Since his own involvement in a New Age cult decades ago, Joseph Szimhart has become an expert in the field of exit therapy and is a highly sought-after consultant. He has made numerous media appearances and has been a consultant for major network news programs such as CNN, Dateline, and NBC. His work has been cited in more than seven print books. He has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, and the Washington Post. He is also an accomplished artist.
How did you get into cult deprogramming? That question always came up when I lectured about the cult problem. This memoir answers that question and more. My cult intervention career began in 1980 in Santa Fe, NM five years after I moved there. During my first day exploring Santa Fe, I met Bill Tate at his cluttered gallery on Canyon Road. I introduced myself as an artist recently graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in search of a career. Bill Tate and I would become good friends. On my first day in Santa Fe, I encountered weird leads to three new religious movements based on the Theosophical Society and occult revelations of Helena Blavatsky: the Agni Yoga Society, the “I AM” Activity, and Church Universal and Triumphant or Summit Lighthouse. My prior interest in modern artists like W. Kandinsky who valued Theosophy and in William Blake who created a unique poetic theosophy created a foundation from which I launched into seeker mode. I wanted to find out how real the world of mysterious, quasi-mythical masters guiding the human race was and whether I was called to play a role in that elite brotherhood. The Church Universal and Triumphant sect claimed to carry on the teachings of the “I AM” Activity and the Agni Yoga movements, so I participated in three “CUT” conferences with thousands of other seekers during 1979 and 1980. By the end of 1980, I was disenchanted with “CUT.” The memoir describes that process of disenchantment and how my research led to a means to educate others victimized by strange teachings and manipulative cult leaders. As the reader, you will learn how one artist entered the shadowy world of deprogramming in 1985 to work on hundreds of cases internationally. You will encounter a sampling of interventions and the basis upon which people would reconsider their devotion to deceptive cults and abusive relationships. You will learn how skepticism, properly applied, can lead to a healthier spiritual orientation. You will find another reason why Santa Fe is “The City Different” and New Mexico is “The Land of Enchantment.” And you will learn something of Bill Tate, who once wrote that I was his best friend.
A powerful journey where faith, philosophy, and family collide…
The philosophy was perfect. The image, so new-age. And the idea of Zen enlightenment, so fantastically nontraditional. For Jake, the Zen Center in remote New Mexico seemed like the perfect answer to life’s problems, and for ten years he knew little else. His life was slowly consumed by the cult that he thought was saving him.
Acclaimed exit therapist and cult expert Joseph Szimhart crafts a narrative that explores the complex interactions between faith, family, and reality. Inspired by the author’s own experiences in a cult, the story’s framework is set in the emotionally rooted trappings of a fringe religious commune, which provides a poignant backdrop for examining the problems we all struggle to overcome. It also presents a chilling look at the subtle manipulations that charismatic figures use on the rest of us.
It is estimated that five to seven million Americans have been involved in cults or similar groups. Today, organizations such as the Church of Scientology continue to grow in size and in fame, even as they become more and more controversial. Through his vast experience Joseph Szimhart gives readers a unique opportunity to not only peer behind this curtain, but to truly understand what it is like to be entangled in a cult. He provides insight and perspective on the abstract, the dogmatic, the ordinary, and everything in between. Mushroom Satori is a secret glimpse into a world that most of us cannot fathom, and it serves as both lens and mirror with which to examine our own lives.
This novel ultimately presents a beautifully crafted message—one that will interest any reader who seeks more substance than just another happy ending. Readers will find themselves grieving over the protagonist’s stolen youth even as they sympathize with the young man’s bewildering trek toward adulthood. They will marvel at Szimhart’s uncompromising account of the wild promises and limitations of faith that surround us and Jake alike. Mushroom Satori reminds us that when we are down, when we are disheartened, and when we are looking for answers, we are not alone.
But when we go hunting for answers and for messiahs we must be cautious— they are hunting us too.