Aug 10, 2020

Online Event: CULTS and DEATH: A new look at Ernest Becker’s 1973 book, The Denial of Death

Joseph Szimhart
Joe Szimhart

Joseph Szimhart

CULTS and DEATH: A new look at Ernest Becker’s 1973 book, The Denial of Death


The authors of The Worm at the Core (2015) proved through decades of experiments Becker’s breakthrough insights into the essential impact that human awareness of death has on human cultures. Becker won a Pulitzer Prize for Denial of Death in 1974. Using the keen psychoanalytic corrections that Otto Rank provided to advance Freudian theory coupled with the existential philosophy of Kierkegaard, Becker argued that to sustain self-esteem, we need heroes and the symbolic world provided by religion, science, and the arts to stay sane and flourish. Using Becker’s analysis, I will discuss how our reality as humans requires that we not only survive as natural creatures, but also are driven to create symbolic worlds with “immortality projects.” As I wrote in my memoir (Santa Fe, Bill Tate, and me), “cult activity has driven human social evolution,” for better and for worse.


Joseph Szimhart defected from a Theosophy cult in 1980 before his career as a cult interventionist and research specialist. He was chairman of a cult information organization in New Mexico for seven years. He is a crisis caseworker at a psychiatric emergency hospital and has an art career. He maintains a website, lectures, consults for the media, and has published articles, book reviews, and papers related to the cult problem. His novel, Mushroom Satori: The Cult Diary, was released in 2013. Memoir released in 2020: Santa Fe, Bill Tate, and me. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from ICSA in 2016.  

Website: Email:  Phone: (484) 529-1936.

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    • Pacific Rim/UK: September 12/13, 2020, Saturday/Sunday
    • North America: September 11/12, 2020, Friday/Saturday
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