As a former member of the Mujahedin-e Khalq and a researcher on destructive cults, Massoud Banisadr, PhD, presented his study on “Mathematical Model of Mind Manipulation”, in a one-day seminar as a guest speaker at University of Salford, Manchester. On November 3rd , 2022. Dr. Banisadr was hosted by Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, a counselling and clinical psychologist and a senior lecturer in Psychology of the School of Health and Society at Salford university.
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Dr. Banisadr has been a regular contributor to the program since 2009. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering and engineering mathematics at Newcastle University in 1981. Dr. Banisadr joined the MEK in 1979 and served as its representative in Britain from 1990-96. He left the MEK in June 1996. He wrote a memoir of his experiences entitled, “Masoud: Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel”, published by SAQI Books, London in 2004. In 2014, he also published a book called “Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery”. He has been active in exploring and explaining cult manipulation and has written many articles in Persian about cults.
His recent presentation was based on the model that he has created to explain mind manipulation and undue influence, excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will. In order to explain his model, he uses his own experience as a defector of the MEK, also known as the Cult of Rajavi.
In the first part of the seminar, Dr. Banisadr presents an general description of a human mind and the way it is gone under undue influence. Using several examples of his own account of being involved in the MEK, he helps us understand how our mind works, what are the weak points of mind and how it can be manipulated. Based on his studies, our vulnerabilities are the open gates in our minds toward which we can be recruited by destructive cults. He presents a list of these open gates and a series of needs that give mind manipulators necessary apparatuses to manipulate us.
According to Dr. Banisadr, mind manipulators do not want us to use our conscious mind, which he calls system 2. They just use our conscious mind, in the first stages of recruitment, to create new beliefs for us. They use our will power, make it stronger and then through the next stages of mind manipulation, when we become zealot supporters of the cult, the driver of our will power is not system 2 anymore, but our unconscious mind, system 1 has been substituted.
The former member of Mujahedin-e Khalq suggests that the manipulators – cult leaders—have to change their victims’ beliefs to change their personality. They affect old beliefs by freezing time. What he considers as alteration of character takes place through creating new emotions and beliefs and by prolonging the process.
As said by his own experience in the MEK, he was influenced to admit that he had new responsibilities. According to MEK manipulators Massoud’s new responsibilities were more important than his family, his children and other personal affairs of his life. “This way, they neutralize your conscious mind and manipulate your unconscious mind,” he asserts.
Having gone through such a system, an MEK member would go up to fight for the organization and to be killed for its cause. The big image of the group’s upcoming victory was one of the tools that MEK commanders use to convince embers to do anything the leaders ask them to do.