Thursday, September 12, 2013

Joseph Szimhart ('sim-hart)

cult 101 from my perspective, but I hope it helps you.

some definitions

Cult. 1. A system of religious worship and ritual. 2. A religion or sect considered extremist or false. 3.a. Obsessive devotion to a person or principle; b. The object of such devotion. (The American Heritage Dictionary, 1994)
this site concentrates on the second and third definitions, we will not ignore the primary one as they all work to define one social activity. For more about cult and its meaning, see the section under Religion.

Brainwashing. Intensive, forcible indoctrination aimed at replacing a person's basic convictions with an alternative set of fixed beliefs. (The American Heritage Dictionary
This history of how we acquired this term brainwashing is study in itself. Briefly, writer Edward Hunter coined "brainwashing" in 1951 in an article about American prisoners of war who were forcibly indoctrinated by North Koreans. He derived it from the Chinese hsi nao, literally "wash brain" but properly translated as "thought reform." Thought reform for the larger, sacred cause of the group agenda was (is) a good thing in Communist China. And it was not always forcible or intense. As follow-up on the Korean prisoners of war showed, forcible "brainwashing" is not as effective as thought reform through systematic indoctrination based on rapport and psychological manipulation rather than physical force. The goal in both approaches is to "recruit" and take control of a person. Once the "gun" was removed from the heads of the brainwashed POW nearly all reverted to their previous personality and beliefs.

Thought Reform.& Not in my dictionaries. Robert J. Lifton defined this concept in his now classic study published in 1961, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism in which he described eight themes for it to be effective. His work was based partly on interviews he conducted with Chinese affected by communism. Margaret T. Singer, Ph.D., who recently passed away, defined six conditions for thought reform in her book Cults in Our Midst (1995). For a summary of both versions go to: Both of these authors observed that a charismatic leader with immoderate ideals is most effective in maintaining devotion through a high demand system. Steve Hassan , a student of both authors and mind control proposed in his book Releasing the Bonds& a 4 part model for a thought reform environment: Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotional controls. As John Marks concludes in his penetrating book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control, brainwashing works most effectively when it mimics religious conversion, something that cannot be forced through imprisonment, drugs or physical torture.

Thought control 1. The practice by a totalitarian government as attempting (as by propaganda) to prevent subversive and other undesirable ideas from being received and competing in the minds of the people with the official ideology and policies. 2. The use of a group or institution of authoritarian techniques similar in nature and purpose to governmental thought control. (Webster's Third International Dictionary)

Mind Control. Also not in my dictionaries. However it is a popular expression that swings several ways: 1. I control of my own thoughts. 2. Someone or something is invading or controlling my thought processes. 3. Group influence determines how I control my thoughts. 4. I conform my thought to beliefs defined by a group or a guru.

The following helps put what we have covered so far into context:
Socially problematic cultic characteristics include combined behaviors such as:

1. Compliance with a group
2. Dependence on a leader
3. Avoiding dissent
4. Devaluing outsiders

(for more on these characteristics, see The Wrong Way Home by Arthur J. Deikman, 1990: Beacon Press). The more extreme these behaviors, the more potential for abuse in any group activity or relationship.
In general Cult activity refers to any devotional or ritualistic attention to a person, doctrine or object. Most religions have cult activity, or a cult, that is central to devotional activity.

Cult in perspective: Christianity in its various forms has the cult of devotion to Jesus Christ. (btw, I'm a practicing Catholic). Catholics have the cult of the Eucharist during which they receive the "body and blood" of Jesus. In ancient Judaism they had the cult of the Ark of the Covenant. Some Asian religions have the cult of ancestor worship. Vampires of legend practice the cult of drinking blood. Northwest Native Americans have the cult of totem animals. I have many books with cult in the title that do not focus on destructive groups, for example, The Japanese Cult of Tranquility by Karlfried Durckheim (1991), The Plato Cult by David Stove (1991), and Cult of the Cat by Patricia Dale-Green (1980). Labeling something a cult tells us little or nothing about the morality or ethics of the person or group that supports such cult activity. You must answer the question: What kind of cult are you talking about and what do they do?

If cult participants follow the four patterns suggested by Deikman above, they become vulnerable to thought reform and mind control.

Thought reform (see What is Thought Reform) occurs when the psychological environment of someone is manipulated to engineer and sustain a change in personality, goals, and attitudes that conform with a group agenda. Mind control occurs when the participant in a thought reform environment has internalized the suggestions and adopted the behaviors to the point where the recruit "polices" his or her thoughts and actions according to stated agendas. If there are hidden agendas the deception can undermine a group member's ability to question or criticize. If the group member is privy to the hidden agenda, the "secret" controls their loyalty and ability to communicate with outsiders who do not deserve to know secrets because they have not yet been initiated.

Sometimes these secrets are so guarded that rejection of them or revealing them to undeserving hordes or undeserving persons is punishable. 2500 years ago the cult of Pythagoras is an example of the initiate sect that punished "traitors" with threat of death. Modern Mormonism, Scientology and Masonic movements have similar, guarded secrets. They would argue that it their right to keep secrets as they are "sacred." Many gangs that operate like cults institute such vows, and we can also find evidence in the history of the Mafia or Casa Nostra. Punishment can be overt as in harassment, lawsuit, assault or even homicide. It can also come in less tangible forms like the suggestion (phobia indoctrination) of returning karma, of hell, of mental and physical illness, of demon possession, of accident and other "deserved" misfortune.

In summary, the more intense or closed the influence/thought reform/brainwashing the more likely a person will suffer psychological closure, thus making of them a more effective or deployable agent of the group agenda. Exiting the cult thereafter has powerful implications as one's new identity, life investment and group relationships are a high price to pay for rejecting the group. Walking away ain't so easy.

Next we can learn from different disciplines.
Sociology and cult

Most basic courses in sociology offer only a brief mention of the cult problem. For example, in one "quick study" outline I have it states under Religion/Varieties: 3. Sects and Cults, a. Contrary to dominant society, b. Little formal training of leadership, often based on charismatic qualities of person, c. Members enter sect through adult conversions. Typically a course might spend one class or part of a class on cults and sects. Sociology does not use a medical approach, therefore it is not in the business of diagnosis and treatment. This does not mean that sociology ignores the harm some cults inflict, but it does tend to argue for the rights of minorities and marginal religion putting it at odds with anti-cult crusaders who seek to remedy harm. Nor is sociology bereft of information. On the contrary the controversial behaviors associated with closed cult systems are studied throughout sociology if by other names.

Consider these dozen papers among 46 included in Down to Earth Sociology, Eight Edition edited by James M. Henslin, 1995:          Life among violent people: "Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomano"/ Napoleon A. Chagnon. Subtle conformance to internalized culture : "The Sounds of Silence" / Edward T. Hall, Mildred R. Hall. The power of groups: "If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute a Stranger, Would You? Probably" / Philip Meyer (this is about the important Stanley Milgram experiments that demonstrate that you and I could easily have been obedient Nazis). Building a nourishing social structure: "Communal Life-Styles for the Elderly" / Arlie Hochschild. And under a section titled DEVIANCE AND SOCIAL CONTROL, Keeping people in their place: "Eating Christmas in the Kalahari" / Richard Borshay Lee. Effects of labels: "The Saints and the Roughnecks" / William Chambliss. The deviance of social control: "The Pathology of Imprisonment" / Philip G. Zimbardo (who is well known for his excellent contributions to understanding cult behaviors). Wealth and Power : "The Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats" / G. William Domhoff. The final solution : "Genocide in Cambodia" / Eric Markusen. When cultures collide : "The Amazon's Savvy Indians" / Marlise Simons. Managing social change: "Social Change Among the Amish" / Jerry Savells. Struggling for identity: "Searching for Roots in a Changing World" / Richard Rodriguez.

