The following is an excerpt from the book "Captive Hearts, Captive minds", by Madeline Tobias and
Janja Lalich adapted from information compiled by Dr. Micheal Langone.
Checklist of Cult Characteristics
"Comparing the following statements to the group with which you or a family member or loved one is involved may help you determine if this involvement is cause for concern. If you check any of these
items as characteristic of the group in question, and particularly if you check many of them you may well be dealing with a cult and should critically examine the group and its relationship to you or your
1) The group is focused on a living leader to whom members display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
2) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members and/or making money.
3) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged.
4) Mind-numbing techniques (for example: meditation, chanting,
denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used to suppress members' doubts.
5) The group's leadership dictates how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get
permission from leaders to date, change jobs, or get married;) leaders may determine types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth.
6) The group is elitist,
claiming a special, exalted status for itself, it's leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save
7) The group has a polarized we-they mentality that causes conflict with the wider society.
8) The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example,
military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
9) The group teaches or implies that its "superior" ends justify means that members would have
considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
10) The group's leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control then
Members'subservience to the group causes them to give up previous personal goats and interests while devoting inordinate amounts of time to the groups."
12) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Adapted with permission from Dr. Michael Langone.