Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dangers of Occult Thinking


CHAPTER 16: The Dangers of Occult Thinking

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.

-- Sarvepalli Radha Krishnan

Men who are ignorant of history may be condemned to repeat its lessons, as the American philosopher George Santayana observed. But the reverse is true too. We often need the experience of the present to shed light on the events of the past, so that we are better able to guide our lives in the future.

If we are to ask now, more than a generation later, how normal people could have committed the Nazi atrocities, we need only look at the normal people in American cults today. This may seem a harsh comparison; the parallels are certainly not universally applicable. Still, it would not be unfair to say that the same sort of normal people who obeyed the crazy commands of the Nazi hierarchy are today obeying the crazy commands of some contemporary cult leaders. To be sure, those commands, apart from certain Satanic cults, do not call for ritual murder. Not yet, at any rate. But none of us should feel too comfortable with so many of our compatriots so willing to suspend independent judgment, and so ill equipped to exercise that judgment.


Despite the general exposure of many Scientology practices, policies and attacks in the media over the past several years, resulting primarily from the F.B.I's seizure of documents from Scientology headquarters, there exists in Hubbard's twisted mind and writings a little known policy called "R2-45" .VIII-7 In the book, "The creation of Human Ability -- A Handbook of Scientology" written by Hubbard and distributed by the Church of Scientology of California, the following quote appears:

"R2-45 -- an enormously effective process for exteriorization, but its use is frowned upon by this society at this time."

"Exteriorization" in Scientology policy, is death. The policy refers to shooting a person in the head. In a short internal Scientology memorandum called "Racket Exposed", Hubbard attacks a number of individuals, subjects them to the "Fair Game" doctrine, and states as follows:

"Any Sea Organization member contacting any of them is to use auditing process R2-45".

It is unknown to the authors of this Report whether the process was used on those individuals.

During a meeting of Scientologists in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1954, Hubbard demonstrated the R2-45 auditing process by firing a shot into the floor during the middle of the meeting. There is some evidence to suggest that between 1975 and 1977, during the F.B.I. investigation of Scientology, meetings of Scientology executives were held in which there were discussions relative to auditing high level F.B.I. members with auditing process R2-45.

-- Preliminary Report to the Clearwater City Commission Re: The Power of a Municipality to Regulate Organizations Claiming Tax Exempt or Non-Profit Status, by Michael Flynn Esq.

Membership in occult groups in America today has reached epidemic proportions. Some people take this as an omen that Satan is hard at work; others, that God is. The groups take many different forms: Satanism, witchcraft, pseudoscience, mind-control, mysticism, Christian, pagan. Most are not as innocent as they seem, as we are beginning to find out.

The one which has most often been compared with the Nazis is, of course, the Charles Manson cult, with its murderous violence and sadomasochistic sex. All the Satanic groups express a great admiration for Hitler. Anton LaVey, the leader of the Church of Satan, probably has the largest collection of Nazi memorabilia in America. LaVey dedicated his book, The Satanic Bible, to a number of people, including the Nazi geopolitician "Karl Haushofer, a teacher without a classroom."

In the case of other groups, there are less obvious parallels. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon came from Korea to save tens of thousands of American youth, who hail him as the Messiah. In gratitude, they have left their families to give their energies totally to his Unification Church. Growing numbers of abandoned parents are banding together, forming organizations to try to use legal means to get their children deprogrammed, protesting to the government that "destructive cults and their strategy of alienation" have "psychologically kidnapped" their offspring. The parents chose Moon's cult to begin their offensive with. Once having found grounds for prosecution, they will move on to other groups.

Despite parental pressures, there are few dropouts among the "Moonies." Moon's brainwashing techniques work amazingly well, particularly in light of the fact that he appeals to Americans in the Korean language, that he looks and behaves like a provincial businessman, that he indulges in Byzantine luxury while preaching asceticism, and that his sales pitch is markedly uninspired. His commercial enterprises, encompassing a Korean industrial conglomerate which brings in $15 million a year, real estate holdings in New York worth more than $11 million, and various operations serviced by Moonies without pay, are all tax-exempt.

