Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of the Self
Le Dico des sectes (The Dictionary of the Sects)
This pocket-sized, paperback “dictionary of the sects” is edited by Annick Drogou who is Director of Publications of the Roger Ikor Centre, founded in 1981 to study “mental manipulation” by cults and sects. The dictionary defines cults as new religions; it defines sects as separatist minorities in more established religions. Terms in the dictionary are arranged in alphabetical order from AAO, an Austrian group, to Zetetique, a spin-off of Pyrrhonist skepticism. Many groups listed are obscure or known mainly in France.
The book is unusual in that it lists major historical religious movements along with recent, sometimes strictly French, cult groups. This combination over-reaches and weakens the content. The reference would be more useful had it spent additional space on major and some minor cults and cult-like groups, and less on diverse terms such as agnosticism, atheism, fundamentalism, heresy, and schism. Other terms, such as anthropology, apparition, Bible, Brahmanism, confession, contemplation, fundamentalism, heresy, Internet, jargon, meditation, and vegetarianism, could have been omitted. Some specialized clinical terms, such as depersonalization, depression, and fetishism, are defined.
The Cathari and Manicheism are listed, but these two of many early Christian heresies, along with alchemy, Druidism, and Theosophy, are not widely encountered today. Some readers also might take exception to the inclusion of the terms Amish, Mormonism, and Taoism; and of therapies such as Lowen’s bioenergetics, biofeedback, Janov’s primal scream, and Perl’s gestalt therapy. graphology and numerology are included but have little relevance to current cult practices.
On the positive side, the book does describe recent cult-like behaviors such as those observed in David Koresh’s Davidians and Heaven’s Gate followers; but it does not say anything about the Peoples’ Temple. Other terms are appropriate and their definitions helpful, such as auditing (Scientology) and deprogramming. The book includes a 2-page bibliography of French publications (1980 to 1998), and a useful 14-page, two-column index.
Overall, the book covers too much ground too briefly and it is published only in French reserves access to a limited audience.