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Book Review - Sectas, Cuando el parais es un infierno

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1993, Volume 10, Number 1, pages 94. 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 - Sectas, Cuando el paraiso es un infierno (Cults, When Paradise Is Hell). 

Alfredo Silleta. Ediciones Meridión, Argentina, 1992, 206 pages.

Alfredo Silleta's book is Argentina's practical, albeit general, guide to the religious cults that have invaded that country and the Hispanic world in the last two decades. Argentine journalist and writer Silleta has contributed significantly to exposing these groups' activities to the general public, bringing the risks and dangers of their influence to the attention of the Argentine judicial system. Sectas is Silleta's fifth publication on the subject.

The book is divided into two main parts. Part One, "When Paradise Is Hell," includes five chapters: an introduction to the world of the cults, a psychological profile of the typical cult leader, a general overview of the process of brainwashing, alternatives for parents of children involved in cult activities, and a brief case study of the role played by the European and Argentine governments in dealing with cults.

Chapter 1, "An Introduction to the World of the Cults," emphasizes how cults spread. The author classifies cults according to their structure and method of indoctrination, using three categories--destructive, dangerous, and risky--and defining the characteristics of each. The second chapter, "Psychos or Enlightened Ones?" lists typical psychological traits of religious fanatics and cult leaders. The third chapter, "Youths and Brainwashing," discusses the emotional, physical, and psychological circumstances that increase the vulnerability of a potential cult convert. In this section Silleta heavily paraphrases well-known American experts in the field, such as Dr. Margaret Singer, Dr. Steve Ash, and others. Chapter 4 focuses on the effects on the families of children involved in cults. This section includes a description of a convert's behavioral patterns, advice on what parents should or should not do if their child has joined a cult, and useful information on resource organizations in Argentina and other countries.

In chapter 5, the final chapter in Part One, Silleta emphasizes his belief that it is the government's responsibility to play an active role in monitoring cults' activities. He refers to European efforts to curb the power of cults and to educate and protect the public. This chapter highlights the tireless effort by Silleta and others to encourage the Argentine judicial system to deal diligently with cults' activities and the frustration resulting from many of those attempts, due mainly to red tape and lack of awareness on the part of the authorities.

The second part of the book, "Who Is Who in the Spiritual Market," is a brisk summary of the history of 25 cults active in Argentina. It is meant to educate parents and teenagers about the risks involved. This section offers a flip-through presentation of different religious cults active in Argentina. Each entry summarizes a particular group's history from its birth, usually in India or the United States, to its flourishing in Argentina. Most unusual, yet extremely interesting, is to see the current address or general location of a particular cult. The book concludes with a short bibliography of helpful sources of information on the cult phenomenon.

This book is directed at the general public. It is written in clear, accessible language. Despite an occasional failure to fully support his claims, Silleta provides a valuable overview of the cult phenomenon in Latin America, and particularly in Argentina.

Gladys Martin

Berea, Ohio

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1993