Amen corner

The map: Need a Spiritual Energy Radiator in your life? Want to hang out at George Harrison's old pad? What you need is Michael Booth's guide to cult HQs. Illustration by Otto

Tolerant Britain has long been a haven for a diverse range of cults, many of them benign, and their followers. And they turn up in the most unlikely places, not just on Kilroy.

Take East Grinstead. Over the years, the sleepy home of Martines' Nite club has proved irresistible to a rum bunch including tree huggers, Mormons (1) and the Masonic-style Rosicrucians. L Ron Hubbard, founder of the "science" of Dianetics - or Scientology (2) - once lived there in Saint Hill Manor, now the European base of his movement, and a place of pilgrimage in recent years for Isaac Hayes, John Travolta and Tom Cruise (could Geri Halliwell, spotted recently at their LA HQ, be next?).

Usually, cult followers walk among us without so much as a glassy stare to distinguish them, but you don't need to be Fox Mulder to spot the Hare Krishnas (3), who with their shaven heads and coloured robes stand out in any crowd. You will find these followers of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lingering around the Letchmore Heath mansion that George Harrison donated to the movement in 1973, when entirely sound in mind and body, oh yes.

Slightly further north, in a manor house in Dunton Bassett, Leicestershire, you'll find The Family (4) (better known as The Children of God), followers of the late David Berg, whose apocalyptic interpretation of the Bible promoted the practise of "flirty fishing" - female members recruiting as "hookers for Jesus". The Family predicts the Antichrist will rule the earth before 2000 via a worldwide computer credit system which will brand people's foreheads with the number 666. So start growing your fringe now.

Far more placid are the Amish-style Bruderhofs (5), the inspiration for the recent BBC drama Heaven on Earth. Unlike the TV version, the German- descended Bruderhof community is peaceful and, apart from the practise of ausschluss (a form of internal exile), appears pleasantly pastoral. The Bible-loving community settled in the East Sussex village of Robertsbridge in 1971, eschewing personal possessions and dressing in the style of East European peasants.

A more serious threat to the weak-minded (not you or me, of course) is the London Church of Christ (6), based on Gunnersbury Lane, west London, whose members ply their guerrilla evangelism on the Underground, sidling up to those they judge to be receptive to their message/on the verge of a breakdown (the practise is known as "tubing" and often targets teenagers), to draw them in to a nightmare of 5am prayer sessions and "tithes".

The term cult is, of course, subjective. Alcoholics Anonymous (7), based in Earls Court, has recently come under attack for allegedly using cult- like brainwashing and bullying methods to denounce the sauce. Critics include TV shrink Oliver James: "After a year with AA, you're like a Moonie," he claims.

Sometimes, the most mundane addresses can conceal the most surreal devotees. Preparing for the arrival of our Cosmic Masters at No 757 Fulham Road, London, is the Aertherius Society (8), founded by His Eminence Sir George King, who in 1954, heard a voice while tending to the dishes in his Maida Vale flat which told him: "Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament." King, who invented the Spiritual Energy Radiator through which a spacecraft can beam spiritual energy, now lives in LA.

Gurus often target celebrities, perhaps hoping that the pressures of fame will have already softened their brains. Soldier Soldier star Jerome Flynn belongs to Friends of Andrew Cohen Everywhere (9) (Face), a cult based on the teachings of a 43-year-old New Yorker: its HQ is a pounds 1m converted dairy in Belsize Park. Cohen's teachings include the renouncing of all self-centred thoughts, to the extent that some followers give up their own names. "He is less selfish ... he doesn't feel the need to take every role that is thrown at him," says Flynn's father. So, maybe there is a plus side to extreme devotion after all

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world