Monday, May 19, 2014
Five Steps To Creating A Cult
People have an overwhelming desire to believe in some- thing. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over ra- tionality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rit- uals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power:
THE SCIENCE OF CHARLATANISM, OR HOW TO CREATE A CULT IN FIVE, EASY STEPS
In searching, as you must, for the methods that will gain you the most power for the least effort, you will find the creation of a cultlike following one of the most effective. Having a large following opens up all sorts of possibilities for deception; not only will your followers worship you, they will defend you from your enemies and will voluntarily take on the work of enticing others to join your fledgling cult. This kind of power will lift you to another realm: You will no longer have to struggle or use subterfuge to enforce your will. You are adored and can do no wrong.
You might think it a gargantuan task to create such a following, but in fact it is fairly simple. As humans, we have a desperate need to believe in something, anything. This makes us eminently gullible: We simply cannot endure long periods of doubt, or of the emptiness that comes from a lack of something to believe in. Dangle in front of us some new cause, elixir, getrich-quick scheme, or the latest technological trend or art movement and we leap from the water as one to take the bait. Look at history: The chronicles of the new trends and cults that have made a mass following for themselves could fill a library. After a few centuries. a few decades. a few years.
a few months, they generally look ridiculous, but at the time they seem so attractive, so transcendental, so divine. Always in a rush to believe in something, we will manufacture saints and faiths out of nothing. Do not let this gullibility go to waste: Make yourself the object of worship. Make people form a cult around you.
The great European charlatans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries mastered the art of cultmaking. They lived, as we do now, in a time of transformation: Organized religion was on the wane, science on the rise. People were desperate to rally around a new cause or faith. The charlatans had begun by peddling health elixirs and alchemic shortcuts to wealth.
Moving quickly from town to town, they originally focused on small groups-until, by accident, they stumbled on a truth of human nature: The larger the group they gathered around themselves, the easier it was to deceive.The charlatan would station himself on a high wooden platform (hence the term "mountebank") and crowds would swarm around him. In a group setting, people were more emotional, less able to reason. Had the charlatan spoken to them individually, they might have found him ridiculous, but lost in a crowd they got caught up in a communal mood of rapt attention. It became impossible for them to find the distance to be skeptical.
Any deficiencies in the charlatan's ideas were hidden by the zeal of the mass. Passion and enthusiasm swept through the crowd like a contagion, and they reacted violently to anyone who dared to spread a seed of doubt. Both consciously studying this dynamic over decades of experiment and spontaneously adapting to these situations as they happened, the charlatans perfected the science of attracting and holding a crowd, molding the crowd into followers and the followers into a cult.
The gimmicks of the charlatans may seem quaint today, but there are thousands of charlatans among us still, using the same tried-and-true methods their predecessors refined centuries ago, only changing the names of their elixirs and modernizing the look of their cults. We find these latterday charlatans in all arenas of life-business, fashion, politics, art. Many of them, perhaps, are following in the charlatan tradition without having any knowledge of its history, but you can be more systematic and deliberate.
Simply follow the five steps of cultmaking that our charlatan ancestors perfected over the years.
Step I: Keep It Vague; Keep It Simple. To create a cult you must first attract attention. This you
should do not through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and deceptive. Your initial speeches, conversations, and interviews must include two elements: on the one hand the promise of something great and transformative, and on the other a total vagueness. This combination will stimulate all kinds of hazy dreams in your listeners, who will make their own connections and see what they want to see.
To make your vagueness attractive, use words of great resonance but cloudy meaning, words full of heat and enthusiasm. Fancy titles for simple things are helpful, as are the use of numbers and the creation of new words for vague concepts. All of these create the impression of specialized knowledge, giving you a veneer of profundity. By the same token, try to make the subject of your cult new and fresh, so that few will understand it. Done right, the combination of vague promises, cloudy but alluring concepts, and fiery enthusiasm will stir people's souls and a group will form around you.
Talk too vaguely and you have no credibility. But it is more dangerous to be specific. If you explain in detail the benefits people will gain by following your cult, you will be expected to satisfy them.
As a corollary to its vagueness your appeal should also be simple. Most people's problems have complex causes: deep-rooted neurosis, interconnected social factors, roots that go way back in time and are exceed ingly hard to unravel. Few, however, have the patience to deal with this:most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problems.
