Mental Training Workgroup

 Sect, Cult or - ?

Recommendations and Hints for Successful Mental Training

Definitions -- Differences between Cult and Culture -- New Cultural Movements -- Decision Criteria


The word "sect" means, literally taken, actually "splintered off" (the Protestant Church would therefore be a "sect" of the Catholic). The word is being used today - not really correctly - for movements like the Church of Scientology, which have developed independently from any mainstream religion, and have not splintered off from another, earlier movement.

The correct word for such an independently grown, but socially isolated and undemocratically managed group would really be "Cult".



The american author Enid Vien coined the following definitions in 1993:

Cult: A group following the philosophical or religious teachings of a leader without evaluating the data for themselves.

Culture: A set of agreements which a group has which delineates the boundaries for its social interactions.


 Differences between Cult and Culture:

You see that the boundaries between these two definitions are not really sharp. So-called "cultures" like Islam or the Chinese, where democracy and human rights are being neglected, are actually a "cult" in the true meaning of the definition, no matter how big and politically important they are.

The population is forbidden to think for themselves; the education of the offspring consists of a "drill" towards socially accepted behaviour - instead of teaching knowledge which would allow young people to develop their own judgement and become mature citizens.

In such a "culture" there is no more evolution possible, as it is forbidden to explore new paths, and people get punished for their creativity, sometimes even with the death sentence. We see exactly the same pattern in today's psycho-sects: They are systematically raising "followers"; criticism is frowned upon (including constructive criticism); every attempt at independent thinking is being suppressed more or less brutally.


 New Cultural Movements

On the other hand there might exist smaller groups and movements within a culture, which have developed a different cultural pattern, but are in themselves democratic and allow the development of an independent personality. If their thoughts are successful, such cells could turn into the source of new values for society and provide "fresh blood". For this reason it would be a mistake to outlaw them without evaluation and confuse them with other, mostly destructive groups.

A historically interesting example for such a process would be nudism, where an agreement exists that naked bodies are something natural and normal. Nudism is different enough from the surrounding culture - where nude bodies are not yet generally accepted - to warrant high and closed walls around their beaches. But in itself nudism is not cult-like.

Here some people have banded together who have defined their own social rules, but in a democratic way and without being forced to copy the thought patterns of a "Fuehrer" like puppets. Nudism has introduced a very positive, free and proud body-feeling into our culture and has led to the removal of old restrictions in many cases.


 Decision Criteria

In a similar way, there could develop completely new thought structures in our society. They might make us frown at first because we are not used to them, but in the end the question is always: Are democracy and human rights being held in honour? Is independent thinking allowed? Is there a constructive dialogue between the "top" and the "broad majority"?

These very simple general criteria should enable you to orient yourself easily in today's broad market of "mental", "psycho" or "esoteric" offers. Once you have certainty that such a group will not pull you into a cult, the only important question is whether you personally find the support there which you expect and which brings you forward in your life.

But there is one more question which is really substantial:


Our Personality - a Brain Function?


Fair Exchange...



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This page last changed on: 30. Mrz 13