New York Times columnist, David Brooks, in his article Cult of Death on Sept 7th 2004 written shortly after the Beslan hostage massacre, said:
We should by now have become used to the death cult that is thriving at the fringes of the Muslim world. This is the cult of people who are proud to declare, "You love life, but we love death." This is the cult that sent waves of defenseless children to be mowed down on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war that trains kindergartners to become bombs, that fetishizes death, that sends people off joyfully to commit mass murder.
This cult attaches itself to a political cause but parasitically strangles it. The death cult has strangled the dream of a Palestinian state. The suicide bombers have not brought peace to Palestine; they've brought reprisals. The car bombers are not pushing the U.S. out of Iraq; they're forcing us to stay longer. The death cult is now strangling the Chechen cause, and will bring not independence but blood.
But that's the idea. Because the death cult is not really about the cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing and dying.
It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even from human nature, which says, Love children, and Love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.
To my mind this is an incredibly accurate perception of the spiritual dynamics of the situation. In the Beslan massacre we saw all humanity stifled and all compassion lost - subsumed in total hatred of the “enemy”. There was not the slightest trace of “normal human nature” which is the image of God within humankind. Good had been eradicated from their souls and replaced with cold, cruel evil.
This total renunciation of normal human nature is not something that “normally” happens to people - even in the most tragic of circumstances such as Auschwitz. This is organized hatred, group manipulation, hatred carefully constructed and nurtured by the leaders of these movements who have developed vast skills in psychological manipulation. It is a cult of death and it is quite demonic.
As David Brooks says the terrorists enjoy “the sheer pleasure of killing and dying”. The pleasure of killing and dying is the enjoyment of god-like power over the lives of others, and in the end, your own life. It is thus a lawless and blasphemous power. Killing intoxicates some people. I remember reading an LA times article in which a soldier in Iraq said “When I first killed someone it was the greatest pleasure had ever felt, it was a rush, since then all I think about is kill, kill, kill and that worries me a bit.” The LA times article went on to recommend counselling for such soldiers so they could fit in with life back home on their return. This soldier was at least concerned about his feelings and had some insight and basic morality. Death cults extinguish this last flicker of goodness in the human soul and produce complete monsters, demonic beings incapable of reform.
Increasingly even Western culture is glorifying people who kill. Killing has replaced rescuing as the manly motif. The message seems to be that true manhood now involves killing at least one bad guy.
In the last paragraph of the quote above Brooks says: It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness. It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even from human nature, which says, Love children, and Love life. It's about the joy of sadism and suicide.
Lets look at the phrase: “The total freedom of barbarism – freedom even from human nature”. Barbarians are getting a lot of good press these days – from the Vikings to the Mongols. Barbarians are noted for roaming free across the world, killing whomever they want, bringing down whole civilizations and burning libraries. Break all the bounds – be a barbarian! On one level it might seem an innocent appeal to a couch potato generation but it is part of a global spiritual dynamic that reached its peak in Beslan.
Living outside the law feels good and free and powerful and breaking all conventions feels liberating. The fish can jump free of the water for a moment. But forsaking all humanity, forsaking even the best parts of convention and law and conscience is pure evil. Barbarism is destruction in the supposed name of liberation.
Lawlessness, unreason, barbarism and the cult of death are gaining strength around the globe. They shock us because we, as born-again Christians, simply do not think in that way or on that level. The gospel has renewed our minds and given us the mind of Christ. Yet even Christian fundamentalism has occasionally gone down that path – as in the case of Jim Jones in Guyana. So we must at least try to grasp the horror of barbarian death cults.
Kevin Toolis of the Observer describes the death cults thus:
The cult of death began in Gaza. In its streets Hamas militants shroud themselves in the white robes of the paradise-to-come, and strap dummy explosives to their waists to symbolise their willingness to sacrifice their lives.
The city's wall are shrines to suicide bombers and the death toll they have inflicted on the Israeli occupiers. Many of the city's mosques are plastered with the 'martyrdom' posters extolling the deeds of suicide bombers. No details are hidden. Even the Sbarro attack, where most of the victims were young children, is celebrated with news photos of the aftermath.
Almost every day, even under the so-called crackdown by the Palestinian Authority, the streets are filled with another frenzied funeral, a dark pageant of martyrdom. Every martyr, or what remains of him, receives a hero's funeral. Each funeral is another blood ritual, a rallying call for more sacrifice and death.
