Brain Washing - Fritz the Cat

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Brain Washing

The marvelous complexity of all life, and especially human life, is never  brought so clearly to mind as when some small sub component goes wrong, or comes under attack from some outside agent. The AIDS virus, finding a weakness in the defenses of one tiny, small cell in the human body, leaves the body defenseless against a host of opportunistic diseases. In the Mad Cow disease, a protein like substance called prion (technically not even alive, since it can reproduce itself, but not store information) accumulates itself in the space usually occupied by brain tissue, resulting in death. The severing of the corpus collosum to control radical epilepsy results in a person being able to name an object held in his hand but out of sight, but not be able to describe the object's use. If held in the other hand the contrary situation occurs, he can describe its use but not name it. Dyslexia impairs the ability to read in  different, but to me bizarre and fascinating ways. Letters jiggle, sentences run off the page, and vowels change places, all with no apparent effect outside the world of the written word.

If the disturbance of a function allows us to marvel at the undisturbed function, it also allows us a small degree of insight into, or at least speculation about, the workings of the undisturbed function. If every trauma to a specific location in the brain results in the inability to recognize verbs, we can map that feature there, and if we note that the production of verbs is unaffected, we may assume that , that feature is located at a separate site which has yet to be located,- Deductive reasoning would allow us to infer that perhaps nouns also have separate sites for production and recognition, and so on.

With the recognition and localization of a disturbance comes the responsibility, in any rational society, to work toward a cure or prevention. Logically, the first step to a cure is to name the disease. For the purposes of this paper the peasants who lived in the area of the Chinese Communist Thought Reform camps completed that task. They spoke of a disturbance they called wash brain, what western society came to know as brainwashing.

Western authorities became aware of and greatly alarmed by the phenomena of brainwashing when western soldiers captured in the Korean War began appearing in propaganda films denouncing the American government for such thing as the use of poison gas, nerve gas, and biological weapons, all of which were proscribed by international conventions. If well trained soldiers could be made to denounce their country and claim allegiance to a foreign ideology, all in contravention to truth, honor, and discipline, then the western powers wanted to know how .it was done, both in order to train our soldiers to resist it, and to use it  against our enemies, if feasible.

At least  part of the story of the United States' effort to crack the brainwashing method is told by Harvey M. Weinstein in his book "Psychiatry and the CIA: Victims of Mind Control", (American Psychiatric Press, Washington, D.C., 1990). Weinstein's book was the result of many years Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the CIA, sponsor of the work of Dr. D. Ewen Cameron who came to head the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal, Canada. Weinstein's father was institutionalized there under Dr. Cameron's care, suffering from depression. His condition deteriorated so drastically that Weinstein became a psychiatrist in order to understand his father's mental problems. It was only through a chance encounter of a newspaper article that Weinstein became awe.4.df the Allen Institute's dark side, leading to his long investigation. Weinstein’s father was subjected to years of shock treatment, injection with experimental drugs, sleep deprivation, and other psychiatric abuses that could only be categorized as torture. A11 in an effort to duplicate the results achieved in the North Korean prison camps. His efforts were not successful. Revealingly, upon Cameron's death his son burned all his notes and  working papers.

If the East was successful where the West was not it was mostly due to the Communist's direct experience of a centuries old tradition of Western interrogation methods, while the nabobs of the CIA and the American Psychiatric Association could only grope in the dark. The story goes that the Chinese Communists actually brainwashed the American prisoners. They learned the tricks of their trade from the Russian Communists, who were on the receiving end of the Czar's, secrete police's interrogation techniques, and after the revolution were able to employ many of their former tormentors. The Czar's agents had been instructed by a certain order of the Russian Orthodox Church, who kept in post-Schism contact with the Roman Catholic Church, who, during the Spanish Inquisition, refined and systematized an already old, but crude procedure.

To my knowledge, no concordance, instruction book, or kill and tell written confession has ever been found describing brainwashing from an interrogator's point of view. Quite possibly there is no written record, since the soul (or mind, if you will) of man is supposed to be sacrosanct, a matter between a man and his maker, and to be guided, but not destroyed and rebuilt by either church or state. Should proof, or even word, of such manipulation on ever leak out it would not only give aid and comfort to the enemy (capitalists, protestants, or whoever), but would also send intelligence and counter intelligence agents of the opposition scurrying into a flurry of activity to develop measures and counter measures of their own.

