Because-a poem

Borrowed from a friend–

                                                         BECAUSE

               (Open testimony to the Watchtower Organization)

Because I had a love for God you found me.

Because I needed hope in my life you said all the right things.

Because you said I would find “real love” I was joyous and believed you.

Because you presented a future utopia I wanted you.

Because you convinced me others would intervene I left them.

Because you said I must commit to you I conformed.

Because you persuaded me I dedicated myself and my child to your cause.

Because you convinced me God needed my time, money, and energy I gave it.

Because you continually announced that all of yours are happy I chased it.

Because I could not catch this elusive joy I was often depressed.

Because you indicated asking questions was disloyal I asked none.

Because I discovered hypocrisy emanating from you I was confused.

Because your shepherds were not tender I was hurt.

Because you allowed lies to prevail and damage the innocent I was discouraged.

Because you treated my loved ones with derision and contempt I became incensed.

Because I took in knowledge that uncovered your lies I was able to see clearly.

Because I was educated I was able to break free from your shackles.

Because I gained freedom I was empowered.

Because I have a love for God I walked away from you.

Because I am finally free I am happy.

–Anonymous

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Review: “When A Pagan Prays” by Nimue Brown

 

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I never really liked prayer when I was a Christian. The act of bowing my head in church and listening to somebody else represent my needs to the Divine Father never made me feel connected or represented. I could never close my eyes while standing because vertigo would take over and I would feel myself weaving. My eyes would snap open with visions of me lying sprawled in the aisle. I would stare at my feet, at the backside of the people in front of me, or I would take surreptitious glances around the room to see who else had their eyes open.

My own personal prayers weren’t much better. They always seemed too formal and scripted. “My loving heavenly father…..in Jesus name, Amen.” Sometimes I didn’t want to say those words. I wanted to feel the presence of the divine and telepathically send out my feelings of awe, gratitude, and love.

When I step out into nature and stand before a breathtaking sunset or revel in the power of the ocean, I want to open my arms wide and stare up into the sky with eyes and heart open and receptive. I don’t feel inclined to drop to my knees, bow my head, cross my arms over my chest, and act penitent. Such a position implies humiliation before a disciplining tyrant. Like a dog that’s been whipped too many times and has only learned to cower.

Prayer should be a spiritual experience, not a religious experience. Prayer is the ache which comes from the heart moved beyond words.

As a recovering Christian, I still felt the urge to pray but didn’t know how to go about it without engaging my mind to the exclusion of my heart. For this reason, I decided to read “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond” by Nimue Brown.

I’ve read a lot of pagan literature and was anticipating a light-read with this book. I was wrong. Ms. Brown’s approach to prayer was intelligent and scientific. She made many of the same observations I have always felt regarding formalized prayer. She even gives a recipe for successful prayers versus empty prayers. The book is honest and the author reveals her humanity throughout.

I am not a Druid, but I did not feel the information was limited to Druids alone. The information is valuable for anyone who has experienced a spiritual crisis and is finding prayer either a major turn-off or a challenge. In the last pages of the book, the author reveals the changes she has noticed in her life thanks to a regular practice of prayer.

Who does a recovering Christian pray to? This is a question I have asked myself numerous times. I find any word associated with my life as a Christian very off-putting. This includes: God, Jesus, Jehovah, Lord, Heavenly Father, Almighty, etc. When I do attempt prayer I address: Ancestors, Ascended Masters, Spirit Guides, possibly even Archangels since they were not  a prominent part of my Christian instruction. (When I first got started as a Pagan I addressed Goddess, but always felt rather silly so I stopped).

Ms. Brown addresses:

  • Who should we pray to?
  • Does prayer really works or is it just a placebo?
  • The social ethics to praying.
  • Different kinds of prayer and different ways of praying.
  • Can we live a prayer-filled life? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • How do we know if our prayers are answered?
  • Why isn’t deity more forthcoming with his/her responses?

I found the book very interesting and informative. Ms. Brown admits to being a bit of a wordsmith, so the text sometimes bogs down and turning the pages becomes difficult. It took me all month to read the book, and some of it I scanned through because the information didn’t seem wholly necessary to the overall theme. But I am very glad I finished “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond,”  because I found a greater appreciation for the author as a wordsmith, a Pagan, and a woman with struggles and flaws. I recommend it to anyone looking to explore an aspect of humanity that is often taken for granted.