By the side of the crowd we even found a stall selling a 2002 Suicide Bomber calendar displaying the faces of all the dead bombers, and Hamas's spiritual leader, Sheikh Yessin.
In life most suicide bombers are nobodies, but in death they rise and become shaheed, and their families rise with them. Each martyr's family receives an official certificate of martyrdom from the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and a prize of $10,000.
How can it get to this point where a whole town clearly celebrates and worships death? The next part of this article will look at some of the work on mind-control by people such as Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer and Steve Hassan.
In Steve Hassan’s excellent book Combating Cult Mind Control he says that cults attempt control four things: information, feelings, behavior and thought. In an press release on November 11 attacks he writes:
"Terrorist cult organizations apparently employ many of the same mind control techniques used by such destructive groups as Scientology," says Steven Hassan, director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. "These include isolation, hypnosis, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and the programming of phobias in the minds of members.
"The government and the public may think of the terrorists as radical extremists who were motivated by an intense and driving hatred of America - one cultivated by the militant Muslim leader Osama bin Laden. But there is evidence that at least some of the terrorists underwent a 'radical transformation' when they were recruited and were probably manipulated in ways that they were not aware of."
A high-ranking Moonie in the 1970's, Hassan was so heavily influenced by mind control techniques that he was prepared to give his life for the group. "When I was in the Moonies, I was trained to die or kill on command," says Hassan, author of Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. "I understand the mindset.
"Suicide bombers undergo a thorough and extensive indoctrination - reportedly spending hours in a coffin reading from the Koran in an open grave. They are told that they are already dead and will be hailed in heaven for their heroic deeds," Hassan says. "Like members of other destructive cults, they are programmed to think in simplistic black and white, us-versus-them terms. They not only depersonalize but also demonize their enemies.
"The last thing we need to do is fuel their idea that we are Satan," Hassan says. He believes that U.S. military action against Muslim civilians will only reinforce the cultist's commitment and escalate the violence. "We should be using our knowledge of psychology to undermine the control and power of the people on top of the pyramid of this and other terrorist organizations," he says.
Death cults train their devotees to see life as Hell and death as glory. From their religious perspective death is self-purification, death is the moment of significance and the final relief from, and outlet of, their self-tearing rage. Death is the moment of striking at the Great Satan, the moment of power, victory and self-transcendence, the moment of supreme cruelty.
Death cults are clearly Satanic, indeed death is the last enemy and is closely associated with Satan in the bible and Death along with the Devil is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-14). In Ephesians sustained rage is seen as “giving place to the Devil” Ephesians 4:26-27 MKJV Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, (27) neither give place to the Devil. So we can surmise that the sustained and cultivated rage of the terrorists and Islam’s unforgiving spirit gives great opportunity for demon possession to occur.
Robert Jay Lifton pioneered research on mind-control and thought reform with his work on China and North Korea in the late fifties and early sixties. He identifies the following components of mind control. These definitions are quoted from Stephen Martin’s article on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban at: http://www.wellspringretreat.org/html/journal/taliban/taliban2.html (Sorry, link broken.) and you should read the whole article for its many illustrations on how these organizations share many aspects classic mind-control cults.
Milieu Control is an environment in which the leader imposes a limitation of communication and interaction with the world outside the group, except, of course, for the purpose of recruiting. This limitation stems from the conviction that their group alone possesses the truth. In order to engineer the soul into this "truth," they believe that they must bring the person under full observational control. In effect, such a one is actually boxed in, or even isolated to one degree or another, and thus hindered from obtaining what is true and relevant outside the group.
A powerful means of instilling belief in someone or persuading someone is to strike a sense of awe and enthusiasm within the person through various forms of "mystical manipulation" by manipulating circumstances or the environment from behind the scenes. The resulting "mystical aura" that surrounds the system and the leader is sheer deceit. Such leaders perform these deceitful manipulations in order to maintain a sense of power over their followers. But more importantly, they feel driven by a sense of their own "higher purpose," and the belief that they are special agents chosen by history, by God, or by some other supernatural force in order to carry out what they think is their imperative mission. Their overriding sense of this mission makes these manipulations justifiable in their own minds. An awe-inspiring group and leader get the recruits excited about the cause and mission of the group, so that they devote themselves to this cause and this mission. A cult leader (or "ideological totalist," as Lifton calls them) will exploit this zeal and faith within the new followers to the point where the mission is given more importance than the immediate needs or even the lives of the members. These members eventually accept and endorse this "importance" of the mission as their own, even coming to the point where they feel it is necessary to submit to any abuse or command from the leader in order to fulfill the "higher purpose" which to the member may mean his own ultimate salvation. At this point, the member feels unable to escape from these forces that are (or seem to be) more powerful than he, so he gives in, subordinating everything to adapting himself to them. Lifton calls this "the psychology of the pawn."
