‘We laid it down, we got tired… We didn’t commit suicide, it’s an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.’
What are the characteristics that define an egomaniac?
The quote above were some of the final words spoken by one of the most notorious cult leaders in history. Him and others similar in character are classic examples of egomaniacs, but there are many others out there as well that may display character traits which hint at egomania.
There are nine defined characteristics that define an egomaniac, and they are the following:
- Arrogant/domineering personality
- Sense of entitlement
- Grandiosity (belief of being superior)
- Envy of other individuals
- Belief of being unique
- Preoccupation with success
- Requirement for excessive admiration
- Exploitation of others
- Lack of empathy
Most individuals within the normal population do exhibit brief moments of anywhere from one to three character traits at the same time (I myself can recognize three characteristics that I’ve felt from time to time: the preoccupation with success, the envy of others and the sense of entitlement). People that are classified as egomaniacs (or in psychology speak, are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder) have to exhibit at least five of them.
What personality types are there low on the egomania scale?
You yourself or someone close to you will probably be low on the egomania scale: there are quite a few personality types which can be defined as low on the scale. This does not make you abnormal, however: it probably just means you have a strong ego. All of us to some degree show a sense of pride and a feeling of one-up-manship in our lives, particularly in moments where we have worked hard and achieved something worthy of pride, but usually these moments are fleeting and are accompanied with moments of self-doubt.
A classic example of a low-scale egomaniac is someone with an A-
type personality (I myself am one of them): these people are internally driven to excel at whatever they do and anything less than the best is considered as failure. They may be considered as arrogant to some people, but usually A-type personalities are relatively harmless on the scale of egomania and are usually successful in the business world, even if it takes several unfitting jobs at first to get them there.
What is the difference between these kind of people and a true egomaniac?
The difference between a person that is low on the scale and a true egomaniac is that most of the latter (with rare exceptions) are unaware of these characteristics within their personality, and unfortunately, these people tend to find avenues with which to exploit other people and ultimately can cause atrocities that remain infamous for years to come. Such persons can be classified into one of two categories: cult leaders and psychopaths. I’ll discuss psychopaths in more detail in the page labelled Psychopaths, but for now, I’ll be looking at the influence of cult leaders.
Nobody voluntarily chooses to be part of a cult regardless of their mental health: rather, they are seduced into them by the promises of the leaders and the way they manipulate the mind. From an early age, these people tend to have a pathological need to both bully and lead others because they believe that they fully deserve the adulation and respect that comes with it. These individuals can both exhibit arrogance and charisma and their need to obtain admiration from others is truly excessive when compared to the normal population. Many cult leaders can also be described as psychopathic because of their need to drive their followers to commit acts which are against their moral fibre for the sake of their own twisted beliefs.
Even the Simpsons has an episode devoted to the workings of a cult
named the Joy of Sect: in that episode, Homer and his son Bart are walking along in an airport where they are intercepted by two parishioners from the Movementarian cult and Homer gets sucked into their promise of starting life on another planet named Blisstonia. Under the ‘influence’ of the Leader, who ironically does not make an appearance until the end of the episode except for waving out of his Rolls Royce, he ends up sacrificing his familys’ life savings to the cult and makes the family relocate into the compound. Bart and his sister Lisa are originally skeptical, but they eventually get brainwashed; their mother Marge, on the other hand, never fully converts and escapes from the compound and with the help with Reverend Lovejoy and Willie, is able to deprogram the family.
Like that episode demonstrates, there are several techniques that cult leaders use in order to keep their followers under their spell; they include the following:
- Isolation and control of communication within and outside of the group environment, including twisting the feelings of the group members against their family and closest friends who do not share the same beliefs
- A demand of ‘perfection’ from the group members, including that of sacrificing all monies and assets to the organization
- The creation of a doctrine beyond all question or dispute
- Development of a unique jargon which dulls the ability of the followers to critically analyze their predicament
- Using claims of spiritual enchancement or divine authority to justify whatever their wishes are to their followers
- The confession of ‘sins’ both within the group and one-on-one i.e. with an auditor.
- Any personal experiences within the group are tarnished and they are compared to the ‘truth’ that is handed out by the group i.e. any bad experiences are justified by the teachings of the leader
- Convincing followers that ‘their way is the only way’ and that anyone who does not get with the program is either shamed or excommunicated.
