From the Tokyo subway bombing and the siege at Waco to the mass suicide of Jim Jones’s followers in Guyana, evidence of cult activity has surged in recent decades. Abgrall, a practicing psychiatrist and professional criminologist, has spent 15 years researching cult phenomena and presents here a thorough analysis of their psychodynamics and the mysteries that surround cult life. He delves into recruitment, physical and psychic conditioning methods, the mental predisposition of gurus and followers, and the treatment of former cult members.
Well organized and readable, his work complements James R. Lewis’s Cults in America: A Reference Handbook (LJ 2/1/99) and David V. Barrett’s Sects, Cults and Alternative Religions: A World Survey and Sourcebook (Sterling, 1996). Useful for high school students doing research and for adults interested in mysticism and sects, this book is recommended for public and academic libraries. Passionate Journeys is more specific in nature. Goldman (sociology, Univ. of Oregon; Gold Diggers and Silver Miners) studied the female boomers who left their families, careers, and identities to join the Rajneeshpuram spiritual community in Oregon in the 1970s and 1980s. Goldman conducted extensive interviews with former sannyasins and presents here composite pictures detailing the psychological make-up, hopes, and beliefs of women who joined the community. Her thesis is that, though extreme, the cult members’ experiences illuminate the struggles of women in general; their joining was an attempt to balance love, work, and spirituality. A compilation of case studies, this book was written for the college-educated reader; recommended for academic libraries serving feminist or religious studies programs.-Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