Dreams

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At least once a month I dream about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Usually I am at a meeting or assembly wondering why I am attending when I don’t believe anymore. The fact that I am disfellowshipped is always present in my dreams. I am treated differently in each dream. Some JW’s talk to me, some don’t, some are terrified of me.

Roy is always expressing surprise that I should dream about them so much. Apparently, he never does.

Last night, I dreamed I was associating with a JW family who seemed bent on converting me. They didn’t know I was an exjw and I enjoyed being part of a community again. The husband and wife were very kind and hospitable…at first. As the dream went on it became more and more apparent that they wanted something from me. The kindness soon turned to madness. They made it very clear what was expected of me in return for their hospitality. I tried to tell them I was a Df’d ex-JW. They acted like they didn’t hear me. Then I tried to use reason and point out that nobody would want to join their organization because the members were obviously bat-shit crazy. This didn’t get through either. Finally, I shoved the pentagram I wear around my neck in their face and shouted, “I am a witch and an apostate!” They gasped in horror and shrank away from me like they were vampires and I was wielding a crucifix. I turned and bolted for the parking lot only to find my car wasn’t where I had parked it. I saw a mob of large, angry JW men coming after me. I could see violence and hatred in their eyes. I started to run. I couldn’t find my car. The mob was descending. I knew they meant to harm me.

I woke up.

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was in my best friend’s house. We had been inseparable when I was 17-20 years old. I spent a lot of time in that house and was visiting it to see some work that was being done. In the dream I was Df’d, like always. There were crowds of JW’s around me. Some would turn their backs on me when I would approach. Children would break out in hysterical screams if I got too close. I happened to walk by a group of JW’s who were huddled together. From their gray, indistinguishable midst stepped someone I knew. She walked up to me and gave me a hug. She told me how much she had missed me, and how she always loved me. I thanked her for her kindness. I knew she faced the judgment of others just by approaching me and I was honored by her gesture.

I woke up wondering why hers was the only face I could put a name to. Then it occurred to me–was it possible she was dead? I read a book recently by Mary Ann Winkowski called When Ghosts Speak. Mary Ann is a medium who can talk with earthbound spirits. She says that many spirits stick around after they die and neglect to cross over. But the surest way to know if a spirit has crossed over is if they appear in our dreams, which is how they communicate with us from the other side.

I have never had a dream about this particular person I will call Sandy. We travelled to New York together in 1996. She threw me my bridal shower in 2002. I loved her and valued her, but hadn’t seen her in years. I knew her health hadn’t been good. But that’s all I knew.

I contacted a mutual friend on Facebook and found out Sandy had died a few days before.

I felt like Sandy had given me a wonderful gift! It warms my heart to receive validation and love from the other side. She didn’t need to give me that message. I’m not even family. But I wonder if part of the reason I received that message wasn’t because I was the only one open to it. Her entire family is still very much in the collective JW consciousness. I heard Sandy. I recognized the message for what it’s worth, and I honor her for going to the effort to deliver it.

The world really is a magical place!

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Lurkers Are Welcome!

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On February 14, 2012, I published a blog here called, “Lurkers Beware!” It was in response to some contact we had received from a friend who was still a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He thought Jehovah had directed him to contact us and try to save us from abandoning the “only true religion.” Once he realized he couldn’t convince us to “return to the fold,” he said his final goodbyes claiming we no longer had anything in common. Forget the fact that he and Roy still had a lot in common. All they ever did was discuss history and the Civil War. But because we could no longer worship in the same way as he, we were no longer deserving of his association.

I couldn’t let the situation rest though. I would not let him get in the last word. So, I sent him a message, unsigned. I didn’t want him knowing it was from me, I wanted him to think it was my husband whose opinion mattered more to him. I said, “As we are, you will be. Soon you will tire of the lies and hypocrisy. When that happens, you know where to find me.”

I didn’t realize till much later, but as a practicing witch, those words sounded remarkably like a spell. I didn’t light any candles, or cast any circles. I simply had my emotions to back-up my intention.

Exactly one year later, this soon-to-be Ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacted us and told us his story. He spoke of witch hunts, lying, manipulation and injustice within the organization. He spoke of being railroaded by false testimonies and a body of elders who wanted him out of their ranks. It was disastrous. He stepped down as an elder just before they disfellowshipped him for drinking–in spite of the fact that he brought witnesses forward that testified he was not drunk.

His family was torn apart. Everything they had ever known and valued was ripped out from under him in a matter of a few weeks.