The young disciples, some graduates of prestigious colleges, give their free labor gladly, doing whatever they are told by their superiors in the hierarchy, in return for which they receive a responsibility-free life. They hawk the glad tidings of the new Messiah on city street comers and college campuses. Their clothes, lodgings, and thoughts are provided by the Church. A sample of Moon's wisdom, from his writings:

"I am your brain."

"What I wish must be your wish."

"My mission is to make new hearts, new persons."

"Satan is everywhere and you are vulnerable to his attack."

" ... Satan confronted Jesus, working through the Jewish people.... "

"During the second World War, 6 million people were slaughtered to cleanse all the sins of the Jewish people from the time of Jesus."

"Of all the saints sent by God, I think I am the most successful one."

"The time will come ... when my words will almost serve as law. If I ask a certain thing it will be done."

"The whole world is in my hand, and I will conquer and subjugate the world."

"By putting things in order, we can accomplish God's will. All obstacles to this world must be annihilated."

"Our strategy is to be unified into one with ourselves, and with that as the bullet we can smash the world."

Many people drift into Moon's groups after drug experiences. The emotional "high" in meetings and meditation is likened to the drug high. The evangelist group on the corner is always on the lookout for the lonely figure in the crowd. After a brief discussion, they invite the prospect to join them at an introductory lecture, enclose him in a circle of friendship. Next comes a weekend workshop, with relentless hours of indoctrination in a syncretism of Eastern mysticism, occultism, and instant psychology. The recruit is given nonstop tender, loving care. Hints are dropped about Moon's supernatural powers. Those who go on to a week-long workshop will probably stay, donate their lives to the Church, and be stamped with identical robot-like smiles. An observer, watching a prayer session, compared it to a voodoo ceremony.

Moon was a relatively late arrival on the wave that brought in planeloads of gurus from India, Japan, China, and Tibet. In their own countries they were as familiar as a bowl of rice, whereas in America they were exotic, but for all that, they caught on here as fast as franchised fast-food chains and were advertised in a similar manner, as part of the growing "growth" movement, which has become a profitable industry.

The McDonald's of that movement, as one writer called it, is TM, whose Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, with white wraps and irrepressible giggles, looks like a bearded infant, but has turned out to be cunning enough to harness "big science" by converting quantum physicists, astronauts, psychologists, and medical researchers. He has also been clever enough not to alienate parents, but has converted them as well. TM, he declares, is not a religion. Yet the initiation ceremony is Hindu, and each individual is assigned a mantra which, he is told, has special properties suitable to him alone. He is never to repeat this mantra to anyone. The initiator who assigns the mantra has only a few vital statistics to guide his choice. Those who take up TM themselves do not know -- or will not say -- how the appropriate mantras are distributed. "Maybe," one psychiatrist-convert told me, "it's done on the basis of astrological signs." One TM scientist, Dr. Harold Bloomfield, flatly declares that using the wrong mantra might kill you.

Scientology, another variation with science-fiction neologisms, has a native-born chief, L. Ron Hubbard, former science-fiction writer. His group conditions its people to believe that if you so much as oppose Scientology it might kill you. One does not drop out of such a group lightly. Some former Scientologists have met with mysterious deaths, and some enemies of Scientology -- "suppressives" or "potential trouble sources," they are called -- have been harassed. There are all sorts of unsavory rumors. Yet Father Hubbard's cupboard is far from bare. Some years ago, a reporter figured his "take" to be $140,000 a week. It has undoubtedly grown since then.

L. Ron Hubbard's most formidable competitor at the moment is an even sharper salesman who once earned his living training people to sell encyclopedias door-to-door. He was born Jack Rosenberg, but changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard. A former student of Scientology and Mind Dynamics, he eventually packaged his own "growth" elixir, called est (for Erhard Seminars Training), which uses Storm Trooper tactics to bring people to enlightenment. Est people insist that it's incorrect to think of the process as brainwashing, since no coercion is used. But if one considers brainwashing to include the breaking down of old beliefs and the systematic indoctrination in new beliefs, then est, like so many other contemporary cults, is brainwashing, and doing it successfully. The trainee has only a vague idea of what to expect when he comes for the first and second weekend seminars, because people who have been through the training are told not to spoil it for newcomers by telling them in advance what happens.

