A Self-Examination Based Upon the Research of Robert Jay Lifton
The following is an outline of the method of self-examination that I referenced in The Devil is Especially Active Against the Fuqara which I employed to interrogate my beliefs and the cult-like tendencies that I had developed in relation to the traditional school. Whereas I am thoroughly convinced that ideological totalism is absent from my present environment and affiliations, it does seem to have crystalized at a late stage of the development of the movement centered in Bloomington where elements of it seem to have persisted to the present day. It is curious to note Lifton's observation that "... if totalism has at any time been prominent in the movement, there is always the possibility of its reappearance, even after long periods of relative moderation." All questions are derived from the eight psychological themes common to the totalist environment described by Lifton in Chapter 22 of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.
Is my communication with the world outside of the microcosm of my group limited or controlled?
Does my group dictate what is acceptable and unacceptable for me to see, hear, read, write, experience, express, or think?
Does my group claim exclusive possession of the knowledge of reality?
Is the central or controlling agency of my group surrounded by a mystique?
Does my group claim to be the vanguard chosen by a supernatural agency to carry out a mystical imperative of wide-ranging social or cosmic importance?
Is any thought or action which questions the higher purpose of my group considered to be stimulated by a lower purpose - to be backward, selfish, and petty in the face of the great, overriding mission?
Am I asked by my group to place absolute trust or faith in the veracity of the mystical imperative?
Does the preservation of my trust in the group necessitate that I manipulate others into the adoption of a similar perspective?
Have I been deprived of the opportunity or capacity for self-expression and independent action?
The Demand for Purity
Does my group sharply divide the experiential world into the "pure", absolutely good ideas, feelings, and actions consistent with the doctrine and policy of the group and the "impure", absolutely evil ideas, feelings, and actions which consist of anything contrary to this?
Am I asked to rigorously root out and destroy all taints and poisons from myself in the pursuit of absolute purity or perfection for my own benefit and to prevent them from harming others, especially the group?
Do I suffer from guilt and shame as a result of failing to live up to the demand for purity?
Does my group subject me to guilt and shame through rejection, accusation, humiliation, or ostracism due to my inability to live up to their demand for purity?
Does my group possess control over me through their capacity to forgive my guilt?
Do I view my impurities as arising from influences outside of the program and perspective of my group?
Do I continually and hostilely denounce and express my hatred toward and the threat posed by these outside influences? Does this help to alleviate my sense of guilt?
The Cult of Confession
Does my group demand that I confess to real or imagined crimes and sins, especially those committed against the group, and submit to a cure or penance?
Does my group require that I expose as much as possible my life experiences, thoughts, and passions, especially negative ones?
Do I suppress and keep secret any doubts about or resentments toward the group as well as any aspects of identity or personality derived from or existing outside of the program and perspective of the group?
Do I believe that the more I accuse myself, the more right I have to judge others?
The Sacred Science
Do I believe that the doctrine of my group is sacred, attribute to it a supernatural origin, and view it as the ultimate vision of human, cosmic, and/or divine order and morality?
Does the group prohibit me from questioning these basic assumptions concerning the doctrine, its revealer, or current expounders and representatives?
Do I hold those who question the authority of the doctrine of my group, its revealer, or representatives to be immoral, irreverent, illogical, or ignorant?
Do I believe that the doctrine of my group is absolute and true for all people at all times?
Do I obtain a sense of comfort and security from the exclusive possession of the truth communicated to me by my group in the form of sweeping non-rational insights or intuitions?
Do I feel guilty due to or afraid of exposure or attraction to ideas which contradict those of my group? Does this hamper my quest for knowledge or receptive search for truth?
Loading the Language
Does my group reduce the most complex and far-reaching ideas into brief, highly reductive, definitively sounding phrases?
Do I memorize and repeat these phrases to describe the ideas of my group toward which I possess a sense of certitude?
Do I use repetitious, all-encompassing, abstract, categorical, or judgmental jargon to criticize, dismiss, or avoid the quest for individual expression, the exploration of alternative ideas, or the search for balance and perspective in personal judgements?
Is my use and development of language stunted by the repetition of the same words and phrases?
Do I feel a sense of insight and security or constriction and uneasiness through this repetitive use of the common words and phrases of my group?
Doctrine Over Person
Are historical events altered, rewritten, or reinterpreted to conform to the doctrine of my group and its internal logic?
Does my group insist that my character and identity be reshaped to fit the rigid contours of its doctrinal mold rather than pursuing accordance with my own special nature and potentialities?
If my group begins to deviate from its prescribed doctrine and program, does it employ new rationalizations to demonstrate its unerring consistency and integrity?
Does my group demand absolute sincerity through doctrinal compliance both in terms of my beliefs and my direction of personal change?
Does my group attribute any tendencies toward doctrinal deviation to personal problems, errors in thinking, negative heredity, or the trauma of past experiences?
Does my acquiescence to the demand for sincerity through doctrinal conformity give me a sense of well-being and wholeness?
The Dispensing of Existence
Does my group draw a sharp distinction between those who have a right to existence and those who have no such right?
Does my group express or imply the conviction that it presents the one path to true existence and the one valid mode of being and that all others are false or limited?
Did my entrance into the perspective or program of the group involve a conversion experience?
Do I believe that my primary reason for existence is to believe the doctrines and follow the practices of the group?
Do I believe that there is nothing that exists for me outside of the doctrine and practice of the group?
Am I afraid to leave the group?
The following video, although somewhat tongue-in-cheek, accurately portrays in outline the extreme manifestations of the totalist milieu.