Welcome to the Ending Explained for How Not to Become a Cult Leader, a new documentary series streaming on Netflix starting this weekend. The documentary series explores six different cases of cultism across six episodes in what is one of the most approachable documentary series Netflix has ever produced. Each episode of the series runs for about 30 minutes. At that time, a very solid timeline of the events surrounding the specific cult for that episode is presented to the viewer. It is easy to watch and also quite entertaining.
One of the reasons this documentary feels more approachable than others is that the show is narrated by Peter Dinklage, whose tone is quite monotone and dry, which makes it funny because his script is filled with irony and sarcasm. The entire show is a sort of guidebook for anyone wanting to become a cult leader. However, each of the examples ends in tragedy, and you could say the entire thing is just a big warning sign against becoming a cult leader and a warning for those who might start following scammers like the ones presented here.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for How Not to Become a Cult Leader. Read at your own risk.
How did Jim Jones end up in Guyana?
The documentary series follows the examples of six cult leaders who, during their careers, had different levels of success and failure. The first example in the journey is Charles Manson, who in the 1970s managed to gather a small following thanks to his rock star persona. However, when Manson saw that his delusions of becoming a big star in Hollywood were just that, delusions.
Manson started a campaign of terror against the Hollywood Elite that would culminate with the murder of Sharon Tate at the hands of Manson’s followers. All of them would be arrested, and Manson would die in jail in 2017.
The next example is that of Jim Jones, a very young preacher who wanted to be the leader of something greater than himself. Jones used his abilities as a preacher to recruit members for his cult.
He also started to state that he could cure any disease, and some examples of this ended up being the final push many needed to become part of his cult. Sadly, after failing to get into politics, Jones moved his entire cult to Guyana, where reporters would bother him. However, the followers found a concentration camp from which they could not leave.
Jones would then receive a visit from a United States Senator to bring back some of his most distraught followers. The campaign ended in disaster with the death of the senator and more than 900 other deaths when Jones ordered his followers to commit mass suicide as the only way to avoid future punishment for their actions. Many of the suicides were forced, adding an even darker layer to the entire situation.
Another example is that of Jaime Gomez, a Venezuelan immigrant who traveled to Hollywood to become a star. However, he failed to become an actor, a dancer, and even failed at being a porn star. He would then start his cult, known as Buddhafield, and there he would take control over hundreds of people.
However, Gomez lost his grasp over several followers, and when his secret relationships started to become known, most of his cult was divided. However, it seems that Gomez and his cult are still active somewhere in Hawaii.
Who is Sun Myung Moon?
The next examples become a bit more surreal and follow more extreme ways to build a cult than before. For example, we have the example of Heaven’s Gate, the famous cult that ended up committing mass suicide. The cult promised eternal salvation from this Earth by allowing the members to be taken away by extraterrestrial forces. All 39 members killed themselves, believing they would wake up in a spaceship, where their alien hosts would take them to what they called The Next Level.
In Japan, things became even worse when Shoko Asahara built the Aum Shinrikyo, a cult that centered on meditation and such, until the end and started spreading the news of the incoming end of the world. The cult leader Shoko presented himself as a pure being with superpowered abilities.
He made himself something of a celebrity in Japan thanks to his appearances in the media. However, when he failed to get into politics, he reacted with violence. Killing a journalist and his family to stop a story about him from coming out.
Later, he would also use his resources to execute the terrible poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. After this, he and many members of his group were arrested. Shoko was finally executed in 2018 for his crimes against the Japanese population.
However, while most of these examples end up in tragedy, the cult created by Sun Myung Moon, named The Unification Church, still stands high and mighty even after his death. Sun Myung Moon was born in what is now South Korea, and soon enough, the young man began his path to godhood by naming himself the next messiah. What made Sun Myung Moon different from the other cult members was that he transformed his cult into a business, investing in many businesses that would give extreme profits to the church.
He also focused on creating the next generation of followers, connecting with governments, and founding the Washington Times. Sun Myung Moon died in 2012, but the church is still strong, with his sons taking on the responsibility of continuing his father’s work. Being a cult leader isn’t easy, but with a good plan, not even death can stop you from being worshiped.