Feb 15, 2022

CultNEWS101 Articles: 2/15/2022 (Conspiracy Theorist, Definitions of term "Cult", Anthroposophy, Familia Spiritualis Opus, Abuse)

Conspiracy Theorist, Definitions of term "Cult", Anthroposophy, Familia Spiritualis Opus, Abuse

" ... My brother is a modern conspiracy theorist.

He calls himself an "Evolutionary Linguist-Spiritual Warrior Fighting for Human Free Will on Earth" on his TikTok account, which has 12,500 followers. He uses hashtags like #zombe #apocolypse #weare #freedom and #1111. The latter, as far as I can tell from doing a little Googling, is a symbol that often represents interconnectedness and synchronicity, and that inspires individuals to attempt to manifest their intentions and take action to turn their visions into reality. On the surface, this sounds sedate, even inspiring — especially as we come out of COVID isolation. None of us seem to want to "go back to normal" because normal didn't serve us.

Last April, my sister-in-law texted me to warn me that my brother was heading, unannounced, to my doorstep in Idaho, where I care for our elderly father. I knew he believed "everyone on the planet who received the vaccine will be dead in a few years," but I had no idea of the depth of his fantastical beliefs.

Our evening together started with him mansplaining why cryptocurrencies are our only hope and how he had the idea for Amazon before Jeff Bezos did and how he would be the richest man in the world if not for some bad breaks along the way. Although he wasn't physically at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., he referred to the Jan. 6 rioters as "we."

Later that night, my brother announced, "The real reason I'm here is I've come to warn you that over the next two weeks, a lot of shit is going to come out about what's been going on for the past 50 years, 100 years, 4,000 years. It is going to shock you to your core. All the conspiracy theories ― everyone you ever heard from politics to Big Oil to wars in Afghanistan to Biden not being president ― this pulls it all together." At this point, I excused myself to go to the restroom, turned on the Voice Memos app on my iPhone, and tucked it in my back pocket in case he divulged any plans for violence, which, thankfully, he did not. The following is a transcribed summary of the main points he "knows with certainty" that 'the media won't tell us about.'"
"There are many definitions of cult, but for our purpose ICSA utilizes this one: "an ideological organization held together by charismatic relations and demanding total commitment."  This definition is compatible with some definitions of new religious movements (NRMs), but cult can also refer to nonreligious organizations. As defined here, cults (on the high-demand/high-control end of the social influence spectrum—see below) are at risk of abusing members, but do not necessarily do so.

Although cultic groups vary a great deal, a huge body of clinical evidence and a growing body of empirical research indicate that some groups harm some people sometimes, and that some groups may be more likely to harm people than other groups."

" ... Best known outside Germany for the left-leaning schools focused on self-directed play with wooden toys, Steinerism started out as a multi-disciplinary spiritualist philosophy in the late 19th century.

Born in 1861 as a citizen of the Austrian empire, Steiner claimed to have access to higher spiritual planes that gave him insights into reincarnation, links between cosmic bodies and plant growth, and evolutionary history, including the years of Jesus's life not covered by the Bible and the sunken continent of Atlantis.

By the time of his death in 1925, Steiner had applied his philosophy to a wide array of subjects, including education, architecture, agriculture, dance and medicine.

In the 21st century, anthroposophy remains a minority movement, albeit one that enjoys a high level of social acceptance and institutional support in German-speaking countries. In Germany, there are more than 200 schools, more than 500 nurseries and 263 institutions for people with mental disabilities that follow Steiner's philosophy. The country's highest grossing drugstore chain, dm-drogerie markt, and second-largest chain of organic supermarkets, Alnatura, are both run by self-professed anthroposophists, and cosmetic products made by Steiner-devoted brands like Weleda and Dr Hauschka are not only for sale in German pharmacies but are also enjoying a global boom.

While the number of employees working at these institutions and businesses who take Steiner's philosophy at face value is likely to be low and dwindling, the movement has carved out a steady presence in German public life.

"In some ways anthroposophy is a German success story", said Helmut Zander, a historian of religion who has written books critical of the Steiner movement. "It hits a nerve that our society has for a long time ignored. Organic farming has gone mainstream over the last decade – Steinerists have done it since the 1960s."

Steiner's belief in illnesses as rites of passage that are necessary to purge spiritual imbalances is starkly at odds with the basic foundations of modern science. And yet anthroposophy has made considerable inroads into a public-private healthcare system that puts stress on consumer choice.

There are no fewer than 10 Steiner hospitals in Germany, and anthroposophic medicine is tolerated by German law as a "special therapeutic form", meaning remedies can be approved for use without external proof of their effectiveness. As recently as 2019, the conservative health minister Jens Spahn chose not to remove homeopathic remedies prescribed by Steiner clinics from the list of treatments covered by public health insurers.

But the pandemic is testing the German tolerance of Steiner esotericism in more ways than one. "Anthroposophy claims to have access to secret, higher knowledge," said Zander. 'There's a proximity to the mindset of conspiracy theorists, even if the number of Steinerists who are that way inclined is probably small'."
" ... Reisinger, a survivor of abuse inflicted when she was a consecrated member of Familia Spiritualis Opus, also known as The Spiritual Family "The Work," is one of several people highlighting the need to protect the rights and dignity of consecrated women and men.

"People who live together, who promise poverty, chastity and obedience under the guidance of one superior or founder have no enforceable rights," she said. "This is so dangerous" because it is a situation "where cult-like communities can grow."

All members of every Catholic community must know their rights — that "you don't have to put up with everything" — and those rights must be enforceable, she said from Germany, where she is a research assistant at Goethe University in Frankfurt. She and others spoke to Catholic News Service by phone Feb. 1.

A Catholic expert in the psychology of religion and "deviations in the Catholic world" said it is easier for warped teachings or practices to develop in communities that are smaller and have an "excessive veneration" of the founder.

Raffaella Di Marzio is the director of the Center for Studies on the Freedom of Religion, Belief and Conscience and has taught at pontifical universities in Rome. She said it is natural members would feel different from other Catholics because of their more radical, evangelical way of life and committed vows to be more Christ-like.

But when this leads to a sense of superiority and "being closer to Jesus than others, then the charism becomes a charism of power, that is, the human temptation to be able to make others do what you want now takes over," she said.

This dynamic between a strong charismatic leader and faithful follower is "a two-way street" in that the leader wields a power that a follower is searching for and willingly submits to, and, if left unchecked, it can lead to even stronger ties to the leader, a fear of persecution and a rejection of dialogue or cooperation with "the outside," Di Marzio said.

"In this situation, anything can happen in that community," she said."

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