Legal Disclaimer
The following information is based on experience of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) in the UK, and should therefore be taken as applying only to FWBO bodies located in the UK. Readers in other parts of the world should make their own inquiries as to whether or not the information provided here is relevant to their local situation.

The FWBO is a UK based religious charity, which also has about thirty centres in the rest of the world. The FWBO offers public classes in meditation, Buddhism, and related disciplines. They also run residential communities, retreat centres, fundraising trusts, and various businesses, and they can be viewed on the Internet at:  http://www.fwbo.org/index.html   [WARNING: this is the cult's home page]

This is one page of  an ex - FWBO site. The purpose of the site is to inform a wider public about some of the  harmful aspects of new religious movements and mind control cults in general, and of the FWBO in particular. The  site is spread over a number of pages:

Main page:    The FWBO Files    (140 kb text.)

The following pages have been contributed by ex-member Mark Dunlop:
Section 1:    Shorter History and Teachings of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.  (27 kb text.)
Section 2:    What is a Cult? -The Mind Control Process in the FWBO   (67 kb text plus 181 kb pictures)
Section 5 [this page]: Possible Legal Protection against Cults  - 'gold dust', according to a leading British cult expert. (17 kb text)

Section 5  Possible Legal Protection against Cults using Mind Control.

Notes to extract from judgement in Allen v. Flood, AC 1897, pages 72-74.

From time to time, in articles in the press and elsewhere, various people including doctors, lawyers, and M.Ps have expressed concern over the operations of groups, sometimes known as cults, which use so-called mind control techniques as a means of influencing and controlling their members. It has been suggested that individuals should be legally protected from the abuses which some of these groups appeared to be perpetrating. Below is a synopsis of a case which did not itself involve mind control, but which prompted some general observations from Lord Halsbury, an eminent lawyer of a century ago, which do suggest a good basis for such protection under common law.

The essence of Halsbury's observations is that:  '... by the common law,..the liberty of a man's mind and will, to say how he should bestow himself and his means, his talents and his industry, was as much a subject of the law's protection as was that of his body'.

The Case

The original case was essentially a trade dispute, and not to do with cults or mind control.

Allen was a delegate of the Ironworkers Union. Flood was a shipwright, who was employed at a shipyard on the London River. This shipyard operated a policy whereby shipwrights were restricted to woodwork, and boilermakers to metalwork. Flood and a colleague, Taylor, had previously worked at a smaller shipyard where no such restrictions applied, and they had done metalwork as part of their employment there. There was no suggestion that Flood and Taylor had done metalwork at the new shipyard, but nevertheless Allen, the Union delegate, succeeded in obtaining the dismissal of the two shipwrights, by telling the shipyard management that members of the Boilermakers Society would 'knock off' or be 'called out' (there was some dispute in the original evidence as to which phrase had been used) unless Flood and Taylor were dismissed.

Flood brought an action against Allen and the jury found for the plaintiff, Flood. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal (before three judges), who held that the act done by the appellant Allen, to procure the dismissal of the two shipwrights Flood and Taylor, was legal in itself, but that, as it was done to injure the plaintiff, Flood (and Taylor), it was rendered unlawful by this motive.

This was held to be unsound by the House of Lords (before seven judges in December 1895 and fifteen in March/April 1897). They took the view that the actions of the appellant, Allen, could not be held to be malicious, because there was no evidence of coercion put before the jury at the original trial, and because it was too late now to raise a new cause of action (e.g. coercion or misrepresentation).

The impression gained from reading the Appeal Court report is that Allen, the union delegate, had perhaps been trying it on. He had been seeking to test his influence and clout within the shipyard, by suggesting that there would be consequences unless the two shipwrights were dismissed. There was no evidence put before the court that Allen had used coercion or any other illegal means to back up this suggestion. It may have been the case that any fault lay at least equally with the shipyard management, who had failed to stand up to Allen and to deal equitably between their various employees.

