Cult-like similarities

Discussion of cults generally - not specifically related to the SES or its related organisations.
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Cult-like similarities

Postby Goblinboy » Mon May 29, 2006 5:27 am

Saw the Channel 4 documentary by Mark Dowd on Opus Dei last night, and was struck by numerous similarities in the apparent behaviour of the Catholic sect and the SES/SEOS/SOP (tick where applicable).

These included lack of transparency, charismatic founder revered as a benevolent father figure, targetting of moneyed elites as suitable members, recruitment through information talks, great wealth through donations and bequests, strong ideas on gender roles, strong commitment to service, varying levels of participation and involvement including complete devotion to the cause, physical mortification, establishment of their own schools, etc, etc.

I guess there are numerous organisations with similar cult-like tendencies, but hearing members and ex-members interviewed sounded uncannily like I was eavesdropping on the world of Leon MacLaren (no Da Vinci code jokes please).

Saint James
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but I thought SES have a different god?

Postby Saint James » Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:01 pm

correct me if I am wrong

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Sam Hyde
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Postby Sam Hyde » Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:55 pm


physical mortification.......REALLY?

keep 'em coming!


:p sam!
thats old now, like me, only 4 weeks to go!!!!!
"I've never let my schooling interfere with my education"

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Sat Jun 10, 2006 8:20 am

physical mortification.......REALLY?

Is that like a spanking???? In which case I can see McLaren really going for it! LOL

"Oooooh a spanking, a spanking"

Oh where would we be without Python?
Relatives with long-term involvement in the SES / SOP/ SoEP

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Postby daska » Sat Jun 10, 2006 1:25 pm

Sam Hyde wrote:HAHAAH

physical mortification.......REALLY?

keep 'em coming!


:p sam!

Sam, I don't remember any suggestion that I should deliberately self harm, but if you consider 'mortification' can be used as a term to describe self denial and privation then it's very apt.

And I bet there's more than a few ex-pupils who ended up self-harming to some degree as a result of their experiences.

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Re: Cult-like similarities

Postby sly_gryphon » Thu Jul 20, 2006 1:24 pm

Goblinboy wrote:Saw the Channel 4 documentary by Mark Dowd on Opus Dei last night, and was struck by numerous similarities in the apparent behaviour of the Catholic sect and the SES/SEOS/SOP (tick where applicable).

In general, religious based schools are obviously designed to promote their religion, hopefully in a more benign way than less.

This appears pretty much true whether it is a Catholic school, or one based on Hindu Advaita. I think learning to chant hymns in Sanskrit is no more or less relevant than learning to sing Ave Maria in Latin.

I see little difference between a Catholic girls school being keen to encourage their students to become nuns and encouragement to join the SES/SOP.

The stereotypical Christian "priest abusing the alter boys" seems not far off from the terrible treatment that has been reported by ex-students of St James. At least it appears to me as if St James / SES is trying to address the situation (as do other churches).

I suppose one of the biggest issues is cultural -- to a western society the Christian church (Catholic, Anglican, whatever) is simply so much a part of life that most people simply accept it.

I guess that in India, having a Hindu Advaita based school would be normal, as would having children chant Sanskrit portions of the Bhagavad Gita (not to mention that Devanagari -- a common script to write Sanscript -- is also used for several North Indian languages.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to address your topic as to whether the SES is a "cult".

Certainly all religions, almost by definition, share "cult-like similarities" (pretty much by definition any religion involves mystical knowledge and promotes theirs as the one true way). An appropriate quote could be "the difference between a cult and a religion is several hundred years".

BTW. I very much like the Peguin/Bob icon you have for the site; an appropriate image (although I tend in a slightly different direction).

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Postby Matthew » Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:09 pm

What you say is true, Sly. However, there is one critical difference which you have failed to point out: With catholic schools there is total transparency up front about exactly what kind of an organisation it is BEFORE you part with your money and BEFORE you send your beloved children there. Unfortunately, as many people have learnt at such tragic cost, this is certainly NOT the case with the SES, and certainly one of many hallmarks that DOES categorise it as a cult.

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Re: Cult-like similarities

Postby bonsai » Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:42 pm

sly_gryphon wrote:In general, religious based schools are obviously designed to promote their religion, hopefully in a more benign way than less.

I agree and at St James it was a hardly benign. The amazing thing that highlights this is the appendix in Marco Goldshmied's 1996 report that describes the ideal St James student and the definite no nos.

At St James there was (and I suspect there still is to a lesser degree) a discrimination between those who were in the SES and those who were not.

sly_gryphon wrote:Certainly all religions, almost by definition, share "cult-like similarities" (pretty much by definition any religion involves mystical knowledge and promotes theirs as the one true way). An appropriate quote could be "the difference between a cult and a religion is several hundred years".

In fact I believe that most human behaviour and relationships share cult like similarities. Humans use considerable deception, persuasion and manipulation most of the time and in most of their relationships. In most organisations however there are defined processess and responsibilities to act as checks and balances to ensure abuses do not occur. These checks and balances and true accountability seem to be lacking when it comes to the SES and St James.


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Postby Alban » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:45 pm

At this point, let's not forget that the SES do not even describe themselves as a religion or of themselves as promoting one.

That in itsef would be a huge step!


