Mass weddings. Matching ceremonies where people meet their future spouses for the first time. Desperate flower-sellers approaching bar customers late at night. Isolated farms where young men and women are rapidly transformed into fanatical devotees of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. All these are well-known aspects of life in the Unification Church, often called the "Moonies". In Heartbreak and Rage: Ten Years Under Sun Myung Moon, a Cult Survivor's Memoir, K. Gordon Neufeld recalls his own participation in all of these events in a powerful and engrossing, and occasionally wistful and tender, memoir. Neufeld recounts his own rise in the ranks of the Unification Church to the position of a leader-in-training at the Unification Theological Seminary, a promotion that indirectly led to his growing disillusionment. Yet even when he found himself rejected by the woman Moon had chosen for his bride, and by the church to which he had been unswervingly dedicated, he refused to give up, but carried on until there was absolutely no way to continue. At last, demonstrating great courage, Neufeld broke free from his state of mental transfixion without the aid of deprogrammers. This is an unforgettable story of persistence, devotion, love and loss.
Many people wonder how cults can have such power to convert capable people into dedicated cult followers. Neufeld carefully describes how cult mind control was established over him at the Boonville recruitment farm, despite his own initial resistance; and how, ultimately, he fell completely under its sway. In Part One: The Quest for Justification, Neufeld explains that he has felt a lifelong need to justify his existence. He describes his upbringing in Alberta, Canada, and his travels across Canada as a young man, ultimately settling into a Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia, from which he graduated in 1976. Even though he was not considering religion as an answer to his quest for justification, when Neufeld travelled to San Francisco in 1976, he soon encountered the Creative Community Project, a local branch of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Very quickly, the cult skillfully manipulated him into setting aside his own beliefs, without ever fully explaining to him what were their ultimate intentions. By the end of Part One, Neufeld has fully transitioned from a person with strong intellectual doubts about religion, to a man committed to the cult lifestyle. In the process, he is first induced to drop all plans to return home to Canada in order to live indefinitely with the Creative Community Project. Later, he is transferred to the cult’s Los Angeles group without being consulted about this sudden change. Part One also provides a revealing picture of the Bay Area cult leader, who mimicked Sun Myung Moon in many of her methods, as well as in her personal magnetism, and shows how she gained the unreasoning trust and compliance of cult followers. It is a startling portrait of how the cult of personality can win over people who would normally be resistant to its power.