Many of these leaders have such an inflated ego that they feel that they are ‘touched by God’. Some cult leaders which in my humble opinion were the worst of them include the following:
- Jim Jones (Peoples Temple)
Jim Jones was the charismatic and drug-addicted cult leader of Peoples Temple who started his leadership with a socialistic stance but later, after being pursued by authorities, convinced his followers to move to the jungles of Guyana and develop a settlement there known as Jonestown, with a vision of a utopian society. Due to his drug use, he became increasingly paranoid about the possibilities of defection within his followers and the opinions of the outside world. The turning point came when on November 14th 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan, his aide, some journalists and several relatives of the members arrived to investigate claims of mistreatment from ex-members within Jonestown. Before their arrival, Jones had his followers recite rehearsed answers to questions regarding dissatisfaction within the community, and during their visit, the followers put on a concert to demonstrate their ‘happiness’ within the cult: however after a note was dropped exclaiming that not all was well within the settlement, several people attempted to leave with Leo Ryan the following morning. Just before Ryan left, one of Jones’ followers held a knife to his throat and that majorly increased the urgency of the situation. Jones sensed he was losing control and sent gunmen loyal to him to kill them before they were able to get away via plane. Jones then declared the emergency code ‘white knight’ and under threat of his gunmen, made all his followers either drink or be injected with a lethal cocktail of Kool-Aid laced with poisonous potassium cyanide, sedatives and tranquilizers. Jones himself was too cowardly to go down the same route; rather, he made one of his followers shoot him at point blank range to the head. Ultimately, Jones was responsible for the deaths of over 900 people.
- David Berg (The Children of God/The Family of Love)
David Berg was the leader of the cult known as the Children of God (now known as The Family after his death) which at one point had tens of thousands of active members. He grew up in a fundamentalist family and he believed that his mother was a living saint, but he internally disagreed with the way the established churches preached about sex. After his mother dies, he decides to evangelize the hippies common within counterculture at the time (the end of the 60’s) with the help of his teenage kids, but soon afterwards, the authorities attempt to catch up with them and so they decide to move. At first, the cult is puritanical and foreboding in nature, with messages of the approaching Armageddon, but then Bergs’ teachings began revolving more and more around sex once he dumped his first wife Jane and moves in with his secretary Maria. He convinced himself that he was the ‘David’ of Ezekiel 34 in the Bible, and according to his followers, Berg was named ‘Dad’ or ‘Moses David’ or ‘Mo’ for short. One of the most infamous things that arose from this cult was the doctrine named ‘the Law of Love’. This doctrine was used to justify incest and paedophilia within the cult because they believed that everything was pure as long as it was done in love. This law was demonstrated through the use of ‘Mo Letters’ which becomes the guiding principle for his followers; these letters graphically illustrate his twisted thoughts regarding sex. Later on, after his daughter sleeps with a Muslim, Berg used the concept of ‘Flirty Fishing’ in order to recruit more followers by using sex as a weapon. Like Jones, Berg becomes more paranoid as the authorities attempted to catch up with him and he turns increasingly to alcohol. He was also a coward at heart: when times got tough, he hid away whilst his followers copped the heat from the press and from the authorities. Although Berg did not physically kill anybody, along with Maria he was responsible for the eventual suicides of many of the younger members.
- Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo)
Asahara was a half-blind man who started off life in a special school, but he had the advantage of more sight than that of his classmates, so therefore he both bullied and led them. His own academic ambitions were not realized, so therefore he focused his attention on starting his own sect known as Aum Shinrikyo (aka Aum Supreme Truth). Many of his followers were highly educated yet lost, and Asahara used this to his advantage by convincing them to create weapons of mass destruction as well as biochemical weapons to ultimately bring on a war against the ‘corrupt world’ and the US in particular. Asahara convinced his followers via a combination of pseudoscience, Nostradamus, esoteric Buddhism and apocalyptic Christianity that he was a Christ-like messiah and a manifestation of the god Sheba and he had superhuman powers such as telepathy, but in reality he was heavily under the influence of the mind-altering drug LSD. When Asahara learnt that the Japanese authorities were onto him and had planned to raid his cult’s convent, he planned to draw their focus away by manipulating five of his followers into committing a terrorist attack at Kasumigaseki train station, close by to the centres of government and the police headquarters in Tokyo. On 20th March, 1995, these five men carried steel-tipped umbrellas, newspapers packages and needles with the antidote atropine sulfate: the packages contained the deadly nerve gas sarin and they unleashed it on five trains. Many passengers suffered choking, suffocating and/or blindness as a result of sarin poisoning, but fortunately the death toll was relatively low (only 12 died in comparison to the potential thousands) due to the sarin not being properly purified in Aum’s laboratories. Ashara was not remorseful in any way after he was captured; rather, he expressed sorrow over the ‘low death toll’.
