Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Secret History of Cults, by Peter Haining

The Secret History of Cults: Bizarre Rituals and Murderous Practices RevealedHeaven's Gate.  Jonestown.  The Manson Family.  Branch Davidians.  These are all cults with which most people are familiar.  What is is about the leaders that led them down their doomed paths?  How can a person become so enraptured with a man that he or she would willingly give their lives?  This book describes various cults the world over, and attempts to explain the power these leaders have over their flocks.

What a huge pile of disappointment this book was.  It had the potential to be really interesting, but sadly it was not.  The book is divided into three sections, and the first section just seems laughable.  First off, for a book of "case studies" there is absolutely NO citation of the information written.  The first part reads more like what most people think or suspect, as opposed to documented statements of fact.  I get the idea that informants may need to remain anonymous, but with no other citation, the stories just seem far fetched.

In the other two sections, on almost every page, a lengthy direct quote of someone else's research is listed, yet there is no bibliography at the end of the book.  Also, on nearly every page, there are multiple typos, mispellings, and errors.  I am not an editor, but these were glaring mistakes, and so many, I suspect the book was not edited.

The subject matter of the book was great, and the last 2 sections touched on quite a few cults I had never heard of, so I did learn some things from the book.  However, I probably could have learned just as much, if not more, from a few quick internet searches.

Like I stated, this book had all the potential to be good.  But it just wasn't.