The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God



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I was just scanning through some of the emails sent to you and your replies on Ed's site. Just wanted to make a quick comment on Carl Jung.

You're right that Jung had a much better grasp on the functional significance of the archetypes than did Freud. Freud, of course, was a theological atheist, i.e., he had to fit any manifest evidence into a particular framework that denied any reality except a material one, including evidence of a subconscious mind. Jung had, I think, a mind more open to a diversity of answers. He also was a natural mystic (read his childhood dreams in his memoir, "Memories, Dreams, Reflections") and of course was fully grounded in Christian theology, being the son of a minister. He had a much broader, more "humanistic" framework with which to filter and evaluate the apparent subconscious levels than did Freud, who had grown up in a non-religious Jewish family. I think it is quite possible that historically Jung will be considered more profound than Freud; his influence in literature, film, music, and art is already pervasive.

I suppose it's true that, as you say, the subconscious mind cannot be measured or physically demonstrated, and therefore cannot be considered "scientific", but I do agree to the general concept, particularly Jung's theory of the individual unconscious melding into the collective one; this theory has explained a good deal about myself to me.

I am much more bent toward the philosophical than the "hard" scientific, and I have a lot of admiration for those such as yourself who move well in both dimensions of intellectual activity. I'd enjoy knowing more about the current thinking about human consciousness and knowledge theory. If you could recommend a few pertinent titles geared toward the educated layman, I'd appreciate that. I also plan to delve in future into the ideas of such "New Age" researchers and theorists as Terrence McKenna.

Thanks for all the work you're doing for ex-COG'ers--"Daughter of Bablyon" is quite a magnum opus. Have you thought about doing a scholarly book on the Worldwide Church of God and its offspring, delving into history, psychology, etc.? It would be a great focused study for anyone interested in the phenomenon of "cults". (It's a bit hard for me to use the "C-word" because I know Dr. James Tabor, currently at UNC-Charlotte, and he despises the use of the word, and his ideas rubbed off on me a bit!)



Thanks for your letter and all of the kind things that you said.
I agree with Tabor on one level. If you read my conclusion in Daughter of Babylon, you'll see that I too came to disagree with using the term cult to imply that there are good religions and bad religions. I place religion on a continuum from early heretic stage to late orthodox stage. What's happening in the Worldwide Church of God today eventually happens to all religious groups--they move toward a type of entropy. I do believe that there is cult-like behavior though, as described in the book The True Believer and as I describe in my article, The Pied Piper.

Edmund Cohen (The Mind of the Bible Believer) says there are layers of being religious. The first layer is the aesthetic one--The smell of pine scented pews, the pomp and ceremony, the music, and the open arms of the church members. This is what attracts a person to begin going to church. As I recall, eventually believers move from one level to the next and the final level is the political one--vying for recognition, being part of the internal grapevine of gossip, desiring a position of power, being polarized in some particular sub-group, noticing hypocrisy, and being stuck in a rut.

I remember reading about a couple of Jung's dreams. One was of a church that Jung was admiring from a distance and then a giant turd fell from heaven and buried it. The other dream he described to Freud and Freud then severed their relationship. The dream was of him being in the attic of a house. Everything in the attic was very modern looking, as he moved down the house onto different floors the styles became more and more ancient. Finally, in the basement he found himself in a cave admiring cave paintings on the wall. Freud's theory of the unconscious mind was based more upon sexual repression but Jung's dream was more about the evolution of the human species, that humans all share a collective consciousness. The concept of collective consciousness is not easy to understand. As I understand it, Jung is not talking about a spirit in man that gives us a radio hookup to the human race; he is talking more about the evolutionary construction of our brains making our human instinct. There does appear to be supporting evidence that our brains work that way.

