REPORT MADE IN THE NAME OF THE BOARD OF INQUIRY INTO CULTS (VIVIEN REPORT)
I. A PHENOMENON WHICH,
ALTHOUGH DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND, SEEMS TO DEVELOP
The Commission first of all sought to appreciate the current extent of the cult phenomenon and, in the light of some of its characteristics as well as its recent evolution, to release the its probable tendencies of development. In spite of the difficulties which it met to define the phenomenon being the subject of its study and to measure it, it appeared to the Commission that it conceals potentialities of expansion which must justify an increased vigilance on behalf of the public authorities.
First, the approach to the phenomenon of cults, like every other, assumes that this concept is clearly defined.
However, all the studies, all the works devoted to associations known as cults recognize the difficulty of such a step, that the Commission measured throughout its work: indeed, the concept of cult, particularly difficult to define in the current language, is completely unknown from the French law.
Obviously, this situation could only make the Commission's task more difficult. Having been confronted with this difficulty from the very start of its search, the Commission did not want to let itself lock up in the alternative to which it leads logically: either to try to give a legal definition to the concept of cult intended to be used as a basis following its work, with the risk to run up against the principle of the freedom of conscience, or to consider that it could not validly continue to work because of impossibility of proceeding to such a definition. It has, with modesty but also in a preoccupation with an effectiveness, follow-up an empirical step, by noting the existence of organizations various commonly called cults and while seeking to specify contours of what can be included under this name to establish from them the characteristics which can justify that one is interested in it, even that one is worried some.
The legal absence of definition of cults in law results from the French conception of the notion of secularity.
The origin of this conception is to be sought in article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the citizen who lays out that "no one should be bothered for his opinions, even religious, provided that their demonstration does not disturb the law and order instituted by the law ". The writers of the Declaration thus clearly posed the principle of the neutrality of the State, of its discretion with regard to religious opinions.
This attitude must be supplemented by a more positive approach, which entrusts to the State the responsibility to ensure each one the free exercise of the religion of his choice; Article 2 of the Constitution of October 4, 1958 specifies thus that France, [laque?] Republic, "ensures the equality in front of the law of the citizens without reference of origin, race or religion" and it "respects all beliefs." This recent constitutional dedication[?] had been outlined by the preamble to the Constitution of 1946 which, whatever the debates relating to its legal consequences, recalled the attachment of the French people to the declaration of 1789 and with the "fundamental principles recognized by the laws of the Republic."
The legal status of the worships which result from such a conception of secularity is contained entirely in the first two articles of the law of December 9, 1905 relating to the separation of the Church and the State, which lay out that "the Republic ensures the freedom of conscience ] guarantees the free exercise of worships " (Article 1) and that it "does not recognize, does not pay, nor does not subsidize any worship." (Article 2).
The principle of neutrality of the State thus means that the religious beliefs are not a public fact subject to the restrictions related to the respect of the law and order, that the religious fact concerns the only individuals, of the only private sphere of the citizens.
Thus is explained that the State, faithful to its "indifference" displayed with regard to religions, never gave a legal definition of those. If the doctrines admit that they are characterized by the meeting of subjective elements (faith, belief) and of objective elements (the rite, community), a definition of a religion cannot be noted in the substantive law.
This one is restricted to regulate the life of the legal structures as well as social practices which constitute the support of the religions (associations, [cultuelles?] or not, religious congregations); it does not make any legal distinction between the various worships, does not carry out any discrimination, positive or negative, between them.
One conceives legal impossibility consequently to define the criteria allowing to define the social forms which can take the exercise of a religious belief, [a fortiori?] to distinguish a Church from a sect.
The board of inquiry was thus confronted from the very start of its activity with the paradox to have to work on a juridically non-existent sector. Its position was all the more delicate since, impossible to define in right, the concept is also difficult to handle in the current language.
The concept of cult, even in the current language, is not unequivocal; various levels of analysis are not undoubtedly enough to testify to the diversity - and the richness - of the concept.
An etymological study shows that the term "cult" [the actual French word is "secte." I have been using "cult" because that's the sense in which it's used in the report. Wherever "cult" appears in this translation, "secte" is the original French. To my knowledge, there is no separate word for "cult."] appeared around the 13th - 14th centuries and that it can be connected to two Latin roots: one connecting it to the verb to follow, the other with the verb to cross.
This hesitation on the semantic origin still today impregnates all of the dictionaries.
Significant is the definition provided by the Littr dictionary, for which a cult is "the whole of the people who make profession of same doctrines " or "which follows a marked opinion of heresy or error."
The Robert dictionary distinguishes between those people "who have the same doctrines within a religion" and those who "profess the same doctrines."
In all the cases, the two supposed origins of the concept induce, simultaneously or alternatively, the two ideas of common belief and/or rupture compared to a former belief.
It is on this concept of rupture that the dictionary of the religions (PUF, 1984) insists, defining a cult as "In the original sense, a group who dispute the doctrines and structures of the Church, generally involving dissidence. In a wider sense, any minority religious movement."
Sociology defines a cult as a group in opposition to that of Church. Thus Max Weber proceeded to specify these two concepts one compared to the other; for him the Church is an institution of health [salut?] which privileges the extension of its influence, whereas a cult is a contractual group which stresses the intensity of the life of its members.
Ernst Troeltsh continued the work of Weber and stressed that the Church is ready, to extend its audience, to adapt to society, to pass compromises with the States. A cult, on the other hand, is located in withdrawal compared to global society and tends to refuse any link with it, and even any dialogue. It adopts an identical attitude with regard to the other religions, so that in this sense ecumenism could be used as a criterion to distinguish Church and cult.
