Boston man provides insights into cults

October 21, 2017 07:00 PM

Steven Hassan didn't want to put a label on NXIVM.

“[It’s] the best thing I can do to prevent myself from being sued by very wealthy groups,” he said.


But he's very familiar with the Capital Region organization that says it provides training and educational tools for people and corporations.

“I've talked with numbers of people and as they were describing the ethics conditions within NXIVM, it sounded like, ‘Oh, he took that from Scientology.' That wasn't even original," Hassan said.

Hassan says he got interested in the subject of brainwashing and cults after he was deceptively recruited and spent more than two years in the Moonies Cult back in the 1970's.

“[I was] someone who graduated, and skipped eighth grade as an extra honor student. I went from that to becoming a fascist, willing to turn my back on my family and friends,” Hassan said.

He's now a mental health counselor in Boston who spoke to NewsChannel 13 via Skype. He's nationally known for his work. He has also written books about cults and their techniques.

“For me, there are benign cults and there are destructive cults,” Hassan said.

Destructive cults start off with a slow deliberate introduction, he says. Then it becomes a sales pitch to get your life together and make a difference for the world. They build a sense of trust. That's how they lure you in.

“Then you're put in a long indoctrination program where your behavior is controlled, your information is controlled, your thoughts are controlled and your emotions,” Hassan said.

They use hypnosis and other techniques. Hassan says over time, very smart people can be systematically manipulated and duped – much like what some women are saying took place at NXIVM, revealing they were branded with the initials of the leader Keith Reniere.

“In many cases, like NXIVM, abuse women and make them dependent and obedient on the vanguard, who claims to be the smartest man on earth,” Hassan said.


WNYT Staff

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