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False prophets and bizarre cults - Part II
In Part I, we saw how Rasputin a rustic 'faith healer', held his hypnotic sway over the Russian royalty and the nobility, with disastrous consequences on the affairs of the state.

We now look at a few cults, whose charismatic leaders had perverted their religion – leading their blind followers to their doom.

'People's Temple of the Disciples of Christ' - Massacre at Jonestown, Guyana:

On 18 November 1978 over 900 people, including over 300 children, committed suicide or were killed under directions of their cult leader, the charismatic Jim Jones.

It was from the pages of TIME magazine, that around 1977 we started noticing the emergence of Jim Jones on the American landscape. Son of a Ku Klux Klan member, he hated his father's white supremacist ideology. Though himself a white, he developed an aversion towards whites in general, as also towards the US government, allegedly for its white supremacist policies. In 1955, he founded 'The People's Temple of the Disciples of Christ'. His avowed purpose was to provide a socialist haven for victims of economic and racial injustices!

He also claimed to be a faith healer and the voice of God! The poor, the blacks and Viet Nam veterans readily fell for this charismatic personality. In the beginning, the poor working class themselves generously filled the coffers of his church.

With plenty of advance publicity, he and his followers went on road shows for faith healing sessions. The 'patients' who turned up for healing were actually well-rehearsed insiders, But the gullible public started donating generously and the group's fame spread. Politicians also started hobnobbing with him. He helped them win local elections. In fifteen years, the organization established 12 temples. The temples provided relief to Afro-Americans, drug addicts and the roofless. For its social work, the organization earned a modicum of respectability. As preacher, Reverend Jim Jones claimed to be inspired by a peculiar mix of personalities – Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi. He made no secret of regarding the US government as 'Anti Christ' and anti-people.

His obsession against the US was so great, that he planned to move all his church members out of United States. Jim Jones finally had enough of money to rent out land in Guyana in South America. In 1977 he established the 'Peoples Temple Agricultural Project' there. The place popularly came to be named as Jonestown and the inmates were given daily doses of communist propaganda, with Kim II-sung of North Korea, as one of the idols!  . It had also become necessary for him and his flock to flee, as disturbing allegations about the cult and its leader started filtering out. Generally, allegations against cults spring from the megalomaniac nature of their leaders. Cults demand meek surrender by the followers, to the will of the leader. Abuses like drugs and sex followed.  It was only a matter of time, when the poor man's utopia started collapsing, as the agricultural income never sufficed. Those in the commune who seemed to deviate or escape were brutally punished.

Alarmed by the news of abuses, a Congressional delegation of from the US led by Leo Ryan visited Jonestown, to check matters for themselves. During the visit, some cult inmates asked Leo Ryan for help, for escaping Jonestown. This angered Jim Jones and he ordered that Leo Ryan be killed. Ryan was ambushed while boarding his aircraft.  He and four others were shot dead at the airport.

Disturbed by the attention the US government was paying towards his Jonestown commune, Jim Jones had earlier summoned all the cult members to an assembly. They started rehearsing mass suicides, in case of an eventuality.

On the fateful when Leo Ryan and others were killed, he first ordered all 300 children present to be killed by injecting them with poison. Then adults were ordered to commit suicide by drinking a juice laced with cyanides – 'to attain divinity through revolutionary suicide'. Two sole survivors escaped and lived to relate the horrendous largest mass suicide and killing in history! Over 900 committed suicide or killed the children, blindly obeying the order of the devil, himself!

On a 44-minute chilling tape, amid groaning of the members, one can hear the voice of Jim Jones, urging them to 'get on with it'. This 'death tape' and other documentaries of the world's most sordid and baffling massacre can be viewed on YouTube. (See inset)

American media was able to cover the shoot out at the airport to a very limited extent, as they themselves were also the target. A NBC cameraman was killed. Part of the happenings, we had watched on CNN.

Jim Jones who claimed to be the voice of God, and a Messiah for the succour of the down trodden, turned out to be the Devil himself – leading them on to a path of perdition! Truly, a Doomsday Cult!

Branch Davidians:

Branch Davidians, was a 1955 breakaway group of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was based on the impending arrival of Day of Judgement and the Second Coming of Christ. They finally gravitated to a fortress like commune in Waco, Texas. Here the devout were to pray and await the biblical apocalypse. Gradually, all the evils of a cult life emerged. The sole will of their charismatic leader, David Koresh prevailed. News of storage of arms, drugs, and sex and child abuse spread.

He claimed to have had a vision, that to raise a 'House of Davidians', he was to impregnate all their wives, while the men in the commune were to remain celibate. Koresh was 'entitled to 140 wives and some girls became pregnant even at 12 or 13'! (Shades of Ram Rahim!)

To cut a very long story short - FBI got into action. As the federal agents were secretly planning to raid the Waco fortress, they tried to delay the release of an article, 'The Sinful Messiah' in the local paper. In February 1993, the federal agents led to the scene in a convoy of 80 armoured vehicles. There were numerous communications with Koresh on the radio, but eventually gun fire, grenades and gas was exchanged by both sides. The siege lasted 51days and 76 cult members were killed. The remaining survivors were sentenced up to 40 years in prison.

Once again, what started as a religious offshoot eventually degraded itself into an evil empire, where the believers were reduced to an exploited lot – partners in crime and sexual perversions!

We have watched these events on CNN and other TV channels.

Aum Shinrikyo cult, Japan:

Shoko Asahara founded a Doomsday cult in 1984. Asahara arrived at a hybrid philosophy derived from Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, Book of Revelation from the Bible and Nostradamus. Shiva was his presiding deity! I could never understand his logic. World War III was round the corner and only his 'Aum Shinrikiyo' followers would survive, was his prophecy. As the organization grew charges of extortion from cult members and murder of cult members started leaking out.

As the accusations against them grew, the cult started manufacturing arms and planning assassination of some leading religious figures, cartoonists and media personalities. Poisonous gases 'sarin' and 'VX' were also secretly manufactured by them. They attacked some individuals with these gases. Then in March 1995, in a planned attack on five Tokyo subway trains, they killed 13 commuters and injured more than 1000.  Eye witnesses were too terrified to testify.

Some killings still continued and finally Shoko Asahara was arrested from a secret chamber. As of now Shoko Asahara and 12 others are under sentence of death. These events also have been watched on TV.

The above three examples are horrifying enough. But public memory is short and there is no shortage of the gullible. Unfortunately in the name of religion, cults will continue to thrive!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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