11'4 AN INAUSPICIOUS Thirties office block, tucked away in a Surrey suburb, is a list of some of the nastiest, most violent and explicit material on offer at the moment. From Satanic abuse and apocalyptic abuse downwards, shelves are bristling with books with gloomy titles like Split Image, The Courage to Heal and Facing Depression.
Welcome to Catalyst, the anti-cult counselling group that recently expanded into new offices to help counsel the increasing number of people trapped in cults or religious movements, many of whom come from the zealous charismatic bodies or New Age off-shoots. The group was set up three years ago by Graham Baldwin, a former Anglican chaplain at London University who was disconcerted at the number of students coming forward for help. Baldwin, a mild-mannered man in his forties, is dubbed the "Anti-Christ" by some cults. He is used to abusive phone calls and mysterious break-ins at the office.
Catalyst is not a proslytsing anti-cult group, nor an Evangelical body out to exorcise Satan from any-' body who comes forward.
"We come from no religious perspective, and refuse to push people in any direction. Much of my work is giving them informs don". The group does not advocate kidnapping or other American-style activities, which, he claims, are counter-productive.
That morning, Baldwin had been speaking with a woman who had been worried about her obsession with the occult and ouija boards. The table next to him is piled high with information about witchcraft.
Graham Baldwin hardly ever interviews in the office itself; he tends to go in their homes were they feel more swcure.
"Most of the victims are in a transitional state. They are leaving home for uuiversit or London for work, changing jobs, marriage break-up, a traumatic cross-roads".
There has been an explosion of cults over the years. "New Age groups, a lot of Eastern stuff, esoteric stuff about the New Age, witchcraft".
According to Baldwin, the end of the Second World War caused culture to become more introspective and self-obsessed. "Suddenly people were encouraged to make their own decisions. The growth of a people-centred culture has caused most of the problems. Everyone turns into themselves, and turn to cults for the answers. That's when the problems start".