CultsA cult is a close-knit community with a membership ranging from a few dozen to thousands of people. Currently there are several thousand cults active in the United States and Canada.

It seems as if any offbeat idea can become the central core of belief for some people who believe in nothing and, thus, will believe in anything.

Cults give individuals a sense of acceptance into a community or a group is they have been isolated by a psychological distress, or alienated from their family and friends. However, this means that there is a huge sense of loyalty in this cult and if any new member does not comply then they are a victim of distress once more.

Cult leaders however, begin to believe that they have devine powers because of the respect that is paid to them by his/her followers. Yet, in a similar way to Stalin (one can assume) paranoia can increase making a leader wish to have the most dedicated advisors around him who will not threaten his authority.

As the British historian Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”

To then have all the followers truly believe in this one cult, the leader convinces that every other group in society is an enemy and that their ideals should not be considered by anyone in the group. Thus, the cult becomes more segregated from society: this may also lead to bouts of violent behaviour towards non-members.

Time moderates or dissipates most cults. This is, primarily, due to ineffective leadership or, perhaps, the members tire of the rigid, closed society and desire a return to a more normal life. However, recent history suggests that certain events within a cult, primarily the deepening insanity of the leader, can lead to mass suicide of the cult members. We observed this type of tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana and Waco, Texas. Most recently, 53 members of the Order of the Solar Temple committed suicide near Geneva, Switzerland and Montreal, Canada.

This information was found at National Executive Institute Associates, Major Cities Chieds Association and Major County Sheriff’s Association 

I wanted to look more into the Solar Temple suicides

In this clip it says that the cult was obsessed with death and that fire would take them to a new life. The nights of the deaths were related to astrological timing and winter solstice.

Here I found some more information about the suicides:

On October 4, 1994, in a calculated attack, Tony Dutoit was stabbed 50 times. Nicky Dutoit was stabbed eight times in the back and four times in the throat (where conception was believed to occur) and once in each breast. Their infant son, Emmanuel, was stabbed six times. After the two assassins left, two other devout OTS members came to make final arrangements at the crime scene. They wrapped the infant in a black plastic bag and left a wooden stake on his chest before meticulously preparing for their own suicide and the incineration of all the bodies. Meanwhile, the assassins made their way back to Switzerland to rejoin their comrades and also Jouret and Di Mambro, who had left Quebec months previous under increasing scrutiny (Ibid.).

Within 12 hours, 3500 miles away from Quebec, a chalet was found burning in a tiny Swiss village. As the firemen forced their way “into what they thought was a basement garage, they found themselves in a mirrored chapel draped with crimson fabric and with a Christ-like painting on one wall. On the floor, arranged in a sun-shaped circle with their feet pointing inwards, were 22 bodies: nine men, 12 women and a 12-year old boy.. Some of the dead were wearing the coloured ceremonial robes of the OTS; 19 had been shot in the head. ; nine were hooded with black plastic bags” (Ibid., p. 24). As the bodies were being removed from the still smoldering building, investigators discovered that the whole facility was booby-trapped to go up in flames.

Within hours, another fire would break out – this time at a Swiss farmhouse belonging to the OTS. Here, police discovered 25 more bodies, apparently dead from drugs administered either intravenously or by injection. All the adults were members of the OTS. Five of the dead were children, the youngest being four years of age. Among the dead would be the Dutoits’ assassins as well as Luc Jouret, Joseph Di Mambro, and his “cosmic child” Emmanuelle, aged 12 (Ibid.).

In December of 1995, just over a year later, “16 more people, including three children, died in a second suicide-murder in France” (MacLeans, April 7, 1997). The bodies were laid out in a star-shaped pattern, like the bodies which were found in Switzerland. Again, “most were drugged and had plastic bags pulled over their heads.” (Rueters News Service, Dec. 15). Each body “had at least one bullet wound and had been doused with flammable liquid before being burned” (Christian Century, February 7-14, 1996, p. 126).

I have been considering whether to take photographs of hands to match all of the victims to make a photographic series of work. Yet, this is a whole new project and I am not solely looking at a cults. However, now knowing that when the people died their bodies were positioned in a star shape, this has led me to consider that this example bears one photograph: hands in a shape of a star. Or is this too twee? Perhaps having a pair of hands that are welcoming to a community? It’s a tough call.

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