The term "cultish" appeared during wars of religion and impresses of a strong pejorative connotation. It is applied to the member of a cult characterized by his intolerance, blind adhesion, and narrow-mindedness.
The modern language was strongly marked by this pejorative connotation: nowadays, the term "cult" makes reference to minority religious or pseudo-religious movements of recent appearance, secessionists or not.
The debate regarding "dangerous cults" or "cultish drifts" still accentuated the pejorative aspect of the concept.
Several people heard by the Commission developed in front of it approaches of the definition of cults based on the danger of the movements. One of them thus formalized the result of this step, while giving as a definition of cults:
" Groups aiming by operations of psychological destabilization at obtaining from their followers an unconditional allegiance, a reduction in the critical spirit, a rupture with the references commonly allowed (ethics, scientists, civic, educational), and involving dangers to the personal freedoms, health, education, the democratic institutions.
These groups use philosophical, religious or therapeutic masks to dissimulate objectives to be able to influence and exploit their followers. "
From such a point of view, the stress is laid moreover on the insidious character of the cultish drift, because it is difficult to trace a border between "legitimate " operation and the danger zone, i.e. between:
One measures at which point it is, under these conditions, difficult to reason in an objective way, to be located between vulgarizing and the diabolisation, blindness and the abusive tolerance on the one hand, generalized suspicion on the other hand: it is however this way which chose the Commission.
The Commission indeed noted that if the difficulty of defining the concept of cult were underlined by all the people that it heard, the reality concerned seems unanimously encircled, except naturally by the followers and leaders of the cults which deny this character with their grouping (while being able to recognize it with others) and prefer to evoke the terms of "Churches" or of "religious minorities."
The Commission does not claim to succeed in it with what all those which work on the question of cults, often for many years, did not arrive, i.e. giving an "objective" definition of cults, likely to be accepted by all. Work of the Commission is thus based on a certain number of ethical choices which it does not seek to dissimulate.
Among the indices making it possible to suppose the possible reality of suspicions resulting in describing as cult a movement being presented in the form of a religion, it retained, endorsing the criteria used by the General Information in the analyses of cult phenomenon to which proceeds this service and which was communicated to the Commission:
Your Commission insists on the fact that, the definition of cults proving with many regards difficult, it carried out its work while taking care not to endorse the definitions of cults suggested by its interlocutors, by nature engaged, with a title or another in the promotion of the new religions or the fight against their excesses - realities or supposed --.
It was conscious that neither the innovation, neither the small number of followers, nor even the eccentricity could be retained as criteria making it possible to describe a religious movement as a cult; the greatest contemporary religions were often, at their beginnings, sects with a small number of followers; many established and socially allowed rites today could in the beginning cause reserves or oppositions.
The field of the Commission's study has thus been voluntarily restricted to a certain number of association joining together, generally around a spiritual head, some people sharing the same belief in a being or a certain number of transcendental ideas, itself located or not in rupture "traditional" religion" (Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist) which have been excluded from this study, and on which have, at one time or another, weigh the suspicion of an activity contrary with public law and order or with personal individual freedoms.
The difficulty in defining the concept of cult, which will however be used in the continuation of this report, led the Commission to retain a beam of indices, of which each one could lend to long discussions. It thus preferred, with the risk of [froisser?] many susceptibilities or to carry out an analysis partial to reality, to retain the common direction that the public opinion allots to the concept.
With defect[?], the Commission could not, noting the difficulties encountered at the time of the attempt at definition of the phenomenon, allow that to stop its work. Such an attitude would undoubtedly have diverted, and, moreover, would have prevented the Commission from analyzing the real problems arising from the development of a certain number of associations.
Difficult as it is to define, the phenomenon of cults cannot in addition - but also of this fact - be measured with precision.
Any attempt at total measurement of the cult phenomenon encounters a certain number of obstacles, which must be briefly described.
The inaccuracy surrounding the definition of the concept is of course the first of them: how to measure a phenomenon of which there is not a definition accepted by all?
Secondly, it is difficult to quantify the activity of multiple associations revolving around such and such a movement, to distinguish, for example, the regular listener of conferences organized by an association close to a cult, with a follower of the latter.
Thirdly, the choice of criterion being used to measure the phenomenon is so random: Does one have to obtain the number of followers or that of the sympathizers, to suppose that one or the other of these two concepts can receive a satisfactory definition? Taking into account the family or social impact of the phenomenon, does one have to include the entourage of people directly concerned to correctly appreciate the number of "victims"?
Moreover, the cults themselves are not always able to quantify with relative precision the number of their members. Various indices even make it possible to affirm that some of them artificially inflate in order to accredit the idea of an audience which they do not have in reality, whereas others voluntarily minimize it with an aim of not drawing the attention of the public authorities.
The real audience of different cults cannot, finally, be measured only by the yardstick of numerical criteria: the international establishment of the sect, its financial capacities, its possible strategy of infiltration contribute for much to its audience, its capacity of interference, its danger.
These methodological reserves posed, it is, however, necessary to try to better encircle, on the quantitative level, the cult phenomenon.
Two types of evaluation were communicated to the Commission: one results from the observations of the Central Management of General Information; the other, more indirect, of the studies of a certain number of experts.
The cult phenomenon has been an object, since a score of years, of a regular follow-up by General Information. However, the topicality of the phenomenon and the limited means of the DCRG [Direction Centrale des Renseignements General = General Information] do not authorize the frequent execution of work of synthesis.
