29/11/08

To be or not to be a cult : THAT is the question


When the information becomes a dogma, the committees become courts, the experts become “guru” and people remain, anyway, victim.

(By Raffaella Di Marzio, 22th of February 2008)

Read the article in ITALIAN

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Article published in "La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno", 15th of February 2008, p.2

Case cult, roman blitz from police

Eighty adepts of "The Sacred Path" surprised in a hotel of the capital: also a priest. The activity of the presumed cult "The sacred path" continues, at least apparently. It would be proved by the blitz of the police of Rome, in a hotel of the capital. The agents found the presumed guru, Vito Carlo Moccia, 55 years, from Bari, together with eighty people, participating to a more or less ritual meeting, almost with candles. Among them, also a priest and a psychologist.

The agents interrupted the meeting, they asked names and addresses of the presents, confiscated some documents and the candles used. The inquiry file was transferred to the prosecutor Francesco Bretone, in Bari. Being to the inquiry ending in the notice of some informations of guarantee on last october, the "managing group" of the presumed cult diffused - with a certain consensus and also television popularity - the innovative psychological method "ARKEON". The head office of "The Sacred Path " is in Bari.

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Taking this news as a starting point, I would like to do some remarks concerning four questions that, in this article, are approached together as they are strictly connected with each other:

1) the approximate and/or aggressive way of doing information (of which the article of "Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno" is only a pale and faded example)

2) the way certain media agencies, groups of expert professionals and citizens took control and are actually managing the case of ARKEON, name given to a path experimented and created by Vito Carlo Moccia

3) the consequences generated from a management of conflicts between social systems that does not point to the resolution and composition of the conflicts themselves, but to their radicalization, to the conflict between different parts, that in certain cases can produce the organisation of lobbies that activate intimidation, threat and anyway a climate of social tension.

4) the way to approach the study and the research about new forms of religions, spirituality and new forms of aggregations which point to increase the human potential and give an answer (religious, philosophical, anthropological) to the questions of the human being about himself, the sense of life and death. In this context the difficulty of the scholar is to compose and verify the different stories, those of the enthusiastic ones and those of the unhappy, those of who got benefits or was really abused.

As far as I’m regarded, I am involved in the ARKEON case against my will, because, until few months ago, I was not aware even of the existence of this group.

Some times ago I received a strange email from one of the masters of ARKEON, whose meetings were suspended since Octobre 2007, after the begenning of the inquiry. Six people, (Vito Carlo Moccia is one of them) were and are inquired by the Bari's Republic Prosecutor’s Office. One man that identified himself by name and surname searched for help because he, his family and the families of other adherents to the same group were object of some telecasts, news, and forums that described ARKEON as a "psicocult" or "satanic psicocult", its founder as a "guru" or "cult-chief" and the members, all together, as plagiarized or (even worst) accomplices of the misdeed of the "cult-chief".

This man indicated some links where you could see the registrations, telecasts, news, and forums where some people (we never know how many because they use nick names) denounced abuses suffered in the ARKEON "psycho-cult".

The ARKEON master that contacted me also asked me explanation on what should be brainwashing and plagiarism (he wanted to know how it worked the process in order to understand if there was something wrong in him) and I invited him to read some of my articles issued on this website (www.dimarzio.it/srs).

What puzzled me was the reason why this person wrote me: he was searching for help because, as a member of the "cult", he was swept away, together with dozens of other people and entire families, from a mediatic wave making him feeling "harmless", "confused", "astonished", "lost" and "powerless". Because, being defined a member of a cult, he was consequently "plagiarized" and so whatever he said or did, it would not have been taken in consideration by anyone. Whoever whould listen to a plagiarized ?

I never received a request of help of this kind.

The requests of help I receive comes from relatives of people that joined some group and ask me for help to recover their relative. Or they write to me people that left a cult and ask how to do in order to come back to their first life, recovering lost serenity. I receive also simple requests of information about groups of any kind from institutions or privates.

Two things striked me: the first was that this person told me that inside of ARKEON a process of reflection and self-criticism was longly begun, provoked also by the media influence and by the accusations against them. He told me also that probably there had been cases of abuse in some meeting and that learning it deeply touched them and pushed them to introspect themselves and to undergo the evaluation of external institutions. Their attempt was to understand where they were wrong and what they could do to correct and, if possible, to improve the path planned by their founder.