My source of information comes from a series of books by Robert J. Lifton M.D., professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University. After American prisoners of war began signing false confessions and betraying their country, the American government commissioned Lifton to investigate the phenomena with the objective of preparing our soldiers to better resist indoctrination. Lifton came to the conclusion that though brainwashing is a long and difficult process, and that although there are techniques that can be used to prolong resistance, in the end each man has his breaking point, and that if the interrogator is sufficiently determined, that point .will be reached. No charges of any kind were ever brought by the U.S. government against any of the men who signed false confessions.

"Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism A Study of Brainwashing in China"
Robert J. Lifton M.D. Uni. Of North Carolina Press
Chapel Hill and London 1989
Orig. published 1961 by W.W. Norton and Co.
The following is a review of parts of this book.

Robert J. Lifton's study of Chinese brainwashing was made in response to denunciations of the U.S. government and false confessions made by U.S. soldiers during their captivity as prisoners of war during the Korean Conflict. The study was made at the request of the U.S. government. He did not study the soldiers, however. They were either unavailable or under treatment by U.S. Army doctors. Lifton's subjects were European priests, doctors, and business people who remained in China after the Communist takeover. The Communists wanted no potential fifth columnists behind their lines and sent them to re-education camps where they joined Chinese citizens with a bourgeois background, foreign travel, higher education, or anything else the communists thought would make them potentially undependable.

Lifton set up shop in Hong Kong, China's point of contact with the world. His credentials and contacts allowed him to speak with the former prisoners almost as soon as they were released. All freely gave their consent to the interview, as they were all very confused as to what had happened to them. All of them suffered from varying degrees of fright, and sought assurance that they would not somehow be sent back for more re-education.

Lifton was able to study 25 westerners, and all were subjected to the same general sequence of psychological pressures. In each case the Communists made  it clear that that the "reactionary spy" who entered prison must perish, and that in his place must arise a "new man", resurrected in the communist mold. Their procedure can be broken down into 11 general steps.

1. The assault on identity.
From the beginning the prisoners were told that they were not who they pretended to be, but rather imperialist spies. Backing up this assertion were confusing but incriminating interrogations, "struggles" in which groups of prisoners in advanced stages of indoctrination screamed abuse at the target prisoners in order to curry favor with the administrators. The object was to reduce the prisoner to a state of near infancy where he was helpless in the face of his stronger "trainers".

Part of this assault on the mind entailed an assault on the body. Near starvation diets, sleep deprivation, where the subjects were never fully asleep or fully awake, but in an in between "hypnogogic" state, physical torture such as being kept in chains, or being forced to remain in one position without moving for many hours, and beatings, impressed on the target prisoner his helplessness and dependency. Behind everything lay the threat of "total annihilation" by firing squad. Any attempt by the target to assert his adult selfhood called for renewed assaults. The undermining of identity is the stroke through which the prisoner "dies to the world", the prerequisite to all that follows.

2. The establishment of guilt.
The targets find themselves unanimously condemned by an "infallible" environment. Day and night the message they received was both existential (you are guilty) and psychologically demanding (you must learn to feel guilty), until gradually the target came to feel that the punishment was deserved and that more was to be expected. At this point guilt was still free floating, no specific crime had yet been confessed.

3. The self-betrayal
At some point, in order to end the physical and psychological abuse, the target begins to denounce friends and associates, not only increasing feelings of guilt and shame, but subjectively "burning his bridges" to his former life. Self-betrayal (by betraying others) becomes a means of survival. The denunciations to one's captors comes to make psychological contact with any of the similar feelings towards friends and associates (doubts, antagonisms, ambivalences) which each of us harbors below the surface of our loyalties.

4. The breaking point. Total conflict and basic fear.
It is as if the target were suddenly taken from his daily routine and placed in a hospital for the criminally insane where he is accused of some horrendous but vague crime which he is expected to recognize and confess, where his assertion of innocence is viewed as a symptom of his disease, and where every other inmate/patient is wholly dedicated to the task of pressuring him into a confession and "cure". The target's increasing self-betrayal, sense of guilt, and his loss of identity all tend to estrange him from the self he has known. He can contemplate the future only with hopelessness and dread. Literally and emotionally there seems to be no escape.

