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Review of Colin Ross' book

Book Review by Bruce Robinson OCRT

Satanic Ritual Abuse - Principles of Treatment
by Colin A Ross

Afterward by Elizabeth F Loftus
University of Toronto Press (1995), Toronto ON
ISBN 0-8020-2857-8 (cloth) typical retail price: CDN$16.95
ISBN 0-8020-7357-3 (paper)


A pivotal book in the history of SRA and MPD from the therapeutic standpoint. It is much like the Bob and Gretchen Passantino book "When the Devil Dares your Kids" (Servant Publications, Ann Arbor MI (1991) is a pivotal book among the anti-cult Fundamental Christianity. It shows a major shift away from traditionally held beliefs (Satanists under every rock) towards reality. You MUST read it.


I use the acronym SRA to refer to Satanic Ritual Abuse, MPD to refer to Multiple Personality Disorder. [Text within square brackets] are my own comments. I apologize for the excessive cynicism in advance.

Excerpts from cover sheet:

"Dr. Colin Ross is director of the Dissociative Disorders Unit at Charter Behavioral Health System of Dallas..."

"Although there is increasing evidence that ritual abuse does take place, clinicians working with individual patients cannot be sure whether they are dealing with fact and fancy"

"Although Dr. Ross has fund no evidence of a widespread Satanic network, he is open to the possibility that a certain percentage of his patients' memories may be entirely or partially historically accurate. In treatment, he recommends that the therapist adopt an attitude hovering between disbelief and credulous entrapment." [That is quite a wide range to hover in]

Excerpts from Preface:

"Dozens of conferences and workshops dealing with SRA have been held throughout the United States and Canada" [error; should be hundreds; there are individual seminar leaders who have personally led dozens of seminars]

"I have had clinical contact with about 300 cases of MPD....in which the person had memories of involvement in a destructive Satanic cult.....In none of these cases has the reality of the memories been objectively verified, and in several of them collateral history has proven that patient claims of Satanic ritual abuse were false." [Impressive statement]

"...several peculiarities....literature on SRA comprises more books than journal articles.....extreme polarization of opinion."

"The books I read tended to fall into four categories: case studies; books written from a fundamentalist [religious] perspective, a 12 step perspective and journalistic treatments" [Under "case studies" he includes Michelle Remembers, Satan's Underground, Lessons in Evil, Lessons in the Light, Suffer the Child, and Satan Seller; three of these have been shown to be hoaxes; one shows how the therapist misused hypnosis to generate (apparently) false memories; one has not been shown to be a hoax yet] "I assume, for the sake of discussion, that 10% of the content of such [SRA] memories could be historically accurate and based on distorted recall of childhood participation in small Christian cults; small, isolated groups of Satanists; deviant elements of the Ku Klux Clan; pornography; or other forms of abuse that a child could misinterpret as Satanic" [He apparently discounts the possibility of inter-generational, internationally organized Satanic conspiracies. [Good]

"...at least 10% of the reported memories could be real; no one knows where the actual figure falls..."

"....the most extreme form of Satanism - multigenerational orthodox Satanic cults ...These cults, if they exist, are secret, highly organized, and devoted to human and animal sacrifice, sadomasochistic ritual sex, child abuse and other crimes, which are committed during ceremonies involving [inverted] pentagrams, robes, chanting, Satanic theology, candles, goblets, daggers and other paraphernalia."

He lists a series of recommended books written from various perspectives: the believer, the skeptic, and law enforcement. [Curiously, he does not mention the most important one, (and the most devastating one to true believers in SRA), by the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect]. He refers to various papers in academic journals.

"Those who are skeptical that SRA could be real should read Dzeich & Schudson's book" on the "Country Walk" case. He also describes (The International Herald Tribune, 1993-DEC-30) an incident in Greece in which 4 men and one woman confessed to a ritual murder of two people during Satanic ceremonies. One of four girls who was to be murdered on Dec 25 'broke down and reported the rituals to police'. [This may well be the first real case of SRA in centuries. It is curious that major sacrifices were to be made on Christmas. That is not a Satanic seasonal day of celebration. I wonder if the group was primarily motivated by an anti-Christian bias and used some of the Christian books on Satanism as their inspiration as to what Satanism is supposed to be like. Anybody know how this case turned out?]

Ross talks about numbers of missing children in the US, and concludes: "it is logically possible for a number of undetected ritual murders to be conducted per year in North America.


"...the clinician needs to consider the possibility that a component of the SRA memories could be real in order to be able to enter into the patient's inner world, understand it, and direct the patient towards health and recovery."