 

 

 

GPS for the Soul

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I am still working my way through Eckhart Tolle’s Power of NOW (1999). Something he said made me realize that we have an inner GPS system which pokes us when we aren’t living the life we are meant to live. If we know when to recognize it and listen to its guidance, we will experience greater contentment and a healthier mental state.

On page 27, Tolle says, “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment…”

This observation really resonated with me! First, I was reminded of my last few years in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. I was in mental anguish and couldn’t figure out why. I went to see a therapist because of it–something frowned on by JW’s, in general. I was seriously decompensating. I couldn’t focus. I was saying and doing all the wrong things. I thought of death on a daily basis.

After reading the above in Tolle’s book, I now realize that I was resisting something that had become painfully obvious. I don’t know if it was my subconscious mind, authentic self, Higher Self, or Spirit Guides, but something was prodding me to get out and I wasn’t listening.

On more reflection, I could trace similar periods in the past. When I was a full-time minister for Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1997, I went through another comparable phase. I would break down into tears during the meetings for no particular reason. I attributed it to my own “sinful inclination,” which only made it worse. In this case I decided to leave English and start attending a Spanish Congregation. Things improved for a short time while I was distracted, but the red-eyed monster kept popping up and getting progressively more insistent until I finally figured it out and left the religion.

I’ve been going through something similar in the past few weeks. Since we moved to PA, I have been helping my husband with his Ebay business while my ankle heeled. Initially, I loved going to auctions and researching items and seeing them sell. Then we went to a few auctions where there was a lot of negative energy. I came home distraught. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was a total fuck up. I got yelled at by a cashier at the local Giant grocery store and left the store crying. I started thinking about death again.

Then I read the above words in The Power of NOW. Was it possible I was causing my own pain with my resistance? “What was I resisting?” I asked myself. That same day, I decided to go back to work doing massage. I had been toying with the idea for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. I felt some fear after making the decision because I have been a basic shut-in for a year.

The next morning, though, I awoke with a whole new perspective. For the first time in weeks, I felt genuine enthusiasm and confidence. Is this what I was resisting? Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me, “You’re not a hustler. You’re a healer!” I went from being afraid of venturing out of the house to eagerness in getting the process started. I couldn’t believe the about-face!

All I can attribute it to is Tolle’s observation that unconscious resistance creates disharmony and pain. It’s like we have this inner GPS system that keeps us on our prescribed path, and lets us know (in no uncertain terms) when we get off-course. All we have to do is recognize the signs and adjust when necessary. Remember, 1) Pain, 2) Judgment, 3) Negativity. If your every thought is consumed with one, or all, of those, ask yourself what you are ignoring that needs attention. Is it your job? Your relationship? Your roommate? For the sake of your mental health, stop resisting and embrace the sweet relief that comes with following your innate guidance system! Resistance is futile.

 

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.

 

Diggin’ Up Bones

After my previous blog on the ego, I was reminded how powerless we can be before the onslaught of the ego and its demand for retribution and recognition. I was wandering around an auction house last Sunday waiting for the auctioneer to take his stand. I overheard a man a few feet away loudly expressing his opinion on every item he encountered to whomever was around him. I moved in the opposite direction because, as an introvert, I find people who talk for the sake of talking obnoxious.

I was reminded of an event that happened at a summer convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses I attended (around 2006) in Portland, Oregon. My brother, an extrovert and Pisces, was being his normal dramatic self and talking to my other brother, when a man with an “Attendant” badge stepped up to him and asked him to be quiet. (Attendant badges are given to men (only) who have authority over the crowd of minions in his assigned section. Their assignment usually entails finding people seats after the session has started and counting attendees, but it could involve quieting unruly children or asking women with short skirts to sit more modestly in the stadium seating.)

When my brother was asked to be quiet, it was not during the session. It was at lunchtime, and this “brother” told my brother that he needed to lower his voice and stop talking about what he was talking about because nobody else cared what he had to say nor wanted to hear it. My brother, trained as we all were to be doormats, apologized for living and continues to this day (no doubt) with one more memory meant to obliterate any self-esteem he may have deigned to develop after 45 years under Watchtower control.

