Hello I’m Tom Waldren and with me today I have Allen Tate Wood, former chief political officer and former state leader of the Unification Church, commonly known as the Moonies. He has been working to inform the public about the dangers of destructive cults since 1975. Some of the public has probably forgotten about Sun Myung Moon. Could you give us a little bit of background and explain some of his…
Allen Tate Wood: Sure, Sun Myung Moon, as far as I was instructed when I was in the Unification Church was born in 1920 in North Korea. The formal public history of the Unification Church states that he founded the Unification Church in Seoul, South Korea in 1954. In 1957, they sent missionaries to Japan, in , they sent the first missionaries to the United States and then on to Europe. What else would you like to know?
Tom Waldren: Well, now what was his secret? How did he gain so many followers? What did he do to…
ATW: Well, I would say that the basis of his power is two things: deception and service. I think that people today are deceived into joining the Unification Church – this is the rank and file members who join as people who are serious, people who believe that they have had a serious religious experience or that they have met God. But in fact they are inducted into a situation which is taking control of them. But in addition to the rank and file member who joins essentially in good faith, you have many, many fellow-travelers, or people that Mr Moon is wooing. He is trying to gain influence over them, and he woos them with service.
TW: Such as?
ATW: So, politicians for instance. Mr Moon will provide services to a politician, or he will provide backing to a candidate, or one of his front groups will provide money to a political candidate to help him carry out his campaign.
TW: Which he himself gets through donations.
ATW: Yes, the Unification Church raises money through a whole host of organizations but its principal fundraising activity in the United States is done by young converts who are on the streets 16 hours a day selling peanuts, flowers, candy, whatever. That money goes to the Unification Church headquarters and is spent on a wide variety of Unification Church projects.
TW: He claims to derive some of his ideas, his ideology, from Christianity. On the other hand he also claims he is the messiah. Now that is kind of a contradiction. How did you deal with that at the time when you were approached?
ATW: Well, of course when I was approached I wasn’t told that Mr Moon was the messiah. When I was approached I was told that I was going to be meeting some people who were involved in a religious commune, that their philosophy was essentially Christian, or Christian based. It was only after a certain amount of time that I found out they believed that Mr Moon was the messiah. Of course their teaching explains and justifies this and says that it is completely coherent and congruent with the bible. But if one goes deeply into the Unification Church you find out that in fact it is anti-Christian. It repudiates the essential tenets of Christianity.
TW: OK. Now when you discovered that there was contradiction in there, how long had you been in the cult itself?
ATW: Hmm… Well, I think that you begin imbibing contradictions as you go in, and the longer you’re in, the deeper the contradictions are. So for instance when I first me the Unification Church I was told that Mr Moon was a virgin at the age of 40 when he married his present wife. After I’d been in the church for a year or so I found out that actually there had been an earlier wife. After I’d been in for two years I found out now that there had been an earlier wife than that, and in fact in 1970 in Japan, I met Mr Moon’s eldest son, [Sung Jin Moon] who at that stage was 24 years old. So he was born in 1946. So Mr Moon was not a pure virgin in 1960 when he married his present wife. Yet when I joined the Unification Church, that was part of the doctrine. We were taught that he was a pure virgin until the age of 40, and that was part of the basis upon which I made my commitment to the church.
TW: This type of cult was common, and is actually still is around, where young people go and in a matter of hours or days they totally condemn their past life, and they become brainwashed, or however you want to put it, into another way of thinking. How much of this was true in the Moonies?
ATW: Well I think when I joined the Unification Church back in 1969 it was not very sophisticated in this country. There were perhaps 120 members spread out over seven different centers. It was very decentralized. But from the time I joined in May of ’69 until when I left in November of ’73 there was a complete transformation of the movement. It stopped being a little sort of heterogenous group and became a mass movement with one centralized training method and with very specific goals and targets. Recruiting goals, fundraising goals, political objectives, all these things became centralized. Moon came to the United States in 1971 and he had a program, he had a plan of attack, a campaign. So one of the things I would say about the Unification Church and similar destructive cult groups is that when they’re small their recruiting capacity is not very strong—so the people that they bring in are marginal. The larger the organization becomes, and the more sophisticated it becomes in its recruiting and training methods, the wider the door is for people to come in. So again, one of the things I would say about people who join such organizations is; on the one hand they join because of their individual personal psychology, that’s one of the factors that drives them in, but for me, the most powerful and overriding factor that drives people into these organizations is the psycho-technology that exists within the organization. Specifically the skill of the recruiter and trainer, and also the behavioral regime which is operating at the cult training centers. And this is an environment which is designed to pierce, to penetrate, and ultimately to overthrow the individual conscience.
TW: Was this training center type approach, was that Moon, or was that something that grew out of everybody?
ATW: I’d say it’s both. I’d say it comes out of Moon, out of his experience, out of his understanding of the world, out of his understanding of his own life. It also grows out of the teaching, which is essentially dualistic. It gives you a psychology with an adversary. For instance those of us who are inside a cult group, we are the chosen people, we are the special people, we are the remnant of God. We are the ones that God has placed his trust and faith in. Anybody who is outside of our group who is critical, they are the adversaries and they are the enemy. So Moon, like other demagogues and dictators before him, has become very adept at identifying an external enemy. For Hitler it was the Jews and the communists. For Mr Moon, it’s the communists and/or anybody who is opposed to his movement. Once you have that adversary setup then it’s much easier to control and manipulate people.