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Postby HoHumBug » Tue Aug 29, 2006 6:58 am

Bonsai refers to the ideal student described in Appendix 5 of the 1996 Goldschmied report. In the context of cults Appendix 4 of the same report is an interesting run down of cult traits and the seemingly inevitable errors by their adherents. These appear remarkably consistent across all cults, supremacist movements and many religions too. The only difference seems to be the emphasis different ‘followers’ give to one or more of the errors according, presumably, to particular time, place and psychological make-up. It would appear that, once committed, these errors rapidly become an integral and ‘precious’ part of the set up and are almost impossible to reverse without dismantling the organisation. The list is attached below in full.

Appendix 4. Errors in interpretation of a teaching leading to cult like behaviour
Usually such groups are predominantly white middle class with token people from other races; special preparations and efforts are made to recruit wealthy, well-known, powerful, or influential people; young people with little money are recruited for their free labour.
They consider their group to be the highest and only 'conscious' school .......... only they will establish a new renaissance on earth.
They show a mix of friendliness, superiority, and a slight arrogance.
Use of the word “I" is often substituted with 'It' or 'This one'

A description of this multi-named group is available from:
•The Observer newspaper in England
•Secret Cult by Peter Hounam and Andrew Hogg
•The Secret World of Cults-Inside the Sects that Take Over Lives by Jean Richie
•Call No Man Master - Fifty Years of Spiritual Adventure, In Praise of Teachers but Wary of Gurus by Joyce Collin-Smith.

There are characteristic errors on the way which people can make in work on themselves. It is necessary to examine yourself regularly for the presence of any of these errors. When you find you have strayed onto one of these false paths, remember yourself and how you fell subject to it, correct the error to return to the way as soon as possible, and do your best to avoid it in future.

Some of these errors feed each other. They include:
'Sacred Science'
Loading the Language
Doctrine over Person
Dispensing of Existence
Intentional Insincerity/Heavenly Deception
Starry-Eyed Student
Form of the School
Shiny New Mask
Lunatic Super-effort and Competition
Energy Junkie/Addict
Perpetual Student
False Awakening
Personal Salvation/Cock-on-the-Dungheap
Renaissance Ark

'Sacred Science':
Maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence; evident in the prohibition (explicit or implicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, in the reverence demanded for the originators of the teaching, the present bearers of the teaching, and the teaching itself; while thus transcending ordinary concerns of logic, however, it makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute 'scientific' precision.

Loading the Language:
Uses language characterised by the thought-terminating cliché the most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorised and easily expressed (formatory phrases).

Doctrine over Person:
Subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine, evident in the continual shift between experience itself and the highly abstract interpretation of such experience, between genuine feelings and a spurious cataloguing of feelings; produces a peculiar aura of half-reality in the environment, at least to the outsider.

Dispensing of Existence:
Draws a sharp line between two groups: those whose right to existence can be recognised (e.g. 'school' people), and those who possess no such right (e.g. 'life' people); but declares that by entering the thought reform environment, such 'life' people can make themselves over into 'school' people.

Talk-Think Error:
Talking and thinking about the work instead of doing it. Mistaking the use of a specialised language for doing the work. Unable to explain work ideas in ordinary language.

Intentional Insincerity/Heavenly Deception Error:
No compunction in deceiving people outside the group to attain the wants of the group, ultimately deceiving oneself; will often think about or express ideas which have an element of truth in them, but which when viewed on a larger scale are false.

Starry-eyed Student Error:
Fanatical devotion to, obedience to, or belief in a teacher or system to exclusion of all others.

Form of the School Error:
Forming a crystallized hierarchy based on elapsed time in the school and closeness to the teacher rather than on personal level of being, and insisting that the 'form of the school' must be maintained exactly as received.

Shiny New Mask Error:
Forming a shiny new mask containing habits of dress, speech, movement, thought, and so on, in imitation of other members of the school or group and mistaking this for real inner development.

Lunatic Super-effort and Competition Error:
Belief that one must approach the Work with a grim determination which produces feelings of tension, discomfort, self-punishment, and competition.

Sunday-Go-To-Church Error:
Habit of making efforts only when in the presence of a teacher or other members of school.

Energy Junkie Error:
Habit of coming to school to feed off the energy of the group without making personal efforts.

Perpetual Student Error:
Staying in a school or group for life without ever graduating.

False Awakening Error:
Delusion that 'Only I truly understand the teacher', or that 'Only I personally am', or 'only my group or school is’, 'in contact with higher forces' or 'God'; this error occurs in several forms:

Personal Salvation Error/Cock-on-the-Dungheap (subset of false awakening error):
Delusion that I personally will or can be saved, enter 'heaven', survive death, and so on.

Renaissance Ark (subset of false awakening error):
Delusion that my group is the:
•'true school'
•'conscious school on Earth'
•'conscious school since the time of Christ'
•'true representatives or heirs of the work' or that only my 'school':
•will survive a soon-to-come destruction of civilization
•has a divine mission to serve as an ark of culture and consciousness for humanity
•will survive to establish a new civilisation or renaissance on Earth

Buy Your Way to Heaven Error (subset of Renaissance Ark):
Acquiring or displaying pretty objects to 'improve the impressions octave' without corresponding inner work.

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