Moscow - Dvorkin: A cult can be created from a light bulb

Stolichnaya Vechernyaya Gazeta, March 2, 2004

For comment on the Soviet "Iskhodovite" song and to learn about reasons for the second coming of the messiah, "Stolichnaya" correspondent Nikolai Kononov turned to renowned sectologist Aleksandr Dvorkin, (Russian) author of the phrase "totalitarian sect."

-- First let's define the terminology. What is a totalitarian sect?

-- This is an authoritarian organization, the core meaning of whose existence is power and money for management. And in pursuit of these goals it conceals its intentions with various masks - religion, psychology, culture, academics and politics. Sects are recognized by a number of characteristics: deception in recruitment, consciousness control of the adepts, regimentation of all aspects of life and idolizing leaders.

-- What are some of the specifics about the latest wave of popularity of sects?

They accumulated people in the '90s that they gained on the Russian market. Then the sects dredged the lower segments of society from which they make their money. So there, for example, the "Jehovahs Witnesses" worked with people of retirement and pre-retirement age, the "Church of Christ" worked with vo-tech students, and the Moonists with idealistic minded student-humanitarians. At some point the growth of the number of adepts tapered off. Now their mission is to take root in society. They set up real estate and create a positive image. They use the court system to get journalists accustomed to the idea that they do not put up with criticism.

-- And the new sects?

-- Widespread occurrence: ambitious people stay in sects for a while, understand the mechanisms of their operation, understand that they are not going to improve or go to a higher level, and start to disentangle themselves from that sect. Thus clones of the cast-off sect appear, with variations on the same theme.
Psycho-cults are a separate matter. Those are sects that are organized in view of psychological courses or seminars. This is a perspective trend for enterprising individuals who want to fleece people. Then there are commercial cults and numerous pyramid networks. There are many signs of sectarianism in all marketing networks, and a number of networking companies have appeared as fully formed sects.

-- Wait a minute, marketing doesn't have any connection with religion.

-- Who told you that there had to be a connection?! Does "Herbal Life" have consciousness control? They do. Do they deify organizational leaders? They call Mark Hughs a superhuman, there is deception during recruitment, fanatical belief in the magical qualities of their "products." All the signs are present.

-- Then how is a sect different from, shall we say, a scouting organization?

-- The degree of conscious control should be examined. This is the degree to which the organization intrudes upon the life of a person. It's like radiation. It exists everywhere, in Moscow as well as in Chernobyl, but nevertheless you would prefer to live in Moscow.

- It is looking like the definition of a sect is very subjective. To one person it seems that people should not be devoting this amount of their lives to others, and to another this same thing seems normal.

-- No. In a sect there is always deception in recruitment. People try to earn the right to be accepted into the Scouts. But here the mission is different - to drag a person into the organization before he is aware of anything about it. They invite you in for warm, youthful company, but you end up in the Moonies.

-- Why do people join sects?

-- Nobody joins a sect! A sect leads them in.

-- OK. Why do people agree to being led in?

-- First, they are deceived. Secondly, as a rule, people who end up in sects are those who are experiencing a stressful circumstance. In a state of stress you take suggestions easily. And when you're already in a sect - this is a condition that is artificially maintained in you. Sometimes to get a person out of a sect, it's necessary for him to get a good sleep, to get his weight back and to be left alone for a few days. As a rule, however, people do not stay in sects their entire lives. Because when you give the sect everything you have - health, money and power - you just become useless. Then they toss you out onto the street.

-- What kind of people are led into a sect?

-- Higher education students in the first through third years. They are undergoing increased stress in changing from a child's to an adult existence. Plus there is the first disillusionment in the search for meaning in life. The second group are the people of pre-retirement and of retirement age. People feel alone and unwanted. They have time on their hands and brood about eternity.

-- And what sort of sect is "Iskhod"?

-- That is an occult-theosophical sect. Its ideology contains the theosophy of Blavatsky, the ideas of the Universal Future Church and of the "Radasteya" sect. They resemble the last in particular. "Radasteya" was created by Eudoxia Marchenko from Miass, astrophysicist by education. Its popularity has surged in the last four years - Eudoxia travels through all of Russia, as an"Interplanetary Operator." "Iskhod" and "Radasteya" are practically clones of each other. At the head of either one are women with graphomanic inclinations (people who use compulsive scribbling as a medium). I have a theory that the most clever graphomanics found sects and distribute their texts as a sacred ritual. Otherwise nobody would bother to read them. With regard to what Marchenko writes, it's impossible to look at it and keep a dry eye.

-- But why does "Iskhod" sing songs in the old motif? This is what - the Soviet subconscious making itself known?

-- People are always trying to make something new out of old familiar melodies. The Moonies and Radastians sing Soviet songs. In Porfiri Ivanov's sect the words of their hymn were assumed from the French national anthem "Marseillaise." People use music to bring about a change in consciousness. During this endorphins are secreted into a person's blood and the person receives his dose of pleasure. They get used to it. A chemical dependency is obtained, such as with a drug addict. The role of narcotics, however, is played by the words that the leader brings to bear on the adepts. That which "Iskhod" passes off as meditation does not mean anything. If people are well enough conditioned, then a few words serve to put them in a trance state. People are suggestible.

-- Which sects, besides "Iskhod" can be called sects of the second wave?

- Well there's "Radasteya," "Strana Anura." The sect of Mirzakarim Norbekov, a fake scholar of all sorts of academies, who borrows some ideas from the neo-heathens, and others from the "New Age" movement. There are more small sects, thousands of them.

-- Looking at Norbekov, you understand that one can build a religion on something pleasant. That would be a fantasy.

-- Of course. If a person wanted to, he could construct a specific philosophical system around a light bulb. "A great transparent object that gives us light! Making from the darkness a day out of night!" Or it could be based on soup. Yes, it could be built on something nice. It depends on what people want.