It’s all the rage — vampires springing to life from the dark shadows, only to attack, psychics predicting earth-shattering events that are suddenly headed off by divine design, and any number of fairies, leprechauns, and fairy tale characters come to life. This is what sells today because it is the Age of Imagination and Virtual Reality. We think, therefore we create.
I loved fantasy as a child. The Borrowers? They were a wonderful little family, weren’t they? And what child wasn’t moved by Charlotte and Wilbur? How many spiders lived because we thought they could talk to us?
Later on, as a children’s librarian, I had enormous fun reading fantasy stories to kids. Let’s face it — there are some absolutely hilarious kiddie books out there. Some feature magical storylines that take us away from the ordinariness of our lives and transport us to a new, unfamiliar land, where anything is possible. Whether it’s a trip to Howl’s Moving Castle or a visit to Babe’s farm, there are wonderful characters and terrific adventures to be found in the world of books.
But as an adult, I draw the line at fantasy for one very big reason. I had a first-hand, up-close, too-personal look at the world of phony psychics.
When I started out, I was an educator and I worked with hospitalized kids. It was on the heels of the Vietnam War, the controversial era in American politics. At the time, I was rubbing elbows with a number of experts in the field of medicine, and some of them had some pretty specific beliefs when it came to US involvement in Southeast Asia. They wanted to abolish the military once and for all.
The first rule of medicine is “do no harm”, but very often that is a judgment call, and in the case of psychological warfare, a case can be made according to the decider. Among those I met most determined to use psychological deterrence to convince Americans to turn against the war were a child psychiatrist, a couple of nurses, several social workers, a psychologist with a specialty in dissociative disorders, and a prominent cancer surgeon. They were backed by some pretty powerful and wealthy benefactors, ready to put their money into the pot.
In order to understand the complexity of psychological warfare, it’s important to understand this was still a volatile time in America. We had lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, lost a president, and had finally emerged from an unpopular war. We were on the edge of engagement in Central America and the antiwar movement was desperate to turn American support against the possibility of embroiling the nation once again in combat.
One of the first things I learned from these very determined antiwarriors was that they had significant financial resources. They set themselves up as non-profit organizations. Money poured in to cover the houses, cars, boats, travel, in addition to the psychic fairs, classes, and gatherings. Many of their supporters were willing to fund all of their activities, which meant they could concentrate on finding what worked to turn people away from war and towards their cause. And what worked required some back-up operations.
So many people believe in psychic phenomena without questioning how or why certain thoughts occur to us. As was my training in education and psychology, my understanding how how the brain perceives information and processes it was critical in being able to remain on my feet in the face of enormous psychological pressure. When you become a target for psychological warfare, especially by people determined to use you to manipulate others, there are certain markers you will usually find.
Psychological warfare is a process that requires supportive measures. Normal adults might be fooled for a time, but then the doubts start to creep in when the illusions and the messengers are absent or fall away. In order to successfully convince a target that psychic phenomena is real, it is imperative to isolate the target from the normal support circle. You don’t want your victim to compare notes with others. Why? Because that’s when it all falls apart. So, what is required to maintain the illusion? Smoke and mirrors. Mind manipulations. These people were determined to dissuade people from going into another war, and they were willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.
Oddly enough, they were a small, yet influential group, and they tended to work in concert with one another. The professor who specialized in dissociative behavior had scads of college students rushing to take his classes, because he was a well-known expert in the field of near-death experiences. What was it like to come back from the brink of death? How did those who almost died then transform their lives?
What happens when the professor promotes people with histories of mental illnesses and attempted suicides as having returned from death, without ever having to prove they actually did? What happens when these Near-Death experiencers claim they met cosmic beings on their journey and now channel wisdom to save the planet? That’s an experience that is anecdotal in nature, and if it’s never really verified, you’re asking people to assume it’s true and act on that basis.
One of the dark, dirty secrets I learned early on was that these people really did compare notes and plan their antiwar campaign. They went after rich benefactors and the sons and daughters of the wealthy, looking for vulnerabilities they could exploit. A number of people succumbed, including a woman whose family owned one of the largest tobacco companies in history. Guilt is a very big baton to wield on a daughter who feels the weight of having wealth because people smoked. Her mission became one of supporting the dying, through hospice. Personal tragedy took its toll early on. Married to a psychiatrist from another prominent family, she was the victim of a brutal attempted murder by a disgruntled patient. Her husband did not survive the assault. All these years later, one must wonder if that murder had anything to do with the psychological warfare techniques being developed, either for the CIA or for opponents of the CIA. Had the psychiatrist pushed too hard? Had the tactics backfired?
One thing this group of antiwarriors had in common was their determination to manipulate Vietnam War veterans to speak out. And yes, they did actually have connections to antiwar groups long before it was hip or cool. They were opposed to nuclear warfare, taking root in the early “Ban the Bomb” movement.
Personally, I have no problem with people opposing war, provided they use democratic avenues to voice their dissent and engage in lawful activities to change public opinion. But is it okay for them to manipulate a vulnerable population without disclosure? Absolutely not. It’s a violation of civil rights. It’s unconscionable to anyone with a modicum of decency. And yet it happened, under the nose of the American people. The method was simple. Fool the people into believing magical powers are real and then convince them that certain individuals can actually commune with the cosmos. Next thing you know, you’ve got a generation of believers. Believers you can manipulate. Believers who become the front for your agenda. A modern version of Willi Munzenberg’s “Innocents’ Club”.
It’s important to understand that these were a group of health care providers, used to working with people in need of psychological help. They knew how to not only create psychological programs, but also how to work the system when things went bad. Emotional coercion was a very big component of what they did. They relied on people being naive. They relied on the creative mind.
Does that mean that every person practicing Reiki is part of the network of antiwarriors determined to manipulate your mind? No. It means the bad guys promoted such practices to sway their targets. By promoting Reiki as an ancient healing art (it’s actually an amalgamation of a number of mystical practices repackaged to appear to be a healing art), the bad guys crafted the illusion that the practice was proven over centuries to be effective in mystical healing
In and of itself, Reiki is not a bad thing, provided that each individual has the opportunity to maintain his or her own self-reliance and self-identity. When you turn over control of your spirit, your chakras, or anything else to someone who insists that he or she has invisible powers to heal, powers that need no true validation, you are surrendering your soul to a manipulator. That is cult behavior. In reality, real healing is measurable, and when it comes to Reiki, there is no reason why the experiencer should need an outsider to direct the healing energy into the body. Every human being should be able to direct this so-called energy for herself or himself. A master? I cannot tell you how many “masters” I have met over the years who have so completely lost themselves in the illusion of mystical powers that they stopped functioning in the here-and-now.
When you live inside your creative mind, when you abandon the concrete mind because the potential for what might be is greater than the power of what is, you are not living in this world, in this moment. You are living in a fantasy world. And that fantasy world makes you vulnerable to suggestion from others. When you spend your days believing that you have the power to make clouds disappear and you think you can will people to give you what you want if you just wish it, you are not acting on real opportunities to make a difference in this world. You are fantasizing. You are moving away from what is real and embracing what is not real. And when this occurs because you have some value as a target for antiwarriors, most, if not all, those illusions will be phony.
Real “mind over matter” is a complex balance of taking a belief and giving it arms and legs. The human spirit and the human brain are wonderful tools for changing the world, but they require action in the real world. This small group of health care providers counted on being able to manipulate their influential targets in order to achieve a political outcome, and in doing so, deceived many. They needed the American people to embrace the illusion that psychic powers are real, because by doing so, they gained the upper hand. They were able, for so long, to hide in plain sight, and with the support of millions, created credibility for psychic phenomena that never needed to be proven. “I believe, therefore it must be true.” (When you look at the current political mess on both sides of the aisle, remember this phrase.)
The phony psychics had a handle on the business of hypnosis and self-hypnosis because so many of them were mental health experts by training. It’s really nothing more than convincing a target that A is B, backing this up with other helpers, who then repeat the message to the target until it is accepted. If the target rejects the idea that A is B, insisting that A is A and B is B, the group has to decide — cut the subject loose and take a loss, or continue to coerce the target. As practiced by this group of health care professionals, that often included a series of incidents designed to force compliance. Think of it as their “re-education” program, modeled along the lines of the Vietnamese government after the war. Those Vietnamese citizens who sided with America were subjected to some very brutal tactics, especially if they resisted. Many of those promoting phony psychic experiences had been students of these techniques, especially those psychiatrists who had followed studies of North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet psychological warfare efforts, and they had no problem applying them to non-believers. Once the target finally agreed that A was B, they could continue to work their political message into the game plan, moving forward. The goal? Propaganda campaigns. Win the war by turning people against the government. That is what psychological warfare is really all about, and in this case, it was about turning the American people against the duly elected government.
Much of guided imagery is a self-soothing technique, a stress reducer that is all about self-hypnosis techniques. In the right hands, that can be a wonderful healing tool. PTSD victims often use this technique when they rehearse what they would do differently. It’s empowering to recall a traumatic event and figure out what you can do differently if you’re ever in the same situation. But it goes beyond that. People who meditate often are far more determined and mindful in their lives when it comes to achieving goals. When you imagine something wonderful in your creative mind and you set yourself to take on the task of making it manifest in real life, it requires you to take an idea and bring it to fruition. You work it and rework it, honing it until it happens. Used that way, the mind is an amazing producer of good things, and many long-time meditation practicers have benefited from their efforts in real, concrete ways.
But when you turn over control to an entity that seeks to use you for political purposes and refuses to share the secret of that end game with you, you have been rendered less than human. You are cannon fodder. You are a means to an end. You are a political dupe. No longer do you make your own decisions, free and clear. The wizard behind the curtain is maneuvering you into position, so you select the button he wants you to push, and you fool yourself into believing it’s your decision. You do that by surrendering responsibility to gather and contemplate real information. You outsource your data collection and take the briefing provided to you as bias-free. Those experiments by Nazi physicians and psychiatrists were all about forcing mother to turn on child. How much pressure was enough to get a mother to subject her innocent child to an electric shock in order to avoid it herself? What was a mother’s breaking point, when she would stop sacrificing for her child, when she would give up? This was psychological warfare developed during WW II, and many governments trolled the files, looking for insights they, too, could employ in the Cold War. The antiwarriors were no different in utilizing the information.
Looking back, I understand that many, such as the lady who inherited all that tobacco money, were driven to do what they did for what they believed were noble reasons. It’s surely painful to think that your family was responsible for encouraging generations to smoke. But in her zeal to change the world, she trampled on my civil rights. She empowered people who manipulated minds in ways that caused far greater harm. She may have been a psychiatric nurse, she may have been married to a murdered psychiatrist, but she clearly did not understand the human spirit, mind, or body. In the end, she and her like-minded antiwarriors stole democracy right out from under us, and she used her wealth to do it. What she most hoped to avoid, she caused. She was not alone in what she did. Other prominent families used their fortunes the same way, managed by the same group of mind manipulators. They joined together and formed a coalition of activists who opposed the elected government, who went around the rules by going underground, especially during the Vietnam War.
In this day and age of virtual reality, fantasy abounds, and we are starting to see numbers of people abandon the concrete mind for the illusion of magical powers and mystic experiences, as in the case of several of the mass murderers. We are human beings, borne of flesh and blood as long as we exist in these mortal bodies. We must not abandon that truth for something that prevents us from experiencing real life. We must never come to believe that fantasy is better than real life. Dream, yes, but then make those dreams come true. Don’t live only for the promise of Heaven in the distant future. Make it happen here and now. Bring Heaven to Earth. If, when I die, there is something even better than I can imagine, I will be delighted, but let me be a creator now of a better life, of a better world, and let that start by connecting to my fellow human beings.
We have become a nation of people so focused on feel-good, we mistake that for do-good. No health care professional should ever encourage any patient to abandon the self. The goal should always be to encourage self-growth and self-development through education and healthy practices.
To those folks I knew all those years ago, who believed they had the power to change minds by manipulation, I say this. You” Emperors” have no clothes. You are naked. Your secret was revealed long ago. You just never thought anyone was really watching.
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