No Freedom for the Mind: A Study of the Cult Phenomenon from a Canadian Perspective


133 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-55011-015-2






Reviewed by J.B. Snelson

J.B. Snelson is a librarian, bibliographer, and (antiquarian) bookstore
owner in Wolfville.


Rodney Sawatsky of the University of Waterloo has pointed out that much of the opposition to the Moonies follows a pattern experienced a century ago by Mennonites and Mormons. By extension, his analysis can even more forcibly be applied to Hare Krishna. Both faiths not only offer a damning critique of our culture, but the practitioners to some extent withdraw from the society around them. This is a challenge which few seem to be able to regard dispassionately.

This is not so much a defence of either group as a warning that no criticism should be accepted without much thought and checking of facts. This book is a case in point. The subtitle gives the author’s hopes and, to some extent, the book’s achievement. The subject is the activity of certain “cults” in Canada, including the Moonies, Hare Krishna, and Scientology. As an indication of the widespread activity of such groups, the book has some value, although it could be done much better. Clay also has the courage to mention one Christian splinter group (the Worldwide Church of God) in his analysis, with a hint that other evangelical groups might qualify.

But not only does he fail to prove (or even consider) whether the groups he denounces really leave “no freedom for the mind,” there are points at which his zeal gets the better of him and destroys the impression he wishes to create. For instance, Clay indicates that he sees no distinction between Scientology, Subud, Silva Mind Control, est, and Zen Buddhism — the latter a millennium-old religion whose position in Buddhism is not unlike the position of Lutheranism or Presbyterianism within Christianity. This and other blunders mask some well-taken points at other places.

A good Canadian study of the cult phenomenon would be welcomed. There is much that ought to be said on the subject, most of it not complimentary to the cults. One wishes, therefore, that one could recommend No Freedom for the Mind, but in offering broad general statements without proof and a very one-sided and selective use of sources, Clay illustrates the teaching methods of the worst of the groups he would denounce. In the process, the critical reader gains more sympathy for Clay’s victims than for his views.

Most of the ground covered here ought to be studied in detail. I suspect few of the “cults” discussed here could survive a dispassionate analysis and would attract few, if any, followers were the truth known and widely circulated. With nothing for the mind, except maybe insult, Clay makes little or no contribution to that task and perhaps the kindest thing one can hope is that nobody reads his book — which does more damage to those wanting to present the facts than it does to the “cults.”



Clay, Colin, “No Freedom for the Mind: A Study of the Cult Phenomenon from a Canadian Perspective,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed October 1, 2023,