That was a little more than a year ago. He has come to realize that the JW’s actually did him a favor by severing the tie. He and his family no longer want anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I’d like to think we helped a little, but I believe the Universe did the bulk of the work. Some people leave willingly, others need to be kicked in the backside. It’s a wonderful thing when someone gets the opportunity to start all over again with a clean slate. It’s a gift.

I admitted it was me that sent that last email. He admitted he couldn’t get it out of his head. Roy has his friend back and they text continually about history, the Civil War, and why they are grateful to be out of the Watchtower organization.

Happy endings can occur. Not everyone will leave that religion, but I believe as time goes on that more and more people will start to recognize the lies. We live in an age of information. It is getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Even as a JW, my limit was 2014. I knew if Armageddon hadn’t come by then (100 years after the JW’s claimed Jesus took his throne in heaven), then it wasn’t going to come and I was going to stop wasting my time. I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Once October passes (an auspicious month for JW’s), I believe we will see a mass exodus similar to the years following 1975 (the last time they tried predicting Armageddon).

I now have a small circle of family and friends who have left the JW religion. We love buying presents for each other and wishing one another Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas! We are like adolescents, learning new things, like how to make special brownies or smoke a pipe, and how to sing The National Anthem or wrap a present. We may not fit entirely into the world-at-large, but we can finally rejoice in the knowledge that we have the freedom to choose.

 

Coffee Mulling

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I am sitting in Starbucks on a Friday morning, between two occupied tables. From one I hear shop-talk–a couple insurance salespeople talking figures. The table behind me is occupied by two women chatting. Their voices fade into the cacophony of shouted orders and scattered conversation. All I hear from them is the occasional expletive, “Awesome!” followed by the fake laugh women do so well in each other’s company. Two men sit nearby on their laptops. Both are dressed in charcoal suits with identical white shirts and ties. I can’t tell if they know each other but I assume they do.

One of the guys with the laptop is wearing Brut aftershave. My first love wore Brut. Though cologne can alter depending on the chemistry of its wearer, this man smells just like Jeremy did. Jeremy. This February 5th he will be dead 18 years. Dead the exact number of years he lived. The wafting cologne reminds me of necking in his parents Audi. How many people can so vividly remember the taste of Brut aftershave?

“I’m going to need enough time to get my girls….,” the female insurance salesperson has broken into my reverie.

“Where’s that?” said one of the women behind me.

“After the 40 hours logged on time and whatever dinners…,” said the male salesperson. I stare at his back: buzzed haircut, wide back, the suboccipital fold that only beefy men get. He wears a blue checked, button-up shirt and blue jeans—I imagine him carefully selecting a wardrobe that will convey approachability to his clients. Contrary to the suit clad brokers to my right who must convey power and acute business acumen. I reflect on how much I hate people who manipulate others for their own gain.

“I have an appointment with my eye doctor,” I hear from the women behind me as they leave their table and walk past mine. Their conversation is lost to me as they exit the coffee shop. The opening door creates a chilling breeze that blows Brut back into my senses. I am thrust back to the summer of 1993 when I could smell Jeremy on my hands after a day spent in each other’s company.

“Thanks for meeting me!” said the female insurance agent.

“Yeah. I figured it was a shot in the dark,” said her companion as they arose to leave.

“I had a buddy who just sold a bunch of shares…,” one of the laptop wielding brokers has finally addressed his companion revealing their relationship and the confirmation of their occupation.

I realize all the tables around me are now vacant and I have been thrust into coffee shop isolation. I feel like a social pariah. Should I shout, “Unclean!” like a Biblical leper?

I finish my Americano and wonder why it doesn’t taste as good as normal. I contemplate another. It’s rude to occupy a table without a drink.

An elderly couple enters the coffee shop and sits behind me. They are discussing the development of their spring time flowers. I wonder at such devotion in January. Then wonder at my level of stupidity in spending hundreds of dollars the previous winter to attend OSU’s Master Gardeners program upon the recommendation of a psychic. I can be such a bubble-head!

“I told her I think that’s what makes a good employee…,” said one of the brokers to his headset. His companion has disappeared into the bathroom.

I contemplate staying longer or leaving. I don’t know where I will go since I still have a couple of hours before work. But what if I stick around and a car group comes in? A “car group” is a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses out in the door-to-door work together—in the same car. I grew up going out with car groups and stopping for a coffee break between 11am and 12pm. It’s the only part of the ministry people look forward to.

I grew up here as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and last spring, April 4, 2012, I was disfellowshipped for apostasy, witchcraft, Satanism—the story changes depending on who you talk to. But the result is the same—expulsion, banishment, figurative death. When I see people I was once friends with, they run the other way. I am a pariah—the leper. I don’t need to cry out, “Unclean!” because everyone here knows my face. They know I’m unclean.

