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A PSICHOANALYTIC STUDY ABOUT LEADER-PARISHIONERS RELATIONSHIP AT "THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD" CHURCH (LA LUZ DEL MUNDO)

Dr. César Mascareñas de los Santos
Dr. Jorge Mascareñas Ruiz

 

MALIGNANT NARCISSISM VS DELIRIOUS PARANOID DISORDER

Thus Samuel Joaquín’s case is malignant narcissism (NM), the repercussions over all the people who surround him could be even more serious.

Patients with NM are people who can appear to be empathic and thus manipulate others. But deep down, their goal is to damage the people around them.58  That is, they are controlled by impulses of destruction where negative affection is more prevalent than the positive one.59 This could explain some of the aberrant behavior and deviations in the case of the maximum leader of The Light of the World, such as: his pleasure in sadistic behavior60 like rape, pedophilia, beating women to lessen his nervous tensions,61 biting young women,62 etc. Sadism is the differential characteristic between this pathology and other types of less serious narcissism.63

If we find ourselves before a case of malignant narcissism, all the hierarchical structure, the ostentatious symbols and grandiose projections of institutional image which are characteristic of The Light of the World only serve to feed Samuel Joaquín’s ego. In fact, these structures would be directly promoted by him to achieve the same end. We must remember that such excesses are only monstrous overcompensations which appears in cases like the malignant narcissist, because deep down they feel inferior to others.64  However, in such pathologies, the fact is difficult to be accepted, thus creating this complex system to try to solve internal conflicts.65 If we add to this brew an examination of the mechanisms guiding the moral conscience of human beings, the case of malignant narcissism becomes even more complex. It has been clinically proven that although some individuals seem to keep their conscience under anesthesia, in reality this is only surface deep; they seem insensitive before the damage they inflict on others, but narcissists understand the suffering they wreak and reprove their own conduct. This, in turn, generates important derivations to attempt to end the malaise that a betrayed conscience inevitably carries.

Clinical manifestations of a guilty conscience have been researched by Dr. H. Baruk in his classic work Experimental Moral Psychiatry.66 He refers in detail to these manifestations of excessive self justification as pathological signs. The greater the guilt, explains Baruk, the greater and more vehement the efforts to present a facade of morality. On the other hand, guilt will also be expressed in an unceasing effort of self justification, and mostly, by persecuting those persons who have been victimized. Afterwards, to divert attention from his actions he will add on even more justifications and the person with the guilty conscience will then assume an attitude of himself being persecuted; thus causing the classic picture of persecuted-persecutor of Trelat.67

As far as this is concerned, a newspaper spread appeared recently in various national and international papers signed personally by Samuel Joaquín. His purpose was, apparently, to respond to the various and very detailed accusations made public recently by some former members of his organization before the media in Mexico. (In particular, about ritual sexual abuse and other type of aggressions).

In this spread, the leader of the Light of the World declared himself to be: honest, responsible, propagator of Christian values, patriot, promoter of freedom, passionate defender of the truth and human values, propagator of the right to life, unyielding fighter against slander, injustice, ignorance, immorality and unbridled license. Continuing with his apology, Samuel considers himself to be humble, his life is transparent and honorable; in his mind there is neither intimidation nor threats against his detractors. He has no intention of defending himself or to slander others and he avers that he has irreproachable morality.68

As a contrast, in the same newspaper spread he refers indistinctly to those people who have criticized his behavior or accused him with the following adjectives: rabid dogs, degenerates, perverse and dirty minds, moral deviates, perverse, resentful, avid for publicity, infectious, spiteful, vindicative, slanderers, defamatory, liars, inventors of false arguments, irresponsible, people who, according to the leader, express their arguments "in brothel language, abominable and execrable" who have "acquired significance" before public opinion because he considers that in human beings there is "a natural morbid predisposition for sickly curiosity" to evaluate religious subjects.

