Lifetime Achievement Award (2011)
2011 International Conference, Psychological Manipulation, Cultic Groups, Social Addictions, and Harm; Organized jointly by the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) and Atención e Investigación de Socioadicciones (AIS), with the collaboration of Info-Cult/Info-Secte and the University of Barcelona
July 7-9, 2011, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, (Spain)
Patrick Ryan has many talents. He won a writing award for contributions to his high school newspaper.
He ran a million dollar business. He has a passion for computers, and his skills in this area are impressive. He is a born entrepreneur.
He should be rich. But he isn’t. Why?
When he was in high school, he took an introductory course on Transcendental Meditation. That led to a degree in business from the Maharishi University and years of TM practice. Like many others, he had dedicated himself to saving the world.
But something happened on the road to utopia. He lost faith in Maharishi. Patrick realized that the movement to which he had dedicated himself was an alluring dead-end, an intellectual and emotional cul-de-sac that had stolen years of his life. He successfully sued the movement in the 1980s.
In the process of seeking justice for himself, he came into the network of people who constitute ICSA. He learned that there are countless groups that deceive and harm people. And he decided to do something about it.
He became an exit counselor, a profession that he has practiced for more than 20 years. He worked with others to develop ethical alternatives to the abduction deprogrammings that the press loved to report on in the 1970s and 1980s. The approach he helped to develop focuses on relationship building
and conflict resolution, not merely on “exit,” although “exit” frequently results.
In 1997, when few of us in this field understood anything about the Internet, Patrick saw the future.
He realized that the future of ICSA’s network would depend upon the Web. So he dedicated himself, initially as a volunteer, to creating and developing a Website for ICSA (then known as American Family Foundation). The site he developed, www.csj.org, won more than a half-dozen awards.
Not content to rest on his laurels Pat has continued to keep up with the technical changes that keep the Web in a constant state of developmental turmoil, and he has completely recreated the ICSA site three times. A few years ago he redesigned the site so that its 25,000+ documents could be organized and displayed with a database. And now he is dragging us into the “cloud,” whatever that is. We don’t really understand, but we have come to trust that Patrick does understand. So we follow our Web scout into the cyberjungle.
Besides his many talents, Patrick is also a lot of fun to be with. Given his intellectual and social attributes, he really ought to be a rich businessman. But, fortunately for ICSA, he isn’t. Instead, he is a dedicated worker in a field that depends almost completely upon dedication. We salute him for the many years during which he has donated his talents and time to ICSA and to helping others. May many others follow in his footsteps.
I first heard about ICSA (then called American Family Foundation) in 1984. I had recently exited Transcendental Meditation and had sued the leader, Maharishi. I was in a "cult fighter" mode. As I learned about ICSA's work, I was at first a bit troubled because the leaders of the organization seemed
to me at the time to be too academic and not activist enough. However, as I learned more and became more active in this field, I realized that ICSA's emphasis on respect, dialogue, and exploration of diverse perspectives so as to HELP people was essential to the long-term survival of this broad and varied movement to counter the harm caused by cultic groups. That spirit of tolerance enables ICSA to bring into its broad tent people of very different religious, political, and philosophical perspectives. Our common concern is how to help those abused by groups using exploitatively manipulative methods and
to forewarn those who are vulnerable to manipulation. To emphasize dialogue and respect is not the only approach one can take in this field. It is a vital one, however, and one that I follow in my own work as an exit counselor.
I am honored to accept this award and to contribute to ICSA's important work.