Watched a thing on iplayer about a “mentoring” cult called Lighthouse. They had people handing over £25k at a time for “mentoring” services which apparently consisted of some fat South African giving them bollockings. One bloke sold his house and ended up giving them £130k in total. I do find it hard to understand how people end up embroiled in this kind of thing

Yeah that’s the one. It was well-made and engrossing but I did come out wondering how people of apparently sound mind end up leaving their families to move into rented accommodation with other cult members and hand over tens of thousands of pounds to some bloke

Good doc. Cults are fascinating - I read a lot about Scientology. It is amazing how normal intelligent people can be lured in and then locked in (mentally). The manipulators use a range of techniques: different styles of hypnosis, bait and switch, etc. we all see what we want to see in particular circumstances. See also that freaky guy who is part of set up fronted by that weird ex kick boxer : Iggy Semmelweis or something- he has cult history and his twitter is full of hints about cult like mind control techniques. If you are confident and completely cynical you can manipulate quite a lot of people quite dramatically. 

There are several cults operating on rof, albeit benign ones that don't appear to be fleecing members. Team sane, team terf and team Toryboy spring to mind. 

What are the main differences between cults and most organised religions (including limbs of my own)?

Other of course that they’re all difficult to break free from and charge a lot to dispose of your corpse?

It's all about lining up the dopamine hits for people. Plus life in a modern, godless universe is pretty empty and scary so somebody claiming to have the answers is incredibly attractive for people and they cling to it very tightly.

Chuck in the gap between what working hard in a 'good job' gets you as an ordinary working person and what the media presents as a 'normal' lifestyle  and it's not hard to see why something like this would work. 

Transcendental Meditation was big in the 70s.

One of my students when I was working in Ireland was heavily into it, I was rather put off the TM In because they were such a dippy incompetent student who should have been allowed to practise on a living human. This association created something of a bias against TM in my mind forming an impression of that being and exploitative cult.

I think it was a mistaken impression of TM. Meditation is healthy after all.