Whether the presumptive diagnosis tends toward Delirious Paranoid Disorder or Malignant Narcissism is established as the underlying pathology of the conduct of Samuel Joaquín, what is obvious is that our investigations show that we are before a very delicate situation, because here is an individual who exercises great influence over hundreds of thousands of people but who, at the same time, has lost contact with reality. On the other hand, it may be the case of what Hochman defines as a highly functional sociopath,69 in a position of power and influence who has the capacity to destroy and cheapen other human beings, notwithstanding the consequences or a minimum regret for his actions. These diagnosis are not excluding, it is even common to find sociopathy in malignant narcissism.

GROUP IMPRESSION DIAGNOSIS: SHARED PSYCHOTIC DISORDER

The strength and cohesion of a certain social group depends on the type of leadership and the group’s identification with him.70 Because Samuel Joaquín is a person of native origin,71 massive identification of the majority of the members of The Light of the World with their leader is very strong since he is "one of ours", "he is of the same race", "he identifies with us." 72

This characteristic has made it easier to transmit the leader’s paranoid delirium and grandeur towards his parishioners and understanding this dynamic helps us corroborate the group psychiatric diagnosis. All clinical evidence shows that for many years some sectors of the church The Light of the World have suffered what is medically known as Shared Psychotic Disorder.

This malady is characterized by an uncritical acceptance of the delirious beliefs of their leader. Thus, a pattern of behavior is developed within the group of Domination-Submission, corresponding to the leader the dominant part and for the parishioners the submissive part.73  In this case, the authority exercised by the leader helps him transmit his psychotic ideas to the submissive group. In this way, the circle of those closest to him shares the same deliriums as Samuel Joaquín. This refers to the delirious ideas about his messianic identity, personal greatness and persecutory obsessions. Those people affected, before coming into contact with him, were sane for all practical purposes. The intensity of the seriousness of the Shared Psychotic Disorder is given by the proximity with the Dominant Pattern. Thus, the greater the contact with the leader, the stronger the transmitted psychotic behavior.74

 

COLLECTIVE TRANSMISSION OF PARANOID DELIRIUM

Samuel Joaquín’s paranoid delirium has been transmitted to sections of his parishioners, particularly to his closest followers by means of complex group mechanisms. It is important to remark that paranoid ideas in followers are secondary to the leader’s psychological dysfunction and to the strong indoctrination received within the association.75

It is worthwhile to remember the most famous case of collective suicide for religious motives registered in modern history, when hundreds of people voluntarily drank a mixture of cyanide dissolved into Kool-Aid to take their lives. One of the causes of this event was the continuous paranoid indoctrination from Jim Jones. In fact, that was the reason why more than 900 people left the United States to fly to Guyana before the tragedy. The paranoid ideas transmitted were so well received by the group that they had been practicing for months to prepare the way for the collective suicide to take place.76  Their leader had told them there was a government conspiracy against them.77

In contrast, the Guru Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, chief of a religious commune of hundreds of people in Oregon, USA., managed to convince his followers against all objective evidence that it was necessary to exterminate the inhabitants of a town. The latter were perceived, by Rajneesh’s mental design, as a terrible threat. The final result was that a hydraulic dam was poisoned and other crimes were committed.78

 

WORLD CONSPIRACY

There are various ways to observe the paranoid obsessions transmitted by Samuel Joaquín to his followers. One example is the group of close collaborators who suspect (systematically and notwithstanding the evidence presented) anybody or any organization that criticizes the church as "satanic agents" and "enemies" that are part of fabulous plots and conspiracies.79

As an example of such paranoid transmitted behavior some officials and active members of the organization The Light of the World are always in the lookout for global plots against their church and against Samuel Joaquín. Recently, since the onset of a series of public accusations about the behavior of their maximum leader, representatives of the association have published articles in various internal magazines blaming an endless number of organizations as schemers of said conspiracies. The Vatican, TV Azteca and Televisa, El Universal and La Jornada newspapers, Opus Dei and the Jesuits, civil associations, private enterprises in Mexico, the Ministry of the Interior, anthropologists and investigators, American Protestant churches and an imaginary entity they call The Antichrist, etc. have all teamed up to "exterminate" (sic) the hundreds of thousands members of the church The Light of the World. According to his own version and without any proof except for the word of Samuel Joaquín, the plot exists and there is no doubt whatsoever that it is being carried out even though it is so unbelievable and absurd to consider that groups with such different interests and even antagonistic one to another would band together for such an unimportant goal.