The threats and accusations from without combined with the destructive emotions stimulated within eventually lead to a level of anxiety where death would seem a welcome relief. Some prisoners become suicidal at this point. Others experience delusions and hallucinations usually associated with psychosis. Some level of this anxiety remained with the prisoners throughout their confinement, and in some cases, for a long time afterwards. The target's immediate prospect seemed to be illness, psychosis, or death. If death is to remain symbolic, and psychic damage kept from progressing beyond the reversible stage, some form of desperately needed relief must be supplied.

5. Leniency and opportunity.
Just as the target is nearing his breaking point, the institution lets up its pressure sufficiently for the target to absorb its principles and adapt himself to them. He is given the chance to learn and to act upon what is expected of him. He is given rest, kindness and a glimpse of the promised land of renewed identity, acceptance and even freedom. The psychological decompression of his environment serves to win him over to the reform camp. He becomes a grateful partner in his own reform. At this time formal re-education through group study is begun.

6. The compulsion to confess.
From the beginning the dominant message of the milieu has been that only those who confess can survive. Once this has been accepted, the target often begins making false confessions. For a while this is tolerated to get the target into the habit of confession. Soon, however, these are rejected in mass, and the target must improve or face renewed terror. Often the next step is to simply confess everything, the worse the better. He thus moves beyond mere playing at being a criminal, and comes to accept the two basic identities of thought reform.

The first is the identity of the repentant sinner. The target in effect says, "I must locate this evil part of me, and remove it lest it remain and cause me more harm". This leads directly to the second identity, that of the receptive criminal, the person who is, at whatever level of consciousness, not only beginning to concur with the environment's legal and moral judgment of him, but also to commit himself to acquiring the beliefs, values, and identities officially deemed desirable.
One empties one's self of one's old thoughts and emotions by confessing them. This is done to make room for new thoughts and emotions. This process continually gathers momentum. His captors painstakingly and selectively mold the target's confessions. Together they carve out a void in his psyche, to be refilled by his captors.

7. The channeling of guilt.
Once the compulsion to confess is operating the target is ready to learn a more precise formula, thought reforms conceptual framework for his expression of guilt and repentance. His sense of evil, formerly vague and free floating is now made to do specific work for reform. Some of his confessions come from weak spots in his psyche. Perhaps they touch on actual guilty feelings regarding past doubts, jealousies, uncharitable thoughts or actions towards his
associates. The interrogator, trained to spot weaknesses, focuses on these materials. Past events are reinterpreted in ways that make him think that perhaps he is guilty of the things he confessed. He is led to believe that had he been operating under the "group" mentality he would not have done the guilty acts. He is changed from a person who merely feels guilty to one who feels guilty about exactly those things the environment considers criminal.

8. Re-education: logical dishonoring
Re-education has been going on to some degree since the beginning of capture, but in this phase it is not the captor's doctrine that is to be learned, but rather learning to use the captor's doctrine and reasoning techniques to broaden the target's own self exposure.
It is also no longer sufficient to admit guilt, to feel guilty, or even to recognize specific guilty actions. The target has to extend his self-condemnations to every aspect of his being, and learn to see his life as a series of shameful and evil acts - shameful and evil not only in their possible opposition to the captor's system, but also because the target violated his own cherished ideals.

By this time the captor has a large store of guilty secrets that the target holds. By exaggerating these negative aspects (aspects which every human shares) and the targets inability to live up to his own creed, the target comes to doubt his more positive self-image.

The guilt and shame which the target faces at this step is much more profound and threatening than any he has faced thus far. Under attack is the deepest meaning of his entire life. These deficiencies and shortcomings are then explained in terms of the captor's ideology, usually easy enough, since the captor has been guiding and directing the confessions. Thus, the target's negative self-image and the captor's ideology become inseparable.

The realignment of negation and affirmation within one's identity requires constant repetition. This is the essence of re-education. The target must analyze the causes of his deficiencies, and work through his resistances until he feels and thinks in terms of the doctrinal truths to which his life has been reduced. In the process he may, be guided by a particular "instructor" who has special charge of his case, has all of his records, and conducts many interviews with him. The target's strengths and weaknesses first become well known to this instructor, then to other officials as well, and are effectively used in the undermining process.

Although we have been talking more about breakdown than rebuilding up to this point, the rebuilding has been well under way. Even under the earliest stages of identity assault and the compulsion to confess the target feels stirrings of restitution. The buildup of his negative identity, along with his developing acceptance of the imposed doctrine, provides the first contours of something new. The target at first announces his own demise, but as his re proceeds, he finds himself first announcing, then experiencing, the refashioned identity, which is emerging.

