Personal Freedom Outreach is an excellent apologetics ministry, which holds a biennial apologetics conference I heartily recommend (the next one is in April 2012). They also publish what I consider to be one of the best apologetics magazines, The Quarterly Journal.
In the January-March 2012 issue G. Richard Fisher has an excellent editorial about the allure of cult leaders. Here is the summation of this editorial:
Let’s get down to what false teachers offer and promise, which then ties in to what followers are looking for.
1. They offer a place that seems to promise unchanging structure and safety. In other words, they offer a haven of sameness. The troubled and restless latch on to this quickly.
2. They offer a sense of having the inside track with God through personal revelations an authoritative voices from heaven. Claims of trips to heaven or even angelic visitations really impress the naive.
3. They offer their boldness in chaotic and frightening world.
4. They offer a sense of determined direction.
5. The false teacher has honed the ability to twist the Scripture and reality to fit into the group’s purpose. Even dramatic shifts in theology by the false teacher are simply reinterpreted as an attack of the devil or a test from God or maybe even suffering for Jesus’ sake.
6. The false teacher is able to convince the devotees that doubt is just giving in to reason and the carnal mind. The deep level of the spirit must bypass logical thinking.
7. The false teacher is able to blur the lines between God’s approval and the false teacher’s own approval. God’s approval comes through him alone.
8. Lastly, add to the above that the phony leader is able to convince them there are things in the Bible that are not just because he says so. His interpretations and additions are then considered “Bible.” ...
So now we can understand more easily why there is such an allure and why such strong attachments are forged between cult leaders and cult followers. In actual fact, the cult leader is an antinomian, without law, structure, or guidelines, running only on his personal subjective feelings, visions, voices, hunches, and sometimes outright fabrications and lies. When we see through the manipulations and attempts at mind control, it makes us less vulnerable.