The New Psycho Cults

Excerpts translated from Stern Magazine--October 17, 2002

Yesterday, it was Scientology. Today the groups are called Avatar or MOL [Miracle of Love]. They bait their victims with esoterica and rake in millions around the world with their false promises. In Germany, hundreds of thousands have already fallen into their traps.

The new PSYCHO-CULTS have no scruples: they are aggressive, totalitarian, inhuman. In Stern magazine, former members tell of their breakdowns in the clutches of sinister cults. The new supermen are among us. They promise immortality, overcoming instability, and at the very least, solutions for all of life's challenges.

The self-proclaimed gods, gurus and spiritual healers come right from our midst; they are med school drop-outs or theologians, mutated psychologists or accountants who are a few beads short of an abacus. Their prophesies are slick, and their clientele is educated: professors, entrepreneurs, doctors, local politicians, business leaders, actors.

Up until recently, one name stood for cult power: Scientology. But these days, hundreds of smaller psycho-groups have flourished in the shadow of that money-hungry organization, unnoticed by the public.

While they bear magical sounding names such as Avatar, Jasmuheen, or Miracle of Love, their leaders are quite mundane in nature. They discreetly recruit their followers in community college courses, health food stores or the alternative medicine scene.


Meanwhile, over 600 psycho-groups have popped up in Germany, and the market is bullish. They are the new danger, warn reputable experts on sects, because they hide a new form of extremism: aggressive, totalitarian and DANGEROUS. Accordingly, they present just as much of a threat as Scientology.

These self-proclaimed saviors turn their devout disciples into slaves,often practice brainwashing techniques and psychological terror, and rip off their followers without compunction. Victims are compelled to break contact to their families and relinquish all their assets as part of their pact with their pseudo-gods.

The numbers of people who even temporarily get mixed up with these high power psycho-cults is in the hundreds of thousands.

Some of the groups are not even publicly known yet. Many of their former members hesitate to tell their stories, fearing reprisals from the gurus, and are usually ashamed of being bamboozled in such a perfidious way. This vicious circle of silence and shame is well known from the early days of Scientology, when that religious corporation was still able to loot without restrictions. Cloaked as an aid to self-discovery or consciousness expansion, involvement often ends in social isolation, slavery and self-abandonment.


A mystical patchwork that is lifestyle-compatible and high-tech: there is hardly any other psycho-group that represents the new designer gurus better than Avatar. "Create the reality you prefer," states the central concept of the teachings: life is a hard drive, hit F6 on the keyboard and start over.

According to Avatar literature, 60,000 people worldwide use the methods of this psycho-organization that is active in 66 countries. Flooding esoteric journals with their advertising, thousands of licensed Avatar instructors have helped to build a psycho-empire.

The guru is ex-Scientologist Harry Palmer, who founded the Avatar course in 1987. His wholehearted message: Imagine that everything is possible. The promise of the Avatar Master's Course is very fitting for our self-involved day and age: Take Control.

DIVINITY IN SEVEN DAYS? No problem for Avatar. The organization swaggers confidently: In the past, you could count the enlightened people on the planet on one hand. Today they're in the thousands.

In Hinduism, the term refers to a deity that has assumed a physical form in order to take part in creation. And for every new avatar, Palmer cashes in grandly.

The so-called Master's Course with its promising name "Awakening," costs $3,000; the Wizard Course as much as $7,500. For your money, you get (according to the advertising) EXTRASENSORY capabilities as well as leadership and co-creation of civilization. And if that isn't enough, also the ability to transform society.

Palmer also holds the commercial reins and acts as president of Star's Edge International. The profit-oriented enterprise markets Avatar courses complete with the requisite materials.

Still, not all of the Avatar disciples work aboveboard, as Gabriele H. experienced after booking a trip to Bali with an esoteric travel agency, Lotus Travel Service in Munich. In Bali she met Regine R., who had enrolled directly with an Avatar vendor without knowing what or who was behind it. The lively forty-somethings encountered a die-hard Avatar course group at the vacation camp.

From that point on, the centerpiece of the trip was the basics of Avatar, not R&R: "Everything was controlled, you couldn't even make an unsupervised phone call." The two residents of Baden-Wuerttemberg flew home. Regine R. got her 3500 Marks back after threatening to sue.

Even family members, friends and coworkers have to submit to Avatar's pushy attempts to embrace them. Ruined friendships and broken relationships are the result.

Twenty-three-year-old Aline M. from Saarland complains: "My boyfriend's family is totally wrapped up in it. His mother follows the tenets of Avatar fanatically." Her relationship is suffering, too: "My boyfriend is pretty much helpless, and is unable to answer questions. He can't get his life together any more. He is completely dependent in terms of his personality, which he denies, of course. Eventually, I couldn't even get near him."


The portrayals resemble the now familiar experiences of cult victims on the order of Scientology or the Moonies: inviolable leaders. Followers lose their sense of self, eventually falling under the spell of malicious mind control.

The Avatar courses are reminiscent of Scientology. "We've heard that there have been nervous breakdowns and that people have not been looked after appropriately", says Hamburg cult expert Ursula Caberta.