Two assessments have been drawn up to date, one within the framework of the development of the report of Mr. Alain Vivien "Cults in France,", in 1982, the other at the request of the Board of Inquiry.
The very complete and fine analysis which was given to General Information retains a definition of a cult based on the supposed danger of the various movements, itself deduced from the existence of one or more indices among the following: mental destabilization, exorbitant financial requirements, rupture with the environment of origin, attacks to the physical integrity, enlisting of the children, antisocial speech, disturbances with the law and order, legal contentions, diversions of the economic circuits, infiltration of the public authorities. On these bases, were listed, within the framework of each metropolitan department, associations filling at least one of these ten criteria.
Additionally, for each movement, the following are distinguished: "the organization mother" of the various "subsidiary companies" which revolve around it, that those are "official" (local antennas bearing the name of the cult), or "masked" (various associations, even civil or commercial companies).
The various "organization-mothers" have, moreover, is the subject of a quantitative evaluation allowing to distribute them between those which count less than 50 followers, between 50 and 500 followers, 500 and 2,000 followers, more than 2,000 followers. It is to be announced that only the movement of the Jehovah's Witnesses exceeds in France the 10,000 faithful ones (their number is estimated at 130,000).
For the most part, esoteric movements or those attached to anthroposophie [humanism?], although sometimes predisposing individuals weakened with a "cultish advance," were not mentioned, because of their objective harmlessness. In the same way, the immense majority of the groups claiming exclusively to be New Age, multiples and with the often confidential audience, were excluded from this study as being still at the "cultish fringes."
Aggregation, at the national level, of the results obtained by department makes it possible to initially draw a certain number of charts, the first showing the number of cults, the second showing the number of their followers, the last showing the dynamics of the movement.
The Cult Structures
The number of movements listed by the DCRG and answering one of the criteria of danger indicated above amounts today to 172 for the "organization-mothers." The inclusion of the "subsidiary companies" in the study makes it possible to note the existence, in France, of a veritable "cult nebula" numbering more than 800 satellites.
A study of the geographical distribution of the sects shows that the phenomenon is not uniformly distributed over French territory.
The organizations mothers concentrate essentially on four large areas (Chart No. 1):
Conversely, the areas Centre, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Maine et Loire, Franche-Comte seem relatively saved.
The inclusion of the "subsidiary companies" in the cartographic representation does not modify the representation of the cult phenomenon, even if it increases the impression of diffusion on the whole of the national territory (Chart No. 2).
This impression is still increased if one associates with this last cartographic representation the influence represented by the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose places of worship ("Kingdom Halls") are numerous in a certain number of departments little touched by the remainder of the cult phenomenon, in particular le Calvados, le Finistre, les Pyrenees Atlantiques, le Doubs (Chart No. 3).
The Cult Followers
If it is difficult to carry out a precise figuring, it is more difficult to distinguish the true follower from the occasional disciple or of the simple sympathizer. General Information estimates at 160,000 the number of at least occasional followers, and at 100,000 the number of sympathizers.
It is however necessary to refine these results while making the point that 80% of the movements gather less than 500 followers, nearly 60 sects number even less than 50 followers. One thus notes a concentration of the cult phenomenon in forty movements, which one will see, in addition, that it is those which generally answer a great number of criteria of danger.
The following lists present, classified alphabetically and in sections by number of followers, those movements which can, using the yardstick of the defined criteria, be described as cultish.
Cult Movements of Less than 50 Followers:
[I left the names in French, with translations in brackets when needed. - Translator]
Alliance Rose Croix /
Association Recherches Culturelles [Rose Cross Alliance/Cultural Search
Association] [Rosicrucians -editor]
Cult Movements with from 50 to 500 followers:
Amis de la croix glorieuse de
Cult Movements with 500 to 2,000 followers:
Cult Movements with 2,000 to 10,000 followers:
Association Lucien J.
Lastly, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses can be estimated at 130,000.
Dynamics of the Cult Phenomenon
One could a priori think of appreciating the dynamics of the cult phenomenon by comparing the two assessments drawn up with thirteen years of interval by General Information ().
A certain number of reasons, however, prohibit us from being able to draw significant conclusions from such a comparison. Indeed:
Only of main tendencies can thus be released, which can be synthesized in the table hereafter:
Most significant seems to be the multiplication of the "subsidiary companies" of the cult movements, much more today than those detected in 1982, even if a precise enumeration had not then been carried out. Like it was already known as, the phenomenon of the "hidden satellites" was embryonic at the time and, in a general way, the cultts definitely were more disseminated than today. As an example, one will mention that, according to DCRG'S, nearly 60 subsidiary companies are attached to the Church of Scientology.
The increase in the number of cult movements is undeniable. Typology study (cf. infra) shows that this increase is due to some extent to strength of the current "New Age," which saw the number of its structures increasing considerably, even if those gather only one low number of followers.
The progression of the number of followers and sympathizers is considerable since it is 60% for the former and 100% for the latter.
Even if it cannot be measured with a scientific exactitude, cult dynamics is thus significant, whatever the criterion selected to appreciate it.
This appreciation is corroborated by more indirect observations, more indirect of the experts who have studied the cult phenomenon.
Two great associations have today as an aim the fight against the cult phenomenon.
The oldest is the National Union of Associations for the Defense of the Family and the Individuals (UNADFI), which gathers twenty local associations, whose first was founded in 1974.
Seven years later the Center for Resources, Education, and Action Against Mental Manipulation (CCMM) was formed on the initiative of Roger Ikor, following the death of his very young son, a victim of a cult.
