A Cult Leader Explains His Craft
An Interview with Cultologist and Part Time Cult Leader El-Mir
“Now is a great time to do this interview,” he says. “Aum Shenrikio, Heaven’s Gate, and Scientology have all made cults really popular again. I mean, I have deep sympathy for the families of cult victims, but I think it’s a good thing because we need to revive cult awareness.”
El Mir is, for want of a better word, a cultologist. He has studied cults for over 30 years, since his “fascination started with leaders like Jim Jones and Charles Manson.” Unlike most cult experts, however, El Mir is himself a cult leader. He believes that having a cult of his own will lead him to understand them better. It is a live experiment.
“I formed the Golden Apple Cabal in 1977. It has 13 official members, members of the inner circle, but the total number of members is constantly changing. Some people are members without knowing, but the higher members all have little membership cards.” El Mir shows me his credentials. I don’t get time to read the writing on the laminated card, but I notice that El Mir is not who he says he is. “El Mir is just one of the names I use in public,” he says. According to El Mir every respectable cult leader has a false identity, or two. He risks all if he reveals his real name. “I cannot operate an efficient cult if people read this article and realize that El Mir is me. Don’t tell them where I live and what I look like, okay?”
I hesitated, a good journalist would demand the facts and I desperately wanted his real name, but I decided to let it go for the sake of the interview. He went on to say that The Golden Apple Cabal is also only one name for his cult. “We’ve got loads of different disguises, every decent cult has a front or two.”
There are 13 ‘real’ members of the Golden Apple Cabal, but according to El Mir hundreds of people work for him. “Most haven’t a clue what is going on. That is the beauty of cults. I even have secrets from the other 12 higher members, it all works on lies and disinformation, that is how a cult retains power.”
El Mir explains that cults operate and survive by attaining and sharing occult knowledge, knowledge beyond current human understanding, or, more simply, secrets. “There is nothing spooky, scary or demonic about the occult. Traditionally occult knowledge has been used for bad things, but it is not bad in itself.” El Mir believes that all cults have secrets which they entice new members with. “Every cult has something to offer, they exploit the weaknesses of individuals. They typically offer knowledge or wisdom that the individual thinks he or she needs. Often it is knowledge of eternal life, or techniques for enlightenment or happiness. We all desire to live forever, to be enlightened, to be happy. And they are the weaknesses that cults exploit.
“Many cults are pretty harmless,” he says. “An obvious example is the cult which helps you to give up smoking. They tell you they have this secret knowledge about quitting, you go to some of their sessions, they promise you more and more secret knowledge while at the same time asking you for more and more money. Eventually you end up with some rather basic and obvious information on giving up cigarettes and an empty bank account. But this isn’t necessarily a bad cult,” he explains. “Most people have spent so much time and energy (and money) on giving up smoking that they magically end up quitting. Many do it out of embarrassment, they don’t want to look like they have been duped so they pretend to their friends that it really does work. But many people really believe it works - and because they believe it, it becomes true for them.”
This is the big cult secret which El Mir is at first reluctant to share. “It is all lies, but the cult makes it become true by pretending that it is. Take a cult TV program for example. The X-Files is a great cult, and it is not just a cult because it is popular in a certain segment of society, it is popular because it promises certain bits of secret information. Sure, it is fiction but parts aren’t and that is where the magic happens. When you blur real life with fiction you can subtly persuade people that your fictions are also real. We all get swept away by storytellers, human psychology is such that many people enter the X-Files fantasy for an hour a week, they believe it is true.”