blog A Primer on Cults for Writers

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, Sep 16, 2018.

  1. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    Ban submitted a new blog post:

    A Primer on Cults for Writers
    by Ban

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    While there are numerous interpretations of what a cult specifically entails, there is consensus on the fact that a modern cult (we will not be talking about ancient cults, which is a subject onto itself), exploits the beliefs of its members for the gain of the cult. Furthermore, the International Cultic Studies Association stresses the fact that cults are held together by “charismatic relations and demanding total commitment." A cult then, does not need to be religious in nature as is often assumed. Political causes, marketing schemes and pseudo-therapy are frequently used for cultic purposes as well. What defines an organization as a cult is that they ensnare and exploit their followers.

    The danger of a cult can be found in its ability to force members to sacrifice time, energy, money and mental health for the benefit of the cult at the cost of everything else, without providing valuable pay-off for that investment. The cult impairs an individual’s ability to make reasonable decisions, which can lead to them breaking away from family, friends or engaging in criminal activity.

    Some common types of cults are listed below:
     
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  2. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    Thank you Greybeard!

    If I were to write a sympathetic cult leader, I would make sure that at all times, the character acts out of a genuine desire to help others live a better life. The sincere and kind intentions of the character can make readers view them in a sympathetic light, even when the results of those actions are detrimental.
     
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  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    Long ago, for personal reasons, I did a great deal of reading on cults. Like so much else, that knowledge has filtered its way into my writings.

    Book IV of the 'Empire' series (Empire: Metropolis, next on the rewrite/edit list) centers around an urban cult of sorts. Several characters are members of the group, and of these, about half (dupes, unfortunately) are reasonably decent people. Even the not so decent ones have credible motives for their actions.
     
  4. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    Hey Thinker, I'm glad you gave your cult a more humanizing spin. The pure doom and gloom evil cult can be fun from time to time, but I believe cults (and especially cultists) deserve more measured and realistic portrayals. They're as much victims as they are perpetrators.

    As you have done a bit of your own research, I'd like to ask if you were able to link your cult to the article, or if you took an alternative approach to it?
     
  5. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    My approach is both generic and unique, I suppose. First, a bit of background for context. The 'Empire' series takes place in Solaria, a quasi-Roman empire type setting, a few years after the Traag War - Traag being a nation literally controlled by demons. Solaria destroyed Traag, but at the cost of immense social, economic, and political upheaval. Solaria's troops were organized into two parallel armies: imperial legions and churchly 'Liberators' (legions with clerics for officers). At the wars conclusion, state and church were both bankrupt. The Emperor granted all imperial veterans lands and full citizenship in lieu of coin, effectively tripling the middle class overnight (no few soldiers were serfs beforehand). Most liberators were not so fortunate: they were often disbanded on the spot, without pay or prospects. No few took up banditry, others swarmed into cities looking for work.

    'Empire: Metropolis' takes place in Corber Port, largest city in the Empire (though not the Capital). Refugees and returning veterans, many afflicted with severe psychiatric disorders have increased the cities population to over a million. Corruption and riots are rampant, costs are out of control, and much of the city is on the brink of starvation.. Enter the Cult - the Order of Saint Persephone, a legitimate church order with their own cathedral. The orders bishop, along with the cities other bishops, are appalled by the tumult, and have decided that human imperfection is to blame. In their view, it is time for literal divine leadership to set matters straight, and have convinced many of the cities unfortunates that this would be a good thing. The Bishops even believe the cost is worthwhile - the sacrifice of thousands of lives (though that's a deep dark secret). 'Metropolis' includes encounters, statements, and arguments put forth by cultists ranging from ordinary followers eagerly waiting for the angels to 'set things right' to cynical clerics, to the fanatical bishop himself.

    However, the 'angels' have their own agenda, as do other supernatural powers.
     
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  6. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    That's an interesting take on it Thinker; A combination between social disarray, private disillusion and, I may be reaching here, perhaps the Bishop is relishing in his increasement of power a little bit too much?
     
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    There's several Bishops in the city. Of these, one is ignorant of the scheme, a second is an opportunist, and the third is a fanatic.

    The fanatic and the opportunist are horrified at what they see as the collapse of the social order - they're big believers in a stratified society where everybody knows their place, and here they're confronted with everything from jumped up peasants claiming full citizenship to proper authorities being sidestepped (elections instead of inherited office in more and more places,) plus technology that renders much of the old ways obsolete. Same for their followers - the old stratified system provided order and security, which are in short supply.

    Note on the 'angels' - these entities are...somewhat benign...but are big into law and order. Like other etheric entities, conjuring one involves the sacrifice of a sapient. However, with this bunch, said sacrifice must be either willing or lawfully condemned. The fanatic Bishop has been persuading the less hale of his followers to volunteer for the spot (guaranteed place in heaven, relatives get prime spots in the new order) AND contributing to the chaos wracking the metropolis (lawfully condemned rioters). Etheric entities like the angels require hosts to exist on the material, and some of the cult members are being groomed for this as well.

    And again, there is more going on. Other players (human sorcery isn't enough to pull off a ritual of this scale) with goals of their own. A temporary, dangerously unstable alliance.
     
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