The fact that a "psycho-cult" showed available to self-criticism impressed me because, even when they are attacked, the "cults" defend themselves closing and attacking the critics in the same ways or with greater hanger.

The self-criticism is the last thing that sectary groups do.

The second thing that impressed me was that Pietro Bono, master of ARKEON, told me he contacted me on his own initiative and that the founder, the "cult-chief", did not know anything. In the cults it never happens that an adept takes an initiative of this kind (specially during an attack coming from outside) without authorisation from the "chief".

Considering that he was not an ex-member but a master of ARKEON, near and united with the founder, the thing astonished me and I begun to ask me: do I really find myself in front of a cult ?

It was undoubt that inside ARKEON someone had mistaken abusing of some people and there were some things not so clear, but could the entire organisation be accused of being a "psychocult"?

Apart from the sham and ridiculous specifications of those affirming that "cult" isn’t a disparaging term, we all know that, when a group is accused to be a "cult" that means a dangerous system, where systematic abuses are perpetrated on people and where the weakest are induced to think and to do actions that, otherwise, they never would have done. The "cult" tend to absorb its members in the system separating them from the other groups (family, friends, etc.), the cult drains the material properties and the mental resources of the people being part of it, of which many join the cult being cheated, without realising what kind of group are they adhering.

I could still continue for long about the description of what is a "cult", but I suggest to read authors as Steve Hassan and Margaret Singer and, for a critical vision of their theory, Massimo Introvigne, Mario Aletti and others. For further examination, also in this website you can find many articles on this subject.

While beginning to collect information about the ARKEON’s case I was also trying to think over and not to be too much influenced by the medias and the testimonies that I’ve read, all very critical.

The telecasts that I had seen were organized as a process where you already know who's guilty. The "bads" were prevented from talking, except in one case: one telecast of Maurizio Costanzo, where two members of ARKEON were invited and talked without being interrupted.

I read also the messages of people that in one forum relate their "devastating" experience in ARKEON and, in the same forum, I read also the messages from members of ARKEON that tried to speak their voice and to answer to the criticisms: they were from time to time made fun of or worse, so that at the end they stopped writing.

In any case, the testimonies of the critics were very serious, telling arguable and reprehensible episodes, actions and practices also judicially relevant.

After this first recognition of the informations circulating in Internet and off those diffused in the telecasts, I searched the Web-site of ARKEON to read their version of the facts or at least their way of presenting themselves, but their website were obscured, so in Internet there were only the critical messages.

I searched news about ARKEON in other contexts, in the universitary sphere and study centres, but nobody knew what to tell me about it, apart from what medias said.

I took note of this situation and I thought it was right to listen also the other part of the case, not only because it was a request of help from a person really suffering (I give an equal value on suffering, coming from a victim of a "cult" or from a victim of "anticult" people) but also and overall because I believe that the study of a phenomenon is valid and precise only by listening all people that are involved.

After a while, the founder of ARKEON, Vito Carlo Moccia, contacted me and he made me access the results of a research (to be completed) done about ARKEON from an internationally known institutional organization and told me that he talked with some managers of the GRIS (Group of Research and Social and Religious Information) asking also to them to study ARKEON to verify any wrong thing happened and still present and which positive aspects could be found in it.

After I examined the organization’s report of which I talked before and verified that the desire of self-criticism was real and the founder and other members close to him were ready to be met, I accepted the invitation to take part in an informative meeting with students and masters of ARKEON.

The reason of this meeting was to present myself and to make me know (naturally they were suspicious and they didn’t afford "scholars" or journalists), and to ask for their collaboration in a study about ARKEON. The meeting could also be the right moment to do some interviews and think over what was happening (included media campaign).

That meeting happened on February the 09th 2008 in Rome. There were students, couples, families with children, parents of students, globally about a hundred participants. There were professionals, housewives, psychologists, doctors, etc.

The room was prepared with the chairs on circle. Onece sit down, a person put in the centre of the room a beautiful almost big candle, that was lightened. I know that for members of ARKEON the fire has a symbolic meaning. That is why I was not surprised that that symbol was there. Moreover, tit remembered me the summer evenings on the beach, some years ago, when together with other teenagers we played to make a fire and to seat all around it to tell us our stories.