Nowhere in Henslin's book is "cult" mentioned, yet the text is rich with information about varieties of group behavior, influence and its effect on persons. To understand cult behavior one can and should seek outside  books specifically about cults without ignoring the latter. In other words, do not merely rely on a Google search under "cult."

Debate over brainwashing as a legitimate social engineering phenomenon .

Best illustrated in Misunderstanding Cults edited by Benjamin Zablocki, Ph.D. (2001). For Zablocki's website go here . Read especially "brainwashing controversy" and  Methodological Fallacies in Anthony's Critique of Exit Cost Analysis re Dick Anthony, Ph.D. 

Religion and cult

Ah, here's the rub! Nowhere is cult more confused or stereotyped than when we associate it only with religious beliefs or mental health (see Psychiatry below). Consider the following five stereotypes: 1. A cult is anyone else's religion. 2. Anyone who believes differently than me is brainwashed. 3. Cult members practice witchcraft and Satanism, cast spells and work magic through demons. 4. Cult members must be crazy. 5. All religions are cults.

Here we will consider stereotype 1.A cult is anyone else's religion.

Stereotypes form when words or images convey simplistic conceptions or opinions. Words have a way of migrating into new meaning territory over time, from neutral and descriptive to pejorative and ugly, to parody or stereotype and to descriptive of something new or a neologism. Gay is an obvious example. Bad, cool, hip, the bomb, have all taken turns to mean appreciated, beautiful or I approve.

Symbols migrate in meaning also. What do you think when you see this?

For thousands of years in the Indian (Hindu) and Tibetan cultures it meant and still means good luck and prosperity . The symbol appears worldwide as decoration on ancient structures from Greece to China to Central America. It has many meanings, all positive and dynamic. Less than a century ago the Nazis appropriated it for its same dynamic attributes, but they also radicalized the swastika into an evil symbol in the eyes of the world, especially among Jews.

Cult has gone through a similar change. I have a Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary that I received in 1970, a mere 33 years ago. Compare this definition with the 1994 Heritage one above: cult [1970]: 1. formal religious veneration: worship. 2. a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also, its body of adherents. 3. a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator. 4. great and faddish devotion; also, its object or adherents. In the press journalists still use the term in several, appropriate ways: A celebrity has a cult following, a movie has reached cult status, the perpetrator appears to belong to a religious cult, or the Catholic Church approves the cult (veneration) of a new saint. Some scholars of religion who concentrate on the new religious movements came to hate the label.  By the early 1970s influential Evangelical Christians and some anti-cultists began to use the term liberally as a pejorative, alleging that a cult or deviant sect was either satanically influenced or utilized brainwashing techniques or both.

Specifically, The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin greatly impacted Christian thinking about new and different religious groups when it was first published in 1965 (many new editions to 2003). His standard for cult was a religious one that measured other religions by their adherence to his peculiar interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I say peculiar not because I think him way off-base in his apologetics, but because his standard works only for Evangelicals or Fundamentalists. These Christians feel threatened by the cults on a spiritual warfare basis and believe demons operate in their milieu. Many believe that the rise in cults heralds the end-times when Satan has his way with us. In any case, Martin's book catapulted cult into "c" word status. Critics of the new movements adopted the term. Labeling a group as a cult was tantamount to saying "they are evil."

Even more than Evangelicals, Jews were the other religious or cultural group to react heavily to the modern cult phenomena. By the early to mid 1970s Jewish groups set up cult clinics to help counsel families of or reeducate the comparatively high number of young Jews recruited into Bible-based and Eastern guru-based movements as well as controversial mass therapy groups. Their dedicated research and work continues to be fundamentally instrumental in educating not only their own people but in influencing sectarian and non-sectarian groups about the cult problem. Cult as a spurious or abusive devotional system now dominates public religious discourse obscuring the more appropriate academic use of the term.

Of course, the entire cult awareness movement including Evangelicals, Jews and secular organizations like the American Family Foundation all have matured over time and made adjustments and improvements without losing their original intent. Nevertheless, as the AFF website admits, we seem to be stuck with cult to define deviant, abusive or destructive groups that manipulate devotees. Much the same we are stuck with the deprogramming and brainwashing labels to the chagrin of nearly everyone in the field.
In sum, the religious approach to this area is more concerned with beliefs and doctrines than they are about deviant behaviors.

Psychiatry, mental illness and cult

Stereotype 2. Anyone who thinks differently than me is brainwashed . 

The absurdity of the 2 statement  should be obvious. I've been employed by an emergency psychiatric hospital (currently as a crisis intake caseworker) since 1998. Patients, especially those with acute symptoms of schizophrenia or mania have stated some version of #2 to me, but it usually comes out, "I'm not mentally ill, you are (or "the doctor is")" or, "All you are going to do is drug me and brainwash me with the way you want me to be." Cult members I've interviewed or exit counseled have their own versions: "How do you know you're not brainwashed by science, your schools, your government, your family or your religion? Yes, I'm brainwashed--I'm cleansed of all the lies I used to believe. I have a right to believe and think what I want. You have your way of looking at things and I have mine---both are true because everyone has their own truth."

Psychiatry is interested in maintaining mental health and in diagnosing and treating illness that adversely affects behavior and thought processes. Cult activity affects behavior and thought processes, and it often claims to improve spiritual as well as mental health. However, it presents increasingly adverse to outsiders when cult activity utilizes thought reform and authoritarianism, and when the probability of harm to insiders increases when authoritarianism reigns. So how can we tell the difference between unusual beliefs and delusions? Between unethical behavior and dharma, devotion or patriotism? I can tell you there is a difference, but it is not immediately apparent in all cases. Read on.

stereotype 3Cult members practice witchcraft and Satanism, cast spells and work magic through demons.

It is not unusual for cult experts to receive inquiries either from or about mentally ill people that confuse mind control, cult activity and even demon possession with an active mental illness. In my case, most of these odd inquiries are from or about people with paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations. I have worked with students or devotees of Satanism--demons and occult energy were never the core issue with them as the abuse they experienced was very real, not metaphysical. Some told stories of being deceived, illicit drug abuse, petty theft, and sexual assault. Most complained of narcissistic leaders and manipulation-- fairly typical stuff for ex-cult members. The intrusive metaphysical stuff and demons often disappear once the ex-member grasps and dispenses with the effects of phobia, magical thinking, suggestion, autosuggestion (hypnosis) and extraordinary stage magic. In other words, they lose naiveté through education.

There is quite a difference working with the mentally ill and the average cult member in exit counseling. Mentally ill people do not reality test very well when assessing information that sheds light on their group, doctrines or leader's history. A delusional person may pathologically  hold onto conspiracy theories, false beliefs and use thought stopping or blocking ideation to resist discursive dialogue. A common phobia among these types is that some agency secretly imbedded a "mind control chip" into their skull or another body part. In one case, I talked a mentally ill  man I knew well [15 year earlier he was my roommate in college] out of using a steak knife to dig the "government chip" out of his forehead--he already had a nasty laceration from a butter knife he used the day before. Schizophrenic types can invent elaborate schemes that can seem intelligently contrived--I have pages and pages of email from one such young man who thought a cult in the government was trying to control and kill him. Nothing I could say to encourage him to get help worked, so I eventually gave up. They are not merely stubborn.

