fascinating subject.... while i was never in a cult, i was at a moonie dinner/recruitment one night (except they don't tell you they're the moonies - i found that out years later after talking to someone who'd been "trapped" in that group for a few years). it was a bizzar experience - in that these really sweet people invited me over to dinner (picture me, 18 yrs. old, naive in the belief that if you're a good person and nice then people will be nice to you, having a solo day in san fran., and striking up a conversation with these nice folks on the street who are handing out flowers), well long story short, i went over to their house, where they took my shoes upon entering (no big deal, lots of people don't want shoes on in their house), about 10 or so of us visitors helped the dozen or more residents (big sf victorian) cook a big veggie dinner, then afterwards there was a slide show about their camp up in oregon, and talk of spiritual things, love, peace, harmony.... all sounds good and i think, wow, neat! but it's getting late, i've a bus to catch, time to go...now one of the folks leading the talks comes up to me and i thank her for dinner and the talk and tell her i've got to go, may i have my shoes please. she gets about an inch from my face and tells me how special i am, how much they all love me and won't i please join them at their camp? they really need me, love me, ad infinitum ... i reply no, not now, i have other obligations, but it sounds cool, maybe later, and can i have my shoes, please? more love, you MUST join us, etc. etc. now i'm starting to get a strange feeling and i can feel my flight/fight reflexes starting to kick in. no thanks, not now, AND I WANT MY SHOES, NOW!!! so they bring me my shoes (thank you), and see me out the door, all the while affirming how much they want me to keep in touch (yes, i gave them my mailing address
: ). at the bus stop i see two other guys who were guests too and we get to talking about how everything was cool, except that they got so weird at the end. we were all perplexed about that.... needless to say, i got letters from the two folks who originally invited me for dinner for a couple of months, then they stopped.
i find it so disturbing that people prey on people's (esp. young people) spiritual seeking. at a time when someone is in transition and looking for truth (or peace or love or answers). to me this is such a horrible form of abuse, because it hits at such a vulnerable place. i was fortunate to be pretty comfortable with myself and not feeling needy. my naivite and openess is what got me into trouble!