Why take this course

In the July/August, 2020 edition of the journal Foreign Affairs, Francis Fukuyama, the renowned political theorist, suggested in an article titled, The Pandemic and Political Order – It Takes a State, that one of the consequences of the pandemic includes the dangerous rise of cults:

“Past pandemics have fostered apocalyptic visions, cults, and new religions growing up around the extreme anxieties caused by prolonged hardship. Fascism, in fact, could be seen as one such cult, emerging from the violence and dislocation engendered by World War I and its aftermath…sustained suffering is likely to provide rich material for populist demagogues to exploit.”

Cult thinking is not only evident in apocalyptic groups, it infuses violent extremist groups and highly dogmatic ideologies. Cults are a risky form of human behaviour that diminishes our contact with reality and devalues anyone outside the cult.

Today, there is an increasing polarization of political discourse across the world.

Whether it is debates about Brexit in the UK, injustice in the USA, or international conflicts, black and white thinking and devaluation of others is more and more de rigueur. This inability to perceive a diversity of views is a mark of cult thinking. As Fukuyama suggests, increased socio-economic stresses post COVID-19, and the lure of digital technology, threaten a new, more psychological pandemic, the cult trap. As cults clash, the likelihood of conflict and violence within and between countries will rise. We are all vulnerable, with political consequences. There is an urgency to prepare for this coming risk. 

Becoming immersed in cult thinking is a slippery slope, and many can be susceptible to it without realizing it. If policymakers, diplomats, mediators and citizens are to avoid engaging in polarizing debates, supporting narrow agendas - and effectively joining political cults - there is a need to become more educated about this phenomenon. There is no way to successfully deal with this challenge than by learning more about how to avoid the cult trap, and contribute to a healthier political environment.

What you will gain
  • Why cults succeed: how they artificially manipulate people in a highly charged emotional atmosphere to feel better about themselves, and how they remove people’s volition while claiming they are freeing them.
  • How cults are on a continuum from the mild in effect to the extreme; how to differentiate between cults and other more constructive groups.
  • How many heavily ideologically driven political groups are cults without the knowledge of those who partake.
  • The practical advantages and disadvantages of conforming. Cults provide a useful mirror for viewing aspects of group behaviour in the wider society. Our norms, values, ideas and shared perceptions of a society are passed down from generation to generation: in conforming, we become ‘cultured’.
  • What are the personal and political costs of cults? “The price of cult behaviour is diminished realism.” Can we afford to lose context and still manage well politically?
  • What is the acid test that grounds our perception of somebody as either a cult leader or not?
  • Knowledge of the methods manipulators use to persuade us to conform to their wishes.
  • Learning the difference between brainwashing and genuine learning.
  • Learn to appreciate attention capacity and its importance, how it is manipulated, and how this applies to the work of diplomats, mediators, students, and managers, or the lives of citizens.
  • Become more flexible, intelligent and creative in the ways we respond to other people and react to stress-inducing circumstances.
  • How this learning can be an important path towards less conflict and a more peaceful resolution of political differences.

Course Programme

The course will begin at 1:30 pm and runs until - 6:00 pm (BST).

  • Join the Zoom meeting
  • Introduction
  • What Cults are and how to identify them. How do we situate them with other forms of group behaviour?
  • What are their socio-political manifestations? (Discussion)
  • Break  
  • The cost and benefit of Belonging: Basic Human Needs
  • Why we need greater connection to context, and how cult behaviour prevents it (Discussion)
  • Break
  • What Citizens need to look out for
  • How leaders and policymakers can manage
  • Concluding Remarks

£95.00 GBP per person watching the course.
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    Course Leaders

    IVAN TYRRELL - DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY The Conciliators Guild bringing humanity to global politics
    Ivan Tyrrell, Director of Human Givens College and author.


    JOHN BELL - DIRECTOR The Conciliators Guild bringing humanity to global politics
    John Bell, Director of the Conciliators Guild, diplomat and mediator.


    T: +44 7493 237069 | E: info@conciliators-guild.org