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Psychological Warfare

One of the lengthiest processes after leaving a cult, one that is very critical in the recovery of the person escaping is deprogramming. Almost anyone who has escaped will tell you that they had no idea they NEEDED deprogramming during their time inside the cult, and even until long after escaping.


Programming is very subtle, not noticeable by the listeners, and many times not even intentionally administered by the cult pastors. What the pastors do to the people, they do by example.


During the Korean War, Americans held prisoner in the camps of the enemy went through sessions of “criticism and self criticism.” This psychological tactic was employed not only against the American prisoners of war, but also against the Korean militia. The Korean military leaders recognized the power of programming.


This tactic was relatively new to the American military. It was also employed by Hitler in Nazi Germany, but was widely overlooked until long after the history of the war was examined. These sessions, combined with the other military techniques, became known as “psychological warfare.”


The US army created a division called PSYWAR (for psychological warfare), and specifically recruited men with advanced education and intelligence to combat the enemy.

This technique of “criticism and self criticism” had very deep, and very long-lasting effects. The prisoners of war initially felt this routine was childish, not realizing that they would likely suffer from these effects for the rest of their lives. What they first thought was just slightly insulting conversation became programming that was embedded into their minds forever.


The Koreans would repeatedly criticize the American prisoners of war. Their mocking statements would seem childish or playful, but were specifically designed to drive these listeners to begin criticizing themselves. Over and over, the Koreans would nit-pick every single aspect of the Americans until the Americans would start to believe the insults and fill themselves with self-condemnation.


Eventually, the growing humiliation would completely break down the personalities and psychological makeup of the prisoners, turning them into different people than when they were first captured. And it was a gradual process; none of the prisoners could recognize their change until some of them managed to escape to others who could see and understand that these were not the same people.


They were broken. They were discouraged. They were pessimistic. They were filled with self-condemnation and self-pity. They were filled with the very same effects that we find within a cult.

The similarities between this psychological warfare and the cult I was born into are absolutely striking. For those like myself who were born into it, there was no prior personality to compare – we were molded and programmed our entire lives into the people we became. But for others, those who lived normal lives until they became trapped inside a cult, the story is much different. The change in their lives was clearly visible.


A reporter for a lifestyle magazine named “YOU” interviewed the family of a young woman who became trapped in the cult my family grew up with. The young woman was not born into the cult, but fell in love with a young man who was. As she started attending the church, she began to change.


This change was not evident at first. It was very gradual. Over time, her personality changed to the point that even her own family and friends became outcast. Like the prisoners of war in Korea, she became broken, self-condemning, and in all ways: different.


The mother is quoted as being shocked that this much of a change could happen in her daughter. “My children were real achievers and were involved in church work. Nobody thought something like this could happen to us.”


The loving mother knew something was wrong, knew that her daughter was no longer the same ambitious and motivated daughter that she once

knew, and put a plan into motion. They snuck into her Canadian home in the early hours past midnight, whisked her into Africa to a deprogramming facility, and spent the next several weeks deprogramming her daughter from the mind control and psychological warfare of the cult.


“She was emotionless,” her mother said. “I didn’t know her. It was heartbreaking.”


After finally ripping a great deal of the programming from her mind, even the young woman was shocked. Especially shocked that she could be so subtly turned from her own parents.


The cult began breaking her down, filling her with self-condemnation for the life she lived and the way her mother had raised her. “They persuaded me my parents were trying to keep me from having a better life,” she said.”


But finally, after weeks of help from a doctor, the young woman could love her family once more. She was thankful that her mother loved her enough to risk real danger to take her to find help. “At times like this, you realize the value of a family,” she said.


This was not some cult like you see in the movies, with dark dungeons and men in long, brown robes. This is not some dark building where the people sit around a large five-pointed star in the floor, holding candles up to the man in

the center. The young woman describes the cult church as being like any other – a very inviting place from the outside. “It seemed like an ordinary church to me,” she said. “The women wore long dresses, but apart from that there was nothing unusual.”


The people inside of a cult are good, loving people. They will show you kindness while they see you as a prospect. They will show even more kindness if you come inside their walls. Some will tell you that once you become “one of them,” you become more loved than family. But just watch what happens when you leave that family!


And the “one of them,” is part of the programming.


There are several aspects to psychological warfare that are very common routine in a cult. Some of these techniques are employed regularly without even realizing that these techniques have a long-lasting effect.


The state of hypnosis is required. Not the waving of a pocket watch while a creepy looking man stares into your eyes and tells you to listen to the snap of his finger, but rather the mental state of hypnosis where your mind becomes placed into a very high state of suggestibility, relaxation, or meditation.


The church is the perfect place for this. Especially the cult churches that force silence

prior to the service – the people are forced to enter meditation in reverence to the Lord.