TW: So he’s saying basically that everything that is not Moon’s philosophy is wrong.
ATW: Not necessarily wrong per se. It might be OK, and it might be something that’s preparing for his philosophy. But if you’re a member of a group and you’re on the outside and you’re critical of the Unification Church, then by definition it is satanic. So for the young cult member the impact of that kind of thinking is ‘Here I am, a young Moonie, I needn’t think seriously about anybody who criticizes our movement, because I know by definition that anybody that criticizes our movement is satanically motivated, or comes from the communists.’
TW: Didn’t that strike you as a little bit illogical at the time?
ATW: Well you have to understand that when I went in to this organization, I swallowed it’s teaching whole. I took that teaching into myself, and that teaching became for me the grid with which I judged my understanding of the world and also my own personal experiences.
TW: So you in essence completely wiped out your past way of thinking?
ATW: Or I incorporated it into and under the aegis of the Unification Church’s teaching, the Divine Principle, so it became, for me, absolute knowledge, absolute truth, it became my guide. So for instance if I am interacting with somebody on the outside world, let’s say my parents or some authority, a minister, a psychologist, a lawyer, whenever they say anything contradicting the Moonie teaching, inside myself I could be saying, ‘Ah they don’t know the truth. They haven’t met the Master yet. They haven’t been initiated into the Divine Principle therefore their opinions really are not authoritative.’ So the young cult member in a sense is very inflated, is very prideful. He or she is very puffed up with the sense that they are in contact with absolute knowledge.
TW: The absolute knowledge is, as you defined it, it seems to me to be more of a sort of agreed upon ignorance really.
ATW: I think that is a lovely way of phrasing it. It is.
TW: Do you feel that way now?
ATW: Yes, I think that when one goes inside the cult group one is initiated into its rituals, its teaching, its experience, its language, its world-view and that becomes fixed and absolute. Anything which serves that image or that picture, or those goals is defined as good. By definition anything is critical of it, is satanic and wrong. So the person who goes into that system has entered a kind of never-never land in which they don’t have access to alternative sources of information. You know this notion that we have in the United States, in our political system, of the loyal opposition. Inside totalist social systems, destructive cults, you do not have any concept of a loyal opposition. There is total unity. It’s monolithic. Anybody who is opposed to the established picture of things is ejected. They are ostracized. They are thrown out. You can disagree for a while, but if you persist then you will be thrown out.
ATW: Oh, yes, very easily. Cut. You’re out.
TW: Getting back to when we were talking about Moon being the messiah, and you are not being made aware of that until later on. You talked in a lecture of an inner circle, or a protection from knowledge.
ATW: That’s right.
TW: Can you explain how that works.
ATW: Sure. I think that the Unification Church, and other totalist social systems, wind up participating in this mystique of this inner circle. Or this mystique of the, what I like to think of as the gnostic character of the organization. That word gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. And if you study the history of the Christian church you find that, in the period of early Christianity, there were many gnostic heresies. These splinter groups off of Christianity felt that they had special revelation. That God had spoken to them specially. They had a special connection to the truth. And the idea that is most apparent in gnostic groups is this idea that you can’t be saved, you can’t get to heaven, you can’t realize the purpose of your life unless you in contact with that special secret revelation. That idea is very prominent inside the Unification Church. Also this idea of the inner circle is manifest in the Unification Church in the sense that when you hit the borders of the Unification Church, you hit one level of understanding and knowledge. If you join the church and you go in for another year, you hit another level. If you are in for two or three years you hit another level.
TW: Are they different, these levels?
ATW: It depends on you. It is like the skins [or layers] of an onion. It goes all the way and you get into the center and there is nothing inside. It is vacuous. It is empty. So an example of that would be, for me, meeting the Moonies and hearing on the surface of things that Moon was a pure virgin at the age of 40. That’s one story. After a year I hear he had an earlier wife. That’s another story. After sixteen months I hear that he’s actually had three wives. That is another story. So in effect the cult member who enters this system never really knows what the truth is. He or she always has the sense that the truth is just one level deeper into the organization. As I go deeper in, as I mount up the hierarchy, little bits of truth are dribbled down to me as a reward for performance and obedience. So in the end I’ll get in closer and closer to the circle and I’ll be hearing all kinds of dirty laundry, or facts about the organization that are unsavory. But in so far as I am participating in the mystique of the organization, I now hear that knowledge or that information as divine truth.
TW: When do you reach absolute knowledge? I was under the impression that when you join the cult, you all of a sudden were getting revelations.
ATW: Yes, you are in contact with the truth, but you find out that actually there’s more. There are hidden teachings.
TW: So it is not absolute.
ATW: No, it is not. And your point here is wonderful, because it’s leading to a kind of transformation of terms. What happens at the first as you’re told you’re going to be initiated into the absolute truth. Further down the track all the terms change, and what you find out is, is that absolute truth is not knowledge. Absolute truth is total obedience. And that that is the path to the truth and understanding. So the highest knowledge is total obedience, with a suspension of the critical faculties, with the suspension of the imagination, with a suspension of the independent functions of the conscience. So one of the men who was a Unification Church trainer and leader up at Barrytown, at the Unification Church Seminary, at a place where they had 120 day training sessions from about ’75 to ’77, he said in a speech to 120 trainees, he said many of you imagine that you can follow Master, that you can understand him, that you can follow him if you understand him. And what this guy said is, those of you who think in this way, Master cannot use you. Master wants the ones who are willing to follow even when they don’t understand it.