What does happen is awesome or frightening, depending on your frame of reference. Two hundred and fifty people sit in uncomfortable chairs for sixteen hours a day over two weekends, with only two breaks a day -- determined by the trainer -- for eating, going to the bathroom, smoking, talking, moving about, or note-taking. Harangued and insulted, the participants are brought to the edge of despair. Group dynamics are so skillfully manipulated as to convert them, in the end, to estian bliss. The results are impressive. People move out of static grooves, are more open and lighthearted. Why, then, feel at all uneasy? Because, as one trainee put it:

I have seen people take est and become like robots, give up their freedom, and deny their healthy instincts. These people, fortunately, are relatively few in number -- and can, I suppose, be written off as the "fringe" of followers that seem to crop up with every new group today. But they are the extreme result of what est is all about: est "trains" us to cope and adapt and follow the rules of society; it teaches us how to live and function under totalitarianism. What makes est successful is not its basic message -- which is, after all, nothing new -- but the positive response of thousands of us to the authoritarian way in which that message is packaged, sold, and practiced day to day.

This is in no way an exhaustive survey of the existing occult groups in America today. There are thousands upon thousands of others, some better known and more powerful than the ones mentioned, others hidden and secret, with a few hundred or a few thousand followers, closed to the general public. As one writer, John C. Cooper, observed in Religion in the Age of Aquarius, it's "a seller's market for anyone who comes with a vision -- no matter how myopic -- of how the universe hangs together around the groping individual." Millions of people belong to what are called "the new religions" and more are joining daily. These are not fads. On the contrary, they represent the beginning of a mass "consciousness" movement which is helping many people to solve personal and social problems. It is certainly helping the leaders of these groups to cash in on those problems. Not all are powerful personalities or charismatic figures. Some are downright repulsive. The Guru Maharaj Ji, Perfect Master of the Divine Light Mission, is a fat, blank-faced teenager with a penchant for costly possessions. His own mother renounced him and tried to promote his elder brother as savior, instead. Two of his disciples seriously wounded a newspaperman who threw a pie in the Maharaj Ji's face because he'd always wanted to throw a pie in the face of God. Adverse publicity does not seem to have affected the devotion of disciples, who still kiss his feet.

Gross or slick, ascetic or fleshpot, every leader's claims to special favor from the gods are validated by his disciples. Moon, Hubbard, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi offer photographs of themselves which disciples relate to in the same way that Catholics relate to photographs of paintings of Jesus Christ. The transition from teacher to Messiah can sometimes easily be charted. Hubbard's passage from one to the other is still not quite complete, but he is definitely in transit, according to George Malko, "off on a new tangent, rhetorically asking his followers 'Who is the Messiah?' only to answer with a parable involving a powerful, barrel-chested man with red hair," remarkably like himself.

Both Hubbard and Erhard are Machiavellian enough to be careful to wipe out potential competition when they see it in their more ambitious followers. The Messiah business has many advantages. You don't need academic training or degrees. No financial investment is necessary, and the financial rewards are unreal. No mortal work is more prestigious. Even an unexalted past is no deterrent. Moon, Hubbard, and Erhard have managed to rationalize theirs, just as nineteenth-century prophets did.

Though each group has its own distinctive style, people often move freely from one to another. Some observers have been surprised at the attraction of former radical revolutionary Rennie Davis to the Divine Light Mission. Jerry Rubin, the former Yippie leader, has sampled such a smorgasbord of cults that he's been labeled a "guru whore." If the true believer seeks to lose or validate himself in a movement, a spiritual movement can serve as well as a political one.