Every suit that walks in the glass doors makes my heart stop. The coffee shop reaches a lull of conversation–awaiting my decision. I arise and gather my belongings. I flee before the hatred of those who profess love. I will always flee.

Published in: on February 20, 2013 at 10:11 p02  Comments (1)  
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Rebirth

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…and so it is done–finally. The announcement was made last night that I am no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. No truer words have been said from that stage. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hear it. But I was informed that was when the announcement would be made, so I am acting upon that assumption. I have been feeling kind of depressed for the last week or so. Yesterday afternoon I felt like I was having a panic attack. But a pitcher of McMenamin’s IPA took the edge of.

Last weekend I had cleaned out the closet and pulled out the last of our Watchtower Society books, magazines, and brochures. I decided a nice little ritual burning was in order. So, last night, during the time I estimated the announcement would be made, I had a ritual. Roy piled all the books and magazines in our outdoor fire pit, I cast a witches circle, and we lit them on fire. I said a few choice words–whatever I felt ‘moved by the spirit’ to utter.

I kept out a copy of a 1980 Watchtower I had possessed as a child. It had my name written on the outside cover, and my scribbles all over it. I remember the endless hours of meetings where I would scribble and draw. I could survive the boredom as long as I had a writing instrument and something to write on. Fortunately, my father wasn’t one of those parents who banned their kids from writing in any of the literature. I burned that old Watchtower separately as representative of my childhood enslaved by the organization.

After the fire burned down, and I officially ended the ritual, Roy and Trevor went indoors and I stayed outside burning sage and circling the fire pit. I spoke from the heart, and even cried a little, then I looked up at the full moon and reflected on the blessings I have now–Freedom from fear and judgment; Freedom to live my life without always checking in to make sure my choices were permissible; A life filled with love for my fellow humans and optimism rather than negativity; A future I look forward to and can work towards rather than putting my life on hold for a nebulous promise that keeps fading into the distance. Life is a blessing. Humankind is worthy of life. I no longer look at people as potential bird-bait, but as fellow sharers in this remarkable planet.

I don’t know if I would have been able to do it without the internet and social networking. I wonder how people managed before these wonderful tools. I understand why the internet is such a danger to high control groups such as the Watchtower Society. The reason they disfellowship is so members will return out of desperation due to excessive loneliness. In a recent Watchtower (April 2012) Paragraph 17 on page 12 explains the significance behind this practice:

17 “Consider just one example of the
good that can come when a family loyally
upholds Jehovah’s decree not to associate
with disfellowshipped relatives. A
young man had been disfellowshipped
for over ten years, during which time his
father, mother, and four brothers “quit
mixing in company” with him. At times,
he tried to involve himself in their activities,
but to their credit, each member
of the family was steadfast in not
having any contact with him. After he
was reinstated, he said that he always
missed the association with his family,
especially at night when he was alone.
But, he admitted, had the family associated
with him even a little, that small
dose would have satisfied him. However,
because he did not receive even
the slightest communication from any
of his family, the burning desire to be
with them became one motivating factor
in his restoring his relationship with
Jehovah. Think of that if you are ever
tempted to violate God’s command not
to associate with your disfellowshipped
relatives.” (Watchtower)

Social media has removed such isolation and such ones can easily find others just like them, sometimes in their area. And whenever doubts and fears arise due to years of indoctrination, these are the ones who can strengthen us. So let me use this opportunity to thank all of you for your support on my journey and offer my assistance to anyone who needs it. Cheers fellow free-thinkers!

“Free at Last”

I have been thrust from obscurity into the glaring light of public censorship. Maybe this is a good time to point out that I wasn’t being as obscure as I hoped I was. I have a tendency to think most people don’t pay attention, or care, and this has proven to be grossly negligent on my part. When I began writing this blog it was specifically for the purpose of exploring my spiritual revolution. I kept it separate from my other blog and my Facebook account and even wrote it under a pseudonym. In recent weeks I have become less careful.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to an old friend who still subscribes to the tenets of my old belief. She asked if it was true that I was calling myself an apostate and Wiccan. She said everyone was asking her and rumors were rampant. This proved my earlier point–I had underestimated how many people actually were paying attention. So I admitted it to her. Last week I received a visit from an elder–only one–asking me if it is true I was posting things on Facebook regarding Wicca. Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I thought I had insured my privacy settings were set too high for any probing eyes. Once again, I was wrong. So I decided to come out of the proverbial broom closet and admit my witchy-ways. He begged me not to be so reckless and warned me of ruining my relationship with Jehovah. This surprised me. It seemed common sense that if I was becoming a witch it should be obvious that the opinion of Jehovah, or any other Christian god for that matter, doesn’t matter to me. So he asked if a couple more elders could come for a visit and share some scriptures with me. I have read the bible so many times I know it inside and out–I told him I didn’t think there was anything he could tell me that I didn’t already know and hadn’t already discounted.

