Margaret Singer

American clinical psychologist

Margaret Thaler Singer Ph.D. (29 July 192123 November 2003) was a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Quotes edit

1970s edit

  • The term "cult" is always one of individual judgment. It has been variously applied to groups involved in beliefs and practices just off the beat of traditional religions; to groups making exploratory excursions into non-Western philosophical practices; and to groups involving intense relationships between followers and a powerful idea or leader. The people I have studied, however, come from groups in the last, narrow band of the spectrum: groups such as the Children of God, the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Krishna Consciousness movement, the Divine Light Mission, and the Church of Scientology. I have not had occasion to meet with members of the People's Temple founded by the late Reverend Jim Jones, who practiced what he preached about being prepared to commit murder and suicide, if necessary, in defense of the faith.

1990s edit

  • While everyone is influenced and persuaded daily in various ways, vulnerability to influence fluctuates. The ability to fend off persuaders is reduced when one is exhausted, rushed, stressed, uncertain, lonely, indifferent, uninformed, aged, very young, unsophisticated, ill, brain- damaged, drugged, drunk, distracted, fatigued, frightened, or very dependent.
  • Thought reform is accomplished through the use of psychological and environmental control processes that do not depend on physical coercion. Today's thought reform programs are sophisticated, subtle, and insidious, creating a psychological bond that in many ways is far more powerful than gun-at-the-head methods of influence. The effects generally lose their potency when the control processes are lifted or neutralized in some way. That is why most Korean War POWs gave up the content of their prison camp indoctrination programs when they came home, and why many cultists leave their groups if they spend a substantial amount of time away from the group or have an opportunity to discuss their doubts with an intimate.
  • An estimated 5,000 economic, political, and religious groups operate in the United States alone at any given time, with 2.5 million members. Over the last ten years, cults have used tactics of coercive mind control to negatively impact an estimated 20 million victims in the last ten years. Worldwide figures are even greater.
    • Cults in Our Midst
  • Hundreds of other cult leaders have gathered far more followers than Jones by promising new psychological and spiritual utopias. They have succeeded by combining various ages-old psychological and social persuasion techniques in an atmosphere os Madison Avenue soft-sell approaches. Because most of the followers have been youthful or poor, little attention and credence has been given to reports from ex-members, families and friends who report the effects of the techniques of manipulation used by the groups.

2000 edit

  • I do not endorse them [Landmark Education] - never have. The SOBs have already sued me once. I'm afraid to tell you what I really think about them because I'm not covered by any lawyers like I was when I wrote my book.

2002 edit

  • Just look up to the sky and talk to God yourself. You don't need an organization to do that. …They're all the same, really, these groups — they prey on the most lonely, vulnerable people they can find, cage you with your own mind through guilt and fear, cut you off from everyone you knew before, and when they're done doing that, they don't need armed guards to keep you. You're afraid that if you leave, your parents will die, you will die, your life will be ruined. Flim-flam men, pimps, sharpsters — that's what they are. Liars. Tricksters. It's been the same ever since Eve got the apple, and I doubt it will ever change. A real religion is truthful, you can come or go from it if you wish. And most importantly, there is no one leader claiming he is a god. Big, big difference.

2003 edit

  • I started hearing from families who had missing members, many of them young kids on our campus, and they all would describe the same sorts of things. A sudden change of personality, a new way of talking...and then they would disappear. And bingo, it was the same sort of thing as with the Korean War prisoners, the same sort of thought-reform and social controls. You find it again and again, any time people feel vulnerable. There are always sharpies around who want to hornswoggle people.

2004 edit

  • The public takes care of their fear by thinking only crazies and stupid people wind up in cults. I've interviewed over 4000 ex-cult members. There's no one type of person who is vulnerable.

Quotes about Singer edit

  • Psychologist Margaret Singer, 69, an outspoken Scientology critic and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, now travels regularly under an assumed name to avoid harassment.
  • Over the decades, cult operatives have fished through Singer's trash, sent her death threats and picketed her lectures. They've released dozens of live rats at her house, put dead ones on her doorstep (hearts skewered with lollipop sticks) and hacked into her computer so many times she doesn't use one any more. Once a cultist talked her way into working in Singer's campus office, then stole a sheaf of term papers and sent bizarre notes to the students.
  • She's one of a kind, the foremost authority on brainwashing in the entire world. She is a national treasure.
  • She was a remarkable person -the only genius I ever met in our business. There are simply very few people anywhere who had the clinical skills that she had - period. In addition, she was a world-class researcher. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Prize for her work in schizophrenia. That work revealed that the best indicator of the disordered mind was the schizophrenic's odd and peculiar use of language.
    • Daniel Goldstine, chief psychologist of the Berkeley Therapy Institute,
  • Margaret Thaler Singer stands alone in her extraordinary knowledge of the psychology of cults
  • In this era of clichés, the word “giant” is bandied about all too frequently. But Margaret was a genuine giant. She made enormous contributions to the psychological understanding of cults, including the Unification Church, Heaven’s Gate, and the Branch Davidians; and cult therapies, including Synanon and Scientology.
  • In addition to her high-profile work on cults, Singer was also an authority on schizophrenia, and was nominated twice for a Nobel Prize for her research.
    • "Margaret Thaler Singer" Biography Resource Center Online (2004)
  • Her testimony would help people understand the clinical impact of a cult's manipulation and exploitation. There was a constant stream of people who would go into these organizations and end up in psychiatric emergency rooms.
    • Dr. Richard Ofshe, a sociology professor at the University of California at Berkeley who worked with Dr. Singer for 20 years, in report by Anahad O'Connor in The New York Times (7 December 2003)
  • But not everyone agreed with her views on the subject, and Singer paid a price for her work. Cult "operatives" dug through her trash, went through her mail, picketed her lectures and sent her death threats. They also hacked into her computer countless times, once released dozens of live rats in her house, and frequently left dead rats on her doorstep with threatening notes.

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