"Of the several arguments against the reality of SRA, the main one is that no bodies have been found. This.....provides an overwhelming and serious problem for believers in 'the cult': there should be at least some objective, verifiable evidence available if such cults exist."

He argues that there is much documentation on the existence of widespread human sacrifice: the Catholic Inquisition ....and the Third Reich.....The fact that the Catholic Inquisition and the Third Reich were both run by middle-class, Caucasian, educated individuals from Judaeo-Christian cultures suggests that it is psychological possible for ordinary middle- class citizens to be perpetuating such crimes in N. America today". [If I were a Catholic, I would be very angry that he blamed the Inquisition on just one part of Christianity; the Protestants also killed persons suspected of Witchcraft; they didn't torture people as much and they exterminated people by hanging rather than by burning, but they still piled up a large number of bodies]

He describes a number of dangerous, secret cults: Russian 18-19th century "Sect of the Flagellants" who engaged in castration "The Assassins", Islamic group, 9th Century? to present? "The Illuminati", Afghanistan, 14th Century? to present? "The Thule Society", 19th century to WW2; German group; a splinter group became the Nazis "Ordo Templii Orientalis" circa 1900 - present; a ceremonial magick group Cannibalistic cults (Aztecs and other primitive societies) [He doesn't describe any link between any of these groups and abusive Satanic groups, SRA, present day cannibalism, drinking blood, human sacrifice etc]

"Demon possession is far from rare in our society; in fact, about 2% of adults...report having had a possession experience."

"SRA survivors provide a rich fund of cultural and psychological material for study - even if none of their memories are real......if cannibalistic fantasies are so close to the surface, wouldn't one expect that they are being acted out, to some degree, in the modern world?" [One could say the same thing about abuse on UFO's and abuse in a previous lifetimes]


He describes the evolution of Satan, from early myth to present concept. [He describes patient's SRA memories as being derived from what we call "Gothic Satanism". This is the imaginary religion codified in the "Witches Hammer", the text book of the Inquisition. It is an anti Christian religion (worshipping Satan instead of God, engaging in cannibalism, inverting the Christian cross, and dozens of other "mirror-images". These appear to be concepts derived from the Witch's Hammer, many dozen of books written by Christian authors, and popularized in horror movies]. He comments that many fundamentalist Christians with MPD have an alter who is Satan himself or is Satanic.


He talks about systematic human sacrifice in modern Western history: the inquisition and the Nazi holocaust. "....estimates of the number of people liquidated by the Catholic Church over a 300 year period from the mid 15th to the late 18th century varies from several hundred thousand to 9 million. [Actually, estimates run from 3000 to 10 million; serious academic estimates are in the 100,000 area. Ross seems to have been unaware of the Protestant parallel program of genocide]

"...the relationship between the Inquisition and the witches is being repeated in the 20th century, not just in the relationship between borderlines and psychiatrists, but in the social dynamics of the FMSF".

"In the 20th century, psychiatry has developed a codified ideology for dealing with witches, who have been renamed 'hysterics' and 'borderlines'" [I am sure that this will make many Wiccans unhappy]

"The majority of individuals reporting involvement in Satanic ritual abuse cults in the 1990's meet DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder".

[There appears to be a fair bit of anti-Roman Catholic propaganda in this chapter]

"Within the DID field in 1995, many therapists and patients believe in the reality of a worldwide Satanic conspiracy, which they regard as a 'vast political movement'. These therapists believe completely and literally in the large-scale sacrifice of babies, sexual perversions and political aspirations of the Satanists. They believe that their patients are actively monitored and accessed by the cult and programmed to harm therapists, to infiltrate hospitals and disrupt and gather intelligence on dissociative-disorder units and to commit suicide if they do not remain loyal to the cult. [one wonders who is the more paranoid, the therapists or their patients]..... Right wing Christian fundamentalists in our society are eager to exploit these beliefs and fears; therefore, with the right combination of social forces, we have the potential for a second Inquisition".


He describes the large religion of Santeria as a destructive cult, because (like the ancient Israelites) they ritually kill animals - chickens actually, prior to eating them. He lists a number of murders in which those responsible also were members of cults. This is immediately followed by a discussion of a Satanist in prison who is trying to follow his religion. Then he discusses the Jonestown mass suicide. [This is a common technique used in many anti-Satanic and anti-Gay books written by conservative Christians: slip a relatively benign item at the end or middle of some horrendous stories]. He describes the Dahmer case as one indication that Satanists could continue murdering people for a long time and get away with it. He states that many new religious movements (Hare Krishna, Unification Church) use methods like Mike Warnke describes in Satan Seller. [He ignores the fact that that book has been shown to be a hoax]. He uses sexual abuse cases in day care centres to show how common ritual abuse is. He concludes "it is difficult not to conclude that Satanic human sacrifices could be occurring, at least on a small scale, in North America in the 1990's"......If all the memories being recovered today were real and accurate, thousands or tens of thousands of babies would have to be sacrificed per year."


