Out of all the new religious movements we have analyzed so far on Sects Ed, Aum Shinrikyo is perhaps the most infamous (even more so than Heaven's Gate). Thus, one of our greatest challenges was sifting through the diverse historiography and deciding which secondary sources to focus on in our research. The following sources represent a mere sampling that you might consider reading yourself if you are interested in learning more about Aum Shinrikyo.
Repp, Martin. "Aum Shinriko and the Aum Incident: A Critical Introduction." In Controversial New Religions, edited by James R. Lewis and Jesper Aaraard Petersen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
For anyone searching for an introduction to Aum Shinrikyo, scholar Martin Repp's work provides a spectacular staring point. His entry in the volume Controversial New Religions is especially illuminating because of the great detail he goes into. He even unpacks what Shoko Asahara called his "Four Stages of Entering the Stream." First, Asahara's followers had to learn the teachings of prominent Buddhist figures along with "the traditional Three Treasures (sanbo) of buddha, dharma (teaching), and samgha (community of monks and nuns)." Next, they had to listen to Asahara's lectures on tape over and over again. Then, they had to undertake in "shattering 'our erroneous notions with the information we have taken in the second stage.'" Finally, they had to translate their teachings into action (162). Repp also provides a compelling review of the literature written about Aum Shinrikyo up to 2005.
Repp, Martin. "Religion and Violence in Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo." In Violence and New Religious Movements, edited by James R. Lewis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Repp's contribution to the volume Violence and New Religious Movements analyzes mainstream responses to Aum Shinrikyo (including in media outlets), and provides a number of nuanced alternatives.
Metraux, Daniel A. Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese Youth. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999.
Scholar Daniel A. Metraux's book provides a succinct analysis of why so many young Japanese people joined Aum Shinrikyo in the 1980s and 1990s. It was helpful for us in our research because of the number of interviews it included with former Aum Shinrikyo members.
Reader, Ian. Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2000.
Ian Reader has the distinction of writing the first monograph length study of Aum Shinrikyo in 1996. However, we consulted one of his later works and were enthralled with his analysis of Japan's 1990 election that marked a major turning point in Aum Shinrikyo's theological direction and mission.
Lifton, Robert Jay. Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999.
We focused on Robert Jay Lifton's work the least when writing this episode. As a psychiatrist, Lifton attempts to understand Aum Shinrikyo mostly through the lens of brainwashing, which the rest of our research suggests does not capture the full scope of the story. Still, we plan to produce an episode on the topics of brainwashing and deprogramming in the future.
Baffelli, Erica. "Aum Shinrikyo and Hikari no Wa." In Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements, edited by Eileen Barker. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.
Erica Baffelli's work does what few others' does by setting an analysis of Aum Shinrikyo past the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995. We may produce a follow up episode on both Aleph and Hikari no Wa in the future.
To conclude, we would be remiss if we did not include an image of Asahara's alleged levitation technique that first catapulted him into the public eye.