It is to be announced that other experts have a recognized competence on the cult phenomenon: doctors, academics, men of the church, journalists, they belong to the most various horizons.
The table hereafter recapitulates the estimates provided on the number of followers of certain cults by certain a shade of works published between 1977 and 1987. It shows clearly that in the space of these ten years, the supposed number of the followers of each one of them increased considerably, except the Mission of Divine Light.
UNADFI in addition communicated to the Commission an estimate, for 1995, of the number of followers of principal cults established in France. This partial census reveals, for only about thirty cults quoted, which does not include Jehovah's Witnesses, a number of followers higher than 120,000. This estimate thus seems appreciably higher than that of General Information, which estimates at 160,000 the number of followers of the some 172 groupings that they recognize as cults.
The same variation is perceptible for the number of cultish structures, generally evaluated between 200 and 300 (one of the interlocutors of the Commission has even advanced the figure of 1,000).
The following statement, made before the Commission, correctly translated the estimated importance of the cult phenomenon at the same time as the difficulty of apprehending it.
"In quantity, it is very difficult to quantify the cult fact. The maximalists see cults everywhere and consider that there are hundreds of thousands of French who are touched. I believe that it is necessary to be more reasonable. There are undoubtedly a little aberrant forms of religiosity which are not therefore cults, the behavior of whose followers is not even particularly remarkable, nor even condemnable. I would say that there must be in France, at the present time, between 200 and 300 cults which have an importance and an extremely varied audience, that these environments are completely unstable, at the same time because some, like all the humanitarian organizations, develop whereas some others die, that they are influenced by foreigners, which means that some passage of foreign population foreign carries itself out and that at the same time some French expatriates to some other site where the cult is established. All these associations must concern, directly or indirectly, approximately a half-million French. When I say "directly," I'm thinking of course of the followers themselves, those which entered a cult and those which came out of there, with rigor those which are on the point there to enter, but also all the home and social environment of the followers of cults which naturally undergoes the repercussions of the practices and the cultish behaviors of the followers.
FOLLOWERS OF CULTS (1) IN THE YEARS 1970 - 1980: ESTIMATES
An indirect measurement of cult activity can be provided by the analysis of the phone calls received by the Parisian center of the ADFI which, in 1994, was seen questioning on the activities of 1,150 associations or movements. If this measurement is connected more with one survey than with a precise analysis, it makes it possible however to appreciate the proselytism of the various movements, like, probably, their relative audience in Paris area.
Consultations received by telephone in the buildings of the ADFI (Parisian center) and relating to certain groups
NR : non répertorié. Source : ADFI Paris
In addition, the various experts heard by the Commission, in general, confirmed that during recent years, the cult movement has, in terms of structures as well as in number of followers, developed considerably, even if they do not have precise statistical data on this tendency.
Beyond the difficulties of measurement, it does not appear contestable that the cult phenomenon is in France quite real today, and that it seems in progression.
In addition, the characteristics of its evolution allows us to predict potentialities of expansion which worry your commission.
[TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: From this point in the report forward, I am translating "secte" as "sect" rather than "cult." I began by using "cult" because of the negative connotations the word "secte" seems to have in French and also because they used the word to describe groups Americans would call cults: the Branch Davidians, Solar Temple, Jonestown, etc. In this part of the report, they discuss sects from a historical perspective. The term "secte" is very broad, and can also refer to the beginnings of Christianity itself, which while considered a sect by American standards, would not be considered a cult. It seemed better to use the English word most similar to the French term.]
The sectarian phenomenon has been known for a few decades of significant evolutions which influence the currently noted tendencies; a consideration in perspective appreciation additionally shows the tendency to a potential expansion.
It is obviously not possible to proceed within the framework of this report, of which it is moreover not the object, to a historical study of the sectarian phenomenon, in which the specialists underline permanence in time and the universality.
Tite Live in his work "The Sects [Nuns?] in Greece and in Rome" was devoted already to a detailed account of the business of the Orgies, followers of the worship of Bacchus.
Under the Roman empire, the first Christian communities were persecuted as well because of their refusal of the oath to the Emperor as because of the charges of sorcery (night meetings) or anthropophagy (rite of the communion) whose they were the object. The lawsuits in sorcery of which were victims in the Middle Ages until the beginning of the Reform, nearly 100,000 people in Europe testify to persistence to the sectarian phenomenon. The Christian religions are not the only source of examples: thus the Islam whose current esoteric is represented by the Sufism it gave rise to the sect of Hashishins, which fought Holy Land Templars.
The recent evolution of the sectarian phenomenon makes it possible however respectively to release a certain number of main tendencies relating to the nature of the sects, their organization, the topics developed by them, the way in which they are perceived finally.
A study of the sects currently established in France shows that those settled in two vague but quite distinct groups.
The first emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, which saw religious movements born for the majority in Anglo-Saxon countries [enraciner? coming from the same race? descendents?] from the French society. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pentecostals, Adventists, Baptists: all these movements resulting from the protesting world joined their dispute of the official doctrines of the Church to that already expressed by groups resulting from catholic mobility (Antoinistes, followers of the Christ of Montfavet).
The second wave breaks at the end of the years 1960, always coming from the United States, but marked by a greater oriental print on the one hand, esoteric or gnostic on the other hand. It is relevant to note inn particular the International Association of Krishna Consciousness (founded in 1966), Association for the Unification of World Christianity (AUCM, or Moon sect) and Soka Gakka.
