Vol. 3, No. 2
French Publications on Cultic Phenomena and
Related Subjects: English Summary
2003, twenty-six published French documents dealt
with cultic phenomena and related subjects. For
this report, I examined nine books, nine
articles, four chapters from books, and three
documents present basic information on cultic
phenomena; others analyse cults' functioning;
some researchers explore victimization within
cultic groups; some analyze the existing bond
between religious groups and violent behaviors;
some discuss different ways to define the term
items are reviewed in a detailed report in French
(Pelland, 2004). This English summary highlights
interesting findings from the French report.
have a primary objective of informing parents or
citizens about cults and related subjects.
of the popularity among teenagers of films such
as Harry Potter and The Lord of The
Ring and TV shows such as Buffy the
Vampire Slayer, two books give an informative
account of themes such as Satanism, Gothicism,
spirituality, persuasive techniques, and effects
of a cultic experience are described in two
(2003), a French writer, published a book called
Cult and guru. Her objective is to give
parents access to coherent and correct
information about cultic groups, their
attractions, and their dynamics. She hopes to
give parents enough information so they will be
able to prevent their teenagers from affiliating
with and being victimized by a cult.
second book, written by Colombe (2003) from
Quebec, has a different view. The goal of this
book is to explain in simple terms to parents why
their adolescents tend to be attracted to
paranormal phenomena and fantastic subjects or
groups. The author concludes that teenagers'
attraction must not be described as problematic
by parents. Teenagers like such themes mainly
because they respond to their need for extreme
sensations and their need to escape reality.
be noted that these two books were written in
different social contexts. In France, cults are
often described as an important social problem.
Many TV programs, Magazines, and politicians
have discussed the cult phenomenon. A law was
even passed in 2001 in order to reinforce
prevention and repression of destructive cultic
groups. In this context, parents like the rest of
the population, demand to be informed about this
subject. That can explain why Biton places such
an important emphasis on the danger that cultic
groups represent for French youth. In Quebec, on
the other hand, the cult phenomenon isn’t
described as a social problem of importance.
Colombe, consequently, doesn’t speak about the
possible danger of cultic groups. He only tries
to define an ensemble of different concepts and
beliefs that teenagers are attracted to. He also
doesn’t define this attraction as a problem, but
as an interest to understand.
other books have a primary objective of
transmitting information. These texts are written
by information centers on cultic groups, such as
Info-Cult or by members of militant group against
cults (UNADFI, MILS).
the four books (Vivian, 2003, Tavernier, 2003,
Fillaire & Tavernier, 2003) try to describe the
cult phenomenon and the effects of cultic
experience. The authors rely on their life
experiences and knowledge of cultic groups to
explain their functioning and recruitment
tactics. Although the authors' experiences are
relevant, the absence of scientific references
gave this reader the impression that the authors
of these books see cults as homogeneous groups,
which they most definitely are not.
of the writers' overgeneralization and because
they most often use extreme examples, the reader
is almost compelled to conclude that "cults" are
everywhere and are all dangerous. These books do
not leave any place for doubt. I believe,
however, that as researchers or counsellors, we
should in our writings on this subject present
diverse points of view and objective information
so that readers can form their own opinions. A
book I co-authored with Mike Kropveld,
Le phénomène des sectes: L’étude du
fonctionnement des groupes (Kropveld &
Pelland, 2003), attempts to provide a balanced
and nuanced perspective on the problems cultic
books analyze the history and functioning of
specific groups: the Raëliens (Bisaillon, 2003;
Renard, 2003), the Church of Scientology (Palisson,
2003), and the Jehovah's Witnesses (UNADFI,
be described as the Raëliens' year. In January
2003, the group made the front page of every
important newspaper in the world when they
claimed to have brought about the birth of the
first cloned baby. The founder of the group,
Raël, was even interviewed by CNN, Larry King,
and the BBC. One book in particular gave a good
overview of this particular group. Bisaillon
(2003) without a sensationalist point of view
presents in a descriptive way the group's
history, philosophy, and practices. In this book
we learn that even if Raël pretends to have met
extraterrestrial humanoids, he said at one point
in his books that it may be ironic that so many
people believe in him if in fact he didn’t really
meet extraterrestrials. Some of his friends, who
knew him before he said that he met
extraterrestrials, say that Claude Vorilhon,
alias Raël, created his first story about meeting
extraterrestrial in a bar with his friends.
