Where Are You?

Welcome.

This is a repository of all the cult*-related reading, listening and watching I have done that I would recommend to others. This includes everything from large and well-known cults, or “high control groups” (Jonestown) to newer, underreported groups (self-help “gurus”) to tiny ones (Larry Ray). Look around and fall into my rabbit hole – and if you know of any specific pieces or even just individual cults in general you think I’d be interested in, get in touch.

None of the listed items here are my own except for some descriptions and the about pages. They are all the work of talented reporters, content creators, and survivors. I put in as many content warnings as I can remember, but be aware that in any discussion of cults there is a decent chance of encountering brainwashing, violence, sexual assault, suicide, and abuse in general.

For my opinion on the books included here, I have a cults shelf on Goodreads.

Why cults?

First it was Scientology. I may have become interested around 2008 when the hacktivist group Anonymous protested after the death of Lisa McPherson. It may have been when the surprisingly accurate (if mean-spirited) episode of South Park about the Scientology creation myth aired and was passed around for years. Regardless, it has been a fascination of mine for over a decade, and eventually it grew into an interest in all cults, big and small.

It is all an offshoot of a broader interest in power: how it works, how it can be corrupted, how people seek it or (in the case of cults) give it up. Cults are a microcosm of power dynamics – they are often juicy and sometimes even ridiculous stories, and it can be hard from the outside to understand how anyone can fall victim to one. But in the end, they are all stories about exerting power over the vulnerable.

Why is [insert here] on this site?

This site is created and maintained by one person, who judges each organization by her own standards.* I feel strongly that the definition of “cult” in popular understanding is outdated and must be broadened to consider newer predatory groups that encourage isolation and groupthink. QAnon and MLMs are the most notable examples, but cults are cropping up around Tiktok stars and livestreamers as well. Cults are more accurately referred to as “high-control groups;” that is the most important definition.

Why is [insert here] not on this site?

I only catalogue items that I’ve actually read/watched/listened to and think are good! And, there are many groups/trends I think are culty but haven’t had a chance to look into yet; until I can, they won’t appear here, as this is only a repository of my research, not analysis of my own. If you know of specific pieces and/or places to start, I want to hear about them.

What’s up with all the Scientology?

In its earliest iteration, this site was a simple one-page list of what I considered to be the foundational texts in the amateur study of Scientology. As the first cult* I got interested in and still one of my passions, I have done the most reading on the subject and it is the most represented. That page grew until I needed an easier-to-edit solution. This remedies that situation – but Scientology is still the one for which I have done the most research.

The name.

“Cultwatch” is a term coined by my friend that I adopted during our conversations and then shamelessly stole for this website. Shoutout to Venus.


*Disclaimer.

Many groups on this site would (obviously) disagree that they are cults. However, most fit the traditional definition: forced exclusion and shunning, encouraging isolation and destruction of outside relationships, loyalty and devotion to a single leader who can do no wrong, a unique language designed to make it difficult to communicate with the outside world, financial exploitation… the list goes on. In my view, all the groups here fit enough of the standard characteristics to quality, even if they don’t exhibit them all. If it looks like a cult and quacks like a cult, for the purposes of this site, it’s a cult.

As stated, none of this is my own work besides this page, some of the the cult definition page, and some of the cult descriptions, which I write based on Wikipedia, articles I’ve read, and synthesized knowledge. I am not affiliated with any of these organizations. All suggestions of cult behavior made by myself are my opinions only. The name “Cultwatch” and this site is not associated with the site of the same name. I am not affiliated with any of the writers/sources of the content listed here. Inclusion on this website is not a definitive statement that a group is a cult, merely an opinion. The word “cult” here also is a shorthand for “high-control groups,” “cult-like groups,” “high-demand groups,” etc. While I have read/watched/listened to all the pieces I put on this site, I do not necessarily endorse all aspects of all the content referenced herein.

What are you searching for?

Seek and you shall find.