I've always wondered why some people are so intrigued with and ultimately seduced by groups that turn out to be nothing more than cults. These organizations have authoritarian power structures and seem to be most appealing to people with a certain set of circumstances in their past.
I've lost a few friends over the years to the likes of Scientology, EST and a few other lesser known organizations. Many of those groups have fallen by the wayside, but some stubbornly go on luring new generations of privileged, disaffected, vulnerable folks.
I was thinking the other day about specific instances in my past when I came into contact with these groups or their adherants.
Back in 1970, in the Bay Area, just walking around in San Francisco or Berkeley would initiate all manner of inquiries from "recruiters." Scientology used to give out a lengthy questionnaire inviting people to take home this handout and then come to a meeting later in the week. There were gurus and meditation gurus and groups that wore all peached colored or red colored clothing marching around the Bay Area. Harry Krishnas used to have a daily march up Telegraph Avenue every afternoon.
I've come to believe that there are a few common denominators that unite these groups and the people that find them so intriguing. Most of the people I know who were duped were after something more in their life. In fact there was one group called More House. Not to be confused with the traditionally Black college of the same name, this group and various off shoots were more like a commune that set out to have it's followers get "more" of everything in their lives. I remember being asked to go to a meeting set by this group in someone's home in Berkeley back then. My friend was mildly interested and I agreed to accompany her in case a quick getaway was needed. What started out like a party with people milling about this older home suddenly became a lecture with two disciples of the group sitting on top of a tall bed crosslegged while everyone else sat on the floor. The conscious positioning of people said it all. The hierarchy was in place and the web spun. We left. It was nothing more than the attempt of a few greedy, manipulative individuals to convince the "common people" to submit to their ideas.
The more famous cult nicknamed the Moonies used to stalk the Berkeley campus around Finals to set their traps. Once, after a final exam in my final graduate semester at Cal, Berkeley I was bicycling home and chanced to stop to pick up a Daily Cal, the student newspaper. Turning around, I was confronted by a beautiful young woman who handed me a flyer of sorts and invited me to her home for dinner. Anything was possible in Berkeley those days, but something felt terribly wrong. I had no knowledge that the sensory deprivation that accompanies Finals was fertile ground for these groups. They pounced when students were most vulnerable. Fortunately I view all invitations from strangers with a critical eye and politely accepted the offer and promised nothing. Within a year that specific group was under fire for their practices and went on to become revealed as just another scam in the name of peace love and harmony.