The Followers: "Holy Hell" and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders - Book Review

Book Review of :  The Followers: "Holy Hell" and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders


The Followers: "Holy Hell" and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders by Radhia Gleis, is not a memoir but the author’s hindsight as background into her thesis concerning cults. It is a cautionary tale based on personal experience void of dramatic license and exaggeration. It is a courageous book, soberly told.

The author relates how her childhood in a wealthy but dysfunctional Los Angeles family contributed to her search for the security of belonging and for spirituality. In this powerful first-person narrative, Gleis exposes her alcoholic father as a "crazy, mean son of a bitch" that did not tolerate "stupidity." Her degradation in elementary school was later diagnosed as dyslexia. Her absentee socialite mom left child-rearing to the help.

Profoundly confused by Catholic Catechism and isolated throughout a traumatic childhood in a narcissistic family, Gleis searched for nirvana in the 60s.  Released from the “shackles of conformity,” Gleis entered the era of “drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll.”  About 3-4 years after college, Gleis meet a pious and humble young man, Jaime, whose narcissistic, sociopathic personality gradually attracted young adults to himself.  In addition to the guru’s personality are added big lies and bully tactics causing cognitive dissonance in his followers.

Gleis openly exposes her twenty-five-year association with Jaime and the Buddha-field cult. She states that the book is “about me and followers in general who are targets of the mind control traps set by narcissist sociopaths” and her goal of finding spirituality and God-realization. She bravely discloses her involvement in mass psychosis as she desires to belong to something outside herself.

In 2006 Gleis left the Buddha-field but unfortunately, it was not her last encounter with the cult. In 2016 it was brought to the attention of the public at the Sundance Film Festival when a disillusioned ex-member presented his video “Holy Hell,” exposing the sexual nature and hidden agendas of the Buddha-field cult.  She found herself once again involved with it but in a very different way.   The Followers is a gripping nonfiction story that’s a powerful and moving narrative about how good intentions can sometimes lead us down the wrong paths, how the search for acceptance can go awry, and how the psychology of abuse plays out.

Citing research and references, Gleis shows how intelligent people searching for a sense of belonging and/or spirituality can willingly surrender their innate beliefs to profoundly confusing groupthink. The public’s serious fascination with cults, a form of extreme voyeurism, demands critical thinking. Gleis states that she is correlating her experiences within a cult with the “cult of Trump” and other authoritarian leaders. Through comparison and contrast between cults and politics, she draws parallels using allegory with barely hidden meanings and metaphors.  Her serious themes are tempered with humor.

Gleis delves deeply into politics, revealing parallels with narcissistic cult leaders and political leaders of today. She courageously calls out names and cites historical records, delving deeply into the background of people who believe what they want to believe regardless of facts.

Gleis speaks of the out-of-control internet, social networks, and news media, stating that “platforms (are) popping up everywhere like a cyber cockroach infestation.”

The Followers: "Holy Hell" and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders, stands as a definitive narrative of cult existence carefully compiled and sometimes downright horrifying. 

Reviewed by: Carole W.

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The Followers: "Holy Hell" and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders

After twenty-five years of her adult life in a cult, under the influence of a narcissistic sociopath she sought to understand why she made the choices she made in her life, so she could better understand why others make their choices. The Holocaust or any genocide instigated by a narcissistic authority does not happen because of one man. It is the collective consciousness of their followers that supports and enacts those atrocities. Like Moonies under Sun Myung Moon, Germans under the influence of Hitler, or the Branch Davidians under David Koresh, a percentage of America has fallen into a cult of personality. Radhia set out on a journey to explore common traits that every human being possesses.

About Radhia Gleis

Author Radhia Gleis has been a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, CCN, MEd. biochemical analyst and educator for over 33 years. She has appeared as a featured guest on numerous radio and television shows including Fox News, Austin. She hosted The Health Revolution and Let's Get Healthy on Talk 1370 AM, KLBJ, and The Wellness Connection podcast on Voice America. She was the host and executive producer of three YouTube series: Wake up America; How the Body Works; and The Natural Way. She was featured in the internationally viewed movie, Holy Hell, which was broadcast on CNN and named one of Sundance Film Festival's and Netflix's top 10 documentaries. It can now be viewed on Amazon Prime.

Visit for more information on Radhia Gleis


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