The tidal-wave of evil now engulfing the Church and society can be traced in large part to the application of godless group dynamic principles and techniques - in their myriad guises.
How to Kill a Culture
MICHAEL M. WEBER
"We live in a world of continuous change." The phrase sounds innocuous enough, even banal, and yet it has a cloak for an ideology as well as a political program, which throws a negative light onto many things which are traditional and of proven worth, implying that they stand in the way of the "march of progress." Anyone who resists change runs the risk of being branded a "fundamentalist" or "yesterday's person," or even - to use the latest gutter expression - a "stonehead."
"We live in a world of continuous change." The same people who should have paid better attention decades ago, now stand aghast at the results of this stealth ideology. This program of social change was based on a range of activities that have come to be termed psychotechniques, activities which can be summarized under the term group dynamics. Over the past two decades, these psychotechniques were smuggled into the churches like so many Trojan Horses. Since this network started, it has become virtually impossible to engage in church-related supervision activities, pastoral duties, or further training for pastors without being exposed to them. Having succeeded by the early '70s in gaining a foothold in the Protestant and Reformed churches, the group dynamics network found it comparatively easy to gain an entry into the Catholic Church. Since then this network has established itself so securely in the Catholic Church that even written complaints from those affected are brushed aside by bishops.
Virtually all clinical and pastoral duties are now carried out using one form of psychotechniques or another. This situation bears an unacknowledged responsibility for many of the conflicts which have arisen within the Church and among the brotherhood of Christians. This precarious situation has arisen because the methods used in psychotechnical pastoral care deliberately stir up potential conflict and are aimed at bringing about a radical structuring of both Church and society.
Rise of Group Dynamics
The story of the group dynamic movement can be traced back as far as the end of World War II. A number of leftist psychologists and sociologists in the United States had become preoccupied with how society changes. Their aim was to find out how it might be possible to influence the process of cultural and social change in directions they found congenial. The book The Dynamics of Planned Change (1958) originated from this circle of "researchers." They had collected together the results of their investigations and forged them into a weapon for cultural change, in which certain professions - e.g. social workers, education and marriage counsellors, executives, psychologists, teachers etc. - were regarded as key "change agents." As a result, it was precisely into these circles that training in group dynamics was introduced. By 1956 large-scale trials had taken place in the United States, with leaders from the world of business and churches taking part.
The spread of this movement then received an enormous boost from the so-called counterculture of the '60s and the student unrest which flowed from it. Everywhere in the western world group dynamics centres were springing up. Since then these methods have penetrated to the point where they are now an established part of the training for the priesthood. Now, instead of formation through prayer and study, a future Priest is just as likely to be found taking part in a weekend training course hopping round in a circle or lying on his back kicking and screaming like a baby.
Oftentimes the results are more serious than simply feeling silly. In his book The Encounter Game (1973), the American psychologist Bruce L. Maliver documents a case of suicide which resulted from these dubious group dynamic methods. Taking part in group dynamic sessions does not necessarily have such dire consequences, but suicide is not an isolated instance associated with them either. In both the United States and Europe, more and more people are showing up at clinics with psychoses they acquired during these sessions. In New Age literature there are emergency instructions for dealing with people who succumb to spiritual crises in the course of group dynamic sessions. What happened in the case of "Julia" is typical of how these sessions work. It illustrates the enormous internal pressure which the group develops, a pressure which forces people to do just about anything, including things which they would otherwise never do.
Julia was 32, single and depressed after a long and unhappy love affair. She felt that she needed therapy, but did not know where to go. A friend to whom she had confided her suicidal thoughts told her about the group dynamic seminars in New York, and she signed on. After listening to a 15-minute introductory talk, she was assigned to a group of about 12 people who at that time met each evening for a few hours under the direction of semi-trained group leaders. Those taking part, who ranged from youngsters to people in their 60s, changed from evening to evening, and so did the group leaders. In spite of the constant change of personnel, after a time Julia teamed how to "let go" her feelings and her rage. The group instilled in her the idea that she was boiling with anger inside and that her depression was caused by her fear of her own rage, which she was repressing. Julia was repeatedly urged to learn to "feel the full force" of her own rage. One of the sessions went approximately like this:
Leader: "Give vent to some rage!"