He describes the four levels for which there is evidence: - isolated criminal deviants (serial killers) - teenage dabblers - non criminal Satanic churches (Church of Satan, Temple of Set) - narcosatanistos (drug runners, as in Matamoros Mexico) [not really Satanists]

He describes the fifth level for which there is no hard evidence: orthodox multigenerational Satanic cults. Dissociation therapists now have an immense body of information obtained from their patients. He talks about breeders, child sacrifices, etc. Members are "physicians, morticians, politicians, police officers, and other high ranking members of society".


He reviews MPD, "explains its clinical logic....describes its scientific status." "The polarized skeptic....sees no reality at all". "The believer has also lost reality, but in the opposite direction". [He, of course, occupies the middle ground of reason].


He describes how MPD patients are describing SRA both in the past and ongoing in the present. [Has anyone ever heard of a MPD patient who provided sufficient evidence to allow the police to raid a nest of Satanists; I have never heard of it]. He describes some possible alternative hypotheses: urban legend, rumour panic, psychotic or delusional patients, Munchaausen's Syndrome, Satanism as a cover for organized crime. He finds them all wanting.


Preoccupation with calendar dates: "Marriage to Beast Satan", "Satanic Revels"; programmed suicide dates; backup suicide dates; mutilation using Satanic symbols. "During therapy, the lower demons take executive control and form a treatment alliance first, with more and more powerful entities entering therapy sequentially, until the Master appears....or Satan himself..

He describes SRA rituals, mentioning that there is a "wealth of detail not generally diffused throughout the culture" [he does not mention the probability of communication among SRA survivor support groups].


Ethical rules of treatment, how treatment can degenerate into a therapy cult, use of a problem oriented approach, not treating alters as if they are people, major cause of suicide attempts is anger, dangers of using a deprogramming approach.


[This stuff is a little over my head] "I have had many conversations with Satan". "Actually, every Satan that I have met is a fake Satan". "My infernal perambulations have established a previously unknown epidemiological fact: the average age of Satan in North America is about 7 years" He discusses Satan and borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic hyperarousal, etc.


He deals with claims that therapists specializing in SRA are unscientific and untrained. He talks about the FMSF, describing accusations by Jennifer Freyd. "Technically, there is no such thing as FMS. No criteria for the syndrome have been published in a peer-reviewed journal, there are no studies of a scientific nature concerning it, and no one has ever demonstrated its validity or reliability". He admits that he "had assumed incorrectly that the motivation of the key foundation members was primarily to protect offenders and discredit survivors". He talks about Underwager & Wakefield's Comstock Syndrome. He quotes (as expected) the Paidika journal interview. He has a few positive things to say about the FMSF


He anticipates a continued "unproductive polarization" for a few years, then a gradual rapprochement. He fears a "right wing witch hunt... with believer therapists as the primary target". He fears "that Pat Robertson's viewpoint will prevail, with the witch hunt targeted at female survivors, socialist, feminists and pro-choice advocates". He discusses the "backlash".

He proposes several studies:

  • study of cannibalism, destructive cults etc
  • comparison of destructive cults with alleged Satanic cults
  • he proposes a study very similar to the one completed last Fall by the National Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect - determination of the best treatment methods [I thought that is obvious: just get them away from any DID or SRA believing therapists]
  • comparison of SRA survivors with people who were born into "documented deviant cults and violent subcultures"

He discusses the polarization within the DID community over SRA. "SRA survivors... have a great deal to teach us about the nature of memory.... Therapists should listen to them carefully, while not believing [them]too much."


Points covered: no consensus on the meaning of SRA. Whether we believe that MPD is iatrogenically created "never, sometimes or always", we "should all be interested in understanding what might lead someone to exhibit alter personalities..." She was pleasantly surprised that Ross suggested that perhaps only "10% of the content of the memories might be historically accurate". She talks about how some therapists go digging for CSA memories over many months until they emerge. She talks about early childhood memories which are certainly false.

General comments by reviewer: Perhaps his belief that he has personally talked to Satan has led him to respect Satanism more. He is almost alone among people writing in the field who capitalizes the names Satan and Satanism. I feel that this book will have an immense impact on the MPD, DID and SRA industries. You just have to read this book!