What is a Cult?

I’ve heard some amazing things lately of how some covens think they can tell their coven members what they can and can’t do. And no, I’m not here to tell covens how they should practice their spiritual path or their magic. But there are a few things that I feel would label a coven or group as a cult. One of these things is telling your members who they can and can’t date or love. No one has the right to tell anyone who they can date or love, especially covens. As a mother of 4 grown daughters, I never once thought that I could tell them whom they could date or love; not even when they were teenagers. Such a statement from me would have ended very badly for both me and my daughters. Likewise I say that no one can dictate love. To do so is to bring destruction onto the coven or group. So what does make a coven a cult? Well, Bonewits made a very good list of questions you should ask yourself concerning the coven or group you are in. Pay very close attention to this list. Rate your coven or group. A high score doesn’t bode well for your coven or group.

The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame
(version 2.6)
Factors: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Low    to    High
1 Internal Control: Amount of internal political and social power exercised by leader(s) over members; lack of clearly defined organizational rights for members.  1 ______
2 External Control: Amount of external political and social influence desired or obtained; emphasis on directing members’ external political and social behavior.  2 ______
3 Wisdom/Knowledge Claimed by leader(s); amount of infallibility declared or implied about decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations; number and degree of unverified and/or unverifiable credentials claimed. 3 ______
4 Wisdom/Knowledge Credited to leader(s) by members; amount of trust in decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations made by leader(s); amount of hostility by members towards internal or external critics and/or towards verification efforts. 4 ______
5 Dogma: Rigidity of reality concepts taught; amount of doctrinal inflexibility or “fundamentalism;” hostility towards relativism and situationalism. 5 ______
6 Recruiting: Emphasis put on attracting new members; amount of proselytizing; requirement for all members to bring in new ones. 6 ______
7 Front Groups: Number of subsidiary groups using different names from that of main group, especially when connections are hidden. 7 ______
8 Wealth: Amount of money and/or property desired or obtained by group; emphasis on members’ donations; economic lifestyle of leader(s) compared to ordinary members. 8 ______
9 Sexual Manipulation of members by leader(s) of non-tantric groups; amount of control exercised over sexuality of members in terms of sexual orientation, behavior, and/or choice of partners. 9 ______
10 Sexual Favoritism: Advancement or preferential treatment dependent upon sexual activity with the leader(s) of non-tantric groups. 10 ______
11 Censorship: Amount of control over members’ access to outside opinions on group, its doctrines or leader(s). 11 ______
12 Isolation: Amount of effort to keep members from communicating with non-members, including family, friends and lovers. 12 ______
13 Dropout Control: Intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts. 13 ______
14 Violence: Amount of approval when used by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s). 14 ______
15 Paranoia: Amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies; exaggeration of perceived power of opponents; prevalence of conspiracy theories. 15 ______
16 Grimness: Amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines or its leader(s). 16 ______
17 Surrender of Will: Amount of emphasis on members not having to be responsible for personal decisions; degree of individual disempowerment created by the group, its doctrines or its leader(s). 17 ______
18 Hypocrisy: amount of approval for actions which the group officially considers immoral or unethical, when done by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s); willingness to violate the group’s declared principles for political, psychological, social, economic, military, or other gain. 18 ______