Julia was unsure of herself and tried gently, "I am angry."
Leader: "I don't believe you. Make yourself believable!"
The leader and the rest of the group spurred Julia on. She shouted louder and louder, "I am angry!"
The group bayed, "More! More! You are not angry enough!"
Julia's cries became shriller and shriller until she could only squeak breathlessly, "I am angry! I am angry! I am angry!"
She then lapsed into a state of hysteria. Typically, other members of the group said, "That was great! You got something out of it!" Others held her in their arms and caressed her. Julia tried it again and again, and every time she became possessed by rage until she became completely exhausted.
At some point the leader and the other members of the group became satisfied that Julia's problem had been solved, so they turned their attention to the next in line. Even Julia herself believed that her chronic depression had improved. She felt more cheerful. To an experienced psychologist this would have acted as an alarm signal. People who are suicidal who emerge out of a state of depression are in fact particularly in danger when they have not learned any sure way of coming to terms with longstanding problems in their lives.
Three months after her first group dynamic session Julia took her own life.
Political Agenda: Cultural Engineering
As the story of Julia makes clear, those participating in group dynamic sessions are encouraged to develop feelings of aggression. The earliest writings of its proponents themselves make this clear. Tobias Brocher, who with other neo-Marxists ran the first seminar for group dynamics leaders in Germany, describes hard and bitter fights over leadership and personal honour in his book. "I get the feeling of being in a stadium witnessing a bullfight," one participant is quoted as saying. "We just sit waiting for the sacrifice, to see just how the beast will be finished off."
Dieter Stollberg, co-fouder of the German Society for Pastoral Psychology, describes the behaviour of one group which harassed one of its participants by calling him a "hypocrite," a "coward", a "creep," a "sadist" and other terms, in what amounted to an orgy of cruelty and sadism in which the "sacrifice" was thoroughly "slaughtered" - all in the name of "self-fulfillment."
In March 1994 Psychologist William Coulson came to Zurich and described how working with Carl Rogers and the help of group dynamic methods, he destroyed a convent of Immaculate Heart nuns in Los Angeles during the '60s. Now sadder but wiser, Coulson explained how the destructive methods he pioneered are now in use throughout the Church and other institutions. With these methods, the only thing that matters in the end is how one feels. The moral and religious and psychological realities of the situation are of secondary importance. One result of this emphasis on feelings is that spreading information about the harmful effects of drugs only leads to higher levels of drug abuse. Similarly, sex education only leads to more homosexuality and earlier sexual experience among the young as well as a higher suicide rate.
By the beginning of the '70s, many people were drawing attention to the dangers inherent in the group dynamic methods but with little effect. The fact that Julia had to let her feelings all hang out and that priests should kick and scream like babies are not just ascribable to the whims of a particular group leader. Behind the techniques stands a political agenda which has hardly changed in the last 50 years. This agenda involves changing our feelings, which in turn govern our attitudes. Particular targets are our attitudes towards authority, reason, intellect, duty and faith. The new buzzwords are "self-realization," "crossing boundaries," and "living out all our feelings." People are encouraged to try out everything they can possibly imagine; only then can they judge what suits them and decide whether they would like to adopt any particular lifestyle or relationship. It is easy to see that with a program like this the established customs of the culture are dispensed with in short order. In the United States, and increasingly in Europe, we are confronted with the same consequences: increased drug abuse, occultism and esoteric superstitions, empty churches, perversion of sexual sensitivities and so on
Even more regrettable is the fact that such methods have been able to gain a foothold in the training of priests, especially in the fulfillment of their pastoral duties. The decision to introduce these methods into these fields was taken as far back as 20 years ago, through the creation of the German Society for Pastoral Psychology. Not long ago one of its founders, Joachim Scharfenberg enthused, "We are a kind of underground movement, but one which tries to move things outside the underground."
