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Cultic Studies Journal

The Guru Papers

Psychological Manipulation and Society

Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society

Vol. 11, No. 2, 1994

The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power
Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. North Atlantic Books/Frog Ltd., Berkeley, CA, 1993, 385 pages.
Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.

The authors have been collaborators for many years, during the human potential movement of the 1960s, and most recently regarding women’s studies (Alstad) and yoga (Kramer). This book, which is about "authoritarianism," grew from a few chapters "mainly for friends" into the present 385-page, 20-chapter paperback. There is a 9-page preface, a 6-page introduction, and a 13-page section called "Authority, Hierarchy, and Power" before the book itself begins. An impressive and thorough index is a helpful aid to readers, but there is no bibliography of sources.

This book delivers what it promises in the preface and introduction, describing the many settings and situations in which overt and covert authoritarianism can intrude into social, political, and religious beliefs and interfere with normal personality development. Part I examines destructive relationships between one person and others, the guru-disciple dynamic broadly applied not only to political and religious leaders but also to parents, close friends, and lovers. Part II explores subtle, indirect forces in values and beliefs both personal and global concealed in what people assume and take for granted, most of the time unknowingly.

The Guru Papers continues in the vein of the exposition of such writers as Packard (The Hidden Persuaders), Hoffer (The True Believer), and Sargant (The Battle for the Mind). It is a worthy addition to these other sources. It provides continuity with useful information about current negative influences and destructive forces. It does so without injecting the authors’ bias or beliefs, seeking only to increase awareness and sharpen perception, objectively and in the spirit of freedom that is espoused as a goal of the book. That it does so merits wide readership; The Guru Papers, therefore, is highly recommended.

Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of the Self
Gloucester, Virginia

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