In accordance with the second current, one will cite the groups related to Rosicrucian brotherhood, the Church of Scientology or the anthroposophie [humanism?]. Other sects proposing of the total alternatives founded on ecology (Ecoovie), the belief in extraterrestrial (Movement ralien), the techniques of meditation (Meditation transcendantale), even fraternity (New Acropolis) also make fast great strides.
These oriental and esoteric movements should not however make us forget the permanence, even the rise to power, of movements resulting from the Judeo-Christian trunk, which they are millenarists (Jehovah's Witnesses, nebula of the movements of the New Age) or [gurisseurs?] (Invitation with the Intense Life, IVI).
This evolution, traced rapidly, makes it possible to release a certain number of characteristics:
- increasing proliferation of these movements, relatively recent origin. No classification nor description can be regarded as final or satisfactory, so much of multiple movements mix the kinds or the influences previously definite: if the general information counts with a relative precision the movements being able to be qualified "sects", any enumeration on the matter incurs the reproach to be incomplete, because of its restrictive nature;
- the increasing part which plays in this movement the entirely new organizations of denominational origin proposing a total explanation of the world, to the detriment of the organizations being presented in the form of a secession, a schism of a Church previously established;
- evolution in the nature of the touched public. The Protestant movements of the first wave recruited their followers in relatively underprivileged mediums, at the adult people, generally of the female sex. The organizations being developed after 1968 were characterized by the youth and the co-education of their public, resulting in general from the middle class.
Beyond these elements relating to the nature of the sects, one in general notes other common points which, without applying to the whole of the sects quoted above, are nevertheless characteristic of an evolution of their structures and topics developed by them: it is thus the way in which are perceived the sects which is deeply modified.
The majority of the sects, continuing in an evolution started long ago, are organized on a pyramidal model guaranteeing the exercise of the capacity to the profit of a person (the guru) and/or of a restricted elite.
Like all the pyramidal structures, they rest on a cut between the basic followers and the leaders, moderated by the existence of intermediate levels, of which the number is reduced as one progresses towards the node.
It is established between these various levels of the complex links of dependence, organizing the distribution of the roles, the knowledge, the capacity. Such a system guarantees the existence of effective filters restricting the access paths to the guru or the elite, protected from the base by their insulation and the symbolic system to be able to them.
Reciprocally, the followers are rewarded for their fidelity by a progression within the sect, materialized by obtaining ranks and diplomas, even by more material benefit. The passage at a higher level is often the occasion of an initiatory ceremony.
Still it is advisable to stress that, in many movements, there coexist several types of pyramidal structures relating to the [cultuelle?] organization of teaching, of the administrative and financial services: this proliferation of the structures still rigidifies the described organization.
With the difference of the topics developed by the schismatic organizations of established Churches, which concentrate on a certain number of criticisms and alternative proposals of a religious nature, the speech held by new the sects makes a broad place with the individual improvement, preferred with the collective action or layman.
It is in this spirit that are generally promoted the topics of the personal example, of proselytism. For this reason is often preached, in various forms, a certain asceticism being characterized by the abstention from a certain number of practices (consumption of tobacco and alcohol), the promotion of new food or sexual practices, even the reduction of the time of the sleep.
To the extreme, such an asceticism can lead to the rupture with the former relations, with work for the partial or exclusive benefit of the sect, even with the conjugal life. Such an attitude of return on oneself or a restricted group is in contradiction with any external engagement with the sect.
It is conceived that the considerable evolution of nature, the structures, the topics developed by the sects modifies considerably the way in which they are perceived.
Whereas until the beginning of the years 1970, the warnings against the sects were before all the fact of the Churches, which were located in a resolutely theological and pastoral logic, overflows of certain organizations, the real or supposed confrontations with law and order or the personal freedoms contributed to a brutal modification in the way in which they are perceived.
This phenomenon resulted in the constitution of associations of defense (Center Roger Ikor, UNADFI in France) and the development of a relatively significant legal dispute. The gravity of the criminal intrigues of certain sects (attacks, collective suicides, assassinations) has rightly moved the media and the public opinion.
Source: J.P. MORIN - Futuribles - November 1994 - Table supplemented for events after 1994.
If it is advisable not to over-estimate the risks that occur in France of such overflows, an increased vigilance is essential.
And if the media's focus on extremely alarming trends should not result in covering all sects with the same reproach, it does not have either, while putting in "value" of the extreme minority groups, to result in underestimating the risks which the broader movements pose to their followers, a danger much more considerable although - and at the same time, because - it is much less obvious.
This remark is all the more significant since one can today count a certain number of indices which makes one think - and fear - that the sectarian phenomenon has considerable potentialities of development.
Two principal factors make it possible to advance the idea of a potential expansion of the sectarian phenomenon: the sects have indeed today powerful financial means powerful, put at the service of their active proselytism; especially, they meet significant needs, although expressed in a diffuse way.
It would be false to present the development of the sectarian phenomenon as being reduced exclusively to handling fragile personalities by coercive groups by the application of tested psychological techniques.
Such an explanation would be singularly reducing of an extremely complex phenomenon. The Commission could note that the sectarian phenomenon was on the contrary [indissociablement?] related to the existence of a request, needs which do not find an other means of being satisfied.
A doctor heard by the Commission, not very suspect of kindness with regard to the sectarian phenomenon, thus insisted on the complexity of dialectical between supply and demand in this field: "you meet the best and the worst in the sects (...). Sometimes, by means of the sects, of some people find a sense of belonging to a warm and friendly group, others find again a direction for their lives, others still are structured. Among my patients, some entered sects. I would not want for them to come out of there for anything in the world, because the sect is used by them temporarily as a tutor. Of course, that does not legitimize the whole of the phenomenon, but that is to say that there are very positive aspects. If that is not understood, the success of the sects will not be better understood. Our contemporaries are not imbeciles. If they are drawn by hundreds of thousands to these movements, it is because they have reasons and especially that they find answers there (...)"