The transmission of Samuel Joaquín’s paranoid delirium to his immediate followers has other repercussions as well. His immediate group that writes, publishes and communicates the church’s position in its turn has hierarchical ascendant authority over others and this makes transmission of delirium to the general parishioners easier. That is, an ordinary member of The Light of the World in Guadalajara, upon reading the literature edited by the leadership, listening to the same story three times a day and being blocked in his freedom from receiving outside information80  may begin to think that there really is a global plot and world persecution. From there to the belief with full conviction of the existence of concrete enemies, even though objective reality denies their viability, is quite easy.

Collective persecution delirium has provoked great tragedies in religious spheres, as has been previously mentioned. In each case, it is the leader who transmits paranoid delirium to his parishioners, through shared psychotic disorder.

The way these sections of the church The Light of the World will react as collective psychopathology progresses or what new delirium and how fast will it be transmitted in the future to the faithful is the issue that emerges upon examination of this information. What will happen when the siege mentality characteristic of events like those in Waco or Japan’s Supreme Truth becomes stronger?81  The question is up in the air, but a cryptic message in Concepto magazine edited by The Light of the World (August, 1997) might provide us a clue: "Mexico will pay very dearly for its sins" claims the threatening editorial (page two) as response to critical remarks from various sectors of Mexican society in the last few months.
 

GROUP DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

Paranoid delirium is not the only thing susceptible of being shared. When a social group has as leader an individual with delusions of grandeur, these can also be transmitted. The organization might come to view itself as very important, grandiose and omnipotent.82  In the case of The Light of the World, proofs obtained indicate that the greatness self applied by Samuel Joaquín is also transmitted to his followers by means of mechanisms described in Shared Psychotic Disorder. When this mechanism operates, the group receives strong gratification because: 1) their leader’s greatness is projected, 2) they consider themselves to be in a privileged position and 3) they are different from everybody else because of the exclusivity of the group.83  A good example is the following paragraph where the messianic greatness of the leader is taken over by some of the parishioners: "Glorious brother Samuel Joaquín… the best loved son of the Highest and lifted to the most exalted sanctity by his congenital kindness and his organizational genius. La Hermosa Provincia perfumed flower of the garden of the Creator… its purified branches extend over all the countries of the planet… transforming the church of the Living God into an island for the salvation of humanity".84

Another example is, once more, the persecution complex. This indicates not just a paranoid perception of the exterior world. It also implies a false and excessive conceptualization of the importance of the group in world context. In other words, for conspiracies of the significance claimed by the dignitaries of The Light of the World to exist, it is obvious that this organization is extremely important. So much, that according to Samuel Joaquín’s opinion the whole world85 is scheming to wipe it from the face of the earth.86 This international plot is on account of, according to The Light of the World, "its cleanliness", "its doctrinal purity", an attempt to stop its "expansive growth"; the envy of the enemies of the sect and the hate of invisible beings,87 are some of the explanations before the faithful and adopted as reality by many of the faithful.

It is easier for a social group to function in a psychotic way than for a single individual, because in groups primitive levels of the mind are more easily aroused.88  If we take into account that it is there where feelings and emotions abide,89 while partaking group activities, even though people were functionally psychotic, the experience can be intensely gratifying. Anybody within the organization may cease to function normally while ruled by the group, which upon delirium, embraces him in collective psychosis.90  This kind of behavior has been observed in The Light of the World. While celebrating the Holy Supper in August, 1991, Samuel Joaquín stated in an intensely solemn moment that God "had asked for the Church".91 This cryptic message became clearer when he explained that he had fought with God begging him not to take it yet and to give it another opportunity. According to eye witnesses his words cause a general commotion among the thousands in attendance; uncontrollable laments and weeping could be heard, the faithful fell by the streets of La Hermosa Provincia colony passionately begging for another chance and thanking the fitting intercession of their vicar. The commotion provoked the Ministry of the Interior to investigate into the causes worried about what could happen the next year during such festivity. Some measures were taken to ensure that the bread and wine to be distributed in the next celebration would not be God’s medium to take the Church.92

 

