Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: nccg_concern ()
Date: July 28, 2006 06:29PM

Are there any examples of charismatic type cult founders who have been helped or perhaps been reformed? What are the issues involved? Can it be done or is it almost universally accepted as Mission Impossible?

I found this: [] but he was a senior leader, not the founder.

I think I can see a number of things that would make any such reformation be extremely challenging if not impossible in some cases, but I can't speak from a broad base of experience.

Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: barabara ()
Date: July 29, 2006 01:07AM

If the cult leader was a deluded megalomaniac, would it be possible to treat him/her in a therapeutic setting? It seems like it might, but what is the prognosis for extreme narcissism? Not good, I think. Narcissists have too well developed a defense system and tend not to respond to therapy, I have read.

What about the sociopath cult leader who is perfectly aware of his own lies, but continues to promote them for financial gain? I think therapy has even less of a success rate with sociopaths, but I'm not certain.

Combine the two traits and you have an opportunistic narcissist who is heavily invested in their own reality, and would be extremely reluctant to submit to the embarrassment of admitting he/she had been wrong.

Extremely challenging to say the least.

Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: nccg_concern ()
Date: July 29, 2006 03:17AM

too well developed a defense system

Yeah. I sense something similar to that: the exact dynamics of the situation that would be perpetuated and re-verified over and over again for the cult founder, as the person lived out their years in their self-created delusion, seems like it would work precisely against the things that would be needed to fix the person. The huge amount of denial it takes to stay like that for years on end, while at the same time the person is manipulating the situation around the cult members to bring about success, point to the same thing.

(I can't shake the impression that if delusional cult founders had any reasonable chance of being reformed, there would be more talk about it elsewhere on this board and over the internet. There would be reformed cult founders doing a bit like Steve Hassan did, turning to the "other side" to help others).

Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: nccg_concern ()
Date: July 29, 2006 07:02AM

Yeah you know... I don't think I'm going to give this much more thought. If someone else has input, lets hear it, but otherwise... blah.

I have a straight window directly into some of the live workings of a cult I have been researching (and it's been extremely educational, eh..). I'm reading recent announcements made by the founder/leader of the cult, and noting this baloney:

Christopher Warren (NCCG)
C. Spiritual and Physical Attacks: In connection with #B above, we have been subject to relentless spiritual attack more or less rounf the clock by the covens who at the beginning of this year switched their tactics and tried to physically attack us as well. In this they were completely defeated. Nevertheless they continue to harrass us with low-flying aircraft, often swooping down at roof-top level as reported in the following links in #B. For a picture of the latest aircraft intrusion see:

>> []

The "attacks" are a complete, 100% imaginary fantasy that was played up to a fever pitch during the days they were supposed to have happened earlier this year.

The aircraft thing is based on a one-time incident (as opposed with "often") in which a low-flying aircraft passed over the compound several times while the founder was outside. Within a few days of learning this, I contacted the authority for the Swedish airspace and asked what it was. They believed it was a guy taking flying lessons.

Christopher Warren (NCCG)
D. Abuse by 'Cult Deprogrammers': A more recent problem has been harrassment, psychological abuse, possible kidnapping and attempted brainwashing on at least two of investigators by self-styled 'cult deprogrammers' who are tied in with #B & C. This shady business with its criminal record is detailed in another thread in this Group at the following link:

>> []

He is referencing one voluntary exit counseling session and, I believe, one member who has never seen the face of an exit counselor but whose parents are desperately trying to fix their kid's ravaged mind with the help of mental health professionals. The 'criminal' reference is there because the founder grabbed all of the ridiculous, defamatory Scientology-sponsored articles he could find in an effort to prove to himself and his cult members that exit counselors are just evil criminals.

Using this one as an example (he is the one I am most familour with), the information is constantly twisting in his mind, and even the memories distort to match the false reality he's living in. If most of them are like that... you know? How the hell could this ever be fixed when the world he lives in exists only in his mind. God, please kill me if I somehow start becoming like that.


Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: nccg_concern ()
Date: July 30, 2006 07:07PM

Mary Alice Crapo had much the same thing to say as you did, Barabara. In the event that the founder/leader has himself been programmed, sometimes it can be done (and she's participated in a successful effort to help one, in fact). However, in the event of a true narcissist cult founder, it is impossible.

