AUTHOR: Gordon, Ruth
PUBLISHED ON: April 29, 2003

                      DEFINING MIND CONTROL
                        by Ruth Gordon

To better understand mind control, we need to examine the
criteria for determining if any environment is a mind control
environment. The following criteria were first proposed by Dr.
Robert J. Lifton in his pioneering work, Thought Reform and the
Psychology of Totalism.

This book was a result of his work with the study of mind control
after the Korean War as used by the Red Chinese. As more and more
psychologist, ex-cult members, and cult watchers began to see the
patterns of cult experience match Lifton’s findings, his eight
criteria have become accepted as the standard by which any
organization can be measured to determine if mind control is
being used.

Each criteria will be listed and defined. Specific instances
where these are in effect in different cults can be seen on the

The degree of destructive mind control will correlate with the
intensity and occurrence that a group may employ of the

1) MILIEU CONTROL: The control of communication within an
environment. (Essentially, it is a purposeful limitation of all
forms of communication with the outside world, such as isolation
from friends and family, reading newspapers, magazines or books,
geographical distance or unavailability of transportation,
constant seminars, lectures or group encounters which can become
so intense that it makes it extremely difficult for an individual
to leave, both physically and psychologically.

2) MYSTICAL MANIPULATION: Extensive personal manipulation is
used. It seeks to provoke specific patterns of behavior and
emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen
spontaneously from within the environment. (The potential convert
becomes convinced that there is a higher purpose within the
special group, the leader becomes a mediator for God, and the
cult is the only true path to salvation.)

3) DEMAND FOR PURITY: This calls for radical separation of pure
and impure, of good and evil, within an environment and within
oneself. Absolute purification is a continuing process. The group
become the ultimate judge of good and evil within their world.
They are able to use normal urges and tendencies toward guilt and
shame as emotional levers. (This becomes a source of stimulation
of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. This also causes further
dependency on the group for ones salvation and/purification

4) CULT OF CONFESSION: Confession is carried beyond its ordinary
religious, illegal and therapeutic expressions to the point of
becoming a cult in itself. There are four aspects to this type of
confession: a) It enhances the group’s hold upon the person and
their guilt; b) it is an act of symbolic self-surrender; c) it is
a means of maintaining a tone of total exposure; and d) it makes
it virtually impossible to attain a reasonable balance between
worth and humility. (The thrust is toward personal change. )

5) SACRED SCIENCE: Combines a sacred set of dogmatic principles
with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human
behavior and human psychology. (The cult’s laws, regulations and
rules are absolute and must be followed without question. Any
thought or action which questions leadership is unacceptable.)

6) LOADING THE LANGUAGE: A literalization of language þ and to
words or images becoming God. (In each cult a new vocabulary is
invented confusing well known words with their own new meanings.
Cliche-ridden simplified language can have enormous appeal and
psychological power in its very simplification, and can produce
thought-stopping or inhibit reflective thinking.)

7) DOCTRINE OVER PERSON: This occurs when there is a conflict
between what one feels oneself experiencing and what the doctrine
or dogma says one should experience. (An individual’s value is
insignificant compared to the group as a whole. You must subject
your experiences to the truths that are taught. The experience of
contradiction or the admission of that experience can be
immediately associated with guilt. Doubts are a reflection of
one’s own evil.)

8) DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE: If one has an absolute or totalistic
vision of truth, then those who have not seen the light þ have
not embraced the truth, are in some way in the shadows þ are
bound up with evil, tainted, and do not have the right to exist.
(One placed in the in the second category of not having the right
to exist can experience psychologically a tremendous fear of
inner extinction or collapse. However, when one is accepted,
there can be great satisfaction of feeling oneself a part of the

All destructive cults use mind control to some extent. At a
conference in 1985, Dr. Margaret Singer described mind-control
relationships as “those relationships in which a person or
persons intentionally induces others to become totally or nearly
totally dependent on him or her for almost all major life
decisions, and inculcates in these followers a belief that he or
she has some special talent, gift or knowledge” (Issues in
Diagnosis and Treatment of Cult Members, Cult Awareness National
Convention, 1985).

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