MECHANISMS OF TRANSMISSION

Nurtured by his delusions of grandeur, Samuel Joaquín exercises total control over his immediate followers. As was previously mentioned, among the group of the unconditional ones, he is the one that determines how the weddings will take place. That is, Samuel Joaquín decides who shall be the mate of the faithful in this elite.93 The fact that he is allowed to select the person whom to marry is a demonstration of trust deposited in him.94

The group of the unconditional ones identifies more closely than the ordinary parishioners with their leader because of their proximity to him, this is an important element for transmitting the Shared Psychotic Disorder to other sections of The Light of the World. The particular pyramidal structure of authority and the vertical and rigid lines by which it is exercised makes the unconditional ones the representatives of Samuel Joaquín before the regular members of The Light of the World. The unconditional ones are, in other words, the transmitters of his divine will, his eyes, hands, the expression of Samuel Joaquín, and in a certain way , because of their proximity, they participate of his image and identity. This makes easier the transmission of delirious ideas and psychosis. This relationship of domination over the general group confers them special authority and power.95

The great relevance of Samuel Joaquín’s figure in the mind of his followers, the fact of being next to him (as in the case of the Vestals) makes them feel important, influential and blessed with authority. All this further creates feedback for delirious thoughts.96

Upon analyzing this behavior and its dynamic, it is clearly understood why Samuel has a team of women that helps him to commit sexual abuses. They know these rapes are crimes, actions attempting against the integrity of people. And doubtlessly they reprove and abominate the violations per se. However, when this act is committed by the leader, for them (because of the transmitted delusions of grandeur and considering themselves privileged assistants of whom they look upon as a divine being) it becomes a holy action. This is due to what Samuel Joaquín represents in their minds. Although objective reality shows them the damage he causes, when looking upon the figure of their leader, they negate that reality and collaborate in such abuses. They are psychotized in such a way that they really believe they are doing good serving God’s man.97

Samuel Joaquín’s close collaborators are in charge of transmitting to parishioners in general, his delusions of grandeur and paranoid ideas. Pastors play an important part and so does the hymnology of The Light of the World.

This church holds some 20 weekly meetings (three daily average). Thus the habitual attendant receives a continuous bombardment of selective and distorted information. This in addition to the strict control exercised by the high circles to prevent their receiving information from other sources98 and the restrictions to have any exterior contacts.99

 

SOME PSYCHOSOCIAL REPERCUSSIONS

The delusions of grandeur and the Shared Psychotic Disorder (SPD) have repercussions in those who suffer from it such as to conceptualize the outer world. Thus, those that do not venerate the person of Samuel Joaquín or those who criticize or accuse him are considered "irredeemable",100 "reprobates",101 "godless",102 etc. In other words they are seen as enemies, because upon criticizing or rejecting the cult of the central figure of that religion, the parishioners feel offended which projects on the greatness of their leader.

One of the latest newspaper spreads of The Light of the World in national media reflects this same thinking pattern. Those are the deliriums that cause the sectors of this church that already partake of the pathological picture behave occasionally in an antisocial way.103

On the other hand, many of those who have been sexually abused, do not dare make any comment about their experience, because it would mean going against the person who, in their view, is the divinity itself, whom they have come to venerate. They are afraid to breathe a word and the mere fact of considering it fills them with anguish.104 The end result of all this are frustrated lives with constant depressions and feelings of guilt. In fact they, who are the victims of a psychotic process, feel guilty because of the greatness and purity of their aggressor.

 

TREATMENT AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES

Panorama observed indicates that Samuel Joaquín and his entourage present, because of SPD, a problem of public health. Medical intervention from the Ministry of Health is totally justified and it is a government duty because this is a case of endemic propagation of a dangerous and verifiable pathology.

To perform an effective treatment of the Shared Psychotic Disorder medical science establishes that it is necessary to separate the submissive community from the dominant part.105 If this separation is not carried out, the malady will endure forever. In cases where treatment has begun, mental health of individuals who participated in such delirious psychosis may easily be restored.106 In the case of the dominant part, this requires medical treatment and occasionally pharmacological treatment to achieve rehabilitation.107 Certain cases who would opt personally for medical treatment must be treated according to clinical criteria that medicine has established for deliriums and psychotic states. In the case of victims of this behavior, there are well established parameters for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Neurosis, depressions and the dysfunction proper to those who have been object of sexual aggressions.

