People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.
The gimmicks of the charlatans may seem quaint today, but there are thousands of charlatans among us still, using the same tried-and-true methods their predecessors refined centuries ago, only changing the names of their elixirs and modernizing the look of their cults. We find these latter-day charlatans in all arenas of life—business, fashion, politics, art. Many of them, perhaps, are following in the charlatan tradition without having any knowledge of its history, but you can be more systematic and deliberate. Simply follow the five steps of cult-making that our charlatan ancestors perfected over the years.
5 Ways to Create a Cult
1. Keep It Vague; Keep It Simple
First attract attention. This you should do not through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and deceptive. Your initial speeches, conversations, and interviews must include:
- The promise of something great and transformative.
- The other a total vagueness.
2. Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual
Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves:
a. Boredom - will make people go elsewhere.b. Skepticism - will allow them the distance to think rationally about whatever it is you are offering.· Blowing away the mist you have artfully created and revealing your ideas for what they are. You need to amuse the bored, then, and ward off the cynics. Use theater, or other devices of its kind. · Surround yourself with luxury, dazzle your followers with visual splendor, and fill their eyes with spectacle. Not only will this keep them from seeing the ridiculousness of your ideas, the holes in your belief system, it will also attract more attention, more followers.
3. Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group
5 Ways to Organize Your Cult-Like Following
- Find a way both elevating and comforting.
- Create rituals for your followers.
- Organize them into a hierarchy, ranking them in grades of sanctity, and giving them names and titles that resound with religious overtones
- Ask them for sacrifices that will fill your coffers and increase your power.
- To emphasize your gathering's quasi-religious nature, talk and act like a prophet:
· You are a priest, a guru, a sage, a shaman, or any other word that hides your real power in the mist of religion.
4. Disguise Your Source of Income
Your group has grown, and you have structured it in a churchlike form. Your coffers are beginning to fill with your followers' money. Yet you must never be seen as hungry for money and the power it brings. It is at this moment that you must disguise the source of your income.
Never reveal that your wealth actually comes from your followers' pockets; instead, make it seem to come from the truth of your methods. Followers will copy your each and every move in the belief that it will bring them the same results, and their imitative enthusiasm will blind them to the charlatan nature of your wealth.
5. Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic
The group is now large and thriving, a magnet attracting more and more particles. To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: Create an us-versus-them dynamic.
· Make sure your followers believe they are part of an exclusive club, unified by a bond of common goals.· Manufacture the notion of a devious enemy out to ruin you. There is a force of nonbelievers that will do anything to stop you.· If you have no enemies, invent one. Given a straw man to react against, your followers will tighten and cohere.
If at any moment the group sees through you, you will find yourself facing not one deceived soul but an angry crowd that will tear you to pieces as avidly as it once followed you. For this reason, use spies, be on top of everything, and keep your bags packed.