top of page

Surviving the Shadows: A Deep Dive into the Cult-Like World of CEDU and Its Impact

Are you curious about the hidden world of cults and their impacts on individuals? In this week's episode of the Cult Vault podcast, we delve deep into the experiences of Michael Balaban, a survivor from a controversial programme called CEDU, often likened to a cult. For those keen to learn about cults, this post offers profound insights into the inner workings of such groups and the long-lasting effects on their members.

What is CEDU?

CEDU, initially understood as "see yourself as you are and do something about it," later revealed as the Charles E. Diederich University, is a derivative of the Synanon cult – of which Diederich was the leader. Founded as a residential programme for adolescents, it was influenced by Synanon's methods and ideologies, targeting vulnerable youths under the guise of a reformative school.

Michael's Harrowing Experience Michael's journey into CEDU began with deceptive practices, a common tactic in cult-like groups. He was led to believe he was merely visiting the campus. However, it quickly turned into a nightmare of abandonment and strict, often punitive, regimes. These tactics are hallmark signs of cult-like control, focusing on breaking down individuality and enforcing compliance.

The Mechanics of Control

Raps, Profits, and Smushing CEDU's methodology involved intense sessions known as 'raps,' 'propheets,' and 'smushing,' designed to elicit emotional vulnerability and compliance. These sessions, often lasting several hours, involved personal attacks, forced disclosures, and manipulation, echoing the aggressive tactics of Synanon's 'The Game.'

The Role of Staff and Predatory Behaviours 

A concerning aspect of CEDU was the staff, often former members with minimal qualifications and a history of disturbing behaviours. Their aggressive and, at times, abusive methods were not just condoned but encouraged as part of the programmme’s philosophy. This environment nurtured a culture of fear and submission, a common thread in cult dynamics.

The Larger Network and Its Consequences CEDU was part of a broader network of similar programs, each with its specific focus yet underpinned by the same oppressive principles. This network, including facilities like Rocky Mountain Academy and Ascent, exemplified the commercialization of behavioural reform, often at the expense of the well-being of its residents.

The Lasting Impact Michael's story is a sobering reminder of the long-term psychological impact such programmes can have on individuals. His experience mirrors the broader issue of cult-like organizations and their exploitative nature. Understanding these dynamics is crucial in recognizing and combating the influence of such groups in society.

Resources and Further Reading For those interested in exploring further, the books "Dead, Insane, or in Jail" by Zack Bonnie and "Whiteout" by Lathrop Lybrook offer additional perspectives on similar experiences.


56 views0 comments


bottom of page