Charles Manson (The Manson Family)
To his followers, Manson appeared benevolent, confident and had the uncanny ability to sense their vulnerabilities, but to the outside world, he was a small, fuzzy haired man. Manson’s childhood in the American mid-west was one filled with rejection and abandonment, with him being born to a teenage mother and absent father, and this ultimately led him to create his own ‘society’ where he was loved as leader as retribution. Before the murderous rampage that his followers committed which plunged both him and the Manson Family into infamy, Manson committed other crimes throughout his teens, including armed robbery, theft and rape. Additionally, he scammed his girlfriends out of money and manipulated them into prostitution. When he moved to San Francisco in the 1967 he integrated well into the hippie scene there and recruited rebellious yet vulnerable young men and women to follow him. He maintained control over them by feeding them LSD, publicly demeaning them for thinking critically and threatening them with violence if they did not cooperate. The way that the followers demonstrated their loyalty was in ways utterly bizarre: some examples included mimicking Manson’s every action and crawling on the day his trial began on the sidewalks. Another key aspect that got burned into the memories of those that witnessed the news of the Manson trial was the blood on the walls of the houses of those they killed and the phrase ‘Helter Skelter’. This was very much a part of the doctrine that Manson was feeding his followers: they were taught to repeatedly listen to the Beatles and listen intensely to the lyrics as apparently they had tapped into ‘Charlie’s truth’. He apparently foresaw that the white people would turn against black and a civil war would ensue in the streets. This element of what Manson was teaching them was very much similar to that of other cult leaders: originally, he was preaching about the power of love and oneness, but then it became more skewed as the differences between right and wrong became more blurred and life and death came to be blended together rather than recognized as two separate entities. Eventually, he was preaching about survival after the end of the world; his particular version was atypical, though: he was saying that everybody would eventually go insane as opposed to the regular Armageddon preaching that other cult leaders fall back upon. Eventually, however, Manson began to realize that things weren’t panning out his way, and due to the imminent threat of him losing control over his followers, he made them prove their loyalty by means of a pre-emptive strike. Tragically, though, this thought pattern cost 7 people their lives over the course of 2 nights. On August 9th, 1969, the followers Patricia Krenwinckel, Susan Atkins, Linda Casabian and Charles ‘Tex’ Watson broke and entered the house of Roman Polanski and his heavily pregnant wife Sharon Tate and brutally killed them and four other people. The scene was horrifying: with a total of over 100 stab wounds inflicted, rope being tied around two of the victims as well as several gunshots and the word ‘Pig’ being written in blood across the front door. The following night, two more were murdered in another house on the other side of LA; these two victims were Mr and Mrs LaBianca. The same followers attended the second murder, and Leslie Van Houten and Manson tagged along. Manson himself tied up the two victims but did not kill them; rather, he ordered all his followers to ‘get their hands dirty’ in order to prove their loyalty and ‘to leave something witchy’. The end result was just as macabre as the night before: the word ‘War’ was scored into the man’s flesh as well as a carving fork left in the stomach and a knife protruding from his throat, and the woman had a lampcord around her neck and a pillow on her head. Like the previous nights’ murder at the Tate house, there were words inscribed in blood on the walls: these words include ‘rise,’ ‘death to pigs’ and ‘Helter Skelter.’ The news of the Tate and Polanski murders hit headlines quickly and other celebrities took drastic actions in fear: the sale of guns rose drastically and the habits of ordinary citizens became far more cautious. Originally, the cops believed that these two cases were separate incidents and that the LaBianca murders were a copycat incident of the previous night. However, news of the murders leaked from some of the followers after they were arrested in October 10th of that year for grand theft auto and arson: some of them boasted of their killings in jail. The Manson family were eventually charged with the murders in December, 1969, with the trial commencing in June 1970. Linda Casabian was granted immunity in return for testifying against her fellow Family members; the rest of them were found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in January 25th, 1971. Tex Watson was sentenced to death in a separate trial. At first, all the Family members that committed the murders bar Linda Casabian were sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life imprisonment after the decision was overturned by the LA Supreme Court.
Constanzo was a megalomaniac who, like Asahara, convinced his followers that he possessed supernatural powers. From an early age within Florida, he was groomed by his mother to believe that he was a ‘chosen one’ in the world of evil and he dabbled in black magic and routinely tortured and killed animals. From this, he was rewarded for showing no remorse, and he carried this misguided belief into adulthood, where he evolved this practice into the ritual sacrifice of humans. In 1984, Constanzo set up shop within Mexico City, and practiced fortune telling and cleansings, and gained power and money from drug lords by predicting when they could carry out their activities without being captured by authorities. Over the course of 1986 through 1988, Constanzo got away with the torture and murder of the poor and petty criminals that he made his followers bring him because nobody missed them; however, this unraveled early in 1989 when he killed Mark Kilroy, a student with powerful political connections. Contanzo ultimately escaped capture by the authorities; before he could be taken into custody, he was killed by one of his followers.
