Book Review - The Guru Papers

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1994, Volume 11, Number 2, page 222. 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 Review - The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power. 

Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. North Atlantic Books/Frog Ltd., Berkeley, CA, 1993, 385 pages.

The authors have been collaborators for many years, during the human potential movement of the 1960s, and most recently regarding women's studies (Alstad) and yoga (Kramer). This book, which is about "authoritarianism," grew from a few chapters "mainly for friends" into the present 385page, 20chapter paperback. There is a 9page preface, a 6page introduction, and a 13-page section called "Authority, Hierarchy, and Power" before the book itself begins. An impressive and thorough index is a helpful aid to readers, but there is no bibliography of sources.

This book delivers what it promises in the preface and introduction, describing the many settings and situations in which overt and covert authoritarianism can intrude into social, political, and religious beliefs and interfere with normal personality development. Part I examines destructive relationships between one person and others, the gurudisciple dynamic broadly applied not only to political and religious leaders but also to parents, close friends, and lovers. Part II explores subtle, indirect forces in values and beliefs both personal and global concealed in what people assume and take for granted, most of the time unknowingly.

The Guru Papers continues in the vein of the exposition of such writers as Packard (The Hidden Persuaders), Hoffer (The True Believer), and Sargant (The Battle for the Mind). It is a worthy addition to these other sources. It provides continuity with useful information about current negative influences and destructive forces. It does so without injecting the authors' bias or beliefs, seeking only to increase awareness and sharpen perception, objectively and in the spirit of freedom that is espoused as a goal of the book. That it does so merits wide readership; The Guru Papers, therefore, is highly recommended.

Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.

Center for the Study of the Self

Gloucester, Virginia

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1994