Then he saw the pentacle around my neck and almost gave himself a hernia trying to get out my front door, which has a tendency to stick in winter weather. I actually laughed at him. Once he was safely on the outside of my house where no goulies or demons could get him, he turned and asked if I was in fact denying any assistance from the congregation. I said I was. Then he asked if I was determined to continue my wayward course. I said I was.

For those of you who don’t know, this means I am disfellowshipped. A public announcement is made at the next meeting and all obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses will not only stop associating with me, they will pretend I don’t exist. It’s like what happened to Ayla in Clan of the Cave  Bear when she was banished from the clan. In their minds, I am as good as dead. Initially, I was upset because I had committed the unforgivable sin. Everyone I had ever known and cared about would be grieved by my rebellious choice. By the next day, I felt incredible gratitude! I would not have taken this step on my own and it needed to be taken. I was limiting myself far too much out of fear of this exact thing. Now I have nothing to fear and I can choose to do what I want. I feel the same basic freedom as I did in El Salvador when I had everything stolen from me and had nothing left to lose.

A year ago, when I left the JW’s, I felt like the world lay before me and my options were unlimited. In recent months, I have experienced a feeling of floating. I’m not sure what the next step is and it is frustrating. The day after the elder came for a visit, a door opened and now I know where my path lies. I have used the word ‘gratitude’ more in the last 10 days than I have in my entire life, and it was brought on by the very thing I was taught to fear above all else–alienation from Jehovah and his earthly organization. I had hoped the elders would call to tell me when the announcement was going to occur just so I could thank them for setting me free, but that hasn’t happened. I guess it’s possible it could happen this week, but I kind of think it was made last week.

I think my greatest regret in all this is that none of the people who I used to care for will understand why I did it. They won’t know how miserable and neurotic I was under the tyranny of the Watchtower Society. They won’t understand my study of Wicca is to regain my power as a woman after a lifetime of humiliation by men in leadership positions. They will be unaware of just how happy and empowered I feel and how they could experience the same thing if they just chose to.

I wrote a poem in recognition of this. It’s a Shakespearean sonnet and it isn’t great but it expresses my feelings:

Free At Last—a sonnet

Praying for apocalypse day and night

Calling the birds to feast upon the slain

This world and its character gone from sight

“The meek shall inherit the earth,” is their refrain.

These do not grasp the darkness of their dream

“We are God’s happy people,” they insist.

Tired, tortured eyes betray souls that scream

Rot and ruin corrupt their very midst.

“Do not question, do not doubt. Believe all!

Hide who you are out of fear of God’s wrath.”

God is not the judge—they heed their own call

Knocking all sinners who stray from the path.

Their threats are empty, their vengeance is scant

Away bondage! “Free at last,” I incant.

“Combatting Cult Mind Control”

As the anniversary of my father’s death approaches (Nov. 24th) I am reminded that it has been one year since the death of my childhood faith. The last time I set foot inside a Kingdom Hall was for my father’s funeral–and I knew at the time it would be my last visit. As I greeted familiar faces I had known my whole life I felt sadness at the divergent path I was about to embark on. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to everyone who had ever mattered than as they were sharing the grieving process with me.

That is not why I am writing this blog, however. I am here to do a book review. You see, in the year since I decided I no longer wanted to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I have made a concerted effort to educate myself–my own personal Exit Counseling. I worked through the anger and resentment by sharing my feelings with others who felt the same. I read ex-JW literature, attended ex-JW forums, and studied the development of religion from a sociological perspective. These are the things I needed to undo the indoctrination of a lifetime.