The emergence of new spiritual needs results from the conjunction of a certain number of known factors, which will be recalled here only for memory.
It is certain that the dispute of the productivism, the collapse of the political ideologies, the questionings of science, the materialism, the continuous decline of the "traditional" religions strongly called into question the model on which the Western societies had developed since the 19th century.
This shock of the traditional beliefs and the great principles of social organization caused a number of disappointments, frustrations, attempts at redefinition. The uncertainty of the future consequently contributed to the multiplication of the groups proposing a total explanation of the Man, new religiosities.
This return of the religious or, more precisely, of the spiritual, paradoxically did not profit with the traditional Churches - and more particularly in France with the Catholic Church, always confronted with a continuous fall of the religious practice and vocations.
It was obviously not the role of the Commission to stick to a thorough study of this phenomenon. No one however, even within the Catholic Church, seeks to deny the shift between waitings of faithful or old faithful and the speech held by the Church sometimes, even if this one tries to release its responsibility by showing the contemporary mentality, which aims to "immediate satisfaction and material comfort, sets up 'absolute freedom' libert in absolu', without reference to the Truth and different values than those 'of the individual, medium and group.' The new forms of religiosity, the development of the sects reveal the gaps of 'practical atheism' which develops everywhere in Europe." (conclusions of the East-West Synod, 1991)
From the whole of these evolutions there has resulted a certain spiritual spontaneousness: the belief is lived today in a relatively libertarian way, in any case out of the traditional institutions.
It is on this compost favorable to the blossoming of new religious movements that the economic crisis and the upheaval of the family structures intervened.
The Vivien Report already noted "aspirations to more family happiness or to more emotional abundance and completeness than preexistent at the entry into a sect and that in spite of the appearance of harmonious family relations." The entry into a sect often represents a sedentary response to the expression of emotional or user-friendly needs which are not satisfied within the family or work framework.
Lastly, the individualism of the years 1980 caused a current preaching of personal transformation, the improvement of the capacities of each one. It is rare that this topic is not exploited by sectarian associations. One of the persons heard thus told the Commission, "it is true that if one mobilizes oneself, one increases one's capacities. The light functional disorders - small evils of belly, of head or rheumatisms - disappear for little that one has a strong motivation. The sects thus obtain results. It is true that one increases his capacities, it is true that if one mobilizes oneself around anything, even the worship of beet, one can become better, more extremely, more effective and more dynamic (...). We all are tempted to develop our potential. Who among us would not be? (...). the people are drawn to the sects because they do not find any more in the world that we built the reference marks to them, the means of mobilization, he credibility of the apparatuses. Of course, we are heavily responsible. One does not catch flies with vinegar. People need ideals. One enters a sect above all by ideal. One should not be mistaken. The sects handle a set language which one does not dare even any more to practise elsewhere!."
One will deliver finally the testimony of a former follower of a sect, particularly revealing of the reasons which can push individuals to be approved by such structures: "First of all, I believe that there is this evil of the century, this evil of living which is increasingly present. The family unit is often burst, the father in particular is often missing or, on the contrary, too present, by his violence for example. Through a sect, one seeks a family, a father on loan, an authority, a model which was missing to us. Day at the following day, one finds oneself with two hundreds, three hundred friends, who will receive you, who will accomodate you. You are covered. You will be heard. You feel in confidence.
The people who enter the sects are often idealists, people whoseek perfection, not always, but partly.
Personally, the family bursting, the idealistic desire pushed me.
The guru said to us: "The world goes bad." It is enough to watch television for an hour of information to be convinced some. There are wars, diseases, problems everywhere. The world goes bad. What can one do on a purely individual basis to test which it is better? This is what the guru proposed to us.
Did we want to improve the situation of the ground, planet, others? 'Start with yourself, start with you to transform and you will transform the world.' I believed in it. I changed to transform the world."
It is thus conceived that the vision of the world proposed by the sects allures a growing number of individuals in all the layers of the French population.
The assumption of a preexistent given profile at the entry into a sect and thus predisposing there, today is largely beaten in breach. Many studies showed that the psychological profile of the followers of the new religious groups is in a normal zone, even if the existence of a depressive episode seems a factor favorable to attraction to a sectarian group. As raised it the Vivien report, "even if one cannot conclude on the existence or not from a sectarian profile of customers, it seems that acute difficulties or sufferings, however, constitute a favorable compost."
It should in addition be announced that the topic of the individual improvement attracted towards the sects customers which were until recently inaccessible for them: that of the students (seeking to increase their performances for the success with an examination...), intellectual elites, and in particular scientists.
Many interlocutors of the Commission tried to explain this phenomenon by the difficulty for certain scientists of supporting the idea of doubt, and, consequently, by their attraction to movements proposing total explanations. In addition, the intellectuals for the majority are convinced of their capacity to resist the suggestive techniques of the sects: "Who more than an intellectual is certain not to be manipulated? The man in the street will be wary, but the intellectual will say: "I am not manipulable." The vulnerability of the elites precisely lies in their certainty that they will not be easy to manipulate."
It results from the preceding developments that it is particularly difficult - not to say impossible - to define a profile of the followers of the sects which is different from that of the general population.
