
70 ) Cf. Stenger, H.: Der "okkulte" Alltag - Beschreibungen und wissenssoziologische Deutungen des "New Age", in: Zeitschrift für Soziologie 18 (2, 1989), pp. 119- 135, Bochinger, Ch.: `New Age' und moderne Religion. Religionswissenschaftliche Analysen, Gütersloh 1994, Knoblauch, H. A.: Das unsichtbare neue Zeitalter. "New Age", privatisierte Religion und kultisches Milieu, in: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 41 (3, 1989), pp. 504- 525 and ibid.: "Neues Paradigma" oder "Neues Zeitalter"? Fritjof Capras moralisches Unterneh-men und die "New-Age-Bewegung", pp. 265, in: Religion und Kultur, Sonderband der Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Opladen 1993, pp. 249- 270.
71 ) Cf. Hemminger, H./Keden, J.: Seele aus zweiter Hand. Psychotechniken und Psychokonzerne, Stuttgart 1997, p. 7.
72 ) Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W.S.: The Future of Religion, Los Angeles 1985.
73 ) Cf. Grom, B.: Esoterik, in: Ruh, U. et al. (ed.), Handwörterbuch religiöser Gegenwartsfragen, Freiburg 1986, p. 89ff.
74 ) This project, which is managed by E.A. Straube and J. Mischo, will probably be completed by March 1999.
75 ) In psychotherapy research, "need for clarification" or "clarification perspective" means the principle of explaining assessments made by the patients themselves with regard to their motives, values and objectives; the purpose of the therapies in this context is to clarify the factors which determine the patients' perceptions and actions, to establish their orientation in terms of their biographies. In addition to the so-called problem-coping perspective and the so-called relationship perspective, the therapeutic treatment of the clarification perspective is one of three principles which have been shown to be effective in the evaluation of various therapeutic methods. Cf. Grawe, K./ Donati, R./ Bernauer, F.: Psychotherapie im Wandel - Von der Konfession zur Profession, 3rd ed., Göttingen et al. 1994, p. 752.
76 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: Alternative Gesundheitskultur. Eine Bestandsaufnahme mit Teilnehmer-befragung (Forschungsberichte zur transkulturellen Medizin und Psychotherapie, Vol. 4), Berlin, Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1997.
77 ) Ibid., p. 62.
78 ) Cf. Grawe, K., Donati, R. and Bernauer, F.: loc. cit.
79 ) Cf. Hewer, W.: The relationship between the alternative practitioner and his patient: A review, in: Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 40 (1983), pp. 170- 180.
80 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: loc. cit., p. 273.
81 ) Cf. Micklethwait, J. u. Woolridge A.: The witch doctors. Making sense of the management gurus, New York 1996.
82 ) Cf. Schneider, M.: Glaubensspielräume. Empirische Untersuchung zur New Age Bewegung, Diss. München 1991, Waûner, R.: Neue religiöse Bewegungen in Deutschland. Ein soziologischer Bericht. EZW-Texte 113, Stuttgart 1991.
83 ) Cf. Niebel, G. u. Hanewinkel, R.: Gefahren und Miûbrauchspotential von Meditationstechniken, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Jugendlichen, psychisch labilen und psychisch kranken Menschen, Kiel, 1997, p. 19.
84 ) Ibid., p. 24.
85 ) In the framework of a meeting with medical experts on the topic of "Disease risks due to improper use of hypnosis, trance, and conditioning methods during lay-therapy and group-dynamic sessions", 14 May 1998.
86 ) Cf. Zinser, H., Schwarz, G. u. Remus, B.: Psychologische Aspekte neuer Formen der Religiosität. Report on an empirical study, Tübingen 1997, p. 50f.
87 ) Cf. Unger, C.: Yoga und Meditation - psychologische und psychotherapeutische Aspekte. Eine internationale Bibliographie, Ahrensburg 1995 quoted from Niebel, G. and Hanewinkel, R.: loc. cit., p. 3.
88 ) Cf. for general information: Stenger, H.: loc. cit., p. 130ff.
89 ) Cf. Kühnlein, G.: "Verbetrieblichung" von Weiterbildung als Zukunftstrend? Anmerkungen zum Bedeutungswandel von beruflicher Weiterbildung und Konsequenzen für Bildungsforschung. In: Arbeit 6 (3, 1997), pp. 261-281.
90 ) Cf. Andritzky, W.: loc. cit., p. 9.
91 ) Based on other studies, Hellmeister and Fach point out that alternative methods are used more frequently, that alternative treatment providers are given a very good rating on average, and that the callers' assessment of the methods applied is mostly positive.
