Anatomy Of A Cult: How Members Are Manipulated

by J. Lee

Anatomy of a Cult

Matthew 7:15 (King James Bible) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Most cults are born out of the need for people to belong. When a person joins a cult they no longer feel they are on the outside looking in. They become part of a group that embraces them. They probably feel accepted, loved, special and wanted for the first time in their life.

A cult becomes family to the most vulnerable of society. Leaders are skilled at offering inclusion to the rejected, unloved, down trodden and outcast. They manipulate insecurities through mind control, drugs, alcohol, sex and sometimes threats of violence. Members minds and personalities change as control increases.

Cult leaders become a god to their flock. They misuse the bible by twisting scripture to fit their radical agendas. Alternately, the premise and focal point of the cult may not involve an historical religion at all. They break their followers down to build them up through manipulation. They monopolize their thoughts. They cut them off to the outside. They are not allowed to see family and friends. They are trained to distrust anyone outside their cult.

Followers leave themselves behind without questioning the leader’s motives. They are a shell of their former existence. They live in a twisted reality. Those in a cult have blind obedience without question authority.

It is sad some people have experienced so much pain or lack self-worth that they become victims of cult leaders.

History of Recent Cult Leaders:

  • The Manson Family – Charles Manson

In 1967, Charles Manson founded his ‘family’ in San Francisco. He preyed upon women with low self-esteem. He used female members to recruit male members through sex and drugs. Later they moved to Los Angeles and Death Valley. His cult was not considered a formal religious cult. Manson used and twisted scripture to manipulate his flock. He also used some elements of Scientology and satanism.

He used drugs and music to manipulate his family. While on LSD many in his family came to believe he was Jesus. His message was the end times saying it would come to pass through a race war. He used killing as a macabre way to accelerate his warped plan.

Part of his murderous rampage was also due his resentment from being rejected in the music industry. He felt betrayed and let down. The house on Benedict Canyon where the murders took place was owned by Terry Melcher who denied Manson a recording contract. Melcher rented the house to Roman Roman Polanski. He was married to Sharon Tate who was 8 1/2 months pregnant.

Victims of Manson’s rampage on Benedict Canyon were Sharon Tate and her unborn son, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Steven Parent. The following night Leno LaBianca and Rosemary LaBianca were killed. Others killed were Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea.

He ordered Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, Leslie van Houten and Steve “Clem” Grogan to commit murder. They and Manson were arrested in 1969.  They got death sentences. In 1972, CA commuted their sentence to life in prison. Manson died November 19, 2017. He was 83 years old.

Photos of Manson, Krenwinkel, Watson, Atkins, Kasabian and Van Houten

Photos of  Voytek Frykowski; Sharon Tate; Stephen Parent, Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger

  • Branch Davidians  – David Koresh

The Branch Davidians was founded by David Koresh. They were located in Waco, Texas. Koresh slept with church members. He felt all women and underage girls were his spiritual wives. The cult kept an armory of weapons. In 1993, the cult came to an end during a deadly confrontation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The cult compound burned killing 77 adults and 20 children. Four ATF agents died.

Photos: David Koresh, ATF agents prior to entering the home and the compound as it burned

  • Heaven’s Gate – Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles

Heavens Gate was founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. They believed they were the two witnesses referenced in Revelation 11:3.

Revelation 11:3 (King James Bible) – And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

So thereafter they began seeking followers. In 1997, 39 members of the cult killed themselves. They believed in death they would join a spaceship that followed the Hale-Bopp Comet. Everyone died by suicide. They took cyanide, arsenic, phenobarbital mixed with pineapple juice and vodka. When found they were dressed in black attire and tennis shoes.

The cult lived in Rancho Santa Fe which is an upscale community north of San Diego, CA. The house was demolished following the suicides.  

Photos: Marshall Applewhite, members who committed suicide, the house where they died and the Heaven’s Gate logo


  • Peoples Temple – Jim Jones

‘The Peoples Temple’ was founded by Jim Jones. It was first located in Utah. He later had denominations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He eventually moved his cult to Guyana, South America. His compound was called Jonestown. In 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited the compound. He was there investigating claims of abuse and people being held against their will. Jones felt threatened by his questions.

Ryan and four others were killed during an ambush at the air field as they attempted to leave. Jones knew he would not get away with the murders. Soon after the killings he organized a mass suicide that killed over 900 members. They drank punch mixed with poison.

Photos: Jim Jones, those who committed mass suicide, the airplane where Congressman Ryan was ambused and killed and the newspaper story.


  • Unification Church – Sun Myung Moon

The Unification Church was founded by Su Myung Moon. He said he had a vision when he was a teenager. He claimed it was his mission to carry on Jesus’s work since he felt Jesus failed. He was excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church in 1954. After that he founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. He later moved to New York and renamed his cult the Unification Church. He manipulated his followers by telling them only he choose their marriage partners. He was known for orchestrating mass marriage ceremonies.

Photos: Su Myung Moon and a mass marriage ceremony

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