Demand for Purity
This is a categorization of good and evil in which even human limitations, weaknesses, and imperfections are categorized as "sin," and perhaps looked upon with condemnation. It is a kind of purity that is unattainable; in other words, a demand for perfection. It is a standard of purity, of rightness and wrongness, as defined by the leader (the ideological totalist). Every human being has a certain amount of guilt and shame which can be tapped into. Given a totalist leader, this guilt and shame can be used to remind the subject of his limitations and weaknesses and be used as a manipulative appeal to search for the ultimate standard of good as defined by the authoritative leader. The result is a burden of man-made rules and prohibitions that come to be accepted as necessary for purity or perfection, but which are hard to bear, and this causes undue guilt and shame. Hence, it is a system of legalism. The guilt and shame are used as emotional levers, and serve to prod the member toward continuous reform of himself or herself. The subject keeps on striving painfully to meet the prevailing standard. But it is like being on a treadmill, or like the carrot on a stick that the wagon driver dangles in front of the donkey. If the subject does not progress according to the standard, measure up to the standard, or keep the rules, he can expect punishment, humiliation, and ostracism.
The totalist environment maintains an atmosphere or an aura of sacredness around its teachings and practices. Therefore, any doubts or questions about the system are prohibited. The prohibitions may be either clearly evident or subtly implied. Anyone who criticizes or disagrees with what's going on, or proposes alternative ideas is looked upon as evil and irreverent. Thus, the ideas of a human leader are exalted to the level of God's thoughts. If an individual accepts and goes along with the teachings and practices, being caught up in the aura of sacredness can give a sense of comfort and security, and thus lead to a posture of unquestioning faith. The "sacred science" can gain such a strong hold over the person's mental processes that if he begins to feel attracted to contradictory or alternative ideas, he may feel guilty and afraid. Consequently, his quest for what is true and real is hindered. (And this actually contradicts the character of the genuinely scientific approach.)
Doctrine Over Person
Doctrine Over Person essentially consists of fitting everything under their control into a preconceived mold. This involves:
*No appreciation of someone's talents, individuality or creativity; their only goal is to fit everyone and their personalities into the preconceived mold of the doctrinal system, opposing diversity and individual differences.
*No recognition of one's feelings or sensitivities.
*The rigidity of the doctrinal mold resists adaptation even when adaptation may prove to be best.
*The rewriting of history to fit the system of the doctrinal mold.
Dispensing of Existence
The totalist environment draws a sharp line between those who have a right to exist and those who do not. Those outside their group have no right to exist. The group thus has an arrogant and elitist mentality, considering themselves superior rather than having equal rights as other humans.
Cult of Confession is associated with the Demand for Purity and involves open confession in front of the leader and often in front of the group. It is intended to expose and rid the member of those impurities which the leader so labels. What it amounts to, however, is open self-degradation. This leads to exploitation of the member's vulnerabilities.
Loading the Language involves the use and manipulation of words and phrases to produce "thought-terminating cliches." It is thus a tool and extension of the "Sacred Science" - language that is used in order to stifle doubts and criticism, resulting in a narrowing and constriction of thought processes.
There is so much written in this area that I could fill this book with quotes and articles. It also needs to be added that while Al-Qaeda uses many of the though control techniques of cults it is perhaps even more sinister in that it integrates with wider social movements within Islamic nations and promotes general Islamic ideals.
In Al-Qaeda we are not dealing with normal human beings, we are dealing with mind-controlled, demon-possessed fanatics whose whole outlook is dedicated to evil, to revenge and to death. The terrorists themselves cannot be swayed by logic or even by kindness. Isaiah puts it this way: Isaiah 26:10 Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
Yes, we must kill the terrorists and thus making war becomes inevitable. But in the long-term we must try and prevent terrorists from arising. We need to create conditions that make death cults seem like pure insanity – which they are, so that they completely lack recruits. We must make a way for the reasonable man to prosper or in his frustration he will follow the unreasonable man.