The spiritual and political often merge with one another. Esoteric leaders have been known to act as advisers to governments. Reverend Moon, who has enjoyed the protection of the South Korean government, prepares his disciples to be ready to lay down their lives for that government, the "fatherland" of the Unification Church. He came to America with more influence and hard cash than is usual at the beginning of religious careers. He organized a political arm in Washington, D.C., called the Freedom Leadership Foundation, which sponsored talks and publications dedicated to fighting communism in America and supporting the South Korean government. Church publications reproduce photographs of Moon taken with Senators Hubert Humphrey, James Buckley, Edward Kennedy, and Strom Thurmond. When Nixon met his Watergate, Moonies prayed for the government and held demonstrations in Washington. Moon, claiming to be under orders from God, took full-page ads in major newspapers throughout the country: "This nation is God's nation. The office of the President of the United States is therefore sacred.... God has chosen Richard Nixon to be President of the United States." With Moon's move to America, he seems to have given up the idea that the Koreans are the chosen people of the twentieth century and now bestows that honor on the Americans.

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi courts the military as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A few army generals and astronauts have become enthusiastic disciples. Major General Franklin M. Davis is excited over the prospect of getting the whole U.S. Army to meditate. It would help solve the drug problem, he believes.

To young people, the new religions are compatible with radical politics -- usually of the right -- because they view both as anti-establishment. John C. Cooper observes:

Perhaps the connecting link of politics and magic in our times is the unconscious awareness of many young people that while the external actions of a hippie spellcasting and the rhetoric and hoopla of a political convention are only window dressing, somewhere within the group, and perhaps in a way not responsive to the wishes of either the majority or the minority of those involved, decisions that will affect the course of human events are being made. When men feel that for all their hard work and all their good wishes they are cheated out of a share of control over the destiny of their group, then superstition grows in the area of man's spirit and rebellion arises in the area of man's actions.

It is significant that the modern occult groups grew out of the drug scene -- replaced it, in effect. Drugs were not just a way out of insupportable reality, but a religious experience, search, and preoccupation. It is noteworthy that contemporary gurus boast of providing the only successful means for getting young people off drugs. Either drugs or the meditation the gurus offer is a means of finding a way to feel at home in technological society without conflicting with its operation.

The drug scene, like the modern cults, had its own jargon, rituals, and communal sharing. With both, an inner core of deeply committed practitioners drew to itself a fringe of imitative onlookers who copied the lifestyles and formulas. The drug adventure has really been preempted by the spiritual search for meaning, creating the same ecstasies, visions, confusion of the senses, and synthetic paradise. Instead of passing around a joint, some young people are now chanting together. But they still live in a "holy" place completely alien to the uninitiated, who are repelled by their orgiastic delirium, and whom they accuse of not understanding because they "haven't been there."

It is significant, too, that the modern occult movement began simultaneously with America's involvement in the distasteful war in Vietnam, which intensified the feeling of impotence. The occult movement will help to prepare its followers for the "brave new world" that's coming. Many observers have already remarked on the similarity in manner of people within each individual group, and among groups in general, even those which purport to make people free. They have been compared with robots, automata, and zombies, for good reason. Despite the promise that their training will increase their capacity for alertness and their ability to face reality, the influence exerted by the group, whether intended or not, is the opposite. One cannot be successfully propagandized without losing some essential part of individual humanity. It is odd to talk with some of the cult members about a speculative point -- say, for instance, the astral plane -- and see how very wise and absolute they appear in discussing an irrational tenet which they have never examined. And when one asks "Why?" in a class in esoteric philosophy, one is told, "'Why?' is the devil's question."

No doubt, some cults really do help some people. They are frightening nonetheless. Occultists themselves are frightened. The hypnotic effect is powerful, whatever the quality of the particular leader or doctrine.

When we remember that the Nazi party arose out of the merger of mystical groups, there is cause for even more distress. These groups considered themselves sacred. Faith in a holy cause had taken possession of them. They were completely incapable of objectivity. What they did was not seen by many of them as evil. This pathological blindness convinced them that they were participating in the superhuman task of ridding the world of a menace.

There were those ambitious men, too, who saw an opportunity to advance in the hierarchy. Once they climbed to a certain height, they had a large stake in the Nazi movement. In maintaining the supremacy of the group, they had individual power. Obedience and devotion insured their success. Like the ancient Aryan conquerors of India, they created a society so structured that no citizen could do anything without official sanction. The Chandala, the lowest Aryan caste, became, figuratively, the Jew.