I was not present for this put-down but heard about it later, after the same man had lectured me about crawling over stadium seating (in my skirt) to avoid a crowd of people blocking my aisle. He also went on to reject my friend’s offer to assist in First Aid, which upset her so much she couldn’t attend the convention and spent the whole time weeping in her car.

Now I take you back to the auction this last Sunday in Cascade, Maryland. I’m walking around remembering all of this, not for the first time, and feeling such anger I am fantasizing about the things I wish I would have said to this stain on humanity, this “Attendant.” I am picturing myself standing beside my brother as this total stranger approaches him and tells him to be quiet and stop ruining everyone else’s day by talking. Before my brother can apologize for being alive, I step forward, point my finger in his face (because misogynistic men love it when women do that), and say, “Who the hell are you to tell this man to be quiet?! Do you think just because you wear that “Attendant” badge you have any right to lecture people on how to act and talk? I want you to turn around and walk away. I don’t want you to address me, my family, or any of my friends with your corrosive presence. As a matter of fact, if you come near anyone I know, I will seriously fuck you up! Now go fuck yourself!!” The original version had about 30 more swear words added in, mainly because I know how much Jehovah’s Witnesses hate that shit–but you get my drift.

At any rate, I was in full ego-mode. I was carrying some serious angst about something that happened almost 10 years ago. Some might say this kind of anger is good because it prevents me from being taken advantage of again–and they would be right–but I have had this same conversation 100 times, at least, in the intervening years. Some days the anger strikes me more aggressively than others, but overall it is the same helpless anger I feel over many similar situations within that organization. Situations where men in power used that power to humiliate and oppress people whose ability to defend themselves has been taken away by their fear of God and his reprisals. (My brother is still in that religion and has likely been the brunt of many more hurtful scenarios. I don’t think he will ever recover in this life. By now his ego likely needs so much propping up that organized religion is the only way he could survive.)

While I was walking around the auction stewing, I happened by this little boy who was excitedly admiring a small antique, tin train. His mother and grandmother assured him they would get it if they could. My first thought? I’m going to bid on that, because mom and grandma didn’t look like they had very much money, just so I can see that little boy cry. (I didn’t. Nobody else did either. He got the train.)

My point is, my ego was having a heyday. I was completely immersed in the past and dwelling on things I can’t do anything about.  My residual anger, which had only gotten stronger over the years, actually had me convinced I wanted to hurt someone else so I wouldn’t feel I needed to shoulder the whole burden of my own pain. In a sense, I had turned into one of the bullies I find so repugnant. I wasn’t targeting another adult. I was targeting a helpless child. Someone who couldn’t defend himself and wouldn’t understand why he couldn’t get the train. Would it have made me feel better? No, I assure you, I would have felt like shit afterwards.

But it got me thinking, how many people have we hurt while in the throes of ego obsession? How many times have we been hurt by those experiencing an ego-reaction that has no bearing on the here and now? I think ego can be good if it encourages us to stand up for ourselves (to an extent), but once the chance has passed, is it really beneficial to keep digging things up and reliving them? If it’s not helping you process your feelings, then no. Move on. Write out your feelings on a scrap of paper and burn them. Shout them out to the moon. Put them in a blog–actually, this is a test, I’ll let you know if it cures my angst surrounding this situation.

The journey to reign in the ego is an arduous one, but I believe it a worthy goal. Imagine the peace we could enjoy if we could control our reactions to the past, present, and future?

Religion vs. Spirituality

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Spirituality is an ever-evolving thing. Over the last year and a half, I moved across country, broke my leg, and struggled to secure a new career. As things have settled down into a routine, I have noticed spirituality is lacking from my life due to the many distractions. I am not, in any way, hungering for the kind of spirituality I was brought up with. I wouldn’t call that tyrannical paradigm spirituality. Religion and spirituality are often two diametrically opposed entities. Spirituality can be felt anywhere, by anyone, and it is transformative. Religion is abiding by rules set by someone else and judging anyone who doesn’t abide by the same rules. It is destructive to individuality and authenticity.

