The Heart of a Cult
Boulder, Colorado: Garuda, Inc, 2006. ISBN-10: 0-9785483-0-2; ISBN-13:
978-0978548308 (paperback), $14.95. 234 pages.
Based upon personal experience in several cults, Lena
Phoenix provides a first-person narrative of a young woman’s susceptibility to,
recruitment by, devotion to, and eventual departure from a fictitious guru and
her followers in Boulder, Colorado.
Phoenix’s novel reads as a memoir of a young Web designer
amidst career flux and family challenges, who open-mindedly attends a meditation
session with her good friend. With a voice that comes from personal experience,
Lena describes the impressions and inner thought process of a person struggling
to define herself professionally and personally.
Detailed conversations among the novel’s protagonist,
Michelle, and other devotees reveal gentle persons supporting one another along
a financially and emotionally damaging path, and praise from their revered guru,
“Ma,” in their quest for enlightenment.
The reader feels drawn step by step into a world that
alternately praises and criticizes devotees for following Ma’s directives. As
relationships evolve within the story, the reader understands Michelle’s process
as she makes a series of decisions that affect her residence, career, and
relationships. She never ceases questioning herself as she methodically abandons
her previous lifestyle and later struggles to regain her sense of self.
While Michelle rides the roller coaster of relocation,
juggling her credit cards, spiritual devotion, and heartbreak, the reader finds
herself with Michelle, pulled toward Ma for reassuring guidance and stability.
The Heart of a Cult is a story. Phoenix does not
analyze cultic persuasion or discuss the recovery process. She merely tells a
story that many have lived. Her novel offers a compassionate expression of
everyday cult allure and betrayal. This book would be useful for family members
of cultists to understand the mindset of their beloved cult members. Those in
cult recovery would find a voice of compassionate acknowledgement for their
experience of betrayal and multifaceted losses.
Phoenix has created a Web site to support the book that
also offers resources for cult recovery, at http://theheartofacult.com/