Bisaillon also claims that Rael's first book
passed as his own a number of ideas presented by
and Swertvaegher (2003) study ex-member
experiences within a cult as a means of
developing an effective therapy for former group
members. Theses researchers describe a cultic
experience as a process of "soul capture." They
explain that initially a cult promises to
transform members in ways that appeal and
motivate prospects to join. Once integrated into
the group, followers participate in activities
that organize their everyday life. The
researchers observed that over time members
become more and more dependent on the group. When
members decide to quit, it is often because they
realize that they pass their time in ways that
benefit the leader, rather than ways that bring
about the transformation that the group promised.
a number of interview with ex-member, these
researchers created a therapeutic process that is
supposed to help ex-members regain their lives.
In this therapeutic process, professionals first
listen to the life story of an ex-member in order
to break the person's isolation. After a couple
of meetings, the therapist identifies the group
processes, techniques of persuasion, and beliefs
learned during the group experience. The
researchers explain that they try to identify the
main habits or beliefs in the every day life of
their client. They try through therapy to
eliminate the cultic "parasite" that still
affects the life of the ex-member. At the end of
the process, they try to help their clients
reconnect with friends and family, who may have
been left behind when the person joined the
group. I recommend that you consult this book if
you read French; it is well documented and the
researchers present a number of ex-member
histories that illuminate the therapeutic
(2003) proposes a conceptualization of cultic
experience. He explains how cultic groups charm
people to join their group. He compares this
process with the story of the mythical meeting of
Ulysses with the Sirens, as told in Greek
(2003) and Pelland & Casoni (2003) describe how
religious groups can arrive at a point where
members use extreme violence, such as terrorism,
to destroy their enemies. The relationship
between leaders and followers is identified as a
key element that influences the adoption of
violent behaviors. In this context, the
leader-follower relationship is defined as an
interdependent relationship in which the leader
feels the need to be idealized by the members, to
be perceived as an emissary of supernatural
forces, while followers desire to be associated
with a person described as powerful and perceived
to be imposing. The meeting of these two actors
fills their respective needs. However, over time
the reciprocal dependence between leader and
followers comes to place these persons in a
problematic relationship. The leader continuously
asks for proof of members' honesty and devotion;
because members don’t want to lose their bond to
their leader, they agree to give him the
requested proofs. In extreme cases, the followers
may use violence to prove their devotion to the
identity, group cohesion, and a separated vision
of the world are also described as elements that
influence group violence. When individuals
become a members of a group, they acquire a
specific status, a personality that defines them
as members of a particular group. As members
they are also part of the group project. Members
get a sense of self, of values because of their
association with a particular group. If another
group or political authorities try to question or
destroy the group identity and project, some
members may resort to violence in order to
protect the group's integrity. An act of
terrorism in extreme cases may be perceived as a
solution to a seemingly unstoppable threat.
(2003). Aux abords des rives sectaires. Bulle
79 : Discerner les dérives sectaires. Need
complete bibliographic data.
Allanic, C. (2003) Le
syndrome d'Ulysse, Bulle 78. Need
complete bibliographic data.
Martin. (2003). Enquête sur le mouvement
raélien. Montreal: Éditions Les Intouchables.
Dominique (2003). Sectes et gourous, etc.
Albin Michel. Need complete bibliographic data.
