Book Review - Other Altars
Cultic Studies Journal, 18, 218-219
Other Altars: Roots and Realities of Cultic and Satanic Ritual Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder.
Minneapolis, MN: Compcare Publishers. 255 pages.
This volume describes its author’s views on cult experiences involving ritualistic abuse and associated mental health problems. The book takes an historical perspective and gives a scholarly account of how a variety of cultures and religions in diverse geographic locations dealt with issues relating to torture, blood sacrifice, and ritual abuse. The author relates this historical information to ritual abuse trends in the 1990s.
The author says that
The label “ritual abuse” is commonly applied to behaviors involving multi-offenders, multimotive sexual abuse, torture, programmed mind control, blood sacrifice, infanticide, or cannibalism, combined with symbols and artifacts of spiritual belief. (p. 1 of Introduction)
Although the definition of ritual abuse varies greatly and is affected by culture, religion, political climate, and history, the author stresses the abusive aspect of ritual abuse. He distinguishes ritual abuse, then, from ceremonies, religious rituals, or other activities that do not involve abuse.
A major theme of the book is that survivors’ stories of abuse should not be dismissed, for these stories often show many similarities of symptoms, feelings, and emotional states. The author emphasizes the need to examine survivors’ experience of disassociation. Throughout history there are many instances of abused people experiencing disassociation. The diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), which became popular in the 1990s, is a recent example of disassociation.
The author discusses many pertinent contemporary issues, such as false memory syndrome, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), repression, flashbacks, childhood amnesia, false accusations, and, of course, dissociation and MPD. These issues are considered in light of the conflicting view points among political groups, religious groups, scientists, educators, families, victims or survivors of ritualistic abuse, and the health professionals who treat them. The author concludes that we can conclude that ritual abuse occurs, that victims’ accounts may be factual, and that the problem of ritual abuse should be taken seriously.
This volume is a history book. It is tedious to read, but is well written and detailed. Although it is easy to get lost in the many historical events the author describes, we can all learn something about the depth and breadth of the ritual abuse problem.
Marvin W. Clifford, Ph.D.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 18, 2001, page