Opening Our Minds: avoiding abusive relationships and authoritarian groups by Jon Atack is available in paperback, Audible and Kindle on Amazon.

I am delighted to help bring attention to a new book which I think is a valuable contribution to our field. Disclosure: Jon is a good friend of mine, for decades, and is the leading authority on Scientology in the world. However, he has switched his focus for the past numbers of years to think more broadly about predators and how to preventively educate people. I highly recommend getting this book, reading it, reviewing it and sharing it widely.

I decided to publish this blog with the words by one of my mentors and colleagues, Alan Scheflin, whose Social Influence Model is featured in a previous blog and interview with him.

Human predators roam among us. Although there aren’t many of them, they have a tremendous influence. To them, the rest of us are prey. Predators manipulate their prey using well-tried tricks. Once you know these tricks, it is much easier to avoid them or to stop them in their tracks. Every bad relationship, every destructive group, every dangerous government has a human predator at its heart. Predators rely upon persuasion. In honest persuasion, we have access to all of the facts – and different opinions about those facts – and enough time and privacy to consider these facts and opinions. But then there is the type of persuasion used by predators, which is simply manipulation. To manipulate means to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner. Facts are hidden or distorted, and we are rushed into decisions that take away our own authority and harm our interests.Predators cause upset, conflict, corruption and devastation. By seeing through their methods, we can take power away from human predators and have a much greater chance to overcome the problems they cause in our personal and group relationships. This book will show you how to deal with predators and how to make society safe from their tricks and traps.

Forward to Opening Our Minds written by Alan Scheflin, law professor emeritus

The most precious and personal part of every person is his or her own mind. No one else ever sees it, or knows exactly what it is thinking or feeling. It is our most sacred possession because it houses our innermost identity. It defines for us precisely who we are, and who we are not. We can hide the truth from others, but not from ourselves. Or so we think.

But our mind, like our body, needs nourishment. Other people feed our mind with thoughts, suggestions, comments and ideas. We choose which ones to accept and which ones to reject. And we feel confident that we are good at doing so. But are we?

To be good at protecting our minds we must be familiar with the tactics and strategies that may be used by others to outmaneuver our natural protections and defenses. You can see a punch coming, but not a carefully crafted lie or manipulation strategy, unless you are trained to look.

The greatest threat to the autonomy of our mind is from people who seek to influence it for their own best interests, but present themselves as our friends and helpers. Every one of us has great confidence in our ability to protect ourselves from other people acting in ways that would harm our own best interests. We have faith that we have a strong mind, have good “crap detectors” and are not easily influenced.  I call this “The Myth of the Unmalleable Mind.” As kids are fond of saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But they can. 

For the last 60 years I have studied how people can be fooled, seduced, altered and injured by con artists with exquisite expertise in mental manipulation. I have journeyed through Soviet, Chinese, Korean and American government programs to mentally enslave citizens and enemies, and private cultic groups around the world that have millions of devout followers. I have studied the tactics of advertisers and marketing specialists, the techniques of police interrogators, the dark literature of the antisocial uses of hypnosis, and the exquisite artistry of rhetoric and persuasion.

During this journey I encountered Jon Atack and found a fellow traveler, and a friend. My journey has been as a research scholar; Jon’s journey began by being a victim. After he freed himself from the clutches of a cultic group, he chose to make saving others his life’s work. There are very few “warriors of the mind.” Jon is one of the best. 

In this book, Jon has written a handbook for mental integrity. A botanist studies what insects and pests can harm plants and flowers. Jon has provided us with a handbook for protecting the mind from often invisible forces seeking surreptitiously to undermine freedom of thought. 

One of the fastest growing areas of law is the expansion of protection for victims of mental assault. British and American law for over 500 years has recognized that it is a violation to act towards another person with undue influence. The cases, however, usually involved older people conned out of their life savings by dishonest caretakers. These cases involve financial harm. Within the last twenty years, however, courts and legislatures have recognized that undue influence can also include mental harm. New laws now widen the protections available for people injured by mind manipulators. The need for such laws demonstrates how serious the problem has become.

Lord Thomas Robert Dewar once observed that “minds are like parachutes; they only function when open.” This book is a manual for keeping your mind open. If you want to make your body stronger, go to a gym. If you want to make your mind stronger, pay close attention to what this book tells you. Not only will you learn how to spot and avoid threats to your mental integrity, you will also have the pleasure of reading a very fine book.

Interview: Dr. Steven Hassan & Jon Atack


Additional Resources

About Jon Atack

Jon Atack was born in the cathedral city of Lichfield, in the heart of England, in 1955. He left school at 17 to play drums in various rock bands. When he was 19, he joined the Scientology cult. Although he was never a live-in member, he took many courses and 25 of the available levels of the ‘Bridge’ – to Operating Thetan Section V. Jon left the cult in 1983, appalled by its aggressive behaviour towards members. He refused to ‘disconnect’ (or shun) a close friend and was shocked to find that eleven senior members of the cult – including the leader’s wife – had been sentenced to prison terms for kidnapping, breaking and entering, theft, burglary and false imprisonment, based on their own confessions.

Jon put aside his career as an artist ( to help those harmed by the cult’s hypnotic practices. In 12 years, he saw over 500 former members and helped many to recover the money that had been extracted from them by Scientology’s hard selling techniques. He was active on over 150 court cases and was consulted by many government organizations. Jon also gave several conference papers and his work was supported by more than 40 academics, including Professor Stephen Kent, head of sociology and history of religion at Alberta University, who said that Jon’s work was beyond the standard for a doctoral thesis.

Jon was subjected to constant harassment by Scientologists. His house was picketed by placard carrying cult members. Spurious reports were made to various authorities. Rumours were spread. He was falsely accused of child abuse, attempted murder, rape and heroin addiction. Jon was followed by private investigators, one of whom tricked him out of the manuscript to his book, A Piece of Blue Sky, so that the cult could sue prior to publication.

Jon’s book A Piece of Blue Sky, was published in 1990, after a court battle in New York. It became an Amazon top 100 best seller. However, because of a precedent over the letters of JD Salinger, 60 passages in the book had been paraphrased. This included some of the most important material from Jon’s vast collection. In 2013, the book was reissued with all 60 passages back in place. The new edition is called Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky, to distinguish it from the earlier edition, which remains in print, without the author’s consent.

Jon is the author of many papers about Scientology, most of which are available on the internet. He has blogged at Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker since the Spring of 2013 – His concern is for the recovery of former members, from the hypnotic enslavement of Scientology.

Jon continues to paint and play drums. He has written several novels, including Voodoo Child (slight return) and the upcoming Halcyon Daze. He has also made a character by character translation of Lao Tze’s Tao Te Ching, which will be published in 2015. He lives in a charming village near Nottingham, where, as Voltaire advised, he cultivates his garden. Jon had four children and one grandchild.

About The Author