ost of us living in the work-a-day world were shocked, this March, to hear reports that a cult in California had committed mass suicide, thinking they could shed their earthly bodies to meet up with a UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet. The Heaven's Gate cult, comprised of savvy computer programmers who designed web pages for the Internet, believed a lethal mixture of drugs and alchohol would free them from the human realm to complete the next stage of evolution with their leader, Marshall Herff Applewhite, known as Do. While the Earth and its inhabitants were doomed, Do preached, salvation by flying saucers awaited the fortunate few.
How could such educated and apparently intelligent people buy this bill of goods? How could they be so certain of their UFO religion that they would chuck it all, ending their lives for good?
Most of us consider ourselves savvy enough to resist the draw of dangerous cults. When it comes to influence from the likes of Marshall Applewhite and his ilk --including David Koresh of the Branch Davidians and the late Jim Jones of the infamous Peoples Temple-- we like to tell ourselves, we are immune. In fact, we're amazed that anyone might fall prey to such anti-heroes --obvious wolves parading as gurus, who clearly exploit the lambs who come their way.
If you consider yourself the kind of person who would never fall victim to such exploitation, the following brief exercise may help you to recognize and nurture the personal qualities behind your independence. By getting in touch with these essential aspects of your own personality, you can better understand what it is that often drives other people into destructive relationships with cult leaders --or manipulative authoritarian figures from just about any walk of life. These unique personal insights, moreover, can help you to guide other, less psychologicalyl independent or savvy souls. In so doing, you may help to strike a blow against insidious influences threatening society at its core.
To experience the full impact of the brief exercise that follows, it is essential that you answer each of the questions you'll be asked in sequence, without going back once you have made a decision. There will be plenty of time later on, once you have completed the exercise, for you to explore all the other possibilities that would have been open to you if you had provided different answers. Remember, what follows is only an exercise, but it is absolutely imperative that you be completely honest in answering all the questions.
If you have any doubt about your ability to comfortably handle this
exploratory journey into your innermost decision-making processes, or have a
history of serious psychological problems, we recommend checking with your
doctor or therapist before you begin the exercise.
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