I don't think she minds my posting this here, I'll show her the post and delete it if she has a problem with it.

Re: Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: al3r ()
Date: March 10, 2008 01:27PM

I can't every recall any major Charismatic leader in my lifetime ever admitting that they can't really heal. They get so deluded, I don't think they ever come clean.

I just wish I could meet Benny Hinn face to face and ask him, "Benny, can you really heal people". When he says yes, I ask him. "How come you never set foot in cancer wards of hospitals then. You could really be used by God there".

Oh, that's right, cause you can't really heal except as part of a show.

Re: Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 10, 2008 10:57PM

Len Oakes, a clinician and also a research psychologist, did a survey of 20 charismatic leaders. He had once been in a commune run by such a person and felt he had benefitted, but chose to leave the group when troubled by some changes.

After Oakes left, his former leader self destructed and took the group down with him.

Oakes felt the power of charisma, felt he had benefitted, but also had witnessed, with sorrow and puzzlement the real harm that was done. So he did his research
warmly sympathetic to the humanity of charismatic leaders, the vulneability and deep faith of their followers--and painfully aware of the dangers for all concerned.

Oakes studied the lives and methods of his sample of 20 charismatic leaders and found that they all had some degree of narcissistic personality disorder. They were unable to enjoy intimate relationships with adult equals. Instead, they compensated for this lack by becoming avid students of social manipulation and communication arts--and business/marketing.

Oakes' book is entitled Prophetic Charisma and its well worth reading.

If a charsmatic leader has spent years insulating him or herself with the the help of a selected entourage and large bank account, he or she will probably lose quite a few ordinary social skills (eg patience, the ability to accept differences of opinion, the ability to feel frustrated without exploding and dumping on an underling) and have little incentive to function any other way than as this kind of leader---someone who functions in a drastically unequal power imbalance and who hides the real self behind a public persona and whose emotional needs and flare ups are modulated and managed by an entourage who parent and nurture the guru and cover up for him or her.

The only possiblity for recovery might be some drastic form of hitting bottom and long term residential treatment at a facility where no one can be manipulated or charmed.

A grave pitfall for recovering disciples is to have more care and concern for their leader's healing than for their own well being.

It is safer, especially in the early stages to concentrate on ones own healing and leave the leader to deal with the consequences of his or her chosen lifestyle.

Leaders are powerholders and yet have a remarkable ability to get us to parent them and mourn for them at the expense of ourselves.

The former disciple needs to re-discover that his or her own life and self is worthy of attention, compassion and care. Former disciples have to pay their own rent and do their own shopping, unaided by an entourage of protectors and handlers.

Compassion is just as real when directed toward oneself--it doesnt become real only when devoted to a powerful leader...

IMO These leaders for all their power, are quite good at getting people to worry more about their welfare (which is well taken care of, at least financially), and this drains energy needed to care for one's own welfare.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/10/2008 11:07PM by corboy.

Re: Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: terrenaut ()
Date: March 11, 2008 04:17AM

oh my goodness Corboy, you certainly nailed that one.

I would like to post parts of this in another thread. May I?

I honestly think the only way these cult founders can be helped is if everyone goes away, and they have to face life as it is. Real life, that is. Of course, as you say, former disciples would still be worrying more about their fallen guru than they would about themselves, which only serves to further the whole delusion. i see no hope.

Re: Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: Sallie ()
Date: March 14, 2008 10:49PM

HI. I know for a fact, an absolute fact of personal experience, that manipulative controlling and narcissistic people DO BENEFIT from therapy but NOT like you would think.
These people are adaptable. They have chamelian like charm. When in therapy they learn from the therapist how to 'act like' a therapist in order to manipulate and control others. There are tools that a therapist uses in an attempt to ''understand'' the client. These people learn and use those tools. They learn to 'act' like a therapist. This helps them gain the trust of others. I know. I speak from personal experience. I have had psycho-babble used on me in a sick and disgusting way.

Re: Can charismatic cult founders be helped or reformed?
Posted by: apostate ()
Date: March 16, 2008 05:32AM

I would have to agree with the point that abusive narcissistic leaders do learn to adapt to the therapeutic questioning style they are subjected to and then to emulate it in their continued abuse of others. They become "slicker".

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