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Cults in Our Midst Paperback – October 8, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787902667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787902667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,806,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clinical psychologist Singer, emeritus professor at Berkeley, and former cult member Lalich (coauthor of Captive Hearts, Captive Minds) here present an instructive report on the cult phenomenon, which they regard as a growing menace around the world. They define cults as organizations that feature "coordinated programs of coercive influence and behavioral control," many religiously or politically oriented and increasingly centered on New Age self-improvement techniques that they claim are now being peddled to businesses. They enumerate the dangers of cults to the individual, particularly the attack on the sense of self; they analyze the leaders' techniques (almost all these groups are authoritarian), including isolation from family and friends, trance induction, guided imagery and indirect suggestion; they offer practical advice on methods of helping survivors to escape and recover. Includes an appendix of resources and organizations for those seeking help.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In 1992, Singer (emeritus adjunct, psychology, Univ. of California at Berkeley) unsuccessfully sued the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association, alleging conspiracy to discredit her research and destroy her reputation. That suit and this book hinge on whether Singer's theory of "coercive persuasion" (i.e., nonphysical coercion) is demonstrably valid. Fully a third of this book is a replay of Singer's previous studies and arguments, with the remainder applying her questioned paradigm to cult-associated tragedies. While Midst does present numerous examples of deceptive recruitment and other unethical practices, no new ground is broken. Further, as the title implies, Singer's approach is alarmist and often tabloidesque. Lalich's earlier Captive Hearts, Captive Minds (LJ 7/94) is a better choice, contending with cult-associated problems in a more pragmatic, more substantial, and less hysterical manner. In addition, all libraries should own a copy of J. Gordon Melton's definitive Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (Garland, 1992. 2d. rev. ed.).?Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's a very important book to read.
This book should be required reading for anyone who has a friend or family member in a cult.
Barbara Frederick
This book is a real eye-opener to the prevalence of cults in our society.
J. vanheyningen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By grapabo on November 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
The outline of the book is straightforward: Part one identifies what a cult is. Ms. Singer takes care to emphasize that the term "cult" is a netural one.
Part two details the methods used by these cults. And it is in this area that the distinction between legitimate groups are distinguished from manipulative groups whose ultimate goal is to serve the will of the cult leader without criticism, rather than a beneficial goal beyond the personal service of the cult leadership.
A true self-help group, like Alcoholics Anonymous or a local church, will allow for the possibility that the convert might leave, and will not view it as a threat to the organization. As detailed by the anecdotal evidence in the book, the lengths to which the (malignant) cult leadership will stifle internal dissent and outside criticism, demonstrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of these cults and their inherent distrust of an individual's self-determination. This, I can tell you, is *not* what goes on in your normal neighborhood church.
The final part is instructive as it is heartbreaking, as it emphasizes the loss of children's life, and on how to get people out of the cult. As Singer's anecdotal stories about ex-cult members compound upon the reader, the proper reaction to these types of groups should be growing contempt, as many of the members seem unable to formulate any mental or spiritual foundation after having been manipulated so perversely.
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70 of 78 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
OK, folks, I'm one of the "culties" Singer wrote about. I have an IQ of 140, an MBA and a successful business career. None-the-less, for 27 years I followed the "advice" and received the twisted, NOT "unconditional love" of a guru. Along with my "special" friends we supported him while he lied to us about just about everything... his background, our "faults and inadequacies," and especially, about our likelihood of surviving without his "help." Pretty bizarre, definately true, and all too common. Singer and Lalich's book describes perfectly the way he ate away at our self-confidence and kept us dependant. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT BOOK! We are all more susceptable to brainwashing than we want to believe. Read the book, discuss it with your friends, with your children, with your parents. Learn the difference between a convincing argrument and being brainwashed. The mind you save may be your own. This should be required reading in every school and in every parent's group in the country.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Richard Ballard on April 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Cults use motivational psychology to create closed controlling environments where cult members have little opportunity for free thinking. Societal organizations such as the advertising and sales industries, schools, and governmental organizations also use motivational psychology, but these organizations exert less control over members' lives. Some cults control *all* aspects of their members' lives, including where members work and live, members' social companions, members' sexual companions (if any), and even when members can use the bathroom. Cults achieve complete control through a program of deliberate isolation plus psychological reward and punishment. Cult members mechanically serve the cult leadership's goals and fantasies, often accumulating money, wealth and power for the cult leadership.
Professor Singer is a psychologist with over fifty years of research and clinical experience, and her collaborator Janja Lalich is a former cult member. Together they have produced a well-written text describing 'What Are Cults' and 'How Do They Work'. This very readable text is filled with specific examples describing how cults affect their membership, and examples describing the obstacles that former cult members face if they return to overall society. The discussion describes the use and effects of extreme motivational psychology within cults. The discussion also assists understanding motivational psychology use and effects within overall society.
"Cults In Our Midst: ..." was written in 1995. Since 1995 the United States' sexual mores (reflected by the entertainment media) have liberalized, sexually transmitted disease has increased, and societal affluence has lessened. If this text was revised in 2003, I believe that additional discussion of (lack of, or unconventional) sexuality and (lack of) food as motivators and punishment would be warranted.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By B. N. Morgan on August 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
A word of warning against cult apologists - see the review by Lucille M. Cozzolino. Her suggested reading by James Lewis and Gordon Melton is nothing more than pushing the view of cult apologists.

They insist there is no such thing as brainwashing, mind control or whatever you wish to call it.

Melton, by the way, after the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks in Japan, was flown to Japan by the cult and once there he declared that the group could not have produced the Sarin poison gas. WRONG. They did.

For good insight into cults, try the Rick Ross website at [...] There is plenty of information on different groups, and much can also be learnt from the message boards.

It is interesting to note that the reviewer Lucille M. Cozzolino has published only one review. It is a pattern that was commonly seen when Jon Atack released A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed.

Don't be fooled, there are cults out there and they can be dangerous. Self-help seminars, so-called 'human potential' organisations, are also potentially dangerous and should be thoroughly investigated before one commits to a course with one of them.

Many of them employ mind control methods similar to those used by cults and the effects can be devastating. Again, for information on this, the Rick Ross website is excellent.

I speak from experience.
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