(A not-so-tongue-in-cheek depiction of what life as a clone in a high-control group or cult is really like)

In an alternate universe, not so very far away, there exists a group of creatures who lead a very strange existence indeed. They live a secretive, cloistered life in the midst of other creatures known as ‘Worldlings’. Worldlings have not been unduly influenced to live the same restricted, rigid lifestyle and seem to possess a freedom unknown to the group who are at the center of our story. Worldlings are able to explore, experiment, live, love and play in a way that this captive, controlled group cannot.

This captive group, let’s call them “The Chosen“, have been lured into a detainment-like camp where everyone is required to remain separate from free-thinking, self-directed Worldlings.

Some Worldlings are seduced (unduly influenced) to join this flock of The Chosen by smooth-talking soothsayers who claim to have inside knowledge about a Doomsday prophecy and the establishment of a perfect government over an alternate universe. These soothsayers claim to be specially appointed to explain what The Chosen have to do in order not to be destroyed during the Doomsday scenario. They are told that if they do not follow the instructions of the soothsayers, they will be annihilated as infidels, just as all Worldlings.

The Chosen are only allowed to leave the camp to recruit Worldlings to join the movement – warning them of imminent destruction, if they don’t.

The self-appointed leaders promise that The Chosen will eventually live forever in a utopian paradise, if they keep to the ‘fold’ and obey all of the rules. The promise of a future idyll is held out like a carrot on a stick. To be worthy of life in the promised paradise, The Chosen feel obliged to offer up their minds and lives to these leaders and confine their activities to the compound, which is not unlike a prison camp.

There are invisible (yet well-known) boundaries all around the camp that set off warning sirens when transgressed by any member of The Chosen. Tall, menacing watchtowers are placed strategically along the perimeters of this prison camp. Armed guards are stationed in each watchtower, scanning for anyone who makes a move to step outside the flock, to break moral codes, to violate group laws, to dispute the leaders, or worst of all – to dare to think an independent thought.

The Chosen have no choice but to cling together, like a flock, listening for their shepherds’ voices, dutifully taking in and ever-grateful for the scraps of food offered to them at the proper time.

The shepherds, with their occasional insecurities about the quality of the nourishment they provide, sometimes change up the food. This results in many in the flock navigating through the prison-like environment with terrible cases of indigestion. Some of the nourishment provided becomes really hard to swallow.

Yet the shepherds continue shoving it down The Chosens’ throats, just as fat-laden food is shoved down the throats of helpless geese readied for slaughter in order to make foie gras. The treatment of The Chosen is undue, abusive and unconscionable.

Occasionally, when some of The Chosen aren’t trapped in the middle of the fold, looking at the back sides of other members of the ‘flock’, they are able to glance up to the mountains in the distance, wondering what it would be like to be free and climb to distant heights like goats and Worldlings do.

It is suffocating to be crammed and confined in a cloistered fold. Looking up and out of the compound they sometimes see beyond the but(t)s of their fellow chosen ones. They imagine what it would be like to be a free, un-herded and un-shepherded Worldling. They imagine moving beyond the confines of the holding area to free realms beyond. But they dare not dream too long of such freedom (they have been told that the Ultimate One reads their every thought), and they invariably end up reshuffling themselves back into line, into the group, in the hope of benefiting from new light the shepherds promise will soon break through. It is a dark, limited, repressive life with no room for personal creativity or expression.

An image depicting “Shaker Quakers” in lock-step, ecstatic dance/movement as required by their leaders

“Listen; there’s a hell of a good universe next door: let’s go.”  ~ e e cummings

The Chosen know they have to watch every move they make, even within the fold. Not only are the guards in the looming watchtowers surveying their every move, but every member of The Chosen is unduly charged with the responsibility of reporting aberrant thinking or abhorrent, independent actions to the governing body of the camp. What a genius ploy of the shepherds to have everyone in the fold spying on and reporting on each other. The Chosen are always under scrutiny for any misstep.