Some tendencies can nevertheless be released:
In the same spirit, it should be noted that the Church of Scientology specified to the Commission that "its followers belong to all the social categories. They are mainly socially integrated and mature people since their average age is 35 years."
The recruitment techniques of of sects are largely known today. They are not based in any manner on a coercive process, unlike certain methods that are employed when the follower is better integrated within the sectarian structure, and which lead to practices of "collecting of express consent," as it hereafter will be seen. The characteristics of the methods of recruitment used by the sects explains the paradoxical situation of the new member of a sect who is a willing victim.
The recruitment techniques of the sects are pressed on a very great diversity of topics and instruments; the psychological steps of the future followers is better known today.
The topics of propaganda used by the sects are extremely varied. One will mention, in addition to the religious topics:
The instruments of propaganda used by sects are extremely varied: canvassing in the street or in residence, diffusion of newspapers, publicity by way of display or press, conferences, cycles of formation.
Whatever the topics and instruments used by the sects, the psychological steps of the future follower seems better known today.
As Dr. Jean-Marie Abgrall (author of The Captive Brain) indicates, "the recruitment of a follower passes by three phases, from which adhesion will be obtained gradually, at the same time as appears a form of intellectual and emotional dependence. In turn, the new follower will be allured, persuaded then fascinated by the sect and his member recruiters."
The first phase of recruitment is obviously that of seduction. It aims at proposing a tempting alternative to the difficulties of everyday life. It is rare that the future followers present themselves spontaneously to a sectarian structure: the first contacts generally take place on the initiative of the sect recruiting agents, themselves measured by the effectiveness of their proselytism.
The principle of seduction wants that the first contact is intended to support the process of identification between the recruiter and recruited. This identification rests on a certain number of criteria making it possible for the potential follower to perceive a similarity between himself and its interlocutor. This feeling can be obtained by resemblances of attitude, the systematic approval of the cogency of the questions expressed by the future follower. The success of this phase of seduction is of course largely conditional on the type of audience in which the recruiting will take place, and thus that of place of meeting, which is in general given according to their density of frequentation. Dr. Abgrall specifies thus that "door-to-door sales" (typical of Jehovah's Witnesses) will use canvassers in family (father, mother, child, or supposed such), the family recruiting being often illusory and made up without real family links. The "young framework dynamic" of the Scientologists will be more appropriate for canvassing in university cities, health clubs, or outdoor cafes (...). Who cannot recognize the young Mormon evangelists, with the close-cropped cut hair, the eternal navy blue blazer and the discrete club tie? How not to note the character good smart good but a little obsolete kind of the Jehovah's Witnesses?
All this has been the subject of deliberated choices, proceeding from a precise study of the image to transmit to others."
The feeling of identification is also obtained by the choice of the tools used for the initial contact: if the famous "personality test" of Church of Scientology can suggest that every passer-by appears somewhat [dsoeuvr?], the organization of a cycle of conference on ancient civilization will lend itself more to the concerns of some students and history faculty than to that of a pupil of economics, while others will be more drawn by an initiation with technique of communication or of improvement of effectiveness... One will recall finally that the principle of seduction had been thoroughly used in its ultimate logic by David Mose, founder of the sect Children of God, who had clearly preached "pche par le flirt" [literally "fishing by the flirt"] or "missionary solicitation" to recruit new followers, and whose movement was dissolved in 1978 for prostitution.
In any event, the recruiter must have a good capacity to perceive the framework of reference of his listener, his emotional components.
The second phase of recruitment, once the supposed links of sympathy are established, consists in persuading the future follower of the credibility of the speech. Lionel Bellanger (Persuasion, PUF, 1985) defines the "4 C's" of healthy persuasive communication: for a message to be persuasive while recognizing the supposed free will of the possible future convert, it is appropriate that this message is credible (it is necessary that it can be based on evidence), coherent (intrinsic absence of contradiction), consistent (continuity of the matter) and congruent (suitability between the delivered message and the expectations of the listener). The objective of the recruiter, in the field of proselytism, consists in making its listener gradually pass from the real world to that of beliefs, without triggering the phenomenon of final rejection. This progressive passage is obtained by fabrication (dressing-up of reality), simulation (credibilization of an erroneous message), dissimulation, calumny, ambiguity, all are techniques which make it possible to adapt to the expectations of the listener, to pass from persuasion to mystification. These techniques are not in themselves reprehensible; in any case, they form the basis for the actions of marketing of any kind and are not punishable by law. One of the personalities heard by the Commission thus presented the defense which could be called upon by the sects: "Everything is manipulation, one can't make anything of that. Business, politics, the process of love, democratic discussion, publicity, television, all aim at manipulating the people. In any event, one should not panic: everyone in the world manipulates everyone in the world."
It will be seen that the danger of the speech of persuasion used by the sects does not hold as well with the techniques used, as with the consequences of the adhesion to which they lead.
The last component of the step leading to adhesion is the fascination, generally obtained at the time of the meeting with the centerpiece of the sectarian dynamics (positive results with a test, assistance to a rite, meets guru, etc...), which will introduce the magic character into the relation between the future follower and the sect, will cause the irruption [bursting violently into] the symbolic universe of the sect and will lead to the will of engagement.
This quick overview of the dominant features of the techniques of recruitment used by sects shows the very particular character of the steps, which aim at obtaining the express assent of the future follower, and shows that the techniques implemented are not techniques of coercion but of persuasion: the follower is formally agreeing.
