Cults in our Midst


Jossey-Bass Publishers San Franciso
By Margaret Thaler Singer (with Janja Lalich)

Excerpt from Chapter Six: Physiological Persuasion Techniques.

Meditation may not always be good for you

There are many kinds of meditation being promoted by various individuals, groups, and cults.

Like many cultic groups, meditation cults have varying degrees of membership and commitment, which become known to members only as time goes on. Those who sample only the beginning course may have little or no knowledge of what a long-term association may entail.

A number of persons in the United States have brought legal suits for damages allegedly suffered as a consequence of their participation in meditation programs. Settlements to the individuals were made by the organization offering the programs.

Meditation Casualties

The forgoing brief of the work of several researchers supports my observations based on interviewing or providing therapy to more than seventy persons who had meditated from four to seventeen years in various groups.

A few examples will illustrate these former members' range of impairments, some of which remain after many years out of the cultic group.

  • Blackout, lack of sensory filters, and anxiety attacks.
  • Fog and space
  • Altered states and memory difficulties
  • Loss of boundaries
  • Inappropriate and unrelated bursts of emotions
  • Muscle jerking
  • Long term emotional flatness
  • Seizures
  • Visual hallucinations


Is Meditation ever beneficial?

Meditation, in itself, is not good or bad. But when a venal person wants to sell you courses and persuade you to turn over your life to him, you must beware. If you end up a slave to a money-making power-seeking organization that pays no heed to the real difficulties you may experience as a result of certain practices, that is a bad use of those powerful practices.

Herbert Benson, author of the popular book, The Relaxation Response, says meditation doesn't have to be costly - and you don't need to buy a mantra. Just pick any word. During any meditation or relaxation experiences, if you feel any mental or physical discomfort, I recommend that you stop and consult a professional.

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