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Sun Oct 18 18:06:02 EDT 2020

Warning signs of 'groupthink' in cults or groups... [1]

'An illusion of invulnerability, which creates excessive optimism and
encourages taking extreme risks' Does your organisation, cult or group
suffer from groupthink? Stephen Castro in this book argues that the
Findhorn community in Scotland is a classic example of this dangerous
phenomenon. The behavioural symptoms to watch out for are as follows:

(1) An illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members,
which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks.

(2) Collective efforts to rationalise in order to discount warnings
which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before
they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions.

(3) An unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality, inclining
the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their

(4) Stereotyped views of rivals and enemies as too evil to warrant
genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter
whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes.

(5) Direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments
against any of the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments,
making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected
of all loyal members.

(6) Self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus,
reflecting each member's inclination to minimise to himself the
importance of his doubts and counter-arguments.

(7) A shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgements conforming to
the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations,
augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent).

(8) The emergence of self-appointed mindguards - members who protect
the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared
complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

Quoted by Castro from J. R. Eiser, Social Psychology (Cambridge
University Press, 1986, pp 38-39).

'When confronted with information that challenges beliefs, the average
New Age person reacts by not wanting to talk to you' Castro also quotes
John Rowan, the author and psychotherapist, who noted that critical
assessment is anathema to the New Age: "The general attitude of the New
Age seems to be undiscriminating, and even to be against the whole idea
of discrimination." When confronted with factual information that
challenges cherished beliefs, "the average New Age person reacts by
simply not wanting to talk to you any more - you have the wrong
attitude and possibly the wrong vibrations."

One ex-Findhorn member, actor Howard Whiteson, is quoted by Castro as
saying: "What is presented to the outside world, and what actually goes
on inside the Foundation, are poles apart. Forget talk of it being the
forerunner to a Brave New World. The regime is more like something from
Orwell's 1984. There are some extremely sinister things going on

The main complaint made by this book is about the way that Findhorn has
expelled people without giving them the right of appeal and then tried
to make them into non-persons, ignoring them whenever confronted by

It would be interesting to read Findhorn's answers to this book's
charges, which do have a slightly obsessive flavour. It may be,
however, that the community is trying to ignore the book, just as it
has tried previously to ignore its author.

[1]  Warning signs of 'groupthink' in cults or groups such as Findhorn
Hypocrisy and dissent within the Findhorn Foundation - Towards a
sociology of a New Age community by Stephen J. Castro, published by New
Media Books (PO Box 3, Forres, Morayshire IV36 OWB, Scotland; 1996,
ISBN 0 9526881 0 7, £9-95). Reviewed by Nicholas Albery.

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