The key to understanding this confusion psychiatry calls reality testing. To quote from one of the very best layman's guides to the Diagnostic Systems Manual-IV, Your Mental Health by doctors Allen Frances and Michael First (1998): "A fundamental aspect of normal mental functioning is the ability to distinguish between thoughts and perceptions that originate within our minds versus the stimuli that come from the outside world. This ongoing process is called "reality testing." Most of us maintain a fairly strong grasp on reality, except when we dream at night or if we take a psychedelic drug. In contrast, someone suffering from psychosis has lost the ability to distinguish fact from fantasy, reality from imagination, and internal fears from actual threats" (303). In common jargon we say the person must be mad, crazy, out of their mind or psycho.

Stereotype 4. Cult members must be crazy.

Cult members almost never are crazy, nor have they broken with reality in a pathological way. Cults led by grandiose, paranoid or narcissistic leaders tend to abandon, reject or dismiss mentally ill cult members. I've been to many mental hospitals over the years to try to exit counsel rejected cult members who continue to believe and infuse the cult jargon into other disordered thoughts. The successful cult member is one who can live in an intense world of overvalued, even bizarre rituals and ideas (my leader communicates with the dead, angels or flying saucer masters, and he can levitate and I will too someday), yet reality test fairly well in careers, chores and day to day affairs. Unsuccessful cult members either leave on their own (most do) because they either cannot live with the high demands (give me all your money and reject your family and their values), or they research and methodically apply doubt to (reality test) the doctrine, the leader's history, and the group's effectiveness. The rejected are either too intense or disobedient for the fringe sect to tolerate. Remember, most cults hold a high if misguided or bizarre standard of behavior and thought, often resulting in a closed system with "black and white" dominating their palettes. Destructive cult leaders tend to blame the victim-- they say members get crazy when they refuse to obey the doctrine or they practice the rituals improperly.

Cult leaders often have what psychiatry calls Axis II disorders or personality disorders with anti-social personality and narcissism on top of the list, in my view (I refer to the group therapy work of W. R. Bion). Common to these leaders are mood disorders or swings, but they rarely reach pathological criteria so they are not ill in a clinical sense (Axis I disorders). In a word they are charismatic types whether they present as extroverts with hypo manic features or introverts with schizoid (withdrawn or paranoid) features. They tend to either be strong managers or have influence over authoritarian managers who run the group and protect, even help isolate the leader (In the relatively small Emin group, most members or cells have never met the leader).

Psychiatry has basically ignored the cult phenomenon as it falls under other academic disciplines, primarily Social Psychology. This is not to say that some psychiatrists have not had valuable things to say. Louis Jolyn West, M.D. comes to mind immediately. He was a fascinating, brilliant man who I got to know personally, one who the Scientology group regarded as a most evil force--that group hates psychiatry with a passion.   
Skeptics and cult  

Stereotype 5. All religions are cults 

Although cynical atheists might make such a commentthe careful skeptic will find the statement ludicrous. Equally ludicrous is to say all cults are religions. Cultists who direct devotional activity toward politicians, entertainers, a sport, a totem animal, a scientific principle, a rock or an idea do not regard the object of their devotion as the universal Source or high God. As we stated above, most religions include a cult activity if not many, but that does not define them as only a cult. Most established religions are organizations that include a variety of social dynamics: democratic elections, schools that also teach secular subjects that comply with cultural standards, accommodations for the handicapped, etc. In other words, these established groups may be parochial, but their participation in the cultural milieu is not all that eccentric, elitist or abusive.

Skeptical societies and research by scientists regarding paranormal claims and events are valuable resources for exit counselors who deconstruct cult activity for their clients. Cult leaders commonly make outlandish claims or appear to have paranormal powers like telepathy, bi-location, spirit contact, mental healing, teleportation, and so on. Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi dictator, reportedly has a magical stone imbedded in his shoulder, and his devotees believe this keeps him from getting killed. This ridiculous amulet has a powerful grip on believers' behavior.

True skepticism is an equal opportunity reaper, thus all religions with miraculous claims are under that microscope. Sophisticated religions, like the Catholic Church, no longer ignore or suppress science but work with it. This does not mean that the Church is always happy with what science delivers or exposes. It is important in our age to distinguish the aesthetics of religion from scientifically plausible reality. Catholics agree that there is no evidence to test that a wafer of bread changes into the body and blood of Christ during a mass. It is an article of faith.

Cults often refuse to acknowledge good science. Without providing evidence today's Raelian movement out of Canada has publicly claimed to have cloned human beings, for example. No independent science reviewer has ever seen these babies let alone examined the evidence. On the negative claim side, some groups assert that all the moon landings were hoaxes contrived by the governments as landing on the moon is impossible.
For a book list and more basic information, go to:

Exit Counseling, as non-coercive intervention

definition controversy:

Intervention with a member of an abusive cult or relationship appears in many forms and approaches, especially with the recent rise in cultic movements since 1965. This is a relatively new field in social psychology and therapeutic education with no formal training or license available yet. Complicating the issue is definition: Diagnosis comes before remedy and little has been established in psychiatry or social psychology formally to address the problem--and this apparently is a worldwide neglect. Why? I attempt to answer in cult101 . So definition is unfortunately relative to the perception and intent of the intervener, but I will nevertheless offer my perceptions based on over 25 years of experience and study in this arena.

In this site we will call intervention with a person in an abusive cult or relationship exit counseling because we would not attempt intervention if we did not expect them to exit the activity You may be familiar with the more popular label, deprogramming . Less likely you will have heard of thought reform consultation , a late expression for a model designed in the mid 1990s by a group of exit counselors who created an ethical code or standard for the cult intervention profession. The standard upholds the right of the client (cult member) to leave the intervention at any time, to be treated with dignity, and it eschews physical coercion and verbal abuse. Go to Ethical Standards for more information. Strategic Interaction Approach is another non-coercive if idiosyncratic intervention model developed by a leading exit counselor, one you can access at . 

One old deprogramming approach sometimes included coercive tactics like kidnapping and false imprisonment. You can go to my essays about deprogramming stereotypes in media to learn more about how and why the coercive intervention model is etched in the public mind (Cynical hint: It sells movies, television shows and magazines). This model assumed that anyone in a cult was somehow brainwashed or put through a thought reform program. It assumed that the cult member walked around in trance, as if hypnotized. And it assumed that only radical remedies would work to "snap" a person out of this trance to augment the goal of the intervention. The goal was to educate about mind control, influence techniques, false religion and the true history of the cult and its leader. The assumptions may have been crude as sometimes were the intervention methods, but the brainwashing/deprogramming model was not completely wrong. In any case, due to personal ethics and the threat of criminal charges, interventionists turned to and refined existing non-coercive approaches.

why me?

In my case, I began in 1980 to help people with cult problems on an informal basis and inadvertently many of them broke ranks with their group as a result. From 1986 through 1991 I entered the world of exit counselors and deprogrammers. My career during that time included both coercive and non-coercive cases. Since 1991 I work only according to the standards mentioned above. In 1998 I resolved to work as an exit counselor on a part time basis only. I mention this because there is little in the way of cult interventions that I have not experienced or studied. I stopped counting in the mid 1990s after I had encountered around 300 individuals to discuss their cult involvement at the request of some concerned party, intervention team or family member This does not include countless persons I've advised and interviewed in person, by phone and through email.     


Interventions occur after a concerned party has determined that:
  • Someone they love is involved in a deceptive, manipulative or otherwise abusive relationship.
  • This relationship has certain characteristics of a closed system or "cult" activity.
  • The person they love would want to be away from the controversial influence if they had new information about the group, the leader/manager, and the influence techniques that might be undermining his or her critical awareness.
  • An expert with exit counseling experience is available.

