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Before ending this section, I want to talk about the people who are most susceptible to conversion and joining mass movements. I am convinced that at least a third of the population are what Eric Hoffer calls true believers. They are joiners and followers … people who want to give away their power. They look for answers, meaning and enlightenment outside themselves.
Hoffer’s book The True Believer (Harper & Row, 1951) is a classic on mass movements. He says, “True believers are not intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but are those craving to be rid of an unwanted self. They are followers, not because of a desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy their passion for self-renunciation!” Hoffer also says that true believers “are eternally incomplete and eternally insecure.”
In my years of conducting seminar trainings, I have constantly run into true believers. All I can do is advise them to seek the True Self within, where meaningful personal answers will be found. I teach that the basics of spirituality are self-responsibility (karma) and the attainment of self-actualization (being compassionate, while also accepting others without judgment, expectations, blame or attempting to control.) But most of the true believers just tell me that I’m not spiritual and go looking for someone who will give them the dogma and structure they desire.
Never underestimate the potential danger of these people. They can easily be molded into fanatics who will gladly work and die for their holy cause. It is a substitute for their lost faith in themselves and offers a substitute for individual hope. Hitler’s Brown Shirts were true believers. The Moral Majority is made up of true believers. All cults are composed of true believers. You’ll find them in politics, churches, businesses and social-cause groups. They are the fanatics in these organizations.
Mass Movements will usually have a charismatic leader. The followers want to convert others to their way of living or impose a new way of life ? if necessary, by legislating laws forcing others to their view, as evidenced by the activities of the Moral Majority. This means enforcement by guns or punishment, which is the bottom line in law enforcement.
A common hatred, enemy or devil is essential to the success of a mass movement. Hitler’s devil was the Jews; the Born-Again Christians have Satan himself, but that isn’t enough ? they’ve added the New Age and all who oppose their integration of church and politics, as evidenced in the political reelection campaigns against those who opposite their views. In revolutions, the devil is usually the ruling power or aristocracy. Some human-potential movements are far too clever to ask their graduates to join anything, thus labeling themselves a cult ? but, upon close examination, you’ll find that their devil is everyone who hasn’t taken their training.
There are mass movements without devils but they seldom attain major status. True believers are mentally unbalanced or insecure people, or those without hope or friends. People don’t look for allies when they love, but they do when they hate or become obsessed with a cause. And those who desire a new life and a new order feel the old ways must be eliminated before the new order can be built.
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