The music can be a factor. Music with rhythm having beats close to the human heartbeat will cause even more suggestibility. The closer the patient becomes to sleep, the more powerful the suggestion. While you find upbeat, exciting songs praising Christ for His work on the cross in other churches, you will find many cult churches with slow, dragging music. I can remember one man telling me after the service in the cult church I attended, “That sounded like funeral music!”


Once the people are programmed to receive, you will find many cult pastors with the Charismatic-style preaching, screaming at the top of their lungs as though they are preaching to an entire arena filled with three hundred thousand people without having a microphone. Many of these pastors scream like this in a church of fifty people.


Those who have never heard this style of preaching will laugh and make statements like “That man sounded like Hitler!”

And they are not far from the truth.


There is a pattern in psychological warfare. The men who were masterminds of controlling people through power of psychology have one thing in common: they are remembered as “screamers.”

When the person is most receptive to programming, the loud voice at the platform is seen as a figure of authority far greater than before. The words start to come in a rhythmic beat, matching close to the heartbeat.


Then, as the pastor gets deep into the sermon and the congregation becomes adjusted to this rhythm, the pastor starts filling them with the same type of self-condemnation strategy that the Koreans employed through psychological warfare.


This strategy has worked. It changed the personalities of the Nazi soldiers under Hitler so much that they did unspeakable crimes against humanity. It has raised military leaders into great power in several communistic, developing nations.


And it makes the people lift the pastor into power.


When a cult pastor is lifted into power, very few question his motives and objectives. He becomes the leader, not the shepherd. Rather than leading the sheep and pointing them to Christ and the Bible, he leads the people respect his own understanding of scripture without confirming his doctrines for themselves. They are truly programmed to receive.


The number one question I get asked from those escaping the cult I was born into is this: “If [our

cult leader] was not the ‘Messenger For The Hour,’ then WHO is?”


They have been programmed to lift a man into power. They have been programmed to bring a man into the ultimate authority, which essentially is the same as worship. They have been programmed to worship a man.


And this is not scriptural. If you twist scripture from the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, you might be able to stretch scripture enough to place the high priest into authority. The cult I came from stretched it even further to lift the prophets into the ultimate authority, not realizing that the high priests were the ones at the highest ranking position under the Jewish tradition. Prophets were nothing more than humble men, putting themselves out of the way so that God could speak through them.


But that is Old Testament. That is Old Covenant. We live under the New Covenant of Grace, not the Old Covenant of Law. We no longer make yearly journeys to offer our sacrifice to the earthly high priest. We are no longer to be reminded of our sins as these pastors try to do with their “condemnation and self condemnation” psychological warfare.


There was ONE final Sacrifice, and It was nailed to the cross once for all.


Hebrews chapter 10 says that the yearly sacrifice was a shadow of things to come, meaning that

they were given to the Children of Israel as a “type” of the final Sacrifice that would be offered by Christ.


It says that the old way was inefficient; we were constantly reminded of our sin, because the blood of bulls and goats can never take away our sin.


The book of Hebrews teaches us HOW we should preach – something that very few pastors in a cult follow. They themselves are “programmed to receive,” and are following their instincts based on their own programmed mind.


There is no self-condemnation. There is no provision for pointing fingers at the congregation on a weekly basis, reminding them of their sin. There is no belittling the people, breaking them down into submission so that the pastor can become the hero during a massive altar call.


He is not supposed to be the hero of the story.


Hebrews chapter 7 tells us that we have a new High Priest, and that High Priest is Jesus Christ. He is a High Priest forever – not until some cult leader comes along and deploys strategies of mind control and self-condemnation. Christ is the one we are supposed to follow, and we are supposed to follow Him by leading of the Holy Spirit that is within us!

I wish there was an easy answer to those struggling to deprogram. I wish there were some way that I could say, “It’s easy! Just do [this]!” I wish I could point them to a doctor that will make the transition easy, or to a self-help program that will make the deprogramming be much less painful.


But I can’t. Those who have gone through deprogramming will tell you that this was the most painful part of their experience as they escaped a cult. It is a roller coaster of emotion, from deep, painful sorrow to anger and hatred of the system that changed their personalities to such a bitter, self-condemning person. It brings great compassion to those that have been hurt by the programmed pride of being the “chosen few” in the “us against them” programmed mentality. That compassion is so extreme that it becomes painful.


But there IS a book I can point you to that will have all the answers. It is a book that they’ve held in their hands all this time, and it was patiently waiting for them to open it and unlock its power. It is a book that will teach them to respect themselves. It will teach them to respect others. It will teach them to show love, compassion, and mercy on their fellow man – even to those that do not believe the same way that they do. It’s a book that does have all the answers – if you just take the time to study and read.


That book is the Bible.