The TRC helps the client understand hidden agendas of the leader or group as well as how the group manipulates intelligence, emotions, behaviors, and information (see Hassan, 1988). The TRC does this, not by attacking the group in question, but by explaining how abusive thought reform systems operate, and by giving examples of groups that use these abusive techniques. The TRC also helps the client to dispell phobias induced during group participation. Often these phobias (irrational fear of occult powers, demons, sickness, accident, insanity, or other personal, social, or environmental catastrophe) linger even though the member has broken with the group in question. Real threats of harm can be countered by real actions like police protection, personal vigilance, or prosecution.

Exit Counseling: A Practioner's View, by Joe Szimhart

What has come to be called "exit counseling" grew out of formalized attempts to talk someone out of their devotion to a controversial group, ritual, person or lifestyle. While interventions are not new (e.g., both St.Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi met with parental intervention to stop them from their religious paths) the relative explosion of new religious movements, experimental mass therapies, and cult activity since the 1960s has been met with new social resistance. People who knew and loved someone under the influence of such groups noted disturbing personality changes, as if the person were under a spell or "programmed." They noted that the person had been wrongly informed and manipulated to change personality or to conform to a group will.

Attempts to reverse cultic influence came to be known as "deprogramming" by the mid 1970s. At first, interventions were non-coercive, meaning that cultists were not held against their will. As this approach often failed, many families opted to abduct or place the cultist "under house arrest" to get them to listen to ex-members and unlicensed specialists who came to be known as deprogrammers. Deprogramming often worked very well, but when it did not expensive legal reprisals could ensue. Cultists sometimes reported abusive treatment by deprogrammers. These stories were (and are) naturally exaggerated by cult managers to better control members who might visit their families and meet a deprogrammer (see Propaganda ). In any case, many deprogrammers would not tolerate coercion during interventions and they wanted to reduce the trauma of intervention to both the family and deprogramee.

To distinguish the non-coercive approaches, some specialists adopted the label of "exit counselor" by the mid 1980s. This approach emphasizes education and dialogue about the true history and nature of the group and compares it with similar groups. It also addresses the nature of thought reform, mind control, and influence techniques like hypnosis. Some exit counselors incorporate family therapy into their sessions. Some do not consider their profession to be counseling and call themselves "thought reform consultants" or "cult information specialists." I prefer the latter designation and I see myself more as an educator and communicator.

Most of the exit counselors I know were "cult" members at one time. Some of them specialize in exiting members from the group they left. Others, like myself ( I had been a member of the Church Universal and Triumphant from 1979-80) have exited people from dozens of different groups.

When I work with an assistant, it is often an ex-member of the group in question but just as often it could be with another exit counselor. The team approach seems to work best in most cases. The intervention team usually includes two to four concerned family members and two exit counselors. There are no hard rules as to numbers but one on one sessions are unusual because at least one concerned party must be present to arrange for and introduce the exit counselor.

Successful interventions can last from several hours to more than a week, the norm being three to four days of "marathon" (6 to 14 hour) discussions. In exit counseling the length of each session is controlled by the "cultist." I do not relish long days of dialogue but when the person I am counseling wants to go on, I do. I have often seen the veil of deceit lift from a cultist who then "uncorks," like one awakened from a dream, and then pours out the questions one after the other for hours on end. When that happens it is not appropriate to say relax now, mate -- we can talk about it in the morning! If an intervention is successful, exit counselors may suggest follow-up therapists, ex-members to call, books to read, and rehab facilities if needed. The recovery period depends on the person. Research suggests that persons who have had appropriate exit counseling do far better, quicker than "walk-aways" who go it alone. See Snapping Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman (1995).

The downside of my field of cult specialists is that we are not licensed as such, nor are we regulated save by reputation. Some unscrupulous deprogrammers and specialists may have taken advantage of vulnerable families. Some may have taken on cases when they cannot handle the information adequately and resort to emotional attacks to try to "break" a cultist. Harsh tactics almost always backfire. The cultist can fake deconversion long enough to end an intervention, and then return to the group even months later. I have experienced this in past years. Since 1992 I no longer work with families who would coerce the cultist in any way although I had on occasion prior to 1992. I subscribe to Ethical Standards for Thought Reform Consultants that emphasize legality and respect (see "Ethics..." in Cultic Studies Journal , Vol. 13, No. 1, 1996). In any case, the choice to leave a group has to be reasonable and free to last and not solely emotional or religious. The choice needs to be grounded in a reality the cultist can begin to trust and use for the rest of his or her life no matter what spiritual path he or she chooses.

My advice to anyone seeking the services of an exit counselor is to interview several and check their reputations as thoroughly as you can. Interventions can be very expensive depending on whom you hire, but be wary of free helpers too. If someone you know is truly under a form of mind control, just having a session with a minister or therapist will rarely bear much fruit, unless, of course, they are trained in the dynamics of group influence and can handle the information about the group beliefs in depth. Experienced exit counselors cannot guarantee success in any case -- my impression is that 50 to 75% of their cases work out well. I have exited hundreds of people since the early 1980s and my success rate is in that range also. The keys to success are in the adequate preparation of the family and realistic projections.
Cultwatch Editorial Note: 

Joe Szimhart is a man of the highest ethics whose work is the antithesis of coercive persuasion and fanaticism. Joe has visited Australia, on a number of occasions, as an exit counsellor and is exceptionally well respected in his field. 

One Australian who left a group after a voluntary exit counselling [sic] with Joe has written: "An opportunity to change, like the one offered to me, does not come around very often; but deep down I knew it for the chance that it was. I held my breath and grasped the nettle. It stung like crazy, that tiger's tail, but I hung on - with just a little help from friends - and managed to reclaim my life. I'm just glad to be here, alive and well; and I hope that my experience will help somebody else, sometime. " [By a former member of Extra Terrestrial Earth Mission]

Propaganda If you explore the web for information about cult awareness groups, exit counselors or deprogrammers you will most likely find propaganda against them all. For example, typing my name (szimhart) into a search engine might bring you to the “CAN Reform Group”under . If that is your only exposure to me or anyone else it attempts to discredit, you may be sorely duped. You also may run across theFreedom Magazine published by Scientology to discredit its critics. For an open discussion of the controversy surrounding Scientology find alt.religion.scientology , or go to Marina's Manor: Scientology . Propaganda, like advertising, has a strange effect on people who absorb it uninformed: They tend to believe some of it if it “seems” credible. The spin doctors in our political machines use these same techniques to confuse and bend public opinion. They do it because it works, because most, even “skeptical” persons do not critically examine information that forms their opinions. Different people view controversial issues from differing perspectives. It pays to look at a few perspectives before coming to a position if not a conclusion about anything. CAN used to stand for a legitimate citizens advocacy group called the Cult Awareness Network. Since July of 1996 CAN was dissolved due to a successful Scientology supported lawsuit (the only successful one of 50 against CAN brought by the church that L. Ron Hubbard built). But Scientology managed to “purchase” the CAN logo and phone number (312 267-777) before the young man, Jason Scott, who Scientology “helped” to sue CAN and a deprogrammer, fired his Scientology lawyer, Ken Moxon. For more about the pseudoCAN event read The Washington Post December 1, 1996 “Anti-Cult Group Dismembered As Former Foes Buy Its Assets.” Also go to . The Jason Scott reversal is very interesting because he has hired a new law firm, one that has successfully sued Scientology in the past (see Phoenix New Times 12/24/96 “What’s $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies? Stunning settlement frees cult deprogrammer Rick Ross from almost all of $3 Million judgment). But, remember, if you call “CAN” now at the end of 1996, you probably get “Scientology.” Supporters of the old-CAN may be reorganizing under new names. ( CULTinfo had its first national conference in February, 1990 in Connecticut. It is also called: Leo J. Ryan Educational Foundation . PO Box 1180, Bridgeport, CT 06601. ph: 203-338-9776). For another opinion about my trial in Idaho over a failed deprogramming you can read about the case and my response at Professor Michael Nielsen's website: I was acquitted by a jury of all charges in 1993. To better understand how propaganda works check out Age of Propaganda by Pratkanis & Aronson, 1992 (W.H. Freeman) 


