Here’s a list put together by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman. Does it ring any bells for anyone?
Taboo topics: questions that can’t be asked, doubts that can’t be shared, misgivings that can’t be voiced. For example, ‘Where does all the money go?’ or ‘Does Yogi sleep with his secretary?’
Secrets: the suppression of information, usually tightly guarded by an inner circle. For example, the answers, ‘Swiss bank accounts,’ or 'Yes, he does - and that’s why she had an abortion. ’
Spiritual clones: in its minor form, stereotypic behaviour, such as people who walk, talk, smoke, eat and dress just like their leader; in its much more sinister form, psychological stereotyping, such as an entire group of people who manifest only a narrow range of feeling in any and all situations: always happy, or pious, or reducing everything to a single explanation, or sardonic, etc.
Group think: party line that overrides how people actually feel. Typically the cognitive glue that binds the group. Eg ‘you’re fallen, and Christ is the answer’, or ‘you’re lost in Samsara, and Buddha is the answer’, or ‘you’re impure, and Shiva is the answer’.
The elect: shared delusion of grandeur that there is no way but this one. The corollary: you’re lost if you leave the group.
No graduates: members are never weaned from the group. Often accompanies the corollary above.
Assembly lines: everyone is treated identically, no matter what their differences; eg mantras are assigned by dictates of a demographical checklist.
Loyalty tests: members are asked to prove loyalty to the group by doing something that violates their personal ethics; for example, set up an organisation that has a hidden agenda of recruiting others into the group, but publicly represents itself as a public service outfit.
Duplicity: the group’s public face misrepresents its true nature, as in the example just given.
Unifocal understanding: single world view is used to explain anything and everything; alternate explanations are verboten. For example, if you have diarrhoea its ‘Guru’s grace’. If it stops, it’s also Guru’s grace. And if you get constipated, it’s still Guru’s grace.
Humourlessness: no irreverence allowed. Laughing at sacred cows is good for your health. Take, for example, Gurdjieff’s one-liner: ‘If you want to lose your faith, make friends with a priest.’