9. Progress and harmony
The target's identity is formed through a process of gradual adaptation to the captor's doctrine, thus allowing the instructor to give the target the acceptance and recognition that is the emotional nutrient the new identity needs if it is to continue to develop. The target finds himself able to solve problems in terms of his new ideology; live, work, and suffer with a likeminded group; surrender himself to an all-powerful force; experience the catharsis of personal confession; and share in the moral righteousness of his new faith. The target's standard of living improves with his progress. Consideration is now given to his feelings, and he is allowed to express doubts and criticisms. The fear and alienation felt at the beginning of the process is replaced by a feeling of humanness. The target is still acting, but performance and life have moved closer together, and he is not acting as much as he thinks he is.

10. Final confession and summing up.
The target has made many confessions up to now. The first were close approximations to his former reality and got no positive acceptance from his controller. Physical and mental abuse and threats, sleep deprivation, and inadequate food, lead to a .taro where the subject confesses wildly and denounces hither and yon. This results in the instructor allowing a tiny bit of light to be seen at the end of the tunnel. Next actual events are given the worst possible interpretation, and friends and associates are involved. Finally, the confession is organized into specific points in an acceptable self-damning fashion. Though the controller has manipulated the confession sequence, in the mind of the target the confessions have been a way of sustaining -life, and so have a reality of their own. At some level he has come to believe his confession.

11. Rebirth.
The process of rebirth is now at hand. The target's old identity is guilty of being to weak to resist self-betrayal. His new identity has proven strong enough to secure him a comfortable standard of living and, in some sense, to save his life. He has betrayed his family and friends, making life with them problematic. On the other hand, he has accepted and is accepted by his controller. It is easier to remain with his new identity than to return to his old one.

It unfortunately requires no large leaps of faith or flights of fancy to imagine the sequence of events I've just described as happening, and even happening to one's self. Brainwashing is something which modern man must take into consideration. It is history. Once under the absolute control of an adept administrator, each step down into the abyss of personality destruction is the logical outcome of the psychology of the previous step. It will happen like clockwork.

Once the target's will is broken there is only constant fear, confusion, and guilt. He is under the control of people who know everything about him and have absolute power over him. His life is a nightmare on the edge of either madness or, perhaps, in one last burst of will power, self-destruction. The screws must be loosened if the controllers are to reach their goal, a slave who is, in some manner of speaking, willing.

The return from the abyss brings one ever closer to light and air. Finally the Diaspora of endless disapproval is gone. One has the pleasure of pleasing someone. After such a long period of fear and rejection, the smallest trace of good will brings immeasurably disproportionate joy and hope. One is becoming human again. Beside this great fact, what can it matter if one is becoming a different human?

But it is not just a matter of "I used to be Joe, and now I'm Jack", or "I used to be right handed and now I'm left handed", or even "I used to be an extrovert, but now I'm an introvert". It is a matter of "I used to think for myself, but now someone else thinks for me", or "I used to be an adult, but now I'm a child."

Of course no such thoughts are allowed to enter the mind of the "new man". The only permissible thought is "I must", for even though the controllers have returned the subject to humanity, it is not full humanity. Any sign of independence is severely punished. He is not a whole man. His will belongs to another.

In the first part of the paper we saw how an armed group who had seized power in a country could use some very old methods of psychological manipulation to consolidate and deepen their control, using the so called "science of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tong thought" as a front to shield and legitimize an intrinsically unethical and evil undertaking.
In the second part I hope to show that very similar psychological manipulation is at the heart of many modern day religious cults. I will again be following Robert J. Lifton, reviewing his findings from two more books:

Destroying the World to Save It  The Future of Immortality
Metropolitan Books  Basic Books
Henry Holt and Co.  N.Y. 1987
N.Y.  1999

The Chinese Communists imprisoned people and put them in chains. It is problematic when cults do that. They must at least persuade them to join. Often Messianic or Apocalyptic visions are offered, playing on people's wishful thinking and desire to be part of the elect.

Lifton has identified three characteristics of cults, which I will list first:

1. A charismatic leader who increasingly becomes the object of worship.
2. A series of processes that can be associated with "thought reform" or "coercive persuasion".
3. A tendency toward manipulation from above, with exploitation, (Economic, sexual, or other) of genuine seekers, who bring idealism from below (as ordinary supplicants or recruits).