Joseph P. Szimhart - Consultant

Cult Information Articles by Joe Szimhart 

Book Reviews:


N.B.The following links are cult/sect information sites and resources--I may or may not endorse them, but please read my comments.
AFF  {Next conference at Orlando, FL on June 13-15, 2002]
American Family Foundation is a secular, not-for-profit, tax-exempt research center and educational organization founded in 1979.
AFF's mission is to study psychological manipulation and cultic groups, to educate the public and professionals, and to assist those who have been adversely affected by a cult experience. Publishes the Cultic Studies Journal .AFF's Comprehensive Links Page
Over 150 links to resources and groups.

Cult Hotline & Clinic -
120 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019 -
 (212) 632-4640
The Cult Hotline & Clinic is a program of the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, one of the nation's largest and most respected nonprofit mental health and social service agencies. JBFCS serves over 65,000 New Yorkers annually from all religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds through a comprehensive range of 185 community-based programs, residential facilities, and day-treatment centers.

Recovery and retreat center for cult and abuse victims:
a fully accredited, residential treatment center.
Wellspring - Paul Martin, PhD Director
P. O. Box 67, Albany, Ohio 45710
(740) 698-6277

Cult Information and exit counseling

Carol Giambalvo author of Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention, and co-author of The Boston Movement.

  Steve Hassan  < >
[author of Releasing the Bonds; Combatting Cult Mind Control]
General information about intervention and controversial group influence by one of the leading authorities on exit counseling and the "cult" problem..

Rick Ross  < >  This website offers extensive information about many new religious movements and cults. Rick Ross is an experienced exit counselor  and lecturer. Good resource for research and news articles on groups.

From Esoteric Tradition to Pseudo-Science Today: Eric Wynants file 
scholars and articles that critique occultism, Theosophism and fringe science

Nova Religio-Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions
Religious Studies: good scholar site on many religions
The Roberts Parents Group: 
Website maintained by parents of members of Jim Roberts, aka Brother Evangelist, a small nomadic Christian sect, aka "the garbage eaters " or "Bretheren."  I have consulted as an exit counselor for this group since its inception.

Klanwatch 400 Washington Ave, Montgomery, AL 36104 (205)-264-0286.
FACTNET: Good source for information online on controversial cult activity, cult experts, Scientology, etc.
SIMPOS : Netherlands foundation on many sects: Adi Da, Brahma Kumaris, Aetherius, etc.

Re-FOCUS: Good resource for ex-members of destructive groups

Trancenet Page: critical of Transcendental Meditation, The Way International, Rama and many more groups.
Christian Resources:
Dialog Center , Denmark
Spiritual Counterfeits Project , Berkeley, CA
Skeptic Magazine
Skeptic Magazine on Scientology
Skeptical Inquirer/CSICOP
Fringes of Reason (weird groups & skepticsim)
James Randi Home Page

Cult related literature

Suggested Reading

Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich (1994, Hunter House) 

"Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? by Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich (1996, Jossey-Bass) 

Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Influence in Our Everyday Lives by Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalich (1995, Jossey-Bass) 

Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention by Carol Giambalvo (1995, AFF

Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, edited by Michael D. Langone (1993, Norton) 

The Wrong Way Home by Arthur J. Deikman (1990, Beacon) Deikman's spin on cult behavior in America is worth a look. 

How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn, 1995. 

Why God Won't Go Away:Brain Science and the Biology of Belief by Andrew Newberg, M.D., Eugene D'Aquili, M.D., and Vince Rause, 2002. 

Magic or Medicine?: An Investigation of Healing and Healers by Dr. Robert Buckman & Karl Sabbagh (Prometheus, 1995) 

The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (1993, North Atlantic Books) 

Influence: The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini (1984, Quill) 

Dangerous Persuaders: An expose of gurus, personal development courses and cults, and how they operate in Australia by Louise Samways (Penguin, 1994) 

When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction and Abuse by Fr.Lee Booth (1991): uses addiction model and "12 Step" recovery. 

Psychic Dictatorship in America by Gerald Bryan (1940). Original expose of I AM Activity, 'parent' group to CUT. 

A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed by Jon Atack (1990, Lyle Stuart) 

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert J. Lifton (1989, University of North Carolina Press) 

TM and Cult Mania by M.A. Persinger, N.J. Carrey, & L.A. Suess (1980, Christopher)
Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler (1993, Zondervan). A mix of skeptical and Christian criticisms. 

When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World by L. Festinger, H.W. Riecken, & S. Schachter (1956, Harper) 

Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon by Peter Washington (Schocken Books, 1995). Informative expose of the western guru tradition: Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, JG Bennett, R Steiner and others. 

Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East by Gita Mehta (Vintage, 1994) highly recommended
The Fringes of Reason, edited by Ted Schultz (A Whole Earth Catalogue: Harmony Books 1989)

The Mother of God by Luna Tarlo (Plover, 1997) expose of Andrew Cohen.
Skeptical Inquirer (All volumes) 

Age of Propaganda: Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion by Pratkanis & Aronson
My Father's Guru: A Journey through Spirituality and Disillusion by Jeffrey M. Masson (Addison Wesley, 1993). Author grew up with charlatan Paul Brunton as his household guru. 

Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties by Jay Courtney Fikes (Vic., Canada: Millenia Press, 1993). Excellent insights into Castaneda's shallow theatre of shamanism by a true anthropologist 

Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris (Riverhead Books, 1998). Thoughtful essays for struggling Christians who want to understand the Gospel walk outside of cult-think. 

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta (Nan A. Talese, 1993) By the author of Karma Cola. In this beautiful story, Mehta captures an essence of Hindu holiness, esp in the "Naga Baba" character. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531-1797 by Stafford Poole, C.M. (U of Arizona, 1996). With the glut of Marian visions today, this insightful study shows how cultures can create miracles out of "whole cloth," so to speak. 

Invasion From Mars by Hadley Cantril (Harper Torchbooks, 1966 (original, 1940). 

"A Study in the Psychology of Panic" is the subtitle of this look into the Orson Wells infamous "Martian Invasion" broadcast, Hallowe'en night, 1938, when many committed suicide and thousands panicked.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Freedom Magazine

According to sources, Congressman Ryan routinely did things which to others were unthinkable, such as "dropping in" at CIA headquarters (above) to interrogate spymasters about what they hadn't been telling Congress

Leo Ryan had a flair for drawing attention to social abuses. In 1970, for example, as a California state legislator, he went undercover and had himself strip-searched and locked up in Folsom State Prison to investigate firsthand conditions there. (And conveniently had the AP snap a photograph.)