The court appeared to have some sympathy with the position of the plaintiff, Flood, who had lost his job. However, the court was duty bound to consider impartially whether or not the protection of the right of the plaintiff, Flood, 'to bestow...his talents and his industry' as he saw fit (i.e. to keep his job if he wished) would itself in turn impose too broad a restriction on the equal and commensurate right of the appellant, Allen, to bestow his own talents and industry (as a union delegate) as he himself saw fit.

Their Lordships deliberated at length on this point (see for example North J at p.44: 'There are exercises of personal freedom which are perfectly legitimate in themselves, but which cannot be indulged in without interfering with rival exercises of personal freedom by others. One must give way to the other; and questions immediately arise as to which is to prevail....'.). They concluded that, in the case under consideration, extending such protection to the plaintiff would in turn impose too wide a restriction on the equivalent right of others, and therefore they found for the appellant, Allen.

Extract from Allen v. Flood, AC 1897, pages 72-74.
H.L. (E.) 1897.  ALLEN v.FLOOD

Lord Halsbury L.C.

Upon this part of the case I wish to quote and make my own the language of Bramwell B. in Reg. v. Druitt [10 Cox, C. C. 600]: "When the law gave, or rather acknowledged, a right, it provided a punishment or a remedy for the violation of that right.  That was a cardinal rule and an obvious one.  The old expression that 'there was no wrong without a remedy' might also be interpreted to mean that there was also no right without a remedy.  Sometimes the remedy was by a criminal proceeding, sometimes by a civil action, sometimes by both.  Having made those general remarks he would make another, which was also familiar to all Englishmen - namely that there was no right in this country under our laws so sacred as the right of personal liberty.  No right of property or capital, about which there had been so much declamation, was so sacred or so carefully guarded by the law of this land as that of personal liberty.  They were quite aware of the pains taken by the common law, by the writ, as it was called, of habeas [to page 73] corpus, and supplemented by statute, to secure to every man his personal freedom - that he should not be put in prison without lawful cause, and that if he was he should be brought before a competent magistrate within a given time, and be set at liberty or undergo punishment.  But that liberty was not liberty of the body only.  It was also a liberty of the mind and will; and the liberty of a man's mind and will, to say how he should bestow himself and his means, his talents and his industry, was as much a subject of the law's protection as was that of his body.  Generally speaking, the way in which people had endeavoured to control the operation of the minds of men was by putting restraints on their bodies, and therefore we had not so many instances in which the liberty of the mind was vindicated as was that of the body.  Still, if any set of men agreed among themselves to coerce that liberty of mind and thought by compulsion and restraint, they would be guilty of a criminal offence - namely, that of conspiring against the liberty of mind and freedom of will of those towards whom they so conducted themselves. He was referring to coercion or compulsion - something that was unpleasant and annoying to the mind operated upon, and he laid it down as clear and undoubted law that if two or more persons agreed that they would by such means co-operate together against that liberty they would be guilty of an indictable offence."

It is said, indeed, that an action for the infringement of such a right is a novelty; but I do not concur that it is, or that if it were it would be a sufficient argument.  The whole history of the action upon the case, from 13 Edw. 1, c. 24, downwards affirms the principle that where cases fall under the same right and require a like remedy new precedents should be created.

So in  Pasley v. Freeman [(1789) 3T.R. p.63], per Ashhurst J. : "Another argument which has been made use of is that this is a new case, and that there is no precedent for such an action.  Where cases are new in their principle, there I admit that it is necessary to have recourse to legislative interposition in order to remedy the grievance; but where the case is only new in the instance, and the only question is upon the application of a [to page 74] principle recognised in the law to such new case, it will be just as competent to courts of justice to apply the principle to any case which may arise two centuries hence as it was two centuries ago.  If it were not so, we ought to blot out of our law books one-fourth part of the cases that are to be found in them."


Brief biographies from 'Oxford Companion to Law.' David M. Walker OUP 1980:

Giffard, Hardinge Stanley, 1st Earl Halsbury (1823-1921).

