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PROPHETS, CULTS AND MADNESS (2000)
by Anthony Stevens, written in collaboration with John Price
"The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind." H.L. Mencken.

"Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, 
and many there be that go in thereat."
Matthew, 7:13.
Publishers
Published by Duckworth, London
Publishers Description
Cult leaders inspire intense loyalty among their followers, yet they strike outsiders as half mad. Why are there so many of them? And why do they and their crazy ideas proliferate? In this controversial study of the thin divide that separates cult leaders from madness, evolutionary psychiatrists Anthony Stevens and John Price argue that what schizophrenics and prophets share in addition to similar genes is the capacity for sudden, radical changes of belief. Depending on the circumstances, this capacity may propel one group into psychiatric care and another into the creation of a new cult.

Citing examples from Abraham and Moses to Shoko Asahara and David Koresh, Stevens and Price reveal the vital role that such schizoptypal prophets play when human groups split. Inspiring their followers with new hope, new beliefs and the prospect of entering a Promised Land, they forge a strong bond between members of the new group. At the same time, the sexual exploitation cult leaders are known for ensures the abundant propagation of their schizotypal genes. Stevens and Price brilliantly show that here lies a solution to one of psychiatry's persistent mysteries: low fertility ought long ago to have led to the decline and extinction of schizophrenia. In the behaviour of cult leaders the authors argue we can see an important evolutionary mechanism.

Reviews
"Stevens and Price have produced an elegantly written and witty compilation of fascinating anecdotes and psychobiographies of major cult leaders ranging from Jesus to Hitler, Jim Jones, Bagwan, David Koresh and Charles Manson. They also proffer a treasure trove of evidence from anthropology and ethnography. Particularly fascinating are the references to archetypal themes of birth and death, the struggle between light and dark, creation and destruction and the search for the Promised Land. Stevens and Price view Jung as the first evolutionary psychiatrist and attempt to forge a synthesis between analytical psychology and evolutionary psychology. Stevens states that archetypes might be inwired algorithms. We have all inherited an algorithm for indoctrinability as only the credulous child can be taught. They also wander off into thinking about genocide and national characteristics; the Germans and their search for Lebensraum, the English building empires and the Americans going west. This book is recommended even if the reader remains dubious about what might be mere speculation as schizophrenia could turn out to be a degenerative organic disease like Huntington's Chorea and Altzheimer's."
Marcia Rytovaara, The Journal of Analytical Psychology.

"The most alarming undertow in this study of latter-day prophets is that the ruthless sexual exploitation of female cult members by cult leaders such as David Koresh was necessary to ensure the propagation of their schizophrenic genes. Stevens and Price shift the blame for religious fanaticism from God to the very human condition of schizophrenia. In the context of evolutionary biology, they argue a convincing case bolstered by the recent discoveries of evolutionary psychiatry and evolutionary psychology." 
Iain Finlayson, The Times.

"This book is stimulating, imaginative, enlightening and shocking. I commend the authors for their bravery."
Chris Cantor, ASCAP

Availability
Available throughout the world.

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