I prefer being responsible for my own spirituality, as defined by me. I am minister and laity all in one. My church is mother nature, or my very own house. I can practice my faith in the nude, if I so choose (and I often do). Such practice helps me rid myself of the shame heaped upon me as a child of Christianity. Religion teaches that we are all one step away from damnation because of our sinful flesh and never-ending streams of temptation. When people spend their lives obsessing over sexuality and fleshly desires it is no wonder it becomes the first thing they turn to when their resistance is low. The forbidden fruit is always the most appealing. If we as a society were taught to love our bodies despite their imperfections and desires we wouldn’t wallow in perceived weakness. We would be strong, capable of making wise choices.

What happens, though, if we realize we are strong and worthwhile? What happens if we grasp the fact that we are spiritual beings apart from churches and organizations? What if we comprehend that salvation doesn’t rest within a certain denomination? Then the churches would empty. People would find happiness without the spiritual leaders. The financial backing these churches need would crumble. Civilization would finally rid themselves of a weight that has been holding evolution back for thousands of years. The next millennia would be a time of unprecedented scientific and societal advancement. And it would all be because we have finally cast off the detritus that has kept us in the Dark Ages.

I have reached the sweet spot where I rarely think of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or talk of them. Such is the benefit of moving 3000 miles away from anyone I knew attached to that religion. I live in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania now and I haven’t even laid my eyes on a JW, let alone had them knock on my door in almost a year. I am reviving this blog because I feel the need to make spirituality a part of my life again. Ultimately, I do believe we are spiritual beings (something the JW’s teach quite regularly to prove the existence of God). Not everyone finds spiritual fulfillment within the walls of a church, however. I think it can be found wherever someone finds fulfillment, happiness, and gratitude. This can be found in a career, on a hike, or within the pages of a book; and it neither confirms nor denies the existence of God.

I have not found the form of spirituality that brings me great contentment. I’m not even sure if I ever will. As I said at the beginning of this post, spirituality evolves over time. But I do feel like I am in a better position to fill the holes left after departing Christianity.

I have also recently agreed to read and review books on alternative spirituality published by Moon Books. So when you see book reviews pop up, that is why. Feel free to read them, or not.

Thank you for going with me on this journey, and please share in it if you so choose. Cheers!

“Witchcraft Today–60 Years On”

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Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is an anthology of written work gathered from various expert sources. Pagans, Wiccans, Fae, Druids, male and female all contribute information regarding their path, beliefs, and journeys. The reader is given a nicely rounded-out account of how witchcraft has developed in the 60 years since Gerald Gardner’s seminal work.

The first chapter gives us a succinct look into Gardner’s Witchcraft Today (1954)and its development. Following are chapters on  Alexandrian Witchcraft, Seax, Eclectic, Dianic, Hedge, and Egyptian traditions. There’s even a chapter on the future of Witchcraft as an ever-growing entity. What may sound like a boring subject is made fascinating by the personal, heartfelt accounts of each of the contributors. Their devotion is inspiring, and their knowledge and intelligence captivating!

The final part of the book is devoted to personal accounts of various adherents who were forced to take a circuitous path to their calling in the Craft. The stories of those who began in controlling Christian religions resonated with me the most.  As a child, I remember feeling intrigued by talk of Witchcraft and the occult, even though I was taught to fear it. I was fascinated to learn of others who felt the same pull between 10-14 years of age, but were more courageous than I. Some of them followed their heart at an early age–I waited another 20+ years before I had the courage to do so.

Recently, I have allowed my Craft to wane since I moved across country and most of my supplies are still in storage. Reading this book has fired my enthusiasm to get back to something that brought me so much comfort and empowerment as I recovered from my Patriarchal roots. The chapter on Hekatean Witchcraft showed me where my next path lay. When I first started studying Witchcraft in 2011, I was drawn to Hecate. I was born in the dark of the moon and it is my favorite time of the month. Samhain is my favorite holiday and Autumn my favorite season. I am fascinated with the world of the dead and beyond. I was informed only older women can be devotees of Hecate, so I chose someone else, but it never felt right. Now I realize I can embrace the patron who feels right to me and I am excited to do so!

This book is for anyone who is curious about Witchcraft and its various paths. It is faith inspiring to read of how others live in accord with the earth and its spirit. And it can fire up anyone whose interest has waned or wandered.

Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is available as an e-book or paperback for a very affordable price. (In fact, it is the first e-book I have read entirely on my Nook, something I have been viciously opposed to till now.) It is brand new from Moon Books and edited by Trevor Greenfield. You can find it through the publisher’s website or  Amazon.