TW: But still have absolute knowledge. [laughs]
ATW: There is a contradiction there.
TW: Right, OK
ATW: The real disciple is the one who can follow even when he has no understanding.
TW: How did you feel about that? The whole hierarchy, the whole circles, it just seems to me to be a mass of contradictions. Why, if you have absolutely knowledge, absolute truth, did Moon put so much control over the individuals?
ATW: Well one of the things that the teaching embodies is this idea that the problem with the world has been man’s disobedience to God. And he uses a lot of Old Testament references to buttress that. He says now the project of God’s dispensation at this time in history is to re-establish obedience. And the Unification Church is at the center of that dispensation, and our job is to find people who will begin to follow Mr Moon no matter what he does. Because throughout history men have been disobedient to God. Now at this time of restoration, men have to demonstrate total, absolute, obedience to God’s representative, Mr Moon. And there are lots of stories from the Old Testament that he uses to buttress that—the story of Abraham and Isaac, the story of Noah and his sons. He also uses the New Testament to buttress this idea. But in the space of an interview, I don’t think I can make a plain to you. I think that really what is necessary is a lecture like the other night. The talk in which there is a systematic explanation—number one, of the variables that constitute a totalist social system, and number two, an exposition of the variables that are at play inside the training session. Those variables, all working together, produce a situation in which somebody leaves the world that you and I inhabit now, in which we believe in things like shooting from the hip, honesty, basic integrity, and you enter that magical world where the end justifies the means; where you have become one of the elect. You are not just a normal human being, but now you’re one of the chosen people, and you’re not just a servant of mankind, but you are one of the architects of history. And as such you have the right to lie, to cheat, to steal, to deceive, in order to accomplish the sacred mission.
TW: When was that clear? When did it become clear that that is what it came down to? I take it that’s what happened when you finally got into the inner circle. You realized this.
ATW: Yes, I began to accept the idea that it was our job to follow Mr Moon no matter where he went. In effect, since he was the messiah, he could not make a mistake.
TW: But then as you’re following, you see all the mistakes he’s making and the contradictions.
ATW: Yes, but you understand that what he’s doing is correct. And the story I would give to illustrate that is the story of Esau and Jacob. And this is the way Mr Moon explained to us how it was alright for us to deceive people either in recruiting or fundraising, and what Moon says is, take Esau and Jacob, the twin brothers in the Old Testament. Esau is the elder brother and Jacob is the younger brother. Esau’s out in the fields doing something. He comes home into the kitchen. There’s Jacob fixing some food. Esau says, ‘I’m hungry, give me some food’. Jacob says, ‘No I won’t’. Esau says, ‘Come on, I’m very hungry. Please give me some food’. Jacob says, ‘No’. Esau says, ‘Come on, give me some food’. Jacob says, ‘I’ll give it to you if you give me your birthright’. Esau, thinking it’s a joke, says, ‘Go ahead, you can have my birthright’. Later Jacob, the younger brother, puts lamb’s wool on his arms. He takes a special dish of food. He approaches his half-blind father, Isaac, and says, ‘Father, here I am, Esau your first son, please bless me’. Isaac says, ‘You don’t sound like Esau. You sound like Jacob.’ Then he touches Jacob’s arms which have lamb’s wool on them, and Esau was a hairy man. Isaac says, ‘Well, you must be Esau because you’ve got these hairy arms’. Then Isaac blesses Jacob. Jacob is very important in Old Testament history. He’s very important for Christians also. Jews pray, ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob’. Out of Jacob come the twelve tribes of Israel, and ultimately Moses, King David, and Jesus. Who is Jacob? He’s a man who lied to his father and stole from his brother. Mr Moon says, I, inside the Unification Church, am the universal Jacob. Everyone who stands inside the church with me is Jacob. What’s our relationship to the outside world? They are Esau. What is our job in relationship to Esau?
TW: To deceive?
ATW: To steal the birthright from him. Every single person inside the Unification Church exists on a different moral level than anybody on the outside. People on the inside have the right to cheat and to steal. Mr Moon says, in one of his speeches, ‘God lies’.
TW: We’ve covered several of your seven aspects of your morphology of a cult. Could you go over some of the others with us?
