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Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  15 reviews
National Book Award winner and renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton reveals a world at risk from millennial cults intent on ending it all.

Since the earliest moments of recorded history, prophets and gurus have foretold the world's end, but only in the nuclear age has it been possible for a megalomaniac guru with a world-ending vision to bring his prophecy to pass. Now R
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Picador (first published 1999)
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Nate H.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in cults and extreme human behavior.
Shelves: 2019
Insightful and very, very powerful.
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The way Lifton analyzes Aum and later incorporates that understanding into the analysis of more modern cult and extremist movements is just absolutely amazing. Couldn't possibly understate this book.
William Frost
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book back in college as part of a term paper on Aum Shinrikyo, and I remember it being one of the best explanations I had for the terrorist group. If terrorist cults are your jam, I recommend reading it.
Nancy McQueen
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cults
Wow. That's all I can say right now.
Adam Gray
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well written but really dry and hard to get through. Kind of eerie, written 20 years ago but hauntingly predicts a lot of events that have happened since.
Padraic Cghln
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm not so sure about his psychological insights or the framework in which he compared Aum to other death cults, but as a collection of morbid facts this book is pretty fun.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
Haunting. What more can you say about a profile like this?
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I understand Lifton's more famous book is on Nazi war criminals and this is pretty much the same methodology applied to the Japanese cult that released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in the 1990s. I read this for a class called "Relgion and International Relations: The Apocalyptic Tradition," for which I received actual credits from an accredited university and everything, and it has stuck with me ever since. I'd classify it as the opposite of those made-for-Blockbuster serial killer movies (DAHM ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it liked it
This was some scary stuff! This book is about the group that released sarin gas in a Tokyo subway some years ago. It discusses the inside workings of Aum Shinrikyo and delves into possible explanations for the rise of doomsday cults in Japan. Interesting ties to their experience with the atomic bomb (being the only nation that has ever experienced the tragedy of being attacked by one.)
Vasil Kolev
A very good book on recent cults, their inner working, driving forces and people. It describes mostly Aum Shinrikyo (the ones responsible for the release of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway), and in depth - the guru, the programs, methods - but also compares it (and describes pretty well) some other cults, like the Manson family, Heaven's gate, and even Timothy McVeigh.
May 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
how is a book about this subject boring???

i don't know, but it was.

i finally gave up after dreading reading it for 2 months and never getting past page 120.

this man could make a book about cannibalistic drug-crazed sex slaves dull.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, asia
This book could have been very interesting given the subject matter, but it lacked any sort of narrative whatsoever, which made it an exhausting and confusing read.
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the most interesting books I have read
Jeff Clothier
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Robert Jay Lifton is an American psychiatrist and author, chiefly known for his studies of the psychological causes and effects of war and political violence and for his theory of thought reform. He was an early proponent of the techniques of psychohistory.

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“When we consider further the social and psychological roots of the collective urge to kill the world, we are likely to see more of ourselves in it and to begin to think of such groups as something of a dark "cultural underground" of our own society. We are also likely to discover that whatever renders our society more decent and more inclusive in its benefits is likely to undermine the totalistic impulse to destroy everything.” 4 likes
“They may come to feel that only the world’s death can enable them to overcome their own inner deadness.” 1 likes
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