Lifton has also identified eight psychological patterns, or characteristic processes of cults:
1. Milieu control. This is essentially control of information within an environment. Communication is monopolized and orchestrated, so that reality becomes the group's exclusive possession. If this is extremely intense, it becomes internalized control, an attempt to control an individual's internal communication. This can never be fully achieved, but it can go rather far.

2. Mystical manipulations, or planned spontaneity. Systematic hidden maneuvers legitimize all sorts of lies and deceptions in the service of higher mystical truths. Fasting, chanting, and limited sleep are used in the service of the cult dogma that only it can lead to God. This leads to the "psychology of the pawn".

3. Demand for purity, an insistence on the absolute separation of pure and impure, good and evil, in the world in general and within each person. Only the guru can be said to be completely pure. Disciples, even the highest ones, are engaged in the perpetual Sisyphean struggle for purity, their guilt and shame mechanisms taken over by the cult, if not the guru himself.

4. Ethos of confession. Which ties in with the demand for purity. This provides a mechanism for consistently negative self-evaluations.

5. Special access to a sacred science. What is understood to be the ultimate in spiritual truths also become the ultimate in the science of human behavior. This offers considerable security because of the way it simplifies the world

6. A "loading of the language" in which words become limited to those which confirm the prevailing ideological claims, (cult "truths" vs. outside "defilement"). There is a lateralization of the language. Words and images become God. There is enormous appeal and psychological power in a simplified language. Every issue in a young and often complicated life can be reduced to a simple set of principles that have an inner coherence. There is a cliché or slogan to which most complex questions can be reduced.

7. Dogma over person. This requires that all private perception be subordinate to ideological claims. There should be no conflict between what dogma says you should feel and what you actually experience. The internalized message in totalistic environments is that one should find the truth of the dogma and subject one's experience to that truth. One is made to feel that doubts are a reflection of one's own evil, leading to guilt.

8. Dispensation of existence. This is usually metaphorical. Those who do not embrace (your version of) the truth are somehow bound up with evil, are tainted, and do not have the right to exist. In believers, this leads to great satisfaction in being part of the elite.

Karl Marx characterized religion as "opium for the masses". It remains an apt metaphor. Opium is still the best painkiller known, and religion as helped countless souls bear the unbearable in a world that often seems bent on crushing us. Opium takes us far away where we can float in a warm ocean and dream of things that never were, yet may be. Religion has inspired the dreams of poets and saints and charted an audacious course to a place better than the one we live in. Opium has enslaved, destroyed, fed the power of the worst of humanity, and made people wish they were dead, and so has religion. In short, there is good and bad in every genuine religion, and since every religion started as a cult, in every genuine cult as well. Those seeking salvation may be making a pact with the devil. If you start down that road, stay alert for the bad, but keep yourself open to the good.

Primitive people often sought religious visions through various combinations of fasting, sleep and sensory deprivation, chanting, music, mortification of the body, psychoactive plants, rhythmic breathing, and meditation. These practices all remain today, but mostly without religious significance.

What all these practices held in common for primitive man was that they created religious feelings. That was their purpose. Primitive man didn't dance to meet a mate, meditate to relieve tension, pierce his body to be part of a crowd, or fast to loose weight. He did all these things and more to help him find higher spiritual powers, to help him feel his higher spiritual powers. Ask him what he was thinking about when he was engaged in these rituals and he will tell you that he wasn't thinking. He was trying to make contact with his god.

Thinking and feeling don't mix. You do one or the other. Thinking is done  with the neo-cortex, our human brain. Feeling is done farther down, in our animal brain. Ask a Buddhist "does a dog have Buddha nature?" and he'll answer that all sentient life has Buddha nature". Sentient means feeling. All feeling beings have Buddha nature. If a worm can feel, he can feel his god, and since there is only one god, he can feel your god, too. That's why good Buddhists are vegetarians.

God is truth is reality. All three are a matter of opinion, and subject to debate. The existence of god was once as certain as the fact that the sun revolved around the earth. The truth is in the ever-increasing tension between the sure knowledge of something and certain ambiguous data, like Jupiter's moons and the retrocession of the planets.

