I tweeted about this video when I found it the other day, but I want to speak about it at greater length. Isaac’s Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) is probably the way he is best known outside the Neopagan and magical communities.
The ABCDEF (he told me once he realized that Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation was BCDE, he simply could not stop there; that was my boy :-) was developed in 1979 as a response to the then current uproar over cults. If you weren’t around then, it’s hard to explain how crazy things were in the seventies and eighties. There were TV movies about cults and cult deprogramming; there were stories on the news regularly about Satanic day care centers. In the late eighties, my old Chicago temple, Panthea, ran afoul of the then-Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, which caused us to lose access to at least one venue where we held events.
Occult, “cult” and new religious movements were all mixed up in the public mind. And there were some genuine horrors. I remember watching news coverage of the 1978 Jonestown tragedy with my then eight-year-old son. He wanted me to explain it to him; I could think of no way to do so.
It was in response to Jonestown that Isaac compiled the ABCDEF. It was published in the updated 1979 Creative Arts edition of Real Magic. Isaac wanted to show that there was not a black-and-white way to assess any kind of organization, and that it was not what an organization believed that made it dangerous, what could be dangerous was what the organization did to an individual.
Isaac’s frame has been used world-wide (translated into Dutch, German, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese on our website) not just by individuals to evaluate groups, but by organizations as diverse as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in its Meddigo Report) and the government of the Union of South Africa in its report on minority religions. And now, by vampires, too.
He was proud of the ABCDEF, as well he should have been. Why don’t you try evaluating your own group?