If a report is made about someone not toeing the rigid lines drawn in the camp, a kangaroo court is immediately convened. Three shepherds hastily arrange the court proceedings, assemble the witnesses, gather up the book of laws, require the defendant take the stand, and pepper the doubting member with questions that are less about the purported infraction and more about their new, independent bent of mind. Does their thinking demonstrate loyalty to the leadership and appreciation for all the provisions supplied? Other members may be unduly influenced to testify against the defendant. Friendship, family loyalty and caring are revoked with any whiff of independent thought.

Any member of The Chosen who finds him or her self accused of independent thought knows it really does not matter what corroborating evidence they find in the book of laws for their thinking. Nor does it matter how long they have loyally served in the fold. Nor does it matter what contributions they have made to the other members of the group or the maintenance of the holding compound. Unless they repent for the act of independent thinking and promise they will never reflect or analyze on their own again, they are pronounced guilty of both thought-sin and treason and are, of course, condemned to death. What seems so profoundly unjust to The Chosen is that the accusers, prosecutors, and judges are one and the same.

The accused is not allowed any sort of legal or spiritual representation. They have to make a defense on their own and they know before even beginning that no cogent, rational defense will ever satisfy this crudely operated court which claims authority directly from the god of all things. Their authority, they say, is theocratic and just, yet invariably proves to be totalitarian, spiteful and unfair. A death sentence, real or symbolic, is pronounced. If the now un-chosen one is not executed there and then, he or she is assured of death at the soon-to-arrive judgment day.

Once the inevitable guilty verdict and sentence are pronounced, The Chosen defendant is immediately barred from access to the rest of the flock. It does not matter if they have family and friends amid the group. They are also informed that they will be barred from the love of God and any future life in the promised paradise. There is no room for compassion in the kangaroo court or the group. Condemned members are told to march out the gate between the watchtowers and leave. They know as they leave, that the guards in the towers will be instructed to use their arsenal of weapons upon them.

The now thinking member of The Chosen has become a threat to the continued control of the flock and, therefore, has to be made dead to them. Condemned members of the high-control group are cut down by merciless assaults (real or symbolic) from the loyal guards and other devoted members of the group, trying to ensure the now awakened member will never see the promised paradise nor their families again.

Remaining members of The Chosen, still in good standing in the camp, and who are not privy to exactly what happened in the courtroom, now see the arsenal of weapons being used against the condemned, independent thinker. They also receive a stern lecture from the shepherds insisting that the member guilty of independent thought must now be dead to them and they must even hate the memory of him. And so these still loyal members of The Chosen that had just been freely and happily associating with the defendant, loving him, sharing with her, shuffling aimlessly around in the fold with them, have been given a warning that might sound like this: “Don’t even think about joining your disloyal loved ones and leaving the compound! In fact, it is best if you do not think at all. We are here to think for you. If you turn against what you have been taught, we will cut you off at the head as we would a poisonous snake. Now, let’s gather together to pray and express our gratitude for the loving care of the Ultimate One, our Great Shepherd!

Though now considered dead and certainly knocked off their feet by the assaults from the loyal guards, some of the former members of The Chosen pull themselves upright and begin, somehow, to live again – albeit temporarily alone. It is not easy, at first, to stand alone after years of meekly following the herd and the dictates of the shepherds. They are so unaccustomed to being truly awake, to thinking, evaluating and questioning, that they are still sometimes uncertain and distrusting of their own thoughts, needs and impulses. Such disorientation and uncertainty will soon pass.

Even though happy to be free and finally able to see new worlds and opportunities beyond the confines of the old detainment camp, these former members of The Chosen miss friends and family still captive there. It is a rough journey to recover from the undue influence and exploitation but the expanded horizons, the ability to think, to evaluate, to decide, to choose, to be authentically themselves proves to be a treasure beyond price.

When these ex-members of The Chosen are able to get messages through to those still captive in the detainment camp, they try to impress upon them that it is their right to think, it is their right to ask a question, it is their right to read, learn, explore, experiment, decide and choose. They tell those still captive that as long as they allow themselves to be herded around by this medieval band of tyrannical shepherds they will never know what it feels like to choose their own beliefs, to move beyond the primitive developmental stage of making all choices based on reward vs. punishment, to create their own life, to decide for themselves how to make their life meaningful, to realize their intrinsic potential.

Ex-members of The Chosen are also trying to alert the members still in captivity, that some of the shepherds have been forcing themselves sexually, upon the weak, vulnerable and under-age in the flock. They tell them that alert Worldling authorities are calling these hypocritical shepherds into Worldling courts to account for casting a blind eye to these serious offenses. The governing body of the shepherds are now having to pay millions of dollars in damages to those so callously abused, and finally having their inhumane indifference exposed on news programs and on social media networks.

Ah, but the unscrupulous, self-anointed governing body is canny and has already warned the captive members against ever listening to an ex-member or “apostate” or “infidel”. The shepherds repeatedly warn that to listen to ex-members will mean that they too will find themselves brought before the kangaroo court for treason. Regardless of what the shepherds preach, many current members of The Chosen are reading and appreciating these so-called ‘apostate’ stealth messages, and based on what they are learning are making the decision, in spite of on-going threats of unjust punishments, to escape. Many are marching right out of the gates of the detainment camp, right past the watchtowers – to freedom.

Now free, former members of The Chosen soon discover that Worldlings are not nearly as “bad” as the shepherds told them. Worldlings are free … and with that freedom, most choose to be fine, upstanding people. Those Worldlings that have chosen behaviors that are not admirable, sometimes reconsider their ways and change their behaviors. That is what it is to be free, authentic, independent and healthy. When you are free, you are free to act, err, learn, change your mind and change your behaviors. Free choice. What a radical concept!

Let this little allegory about undue influence serve as a cautionary tale: It may seem comforting to have parent-like authorities tell you they have the inside track on universal truths pertaining to all things human. It may feel comforting to be told what to believe, what to do, and exactly how you will be rewarded, but you pay a huge price in personal growth and freedom for that seeming comfort. You pay a huge price in the development of your ability to exercise your own will when you opt for the illusory comfort of being ‘rescued’, and remain the eternal, protected child.

It may make you feel special and “chosen” to believe only your group knows “the way”, but you must ask what price you pay for believing that lie. It may feel exhilarating to be told you will live forever and never die, however history and reason offer no such proof, and to entertain such an illusion you must ask yourself, what you have had to sacrifice?

Be wary of wolves in shepherd’s clothing who make grandiose claims and promises in an effort to bring you under their control. Such self-serving shepherds seduce you, telling you that you will be among the few chosen ones, while in truth the goal is to dominate you so they can use you in their ultimate design for power and profit.

You must, like the members of “The Chosen” who finally dare to think for themselves in our story, recognize that you were seduced and conned. Unconscionable, confidence artists lulled you into trusting them and their interpretations of the world, life and the holy written words. You have been deluded into believing you are involved in a truthful, benevolent theocracy. But you have really been groomed, unduly influenced and seduced by lies of a ruthless oligarchy. Specious “truths” have been pushed down your throat in what can only be called the ultimate violation – spiritual and psychological rape. The way they view you and treat you are abusive infringements. Coercive despots rob you of your intrinsic dignity and fundamental freedoms when they unduly influence and impregnate you with their warped concepts. Enough is enough! It is time to relinquish any fear you have of standing up against self-appointed shepherds in ivory towers. It is time to awake. Protect and reclaim your mind and your one and only life!

“Those who would sacrifice a generation to realize an ideal are the enemies of mankind.” ~Eric Hoffer

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you have a story about undue influence or life in a high-pressure group that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!