NEW AGE / INTELLIGENCE LINKS NEW YORK TIMES MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1986 Spiritual Concepts
NEW AGE / INTELLIGENCE LINKS
NEW YORK TIMES
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1986
Spiritual Concepts Drawing a Different Breed of Adherent
Representatives of some of the nation's largest corporations, including I.B.M.,
A.T.&T., and General Motors, met in New Mexico in July to discuss how meta-
physics, the occult, and Hindu mysticism might help executives compete in
the world marketplace.
Here in San Francisco, a politically conservative research center forsees
an eventual alliance of conservatives, leftists of the 1960's, and Americans
with interests ranging from eastern mysticism and the occult to holistic
And this November, ABC-TV plans a five-hour miniseries, based on an auto-
biography by the actress Shirley McLaine that delves deeply and seriously
into reincarnation and the supernatural. These are strands in a thread of
alternative thought that scholars say is working its way increasingly into
the nation's cultural, religious, social, economic, and political life.
On one level, they say, it is evidenced by a surge in interest in new meta-
physical religions, mediums, the occult, reincarnation, psychic healing,
satanism, "spirit guides," and other aspects of supernatural belief.
At another level, the scholars site the spreading influence of psychological
self-help and "human potential groups" that operate under names such as
The Forum, Insight, Actualizations, Silva Mind Control, and Lifespring.
These groups' programs for corporate employees attract millions of dollars
Borrowing some spiritual concepts from asian religions, the programs try
to transform clients' thought processes and make them better, more creative
On both levels, leaders contend they are ushering in what they call a New Age
of understanding and intellectual ferment, as significant as the Renaissance.
But critics of these groups that many are nothing more than cults, and that
others subject unwitting participants to mind control.
Professor Rashky, a critic of the trend, describes it as a "most powerful
social force in the country today. I think its as much a political movement
as a religious movement," he says, "and its spreading into Business Management
Theory and alot of other areas. If you look at it carefully you see it
represents a complete rejection of judeo-christian and bedrock American values."
Some who have evaluated the trend attribute it partly to a loss of confidence
in traditional western ideas and conventional ways of doing things, and to a
willingness to try out anything new in search of a replacement.
"Why is business rushing in to look at everything from EST to firewalking?"
asks Robert S. Callodson, a business consultant who is a retired Vice President
of the Champion International Corporation. "The old ways of doing business
aren't working anymore, and even the most intelligent of people feel that
Although precepts vary from group to group, many argue that western man,
partly because of scientific discoveries of recent centuries, has become
disillusioned with the spiritual concepts he inherited. Many groups are
also critical of the world's current economic and social systems, saying
they have ravaged the planet.
Most argue that mankind is at the treshhold of "a great evolutionary leap
of consciousness to new beliefs about many things" and that there is an
energy or force in the universe that will lead to a happy, peaceful, perhaps
united, new world (the sort of "force" at work in George Lucas' Star Wars
The purpose of many of the groups is to transform the society to prepare for
this "New Age." To get there, it is argued, men and women must first alter
conventional ways of thinking and begin using areas of their minds they do
not normally use. They must enter "an altered state of consciousness" through
the use of such types of psychological techniques as meditation, hypnosis,
chanting, biofeedback, prolonged isolation, and the intervention of "spirit
guides," or ghosts.
Psychologists who have studied the process say that while participants are
in this "altered state," leaders of the groups are able to implant new ideas
and alter their thinking processes.
Participants in various new age groups say they often experience euphoria
in the altered states and cited this as one reason for their popularity.
"The drug of the 60's was LSD and marijuana," said Carrie Klinger, a 29-year
old resident of Washington State, who belonged to several New Age groups
before becoming disillusioned. "I think the drug of the 80's is cosmic
Reginald Alev, Executive Director of the Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-
based clearinghouse of information about cults, said "it's very sad what's
going on. Most of the people who get involved in these New Age groups which
are growing all over the place are intelligent, altruistic, idealistic.
They want to know the meaning of life, and someone comes along and tells
them they have the answer. Then they're told they are the master of their
own destiny, sort of an eastern version of Norman Vincent Peale, but they
don't know they are being subjected to mind control."
