It begins at the center and spreads, this wave of delusion and absurdity, demolishing the ability to question, to think straight, to distinguish truth from lies or reality from fantasy… It overwhelms any capacity for critical thinking, any logic and common sense in its path. It flips perceptions of reality on their heads, and projects its own evils as what their chosen foe is and does.
It is one of those cults of ecstasy, in which a manic madness obliterates all other feelings, especially those that might warn the victims away from it. It creates a context of its own that blinds its victims to any greater context, like, for instance, the real world. It is the most extreme form of mob mentality.
Meanwhile, those on the outside, seeing and recognizing the madness for what it is, are flabergasted at what ‘some people’ can believe and commit their whole hearts to. It is hard for basically rational people to understand the total abandonment of reason, believing that we all always have the power of free choice.
But mania is a disease, an affliction, and it takes a mighty strength of will to fight one’s way out of a cult, especially one that relies on the quantities of believers to sustain it. But there comes a time when many cult followers suddenly regain some sense of self, and their own strength of character returns, begins to separate from the cult.
Some, of course, never do. Perhaps, with some inherent flaw or deep damage in their own sense of personal boundaries and personal truth, they depend on the cult for any feeling of belonging, of worth and identity.
Even then, when one has snapped out of the delusions, the machine of the cult makes it nearly impossible to actually break free. Witness Jonestown, where many were forced against their will to drink the koolaid. It is a matter of record that there were those who wanted to get out, to go home, but were prevented in the weeks before the koolaid, which was not a mass suicide but a mass murder.
Cult figures rarely go down alone. When the greater reality finally imposes itself, when the cult loses its momentum, loses its believers, and begins to circle the drain, the central figure notoriously takes as many down with him/her as possible. Former followers are forced to drink the koolaid, former enablers and supporters are tossed under the bus.
This book explains a lot about why and how people get into cults, and when, suddenly, they snap out of it: