FALUN GONG &
Is the movement a cult?
Is Falun Dafa a cult?
The question is unanswerable, because there are so many different meanings to
the word "cult." Some are positive; some
neutral. Most are negative:
|The counter-cult movement (CCM) is
composed almost entirely of conservative Protestant individuals and
groups. They define as a cult any Christian faith group which holds one or more beliefs
that conflict with historical Protestant doctrine. This generally includes
such groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses,
and sometimes even Roman Catholics. But the Falun Dafa is not a Christian group, and
thus does not meet this definition of a cult.|
|Some Christian Fundamentalists regard all non-Christian faith groups
to be a cult. Since the Falun Dafa does have some spiritual teachings,
some fundamentalists would classify it as a cult, along with
|The anti-cult movement (ACM) targets new
religious movements that engage in psychological manipulation,
deceptive recruiting practices, or simply expect a high level of
commitment from their membership.
|Probably the largest ACM group is
the AFF. They have some brief notes on the Falun Dafa. But they top
their list with a disclaimer: "A listing on AFF's web site does not mean that
AFF perceives any group to be a cult,
practices coercive or destructive tactics, or is in violation of any law."
They have a brief review of the book "The Guru Papers:
Masks of Authoritarian Power." They also have
excerpts from the Cult Observer magazine: "Coping
with trance states" and "Understanding Eastern
Groups." None mention the Falun Dafa. All three
appear to be totally unrelated to the movement. The only
information that appears to be related to the Falun Dafa on the
AFF site are five
news items about the Chinese government oppression of the group.
|Rick Ross, an "expert consultant and intervention
specialist" with new religious movements. 2
He has an extensive collection of Falun Gong information
derived from worldwide news reports of varying objectivity.
|The Chinese government has relentlessly suppressed religious groups since
achieving power in 1949. The rest of the world is most familiar with its oppression
of non-registered Christian groups. However, the government has also
persecuted many types of new religious and spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong.
In fact, its suppression extends beyond such groups to include
organizations that teach only simple meditation and gymnastic
techniques. The government appears to fear any national group that is
capable of organizing its followers into direct action.|
In suppressing the Falun Dafa, the Chinese government has adopted much of the terminology of the Western anti-cult
movement. The official Xinhua News Agency issued a report on
"cults" in the United States. 4 It quoted
Berkley psychology professor Margaret Singer, who was one of the few
psychologists who supported the claims of the anti-cult movement until
her death in 2003. The
report discusses "spiritual poisoning." Cults are
said to "not obey the law, they upset social order, and they
create a menace to freedom of religion and social stability. Under the
pretense of religion, kindness, and being non-political, they
participate in political activities. Some of them even practice
criminal activities such as tax evasion, fraud, drug dealing,
smuggling, assassination, and kidnapping."
The Chinese government has described the Falun Dafa as a dangerous "cult."
Some of their claims sound quite improbable:
|The group brainwashes its members.|
|Members, called practitioners, worship Mr. Li.|
|They had turned Communist officials into cult members in order
to learn state secrets. |
|They suggest that their followers should not take any
|Some members have become paranoid, suffered from hallucination,
committed suicide, or killed relatives and friends. The government
has only been able to find a handful of such cases from among the
tens of millions of practitioners in the country. |
The government appears to regard the Falun Dafa as the most
serious threat to the government since the 1989 student pro-democracy uprising. The
government has historical reasons for their fear. China has had a
history of religious and spiritual uprisings that had catastrophic effects on the
country. "In the late 1770s, the White Lotus rebellion against
the Qing dynasty was led by Wang Lun, a master of martial arts and
herbal medicine." 5 Perhaps the most
serious was the Taiping rebellion of 1845-1864 which was led by a leader
who viewed himself as the Son of God. Some 20 million died in that
- AFF's web site is at: http://www.csj.org/
- Rick Ross' web site is at: http://www.rickross.com/
- "The Fa Lun Gong movement," http://www.rickross.com/
- Hu Xiaomin, "Xinhua reports on cults in the United States,"
Beijing Xinhua Domestic Service.
- "Banned sect joins long Chinese history of religious
repression," Associated Press, 1999-JUL-22.
Copyright � 1999, 2001 & 2004, by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 1999-NOV-26
Latest update: 2004-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson