“It’s the difference between driving a fairground dodgem car as a child and learning to drive a real car on the open road – plus the difference between that skill and learning to fly – plus the difference between that and flying a space shuttle into orbit”, was my cryptic reply to Steve’s question; all of which puzzles you upon joining us for morning coffee.
I introduce Steve with, “He and I meet now and again and kick around what he takes issue with, or queries, in what I’ve written on my blog. I was telling how I tried describing the difference in viewpoints and experience between me and a contributor to a debate that got into philosophy, humanism and Christianity. Interested but so perplexed was he because, in my opinion, he’d yet to get out of the dodgem rink! I don’t think anyone not yet born-again, or spiritually awakened, may appreciate our perspectives as we learn to rocket up into the heavens…”
We’ve come for a deliciously smooth morning coffee and I suggest trying a tempting morsel or two… As the barista pours our drinks I explain, “Trips to Calais and Boulogne made me appreciate the French way of starting each day with croissants. And this café serves them not with jam but real apricot, or crammed with almond paste – yum!”
“I thought Eurostar runs London to Paris non-stop…” you query whilst we carry our goodies to a nearby table.
“It’s easier – and more enjoyable – to drive to the Chunnel and put the car on the shuttle. It’s less than 90 mins to get there, and only 2 sets of traffic lights en-route – amazing! Going after rush hour means we have our lunch under the English Channel – it’s really weird sitting in our own car eating a picnic under the sea instead of on a beach!”
“Talking of the sea Richard, as you blog a lot on topical news why on earth did you dredge up something a couple of years old on being brainwashed ?”
“You mean last week’s item, which Steve and I were talking about? This well-intentioned humanist admitted to having dropped by my first blogs – may I tell you about that first?
“From my description of the life-changing dream that confronted me, he assumed what had happened and turned me to Christianity was simply because I’d been indoctrinated as a child…”
“Well yes,” Steve interjects, “Because indoctrination means teaching someone to accept a set of beliefs uncritically, even inculcating religious or political ideas, values and attitudes. So it’s regarded as different from education because the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrines taught…”
“Yes, in psychology at Uni I studied mind control and ‘brainwashing’, the applications of indoctrination as an intense, psychological process applied by totalitarian regimes. The aim being to destroy a person’s basic political or religious attitudes and convictions and to replace them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs. And the assumption that this can be unconsciously implanted and perhaps successfully aroused by a coded command, as though a push button to arouse a ‘sleeper cell’, is the stuff of spy novels.
“However, the very definitions pour cold water on my intellectual adversary’s argument. In fact one could argue basic education is a form of indoctrination – that is, its aim is to teach new things on most subjects to children. And it gets repeated in greater depth during their school life. Is this not indoctrination?
“Maybe it could be said young children don’t have critical faculties and can all too easily absorb ideas and information without question. Yet in my early years I couldn’t believe the story of Adam and Eve being the very first people. It made no sense to me because there were no builders to build their house! Simplistic and child like, but nevertheless logical.
“My father was non-observant but mother was very devout in her adherence to Catholic teaching and I respected her beliefs. That, along with occasional religious education in state primary school, gave me a basic idea of Christian belief although. As I did not go to a Catholic school or Sunday school in church I wasn’t educated (or indoctrinated) enough to enter Confirmation when aged 12 years. By my early teens I was definitely thinking for myself and turning against clergy and churches, and thus becoming open-minded enough to adopt anything radically different.”
Steve recalls reading about that major issue of school and church in my Journey. “I agree almost everything we’re taught when young lies fallow within the unconscious and may eventually be recalled no matter how far buried under decades of life’s events. In nursing homes I’ve seen old folk who are demented or severely crippled from strokes respond to a choir singing Christmas carols, or to other music of their long distant youth.”
“Richard, were you really sure you were right?” you ask.
“No; I mean I was absolutely sure then, at the time of course – but I was misled. Until now I’ve not divulged the turning point for it could so very easily be misunderstood. However, last Sunday I heard a church elder teaching about how she’d inwardly heard something which affected her as a young person. It proved to be a lie from Satan and was changed when a prophetically gifted team discerned and corrected the issue. So what happened to me wasn’t too unusual.
“Once, sitting in deep dissatisfaction in a Sunday Mass I was mentally kicking around the issues noted in my Journey and an unusual, new thought dropped into mind. It was so novel and distinctly different to my own ideas, and was as clear as anyone’s voice. It told that the church has lost what Jesus taught but it’s not disappeared entirely – it may be found.
“So I put that in my mind’s pending tray. As you know, I investigated yoga, Buddhism and what’s known as ‘the perennial philosophy. A few years later upon seeing an advert about a ‘cosmic consciousness’ by a once secret, ancient mystical brotherhood I realised a connection with the voice I’d heard and so enquired further of this society.
“Sure enough, they claimed to have links going back through history to even centuries before Christianity started. More to the point, they claimed this hidden, long linkage of teachers knew Jesus was just one of many ‘masters’ and that the church had instituted different, distinctly religious doctrines. Through deep study, personal inner development and exercises in, for example, the western esoteric tradition, as well as by reincarnation, one could attain similar heights of exalted consciousness.
“I’d found what I was searching for and over two decades assimilated and practised its teaching. I regarded it as vastly superior to anything in ordinary religion. Consequently, this over-wrote what little I knew of church dogma and teaching and so changed my attitudes and thoughts it could actually be regarded as a form of brainwashing!”
“Hold on Richard, do you now think you were told and accepted a lie?” asks Steve.
“Yes indeed…and that needed dealing with and rectifying. But that’s another story. What’s far more important is that this overturns any notion of my childhood indoctrination. In fact, the plain facts about what was used in friendly debate against me actually debunk his hypothesis…those details may bore you…”
“Time to top up our coffees?” hints Steve.