Cynthia Kisser Interview #1

This is the first part of an interview with Cynthia Kisser, a woman who was the executive director of the Cult Awareness Network. She speaks about cults in general.

0:00Copy video clip URL Open mid-sentence followed quickly by a question from the interviewer as to the goals of a cult to which Cynthia responds “[they] want power and money.” She is asked who joins a cult and she responds, “just about anyone… [they] are more susceptible if they are going through a crisis in their life of some type.”

2:53Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks about some of the specific things Cynthia looks for when evaluating whether or not a group is a cult. She responds, “I look at the techniques that they use on their members… just to give you one example, environmental control… loaded language… manipulation… overloading the brain with information… having a sacred science… getting a person to give up the goals of their own life for the goals of the group… all of these things reduce the person’s self identity and makes then dependent on the group… One of the criteria which is hard to perceive from the outside is what’s called dispensing of existence… who is qualified to live and who is qualified to die…” She uses the examples of the Manson Family and the Jonestown massacre to illustrate the “dispensing of existence” in practice, but suggests that it’s difficult to understand or see from the outside how or why these cult members place the authority over life-and-death into the hands of their leaders.

6:04Copy video clip URL Kisser talks about how she gets her definition of mind control from professionals like Margaret Singer, John Clark, and Robert Lifton, and how in turn their methodology was based on the survivors of mind control from situations like hostages in Iran or Korea and others who have gone through mind control. Kisser talks about some of the cults that are active, especially in Chicago.

8:36Copy video clip URL Cynthia talks about the two types of cults: the ones which are  “the types which will present themselves as a self improvement group” when ultimately they are not, and “then you have groups called garbage eaters… that are nomadic, don’t have a center… Either way, the group is performing some sort of deceit.” The interviewer asks about accidentally becoming a cult, and she says that “mind control techniques can creep into a group’s practice without their full understanding of what they’re doing.” After prompted, Kisser goes on to talk about the history of “mind control cults” in particular and how they first became popular in the US in the ’60s but have their early roots in the ’30s in Russia under Stalin through Pavlov’s experiments and were modified and refined in China and Korea in the ’40s and ’50s. “Iit kind of hit the popular market [in this country] in the ’60s,” and suggests some of its boom may have happened because of a growing desire for self-help or to “get to know oneself better.”

12:33Copy video clip URL Kisser is asked to talk about some of the more subtle techniques used by mind control cults. She talks about how some cults use affection, romantic interest, or attention to draw people in to their influence. She says that wearing someone down physically (depriving sleep or nutrient-rich food) can hasten the indoctrination process. They talk about the two steps to mind control: conversion and indoctrination, “which can occur simultaneously or in either order.” After indoctrination, they still have to keep up symbols or rituals to maintain the mind control. She talks about thought-stopping techniques which several groups employ. “The person is cutting off their immediate environment… inner focusing… it becomes an escape mechanism for blocking off any outside threat.”

18:48Copy video clip URL Kisser talks about the effects of cults, “Their reading comprehension is not as good, their ability to process information and think critically is not as good, as well, of course, as emotional problems.” She talks about how several cults lead to adverse health effects, “let alone the stress… a lot of cults don’t believe in medical care or health insurance because of outside costs.”

20:38Copy video clip URL She is asked about individual expression to which she responds that generally it is not allowed except to the benefit of the group. She then talks about groups which people would be “surprised to find out are cults,” mentioning primarily est (Erhard Seminars Training), Scientology, Way International, Hare Krishnas. She is then asked about the Mormons, to which she replies that this is where there is a line drawn because to her understanding the Mormons do not use mind control techniques.

22:37Copy video clip URL Video ends.



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