After about six months or so I started to get on with my life–or at least I tried to. A few months is not enough time to deprogram a mind injected with 37 years of programming. In recent months I have been ricocheting from feelings of severe depression to claustrophobia. I feel like my life is floating in limbo and I need to do something diametrically different from what I have been doing. I have lost my zeal for college and even the desire to maintain relationships. I want to cut them all loose and I keep having dreams that I am killing my passion or walking on the edge of disaster, or even trapped inside a Kingdom Hall with no exits. Then something happened a few days ago that made me realize I still had not recovered. After posting someone’s parody of a Watchtower victim awaiting Armageddon, a disfellowshipped ‘friend’ unfriended me–but not before telling me that my “blatant apostasy was pissing [him] off.” My heart started to pound so hard I could hear it reverberating in my ears. I started to shake and felt overwhelming fear. This had happened after awaking that same day from nightmares of being forced to go out in the door-to-door ministry–and only days after having two JW friends try to “talk some sense into me.” My life came crumbling down around me. What was I doing? Had I just made a huge mistake? Was I going to get disfellowshipped? What if I ever wanted to go back?

I panicked. I actually changed my name on Facebook and made my account as impermeable to curious outsiders as I could. Some new ex-JW friends on Facebook were able to calm me down, but I realized something: It didn’t take much for the old programming to begin playing its familiar tune. So today I decided to take the time to finish a book I started months ago–“Combatting Cult Mind Control” by Steve Hassan. This book recounts Steve’s own experience being indoctrinated by the Moonies and his eventual escape. He goes on to become an exit counselor for others in need of escape from cult control. The book contains his observations of why some cults are so successful as well as how to overcome their programming. On page 41 and 42 he says:

“They indoctrinate members to show only the best sides of the organization. Members are taught to suppress any negative feelings they have about the group and always show a continually smiling, ‘happy’ face…(pg 42)It was always amazing to me to realize how many people in this category told us they had just been praying to God to show them what He wanted them to do with their lives. Many believed they were ‘spiritually’ led to meet one of our members…members regard themselves as ‘fishers of men’…They reinvest a great part of their capital back into recruiting new members…The average person doesn’t stand much of a chance. ”

Was he talking about Jehovah’s Witnesses here? Nope. He was relating his experiences with the Moonies, but he could have been talking about the JW’s. I don’t remember Mr. Hassan mentioning Jehovah’s Witnesses at all in the book. He didn’t have to. Every description matched their techniques precisely.

Mr. Hassan goes on to relate successful and failed attempts at exit counseling from a plethora of different cults. On page 167 he sums up his own feelings as a recovered cult victim:

“I left when I realized that deception and mind control can never be part of any legitimate spiritual movement: that through their use, the group had created a virtual ‘Hell on Earth,’ a kingdom of slaves. Once I was able to realize that even though I wanted to believe it was true [paradise earth/resurrection] my belief didn’t make it true. I saw that even if I remained in the group for another fifty years, the fantasy I was sacrificing myself for would never come true.” (italics my application)

He goes on to relate how people actually change personality while under the influence of cults. A study was conducted in 1982 in which a respected psychologist used the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator to test cult members. He had them answer questions based upon who they were before the cult influence and again after. A marked difference was noted between their pre-cult personalities and their peri-cult personalities. Whatever they had been before, most shifted to sensor-judger dominant (Hassan, 191). I found this interesting since I had done my own informal poll regarding types of personalities that left the JW’s and when. I had found that intuitive judgers usually left in their late teens-early twenties. Whereas, intuitive perceivers held on longer and didn’t leave until well into adulthood. This isn’t to say that sensors don’t leave cults, but it may be harder for them and might stem from emotional trauma. (These are my observations based upon a limited pool of participants.)

Steve Hassan summarized his book with the observation that:

“If people come to believe that someone else knows better than they what is best to do, they can be in real danger…We have free will and should never abandon our personal responsibility for making good choices.” (Hassan, 195)

I found Hassan’s book to perfectly address my emotional issues. He described my feeling of “floating” as the mind trying to reevaluate the world without the lenses of mind control I had been wearing. In a carefully controlled environment, information and thought are carefully mastered to always be in line with the group-think. Imagine a lifetime of controlling every word,  and every thought, that didn’t agree with the prime directive. Once one leaves that tight control, they must learn to think again. I still ask myself when things go wrong if I have displeased God. My emotional issues of late could be attributed to separation from the “truth”–at least that is how believers would interpret it. Thankfully I have done enough personal research that I can dismiss such thoughts immediately, but many don’t do the research. They are either too lazy, or too afraid, or cannot think clearly due to years of reading the same literature. Some of these may actually go back because they never stopped believing.

I realize now that, just as one has good days and bad days while grieving, I will have bad days as I grieve the loss of my faith. The most important thing is that I recognize these unconscious messages and replace them with conscious discernment. As the poet William Blake wrote: “I must Create a system, or be enslav’d by another Man’s.” (Hassan, 196)

Hassan, Steve. “Combatting Cult Mind Control.” Park Street Press, Vermont, 1988.