The Brahmins, using the authority of the Vedas, created, through the laws of Manu, a totalitarian organization which corrupted the wisdom of Eastern philosophy and so invaded every area of private Hindu life that it was impossible to go to the bathroom without obeying certain strictures. They squeezed the heart out of India. Twentieth-century Aryans, emulating the Brahmins, set up their own ideas of caste, but instead of favoring hereditary aristocracy, made it possible for the credulous, ambitious, and unscrupulous to rise to the top.

We have an opportunity, in watching contemporary groups evolve before our eyes, to recreate what must have happened in Germany before and after World War I, to fill in gaps in our understanding, and to recognize the German people as similar to ourselves. They were swept along by "prophets" like Lanz, List, and Sebottendorff. The well-to-do among them gave them financial backing, which must have reassured Lanz, List, and Sebottendorff in their beliefs in themselves as Messiahs and heralds.

Then, as now, people put their trust in a single man, revered him as a saint, loved him like a father. They were prepared to follow him into the bowels of Hell. Hitler was said to have had a magnetic personality, but this is hardly necessary, nor was he seen in this light by some of those who were immune to his message. There are leaders preaching to multitudes today who have no discernible power to attract, other than the will of people to believe in them. And no matter how ridiculous the edicts handed down from on high -- perhaps because they are ridiculous -- believers are eager to justify and rationalize.


I have been present at meetings where proselytes, presumably sane and rational, accepted without question irrational doctrines presented portentously, believing that they were receiving revealed truth.

I have also been present at a protest rally sponsored by parents who had lost their children to the Pied Piper of the Unification Church. It was a pitifully thin crowd compared with the twenty-five thousand who would appear at Yankee Stadium that same evening for Reverend Moon's rally. The parents and deprogrammed ex-Moonies spoke to the press. They repeated again and again: "You won't believe this. How could you? It's all so strange, so irrational. It sounds like science fiction. But don't kid yourself. It's really happening. You must alert people to the danger."

I didn't know if their stories had much credibility to others, but to me, after all I had learned about the Nazis, they had the ring of authenticity.

One parent told me that her daughter, a wholesome, bright, dynamic college student, had been sucked into the group by attending one of its weekends. She was idealistic. She wanted to help combat the drug problem. After one week of indoctrination, she was hooked on Moon. "I didn't recognize her when I saw her again," said her mother. "She was like a robot. She'd been thoroughly brainwashed. She'd taken on a whole set of new ideas. It was the most frightening thing you can imagine."

The brainwashing process was systematic. Trainees were taught to practice "heavenly deception" in canvassing for funds for Moon. "Heavenly deception" encompassed the use of subliminal suggestion on prospective contributors. Moonies were indoctrinated to smile in a particular way. Their parents' lives, they were told, depended on their movement. They were to save the world through their mission, and eventually they would be groomed to enter politics and take over world government.

"All we talked about was taking over," an ex-Moonie told me. "This was an army we were in. We screamed that we were heavenly bullets. We were going to take over the government and then the country without one bullet. We would take over and rule the world."

Gradually, they were made to see that their families were Satanic. Mail from home was kept from them. They were shifted about the world and kept from contact with friends and relatives. If they tried to drop out other Moonies were dispatched to bring them back. The Unification "family" was not a happy community, however it might have appeared to outsiders. Fatigued and ill-fed, they were constantly competing to meet fund-raising quotas. The rigorous program, which entailed unexpected reveilles in the middle of the night and flashlit mountain marches, sometimes led to physical accidents, which were hushed up. Moonies did not really get along with each other. Hysteria, anxiety, guilt, and terror resulted from the pressure.

The parents at the protest rally, determined to get their children back, paraded placards which read:




"Aren't they taking themselves too seriously?" one reporter asked. "Moon's group seems so innocuous."

"The Hitler Youth began by raising money, selling flowers and candy most aggressively. Parents in Germany must have felt this way about their kids," I answered. "And with good reason."

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