92 ) See, for instance, Berger, H./Hexel, P.C.: Ursachen und Wirkungen gesellschaftlicher Verweigerung junger Menschen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der "Jugendreligionen", Forschungsbericht, Vienna 1981; Kuner, W.: Soziogenese der Mitgliedschaft in drei Neuen Religiösen Bewegungen, Frankfurt 1983; Pölz, W.: Prognosen von drogen- bzw. sektengefährdeten Jugendlichen, Vienna 1981; Rollet, B.: Religiöse Entwicklung und Interesse an Jugendsekten, Vienna 1992.
93 ) The four projects used the same methodological approach in order to study four different contexts: first-generation radical Christian groups; fundamentalist Christian contexts and organisations; contexts and groups from the Far East; as well as psychogroups and esoterics.
94 ) Inter alia Kilbourne, B.K./Richardson, J. T.: Paradigm Conflict. Types of Conversion and Conversion Theory, in: Sociological Analysis, 50/1, 1989, pp. 1- 21; Rambo, L.: Understanding Religious Conversion, New Haven/London 1993.
95 ) Snow, M./Machalek, R: The Sociology of Conversion, in: Annual Review of Sociology, 1984, 10, pp. 167-190.
96 ) Cf. Wohlrab-Sahr, M.: Konversion zum Islam als Implementation von Geschlechtslehre, in: Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 1996, 25/1, pp. 19- 37.
97 ) Cf. inter alia Kuner, 1983, loc. cit.
98 ) Cf. inter alia Barker, E.: The Making of a Moonie. Choice or Brainwashing, Oxford 1984; Berger/Hexel 1981, loc. cit.; Klosinski, G.: Psychokulte. Was Sekten für Jugendliche so attraktiv macht, Munich 1996.
99 ) Cf. inter alia Berger/Hexel 1981, loc. cit.
100 ) Cf. inter alia Barker 1984, loc. cit.
101 ) Cf. inter alia Schibilsky, M.: Religiöse Erfahrung und Interaktion. Die Lebenswelt jugendlicher Randgruppen, Stuttgart 1976.
102 ) Cf. inter alia Barker 1984, loc. cit.; Kuner 1983, loc. cit.; Schmidtchen, G.: Wie weit ist der Weg nach Deutschland? Szialpsychologie der Jugend in der postsozialistischen Welt, Opladen 1997.
103 ) Cf. Stark, R./Bainbridge, W. S.: The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult For-ation, Berkeley 1986.
104 ) Cf. Clark, J.: Der künstlich gesteuerte Wahnsinn, in: Müller-Küppers, M./Specht, F. (ed.): Neue Jugendreligionen, Göttingen 1979; Singer, M. T.: Coercive Persuasion und die Probleme der Ex-Cult Members, in: Müller-Küppers, M./Specht, F. (ed.): Neue Jugendreligionen, Göttingen 1979.
105 ) Cf. Levine, S.: Radical Depatures: Desparate Detours to Growing Up, San Diego 1984; Wright, S. A.: Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection, Washington 1987.
106 ) Cf. as a summary Barker 1984, loc. cit.; Barker, E.: New Religious Movements. A Practical Introduction, London 1992; Wiesberger, F.: Bausteine zu einer soziologischen Theorie der Konversion. Soziokulturelle, interaktive und biographische Determinanten religiöser Konversionsprozesse, Berlin 1990, pp. 49-61.
107 ) Snow, D. et al.: Social Networks and Social Movement: A Microstructural Approach to Different Recruitment, in: American Sociological Review, 1980, pp. 787-801; Stark/Bainbridge 1986, loc. cit.
108 ) Cf. inter alia Balch, R.: When the Light goes out, Darkness Comes: A Study of Defection from a Totalitaristic Cult, in: Stark, R. (ed.): Religious Movements: Genesis, Exodus and Numbers, New York 1985, pp. 263- 283; Galanter, M.: Cults. Faith, Healing and Coercion, Oxford 1989, Wright 1987, loc. cit.
109 ) Cf. Waûner, R.: Neue Religiöse Bewegungen in Deutschland. Ein soziologischer Bericht, EZW-Texte No. 113, Stuttgart 1991; Eiben, J.: Zur gesellschaftlichen Bedingtheit von alternativer Religiosität und Lebenshilfe; Gross, W. (ed.): Psychomarkt-Sekten-Destruktive Kulte, Bonn 1996.
110 ) Dipl.-Psych. Dr. Sebastian Murken, "Soziale und psychische Auswirkungen der Mitglied-schaft in neuen religiösen Bewegungen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der sozialen Integration und psychischen Gesundheit", study conducted on behalf of the German Bundestag, Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups", January 1998.
111 ) Loc. cit., p. 6.