Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Positive Mind-Control?

AntiCultControversies : Message: Can Mind Control Be Good?:
In his website, Hassan states that mind control is not always bad (http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/faq/#1 ):

""Mind control" techniques are not necessarily bad. Although I typically use the term "mind control" when describing unethical and abusive social influence, many of the techniques can be used ethically to promote positive spiritual and personal growth."

I think his statement that mind control techniques are not always bad is very confusing.

Then he goes on to say that spiritual practices can be ethical or unethical:

"For example, prayer can be used ethically or it can be used destructively as a tool of manipulation and coercion. Praying with a person aloud, and asking "God's blessing to help direct and guide him" (in an "open-ended" way) is just fine. Praying with a person, and asking God to "keep this person from making the mistake of leaving the group's workshop and returning to Satan's world" is unethical.
There may be some idea there. saying, for example, "You have to follow God's voice" would be OK. But saying in substance "You have to follow God's voice and I am that voice" would already be objectionable, even if we don't label it mind-control.
Meditation techniques can be used to build awareness and self control, or it can be used as a way of "thought-stopping"-undermining independent thinking and reality-testing. For example, if a person is having doubts and questions about a leader's behavior, and meditates to get rid of "negativity", it might stop the person from taking necessary action.

There are thousands of different "mind control" techniques which can be used for positive benefit. Some these techniques include: prayer, meditation, chants, singing songs, visualizations, affirmations, positive self-talk, breathing techniques, hypnosis, "speaking in tongues", ecstatic dancing, music."

So, as far as I understand, he considers all the spiritual practices to be mind-controlling, but sometimes this "mind control" is "ethical." I think it is another example of his stretching the term "mind control."
I agree. Why call it mind-control at all? It isn't really useful to understand the cult phenomenon, or at least it is questionable, and it isn't useful to understand spiritual practices. Not only Hassan stretches what he includes under cults and mind-control to the point it loses its meaning, if it ever had any, but to use it to designe something else in addition really just make it totally meaningless.
I think that between real freedom of mind (not Hassan's "freedom of mind") and mind control there is a big "gray zone." It is somewhat like in black and white television. Even though it was called "black and white," there were many gradations of the gray color there. The standard testing table for TV sets, used in the USSR and Russia, had 10 gradations. It means that a TV set was expected to display not only black and white, but also 8 shades of the gray color. Mind control is "black." Freedom of mind is "white." And there are many things between them.

Probably, Hassan considers that mind control and freedom of mind are the two alternatives. And probably, he includes the whole "gray zone" into "mind control." I do not think this is correct.
I think that what he means to say is that the same technique could be either beneficial or detrimental depending on the context. I would agree with that. I just don't see indeed why refer to both as "mind-control". It already is dubious a term when used in relation to cults, and it becomes even weaker when used to refer to any spiritual technique.

Or is there really something like "positive mind-control" vs. "negative mind-control"? Positive mind-control being me controling my mind, and negative mind-control being others controling it?

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