At the time of his death, Leo Ryan's spotlight was trained on one of the darkest corners of the American intelligence establishment—psychiatric "mind-control" experiments, possibly combined with illegal domestic operations. His probe included tests performed at a Vacaville, California, state hospital (above), reportedly involving Donald (known as "Cinque," top) DeFreeze, a central figure in the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst. A month before Ryan's murder, Jack Anderson (right) published a column entitled "CIA May Have Inspired Cinque," exposing the secret experiments, with Ryan or his committee the most likely source of the information.

After Ryan's death, his two sons and three daughters (including Patricia Ryan, second from left, above) charged in federal court that the congressman had been "knowingly, intentionally and maliciously" led to his death at the Port Kaituma Air Strip by Richard Dwyer, deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Guyana, acting "as an agent and employee of the Central Intelligence Agency."

Academic and Government Reports

The Anderson Report, Published 1965, State of Victoria, Australia

OPC Information about Scientology in Germany,

Short summary of Bavarian study on Scientology, February, 2003

Russia: Regional Public Expert Committee Nizhny Novgorod Region Administration,

Independent Research and Essay

Hypnosis Demonstration of Hypnosis,

Scientology uses the Confusion Technique to Induce Hypnosis,

Hypnosis in scientology - The Gradation Chart Revealed,

Imagine a Letter from L Ron Hubbard (E-Meter and Stress Test Scam)

Comparison of hypnosis and auditing from a scientology member who became a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist

Another Look at Hypnosis, by Lawrence West, USA

Ex-member Peter Forde: Hypnotic Coercion Uncovered Via Coue

Hypnosis Is What Works in scientology by Don Carlo

Source of the E-Meter Stress Test, Hypnotism, 1943, by George Estabrooks

Forest Ackerman's typewritten notes on L Ron Hubbard, May, 1948

Arthur Cox's Account of LRH Stage Hypnosis Tech, from the Forrest J. Ackerman Interview, May 1948
"Auditing is a simple, thoroughly designed means, of concentrating the mind to the state of a controlled trance. The aim and result is progressively to enforce loyalty to and identification with Scientology to the detriment of one's natural awareness of divergent ways of thinking and outside cultural influences. Love and allegiance are more and more given exclusively to Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard."
--Dr. John Gordon Clark, Doctor of Medicine of Harvard Medical School
FBI Scientology investigation gets a fresh witness, but hits a legal roadblock,

No kids allowed,

Chased by their church: When you try to leave Scientology, they try to bring you back,

Man overboard: To leave Scientology, Don Jason had to jump off a ship,

Scientology defectors describe violence, humiliation in "the Hole",

March 25, 2000 editorial in Uganda newspaper, The Monitor, Why Are Ugandans Drawn To Cults?,

Uganda Doomsday Cult

Like the Peoples Temple, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God did not become a cult "literally overnight." There were warnings, including ex-member and intelligence reports.

Authorities have arrested a local government official after President Yoweri Museveni last week ordered an inquiry into reports that local administrators ignored warnings about the cult.

Internal Affairs Minister Edward Rugumayo said police had arrested the Rev. Amooti Mutazindwa, an assistant district commissioner in southwest Uganda, for allegedly suppressing an intelligence report that suggested the cult posed a security threat.

"Some intelligence officers filed reports saying that this is a dangerous group, but at one level it was not forwarded, it was just ignored," Museveni told the BBC late Wednesday during a visit to Britain.

Earlier questions of Ugandan cult's activities were ignored, some say, CNN, Mar. 30, 2000

Beit-Hallahmi also points out that ex-member testimonies generally are reliable:
Recent and less recent NRM catastrophes help us realize that in every single case allegations by hostile outsiders and detractors have been closer to reality than any other accounts. Ever since the Jonestown tragedy, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of apologists and NRM researchers. The reality revealed in the cases of People's TempleRajneesh International, Vajradhatu, the Nation of Yahweh, the Branch Davidians, the Faith Assembly, Aum Shinrykio, the Solar Temple, or Heaven's Gate is much more than unattractive; it is positively horrifying. In every case of NRM disasters over the past 50 years, starting with Krishna Venta (Beit-Hallahmi, 1993), we encounter a hidden world of madness and exploitation in a totalitarian, psychotic, group, whose reality is actually even worse than detractors' allegations.

Integrity and Suspicion in New Religious Movements Research,
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi points out that "religious freedom" was not an issue in how Japan dealt with Aum Shinrikyo:

Reliable reports since 1995 have shown that Japanese authorities were actually not just overly cautious, but negligent and deferential, if not protective, regarding criminal activities by Aum, because of its status as an NRM. "Some observers wonder what took the Japanese authorities so long to take decisive action. It seems apparent that enough serious concerns had been raised about various Aum activities to warrant a more serious police inquiry prior to the subway gas attack" (Mullins, 1997, p. 321). The group can only be described as extremely violent and murderous.

Integrity and Suspicion in New Religious Movements Research
As those who are familiar with ex-member reports know, while Peoples Temple may have started out as a "respectable, mainline Christian group," it certainly did not become a cult "literally overnight." But Melton, who calls ex-members liars, can not afford to admit he was wrong.

Note, too, that earlier, Melton joined a trip to Japan to defend Japan's killer cult Aum Shinrikyo's religious freedom. He and three others (including James Lewis)...

... held a pair of news conferences to suggest that the sect was innocent of criminal charges and was a victim of excessive police pressure.


The Americans said the sect had invited them to visit after they expressed concern to Aum's New York branch about religious freedom in Japan. The said their airfare, hotel bills and "basic expenses" were paid by the cult.

Tokyo Cult Finds an Unlikely Supporter, Washington Post

"Many others had been shot",
Posted on September 16, 2012
by ajmacdonaldjr

“Many others had been shot. Charles Huff, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces in Panama, was one of the seven Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre. He told Freedom, "We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts."

VIDEO – Pt. 1 – Jonestown: The Life and Death of People Temple

"Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple" is sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University.


This subject is worth studying. The website is a historical record compiled by those who wish to honor the memories of those who died.

For what it's worth, I was aboard a C-141 bound for Travis AFB during late November 1978, along with hundreds of aluminum transfer cases, which contained the earthly remains of only some of the hundreds of dead – murdered – souls who were on board the C-141 with me, being flown from Jonestown, Guyana, to Dover AFB (and Graves Registration), to Andrews AFB (where I climbed aboard), and then on to Travis AFB, which was their final destination – and mine.

Six months later I found myself slogging through the jungles of Panama… learning from the 7th SFG how to hunt and kill peoples, as well as how to survive in the Central American double-canopy jungle environment we were operating in.

The interesting thing, and that which makes this old, deadly CIA groupthink mind control project – Jonestown – relevant today, is this: Alex Jones (et al) is (are) running the same, identical, psychological mind control operation today, with only a few minor modifications, although on a much grander scale.

September 17, 2012, WordPress, !Warning! – Pseudo-Patriot Alex Jones Is Running a Jonestown-Style CIA Mind-Control Psyop on the Patriotic American People!, by A. J. MacDonald, Jr.,

Go through the old Peoples Temple tapes, compare them with what Alex Jones says and see (listen) for yourself, and see if this isn't in fact the case. A few people did survive Jonestown, which isn’t easy to do after one is brainwashed, activated, goes rogue, is hunted down by special ops from two countries (US, UK), escapes, and lives to tell about it.

Watch the documentary, and

See also: Pt. 1 - Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Listen to this audio recording made on November 18, 1978, at the Peoples Temple compound in Jonestown, Guyana immediately preceding and during the mass suicide and murder of over 900 members of the cult.

