Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults

Paul Morantz, with Hal Lancaster. Figueroa Press, $29.95 paper (312p) ISBN 9780182132201
"Cults are really a study of society in microcosm." In this recounting of his career, Morantz, a legal expert on cults, persuasively shatters the vision of cultists as losers on the fringes of society: "the most fanatical converts also are the most intelligent." His overview of cults ranging from the politically fanatic (e.g., the Symbionese Liberation Army) to the seemingly innocuous (e.g., the Unification Church) emphasizes the use of brainwashing to achieve a coercive, yet voluntary, redefinition of reality. Presenting a welter of convincing material, he demonstrates the ravages that manipulative leaders can inflict on naïve initiates. Though many of the groups he describes may seem like museum pieces today, Morantz suggests that our unsettled political and economic climate may provide the atmosphere for a revival of cult activity. If he offers no certain solutions, he forthrightly acknowledges the complex struggle between group dynamics and free speech. He also presents cogent, if conflicted, thoughts upon the possible role of the Internet both as a recruiting tool for cults and as a means of resisting their appeal. Although light on the analytic side, Morantz's exploration of cults will appeal to the student of modern American history and to those concerned about the potential unraveling of society.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2012
Paperback - 330 pages - 978-0-615-84869-3
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