Monday, July 01, 2019

Book review: THE DEVIL'S PARTY by Colin Wilson

THE DEVIL'S PARTY (2000) by Colin Wilson.

Well, this book left me underwhelmed.

When it comes to gruesome accounts of insane, violent cult leaders, brazenly dishonest charlatans and mass delusions, THE DEVIL'S PARTY delivers -- in spades. Wilson writes in a plain, lucid prose about the rise and fall of Messianic cults - some of which you probably have come across in the news.

But when he tries to explain why and how these cult leaders gained such fanatical followings, and why the cults often ended in self-destructive violence, my skepticism starts tingling...

Wilson's explanations flirt with pseudoscience and mysticism. He finishes the book with grandiose claims about the hidden powers of the "unconscious mind" and comes off almost -- but not quite -- as one of the charlatans he describes in his own book.

Also, he promises to explain the psychology of cult followers but fails to do so. That's my biggest disappointment, because there's a mystery that really needs explaining.

The "big idea" of THE DEVIL'S PARTY is that you don't have to be crazy to become a cult leader, just insecure - and once people start worshipping you as a Messiah, this will drive you paranoid and crazy. (Well, duh.) Which is a perfectly reasonable argument, supported by evidence -- but instead of delving deeper into this and using evidence, he goes off on an unrelated tangent about "untapped" mental powers that really isn't justified in the context of the book.

Recommended? Not really. If you want to read up on Messianic cults, there are plenty of other books.

FUN FACT: Colin Wilson also wrote the novel THE SPACE VAMPIRES, which was filmed as LIFE FORCE (1985) - a glorious mess of a movie.

(TRAGIC) FOOTNOTE: The LeBaron family, which was involved in one of the cults described in this book, recently reappeared in the news: Members of their breakaway Mormon sect were attacked and massacred by a Mexican drug cartel.

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