Abolish the Tnevoc Cult!! sign now

We want abolish the Tnevoc Cult.

Like their modern-day counterparts in the current cult explosion, such as the Unification Church and the Divine Light Mission, the Tnevnocs made a point of attempting to recruit members when they were still in their teenage and young adult years. This age cohort, Tnevnoc leaders recognized, was the least encumbered by domestic and occupational responsibilities, and its members were, not surprisingly, highly susceptible to idealistic, altruistic appeals. Much of this recruitment was openly conducted in schools and on campuses. On the basis of limited contacts with cult members, young girls were induced to commit themselves totally to the cult. If the cult succeeded in gaining control over them, it subjected them to such thorough indoctrination that they became totally dependent on the cult and in many cases lacked the will to free themselves from it.

Once a girl had been induced to join the cult she was immediately subjected to totalistic control. Like the Hare Krishna and the Children of God, members were forced to surrender all aspects of their former lives. Virtually all personal possessions were taken away, and individuals were prohibited from developing any outside involvements and commitments. Indeed, members were required to devote literally all of their time and energies to cult activities. The round of cult life was relentless and consuming. Members were routinely waked at 4:30 a.m. to face an arduous day of menial labor interspersed with long hours of prayer, meditation, mind-numbing chanting, and compulsory religious ceremonies. Like Hare Krishna sect members who always carry prayer beads in cloth sacks attached to their wrists, Tnevnocs carried such beads which they used in their repetitive, monotonic chanting. Members gathered in candlelit, incense-filled rooms closed to outsiders for a variety of special rituals involving chanting and meditation. One particularly bizarre observance was a type of love/unity feast involving ritualistic cannibalism. Members consumed food which they were told symbolically represented parts of the dead founders body.

The time not taken up with such rituals was devoted almost entirely to menial labor such as washing clothes, preparing food, and scrubbing floors. Indeed, only one hour of free time was allowed each day, but even during this brief period members were forbidden to be alone or in unsupervised groups, being required to remain together and monitored by cult leaders. All luxuries and even basic amenities were eliminated. For example, members slept each night on wooden planks with only thin straw mats as mattresses. They subsisted on a bland, spartan diet; food deprivation was even more severe than the meager diet implies, members being permitted to eat sweets only once a year and often being placed under considerable pressure to fast periodically. This combination of limited sleep, draining physical labor, and long hours of compulsory group rituals and worship, all supported by a meager subsistence-level diet, left members without sufficient time or energy to preserve even their own senses of individual identity.

All the members former sources of emotional support also were severed upon joining the cult. During the first year members were forbidden to leave the communal (and often remote rural) setting in which their training took place and could receive no outside visitors beyond one family visitation. It thus became virtually impossible for parents and friends to maintain regular and frequent contact with members. For example, members were permitted to write only a minimal four letters per year. Further, just as do Unification Church leaders, Tnevnoc cult leaders deliberately disrupted family ties by creating a fictive kinship system in which they assumed parental roles intended to replace members natural parents and siblings. Any other relationships which threatened cult control were also strictly forbidden. For example, sexual attachments of any kind were , without exception, tabooed. Lone Tvenocs were never allowed in the presence of individuals of the opposite sex and they were forbidden to maintain close personal friendships with each other or even to touch physically. All loyalty had to be channeled to the cult, and its leaders, in authoritarian fashion, enforced those strictures. Leaders went so far as to assert that they were Gods direct representatives on earth and therefore due absolute obedience by all members. This subservience was formalized in each members written promise of absolute obedience for three years, after which time individuals often were led to make similar commitments for the remainder of their lives.

Perhaps most striking was the emergence of cult-induced personality changes. This began with the alteration of each individuals exterior appearance. Like the Hare Krishna, Tnevnoc cult members immediately upon joining had their hair cut off and were dispensed long flowing garments specifically designed to render members indistinguishable from one another. This concerted effort to wipe out any sense of individuality was carried to such extremes that members were never permitted to own or even look into mirrors. The cult literally attempted to destroy the old individual, her identity, and her former lifes associations by assigning a new cult name and designating the date of her entry into the group as the individuals real birth date. Of course such identity changes were more difficult to monitor than behavioral conformity. One way cult leaders maintained close surveillance over the most private aspects of members lives was to require members to reveal publicly and to record in diaries even the most minor infractions of elaborate cult rules, as well as improper thoughts and wishes.

This totalistic environment, with its rigid, all-encompassing code of behavior that individuals could not possibly follow without some minor infractions, engendered within members constant and inescapable feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, anxiety, and guilt. Cult leaders deliberately exacerbated these nagging feelings by instituting a series of humiliating, ego-destructive punishments for even the most trivial infractions of cult rules. For example, daydreaming or entertaining improper thoughts, however fleetingly, called down upon members ceremonies of public degradation. Members were forced to prostrate themselves in front of the cult leaders and kiss their feet or, alternately, were denied food and reduced to crawling from member to member on their knees begging for the dregs of other members meals. Such punishments became more severe as time went on, and members were expected to punish themselves regularly for these deviations. The cult went so far as to issue each member a ring to which were attached several lengths of chain with barbed wire points on the ends. Members were required to return alone to their beds at night at regular intervals and flagellate themselves with this cruel device as atonement for their infractions.

Not surprisingly, the grueling demands of cult membership and the ever-present feelings of guilt and anxiety created the potential for members to give up or defect. In addition to the docility created by the harsh conditions of the daily round of cult life, members were constantly pressured by cult leaders for greater personal sacrifice and evidence of complete commitment. Indeed, members competed with one another to express total selflessness and dedication. These constant exhortations and punishments designed to destroy any vestiges of individuality were reinforced by ceremonies intended to bind the individual inextricably to the group. One particularly ghoulish example was a macabre nuptial ceremony in which members were required to become living brides of the dead cult leader. Overall these extreme and often bizarre tactics were extremely successful. Although on occasion individuals did manage to extricate themselves from the cult, most were permanently stripped of their individuality and autonomy and lived out their lives in subservient obedience....

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