Charles Manson: Cult, Christianity, and Control

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I have been interested in criminals, and crimes since I could remember. I have never been disturbed by anything dark and or twisted; if anything it has become one of my main interests. Charles Manson is a staple name for serial killers. He is widely known for having a swastika tattooed between his brows, and for creating a Cult known as The Manson Family. Manson had been convicted and sentenced to death for killing seven individuals, namely Rosemary LaBianca, a famous actress.

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Manson’s fame has never dwindled for his actions had sparked controversy and debates all across the country, mostly regarding race and neo-nazi agendas. However I am not here to talk about the crimes he and a few of his followers had committed but instead, I am going to discuss how Charles Manson used others faith in God and Jesus Christ to allure them into his following. As well as to how Charles Manson attempted to transform but instead accommodated a misconception of many Christians using their word, rituals, and traditions to promote ideas that suit their own beliefs, by pretending to be Jesus, isolating his members, and encouraging the use of a medley of drugs that either alters or impairs one’s judgment.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Charles Manson created what was known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune near Los Angeles, California. The Manson Family cult partook in a lot of drinking, hallucinogens, role-play, and experienced isolation while in the hands of Charles Manson. There are currently no known or documented followers who continue to listen and attribute their life to the teachings of the Manson Family. Charles Manson died this past year, at the age of 83, from a medley of things; cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and colon cancer. Helter Skelter is what the Manson’s referred to as their philosophy, which believed that one day the black man would revolt and start assassinating members of the white establishment and turn cities into an inferno of racial revenge. The blacks would win this war, but would not be able to cling onto the power seized, because of innate inferiority. Those who were apart of the cult were mostly outcasts, with the few exceptions like Leslie Van Houten, who was her high school homecoming princess and a former cheerleader.

How did a guy like Manson convince someone like Leslie Van Houten to join his unorthodox cult? For one Manson was very charming and portrayed to his followers that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ, and carried the word of God himself. Some members of his cult family remembered partaking in hallucinogenic trips in which Manson re-enacted the Christ crucifixion. He appeared to use this type of hallucinogenic episode as a form of mind control. (Hackett 2017) Dawson and Thiessen describe new religious movements as exotic religious forms compared to traditional religions. They are often the targets of moral panics within the societies they exist in. One major piece of the cult scare is that they are often accused of brainwashing their members. Which is proven in the way Manson used drugs and others vulnerability to recruit, retain and manipulate members. The issue is that once a person has been deemed “brainwashed” they lose their ability to recognize the gravity of their actions and ultimately become enslaved to their leader (Dawson and Thiessen 2014).

The formation of Manson’s cult or what he preferred to brand, his “family,” began in the 1960’s, which was a time in American history when people were looking for hope and change. Change in politics, in their lifestyle, in the workforce, in society, etc. According to Truth and Lies, Charles Manson’s charisma made him the ultimate leader. People already believed that they were going to change the world, one way or another; either through music, politics, fashion, and for many hoped to change how others treat one another. Manson chose the perfect time to use drugs as a way to entice others to join his following for many were already immersing themselves in drug use as a way to open their spirits along with their minds, in an era commonly known as the “enlightened” era, or the “Cosmic Consciousness” (Paglia 2003). More specifically to the Manson Family, LCD and marijuana were the drugs of choice. Manson used these high, broken people and essentially turned them into malleable individuals who had no original or educated thought. He used their lack of judgement and insecurities to help mold them into images of himself. One instance was effectively shown in a documentary produced by ABC network, Truth and Lies: The Family Manson. The scene detailed was about an incident in a schoolyard, where Manson had a bully and he ended up convincing a group of girls he knew from class to beat up his bully. When the principal accused Charles of orchestrating the whole ordeal, he stated, “It wasn’t me, they knew what they were doing. You can’t blame me for what other people physically do” (06:09).

How do drugs play into Christianity? Well it does and it does not. Drugs were viewed negatively in the bible for it uses of herbs and the earth’s natural elements to alter one’s state of consciousness, much like witchcraft; something Jesus and God did not condone. However Manson hoped to transform this facet of the Christian religion, along with many others, by stating that said drugs would help one become more spiritual and connected to God himself. Other religions have already been documented as using drugs in a spiritual manner. One example would be found in Judaism, with the spiritual use of caffeine and nicotine as stimulants. Which is more notably practiced in the Hasidic communities. Many stories are told about miracles and spiritual journeys performed by the Baal Shem Tov and other famous Tzaddikim with the help of their smoking pipe. Some people suggest that, judging by the nature of these stories, the tobacco was sometimes mixed with strong mind-altering drugs. (Abbie 2018)

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Charles Manson: Cult, Christianity, and Control. (2019, Dec 22). Retrieved from