Up to 10,000 cults still exist currently in the United States, according to clergyman Steve Eichel, a famous general cult consultant and boss of the International Cultic Studies Association. He summarized several ways to brand cults.
“Most cults are intensely tiny and very deliberately try to to stay under the radar,” Eichel told “48 Hours” match Peter Van Sant. “Unless they dedicate a crime, unless they do something that draws courtesy to them–negative courtesy and critique to them–we generally don’t know about them.”
Van Sant interviewed Eichel for his “48 Hours” report on the Australian cult The Family. The cult was led by self-appointed cryptic Anne Hamilton-Byrne who, with the help of LSD, assured supporters she was womanlike reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
Hamilton-Byrne had up to 500 supporters and collected 28 children during the cult’s height. Some children were the brood of cult members, some were newborns whose solitary mothers believed they were going to a good home. A few were out and out stolen, according to former investigator Lex de Man, who has complicated The Family for years.
Many of the children had their hair frosty blonde since Hamilton-Byrne wanted them to resemble brothers and sisters. It was not until the children were discovered by police that they schooled Anne and her husband Bill Hamilton-Byrne were not their biological parents.
Although The Family was headquartered nearby Melbourne, Australia, it had a participation in Kent, England, and the Catskills segment of New York State. In fact, the Hamilton-Byrnes were arrested at their Catskill residence and extradited to Australia to mount trial.
A contention of The Family naturally raises the doubt of either cults still exist in the United States. Many Americans, generally baby boomers, tend to consider cults are a vestige of the 1960s and ’70s but that’s not true, as Van Sant learned.
“As an American, when we consider of cults in the United States we consider of the Branch Davidians. The Waco situation. we consider of,” Van Sant said. “I consider of just a handful of groups, ’cause those are the ones I’ve really listened of. You’re revelation me there’s much some-more than that?”
“Certainly. And of march you haven’t listened of them, and conjunction have I, for that matter. we don’t keep lane of all the cults,” Eichel replied. “Cultic groups tend to try very tough to sojourn secretive. They don’t wish a lot of prominence or disastrous attention.”
So what constitutes a cult? Eichel listed several factors:
- “Beware of any kind of pressure. That’s substantially the singular many critical recommendation we can give anyone. Any kind of vigour to make a discerning decision about apropos concerned in any complete kind of activity or organization.”
- “Be heedful of any personality who proclaims him or herself as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity.”
- “The organisation is closed, so in other words, nonetheless there may be outward followers, there’s customarily an middle round that follows the personality but question, and that maintains a extensive volume of secrecy.”
- “The organisation uses false means, typically, to partisan new members, and then once recruited will theme its members to an orderly program of suspicion reform, or what many people impute to as brainwashing.”
- “Typically cults also feat their members….mostly financially. Within the group, they’ll feat members financially, psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually.”
- “A very critical aspect of cult is the thought that if you leave the cult, terrible things will occur to you. This is important, and it’s critical to realize. That people outward of a cult are intensity members, so they’re not looked on as negatively as people inside the cult who then leave the cult.”