Richard Wattring, Personnel Director of the Budget Rent-A-Car Corporation
in Chicago, is seeking to arouse concern among his peers over how quickly
corporate america is embracing "psuedo-therapy programs." "I really think
you're going down the wrong path in business when you deal with a person's
spiritual being and attempt to manipulate his mind," he said.
Graduates of such programs and former cult members are often psychically
scarred says Dr. Edwin Morse, a former member of the University of Wisconson's
psychology faculty who now counsels such people in Madison. "These groups
are using hypnotic procedures and people are not being told about it." Not
only do leaders of some groups convince clients that they should sign up
for expensive new seminars or workshops, it is asserted, many also use the
hypnotic state to plant beliefs in their mind they are unaware of.
One concept commonly transmitted in these sessions by "human potential groups"
is that because man is a deity equal to God he can do wrong, thus there is
no sin, no reason for guilt in life.
The Ford Motor Company, Westinghouse, and the Calvin Klein Fashion House are
among scores of major companies that have sent employees for training, according
to "human potential organizations" such as Transformation Technologies,
Lifespring, and Actualizations, all of which include techniques modelled to
a greater or lesser extent after the techniques started by Werner Erhart,
the founder of EST. "We teach new patterns of thinking," said Stuart Emory,
chairman of Actualizations.
Kevin Garby, an author and researcher on New Age topics in Carlyle,
Pennsylvania, cites an army recruiting slogan "Be All That You Can Be"
as evidence of what he contends has been the significant influence of EST,
Lifespring, and other New Age programs in certain quarters of the military.
In the early 1980's, he said, officers at the Army War College in Carlyle,
some of whom were graduates of EST, and were former members of The Radical
Students For A Democratic Society, conducted a study aimed at creating a
"New Age Army." The slogan, a derivative of the "You Create Your Own
Reality" orthodoxy of New Age groups, grew out of this work.
The study, according to participants, also envisaged training soldiers in
meditation, developing skills in extrasensory perception, magic, and in
"neurolinguistic training," a hypnosis technique. Army officials say
the program has been cancelled and its principle leaders have left the army.
Mr. Garvy, however, contends that EST and Lifespring graduates continue to
have influence in the army and other government agencies.
Politically, many in the New Age movement have said they tend to gravitate
toward democrats like Edmund G. Brown, Jr., the former governer of California,
and Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, but A. Lawrence Chickering, editorial
director of the Institute For Contemporary Studies here, a conservative research
organization, whose alumni include Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Defense
Secretary Casper W. Weinberger, forsees the evolution of a New Age Right.
Mr. Chickering attributes the "rediscovery of conservatism" during the 1970's
in part to the Esalen Institute, "because what they are trying to do is
rediscover principles of order within a context of freedom." In time, he said,
he expected the New Age Right to form an alliance with "some of the components
of the New Left of the 1960's and others in the New Age movement."
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
WEST MAGAZINE SECTION
SUNDAY, NOV 8, 1987
Mind Over Murder
"I'm gonna play some mind games with you in this seminar, because
the brain is my favorite toy."
-- Richard Bandler, Using Your Brain For A Change
Richard Bandler was talking about motivation and how people's attitudes
could be changed through therapy. This went to the heart of Neurolinguistic
Programming, the controversial discipline he co-founded 10 years before. NLP,
a mixture of hypnosis and linguistics, studied how people influence eachother
in subconscious ways. The idea was that covert manipulation could be learned
and applied with beneficial results.
Psychotherapists had called it a dangerous form of mind control, but they
couldn't get to the seminars fast enough. Neither could doctors, lawyers,
corporate executives, salespeople, anyone who thought a little manipulation
could go a long way.
So on this day in 1983, about fifteen therapists were sitting in their rented
chairs, and Bandler was observing that many attitudes are thought to be hard
to change. Most of us, for example, avoid doing certain tasks, because we
associate them with anxiety or discomfort, and we can't imagine feeling any
other way. He asked for personal examples from the group. A male therapist
offered one. "What would make you do this behavior willingly?" Bandler asked.
"Absolutely nothing," the man said. Was he sure? The man looked sure. "Well,
a small-caliber handgun might do the job," he offered flippingly. Bandler
reached into a pocket and whipped out a Derringer. "Would this do?" He waved
the gun in the man's face. "Do you want to change now?" When he saw the gun,
the therapist went into "deep panic." The incident was so embarrassing that
even now, four years later, he agrees to discuss it only on condition of
anonyminity, so we'll call him Dave.