Marshall Applewhite & Bonnie Nettles (Heaven’s Gate)
Marshall Applewhite (aka Do) was a music teacher and Bonnie Nettles (aka Ti) was a nurse who united together to create the cult that resulted in the loss of 39 people. This relationship, however, was strictly platonic: there was no form of sexual interaction between them because Applewhite was homosexual. This, some ex-members believe, made Applewhite see himself as abhorrent in a conservative world and in order to compensate, he created the myth which formed the basis of the Heaven’s Gate cult. The pair began their journey together in Texas and had their ‘awakening’ as they traveled and they changed their names to Ti and Do (pronounced like tea and doe). Like many other cult leaders, they isolated their followers from friends and family (by justifying that they will detract them from their mission) and made them follow a strict and androgynous methodology in order to prepare for the journey to ‘the level above human’. This methodology was known as the ‘class’, and it was a mixture of Christianity and new-age science fiction. The policies that the Heaven’s Gate ‘class’ followed included androgyny, no emotions, ‘cleansing’ of the body through enemas and lemon drinks and strict obedience and accuracy. This was difficult for most followers to abide by, as unlike many religious orders, both the men and women lived together and children were banned. Because of these policies, some of the followers resorted to castration in order to relieve themselves of their hormonal impulses. After a while, like with many of the other cults, they gathered the attention of the government, the police and social security centres and so therefore they moved their cult underground and made many people live in the same property, with only some followers allowed access to the outside world. In 1985, Ti dies of cancer. Initially, their belief system dictated that after death, the body will go along with the soul, but by this time, the belief system had changed to a point where they believed that Ti had picked up an ‘angelic’ body and she would eventually pick up the others and in the meantime she would send messages to Earth that only Do could interpret. Nine years later, Do decided to make the cult go public once again, not only to recruit more followers, but to help speed up their departure. He tapped into his’ followers anxieties by enforcing the message that if they ‘miss the boat’ when Ti sends the right signal, that they may not get another chance to enter the ‘level above human’ before the Earth was meant to be ‘recycled.’ 2 days before their deaths, Do and his followers had their last supper: they all ordered the exact same dishes, and soon after that, videotapes of their final farewells were recorded. Disturbingly, some of the ex-members who watched the tapes saw desperation in Do’s eyes which convinced them that Unlike other cult ‘suicides’, not everyone expired at the same time: according to pathology results, they took place over a course of four days and Do himself was not the last one to die.
L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)
This one is a little different from the ones above: there was no case of mass murder that made the global headlines like Jonestown or people testifying to sexual abuse like in the Children of God. I decided to include L. Ron Hubbard (aka LRH) here because he is ultimately responsible for the creation of Scientology, the most infamous cult of modern times. This cult, despite its celebrity endorsements, has torn families apart, robbed people of their privacy through the use of ‘undercover detectives’, blackmailed people to give away their monies and assets to the organization through any means necessary and subjected their followers to physical and emotional abuse through the use of interrogation: including forcing women to undergo abortions, the Purification Rundown program which is not even supervised by qualified medical professionals and through punishments without the use of proper OH&S measures. Although Hubbard himself has since passed away, the cult has survived and is now led by David Miscavige. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction author which was not very successful until he created the book of Dianetics which forms the basis of the ‘religion’. This book claimed that all humans are ‘thetans’ and that all humans have two sides to them: the ‘analytical’ side and the ‘reactive’ side and through the use of the E-meters and the help of an auditor, the ‘reactive’ side can be suppressed and the followers (if they paid enough money) would first be able to go ‘clear’ and then go on ‘the bridge to total freedom’. The major difference between Scientology and other more mainstream churches is that Scientology tend to use the ‘bait and switch’ technique to lure people in with a small affordable payment but then force you to make much more substantial donations in order to advance ‘higher’, whereas the other organizations do encourage donations, but they are not on your back constantly to give more than you can afford. There is also an elite organization within Scientology that has earned infamy known as the Sea Organization or Sea Org for short: in order to gain access to this part of Scientology, followers must sign a ‘billion year’ contract and they must follow strict rules, otherwise they would be sent to the RPF or Rehabilitation Project Force. This part of the organization is one which many ex-members (often labelled by Scientology as ‘suppressive persons’ or SPs) claim subjected them to the most abuse in order to retain favour with the organization.