Ep. 33: Microcults

Today your hosts explore the exploits and madness of tiny cults: intensely insular groups of 50 members or less. From politics to pop culture, microcults can emerge in the most surprising places. From Ayn Rand’s Collective or Derek Gale’s “family” to the dark meat-scented details of the Final Fantasy House, microcults have plenty to teach us about the strangeness of socialization.

*Edit: It was kindly pointed out to us that we were incorrect in part of our description of Derek Gale. He was a dramatherapist, not a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. To learn more about this kind of abuse, check out unsafespaces.com.


Cult via Wikipedia

Max Weber via Wikipedia

Roy Wallis via Wikipedia

Kelman’s Process of Opinion Change via Changingminds.org

Cults: Public Perception vs. Research” by John Stacey. Cult Education Institute. July 1998.

The Seven Signs You’re In a Cult” by Boze Herrington. The Atlantic. 18 June 2014.

The Man Who Saves You From Yourself” by Nathaniel Rich. Harper’s Magazine. November 2013.

Group Death Myths in Terror Cult Group” by Peter A. Olsson. M.D. The Journal of Psychohistory. Winter, 2007.

The Church of the End Times

Political Cults

Ayn Rand and the Collective

Psychiatric and Medical Cults

The Final Fantasy Seven House

LGBTQ and Minority Group

Corporate Cults

Additional Resources:

Russian Cult Worships Female Cartoon Character” by Spooky. http://www.odditycentral.com. 16 July 2010.

Music used in this podcast:

Drum Solo for Hospital Ghosts by Lucas Perny

Three Colors (Podington Bear) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Crater in the moon. (Coin Locker Kid) / CC BY 4.0

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12 thoughts on “Ep. 33: Microcults

  1. Thanks for citing my article on Derek Gale (though, to offer a slight correction, he wasn’t a psychiatrist, he was a dramatherapist.)

    As a personal opinion, I think a lot of microcult dynamics are essentially indistinguishable from the sort of dynamics one often sees in domestic violence. Emotional control, financial control, coopting the more compliant family members into being abuse enablers, fostering dependence by convincing people that they wouldn’t be able to cope without their abuser. From talking to domestic abuse survivors, I’ve often noticed that the way they talk about exiting the violent relationship isn’t all that different to how people talking about exiting cults. In that sense Gale may not have been that far off the mark when depicting himself as a father figure. He just happened to be the sort of Daddy who could well be beating his wife and kids.


    • Thank you for pointing out the correction. I, J. J., will add a note to the blog post to clarify that point.

      I agree very much with your observation about the parallels between domestic abuse and microcult behaviors. While researching this episode, I kept noticing common trends between the tactics of microcult leaders and domestic abusers. The fact that Derek Gale was so direct in his fatherly metaphor is fascinating.

      As a side note, I really enjoyed reading through your blog. You cover a lot of interesting topics, and I think the work you’re doing is important and necessary. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Strictly speaking, it would be Cameron and Endean who have it backwards. ;)It's very interesting that sea snakes will eat stonefish. Are there any pulbications that document that?Thanks for the response! It helps. Will be thinking about this some more.


    • Pretty sure this was my fault – in my notes I have him listed as a psychotherapist, not specifically a psychiatrist, so I must have confused myself somewhere. I’ll record a correction blurb. Thanks!


      • Technically it wouldn’t be incorrect to call him a psychotherapist, as he was registered with the UK Council for Psychotherapy, and anyway in Britain “psychotherapist” isn’t a protected title, though “dramatherapist” is. The Health Professions Council (where he was registered as a dramatherapist) is a state regulator, but the UK Council for Psychotherapy is more of a self-regulating professional body.


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