Crazy For God, Christopher Edwards, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1979

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

The book describes day-to-day life in one of the world's best-known cults, the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and shows in detail just how adherence to a cult depends on exploitation of unfulfilled infantile needs. Edwards tells of his experiences from his conversion by the Moonies through his kidnapping by his father (seven months later) and subsequent deprograming.

The book shows that brainwashing can be quite subtle; it may depend on a balance between the deprivations and symbolic fulfillments offered by authoritarian parent figures. New inductees are first made to feel loved and cared for by a process called "love bombing." This is an interesting phenomenon because it seems likely that a person whose infantile needs had been fulfilled, or who had felt and resolved his deprivations, would not be susceptible to it. Edwards confesses that he was not close to his family and thus was ripe for conversion. The Moonies' most successful recruiting tactic, he says, is the offer of friendship and concern.

There is not just symbolic love, but indoctrination as well. The person is infantilized, his daily life is completely regimented, his feelings of humility and guilt are reinforced and manipulated, his sleep is deprived, his nutrition inadequate. Time for use of the bathroom is restricted. He chants constantly, plays childish games and participates in group singing. Thus his unfulfilled need and hope are brought close to the surface by the offer of apparent fulfillment, and then are cashed in by the cult in the form of regimens, rules and leaders which must be obeyed without question. Infantile obedience is then the new defense and the condition for continued infantile fulfillment.

As in the neurotic parent-child relationship, the follower is kept dependent because he will endure deprivations imposed by omnipotent authorities in order to receive what passes for love. Crazy for God is filled with examples of how the member is once again made to feel as a dependent child. Edwards makes many telling references to such feelings: "Edee. . . singing a song for the group, a slow, soothing song, the kind a mother would sing while rocking a cradle. ."; I was. . . "dependent once more on Marilyn as a little child to his Mom"; "I was a child once again"; "Nobody had ever loved me so much, nobody had really cared"; "This is where I wanted to stay, where I could be loved and accepted"; "I felt like a lost little child"; "My role was not to question, but to be their child, dependent on them for affection"; "His sharp words made me feel like a naughty child"; "Just be a child and obey. It's fun. It's trusting. Isn't the innocence, the purity of love, what you've been searching for?"; "Somehow the last two days had diminished me into a little child at summer camp"; "You need the love we offer so freely"; "I collapsed on the floor, rolling around on the carpet, tucking my knees into my chest. I sucked my thumb, curled up in the corner. . . . I faded into unconsciousness chanting, 'God is love, God is love.'"

Even the titles of Unification Church members convey the idea of a happy family. Thus we have True Mother, True Father, Heavenly Father, The Family, Spiritual Father, Children of God, Brothers, Sisters, Heavenly Child. New members are called Babies.

According to the author of Crazy For God, cult programing has as its objective to make the person unable to think, and the greatest obstacle to deprograming is helping the member to think again so that he can weigh the veracity of what he has been taught. However, the experiences related in the book imply that it is feelings which underlie the ability to "understamd" and to "think objectively." If a person is at the mercy of unconscious forces and repressed hurts, then to that extent he has no real judgment of his own, and becomes susceptible to cults or addictions of one kind or another.