ATW: Sure. Briefly, I use these seven points in order to provide a fresh audience with a grid to help them ask and answer for themselves the question, ‘Am I in the presence of a destructive cult? Am I in the presence of a totalist social system, or some kind of social organization that’s interested in getting a hold of people through the use of unethical influence.’ Very briefly the seven points are you have an absolute leader. This is talking about a religious cult. You would have an absolute leader who’s in direct contact with God. The cult members believe he’s on a 24 hour hotline to God. The next aspect is that he brings with him, or her, an absolute teaching. It’s not an improvement on an existing scripture, it’s the absolute truth itself, it is the final revelation from God. Then you have, what’s common to most organizations, you have a hierarchical social structure. In your destructive cult, the thing that is significant is that, in terms of the continuum from loose to rigid, in the destructive cult the hierarchy is extremely rigid. It’s very, very powerful. The fourth point is you have this adversary psychology. The cult group sees itself at war with a very powerful enemy, a ubiquitous enemy—the communists, the Jews, whoever. That tends to produce tremendous cohesion inside the group. The leader is warning everyone to purify themselves, training them to prepare themselves for the great battles, and he’s also pointing out the ever present enemy who’s attacking. The fifth point, is the ends justify the means philosophy of operation. You know, ‘where we’re going is so good that individual human beings may need to be broken or crushed on the way to getting there’. The Nazis exemplified that kind of philosophy. Our idea is more important than actual human beings. You know, so if Tom Waldren gets in our way, we may have to brush him aside, and in the end he’ll thank us for that, and history will thank us too, because his suffering will pave the way towards the kingdom of heaven, or you know, this bold new future we’re going to.
TW: Apart from deception, and some of the other under-the-table activities he might have had, what would be another way that he would brush people aside? How would he dispose of people that he didn’t…?
ATW: Well, people might devote themselves to the movement, say for 10 or 12 years. At the end of 10 or 12 years they might be burned out. They might be physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted. They would then be told to leave.
TW: Burned out?
ATW: Yes, burned out, no energy left, lethargy, just, deficient, just wiped out, and such a person would be told to leave the center. You know, ‘we can’t use you now, in order to be a part of the church you have to be active and contributing’.
TW: Did you ask to leave?
ATW: I left of my own free will, at the end of four and a half years.
TW: Did you encounter any hostility in that?
ATW: Yes, I was told not to leave. I talked with Mr Moon’s personal secretary, Colonel Bo Hi Pak, who is still at Moon’s right hand today, and Colonel Pak said to me ‘Don’t leave, Master loves you, he’s forgiven you…’
TW: For your desire to leave?
ATW: Well, it was for my sins, but it wasn’t clear what my sins were. He’d forgiven me, even though I hadn’t confessed. I was invited to go on a vacation at Moon’s estate up in New York State on the Hudson River, and Colonel Pak said at the end of your vacation and rest and relaxation, Master would like you to be retrained, to go through a 100 day training program. Then he would like to give you a position of greater power and authority.
TW: This would be a 100 day re-brainwashing or something of that sort.
ATW: Well, a very powerful training session and people coming out of those training sessions didn’t have much personal life left.
TW: So you known people who have gone through that type of session?
ATW: Yes, yes. But I didn’t, in fact. I abstained.
TW: What were some of your responsibilities as a leader?
ATW: Well, when I was the chief political officer of the Unification Church, when I was the president of the Freedom Leadership Foundation, I helped another man, a guy names Charles Stephens, set up a lobby organization for the Moonies. And it was called the ‘American Youth for a Just Peace,’ and we used it, or we hid behind its umbrella, and through it carried out partisan political campaigns in Washington, DC. We lobbied congressman and senators. I met with the South Vietnamese ambassador. Ultimately I was invited on a trip, a VIP trip, to Asia to go South Vietnam and to Cambodia. I also went to Japan and to South Korea. In South Korea I met Mr Moon for the first time. And there I met him on the grounds of the Unification Church gun factory.
TW: They have a gun factory, a literal gun factory?
ATW: Yes. They have a co-production agreement with Colt Industries and they make M16s, M60 machine guns, grenade launchers…
TW: For what purpose?
ATW: I think an English court established that they were producing arms for sale on the world market.
TW: So they would sell to anybody without reservation?
ATW: I think so. That’s my opinion. I know they sold to the Korean government.
TW: The North or South?
ATW: To the South. South Korea. But I held many responsibilities while I was in the Unification Church. I was a chief lecturer, the workshop director for the Unification Church in the state of Maryland. But during the time I was in Washington, I was the head of the political arm of the church, and carrying out these partisan lobbying campaigns. I met with people who were in the Nixon White House. I met with Dolph Droge and Sven Kramer, who were Nixon’s two chief advisors on Vietnam. I met with Jeb Stuart Magruder and Chuck Colson, two of the principals in the Watergate scandal, and they gave us money. The Nixon White House gave money to a Moon political front in order for it to carry out its campaigns. And when the money was given to us, it was given to us by Magruder, who placed in our hands a cashier’s check for $3000, and he said this money comes from quote “friends of the President”.
TW: And that was given to?
ATW: To the ‘American Youth for a Just Peace’. Given to me and Charles Stephens in order to carry out the political programs of the Unification Church. But that was peanuts, I mean that was just, you know a kind of Mom and Pop affair in the kitchen. I mean right now, the Unification Church today is sponsoring a conference in Washington, DC. It’s being sponsored by one of it’s arms which is called ‘CAUSA’ which is an anti-communist educational outfit and lobby group. CAUSA today is right now at this moment sponsoring a conference in Washington to which congressman from all over the United States are invited, and I think many, many congressman are attending this conference. This conference is being co-hosted by the White House. So the congressman who go to this conference, run by the Unification Church, are then going over for one of their sessions to the White House where they are being briefed by Pat Buchanan. So, at the moment, you have the Reagan White House and Unification Church together engaging in political education of American leaders. This, to me, is a striking fact.
TW: Now why are they so involved in the politics?
ATW: Because the ultimate goal of the Unification Church is to take control of the United States government.