Once sit down, Vito Carlo Moccia, briefly introduced me and called upon me to speak.

I took the chance to come back to the beginning of my studies about cult’s phenomenology, to explain the reason why even today, after 15 years, I continue to work in this context of study, research and help, and, particularly, my interest to deepen the ArRKEON ‘s case.

I explained from a very critical perspective my considerations about how the different media-association-committees conduced the aggressive campaign against them and I indicated the potential keys to read the phenomenon.

While speaking I observed the people around me: I saw people crying while telling the devastating effects and the suffer that the media campaign had on their family, on their children, on their job. I saw people frightened and afraid of talking, not because they did something wrong, but because they were shocked about what was happening to them.

All these people, in many years, never witnessed the scenes described in the forums and did not know anything about the abuses that people on television were talking. They were dumbstruck.

During the morning, while I was listening and sometimes speaking, I observed the way the "adepts" acted in front of the "guru". Vito Carlo Moccia, during the meeting, was greeted by everybody with affection and gratitude but he was also strongly criticized by someone, then supported by others, who, even if renewing to him their esteem and gratitude, did not renounce to tell him what they thought of him, of ARKEON and of what was happening, asking the entire "circle" to do something to clear and define the ARKEON’s path in order to avoid further misunderstanding and, mainly, serious facts like those somebody is accused of.

While this was happening I observed the reactions: I could clearly see that in that "circle" and in that context Moccia wasn’t the undisputed leader. Nobody asked him: what must we do? ANyone who wanted to talk did it expressing personal reflections about what is happening to ARKEON, nobody was censored and nobody offered solutions.

Vito Carlo Moccia didn’t try to answer, but he rather seemed to listen and think over.

Another element I believe significant is that, despite the consternation and suffer that I could feel in present people, I heared NOBODY denigrate, offend or reveal secrets of the ARKEON’s ex members, that today are diffusing their experiences and testimonies to media.

The gossip against the ex members and the revelation of secrets to put them in a bad light are other typical aspects of the "cults".

Talking about their "enemies", they rather showed a deep pain for the possibility that someone was abused in the seminars and incredulity in front of the anger of some of these ex member.

With regard to this, I even heard telling of physical violences and I saw with my eyes letters of thread, intimidation, etc.

In the last two years anyone who came in contact with ARKEON, hosted (before they was suspended in October 2007) the people participating in the seminars, started studies about ARKEON (not directed to speak ill of it), talked in public with positive judgements about the path etc., suffered intimidations and threats of any kind.

It was also established a committee named "The families of so many victims of the devil Vito Carlo Moccia " which says to be forced to remain anonymous "to protect their families from negative consequences that would be perpetrated against them by Moccia in reprisal" and which sent long faxes saying that " to host ARKEON’s meetings, is like to be accomplice in Moccia’s misdeeds and probably also liable to prosecution".

Into the defamatory campaign of the press and the television, two priests were involved attracted with deception by certain journalists expert in such ways on doing "information" and shot from television camera in spite of the protests and before they could recover from the bitter surprise.

It’s no need to underline how these methods of pressure disadvantage everybody and contribute to create other victims, over the ones already existing.

I think the most correct modality to address these conflicts is to let each one do his own "job".

The proxy, the lawyers and the police forces have specific tasks they are already doing from a while. People investigated will have to defend from the charges and, if they will not succeed, they will have to pay for their crimes committed, those who are sure to have been damaged did their duty, that was to denounce.

Why are they ruthless, so ?

But let’s return to the 9th of February and to my observation.

Another aspect that hit me, knowing that ARKEON was born inside of a Reiki path (that today is completely abandoned) is that a certain number of people, when sharing their experiences in ARKEON, told me they returned or they turned to the catholic faith.

I talked with people separated from many years that married in the church, with people that had a dissolute life and baptized in adult age, I talked with alcoholic and drug addicts who overcame their addiction and today have a respectable activity, are married with catholic rite and have children that they chose to baptize.

Other people, instead, told me to be agnostics or atheist, but to respect the faith of others.

