7/25/2010 | Share this article:By Carl S --
The Xtians that I know are fond of giving and hearing personal testimonies. That old confirmation-bias tango. But they don’t want to hear those to the contrary. Tough. They’ll never make progress that way, on that “ignorance is bliss” road.
Image via WikipediaI had forgotten until recently, my time in the Trappist monastery, when readings were done during the communal meals. Religious texts, of course, one of the books being on the history of Western monasticism. The original monks were hermits who went into the desert to pray, fast, scourge themselves, and otherwise repent of their own and mankind’s sins. St. Anthony of the Desert stands out because of a famous story; one all-nighter of shrieks and chaotic disturbances reported by his neighbors were attributed to the saint’s struggles with the “forces of evil” (Sometime later - by psychiatric analysis - to the saint’s own personality.).
I was in the monastery in the early 1950s. In 1960, I was aged 22 and stationed with the U.S. Army in West Germany. My company had been out in the wilds, on maneuvers, for three days and nights without sleep. That third night, I was dropped off on the edge of a wood and told to stay there on guard duty. Alone in the silent dark, I had several of my fellow soldiers come around and talk to me personally. Not just their voices, for their entire presences were there. But I was alone the whole time.
Driving back to Ohio from California, once again alone and anxious to get back, I again went for days without sleep. On one of those nights, I encountered a wall the size of the Berlin Wall, stretched across the road in front of me, and slammed on the brakes. When I opened my eyes, there was no wall. Years later, I read the testimony of a country doctor who made so many calls in a row that he had the same experience with a “wall.”
I once worked for days on end with two eight-hour jobs, snatching sleep when I could. One day I told my co-workers that they had a free day coming up, and that the notice was posted on the bulletin board in the hallway. One of them went to see, and came back with the conclusion that I saw it on my other job. And here I was absolutely sure I saw it there.
One doesn’t have to be mentally ill to be confused, addled, or delusional at times. Any man who goes into the desert alone to fast, deprive himself of sleep, have only his own thoughts and ideas as a frame of reference, is messing with his mind and sanity - whether it’s for five years, five months, or forty days.There are times when, very tired and nodding off, I realize I’m in a place between reality and dreams, where they fade in and out of each other, trading places. Interestingly, the brainwashing methods in the Korean War depended mostly on sleep deprivation.
Brainwashing methods in Mao’s Red China consisted of placing the subjects under such emotional and physical/psychological duress that some went insane and/or committed suicide, or, as the programmers hoped, became fanatical believers, thoroughly committed true believers who could not be otherwise convinced. (Something like Jesus Camp.)
Related to these things is my experience in dealing with my older brother, living alone in Arizona after the death of his parents. He would phone me, talk coherently, and then ramble off into nonsense. One day, I got a call from another brother saying that “Ray fell down and broke his hip, and is in the hospital”. Later on, my brother reported that Ray went into a coma after the operation, and died shortly thereafter. The county spokesperson called several times regarding the disposition of the properties and will. She said that she had personally been in the house and that there were bottles of vodka everywhere, some half full, some never opened. She also made the point that alcoholic beverages were the “drug of choice for his generation.”
Why does this information (which can be verified by reading about sleep deprivation, brainwashing and alcoholic delusions) belong on a Christian or Ex-Christian site? Here’s why. One doesn’t have to be mentally ill to be confused, addled, or delusional at times. Any man who goes into the desert alone to fast, deprive himself of sleep, have only his own thoughts and ideas as a frame of reference, is messing with his mind and sanity - whether it’s for five years, five months, or forty days. He may well lose sight of the boundary between reality and fantasy, even fabricate his own realities, all the while thinking himself sane and maybe even enlightened. That goes for Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, St. John on Patmos, and St. Anthony of the Desert. It’s the mind-body connection, stupid!
I know people who live alone and have peculiar ways of thinking and judging, and I believe it’s reasonable to conclude that they just don’t have someone nearby for reality checks. And was “Revelation” written by someone not only all alone but on psychedelic substances? And maybe the Mormon and Moslem religions forbid alcoholic drinks lest their adherents discover the sources of those visions, prophesies, and interpretations of life?
I’ve been there with alcohol, and won’t go where drugs will screw things up. I enjoy living fully, eyes wide open, facing all the good, bad, ugly and beautiful alike. Booze and drugs would ruin everything. Sans chemicals and the drugged state of religious euphoria, life is really good, even if I’m dying, as we all are. Maybe it’s the mind-body connection.