Cults and NRMs in the 1960s and 70s
Posted by: Alecta ()
Date: October 06, 2010 01:46AM

Hi All,

I'm doing a research paper on cults and NRMs in the 1960s and 70s. While I have a few ideas of where to start looking, I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of some groups which there are a lot of information about or are particularly interesting, or where I could find information about how these kinds of groups were received in this time period. I'd like to profile at least three groups with different beliefs in the paper, probably doing one Bible-based, one New Age and one of something else interesting. I'll probably be using the Hare Krishna as a part of the paper since I already have a good primary source for them.

Thanks for any help,


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Re: Cults and NRMs in the 1960s and 70s
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: October 06, 2010 02:01AM

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Re: Cults and NRMs in the 1960s and 70s
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 06, 2010 03:15AM

Here are a few named because they continue to this day and remain influential, generated derivatives (spin offs) that remain influential to this day, or because so very many were affected as children that they are still haunted by after effects today.

EST/Werner Erhard--current form is Landmark Education and many others have taken the template and created their own LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training franchises)

Moses Berg (Bible Based)/Children of God used 'flirty fishing' to recruit--many who grew up in this group still trying to figure out what happened to them.

Rajneesh/Osho (the guru whose followers ran around in orange robes, influenced many therapists, moved to Oregon and whose followers tried to bias a local election by contaminating a salad bar with salmonella). Dead now, but followers call him Osho and some continue today. Others have gone on to swell the ranks of other guru led groups

SYDA Yoga (Muktananda) (currently lead by Gurumayi as Siddha Yoga)

TM (Transcendental Meditation) still active, still trying to worm its way into public schools via meditation classes in which the religious agenda is hidden

Carlos Castaneda--commercialized shamanism ripped it away from its roots in the tribal communities and pioneered using a bricolage method in which bits and shards from a wide variety of texts and groups is jumbled together by one enterprising and dishonest person and called shamanism. Castaneda used material from academic anthropologists whose work was later found to be flawed, and never produced field notes, recordings or any evidence that met the conventional academic standards for defending a Ph.D dissertation.

Later, Castaneda formed a personality cult called Tensegrity and one of his inner circle members, Amy Wallace, published a memoir describing what she and others had been through. The book is called Sorcerers: Apprentice: My Life With Carlos Castaneda

A detailed website, has a vast amount of published material from former members of Castaneda's groups, and a forum. Castaneda's influence on the larger culture was vast and led many tribal nations in the US to take action and
defend their culture from intrusion and commercial exploitation.

A discussion thread on Castaneda on New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans forum--by persons who are from the American tribal nations and know what they are talking about.


Here finally are a pair of words which may be of use in your project

bricolage--a process of assembling something from an assembly of whatever happens to be available.

briocoleur---a person who creates an identity by using bits and elements from current culture, plus what he (or she) intuits to be metaphors, shared hopes and dreams in his or her audience.

Many charismatic cult leaders practice bricolage--they borrow elements from a wide variety of sources and with a kind of intuitive artistry, create public selves, public performances that mirror expectations, hopes, dreams and tap into whatever local conditions deem important.

Cult leaders have been doing this for centuries. In the 18th century at least two such persons were Casanova and to a much greater extent, Balsamo Cagliostro.

In his biography of Cagliostro, entitled The Last Alchemist, Ian McCalman tells us about the role of the genteel hustler, the professional adventurer. Focusing first and briefly on Casanova, McCalman describes how part of this bricolage process worked:

'These were adventurers: men who lived on chance and imposture...Casanova excellend in Europe's riskiest profession. Every substantial town or city swarmed with members of his fraternity. There were no fixed credentials in this business, no certain pitches, no reliable sources of income...Europes myriad petty rulers craved novelty and spectacle: all a good adventurer needed was to select the right hook for local conditions. (page 19)

Then, McCalman offers us a suggestion on how young Cagliostro, in a mixture of personal sincerity and social opportunism found entry into Freemasonry both a social platform and a source of personal meaning--and material on which to improvise.

'(Cagliostro) discovered (in himself-Corboy) a real talent for this kind of bricolage--he found that he could create plausible new identities by patching together bits and pieces of other people's. After all, Sicilians had been borrowing from thier invaders for centuries.

Earlier McCalman suggests a process by which Cagliostro, after his first Masonic initiation, might have begun to do this. Note that in the 18th century, Cagliostro's "hook for local conditions" meant reading pamplet literature that was read by or read aloud to poorer persons and that repeated legends and images that played an important role in people's expectations, their hopes, their inner lives.

'(Cagliostro) began to experiment with the idea of taking over elements of the popular magical legends that circulated in comic like chapbooks read by common people. He was intrigued, for example, by stories of a mysterious dark clothed magician called Frederico Gualdo who, though he lived in Venice during the 16th century, was also found in a portrait painted centuries before. How could one explain such a mystery--reincarnation, or immortality?

'An even older popular legend told the story of the Wandering Jew, a shopkeeper called Ahasuerus who'd been condemned to suffer on earth forever because he struck Christ on the way to Calvary. By Guiseppe Cagliostro's day, the Wandering Jew was also said to have become a world traveller and carrier of occult secrets such as the philosopher's stone and the universal elixir of life.

'Guiseppe was particularly impressed with the fantastic stories that clung to a real life contemporary adventurer a little older than himself, called Count Saint-Germain. This flamboyant magician had pioneered a process of making himself the real life hero of traditional folk legends. (Corboy italics)

'If Count Saint-Germain could do it, why not Balsamo/Guiseppe Cagliostro?

The Last Alchemist by Ian McCalman, pages 34-35)

This page of another more academic text repeats this same idea.


So, if you do your project, this is the pattern of activity you may want to consider investigating as a common feature underneath the different movements you select;

'The process of making oneself the real life hero of traditional folk legends.' --- through the process of assembling elements from different narratives and images that are carry a high emotional charge in the audience that the ambitious leader aims to ingratiate--a process of creating a public persona from different elements of stories, from an audiences hopes, dreams, inner images--a process of appropriation called bricolage.

To do this, Cagliostro had to be able to read the chapbooks.

Today, we have access to TV, movies, the internet, can use counting devices on websites to calculate which sites and stories get the most attention.

I can tell you that in the early 1990s, I found elements later popularized in The Secret in a pair of earlier books that today are not nearly so famous.

And I first read about the Count de Saint-German when, as a kid in the 1970s, I got a copy of Erich Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods?--that book was a swap meet, a bricolage of material from earlier books.

Much of this stuff is recycled from Madame Blavatsky's books and she in turn borrowed material from yet other, earlier sources.

So, get a feel for this 'borrowing'/bricolage process.

And get and read Len Oakes classic, Prophetic Charisma--he interviewed a group of charismatic leaders and found common elements in thier stories. All of them had worked hard to create their careers and identities and all of them had trouble with adult, peer to to peer relationships. They had to relate from behind a mask, and within the structure of a teacher/disciple relationship.

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