Several interlocutors of the Commission highlighted this paradox: the originality of the sectarian groups lies in the fact that, in particular during the process leading to adhesion, the victim is an actor [actor in the literal sense of one who acts, one who does, is not a passive victim]. A certain parallelism can be established with the stages of drug addicts: "We have controversies with the parents of drug addicts. Those think - in a certain way rightly - that without the horrible dealer their child would be an angel. They forget the nine tenths of the way which the unhappy child traversed, person in charge or not, but of his own will, to go into the arms of the aforesaid dealer. One should not exclude the voluntary share from the follower, who is not an imbecile that one would manipulate - it is you and me --, but (...) who went deliberately." Accordingly, the recruiters of the sects could be introduced as "dealers of transcendence." In this respect, an image used by a person heard by the Commission appears particularly ready to render the conscious character of the step of the future follower comprehensible: "the sects are not a net which falls down on people, but a bow net in which they go."
It is undeniable that a certain number of sects have particularly significant financial means.
Lafayette Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, had proclaimed besides, not without cynicism, in his speech at Newark: "If one wants to really become a millionaire, the best means consists in founding one's own religion."
This fact is obviously recognized by the majority of the leaders of the sects heard by the Commission, even if they were very evasive concerning the exact budgets of their associations. An appreciation of those thus remains largely the concern of those which are opposed to the sects, and thus incurs the risk of being considerably overestimated. That being, if the sect estimates that the information which circulates is not in conformity with reality, the burden of proof is on them to make a clearer presentation of their financial means, which is very far from being the case. They have little reason to complain - which they however do not fail to do - about the lack of objectivity in the judgements related to their financial base.
The collective work of the Roger Ikor Center "The Sects, State Emergency" comprises much information making it possible to become aware of the true financial empire of which certain associations consist.
The cases of the Moon sect or Scientology are too known to be pointed out here.
CCMM notes, concerning Transcendental Meditation, that the right to initiation is attached to the quarter of the monthly wages, that the price of a course of Sidhi amounts to 40,000 F [$6,564.00].
The same source advances, for the Ralien Movement, a contribution of 3% of the annual net income for admission to the French movement, of 7% for adhesion with the international movement, and of 10% for membership to the world government [geniocrat?].
The financial power of Soka Gakka results, according to the same source, from the recent real estate investments of the sect (domaine des Forges Trets, chteau des Roches Bivres) [(field of the Forging Mills at Trets, castle of the Rocks with Beavers)].
The importance of the sums concerned explains the strategy of many associations, which choose to be established in countries equipped with a "tolerant" tax legislation: thus it goes from there to the United States (where the first amendment with the Constitution is interpreted in an extremely liberal direction), many States of South America or former communist European countries.
The leaders of the sects heard by the Commission in general did not deny this financial power, going so far as, not without humor or cynicism, to affirm that their associations do not represent religions preaching poverty as a virtue.
They in general put forward:
Certain leaders even go so far as to recognize the particular links linking them with companies. In the written contribution deposited before the Commission by the Church of Scientology of Paris, one can thus read: "Moreover, like any citizen, certain scientologists work in the business world and for this reason direct private companies. It sometimes happens that they support the Church by financial gifts but this is not in any way an obligation. It is with the discretion of the person.
Lastly, there is a structure called WISE, the purpose of which is to gather companies having decided to employ the management technology of Mr. Hubbard and to create a business world where greater ethics reign."
As for the former followers, of which the Commission heard a certain number, it arises in their testimonies:
Such a situation does not leave by worrying: indeed, associations assign significant means to proselytism and in addition set up legal structures enabling them to increase the means of which they could profit.
Indeed, it was based upon a strict interpretation of the religious character of the associations which constitute the diverse religious movements and philosophies that the Council of State until now refused from some of them the benefit of the possibility of receiving gifts and legacy.
The decree Association Fraternity of the Servants of the New World (EC, 21/01/1983) thus confirms the legality of a decree of the Prime Minister, rejecting the administrative recourse of the association against a prefectoral decree which refused the authorization to accept a legacy because "to admit even that the association (...) has also as an aim the exercise of a worship, is to condone its creation of editions and its diffusion of doctrinal publications: since (...) it does not have such an object exclusively, that consequently it is unfounded to sustain that the attacked decree wrongly confirmed the prefectoral decision refusing the authorization to receive a legacy."
In a case of the same kind (Cultuelle [? worship in French = culte. My guess is that cultuelle means worshipful or religious. I will use this, but it is just a guess.] Association of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Paris, EC, 29/10/1990), the Council of State, without proposing the existence of a commercial activity as in the former case, confirms the rejection of the request of association: "Considering that under article 2 of its statutes... the purpose of the Religious Association of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Paris is in particular to "to promote the spiritual, educational, social, and cultural life of the Armenian community," that the applicant association cannot, consequently, be viewed as having for an exclusive goal the exercise of worship..."
It is for all of these reasons that a certain number of associations chose to distinguish several poles within their activities, while separating in particular from their exclusively religious activities, carried on within religious associations, their commercial activities (publishing, bookshop) carried out within limited liability companies.
Such a change, moreover perfectly legal, cannot however miss worrying, the majority of associations clearly displaying (and one cannot, from only a legal point of view, reproach their viewpoint) their will to assign to the expansion of their movement a big part of their financial means: all the leaders of the sects heard by the Commission affirmed the vocation of their association to develop and spread their beliefs by proselytism.
The importance from the means available to a certain number of sectarian associations, to which the documents given to the Members of the Commission testify in particular of the luxury of their activities, incontestably comes to reinforce the capacity of attraction of the sects and to augment the effectiveness of the recruitment techniques used.