VIDEO – The People of Peoples Temple-

AUDIO – The Jonestown Death Tape (FBI No. Q 042) (November 18, 1978)

Happy kids at Peoples Temple Agricultural Project

"What is unique about this website are three main features:
1. Memorialization of those who died and those who survived the tragedy of 18 November 1978 in order to remember their lives and humanize their deaths. 
2. Documentation of the numerous government investigations into Peoples Temple and Jonestown through materials released under the Freedom of Information Act. 
3. Presentation of Peoples Temple and its members in their own words: through articles, tapes, letters, photographs and other items. These materials let readers make their own judgments about the group and its end." See: Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple

VIDEO – Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (Full Length (also: here)

VIDEO – Pt. 1 – Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Pavilion – Peoples Temple Agricultural Project – Jonestown, Guyana

Revisiting the Jonestown tragedy, Published by the Church of Scientology International

Ill Wind
Behind the Terror
Deadly Spiral
Children of the State
The Hidden Hand of Violence
Ca$hing In
The Great Brain Injury Scam
Human Rights and Freedoms
Buying off the Drug Traffic Cop
Revisiting the Jonestown tragedy
The Great Waste
A Fire on the Cross
Echoes of the Past—Historical amnesia in Germany…
In Support of Human Rights
The Black and White of Justice
Freedom of Speech at Risk in Cyberspace
The Psychiatric Subversion of Justice
The Story Behind the Controversy
The Internet: The Promise and the Perils

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 |

n.d. 1st web capture February 8, 1998, Freedom Magazine, Newly released documents shed light on unsolved murders, by Thomas G. Whittle and Jan Thorpe,

In early 1995, Freedom published "Jonestown: The Big Lie," an article that examined unanswered questions about the mass deaths in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978.

Based on years of exhaustive research, that feature documented how one of history’s most gruesome cases of mass murder had been written off as "mass suicide."

Freedom's investigation had continued, with significant new information recently unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act and from other sources.

Whether they liked him or not, most who knew Leo Ryan agreed he had flamboyance, tenacity, nerve and a knack for drawing attention to social abuses. A man who marched to the beat of his own drum, he galled bureaucrats, some of whom, according to a former aide, viewed the Democratic congressman from Northern California as the worst-case-scenario bull in their china shop.

After the riots in Watts in 1965, Ryan, then a California state legislator, traveled to that community under a false identity and became a substitute teacher to investigate conditions in the black community. Five years later, he again went undercover and had himself strip-searched and locked up in Folsom State Prison to discover what life in such a facility was really like. In 1978, he made plans to spend that Christmas season incognito once again, this time as a Postal Service employee to investigate complaints of bad working conditions.

As a congressman, his brassiness caused him to routinely do things which to others were unthinkable, such as “dropping in” at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to interrogate the spymasters about what they hadn't been telling Congress.

“He was,” according to a source formerly close to Ryan, and who once accompanied him on a trip to Langley, “a pain in their ass.”

As a member of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee and its foremost CIA critic, he was the House sponsor of the Hughes-Ryan Amendment, a 1974 law that required the CIA to notify eight separate committees of Congress—totaling some 200 legislators and staff—prior to conducting undercover operations.

Hughes-Ryan also banned CIA covert paramilitary operations which were not expressly approved by the president and Congress. The agency hated this, a former Ryan associate told Freedom. But the Hughes-Ryan Amendment, which seriously restricted CIA covert operations internationally, was only one index of Leo Ryan’s impact.

In 1975, Ryan leaked word of the CIA’s involvement in the Angolan civil war to CBS newsman Daniel Schorr, creating a wave of major embarrassment for the agency which reverberated for years.

In 1977 and 1978, Ryan pressured the agency to reveal the extent of its involvement in psychiatric "mind-control” experiments. Among the tests he pushed to expose were those performed in the early 1970s on inmates at a state hospital in Vacaville, California, which may have included among their subjects Donald DeFreeze, known as "Cinque," a central figure in the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.


According to sources, Congressman Ryan routinely did things which to others were unthinkable, such as “dropping in” at CIA headquarters (above) to interrogate spymasters about what they hadn't been telling Congress.

By poking into intelligence agency-sponsored psychiatric experiments with DeFreeze and closely related subjects, Ryan stirred up a mixture that threatened to explode with major criminal and civil liability.

On September 25, 1978, less than two months before the Jonestown tragedy, Ryan submitted a petition to then President Jimmy Carter, seeking to have Patricia Hearst’s seven-year prison term commuted to the 18 months she had already served. In October 1978, a month before Jonestown, investigative reporter Jack Anderson published a syndicated column entitled “CIA May Have Inspired Cinque,” based on information that most likely had been leaked by Ryan or someone in his committee. The column detailed statements from one Clifford Jefferson, who claimed to have known DeFreeze while they were incarcerated together and to have participated in psychiatric experiments with various drugs, including mescaline, Quaalude and Artane.

According to Jefferson, “DeFreeze stated that he had gone through the same tests and also knew of stress tests that were given to prisoners in which they were kept in solitary, harassed and annoyed until they would do anything asked of them to get out; then they were given these drugs and would become like robots.

"He [DeFreeze] said that when he got out, he would get a revolutionary group to kidnap some rich person. They would hold that person tied up in a dark place, keep him frightened and in fear of his life, then give him mescaline and other drugs, and the person would become a robot and do anything he was asked to do—including killing others.

"He thought a good one to kidnap would be one of the Kennedys. Then the revolutionary group would get great publicity and could get the person to get them money.”

Although DeFreeze died in a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police, CIA documents have since confirmed the agency did perform drug tests on inmates at Vacaville under its MK-Ultra program. These tests aimed at studying what effects drugs and stress had on prisoners to determine at what point individuals would “break" and become willing to follow orders blindly.

As described by Dr. Lawrence T. Clanon, Vacaville superintendent, the CIA appeared interested in "whether drugs could be used in questioning people or gaining their cooperation, or combating that effect."

Leo Ryan’s spotlight had been trained upon one of the darkest and ugliest corners of the American intelligence establishment, one for which the level of culpability could scarcely be measured—psychiatric “mind-control” experiments, possibly combined with an illegal domestic operation—and one which elevated his status from gadfly to mortal enemy.

“I told him to leave them alone,” a former Ryan associate told Freedom. The congressman was accustomed to busting down doors, he said, a dangerous practice when dealing with an agency experienced in the art of assassination. Ryan, however, pressed ahead.

Documents Released

In March 1997, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it would release for the first time nearly 39,000 additional pages of documents concerning Jonestown, the Peoples Temple and related matters under the Freedom of Information Act. As these documents become available and are examined, new revelations concerning the mass deaths at Jonestown in 1978 and the killing of Congressman Ryan continue to mount. The documents include 8,603 pages from the FBI’s investigative file and an additional 30,229 pages. The bureau made the papers available based on a 1993 FOIA request filed by Freedom.

At the time of his death, Leo Ryan’s spotlight was trained on one of the darkest corners of the American intelligence establishment—psychiatric “mind-control” experiments, possibly combined with illegal domestic operations. His probe included tests performed at a Vacaville, California, state hospital (above), reportedly involving Donald (known as “Cinque”, top) DeFreeze, a central figure in the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst. A month before Ryan’s murder, Jack Anderson (right) published a column entitled “CIA May Have Inspired Cinque,” exposing the secret experiments, with Ryan or his committee the most likely source of the information.

Contrary to what is popularly reported in the media, the FBI files document the Peoples Temple as a mainstream religious congregation, with statements on behalf of the group by a range of political figures including Senators Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Henry Jackson, Sam Ervin Jr., Warren Magnuson and Mike Gravel, Congressmen Philip Burton, Ron Dellums and Don Edwards, Congresswomen Bella Abzug and Patsy Mink.

