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Combatting Cult Mind Control is a non-fiction work by Steven Hassan described as a "Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults." The author discusses theories of mind control and cults based on the research of Margaret Singer and Robert Lifton as well as the cognitive dissonance theory of Leon Festinger. Park Street Press, a New age and alternative beliefs publisher, first published the book in 1988. In 2015, Hassan's own Freedom of Mind Press issued a revised 25th anniversary edition, Combating Cult Mind Control, featuring Hassan's new analysis of how coercive groups use social media to gain undue influence and updates on organizations that he alleges practice mind control.

Combatting Cult Mind Control
Combatting Cult Mind Control.jpg
Book Cover
AuthorSteven Hassan
CountryUnited States
SeriesFreedom of Mind Press
SubjectCults, Mind control
PublisherPark Street Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages256 pp
306/.1 19
LC ClassBP603 .H375 1988
Followed byReleasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, 2000 

Hassan is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is a former member of the Unification Church.



Positive ViewpointsEdit

The book has been reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry,[2] and in The Lancet.[3]

The book was well received by other authors on the subject, such as Dr. Margaret Singer, Rabbi James A. Rudin and conservative Rabbi and theologian Harold S. Kushner. Singer writes:[3]

"...A major contribution...For the first time, a skilled and ethical exit counselor has spelled out the details of the complicated yet understandable process of helping free a human being from the bondage of mental manipulation.....Steve Hassan has written a 'how to do something about it' book."

The book, according to the author's website, has been re-published in seven different languages.[4]

Critical ViewpointsEdit

John B. Brown II of the "Pagan Unity Campaign" criticized a policy stated in the book (page 114) which says that although Hassan had '"decided not to participate in forcible interventions, believing it was imperative to find another approach"', "Forcible intervention can be kept as a last resort if all other attempts fail." Brown states that this indicates that Hassan advocates resorting to a forcible intervention if all other attempts fail.[5]

According to Douglas Cowan, in this book Hassan utilizes a language opposing "freedom" and "captivity", based on the conceptual framework of brainwashing and thought control, and the alleged abuses of civil liberties and human rights. He writes that these are the precipitating motivation for secular anticultists such as Hassan.[6]

Irving Hexham, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, writes that Hassan's description of destructive cults (page 37), as "a group which violates the rights of its members and damages them through the abusive techniques of unethical mind control" is not helpful as he fails to describe how to decide if a group is a cult or not, what are "abusive techniques" and what is "mind control".[7]

As the title explicitly indicates, Combatting Cult Mind Control falls squarely within the category of books whose authors adopt anti-cult movement theories and rhetoric concerning new religious movements, including the theory that participants in such movements are "victims" of "mind control." This theory is not universally accepted by scholars of religion. Other theories concerning new religious movements attribute free will and informed choice to the participants, and challenge the mind control model put forward by the author here.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Louis Jolyon West, M.D. American Journal of Psychiatry. 147:7 July 1990.
  2. ^ American Journal of Psychiatry 147:7 July 1990
  3. ^ a b Review of Books The Lancet, Peter Tyrer, 24 June 1989
  4. ^ Presskit, Freedom of Mind Center, Steven Hassan, 2006
  5. ^ Brown II, John B. (13 July 2006), "Jehovah's Witnesses and the Anticult Movement: Human Rights Issues", Religion, Globalization, and Conflict: International Perspectives, San Diego State University, San Diego, California: CESNUR, retrieved 2 March 2010
  6. ^ Cowan, Douglas E. Bearing False Witness?: An Introduction to the Christian Countercult, pp.22-3, Praeger/Greenwood (2003), ISBN 0-275-97459-6
  7. ^ Hexham, Irving and Poewe, Karla, New Religions as Global Cultures: Making the Human Sacred, pp.27, Westview Press (1997), ISBN 0-8133-2508-0. "In his book combating Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan says a "destructive cult . . . is a group which violates the rights of its members and damages them through the abusive techniques of unethical mind control" ( Hassan 1990: 37 ). "The problem with definitions like this is that they raise more problems than they solve. Before we can decide whether a group is a cult or not, we must first define 'rights,' 'abusive techniques,' and 'mind control.' Hassan attempts to do this, but his explanations are not very helpful."

Further readingEdit

Book reviews