TW: Oh, I see. So they want to take over politically, and from there branch off and incorporate some of their religious ideology.
ATW: Well, that’s up for grabs. I think that the religious ideology is a fence, or an umbrella behind which their political objectives are working. But you can think of the Unification Church as a multi-national corporation, or a multi-national political party—highly organized, highly disciplined. It has very clear concrete objectives. Mr Moon says at a certain point the Unification Church will take control of the United States government, and at that point, democracy will cease existing. As Mr Moon says, ‘democracy is not the heavenly way’.
TW: Why doesn’t he form a political party and try the democratic route?
ATW: He doesn’t need to form a political party because he’s operating through the Republican party right now. You know, in other words Moon gives money to Republican candidates. He has a huge media empire, he’s publishing newspapers in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, DC. He owns and publishes the essentially Republican newspaper in Washington, DC. It’s called the Washington Times. Republican journalists, Republican columnists, conservative thinkers, journalists and publicists use the Washington Times as a forum for the promulgation of their ideas.
TW: What percentage of the Republican congress, or Republican party do you think is involved with…
ATW: I think many people are involved without understanding they’re involved. The Unification Church operates through something like 250 front groups. Media groups, political groups, entertainment groups, athletic groups… it doesn’t tell you who or what it is when it comes up to you and tries to get a hold of you. Now one of the things that makes the seduction effective is disguise.
TW: Now, when you say seduction, say if they’re going through an athletic group, how are they going to take control through athletics?
ATW: Well, I’d be hard put to it right now to give you a clear definition of that, but they operate though a track club called the DC Striders, which does a lot of work with inner-city youth. They have operated on and off through Jhoon Rhee’s Karate Schools, or the teaching of Tae-Kwon Do. There are Tae-Kwon Do studios all over the United States. The original Tae-Kwon Do studios were founded by Jhoon Rhee, who teaches Tae-Kwon Do to congressman and senators in Washington. Jhoon Rhee is a member of the Unification Church.
TW: But now if you go down and take Tae-Kwon Do classes, the attempt isn’t going to be made to indoctrinate you into the…
ATW: No, you’re going to be taught real good Tae-Kwon Do. And you’re going to think, ‘boy that Jhoon Rhee is a really good Tae-Kwon Do teacher’.
TW: Well how is that destructive?
ATW: I don’t think it’s destructive at all.
TW: Let’s go back to where we were talking about somebody trying to get into the cult aspect. What would be the steps, or how would you be indoctrinated? If somebody approaches you, where does it go from there?
ATW: Someone will try to make friends with you. They will try to establish a reciprocal relationship with you, a trust relationship. That may go on for several weeks or a month. At a certain point you’ll be invited to dinner. Let’s say if you’re a student on campus, say a freshman, you’d be invited to dinner to go to a campus community house where cult members all live together. And if I was recruiting you, I would have been learning things about you before I invited you. Where you’re from, what your background is, what your interests are, what you love. I’d try to find out what you’re afraid of too. When you come for dinner, you’re not coming to a cold audience. You’re not coming into a sort of cold environment. Every single person there is a cult recruiter, some of them are students, some are professionals, but they are the first link in the recruiting and indoctrinating arm, and they have been rehearsing and practicing welcoming people like you to dinner. You come to dinner and it turns out that a lot of people there have things in common with you. You have a really good time at dinner, have great food, there are men and women there…
TW: Excuse me, are they briefed on you before you walk in, so you’re totally unsuspecting.
ATW: Oh yes, they’re briefed on you. That’s right.
TW: So they know you take Tae-Kwon Do lessons and you’re going in there and they’re gonna say, ‘Oh I do the same thing!’ and they’re friends.
ATW: That’s right. Or ‘you’re interested in psychology’ or ‘you’re interested in television journalism’ or whatever. Somebody in there also is studying it, and you tune in to them, and they really listen to you. They do what in counseling is called very powerful primary affective empathy. They reflect to you your own emotional mood. They listen to you very deeply, much more deeply than most people listen to you. More deeply than your girlfriend, or your brother, or your parents. They’re practiced at it; that’s their job. You come away from that dinner, a little bit on air. Feeling like, there’s something special about those people. I had a really good time there. I just felt so positive. You might come to dinner two or three more times. The next stage is, you’re invited to a workshop by your friend Allen who you’ve met on campus. And Allen says, ‘Well we own about 2 or 300 acres of land out in the country in East Texas and we’ve got a big old Texas farmhouse and were having a workshop out there this weekend. Students are coming from TWU, from Austin, and from a couple of other places. There’ll be about 30 or 40 of us out there, plus some staff members from out community. And Tom, we’d love for you to come. It’ll be a chance to get away, there’s a lake out there, we can take hikes, and also we’ll present our philosophy to you.’ You get out there and you have entered our world, our environment, and the purpose of that environment is to overthrow you. To overthrow the critical faculties of your mind. To get you to suspend the use of your conscience. To take control of your imagination and ultimately to harness your emotions to our movement’s objectives, and to our movements leader. So, when I invite you to come for the weekend workshop, I don’t say, ‘Hey Tom, come on out for the weekend, we want to brainwash you and turn you into a slave, and take control of your life and use you for the next seven years then cast you aside when you’re burned out. No, we don’t say that because it’s just not a good pitch.
