From the mass weddings of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church to the mass suicides at Jonestown, charismatic cults and their devotees have become facts of American life. Once exotic offshoots of the Sixties counterculture exciting suspicion, scorn, terror, and counter-terror, cults have grown so common and entered so many areas of public life that only spectacular disasters like the immolation of the Philadelphia cult MOVE seem to remind us how extraordinary their burgeoning really is. Based on fifteen years of direct encounters with cults and their detractors, as well as extensive research, Marc Galanter's fascinating study explores not only how cult members feel and think at all stages of their involvement, but also how larger social and psychological forces reinforce individual commitment within the cults. Galanter presents a wealth of compelling stories, from first-person accounts of conversions and daily life under the rule of charismatic leaders to disillusionments and voluntary and forced departures, as well as intriguing overviews of many of the most influential cults, including the most comprehensive psychological analysis ever published of the evolution of the "Moonies." He also provides a provocative and controversial account of the similarities between cults and "zealous" self-help movements such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Moving beyond the exposés and confessions that have characterized so much of the literature on this subject, Galanter offers the most extensive and accessible psychological analysis of cults available.