Lay people began to question the priest's description of god when scientists showed the priest's description of the earth to be flawed. The old myths gave way to the new myths, but scientists refused the challenge of religions deeper riddles, and lay people were left hungry.

Religion is not a matter of the intellect. Religious feelings have always  been prior to religious beliefs. The latter are based on the former. A feeling bubbles up from the animal brain (or subconscious if you will), appearing to the conscious brain as an image or vision. In trying to explain the vision to itself, the consciousness uses metaphor, poetry, symbols, paradox, and whatever else the imagination can bring to bear on the subject. But always the vision floats just out of consciousness' grasp, like truth, reality, and god.

Primitive man, as mentioned earlier, used many methods to reach down into his animal brain for the feelings which would engender the visions which he could then symbolize in ways that would help him give meaning to the unknowable facets of life. The people who were most adept at this became priests and  shamans. Religion eventually became rationalized, but in moving away from feelings religion lost its reality, its truth, and its god.

Cults return us to the realm of feeling, and that is their power, their glory, and their danger. When your guru tells you that what you are feeling is the presence of god, keep a close eye on your purse, keep your clothes on, and try to figure out where that feeling might be coming from, where it might take you, and what meaning it might have for your life.

Aum Shinri Kyo, an apocalyptic Buddhist sect, with a claimed 10,000 disciples in Japan, 30,000 disciples in Russia, $29 million in assets, ties to Russian organized crime and the former KGB, and an extensive nerve gas and biological weapons production capacity when the Japanese government disbanded it, has to be one of the more successful modern cults.

Its founder, Shoko Asahara (birth name Chizuo Asahara), was born partially blind to poor parents in 1955. After a felony conviction for selling quack health remedies, and a disappointing spiritual search, he founded his own church. In 1985 he claimed a visitation by the Hindu god Shiva, and began to claim special powers, such as levitation. This got him publicity in an occult journal, and membership began to increase in his church. He recruited through traditional means, such as pamphleteering on street corners, and also had a string of noodle shops and a few computer stores where he spread his message. He also reportedly used psychedelic and mind altering drugs in his recruitment efforts. For a fuller report on Aum history go to:

Aum strongly emphasized teachings related to emancipation (transcending life and death) and enlightenment (absolute freedom, absolute joy), both of which were vaguely defined. Special rites for disciple's spiritual advancement required a significant donation.

Lower level disciples tended to be alienated from society, somewhat isolated from others, attracted to occult forms of religious experience, and struggling to extract themselves from strong feelings of dependency on their families. They were often at confusing points of transition in their lives. Asahara himself showed a genuine religious talent, but employed a con man style that required constant falsification (both conscious lying and self-deception). He made moral claims that justified mass murder, and had a tendency towards paranoia. He gave his disciples a constant stream of shifting predictions, and a lurid description of the sequence of events by which the world would end, feeding hope, fear, paranoia, and never allowing guru or disciples to rest.

There was considerable violence, even in the training procedures, to which the disciples could be subjected. The higher-level disciples, the so-called "renunciates" generally only slept for three hours a night. One disciple, whose ambivalence was recognized, was kept confined in a small cell and subjected to an initiation that took the form of a coercive truth extraction: "They brainwash you by giving you the drug they use in operations (probably thiopental).... you don't remember what is said, but when they ask you question, the answer just pops see if you have any lingering attachments to the outside world... Then I was to continue to chant my resolve." This was both a "narco initiation" and a "resolve initiation" in which the disciple had to continuously chant his deficiencies and his determination to overcome his failure to absorb Aum's full message. The "new narco" consisted of a series of thiopental, producing a semi comatose state, followed by a series of five to seven electric shocks, followed by more thiopental and further interrogation to determine the degree of memory loss.

Asahara was a megalomaniac who spoke constantly of his virtues. A sense of incompleteness in the face of the guru's imagined perfection left the disciples vulnerable to endless self-condemnation, and feelings of guilt and shame.

This sounds very much to me like the "destruction of personality phase of brainwashing procedure seen in the first section, the main difference being that in the cultic situation a religious motivation is necessary to replace the bars and chains of the prison setting. The guru's lurid description of the end of the world supplies fear, a necessary ingredient of the witch's brew of psychological forces that will rearrange the wiring of the brain.