"When I saw the gun," Dave says, "I knew he wasn't going to use it, but I
did not know for sure that absolutely he wouldn't." Bandler stared at him.
"You don't think I'm going to use this, do you?" he said. He jacked up the
gun and walked closer. "Are you sure I won't use it?" Then he walked away.
Bandler kept this up for perhaps ten minutes, walking back and forth. Every
time he walked away, Dave would "intellectualize and associate." Every time
Bandler came closer, Dave almost "bleeped in my pants and ran out of the
room." Dave swung back and forth between the two states of mind helpless
under Bandler's spell.
Others in the room were terrified. There was no one taking a breath, says one
observer. When it was over, Dave says, he vowed never to use such a technique
on his own patients, it was far too aggressive. But a few months later, his
attitude toward the task he'd mentioned to Bandler underwent a dramatic and
positive shift. To this day, NLP trainers call the incident one of Bandler's
most delicate and brilliant pieces of work.
"What was so funny," Dave says, "is that I made the suggestion myself. I gave
him the ammunition. I guess there was a part of me that said it's time to
work on this, but I never in God's World expected him to have a gun in his
pocket. Frankly, the man still makes me anxious when I get around him."
On November 3rd, 1986, Richard Bandler was charged with killing a women with
a single shot to the head. She was Carrine Christiansen, 31, an alleged
prostitute and cocaine dealer. She died in her townhouse in Santa Cruz just
a block from Bandler's home.
He grew up somewhere in Santa Clara County, graduating from Fremont High
School in Sunnyvale in 1968. After two years at Foothill College, he moved
to the University of California, Santa Cruz. He formed an instant bond with
linguistics professor John Grinder, who shared his view of the human potential
Sensitivity Training, nurtured down the road at Esalen, now held the campus
in thrall. Bandler and Grinder found the new techniques hilariously clumsy,
but they were drawn to the power of the therapeutic movement which had suddenly
given the therapists new authority.
Their research began as a study of "four models of excellence," family
therapist Virginia Satir, gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, social psychologist
Gregory Bateson, and hypnotist Milton Erikson. Bandler and Grinder analyzed
thousands of interactions between the therapists and their patients, examining
such things as language patterns, tones of voice, breathing rates, eye
movements, even minute changes in skin color. They found that therapist
achieved "deep rapore" by mirroring patient's verbal and non-verbal cues.
For example, if a patient said, "Do you see what I mean?" Satir often said
"I get the picture." If the patient said, "How does that sound?" she might
say "I hear what you're saying." If the patient said "Are you comfortable
with this idea?" she might say "Yes, I grasp waht you mean."
Bandler and Grinder soon divided people into three broad categories depending
on the sensory mode they preferred. "Some people are predominately visual,"
they decided, "some are auditory, and others are kinesthetic." If you talk
to a person in the mode he naturally favors, you're speaking a language he
understands and trusts. Bandler and Grinder, for example, are highly auditory.
Even today, when Grinder recalls their work together, his speech rings with
auditory metaphors. "We had a great act," he says fondly. "We finished each
other's sentences. We played music together, counterpoint, everything."
And observers use auditory metaphors about them. "They'd be so in tune with
eachother," said a former student, "that it was almost like playing jazz in a
NLP, which borrowed heavily from hypnosis, was soon being sold as an aid to
therapy, business, sales, even law, where it was promoted as a boon to trial
work. When critics attacked it as a form of dark magic, Bandler and Grinder
reported that "people have been manipulating eachother for centuries and they
might as well understand what's going on." "If a therapist doesn't manipulate
a client," Grinder often said, "I don't know what the hell they're doing."
But he did worry that NLP would be misused. He once called it a "very
dangerous sport," admitting he could not control the tools he'd invented.
Richard Bandler found new thrills elsewhere. He started working with the
U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency, doing projects on post-Vietnam
stress syndrome, marksmanship, removing foreign accents from speech. He did
some highly sensitive work for the C.I.A. on training potential hostages to
withstand torture and interrogation.
Kate Wells, a local attorney, remembers sitting in his apartment one day "with
the three top C.I.A. agents in the country. They were like this with Richard
-- (she makes a goggling face.) They were in awe of him. They would have done
anything to please him. Sitting in this cruddy little living room in Capitola,
it was surreal."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank