Cult members are broken before they're inducted. This is the main reason I don't personally run a cult.
Naturally, cult members will cope stupendously vigorously. "I turned out fine! This could happen to anyone!" Nope. Try cult indoctrination yourself and you'll see. It works on a small, vicious minority. You can't have a chill beer with a possible cult member, because they're too anxious to relax. Intoxication will only let them wind themselves up even tighter.
"Some people were repulsed by something in our vibe (“seems culty” & “seems elitist” were common critiques)"
In other words, most normal, relatively healthy folk didn't go anywhere near the place, and a few lost lambs immediately noticed it was fucked in the head, in their inarticulate peasant way.
Reality: everyone immediately noticed it was fucked in the head, due to Conquest #1 effects. Some decided this was good instead of bad and stuck around.
"I have no history of mental health problems"
The Regime did not officially diagnose her with heresy, as they typically won't for the loyal and obedient. Why would they try to modify the behaviour of the loyal and obedient?
"I had a relatively normal childhood, which is to say I wasn’t coming into this experience with unusual amounts of preexisting trauma."
She went to Prussian school and submitted slavishly to severe levels of psychological damage. It's okay: the anaesthetic was correctly dosed and the mutilation didn't hurt.
"I don’t have any notable history of being ungrounded"
Narcissists gonna narc.
"though I was trained as an actress,"
Oof. "I don't have any notable history of sexual perversion, although I was a practising porn star for eight years." Umm....
Normal folk don't become actors. They'll happily play charades or otherwise dabble, but actresses are 100% already insane. Typically a manifestation of cluster B personality disorders. Actors are occasionally sociopaths instead, who are in it to exploit the whore nature of actresses.
Cluster B incarnations are excellent prospective cult members because they have no effective boundaries, meaning anything you want to insert into their psyche goes in without resistance. (Just as anything you might want to insert between their legs tends to go in without resistance.) A cult works through expectations of unreasonable intimacy, and cluster B types open their interactions with unreasonable intimacy. They're practically begging to get scammed. No, excuse me: they are literally begging to be scammed, because it's genuinely better for them than trying to self-regulate. Both the narcissist and the borderline are dramatically more comfortable if you tell them exactly who to pretend to be.
Although the population is dominated by cluster B, presumably there are a few other species of prospective cult member. I haven't tested cult domination systematically, so I wouldn't know.
"Recruitment from nearby communities selected for goodness (EA communities) and for truth (rationality) as values."
These are of course the opposite of true. EA selects for the worst kind of irresponsible busybody or sociopathic status-maximizer, and ""rationality"" selects the same, with a bit of catastrophic naivete for spice.
"Former rationalists clearing their homes of bad energy using crystals."
In reality ""rationalists"" are always like this. They only see logic as a social ritual. It was always ritual behaviour.
Most folk can learn only through mimicry, with zero understanding of the underlying mechanics. Anyone who does understand (and isn't insane) doesn't find any use in ""rationalism"". Result: strong selection pressure for cargo-cult rationalism.
Do note that even the densest person will realize they're not being socially acceptable when they start using crystals. They're aware the Sovereign does not approve. Cults are not stealthy.
Egalitarian nutcase thinks teachers shouldn't have higher status than their students. Normal folk are aware you're supposed to think this but can't maintain the cognitive dissonance without intentional effort spent on the spot.
"Smart, passionate young people trying to do good is the single most destructive force in the universe."
Nick Land is a secularist and ultimately doesn't believe intentions exist.
Due to Conquest #1 effects, intention is almost the only thing that matters. If you genuinely want to help, you notice and correct when something isn't helping. If they are not noticing: yes they are. Conquest #1. If they are not correcting, it means the effects are intentional.
If folk were being honest I would recommend focusing on goals instead of means. Debugging or whatever? The point is to achieve a specific end, and anything that achieve that end is a good idea. Anything that doesn't should be discarded. Long-term projects should have short-term indicators of progress; they should know what the process looks like when it's working and what it looks like when it's stalled; especially because a persistent stall means the means has failed and should be abandoned. Ideally you skip this expensive and finicky process by using a chain of short-term projects.
Reality: the point of focusing on the means is to disguise their dishonest ends. Conquest #1. The above advice constitutes attempting to wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep. Know them by their fruits etc etc.
"How did genuinely smart, good-hearted, intelligent people get wrapped up in all of this?"
Truly a puzzle, unless you realize they didn't. Being a victim is a sin.