It's a fairly commonplace behavior, found in martial arts schools all over the world. And when you throw in the semi deity status that some people attribute to the so called Shaolin monks, you find activity and interactions that range from the comical to the downright absurd and dangerous.

Here's a definition that you really need to keep in mind when interacting with martial artists of all kinds, especially those that devote a lot of time and energy to some of these Shaolin related personalities.


The Cult: Definitions, Patterns, and Behaviors.

When identifying cults and cult like behavior, most sociologist and psychologist agree that there are three aspects of their behavior that should be evaluated. As all cults are different in their approaches, a cult may have one or more identifying factors from each category, or, may just predominantly reside within one. Let's take a look at all three.

Sociological Cults

The main identifying factor of a group as a cult, is its tendency to completely withdraw from normal regular society, into a communal isolated lifestyle. That lifestyle can be a relative one, whereby people withdraw locally within their regular communities, or, actually withdraw as a group into a distant or remote area with others who follow their beliefs. The polygamists of southern Utah, who live in Colorado City, are an example. The Jim Jones people are another.

These communities exhibit secondary concepts, such as out of the ordinary behavior, such as polygamy, incest, pedophilia, drug use, physical abuse, weapons caching, out of the ordinary therapies, and murder. It is not uncommon for these groups to run afoul of the overall society's laws.

Psychological Cults

Here it gets more interesting; the psychological aspect of cults has long been associated with the concept of brainwashing. According to Langone, a psychologist and exectutive director of the American Family Foundation, the psychological definition of cults includes:

A cult is a group or movement that, to a significant degree, exhibits great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing; uses a thought reform program to persuade, control, and socialize members (to integrate them into the group's unique pattern of relationships, beliefs, values, and practices); systematically induces states of pyschological dependency in members; exploits members to advance the leadership's goals; and causes psychological harm to members, their families, and the community.

Generally, the following can be found in psychological cults:

* Isolation of members, psychologically and or physically, from individuals outside the group whose ideas and philosophies are contray to those promoted by the group.

* Intense "love bombing" that so powerfully affects individuals with deep seated emotional needs that those persons are psychologically thrown off balance. They are faced with an agonizing decision: stay with the group and receive love, or leave the group and lose love.

* A systematic replacement of the pre-conversion identities of members with a new group-related identity. This sometimes includes the destruction of personal possessions and the destruction of family ties.

* Rapid-fire teaching techniques that do not allow members to think critically about what is being said, coupled with an environment wherein open discussion of relevant issues and the expression of contrary opinions is discouraged.

* The use of fear and intimidation against members who desire to leave the group, or former members seeking to break ties with the group.

* Use of deceptive recruitment techniques that include false information about the group's doctrinal beliefs and cover-ups of negative episodes in the group's history.

* Total, unquestioning allegiance to a central leader or elite core of leaders.

* The promotion of an "ends justifies the means" philosophy within the group.

* An "us vs. them" mentality that stresses the group's unique hold on truth and demonizes anyone who opposes that alleged truth.

* An inordinate emphasis on submission and obedience to the group authority, which effectively "guilts" a person into submission.

* Consistent stress on the importance of following the divinely revealed truths being taught by a group's leader or leaders.

* A siege mentality that dismisses all criticisms of the group from outside sources as unwarranted "persecution".

* Shunning and harsh criticism of "rebellious" members who question the teachings or practices of the group.

* An elitist attitude that is drilled into members, which states that those outside the group are spiritually lukewarm, comprising, or entirely lost.

* Excessive control over personal aspects of member's lives, eg, where to live, where to work, who to date, who to marry, what literature to read, when vacations can be taken, etc.

* Rigid restrictions relating to the sleeping habits, food intake, exercise, and leisure time of members.

Theological Cults

There are a few characteristics found within theological cults:

* A group of people gathered about a specific person or person's interpretation of the Bible... Cults contain not a few major deviations from historic Christianity. Yet, paradoxically, they continue to insist that they are entitled to be classified as Christians.

* Any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by either an additional revelation, and or by displacing a fundamental tenet of the faith with a secondary matter.

* A group adhering to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity yet which claim the distincition of either tracing their origin to orthodox sources or of being in essential harmony with those sources.

* A perversion, a distortion of biblical Christianity and/or a rejection of the historic teachings of the Christian church.

* A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual, group of leaders, or organization, which denies one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

* A group of persons polarized around a heretical interpretation of religious truth. Such groups typically cite the Bible and claim to be in harmony with Christianity, but deny such basic doctrines of the Christian faith as the Trinity, the unique deity of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace alone, and justification by faith.

From the excellent book, One Nation Under Gods, by Abanes