IPT Book Reviews

Title: Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse
Editor: Valerie Sinason
Publisher: Routledge, ©1994

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New York, NY 10001-2299
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$18.95 (p) $59.95 (c)

This book is useful for anyone who needs a startling, clear demonstration of the amazing ability of 20th century human beings to persuade themselves to believe firmly in utter claptrap and nonsense. There are 34 chapters, 319 pages, and a minimal index. In the introduction, the editor describes the process of beginning with a few contributors but winding up with 35 persons, many of whom eagerly volunteered to produce their reports, essays, and descriptions of the therapy they do. There are said to be many more eagerly waiting in the wings. Every contributor, while some acknowledge there is skepticism abroad in the world outside, is solidly committed to affirming, supporting, describing and explaining the reality of satanic, ritualistic abuse and the actual existence of large numbers of people who engage in the most bizarre, weird, impossible, and incredible behaviors. The only problem is they are never really found.

The editor warns that reading the book may be disturbing: "It changes our concept of the contemporary universe we inhabit. However, the price of not understanding or facing truth is even higher" (p. 8). The contributors to the book want us to believe in the truth of satanism and ritualistic abuse. That, indeed, would change the contemporary universe back to the prescientific, irrational, animistic universe of barbarism and savagery.

The description of the therapy performed in the name of healing the purported victims is no less noteworthy for the complete absence of rational, critical acumen. Symbolic interpretations of play behavior, dreams, slips of the tongue, and the ramblings of evidently disturbed individuals flourish in the steamy hot house of the fervid will to believe anything, no matter how far-fetched. A veneer of science is laid over this mélange by some contributors who refer to a pastiche of alleged research and opinion by a few select true believers. However, the truth claim for this body of belief rests completely on the claims of clinical experience, intuition, feelings, and commission of every logical error known since the days of Aristotle. There is no awareness of the scientific fact that experience is not a reliable source of accurate information about anything.

There is no awareness that the therapy described has no data supporting its efficacy or utility. There is no effort to examine the ethical question of providing therapy with unknown effects, high potential for serious iatrogenic harm, and nonexistent or dubious theoretical ties to the real world. No ethical practitioner could pursue the techniques described and suggested here.

This is, however, the best of this genre of books advanced as descriptions of satanic, ritualistic abuse. It has the appearance of reasoned scholarly discourse and follows the forms of sober, serious presentations of reasoned concepts. It could well take in a person who lacks adequate understanding of rational thought and logical progressions. As such it brings together in one volume every myth, sophistry, illogical leap, and unfounded speculation that is put out by those who seek to find a devil worshiper hidden in every corporate office, suburban club, and middle-class church.

I can only hope at some future point this book may serve as a humorous reminder of the period of time at the end of this era when the credulity of human beings reached such an extreme of irrationality that we learned never to tolerate it again.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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