Book Review - Les Sectes

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1995, Volume 12, Number 2, pages 211-215. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Reivew - Les Sectes

Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.

Anne Fournier and Michel Monroy. Toulouse, France: Editions Milan, 1996, 68 pages.

Publication of this 68-page paperback was supported by the Centre Roger Ikor, founded in 1981 to study “mental manipulation” by cults and sects. Co-author Michel Monroy is a psychiatrist and Anne Fournier is a history professor. Both are associated with the Ikor Centre. This pocket-sized book is a concise and perhaps too-brief summary of major cults, which it describes as new religious movements, differentiating cults from sects, which split from established religions. The authors are more critical of sects than cults. They consider sects to be a departure from a mainstream belief system, whereas cults can become an established religion over time.

The book begins with a brief history of sects as religious minorities, with specific reference to Hubbard’s Scientology, Moon’s Unification, Jones’ People’s Temple (Guyana), Koresh’s Davidians, the Solar Temple, and various New Age groups. As is true in the United States, the authors point out the difficulty in accurately determining the number of people actively involved in these movements.

The book includes a brief description of cult recruitment methods; the effects on new recruits of withdrawal from mainstream society, family, and friends; the gradual narrowing of new members’ freedom of thought and action; and members’ resulting loss of critical judgment and appropriate emotional response. This process increases leader charisma as members regress into infantile dependency. The authors recommend dissemination of relevant information to the public, legal restrictions, and objective coverage by news media as defenses against mental manipulation, especially of minors.

Throughout this small book are cartoons that not only add humor but also point up important points in the text. The book includes a two-page glossary of 29 terms, a brief two-page bibliography of French language books, a video-cassette source, and a two-page, two-column index.

This book is recommended for anyone interested in the cult groups in France.