Tree of Life

I just watched the Tree of Life with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It was very poignant and has left me rather melancholy. I felt like I was watching my life: authoritarian father, 3 siblings, loving mother. I remember how we would feel happier and more relaxed when dad was gone and how we would all toe-the-line when he was there. I even remember him telling one of my brothers to stop talking unless he could say something that actually improved upon the silence. To say something like that to a child only shuts down any enthusiasm or expression. As an adult, I could never figure out why talking to him was so difficult. But most everything that was said was criticized unless it bore directly upon religion. “Let’s talk about something a little more theocratic,” “Don’t say that. How do you think Jehovah feels when he hears you talk like that?” He wouldn’t just do it to us, either. I heard him tell other people, even adults, to talk about more ‘theocratic’ subjects.

In The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt, who plays the authoritarian father, talks about how he had wanted more out of life and was ashamed at how little his life really meant.  I know life wasn’t great for my father. He was extremely intelligent and excelled at school. He became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when he was in pre-med. He dropped out because Armageddon was ‘just around the corner.’ He spent the rest of his life not using his intellect but working at dead-end jobs at the local saw-mill. His wife was an invalid and he had to raise three kids in a religion that kept kicking him in the nuts–metaphorically. Every time he would ask to be used in the congregation so he could exercise his intellect he was told he was too smart and he needed to stop being so arrogant. He never missed a meeting, assembly, or service. He read and studied all the endlessly redundant drivel the Society printed. Then he would obsessively try to fit into the mold of mediocrity the local elders required. He pounded this subservience into all our heads. It didn’t matter what personalities we might have, we needed to subject them to “God’s organization.” We needed to conform.

We learned this lesson so well, at 39 I am just now figuring out who I am–my older brothers haven’t been so lucky. I don’t know if they will ever be able to break the mold they have squeezed themselves into.  That’s what makes religion so reprehensible. It convinces people the prison is comfortable and necessary. It reminds me of a story I read while living in Northern California. Some years ago, a young girl was taken captive by some people who kept her in a box under their bed. They manipulated her so thoroughly she didn’t think she deserved any better. At some point, she was actually allowed to go get a job and every evening she would return to her box, handing her paycheck over to her captors. That is what some religions are like. They undermine a person’s sense of self to such a degree most people will endure unspeakable things in the name of God.

I don’t blame my father for teaching us to be doormats. He was doing what he thought he needed to. After all, it meant our everlasting lives. I remember reading an article in the Kingdom Ministry–which was a monthly bulletin only for JW’s–it was from the late 60’s and it instructed parents to not allow their children to go out socializing when they should be focused on serving Jehovah since ‘the end was so close.’ Parents everywhere did what they thought was right and raised a whole generation of kids in ascetic environments. Now, a great deal of that generation is waking up. They are middle-aged and their parents are dying. It has become clear that Armageddon has been “just around the corner” for almost 100 years. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no idea what they are talking about. My generation is slowly taking off the blinders. A lifetime under the strangle-hold of organized religion has created an interesting demographic. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and those who have survived the WTS are no exception. I have witnessed attitudes ranging from complacency to extreme courage. Some are angry, some are apologetic; some are born-again Christians, some are atheists; some carry the fear of eternal destruction with them, some have experienced a freedom from fear they never thought possible.

The Tree of Life never said what happened to one of the boys who died at nineteen, but it seems pretty clear he must have killed himself. The movie paints the picture of a boy with deep sensitivities. Sadly, some are affected in the same way when they leave the JW’s and cannot get past the damaging effects upon their minds. I don’t know if we will ever fully understand the magnitude of the damage caused by such mind control. I can only hope that the internet can help such ones realize they are not alone and they have nothing to fear.

My wish is that many more become like me and cast off the bindings of controlling, authoritarian religion. I want such ones to realize the joy of thinking for themselves and abandon the flawed course of their parents.

“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.

“How to Keep your Children from Becoming Atheists”

I came across this on Facebook and had to share it. It is so accurate I wish I could print out copies and paper the world with it–especially the doors of high control religions. Enjoy! I found the copy on this website: http://www.skepticmoney.com/the-best-way-to-stop-your-child-from-becoming-an-atheist/#trackbacks