Alice. (2003). Victimes des sectes: des
manipulations mentales aux soins. Mémoire de
Maîtrisede, l’Universitaire de Victimologie de
l’Université Réné Descartes, Paris 5???
Marianne. (2003). L’Étau Sectaire. Mémoire de
Maîtrisede de l’Universitaire de Victimologie de
l’Université Réné Descartes, Paris 5???
Casoni, D, &
Brunet, L. (2003). Philosophie groupale et action
terrorisme. In Dianne Casoni & Louis Brunet
(Eds.), Comprendre l’acte terroriste.
Montréal: Les presses de l’Université du Québec à
Columbe, D. (1993 –
2003??). Le fantastique
religieux et l'adolescence: paranormal,
J. P., & Bauduin, B. (2003). Expliquer
tout de même l'inexplicable. Appel aux
"croyances": mise en veille et activation d'un
schéma cognitif de type "sectaire." Psychologie
et Société. Logique sociale des phénomènes
sectaires. 3, 2. 23-57.
Need complete bibliographic data. Is this a
journal article or a chapter in a book? If the
latter, who are the editors?
De Piccoli, N., Beggio, V.,
& Tartaglia, S. (2003). Nouveaux mouvements
religieux et groupes politiques: L'abstraction
linguistique dans la présentation de l'in-group
et du contexte. Psychologie et société. Logique
sociale des phénomènes sectaires.3, 2.
93-115. Same question as in prior reference.
"Logique social …" doesn't sound like a journal.
Catherine. (2003). Le processus de
victimisation dans la trajectoire de vie
d'anciens adeptes de groupes sectaires. Mémoire
de maîtrise, École de Criminologie, Université de
Montréal, 158 pp.
Bernard, & Tavernier, Janine. (2003). Les
sectes. Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu, 123 pp.
Kropveld, M., & Pelland,
M-A. (2003). Le phénomène des sectes: L’étude du
fonctionnement des groupes.
Montréal: Info-Secte, 161 pp.
Richardot, S., & Stewart, I. (2003). Comparaison
des représentations de trois formes de groupement
idéologiques: la secte, la religion et le parti
politique. 3, Psychologie et société. Logique
sociale des phénomènes sectaires. 2.
58-92. Need complete bibliographic data.
Arnaud. (2003). Grande enquête sur la
scientologie: Une secte hors la loi.
Lausanne: Editions Favre SA, 263 pp.
M-A, & Casoni, D (2003). Le recours au terrorisme
par les sectes religieuses. In Dianne Casoni et
Louis Brunet (Eds.), Comprendre l’acte
terroriste. Montréal: Les presses de
l’Université du Québec à Montréal, pp.51-69.
J.-B. (2003). Le mouvement raëlien: Les raisons
d'un succès. Psychologie et société. Logique
sociale des phénomènes sectaires. 3, 2.
116-131. Was this and the other references
perhaps a special issue of Psychologie et
Societe, entitled "Lorique etc.???
M.-L. (2003). Éléments pour une théorie minimale
des sectes. Psychologie et société. Logique
sociale des phénomènes sectaires. Vol 3, 2.
& Swertvaegher, J.C. (2003). Sortir d'une
secte. Paris: Les empêcheurs de penser en
rond/Seuil. – this doesn't sound like a
Tavernier, Janine. (2003).
20 ans de lutte contre les sectes. Paris:
Éditions Michel Lafond, 238 pp.
Vivian, A. (2003). Les
sectes. Paris: Éditions Odile Jacob, pp. xxx.
(2003). Qui sont vos ancêtres? Adam ou
Cro-Magnon? Lucy ou Eve? Les Témoins de Jéhovah
et la théorie de l'évolution. La cage des sectes.
Bulle n.80. Reference not clear. What is title.
What is journal. Volume. Pages.
(2003). Le grignotage jehoviste. Bulle 79 :
Discerner les dérives sectaires. Reference not
clear. What is title. What is journal. Volume.