After Oxford Giffard helped his father to edit a paper and was called to the Bar in 1850.  He practised initially on the Chancery side and only later made his name at the Old Bailey.  He appeared for the Tichborne (q.v.) claimant and took silk in 1865.  In 1875 he became Solicitor-General and got into Parliament in 1877.  From 1880 to 1885 he was out of office but consolidated his position as one of the foremost jury advocates of the day.  In 1885 he became Lord Chancellor and Lord Halsbury, but went out of office in the next year, but later in 1886 resumed the office, holding it till 1892, and again from 1895 to 1905.  He sat judicially in the House of Lords as late as 1916. Conservative both in politics and by temperament he sponsored only two important legal reforms but supported reform introduced by others.  As a judge he was plain and direct but cannot be ranked among the greatest common law judges.  He was not a jurist or legal scholar nor profoundly interested in the law as a system, but some of his judgements are of undoubted authority.  His name is also remembered for having acted as General Editor of the first edition of Halsbury's Laws of England,  31 volumes, 1907-17.

Bramwell, George William Wilshere, Lord Bramwell (1808-92).

Worked in a bank and practised as a special pleader before being called to the Bar in 1838.  He was a member of the commissions on common law procedure, companies, and the Judicature Act.  In 1856 he became a Baron of Exchequer, in 1876 a Lord Justice of Appeal and, on his retiral in1881, a peer.  He frequently sat thereafter in the House of Lords.  He was a complete master of the common law and highly regarded by the Bar, and made substantial contributions to the development of the law.  Many of his judgements are splendidly concise and forceful.

See also:Fairfield, Some Account of Baron Bramwell.

Application to cases of mind control.

The contrary argument, that the protection which the law affords to personal liberty covers only the physical body, and does not cover the liberty of the mind which inhabits the body and which controls the body, would surely be a difficult argument to sustain.

The problem is  that both mental liberty, and the restriction of mental liberty, can only be deduced indirectly. Although the concepts of  'free will' and 'mind control' are both ultimately unprovable and unverifiable (because of the 'subjective' nature of consciousness), the default assumption is strongly in favour of free will. To shift the balance of opinion, and to show that, in a particular case, there must have been some unjustifiable restriction of 'the liberty of a man's mind and will', it would be necessary to deduce, from a person's behaviour or from a change in their behaviour, that there must have been some new restriction affecting or applied to their mental liberty to bring this change about, and that this was the only credible explanation. Although the burden of proof in a civil case is at the level of a balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt, this is still a difficult criterion to fulfil.

In the case of a mind control cult, mental liberty is restricted by so-called mind control techniques which effectively replace established ideas in a person's mind with new ideas (see section 2). Implicit in many of these new ideas is a requirement to be receptive to the guidance provided by the group leadership. Some of these new ideas are self-evidently bizarre and unreasonable, such as interpreting bouncing up and down on foam mattresses as 'yogic flying' (Transcendental Meditation) and some can be positively dangerous, such as rejecting orthodox medical treatment in favour of faith in the healing powers of the group leader. It might be that a parade of some of the more obviously bizarre or dangerous views, together with group members steadfastly defending these views, would go some way towards demonstrating the possibility of mind control within a particular group. It would at least shift the onus of proof more onto to the group, and would tend to put them in the position of having to come up with a more credible explanation for the unusual views given in evidence.

To win a claim, it would be necessary to go further than this, and to show that a person had suffered injury or loss as a result of being persuaded into actions or activities which were contrary to that person's previously established behaviour or beliefs, and for which the only available credible explanation was that that person's mental liberty and freedom of choice had been significantly restricted by means of a process of mind control.

Links to some other  sources of  information on cults.

Cult Information Centre    UK based site, with links to other sites.

Freedom of Mind  Resource Center    US based site from Steven Hassan, the author of  'Combatting Cult Mind Control'

Spiritual Responsibility: Avoiding Abuses and Pitfalls Along the Path    A page from Steven Hassan's site, which has an overview of cults from Lama Surya Das, an American trained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This page also contains the classic  'Eight Criteria of Mind Control'  by Robert J. Lifton.

 [Back to] ex-cult archive at www.ex-cult.org

email: exfwbo@pallas3.demon.co.uk