Later, when the disciple is more deeply involved, the feeling of superiority and of being one of the chosen people will keep the disciple involved when common sense would tell him to reject such harsh discipline. The "psychology of the pawn" and "mystical manipulation" comes increasingly into play, legitimating his physical abuse and economic exploitation in the name of his spiritual advancement. This legitimization does not ameliorate the fear. Fear is necessary to the process. The more fear the more successful the rewiring of the  brain.

Asahara's shifting predictions, along with the personality types who showed up at his door (alienated, somewhat isolated, at a confusing point in their lives) provided the degree of confusion necessary, which in the Korean prison camp procedure had been provided by the target's inability to determine exactly what it was they were to confess.

Asahara had surely brainwashed his disciples. They participated in an immoral plot t9 inflict mass murder on their fellow countrymen, all on the basis of one man's rather ludicrous story. We have seen that the element of fear was present, as well as the emotions of confusion and shame. In addition there was the "narco initiation" and the "resolve initiation" for slow learners, and if mind altering drugs were present in the recruitment process, why not in the initiation process?

Was this enough to rewire the brain without the "struggle" process that played such a large part in Chinese Communist brainwashing? The "struggle" process was part of the first step in the "destruction of personality" phase, in which the target had abuse and accusations hurled at him constantly from all sides in order to render him childlike and helpless in the face of manipulations of his stronger "trainer".

One of the things that Asahara had that the Communists didn't was willing participants. Asahara's disciples wanted to destroy their old personalities and become clones of Asahara. To help them in this endeavor Asahara had them meditate on the concepts of "emptiness" and "nothingness", two traditional Buddhist concepts which are used to help clear the mind of thought and desire, even the thought of not thinking and the desire to be desire-less.

To these traditional concepts Asahara added the proviso that the empty mind should receive Asahara's will and desire. He assured them that the fastest way to enlightenment was to become like an innocent child and absorb everything he said or did. As one disciple reported, "My true self was something pure, childlike, really like a baby... (later) There was a feeling of nothingness, only consciousness, really a marvelous feeling. And then, strangely, there were things I wanted to ask Asahara. And when I thought of a question I wanted to ask Asahara, the answer came right back. I was Asahara at that point".

It is as a U.S. disciple of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh commented: "Those who dismiss "evil cults" have no idea how rapturous this state can be", suggesting that such a state can be addictive. It is what William James, in his classic "Varieties of Religious Experience" called the "joy which may result...from absolute self-surrender... so intense that time and death disappear".

As we have seen Aum strongly emphasized teaching related to "emancipation" (transcending life and death) and enlightenment (absolute freedom, absolute happiness), both vaguely defined. If, as James assures us, self-surrender can result in a joy so intense that death disappears, can we blame Asahara from claiming that he has delivered his followers from death? And if becoming a clone can be described as "marvelous" and "rapturous", can we blame Asahara for claiming to deliver "enlightenment"?
Asahara created a church full of willing slaves, who weren't even aware of the fact. If someone voluntarily becomes an "innocent child" should you or I care? After all, fornication with your spiritual children is not against the law. And neither is the economic exploitation of your children, as long as your children are adults. If only the madness could be kept within the church.

We will finish with Lifton by taking a brief look at a section from another of his books:

The Future of Immortality  Robert J. Lifton
Basic Books  N.Y.  1987

Doubling: The Faustian Bargain
In this section of the book Lifton looks at cruelty from the perspective of the perpetrator. How is it that a person is able to inflict extreme cruelty on a person and still remain human? Lifton find that one way is through the psychological device of "doubling", or what William James calls the "divided self". In it the personality is divided into two parts, one part murders, tortures, or brainwashes, and then the other part takes over so the person can go home and play with the children after supper.

When Lifton studied the Nazi movement for the U.S. government after W.W.II, he found two ways that a double could be created. The first way was very dramatic and often infused with a sense of the transcendent, with torch light parades, giant rallies, flowing banners, and a speech by the Furher. The true believer became like someone entering a religious order, who must now divest himself of his past and be reborn into a new European race.

The second way was more typical of the late -arriver, who must forge his second self in the heat of whatever cruelty he found himself part. This doubling took the form of a series of slippery slope compromises: The slow emergence of a functional "Nazi self" through a series of destructive actions, at first agreed to reluctantly, followed by a series of assigned tasks, each more incriminating, if not more murderous, than the last.