The ability to offer this kind of solution will give you great power and build you a following. Instead of the complicated explanations of real life, return to the primitive solutions of our ancestors, to good old country remedies, to mysterious panaceas.
Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual. Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves: boredom and skepticism. Boredom will make people go elsewhere; skepticism will allow them the distance to think rationally about whatever it is you are offering, blowing away the mist you have artfully created and revealing your ideas for what they are. You need to amuse the bored, then, and ward off the cynics. The best way to do this is through theater, or other devices of its kind.
Surround yourself with luxury, dazzle your followers with visual splendor, fill their eyes with spectacle. Not only will this keep them from seeing the ridiculousness of your ideas, the holes in your belief system, it will also attract more attention, more followers.
Appeal to all the senses: Use incense for scent, soothing music for hearing, colorful charts and graphs for the eye. You might even tickle the mind, perhaps by using new technological gadgets to give your cult a pseudo-scientific veneer-as long as you do not make anyone really think. Use the exotic-distant cultures, strange customs-to create theatrical effects, and to make the most banal ordinary affairs seem signs of something extraordinary.
Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group. Your cultlike following is growing; it is time to organize it. Find a way both elevating and comforting. Organized religions have long held unquestioned authority for large numbers of people, and continue to do so in our supposedly secular age. And even if the religion itself has faded some, its forms still resonate with power. The lofty and holy associations of organized religion can be endlesslv exploited. (Does not apply to a certain online group) Create rituals for your followers: organize organize them into a hierarchy, ranking then in grades of sanctity, and giving them names and tides that resound with religious overtones; ask them for sacrifices that will fill your coffers and increase your power. To emphasize your gathering's quasi-religious nature, talk and act like a prophet. You are not a dictator, after all; you are a priest, a guru, a sage, a shaman, or any other word that hides your real power in the mist of religion.
Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income. Your group has grown, and you have structured it in a churchlike form. Your coffers are beginning to fill with your followers' money. Yet you must never be seen as hungry for money and the power it brings. It is at this moment that you must disguise the source of your income.
Your followers want to believe that if they follow you all sorts of good things will fall into their lap. By surrounding yourself with luxury you become living proof of the soundness of your belief system. Never reveal that your wealth actually comes from your followers' pockets; instead, make it seem to come from the truth of your methods. Followers will copy your each and every move in the belief that it will bring them the same results, and their imitative enthusiasm will blind them to the charlatan nature of your wealth.
Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic. The group is now large and thriving, a magnet attracting more and more particles. If you are not careful, though, inertia will set in, and time and boredom will demagnetize the group. To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: create an us-versus-them dynamic.
First, make sure your followers believe they are part of an exclusive club unified by a bond of common goals. Then to stregthen this bond, manufactre the notion of a devious enemy out to ruin you. There is a force of nonbelievers that will do anything to stop you. Any outsider who tries to reveal the charlatan nature of your belief system can now be described as member of this devious force.
If you have no enemies, invent one. Given a straw man to react against your, your followers will tighten and cohere. They have your cause to believe in and infidels to destroy.
One reason to create a following is that a group is often easier to deceive than an individual, and turns over to you that much more power. This comes, however, with a danger: If at any moment the group sees through you, you will find yourself facing not one deceived soul but an angry crowd that will tear you to pieces as avidly as it once followed you. The charlatans constantly faced this danger, and were always ready to move out of town as it inevitably became clear that their elixirs did not work and their ideas were sham. Too slow and they paid with their lives. In playing with the crowd, you are playing with fire, and must constantly keep an eye out for any sparks of doubt, any enemies who will turn the crowd against you.
When you play with the emotions of a crowd, you have to know how to adapt, attuning yourself instantaneously to all of the moods and desires that a group will produce. Use spies, be on top of everything, and keep your bags packed.
For this reason you may often prefer to deal with people one by one. Isolating them from their normal milieu can have the same effect as putting them in a group-it makes them more prone to suggestion and intimida tion. Choose the right sucker and if he eventually sees through you he may prove easier to escape than a crowd.
Five Steps To Create A Cult
The 48 Laws Of Power