Medical science will be relegated to treat, as it has already been doing, just the effects and not the etiology in the case of Shared Psychotic Disorder in The Light of the World, if integral measures are not implement by competent authority to solve the problem in depth. That is, physicians will continue healing the consequences of paranoid and grandeur delirium, of psychosis and malignant narcissism, such as rapes, rape of minors, post-traumatic neurosis, depressions and lesions because of violent behavior, etc., as has been happening for years to those persons affected.

Because of the instability and dangerousness of the main leader and his close circle of collaborators (condition inherent to SPDs) it is not improbable that sometime in the future medical science will arrive at providing forensic diagnosis of people who commit suicide by indication of their maximum leader, or else have killed others in the extremity of paranoid delirium and cases of collective psychosis.

From a medical perspective, the Shared Psychotic Disorder that is present in The Light of the World is eventually an organic problem that, as in the case of other similar pathology, is susceptible of transmission although by different mechanisms. Epidemically, there is no difference between a cholera outbreak or an infectious insanity that spreads causing damage to society. Thus, SPD must be treated like a public health problem, efficiently and immediately according to the precepts established by medical science and in the greater interest of both the members of The Light of the World and society in general.

If, whether by ignorance or omission, or a cover up because of political interests, competent authority will not intervene in this matter as has happened up to now, the only treatment available will continue to be specialized attention of those people who throughout the years have requested medical assistance on their own.

Although the collective reach of the latter option is limited, this alternative will continue to be viable and highly effective to treat individuals or whole families.

 