Otto Rank, after an extensive study of literature and folklore, decided that the double was formed when the burden of guilt becomes so great that the ego in effect makes a diabolical pact, creating a double that takes responsibility for the evil acts. But diabolical pacts often run amok, and the "second self" frequently becomes the usurper from within, and forces the "first self" into a subSidiary position.

Here we must leave Lifton. He is the authority on brainwashing. In his statement on ideological totalism he stated that an ideology frequently retains its disciples in an environment that may constitute brainwashing. Aum was obviously one of these. If "doubling" is a form of brainwashing, then the Nazi party adds one more crime to its list.

I will take a brief look at Eastern Religions in the context of brainwashing with the help of the following book:

Zen and the Way of the Sword  Winston L. King
Oxford University Press  1993

Zen is usually associated with Buddhism, although it seems to be somewhat parasitical on that faith. As King says toward the end of the book, "Zen seems to be primarily a psychological technique for maximizing visceral energies, whatever their orientation".

Zen has no ethical content of its own. It is impatient with intellectual activity in general, believing only in visceral intuitive rightness. It is a religion of the will, and can be wedded to any political or economic ideology,  serving any master that happens to be dominant at the time and place that Zen is

The heart of Zen is the "koan", and the Zen scripture is the collections of these koans and the various commentaries on them. The commentaries, of course, have as little use for intellectual understanding as do the koans themselves. The disciple is given a koan to ponder, and told to return to the meditation master at a certain time to report what he has learned. The koan has no intellectual content, and any disciple who hopes to please the meditation master with a reply based on a rational understanding of the koan is roundly abused for his mistake. Indeed, it is possible to read accounts Ercm throughout the centuries of the near terror with which at least the newish mediator faced the ordeal of the interview with the meditation master.
On the other hand, disciples have been praised for striking their master in answer to a koan. One disciple won approval by kicking over a glass of water when asked to show the meaning of water. Probably the most famous koan in the West is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?". Famous in the East is "Show me the meaning of Mu", Mu being an ideograph of the Chinese language.

The following is a description of the solution to the Mu koan by the Zen master Hukunin. For Hukunin there was no substitute for the lengthy concentrated work on some koan until it became a life-mind threatening "mass of doubt".
"When the Great Doubt actualizes itself in a man in its immediacy there is a sweeping, infinite expanse of emptiness, and a boundless void in all directions. It is neither life, nor is it being seated in a translucent flask of glass...In his heart there is not the smallest grain of deceptive, discriminating mind, there is only the single character, Mu.

If in such a moment there is no arousing of fear or adding of intellectual knowing, and he advances a single breath without turning back; then suddenly...he will experience such a great joy as he has never known or even heard of...".
The solution to a kban is not a verbal response or even a physical action. It is enlightenment. When the rational brain is immersed to the point of drowning in a problem it is in no way equipped to solve, the irre,tional brain is enabled to leap to the surface, bringing with it the ecstasy that is its trademark.

Just as Zen attached itself to Buddhism, it made strategic alliances with the martial arts traditions. Zen became one more arrow in the archer's quiver, one more step in the swordsman's dance with death.

The archer shoots countless thousands of arrows at the target. A11 the time the koan keeps the rational mind at the absolute breaking point, while the irrational mind draws, aims, and releases the arrow. When the trained archer goes into combat, the rational mind goes to the place where the koan taught it to rest. Then no fear or doubt deflects the archer's aim. It is no longer the archer as consciously-intending-to-shoot-person who shoots the arrow, but it releases the arrow.

This is similar to the egolessness of the swordsman in whom all sense of "my" action is gone, and "it, trained selflessness", acts. The swordsman becomes an indifferent onlooker of the fatal drama of life and death in which he is the most active participant.

In the following we read D.T. Suzuki's view of Zen Truth; "Zen did not necessarily argue about immortality of the soul or righteousness or the divine way of ethical conduct, but simply urged the going ahead with whatever conclusion, rational or irrational, a man had arrived at. Philosophy may be safely left behind with the intellectual mind; Zen wants to act, and the most effective act, once the mind is made up, is to go on without looking backward." In this respect Zen was truly the religion of the Samurai warrior.

Zen produced ecstatic states, self-surrender, and the divided self from the same cauldron of psychological forces we have seen throughout this paper. The ecstatic state made the disciple think he had found the truth to which he could devote himself. He surrendered his self to the desires and wishes of another, and the divided self-kept him from thinking too much about the things the self he had surrendered had done.

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