Sunday, 4 November 2012

More Loopy Religious Cults

Continuing with the series on religious cults, (see The Heavenly Peace of Jesus and Top Five Christian Cults), this blog looks at a few more religious cults from history.

A band of Thuggee

The Thuggee

The Thuggee cult, from which we get the English word 'thug' was an Indian Hindu cult devoted to the goddess Kali the consort of Shiva (The Destroyer).

The cult was first mentioned around 1356. Their speciality was joining bands of travellers and gradually gaining their confidence until the place and time were right, then they would ritually murder them by garotting them with a silk handkerchief, after which their bodies were robbed and buried.

The cult seems to have been put down by the British by 1870 having killed an estimated 2,000,000 Indian travellers.


Assassins of Alamut

The Islamic cult that gave us the word 'assassin' for someone who carries out a political or contract killing. The name was originally a term of abuse derived from the Arabic 'Hashishin', for 'user of hashish'.

The cults origins are obscure but it was taken over by its legendary first grand master, Hassan-i Sabbah, a Persian Ismaili Muslim missionary of the Nizari order, to defend his mountain stronghold at Alamut in about 1091, in response to the First Crusade and the political turmoil this had caused in Persia.

The cult leaders gave their followers hashish, which they told them gave a glimpse of Heaven, so they could be persuaded not to fear death. They then sent them out to carry out political killings for clients. Often, the assassination took place in full public view to increase the kudos, and hence the price, of the cult but the Assassins were usually careful not to kill innocent bystanders as they believed this would discredit the order and lead to civil strife.

As they grew in strength, the cult expanded into Syria and at one point reputedly considered converting to Christianity so they could benefit from lower taxes then paid to the King of Jerusalem, Amalric I. Ironically, this plan came to nothing when the Assassin negotiators were assassinated by Christian knights.

The Alamut fortress was eventually overrun and by Mongols in 1256 and it's library completely destroyed, hence the obscurity of the order's origins. The Syrian stronghold was occupied by the Mamluk Turk, Sultan Beibers I in about 1265, though the Mamluks continued to make use of their services for a while.

Mokichi Okada

Church Of World Messianity

The Church of World Messianity is a Japanese cult, with offshoots in the Japanese community in Brazil, which was started by a Tokyo jeweller, Mokichi Okada in 1935.

Okada, a former member of the Shinto Oomoto sect, claimed he had received a special revelation from God in 1926 telling him about the healing power of divine light, or Johrei. He soon branched out into the quack medicine business opening a clinic for healing with divine light. Believers hold out their arm towards a sick person with their palm open. 'Divine light' flows down their arm and into the patient, allegedly healing them. It can't be seen or otherwise detected in any way known to science. The origin of this 'divine light' is a paper scroll with some writing by Mokichi Okada on it.

The clinic was closed down by Japanese authorities a year later as it violated Medical Practitioners' Law. Not forgetting his jewellery business, he required cult members to wear a pendant, bought from the cult, naturally. No scientific evidence for the efficacy of this treatment is known to exist.

Mokichi Okada soon became a multimillionaire and amassed a large private art collection, now housed in the private Mokichi Okada Association Corporation's Museum of Art in Atami, Japan.

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