Our mid year check-in

Written by Debra Van Neste

There is now an increased interest on what Thinking Agenda LLC is all about, and what our direction is and our plans to continue our mission without Dr. Mann, who was our cult expert and co-founder. The purpose of this blog post is to address questions and give our mid year update and a re-introduction. Six years ago, when I became interested in cult studies I was introduced to a judicially qualified cult expert, named Dr. Cathleen Mann, through another expert, Rick Ross. He spoke so highly of her and then suggested to friend her on Facebook. Despite my experience with cults, which I put behind me, I was interested in exposing cult leaders and started a publication called “Ethics and The Modern Guru.” Dr. Mann’s work changed my perspective as I had no idea about the legal problems and ramifications cults entail. In fact, she saved me from a lawsuit with a cult leader. During the course of six years, I had the opportunity to observe her work, and we developed a friendship, a working partnership, and a mentoring relationship. She entrusted me to assist her with some light research and guided me to help understand her work while I was her public relations person. She emailed me much of her work, and we had hundreds of emails, thousands of private messages as well as phone calls talking about cults and the law.

Our efforts culminated in our founding of a company called “Thinking Agenda LLC” an umbrella LLC for the purpose of education about cults and undue influence, various artistic projects, and social issues. She stayed involved, even as she battled health issues the last two years of her life. In November 2020, she passed away and despite knowing she was ill, it made me losing her that much harder. In 2018, Dr. Mann created “The MIND model of cults and undue influence.” Dr. Cathleen Mann wanted to leave behind a legacy that was educational and a gift to the public. At Thinking Agenda, we are currently creating a workbook to assist to teach it all throughout Florida in live speaking engagements, at no cost.

Though I am not an academic, (I work in healthcare) it is my heartfelt mission to educate people about cults, rather it is to assist attorneys who don’t understand cult basics, or through the MIND model workshops. I am a hybrid of a survivor who had the advantage of being mentored by someone like Dr. Mann, but who has the ability to understand the pain cults put you through. What I experienced working with Dr. Mann was a rare opportunity and I want to make use of it and serve others not only in her memory but as my life mission.

I am seeking to become a paralegal within a year and assist a promising future new attorney on our advisory council. I have an incredible alliance with brilliant women who out of respect for Dr Mann want to see that Thinking Agenda continues. On the advisory board is Dr. Monica Pignotti, who was Dr. Mann’s closest friend for over 20 years and Hana Whitfield, and Lucie Jay Vogel. All knew her personally, professionally and worked with her. I am interested in adding one or two more people and am open to expansion. We have projects and interviews coming up, a new e-magazine, and MIND model teaching workshops. We are open to working with any ethical organization. We promote survivors who write blogs, expose cults, and I answer my own phones, text back so please do contact us.

We are open for consultations, in person presentations of the MIND model to central Florida, and assisting survivors.

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Debra Van Neste