The exchange of information, reflections and suggestions went on until three o’clock in the afternoon when it was decided to make a lunch break.

At that point my impression-sensation was not to be inside of a sectary group, it did not seemed to me to have the cult’s characteristics. Of course, it was only a first impression, it was not an experience of ARKEON during a base or an intensive seminar, it was only a first contact. Anyway, this too is a starting point, a fragment to build a mosaic capable of improvement, adjustments and checks.

I was in front of two realities clearly opposed one to the other: the one described from media and Internet, and the one I was seeing with my eyes.

Could the truth, as usual, be in the middle ?

Maybe were not the present ARKEON’s members all under influence of brainwashing?

Or were all of them pretending with me in a performance well organized to deceive me?

If somebody is keen on conspiracy he could believe to this hypothesis. At the same time you could suppose a colossal conspiracy from somebody to damage ARKEON, but this too is pure conspiracy and I don’t like to interpret the reality using hypothesis and conspiracy.

So, I turn back to the facts happened on 9th of February.

During the lunch break, we saw some people coming in that we immediately identified as agents of the Digos. We were invited to give our documents, the agents confiscated the candle, the poster of ARKEON hanged outside the door of the room, a computer, videocassettes and also some posters of my web-site that I brought that morning (no problem, I am happy to give them for free to the Digos of Rome).

Immediately after we were told that, being people informed of the facts, some of us would have benn asked to answer some questions. I don’t know exactly how many testimonies were signed, but among the others there was also mine.

After almost three hours of formalities they gave us back the documents and they allowed us to return to the room and continue the meeting. Nobody was gone, except the ones that had to go, and many people shared their experience. I could listen to some testimonies that will be useful for the studies that I began. The meeting finished around 8 p.m.

As for me, I would like to try to be out of the chaos, to come close to the truth, to observe a social phenomenon in order to describe it.

ARKEON, as many others movements and groups that are in Italy and in the world, is a path in which you can find persons who, like other people attending other groups, search answers on themselves, on life, death, pain, suffering. It is a little social group with all the typical dynamics of social groups: inside them there is always a certain level of "manipulation".

What matters is to understand if this manipulation goes over a certain level of intensity or not, if people are respected into their freedom, into their feelings, into their sensibility or not.

As for me I learned from my mistakes not to draw a conclusion hurriedly and not to formulate a judgement under the wave of emotions, rancour and indignation.

I proceed, then, with my research on ARKEON and I’m ready to receive testimonies of people feeling damaged from this path, that suffered because of ARKEON just like I welcome the testimonies of the others.

The 17th February 2008 a user of this web-site posted for the first time in the Forums, inviting to reflect on ARKEON. Those who are interested,can read the different interventions that I think useful in order to understand the internal dynamics in the group and also the criticisms that comes from outside [ N.D.R.: all the Forum of this website have been temporarily closed down from 30th April 2008].

Until now, beyond the experiences listened during the meeting (fifteen), I received the availability of other thirty people that frequented the meetings and had benefits inside ARKEON and from three people that criticize the path and declare damaged by it.

The thirty people of ARKEON gave me their name and surname, of the three people "unhappy", two are ex members (I know their name and surname), the third present herself as a mother of a member of ARKEON, but I do not know her generalities.

I thank all of this people for their availability and I wait for further information, from whichever "fence" they come.

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The contents of this article are unprofessional translations of those included in the italian website www.dimarzio.it.

1 commento:

Fabia ha detto...

It is 3 years, now, that Arkeon is still under study of Bari's Proxy. I am one of the persons that wrotte to you explaining my positive experience regarding Arkeon seminaries (in one year +/- 3 times a week-end) and also expressing myself on several forums, concernign above group.
After what happened to you an others, people that just wanted to understand a gave me /us, the space to comunicate and express, without insults or whatever, I had the sensation that the matter does not concerns only Arkeon, but largerly moovements Anti-Cults that tries to reach something else, than realy helping or supporting people.
My wish is that people that know about it much better than me, try to encounter and dialog, from things regarding the freedom of individuals like me tha before of all that did not know about it and still know a little, because I as others we were going sometimes to seminaries and try to know eachothers and talk about our lifes and experiences normaly, before some others said that we were a sect or psicosect.
Fabia