Bibliographical Footnotes

  1. Op. Cit., Kernberg O.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Interview with Karem León (May 18, 1997) who reported being beaten and physically abused by Samuel Joaquín on the face, without any reason. The action was eventually justified because that type of acts helped the minister relax and ease his nervous tensions.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Op. Cit. Kernberg O
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Baruk H. Psiquiatría Moral Experimental. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1960
  10. Ibid.
  11. El Universal, October 28, 1997. Pg. 3, First Section
  12. Hochman J. Miracle, Mystery and Authority: The Triangle of Cult Indoctrination. Psychiatric Annals 1990; 20 (3): 183
  13. Le Bon C. The Crowd. London; Fischer Unwin, 1920
  14. Op. Cit., De la Torre R. pg. 117
  15. Freud S. Totem y Taboo. Obras Completas. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu Editores, 1913; 13
  16. Op. Cit., DSM IV
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ganzaraín R. Psicología y Psicoterapia de los Grupos. Revista Chilena de Psicoanálisis. 1996; 13 (1): pg. 24-34.
  19. Krauser CA, Downie L. The Final Months: A Camp of Horrors. Washington Post. Nov. 23, 1978.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Documental Video film "Fear is the Master". Produced by Jeremiah Films. An analysis of the commune of the Guru Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, in Oregon and the subsequent problems with the justice of the United States.
  22. Rodríguez R. Persecución, Aflicción, Opresión al Pueblo de Dios. Revista Concepto, 1997; (7):2 This magazine was massively distributed to the faithful of the Light of the World during the festivities in August, 1997 in Hermosa Provincia, where pilgrims from the whole country and abroad converge. This document attempted to explain various demands made in the media to the group leadership in terms of an international plot and the persecution of the end of time against the people of God.
  23. Op. Cit., De la Torre R. pg. 181
  24. Kaplan DE, Marshall A. The Cult at the End of the World. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1996. The siege mentality is a classic maneuver in various social groups. It is a question of creating an external enemy to promote internal cohesion of the group. In the case of the Davidians in Waco, Texas, this strategy served to initially justify the acquisition and storage of an important weapons arsenal which included grenades and AK-47 rifles. Afterwards, it served to self fulfill a prediction: the invasion of the authorities in search of Koresh. This, in turn, generated an armed confrontation with fatalities on both sides and eventually the collective suicide of the Davidians. The same mentality fostered the Supreme Truth to participate in a terrorist act in the Tokyo Subway in Japan (the event left 12 dead and 5000 intoxicated with sarin gas). On the other hand, the siege mentality in the case of Jim Jones and in the People’s Temple first occasioned loss of contact with the outer world by the hundreds of members who secluded themselves in a commune and later was a determining factor for the collective self immolation in Guyana.
  25. Bion WR. Experience in Groups. London; Tavistock, 1962.
  26. Schesdlinger. El Concepto del "Grupo Madre" In: Dinámica de Grupos y Psicoanálisis de Grupos. Mexico: Editorial Limusa, 1979. Pg. 335-346.
  27. Op. Cit., (46)
  28. Video film of the Holy Supper performed on August 14, 1997, in the main temple of the colony Hermosa Provincia in Guadalajara, Jalisco.
  29. Rodríguez R. El Porqué del Plan de Ataque contra la Iglesia Cristiana Luz del Mundo. Concepto Magazine, 1997; (7): 15.
  30. Ibid., pg. 2
  31. Op. Cit., Bion WR
  32. Op. Cit., Solomon P. pg. 14
  33. Ganzaraín R. The Bad Mother Group. Psychoanalytic Group Theory and Practice. Ed. S. Tutman Madisson: Int. Univ. Press, 1991
  34. Op. Cit. Flores., Peña C.
  35. Op. Cit. Flores F.
  36. Op. Cit., Flores F., Peña C.
  37. Op. Cit., Bion WR. Another mark of the unlimited trust deposited in Samuel Joaquín: on November 1, 1973 in Guadalajara, Jalisco a letter was signed whereby María magdalena Padilla Iñiguez’ parents transferring tutorship of their 13 year old daughter to Samuel Joaquín Flores. The terms established in the letter are: "for the time, form and service that he considers pertinent and with no payment thereof…"
  38. Op. Cit., Ganzaraín R. (86)
  39. Op. Cit., Ganzaraín R. (72)
  40. Ibid.
  41. Op. Cit., De la Torre R. pg. 181
  42. Ibid., pg. 175.
  43. Spread published by the El Occidental newspaper of Guadalajara, Jalisco, on Wednesday July 16, 1997, signed by René Rentería Solís, active member of the The Light of the World. Rentería Solís often takes the stand as main speaker in the yearly ceremonies in memory of Aarón Joaquín which are celebrated on June 9 in Hermosa Provincia.
  44.   Reference made in one of the hymns of similar type.
  45.   Alfaro MS. Himnos Especiales de Honra y Elección. 1995. "Apóstol de Dios, Hermano Samuel", pg. 3
  46.   Op. Cit., Bion WR. Referring to some events of antisocial behavior among which are aggressions (five of them are at present being investigated by the Judicial authorities of Jalisco), on various patients and victims, former members of the Light of the World. These aggressions were caused by the fact that those people had abandoned the association, and/or had accused or criticized some of the activities, particularly Samuel’s sexual or political ones.
  47.   Op. Cit., Freud S.
  48.   Merrin EL. Transtornos Delirantes y otros Trastornos Psicóticos. In:Goldman HH. Psiquiatría General. 3rd Edition. Mexico: Manual Moderno, 1994. Pg. 287-289.
  49.   Ibid.
  50.   Polatin P. Psychotic Disorders: Paranoid States. In: Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry-II. 2nd Edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Company, 1976, 1.

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About the Authors

Jorge Mascareñas Ruiz.   M.D. Psychiatrist and Psychoanalist. Graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon and specialized at  the Hospital Universitario de Monterrey.  He is professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine of the U.A.N.L. and Post-grade professor at the Hospital Universitario in Monterrey, Mexico.

César Mascareñas de los Santos.   M.D. Researcher.  Graduated from the Universidad de Monterrey with Post-grade studies at the Instituto Nacional de Pediatria.  Has done research medical work published in the Revista Mexicana de Pediatria and in two books of medical research.  Actually he is working on his Ph. D. thesis on Psychology with the theme:  "Induced Psychopathologies:  Mind efects of the indoctrination processes in some New Religious Movements".


This article is part of the contents published in the
"Revista Académica para el Estudio de las Religiones"
Volume I, with the title "La Luz del Mundo"