Cover image for Cults in our midst
Cults in our midst
Singer, Margaret Thaler.
Personal Author:
Revised edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 397 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP603 .S56 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Cults today are bigger than ever, with broad ramifications for national and international terrorism. In this newly revised edition of her definitive work on cults, Singer reveals what cults really are and how they work, focusing specifically on the coercive persuasion techniques of charismatic leaders seeking money and power. The book contains fascinating updates on Heaven's Gate, Falun Gong, Aum Shinrikyo, Hare Krishna, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and the connection between cults and terrorism in Al Queda and the PLO.

Author Notes

Margaret Thaler Singer is a clinical psychologist and emeritus adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In her career she has counseled and interviewed more than 3,000 current and former cult members and their relatives and friends. An expert on post-traumatic stress as well as cults, she lectures widely in the United States and abroad. She is the coauthor of "Crazy" Therapies.

Table of Contents

Robert Jay Lifton
Forewordp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introduction to the Revised Editionp. xvii
Introduction to the First Editionp. xxi
Part 1 What Are Cults?p. 1
1. Defining Cultsp. 3
Definitions and Characteristics
Cult Types
Who Joins Cults?
Why Do They Join?
2. A Brief History of Cultsp. 29
Cults in the 1800s
The 1960s: Fertile Ground for Cults
The 1970s: Cults to Expand Awareness
The 1980s: Psychological, Occult, and Prosperity Cults
Examples of New Cults
Cause for Concern
3. The Process of Brainwashing, Psychological Coercion, and Thought Reformp. 52
Historical Examples of Brainwashing
Packaged Persuasion
Attacking the Self
How Thought Reform Works
Producing a New Identity
Impermissible Experiments
4. What's Wrong with Cults?p. 83
Cults Threaten Legitimate Institutions
Cults Harm Our Children and Tear Apart Our Families
Cults Are Violent
Cults Engage in Conspiracy and Fraud
Small Cults Can Be Just as Harmful as Large
Cults Take Away Our Freedom
Cults Take Away Our Possessions
Cults Escape Scrutiny
What Is to Be Done?
Part 2 How Do They Work?p. 103
5. Recruiting New Membersp. 105
First Approach
First Cult Contact
Follow-Up: Gaining Greater Commitment
Young and Old Alike Are Vulnerable
The Double Agenda
6. Physiological Persuasion Techniquesp. 125
Mass Marketing of Experiential Exercises
Techniques Producing Predictable Physiological Responses
Meditation May Not Always Be Good for You
7. Psychological Persuasion Techniquesp. 150
Trance and Hypnosis
Revision of Personal History
Peer Pressure and Modeling
Emotional Manipulation
Psychotherapy Cults
8. Intruding into the Workplacep. 182
Clarification of New Age
A Clash in the Workplace
Violation of Civil Rights
What Goes On in an LGAT?
Development of a New Age Training Program: A Case Example
Problems with Being "Transformed" at Work
Psychological Casualties
Buyer Beware: Thought-Reform Processes at Work
9. The Threat of Intimidationp. 209
Co-opted Professionals
Intimidation and Harassment of Critics
Part 3 How Can We Help Survivors to Escape and Recover?p. 241
10. Rescuing the Childrenp. 243
Children of Jonestown
Children of Waco
Children of Other Cults
Role of the Cult Leader
Role of Cult Parents
What Children Learn in Cults
After the Cult
Children Are Survivors
11. Leaving the Cultp. 266
Why It's Hard to Leave
Ways of Leaving the Cult
Deprogramming and Exit Counseling
12. Recovery: Coming Out of the Pseudopersonalityp. 295
Recovering from Cult Aftereffects
Practical Issues
Psychological and Emotional Difficulties
Cognitive Inefficiencies
Social and Personal Relations
Philosophical and Attitudinal Issues
Helpful Tasks for Individuals Leaving Cults
There Is Life After the Cult
Postscript to the First Edition: The Millennium, Cults, and the End of the Centuryp. 335
Postscript to the Revised Editionp. 339
Chapter Notesp. 357
Resources and Organizationsp. 379
Further Readingp. 383
The Authorp. 385
Indexp. 387