Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden in Our Everyday Lives

Article excerpt

MARGARET THALER SINGER AND JANJA LALICH: Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden in Our Everyday Lives. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1994, 381 pp. $25.00, ISBN 0-7879-0051-6.

A recent symposium on cults under the auspices of a religious college resulted in the conclusion that cults were not a threat to our society. What was of interest, however, was that the second part of the symposium was taken over by two major cults who were highly successful in presenting their own agenda. Parents whose children had been victims of various cults were understandably upset. I introduce this review with this statement because, as the authors of this book point out: "there is truly a smorgasbord of spiritual, psychological, political and other types of cults and cultic groups seeking adherence and devotees. Contrary to the myth that those who in cults are seekers, it is the cults that go out and actively and aggressively find followers. Eventually, these groups subject their followers to mind-numbing treatments that block critical and evaluative thinking and subjugate independent choice in a context of a strictly enforced hierarchy."

To one who has followed the cult literature, both pro and con, for a number of years, Dr. Singer and Lalich's book comes as a welcome relief. Most of the available texts are written by individuals committed to a given perspective-usually fundamentalist in outlook-who are, because of this, somewhat blind to cultic forces within their own framework of reference. Dr. Singer, with no personal ax to grind, offers a much broader picture. A clinical psychologist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, she and her associate bring their experience in treating over 3,000 current and former cult members to bear. …