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

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
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Digital Project Manager/BA

    £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

    Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

    SEN Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

    Regional ESF Contract Manager

    £32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home