TW: Very subtle seduction.
ATW: Yeah, come because I’m your friend and you like me, and you like the people you met at dinner. We’re gonna present our philosophy and our philosophy’s wonderful. We have a lot of hope, we’re very positive. Our group is engaged in all kinds of projects all over the country and all over the world—and we’d like to share our hope with you.
TW: When would the prospective candidate first become aware that this was the Moonies, that this was a religious cult?
ATW: Well, they may never be aware. My wife was never aware. She said after ten days with the Moonies, ‘Thank God you lied to me in the beginning. If you hadn’t lied to me in the beginning I never would have joined.’ I worked with a boy in 1978 who was a freshman at Yale, and he had come out of the Moonies, and he had been in it for 30 days, he’d been in a Unification Church training center in Northern California for 30 days and he’d never heard the name Sun Myung Moon. He’d never heard reference to the Moonies. He was in the organization. He didn’t even know what the name of the organization was. He was told it was the Creative Community Project. But the environment of the cult training center is designed to overthrow you, to overwhelm you and the variables that are operating there are this control. It’s control of communication, control of movement, control of language. Ultimately the attempt to control your thinking. So if you want to conceptualize that goes on in a training session you can think of it very simply like this—on the one hand is the presentation of the group’s teaching, its ideology. They’re slowly filtering that into you over a period of three days. In addition to that, you have the behavioral regime. The psychological manipulation; the emotional manipulation; the controls; the piercing and penetrating of your defenses; the subterfuge and the deception which is used to get you to give us information about you so that we can use that very information to pull you closer to us. At the very end, you’ve had a lot of powerful emotional experiences. You’ve felt really drawn to this group. You’ve felt like there’s something really positive happening here. We then want to connect up the result of the psychological control and manipulation with our ideology to make you believe that your powerful experiences are the result of the truth of our teaching.
TW: So, in essence it’s a breakdown.
ATW: That’s right.
TW: And then?
ATW: And then it’s the merging of the teaching with these powerful emotional experiences and in the end we tell you, what’s happened to you Tom is, you haven’t just had a good time, but when you were crying yesterday and you were feeling kind of ecstatic, and then when you were just crying with grief this morning, you were meeting God. God himself is speaking to you through our teaching, through its truth. And at the very end, we give you this existential experience of God himself, and also the devil. And that’s very hard to get around. And we say, throughout the course of the weekend Tom, part of you has been drawn to us. Part of you has felt that this is wonderful, something good is happening here. Another part of you has thought, ‘Hey, wait a second, what’s going on here? This is kind of dinky? This is kind of weird. Why are these people so happy? Why are they so positive?’ We then tell you, that critical part of you is a devil. That is Satan trying to break your connection to us. So you are now at the center of the stage of world history and God himself is calling you to join with him in his work of restoration. To fight the satanic history, to fight communism, to stand for God, truth, the family, justice, peace—you know all these good things. And all you have to do, is just stay for another three days. We have another three day workshop where we are going to go more deeply into the teaching. And what we do is we go more deeply into manipulating and controlling you, into manufacturing these experiences which are now convincing you that you are in the hands of God.
TW: So there’s an answer for everything.
ATW: There’s an answer for everything, and we could produce the same experiences with a totally different teaching. The teaching is not the critical thing. The critical thing is the environmental, the emotional, the psychological, the human control that we exert over you through a whole series of steps which are designed to destroy your own self-control. To destroy your autonomy, and to make you feel you have fallen into the hands on an absolute power that is totally competent to manage you and to decide for you who and what you should be and what you should do.
TW: There was widespread fear when this became known that this was going on, this type of brainwashing thing, I think mainly from the parents. Did you ever encounter parents coming after their kids?
ATW: Not when I was in the Unification Church, well once or twice. But afterwards, Yeah, I met many, many parents whose children had joined the Unification Church or similar organizations. And their situation is a very difficult one. It’s very difficult to bring aid to people who have joined totalist social systems. In the first place they don’t believe in dialog. And in the second place the teaching of the groups explicitly states that anybody that disagrees with the group is satanic. So the young person inside the group is effectively trapped inside. They don’t have access to alternative information; they don’t have access to alternative authorities who could help them understand what has happened to them. They’re like flies in amber.
Note: This transcript has been slightly edited to improve readability.
His biography includes:
▪ President of the Freedom Leadership Foundation (political arm of the U.C. in the ’60s and ’70s)
▪ Co-Chairman of the American Youth for a Just Peace (a partisan political lobby group)
▪ American youth delegate to the fourth World Anti-Communist League Conference in Kyoto, Japan in 1970
▪ Speech writer and personal aid to Osami Kuboki (President of the Japanese Unification Church) during the World Anti-Communist League Conference in 1970 in Kyoto
▪ Board member of the Youth Committee for Peace and Democracy in the Middle East
▪ Anti-Communist lecturer for the first National Unification Church Training program. Political indoctrination of new recruits.
▪ One World Crusade Commander for the State of Maryland.
▪ Workshop director and chief lecturer for the Unification Church in Maryland. Indoctrination and training of new recruits.
▪ Co-ordinator of the “Lorton Project”. One of the U.C.’s first ventures into fraudulent fundraising in the U.S.
▪ Center leader for Upper Marlboro branch of the Unification Church.
Allen Tate Wood on the Unification Church. Interviewed in the mid 1980s.
These are the videos relating to the above transcript:
North Texas State University, part 1
Deconstructing Extremism in 21st Century America
Allen Tate Wood
The article which follows has grown out of many sources. The chief of these include a thirty-five year history of public speaking and education on the psychology of the cult phenomenon; my four and half years as a follower and then leader in the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon; my friendship with, and dialogue with, many former cult members including former members of the Hare Krishna movement ISKON, The Way International, The Church of Scientology as well as the Moon organization. Among the academics who have guided me in my research and writing I include Dr. Margaret Singer, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Dr. Stanley Milgram and Dr. Silvan Tomkins.
When I began my work as a public speaker, my initial talks were mainly focused on my experiences in the Unification Church (The Moonies) between 1969 and 1973. As it has turned out the initial grid I used to explain the Moon organization to myself and my audiences has proved useful as a template to think about extremism in general…whether it be social, political or religious.
It is my hope that this article may be useful to individuals and families who have been adversely affected by destructive cult groups, to academics and journalists working to shed light on the structure and function of “high demand groups.” I look on this short article as a work in progress and I welcome all feedback and reflections on what you find here.
Allen Tate Wood
What follows is a phenomenological morphology of extremist religion which, as it turns out, has proved useful in thinking about extremism in general. Here I am referring to psychological extremism in dysfunctional families, social groups, religious organizations, the military and corporate structures.
1. ABSOLUTE LEADER
This leader is not like other leaders. This leader is not simply a good person. This leader is not simply an intelligent or well-educated person. This leader is not like your local pastor, rabbi, priest or imam. This leader is not simply the shepherd of a flock who is well endowed with compassion, sympathy and intelligence. This leader is not simply a role model of ethical and moral behavior. This leader, in the minds of the faithful, is seen as absolute and infallible. This leader is not just seen as God’s representative on earth but as God on earth. This leader is seen as the center of human history. This leader is seen as the fulfillment of the religious aspirations of all the peoples of the world. This leader is beyond challenge, question or reproach. Think of Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mao Tse Tung in China or the Pope in Medieval Europe.
2. ABSOLUTE TEACHING
This leader brings with him or her an absolute teaching. This teaching is not an interpretation of the Bible or some other existing scripture like the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita or one of the many Buddhist texts. This teaching is, viewed by the faithful as, the final word from God. It is seen as the fulfillment of all the promises of all the scriptures in the world. It is seen not simply as moral exhortation and encouragement but rather as the inexorable formula for creating Heaven on Earth. It offers itself as the solution to the problem of evil. It supersedes and fulfills all previous scripture and religious doctrine. It, like the leader who brings it, is beyond question or debate. This teaching renders all inquiry, speculation and debate meaningless. This teaching sees its purpose fulfilled in the blind obedience of its initiates. For the successfully indoctrinated recruit the repudiation of the conscience, the rejection of the critical faculties and the colonization of the imagination are understood as an experience of God. In the political and social realms dialectical materialism and historical materialism became the absolute teachings for both China and Russia during their embrace of Communism. Men and women ensnared in these absolutist teachings repudiate the dictates of their own consciences. They celebrate their captivity as they rehearse and practice the repudiation of their consciences, the rejection of their capacity for independent thought and their magical embrace of their imaginary savior.
3. HIERARCHICAL SOCIAL STRUCTURE
The structure of these high demand groups is not new. We see it in the history of Japan up to and including World War II, in medieval Europe in which kings ruled by “divine right”. If you violated your relationship with the monarch or his representatives you lost your right to exist. In the 20th century in Germany under Adolph Hitler the NAZI party instituted an un-paralleled hierarchical social structure in which children betrayed their parents to the NAZI party leaders when they heard their parents criticizing Hitler or the Party. We also see this form of rigid social structure in Communist China under Mao Tse Tung and in Soviet Russia under Lenin and Stalin. We see it in terrorist and criminal organizations and in the military and in large corporations. In these organizations obedience replaces all other notions of ethics and morality. The non-disclosure agreement and the loyalty oath become the sign, symbol and sacrament of these social behemoths.
4. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE ADVERSARY
The psychology of the adversary is the foundation and the war cry of extremist organizations. “We are the real people…we are the true people…we are the children of God…. We are the city on the hill.” “All who stand against us stand with Satan, the devil.” When one examines the history of great demagogues and dictators, one finds them as masters of the use of adversary psychology. They become adept at identifying and defining an enemy. The destruction and annihilation of this enemy then becomes the sacred task of the minions under the sway of the great leader. The world seen through these doctrinal eyes is black and white….good and evil. There is no longer any need to engage in research or inquiry…. There is no legitimate authority outside of the leader’s domain. In the brave new world of religious and political extremism obedience to authority is the final fulfillment of moral endeavor. One need no longer engage in moral or intellectual inquiry. Obedience is seen as the highest form of knowledge. Imagination, research and learning are vilified, ostracized and ultimately crushed. Often extremist religious groups are unequivocal in their promises of a final battle between good and evil, an Armageddon in which the faithful will defeat, destroy and annihilate the forces of darkness. The absolute leader uses the identified enemy as a focal point for the projection of all the fear, anxiety, anger, shattered dreams and lost hopes of the masses.
5. THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS AS A MODUS OPERANDI
Where we are going is so good that whatever means we use to get there will be justified. Where are we going? To the Kingdom of Heaven, to the classless society, to a place without disease, famine or crime, to a place where the lion and the lamb lie down together, to a place where families remain whole, to a place where all men are honorable and all women are chaste……but before we get there we may have to lie, cheat, steal and murder along the way…..but it is OK because where we are going is going to be so good when we get there that all the suffering that we have caused or inflicted or endured will seem as nothing. In the name of a glorious future we will unleash hell on an unsuspecting present… See “Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob” as part of the Unification Church’s rational for “Heavenly Deception.” Sun Myung Moon, the messiah of the Unification Church, uses Jacob who stole the birthright from his brother Esau and became the founder of the nation of Israel, as the paradigm for his (Moon’s) path in the world. He said over and over again, “I am the universal Jacob. All those who stand with me stand in the position of Jacob. What is our job. It is to steal the birthright from Esau. Who is Esau? Esau is everyone outside our group: all individuals, groups, churches, religions and nations.” Here religious language and religious metaphor are used to justify what I like to describe as moral and political titanism. This is the kind of psychological superiority which grants exemption from any notions of compassion, mercy and honesty. A cursory examination of the history of the Unification Church sees Moon’s word made flesh in: charities fraud, currency and banking fraud, violation of immigration and naturalization law, collusion with Latin American dictators, arms manufacture and sales worldwide – all this in the name of creating heaven on earth.
6. CRISIS PSYCHOLOGY
Extremist organizations tirelessly work to rigidly control all information coming in. The leader and his or her doctrine provide the grid for judging what is acceptable information and what is not. This information control may include blocking all radio, tv, internet and newspapers. This places the leader and his cohorts in the position of precipitating a crisis whenever they wish… Witness Jim Jones People’s Temple Mass exodus to Guyana followed by the mass suicide/execution of 900 of his followers. This also brings to mind the mass suicide of 39 followers of the Heaven’s Gate movement in the late 90’s in California. The last one hundred years of world history has provided numerous examples of leaders manipulating and controlling information in order to win the allegiance and support of entire populations for going to war. Witness Vietnam, Iraq and most recently Libya. In their path to hegemony demagogues and dictators attack the free press, undermine government institutions which might place a check on their power and do all they can to silence and eliminate any criticism. In the United States we see crisis psychology used by the intelligence agencies and the military as moral justification for overthrowing nations. Witness our role in overthrowing the democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile and our role in training the military and police agencies in authoritarian regimes in Latin America. In the name of fighting Godless Communism we have supported regimes which routinely use torture.
7. THE INNER CIRCLE
The maintenance of secrecy is a sine qua non of modern life. Whether it is the military, government or corporate entities secrecy is highly valued and aggressively fought for. Criminal organizations routinely murder those who violate the workings of their inner circles. Government whistle blowers are branded as traitors and often sentenced to prison. Secrets maintained by religious extremists are keeping pace. Think of the Roman Catholic Church hiding the sex abuse of children by priests world-wide. Think of the Jehovah’s Witnesses doing the same thing. Think of the Unification Church advertising its leader and messiah Sun Myung Moon as a pure virgin until he was 40 years old. In fact, he had been married at least once before he was 40 and had had numerous children out of wedlock. In extremist religious organizations the guarding of secrets is seen as an honor and a sacred duty not to be undertaken lightly. The dark histories of extremist organizations are often hidden from the rank and file members. The initiation into these histories is seen as a kind of rite of passage. The more dirt you carry, and cover for, the more you are trusted. The more of the dark history you protect the closer you come to the “great leader”. It turns out that the road to Heaven is paved with treachery and deceit.
Psychological extremism is visible and manifest in a wide spectrum of human social systems from individuals and families to clubs, gangs and churches to police forces, intelligence agencies, the military and political organizations, not to mention destructive cult groups. Much of the future history of mankind will revolve around our response to extremism in its many forms. Will we allow it to shape and control our perceptions of ourselves and our world or will we find a way to see it for what it is a psychological deformation which opens the door to a history of cruelty, a history of man’s continuing inhumanity to man. For me the outstanding fact of extremist organizations is their ability to control behavior and thought by controlling language. A return to balance and health for the victims of thought reform will include an in-depth exposition of the techniques which were used to capture them as well as a return to the world in which language is metaphorical and suggestive rather than absolute and fixed.
Thought Reform and The Psychology of Totalism by Robert Jay Lifton (1961) Norton and Co. New York
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram (1974) London: Tavistock Publications.
Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steve Hassan (1988) Inner Traditions International, Limited
Allen Tate Wood answers Walter Evans’ questions about the “Moonies” the Unification Church (now rebranded as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification), and about Mr. Moon and his plans to subjugate clergy, politicians and academics to further his aims at grabbing power.
Allen Tate Wood has spent the last 30 years helping cult victims and their families overcome the negative influence of destructive cults. An authority on the subject, Wood has been invited to speak at universities all over North American and Europe.
The social impact of cult groups 02 July 2008
He argues that destructive cult groups are exerting unjust control over their members…
Saving your family from the Manson Family 01 July 2008
Inside the head of a new cult member 30 June 2008
Concerning the mental and spiritual rehabilitation of former cult members…