The papers demonstrate wide support for the organization. Actress and activist Jane Fonda wrote: “I also recommit myself to your congregation as an active full participant—not only for myself, but because I want my two children to have the experience.”

They also show its leader, Jim Jones, as a respected minister of the Disciples of Christ, the Protestant church of former President Lyndon Johnson and millions of other Americans. And they show that while the church underwent a long period of harassment, surveillance and infiltration at the hands of government intelligence agents, these intensified once the group, founded in Indiana, relocated to San Francisco, and particularly after its headquarters moved to Guyana.

Indeed, in 1977 and 1978 came anonymous threats against the Peoples Temple, accompanied by random acts of violence against group members. It was in late 1977 that heavy pressure began on Ryan to visit Jonestown—pressure which built to a crescendo shortly before he agreed to go. Those pushing him to take action against “cults” included psychologist Margaret Singer, while others, among them Tim Stoen, a former member and top aide to Jim Jones with alleged ties to the CIA, pressured Ryan to visit Jonestown. (See “The Real Cult,”.)

"Infiltrated with Agents"

The nearly 39,000 pages of documents released by the FBI to Freedom under the Freedom of Information Act document the Peoples Temple as a mainstream congregation and show it enjoyed wide support, as from Jane Fonda, who wrote: "I also recommit myself to your congregation as an active full participant—not only for myself, but because I want my two children to have the experience."

More than 20 months after Leo Ryan was killed, his five adult children—two sons and three daughters—filed a lawsuit based on extensive investigation into what had precipitated their father’s death.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on July 31, 1980, the suit asked for general damages of $3 million, plus costs for Congressman Ryan’s funeral and bringing the action.

The lawsuit charged that “the Jonestown Colony was infiltrated with agent(s) of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.

"[That] the name of one said agent was Phillip Blakey, a trusted aide of Peoples Temple leader James Warren Jones.

"[T]hat said agents were working with the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency to use the Jonestown Colony as part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s MK Ultra program.

“[T]hat massive quantities of mind-control drugs were found at the Jonestown colony after the fatal incident of November 18, 1978."

Phillip Blakey had traveled to Guyana to select the site for Jonestown and to begin clearing land. He was one of the few survivors of the mass killing.

The lawsuit furthermore charged that Richard Dwyer doubled as an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency and that Dwyer “arranged for the transportation of decedent [Ryan] and his party once in Guyana; briefed decedent and his party on the events and conditions at Jonestown upon their arrival; and escorted decedent and his party to Jonestown in November 1978."

It alleged that Dwyer “as an agent and employee of the Central Intelligence Agency … negligently, maliciously and intentionally withheld crucial information about the Jonestown Colony which would have prevented harm to decedent."

It further charged that Dwyer “knowingly, intentionally and maliciously led [Ryan] into a trap at the Port Kaituma Air Strip, which cost decedent his life."

The Ryans' lawsuit was dismissed for reasons that have to date never been fully disclosed. A source close to the family who aided them in their quest for justice told Freedom of threats received which he attributed to the CIA. Every time he made a move, he said, a warning would arrive on his doorstep by a circuitous route. "A letter would show up," for example, he said, stating,

"'We're watching you.'"

Mass Murder

Although many others lost their lives on November 18, 1978, according to Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, then chief medical examiner of Guyana, the overwhelming majority of the deaths at Jonestown were murders, not suicides. Dr. Mootoo, the government’s top pathologist and the first physician on the scene, told Freedom that many had died from injections of cyanide. After 32 hours of nonstop work in stifling heat, amid decaying flesh, in Mootoo's words, “We gave up.” By that time, 187 bodies killed by injections had been examined by Mootoo and his team. Victims had been injected in portions of their bodies they could not have reached themselves, such as between the shoulder blades or in the back of an upper arm. “Those who were injecting them knew what they were doing,” Mootoo said.

Many others had been shot. Charles Huff, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces in Panama, was one of the seven Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre. He told Freedom, "We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts."

Huff noted that those with fatal bullet or bolt wounds appeared to have been running toward the jungle that surrounded Jonestown. Corroborating the information from Dr. Mootoo, Huff said that the adults who had not been shot had been killed by injections between the shoulder blades. The killers escaped before the arrival of Huff and his team.

U.S. Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who worked closely in key positions with the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for many years, told Freedom that Leo Ryan had moved in too close to certain skeletons that could never be safely disturbed. A relentless and uncompromising investigator, nothing could stop Ryan—short of violence. But how could such a high-profile personality be eliminated without bringing down upon the perpetrators an investigation to end all investigations?

A very real possibility is that by making the assassination part of an even larger catastrophe, the central drama itself—that of a courageous individual blocked from probing reports of illegal, unconstitutional, government-sponsored psychiatric “mind-control” activities—was obscured.

Colonel Prouty noted evidence of the involvement of a larger force in the operation: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff had prepared air shipments of hundreds of body bags. They didn't normally keep that many in any one place. Within hours, they began to shuttle them down to Georgetown, the main city. They couldn't possibly have done that without prior knowledge that it was going to happen. It shows that there was prior planning."

Prouty said, “We would provide the agency with the things they were requesting, without any questions. That’s the way the business works."

At Jonestown, he said, the JCS provided the body bags, the airlift and all the rest on a timetable that shows advance knowledge. "The JCS wouldn't have moved at all on their own," he said. "They didn't give a damn about Jonestown.” These and other unusual events, he noted, “are the kinds of earmarks that define the hand of American intelligence."

Nearly two decades after the death of Congressman Leo Ryan, America is still owed a definitive explanation for the many unresolved questions surrounding the tragedy. To begin, all documents and records from all relevant agencies should be released in full. Only then might the full truth be known.

Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, then Guyana's chief medical examiner and the first physician on the scene after Congressman Ryan's death, worked nonstop for 32 hours, examining 187 bodies murdered by injection before he and his team gave up due to the stifling heat. Many others had been shot, Ryan himself reportedly 12 times…

VIDEO – Jonestown – The Life and Death of Peoples Temple:

VIDEO – Jonestown – CIA Mind Control 1 of 2

VIDEO – Jonestown – CIA Mind Control 2 of 2

VIDEO – CIA and Jonestown

VIDEO – The Jonestown Death Tape (FBI No. Q 042) (November 18, 1978) –
“i dont even have words for how heavy my heart feels when i listen to this. I had a hard time listening to this tape, when i first did, it was on youtube, and i couldnt get through it, it was too sad it was like listening to someones last words and it was truly chilling. even now i still get chills listening to it, and the reason its soo chilling to me is the fact that these people were actual people, and it wasnt some hollywood stunt these people were actually dieing and when you get through half of the tape you realize that your listening to people die your listening to these peoples last day on this earth and it literally just breaks your heart 3 in two not only adults but children? and that is whats truly heart breaking.”
AUDIO – The Jonestown Death Tape (FBI No. Q 042) (November 18, 1978) –

Jonestown, the CIA and the Mystery Tape, by David Parker Wise –

Reversed Speech and Soul Music On Q-042, by Kyle Ray –

Uploaded by PBS on Mar 26, 2009 – The activist priest Father Roy Bourgeois campaigns to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas. and: The School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2001 renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) See:

See: Jungle Operations Training Center, See:September 11, 2012, WordPress, 9/11, Iran-Contra, and Treason, by A. J. MacDonald, Jr.,

See: September 14, 2012, WordPress, Professor Adrienne Pine and Father Roy Bourgeois take on the DoD, CIA, and MSM, by A. J. MacDonald, Jr.,