How do people wind up in cults, and what happens once inside? Parcast Network’s “Cults” reveals the manipulation, mystery, and murder that snake through the underground world and rise aboveground with leaders and followers, often veering into criminality.
Hosts Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson take a deep dive into cults’ histories, and why they appeal to so many individuals. Episodes investigate what sorts of people join cults, the tactics used by leaders to keep them hooked, and the disturbing lengths members will take to earn or maintain their spot. Greg and Vanessa are interested in psychology, and they try to dig into what’s running through cult leaders’ minds and why they became notorious figures.
Past episodes of “Cults” covered NXIVM’s abuses and downfall with leader Keith Raniere’s lawsuits. Breathenarism is a cult believing humans can live without food or water and solely sustain on sunlight and air. Heaven’s Gate was known as a UFO religion, inviting people to go on a spiritual journey and transform into otherworldly beings, and resulted in a mass suicide. And the cult count doesn’t stop with these well-known ones.
As fans of murder psychology, Greg and Vanessa also host the “Serial Killers” podcast. Episodes like the “The Narcosatanist” cross over from “Serial Killers” into “Cults,” with stories such as killer and cult leader Adolfo Constanzo in Mexico City. Adolfo believed he could acquire magic power through spells and ritualistic animal sacrifices and found followers, including policemen, who would participate. His desire for revenge grew simultaneously with his rising profile and wealth. In the 1980s, Adolfo became a spiritual advisor and through this networking he was introduced to Matamoros’ drug trade. Adolfo thought he needed more power and performed human sacrifices with his cult members.
The Ramtha School of Enlightenment
A recent two-part episode of “Cults” examined The Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a New Age sect led by Judy Z. Raised in poverty, Judy found work as a cable salesperson in the 1980s. One day, Judy claimed Ramtha, a figure from Atlantis (yep, the underwater place) visited her at home in Washington and promised “divine wisdom.” Judy Z reported Ramtha was a 35,000+ year-old warrior who attained enlightenment through rest after a near-assassination. Ramtha allegedly gained higher consciousness and returned, via Judy, to share knowledge.
Judy took action and founded The Ramtha School of Enlightenment out of her home headquarters in 1988. Ramtha’s beliefs saw humans as “divine entities” stuck in the human world. Judy’s goal was to unlock humans’ origins with Ramtha’s teachings and she appealed to thousands of followers, who later accused her of cult tendencies. Judy received criticism for her manipulative ways and underwent psychological examinations, yet carried on.
Her school became a successful enterprise, and Judy was raking in cash. In 2016, Judy began including QAnon theories in her school’s teachings. Did she lose followers? What is Judy up to now? We’ll have to tune in to find out.
Tune in for new episodes of “Cults” every Tuesday.