What do you think makes a cult or pyramid scheme successful? By success, I mean member number, profitability, and influence over members. All successful cults seem to have some things in common while unsuccessful ones lack these things. Firstly, there's usually a reward for being part of the cult. By being a believer, you benefit in some way, whether that's through happiness or money or luck or avoiding punishment, etc. Mormonism gives you your own planet after death, Scientology offers total control over the body, and Systemspace lets you keep your memories after the current world is deleted. Punishment goes hand in hand with reward. Being a member keeps you safe from whatever that may be, often an apocolypse.
Exclusivity comes next. There's a separation between believers and nonbelievers with the former having more power. Cars are common place, but if they weren't, having one would be like a superpower. If everyone could freely travel through time, time travel wouldn't be that great. The appeal comes from having power over others in some way. Cults often have eleborate initiation ceremonies to make membership feel even more special. They usually have a philosophy or system of moral guidelines backing them up. Just having more power over others isn't enough, members want to feel wiser too. A nihilism based cult wouldn't go too far though because members need to feel important as a group. Nxivm(which was part ponzi scheme, part cult) was about self-empowerment, which people can get behind. Maybe the time cube guy called himself the wisest man on Earth for a reason besides just being crazy.
Cults need a heirachy to give more legitimacy to the group. Structure makes people feel stable, which is good considering the people drawn to cults to begin with tend to lack structure in their lives. Some groups like Scientology and Mormonism even have sub-organizations with their own heriarchy outside of the main body. A charasmatic leader like Tony Robbins is the power source of a cult, literally if they have supernatural powers. Time Cube lacked this among other things. There was basically only one follower who called himself the second wisest man on Earth. He ended up throwing himself in front of a train.
Cults usually take advantage of some social issue or vulnerable group. Scientology uses mental illness, Systemspace uses depressed, asocial teen boys, Time Cube tried to use immigration unrest, but was a little bit too early. When people are distressed about societal issues far beyond their ability to influence, cults giving a convenient solution become attractive. Having something that appeals to Women is also important. Having Women in your group gives you legitamacy because Woman generally set the standard for normalcy. A sausage fest like systemspace is stunted in how large it can grow. All the most successful cults have them as members.
Symbols, mantras and other impressive, cool soykaf also gives your group ligitamacy. People love using that stuff to feel included. A lot of groups will just piggyback off of pre-existing symbols and figures to save time and easily gain some followers. Systemspace used Lain, Mormons and Heaven's Gate use(d) Jesus, Aum Shinrikyo used Buddhism.https://invidio.us/watch?v=lHtCUMKerlI