From the 1970s through the late 1990s, America was rife with cults. Displaced mystics and charismatic gurus in bellbottoms and rock star glasses lurked on every corner, looking to prey on the young, alienated, and confused. These guys had it all: girls, guns, and a direct line to God. Charles Manson and Jim Jones are household names, bogeymen created in the age of lava lamps, when the innocent spirit of Woodstock bled into the cruel reality of Altamont. But what about the other zealots and fringe groups? Who are they, and what are their beliefs? From a subway in Tokyo to a volcano in Clermont-Ferrand, France, from UFO cults to doomsday sects, you never know where you’re going to find the aftertaste of poisoned Kool-Aid. Here are 12 bizarre cults you don't want to join.
12 Advanced Training Institute
The Advanced Training Institute is an offshoot of Bill Gothard’s Biblically based “Institute in Basic Life Principles.” The fundamentalist cult is notorious for its association with the evangelical Duggar family, whose 19 children spawned the popular TLC show 19 Kids and Counting. According to Gawker, ATI is “a biblically based homeschooling program that lets Christian families integrate their kids’ daily, hours-long moral learning with just a dash of secularism.” It also teaches a rigid hierarchy where God comes first, men come second, and every aspect of a woman's appearance, from her hair to her ankle-length skirt, is controlled by the AFI.
11 The Creativity Movement
10 Oregon Tantric Sex Cult
9 Life Space Movement
Five thousand dollar enlightenment seminars, a mummified corpse in a Tokyo hotel room, and a 15-year murder sentence –these are just few of the highlights of the Life Space Movement. In 1983, Koji Takahashi claimed that he was an enlightened guru who had learned supernatural healing techniques through 6,000 years of reincarnations. Takahashi attracted 200 core members and began charging $5,000 for enlightenment seminars; the courses garnered widespread public attention, and at its peak the Life Space Movement had roughly 10,000 followers.
7 Heaven’s Gate
6 The Universe People
5 Pana-Wave Laboratory
Japan, a place known for its diverse spiritual beliefs and avant-garde mysticism, is home to a variety of cults. In 1977, Yuko Chino formed the Pana-Wave Laboratory. Members of the cult, which range from several hundred to 1,200, believe that electromagnetic waves cause environmental destruction and climate change. In order to protect themselves from electromagnetic attacks, members dress in white garments and surgical masks. According to Pana-Wave laboratory, the discovery of a tenth planet will change the earth’s magnetic poles and trigger doomsday.
4 The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors
3 Eastern Lightning
2 The Church Universal and Triumphant
Founded by Mark and Elizabeth Prophet (no joke) in 1958, members of the Church Universal and Triumphant believe their leaders speak with Ascended Masters –Buddha, Sanat Kumara, Paul the Venetian, etc. -through the Holy Spirit. The church maintains rigorous control over all its followers’ activities, including their diets and sex partners. Members of the Church Universal and Triumphant built fallout shelters and stockpiled weapons and other end of the world supplies, running afoul of the FBI. (The church claimed its arms cache was a precaution against the Cold War.) In the early 1990s, the church made headlines again when several of its members were kidnapped and subjected to deprogramming attempts.
The Raelians believe that humans were originally created from the DNA of aliens 25,000 years ago. The cult is led by Rael (the “messenger”), who claims he saw a UFO near a volcano in Clermont-Ferrand, France in 1973, and that a radiant being told him the true origin of mankind. Supports refer to him as “the prophet of the Third Millennium,” and the cult believes that cloning will one day be the dominant form of human reproduction.
In 2003, the Raelian movement made international headlines when it said it created the first human clone –baby Eve. Michael Guillen, however, a physicist who worked at the cult’s Bahamas-based cloning company, Clonaid, claimed it was a hoax to bring publicity to the Raelian movement. No word on what Dolly the sheep had to say about baby Eve.
Sources: CNN.com, TheGuardian.com, Gawker.com
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