Who are the six cult leaders at the centre of Netflix’s How to Become a Cult Leader?

Each episode covers someone different

How to Become a Cult Leader is Netflix’s latest docuseries which takes a look inside the playbook of various cult leaders all over the world, across history. The six-part series shows how the cult leaders harnessed the power of controlling people’s minds, bodies and souls.

Each episode focuses on a different cult leader in history, including the infamous Charles Manson. The episodes go through the stages of creating a cult, and in a satirical manner it shows what and what not to do.

So what is the backstory of each cult leader in How to Become a Cult Leader on Netflix. Here’s everything you need to know about who the cult leaders in How to Become a Cult Leader are.

Who is Charles Manson and what his cult?

via Netflix

Charles Manson was the leader of The Manson Family, a messianic cult and commune based in California in the last 1960s.

The group was formed and led by Charles Manson, and the crimes committed by The Manson Family included murder, torture, hostages and the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in the USA.

As an adult, Manson was imprisoned for various different crimes including pimping the woman who would later become his first wife.

During his trial Manson carved a swastika onto his forehead. “The mark on my head simulates the dead head black stamp of rejection, anti-church, falling cross, devil sign, death, terror, fear,” he said.

He was convicted in 1971 on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Charles Manson died of a heart attack in 2017 at 83 years old.

Who is Jim Jones and what his cult?

via Netflix

The Jonestown massacre stems from Jim Jones, a white minister who preached unconventional ideas to a predominantly African America congregation, called the Peoples Temple. After a period of negative media attention at Peoples Temple, Jones ordered the construction of the Jonestown commune in Guyana in 1974 and convinced his followers to live with him.

In 1978, reports of abuse and accusations that people were being held at Jonestown against their will began to spread and US representative Leo Ryan went to investigate. While boarding a return flight with members of the Peoples Temple, Ryan and four others were murdered.

Jim Jones then ordered a mass murder-suicide that killed 909 commune members, 304 who were child. Almost all of the Jonestown members died by drinking Flavor Aid, which had been laced with cyanide.

Who is Jaime Gomez and what his cult?

via Netflix

Jaime Gomez is the focus on episode three of How to Become a Cult Leader and follows how Gomez managed to form the commune, Buddhafield.

Jaime Gomez moved to the USA to become a Hollywood actor and dancer and met his followers at yoga studio. Later on Jaime claimed to have met a guru which led him to reach a state of enlightenment and claimed he cold help people achieve ultimate happiness.

Those who joined Buddhafield were unable to question Gomez’s lifestyle and everyone was expected to live as he did. There is no mention of Jaime Gomez ever being charged for any crime and has since kept a low profile.

Who is Marshall Applewhite and what his cult?

via Netflix

Marshall Applewhite was an American cult leader who founded Heaven’s Gate and organised its mass suicide in 1997. During his life, Applewhite was arrested for failing to return a rental car and in prison he developed his theology.

Following his release, he travelling to California and Oregon and gain a group o followers. Applewhite initially said he and his followers would ascend into a spaceship, where their bodies would be transformed.

In 1997 police officers discovered 39 bodies, including Marshall Applewhite, in San Diego. They had participated in a series of ritual suicides. Before the mass suicide, the group’s website updated with the message: “Hale–Bopp brings closure to Heaven’s Gate.

“Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion ‘graduation’ from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave ‘this world’ and go with Ti’s crew.”

Who is Shoko Asahara and what is his cult?

via Netflix

The fifth episode centres around Shoko Asahara, the man who led the deadly cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Prior to being a cult leader, Asahara was a television personality, the owner of a bento box franchise and often had good publicity in the media.

Asahara managed to become a cult leader but taking advantage of the youth and tapped into their weaknesses. Asahara applied for government registration and it Aum Shinrikyo was granted legal recognition as a religious corporation in 1989.

After this, a monastic order was established, and Asahara gained credibility by appearing on TV and on magazine covers.

In March 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo attacked the Tokyo subway with a nerve agent and 13 people died and thousands more suffered ill effects.

Authorities accused Aum Shinrikyo of being complicit in the attack, as well as in a number of other incidents. Dozens of followers were arrested, their facilities were raided and the court issued a warrant for Asahara’s arrest.

Asahara was sentenced to death in 2004. In June 2012, his execution was postponed due to further arrests of Aum members. He was later executed along with other senior members of Aum Shinrikyo in July 2018.

Sun Myung Moon

Sun Myung Moon was a Korean religious leader and founded the Unification Church, which he ran for 60 years. The followers of the church were known as Moonies. The cult saga began when Moon claimed that Jesus appeared to him and chose him to fulfil his mission of imparting family values to the group.

The Unification Church was known for carrying out mass church marriages, which led to their leader claiming that Jesus failed to get married, and it was Moon who was assigned by the Messiah to facilitate this blessed act on a large scale.

In 2012, after suffering from pneumonia, Moon was admitted to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Korea. He was later said to be gravely ill and was put on a ventilator at the intensive care unit. He later died in September 2012 and a two week mourning period was conducted in honour of him.

How to Become a Cult Leader is available to watch on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.

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Featured image credit via Netflix.