Just imagine a priest, on a weekend training course, bellowing revolutionary slogans on cue and role-playing acts of terrorism! Many of the founders of the most varied types of group dynamic methods (Gestalt Therapy, Bio-energy, Transpersonal Therapy etc.) have close ties with Marxism and anarchism. No wonder, then, that further training courses take place themes like "Revolution and Pastoral Care," or that the participants in seminars should dream up acts of terrorism. Such things take place in the Paulus Academy, a so-called Catholic training institute in Zurich. Those participating engage in role-play in groups of four "criminals." The priests have to consider what crimes they would like to commit. In doing this they are supposed to ferret out their inhibitions and then work out ways of abolishing them! All this shows clearly what happens when a program which aims at the total abolition of authority and the tearing down of all bounds is set in motion.
We are not talking about isolated instances here. Religious life in the United States has been devastated by these techniques. At the end of September 1994, Gestalt Therapy training days were organized for pastoral care in Munich's Catholic Foundation High Schools. Books on pastoral care enthuse about every imaginable sort of psychotechnique, and portray Fritz Perls, the inventor of Gestalt Therapy, who proudly described himself as a "dirty old man," as the greatest therapist of all time. (Perls himself was an object lesson in how an obsession with tearing down authority can have disastrous consequences. It ultimately killed him. Waking up in an intensive care unit in a hospital, he began ripping the IV feeding tubes out of his arm. When a nurse tried to reconnect him, Perls shouted that she had no right to tell him what to do. Those were his last words.)
In the meantime a whole generation of pastoral care professionals has grown up which apparently has no knowledge of anything other than these methods. Among their number is Wunibald Mueller from Recollection-House in Munsterschwarzach, Germany. Mueller's dream is incorporating a group dynamic workshop into the holy sacrifice of the Mass, something like what he experienced in the American homosexual church, the Metropolitan Community Church. A recent article in the Catholic Deutsche Tagepost about Wunibald Mueller shows just how widespread, how well entrenched and how cunningly camouflaged with saccharine words these group dynamic seminars really are. The reader learns nothing about the real aims and methods of Mueller's meetings even though a few weeks earlier a different German periodical had reported all this fully and openly.
Destroying Religion Through Analysis
In the German-speaking world, candidates for the priesthood are routinely denied ordination if they refuse to take part in these group sessions. In the universities and theological training colleges, pressure to take part in these sessions is an everyday occurrence. Those who devise these techniques, who are themselves never slow to preach tolerance and openness, become authoritarian and dictatorial when anybody criticizes them or rejects their methods. They get rid of their critics mercilessly. Tragically, the people drawn to the social professions are the sort of people most likely to become infected with the destructive ideas behind this political program of cultural engineering. As early as 1978 Bishop Cordes wrote an article describing how crises of faith were being deliberately provoked in these courses.
This is completely in line with the objectives of the man who originally devised these techniques. It was Wilhelm Reich who originated "Bio-energy" for example (and just about all the other kinds of "Body Therapies"). In his books Reich was preoccupied with "destroying religion through analysis." He hoped to achieve this by "uprooting religious feelings in the individual not through discussions about the existence or non-existence of God, but simply and solely through arousing the sexual drives and dissolving the ties which bind children to their parents." Reich had no scruples about provoking adults who came to him with mental problems into a state of crisis if this served his overriding purpose of rooting out religious belief. "If the analysis leads in the end to a normal and fulfilling life," Reich wrote, "then religion loses its hold on the patient. Theological students often find themselves in serious difficulties; it becomes impossible for them to continue with conviction in a calling of whose healthy blessings they are conscious in their own bodies."
These and similar scandalous sayings are unfortunately not as well known as they should be. But people who follow the writings of the proponents of group dynamic methods come across them increasingly frequently. The irony of the current situation is too large to ignore. We have to keep in mind what sort of a distorted (Latin: perverted) situation we find ourselves in. The founder of "body oriented" group dynamic courses clearly said that it was his aim to destroy religion, yet today in many places it is precisely these courses which are offered as part of the priestly training! No wonder we have a shortage of priests.
The author is a psychologist and a member of the Zurich-based organisation Mut zur Ethik, Courage to be Moral. Thanks to Dr. Weber and to Culture Wars which translated the article from the German.