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Episode #017

What I Learned From Being In A Cult

Are you aware that Shane used to be in a cult? Well he did, and it was weird.

In this episode, Shane describes his experience of being part of a martial arts school that slid off the rails, with bizarre (holy water related) consequences.

Also, Shane & Ollie discuss the manipulative tactics cult leaders use to brainwash people. If you want to build what Shane calls "mental self-defense" and avoid the trappings of cultism, this episode is a must listen.

In this episode...

Some of the points covered in today's conversation:

  • The Cult Leader's Playbook - The step-by-step of how charismatic and influential leaders manipulate people into joining them.
  • Shane's experience of watching a simple martial arts school slowly devolve into a cult.
  • Why any cult requires a strong "us vs. them" frame.
  • The reason that cults such as Scientology require progressively deeper levels of investment.

Over to You

We hope you found this episode useful! What brought you the most value? Do you have questions or feedback? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

You can follow the ikario Podcast on YouTube and also subscribe to our clips channel.


Oliver Cowlishaw

About the author

Ollie is an avid pizza connoisseur, accomplished drinker of coffee and lover of soul music. Heavily influenced by Zen & eastern mysticism, his curiosity regarding the human experience is insatiable. Despite having a strong vocabulary, he swears a lot and uses slang phrases ("ollie-isms") that almost nobody understands, not even himself.

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  • This cult episode was surprisingly relevant to many contexts of life I’ve been grappling with! I jotted down some thoughts after listening:

    Why are people sucked into conspiracy theories, miracle solutions, and gurus?
    – We like the idea of having access to knowledge that is secret to the general population (elitism)
    – We want a reason/rationale for why absurd, illogical things are happening in the world
    – We want to believe in a cure for our woes

    Especially that last one hit me regarding why gurus (self-development experts, health programs, success systems, and “get rich quick” schemes) hold so much appeal: we are lacking something (health, money, calm mindset, confidence) and we desperately hope for the solution to reveal itself. If someone says the right magic words that hit us the right way, we’ll invest in the cure they’re selling. If/when the cure doesn’t work, we’ll look for the next fix.

    ^ Perhaps this is an unfairly negative framework, but it’s a tendency I’ve noticed in myself and others around me. Awareness of the tendency/bias helps counteract its ill effects.

    It seems that ikario is hitting the trouble areas of life spot on. I’m getting a lot from your content. Thank you!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Well said!

      I would add to this that stories are contributing to this problem. Of course, when we have a problem, we would love for there to be a secret, quick, easy fix. But I think we are also exposed to too many stories that make us expect instantaneous resolutions. The story arc in which the hero snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, in the very last moment, by using the mcguffin, is extremely common in our culture. It’s like we’ve been conditioned to believe that the solution will happen suddenly, thanks to the one secret thing or trick.

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