Cultic Studies Journal
Cuando el paraiso es un infierno
(Cults, When Paradise Is Hell)
Manipulation and Society
Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 10, No. 1, 1993
- Sectas, Cuando el paraiso es un infierno
(Cults, When Paradise Is Hell).
- Alfredo Silleta. Ediciones Meridi�n, Argentina, 1992, 206
Reviewer: Gladys Martin
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 categoriesdestructive,
dangerous, and riskyand 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.