"Cults in Our Midst" tells in detail how cults recruit members, manipulate current members, and strong-arm those who want to leave into staying. Cult tactics and practices are revealed. A very informative and fascinating study.
It could happen to any of us! that is what I took away from this book.
I thought of people who get caught up in cults, as being weak minded or at the time somehow desperate and becoming ensnared. However, this book helped me to realise that this thinking is very wrong. Cults and cult leaders are skilful manipulators and any one of us could find ourselves ensnared in a cult or cult like thinking and behaviour.
I recommend this book to anyone who has been involved with a cult (or new religious movement as they prefer to be known). Singer has interviewed over 3,000 ex-cult members, and has fifty years of research and experience to bring to the subject. This is not a journalistic expose, but rather an analysis of common techniques that cults use, and what the different, and sometimes disparate groups, have in common (e.g. `charismatic' leader with dubious CV, control of sexuality, pressure to spend money on courses, keeping the true aims of group secret, claiming to be 'The Definitive Centre' rather than clearly state the lineage, asking participants to confess (check-in) - I could go on). Oh, and there is also a section on how to get out and recover.
I suppose one of the most important things the book has to tell is that cults don't need to use overt force or intimidation, this is actually not necessary. Normally it is just simple linguistic manipulation and group pressures which keep people in (e.g. becoming a member of a group which seems to support your needs, and which is bigged-up as such constantly). You don't have to be in a cult for 24 hours a day to fall under its control. Cults want your money and your time, some of them want it toots sweet, others are in it for the long haul.
Hypnosis is often used. For example, this could be the banal repetition of words which don't mean anything to anyone, which are labelled as communication exercises. This begins reasonably enough (well, sort of):
"The cow is in the field." "Do birds fly?" "The cow is in the field." "Do birds fly?"
Which quickly degenerates into: The-cow-is-in-the-field. Do-birds-fly. The-cow-is-in-the-field. Do-birds-fly.
Until finally: Thecowisinthefeeldobirsfly-thecowsinthefeeldobirsfly-cowisinthefeeldobirsfly-cowsinthefeeldobirsfly-cowisinthefeeldobirsflythecowsinthefeeldobirsfly
By what definition would such google qualify as communication? The actual aim of such exercises could be to make the participants passive, and induce a trance-like state, especially as one is also commanded to look very deeply into the eyes of another. I think it actually completely negates any kind of true exchange between two people. It is like something out of 1984. It is not communication. This is communication!
Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has been or is involved with a group they have concerns about. And if you go through the pages saying, yes, yes, yes and yes! then, quite simply, you know where you are. The good news is though, that most people simply leave in the end, and that normally you can simply leave by walking.
At the beginning of the text the writer makes a confession. She has edited out virtually all the references to actual cults or cult leader in order to avoid lawsuits. While I sympathise with her fear, the result is a book without substance - it is a bit like writing a history of WW2 without reference to leaders or countries.