Here's one way that neuro-scientists study the brain: They take a laboratory animal, place its head in a strap so that it cannot move and they mildly anesthetize it. They medicate the animals eyes so they don't move but just stare in one direction. Then they place tiny electrodes into individual brain cells. The electrodes will register a buzzing sound if the brain cell becomes stimulated. Next the researcher flashes a symbol like a slash mark or a squiggly line to be seen by the animal. From these experiments researchers have learned that each individual cell in the brain registers for only one particular stimulus. For instance, the period at the end of this sentence will stimulate one cell on the retina which fires a response along a neural pathway to the visual cortex at the back of the brain causing only one brain cell to be stimulated. Likewise for every letter that you look at, a series of specific neurons will be stimulated sending those messages to other parts of the brain to be constructed into sentences as we move our eyes over the text. So, the brain takes tiny bits of information and builds a whole picture from it much like a television picture is made up of tiny red, green, and blue dots.

In one research done on a Macaque monkey a particular cell near the temporal lobe was connected to an electrode and no particular type of symbol or shape was found to stimulate it. Mild buzzing would occur with star-shaped silhouettes. So the researchers made a silhouette of a Macaque monkey's open hand and showed it to the monkey. There was a full stimulus response from the cell. This is where we return to what Jung believed because this experiment revealed that Macaque monkeys are hard-wired to know all about Macaque monkeys. And, this is what Jung implies about humans: that we carry proto-types of ideal humans in our brains. These prototypes he called archetypes. The ideal male and ideal female he called anima and animus. Those archetypal figures are the gods.

Two books that I would recommend for the layman to gain more of an understanding of how the brain works are An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, both by Oliver Sacks.

New Age teachings: People need fantasy. I honestly believe that this is the final step toward sanity. Our natures are complex and I feel that if we avoid our need for fantasy our minds become both anxious and depressed. Did you read my Journey of the Shaman article? In the light of fantasy, the two religions that interest me the most are Buddhism and ancient paganism. The latter religion has gotten a terrible rap from Christians. The European pagans believed that they had to live in harmony with nature. Christians generally believe that they must subdue all things and went forth to conquer all pagans (in some cases torturing them to death).

To answer your last question, Once I thought that I would write a book aimed at the greater public to explain the bizarre story of the Worldwide Church of God. John Trechak convinced me that there is just not enough interest out there. He should know. He's written more about the Worldwide Church of God than anyone else.




Thanks for your very helpful reply. I'll look into Oliver Sacks' books. I need to get a firmer perspective on the neurological processes in order to better work out my own personal ideas on the development of human consciousness.

I like what you wrote about fantasy, that it's "the final step to sanity." I would tend to put it in terms of a search for transcendence, the motivation for which seems to be inherent in most humans. We always long for the world of myth, because it seems to be timeless and golden; also, I think for many it feels like a world that existed, but was lost. Perhaps it's a remnant of memory back to our pre-conscious existence in the womb and in infancy, when there were no cares placed upon us. But I think there is more at work here as well. I think because we feel that urge to transcendence, myth/fantasy gives us a certain release, provides us with at least a vision for that which we seek; without release, the mundane day-to-day life would kill our spirit. (As happens, unfortunately, to many people.) Of course, religions form out of that need for transcendence, but then create walls of dogma and ceilings of guilt which counteract their potential for doing some good.

There is much about paganism, from what I can gather at this point, that I like, primarily the sense of living IN nature as opposed to the dualistic idea of Judeo-Christian thought, man OVER nature. I find Buddhism to be highly effective as a means of calming one's life and finding the authentic core. Taoism does this as well, especially in regards to its emphasis on finding form within nature's function (yes, Frank Lloyd Wright was something of a Taoist).

As regards Jim Tabor's encouragement of the use of the term "new relgious movement" as opposed to "cult": I wonder if any such movement must begin with cultic behavior. Terence McKenna and Theodore Roszak, have theorized that human consciousness itself originated, and grew, as a result of shamanic visions that were described to the other people in a tribe or group. I don't know how much power or authority that the shaman demanded, but it certainly seems to be a situation of an Inspired One. (To be fair, McKenna is probably more "democratic" than this, since his theory is that groups of hominids started eating psilocybin mushrooms and perhaps other psychedelic plants or fungi, and received visions en masse.)

On the subject of Tabor, I'm trying to get a grasp of just where his head is at. If you're familiar with him: he actually taught, as a young man, at AC-Pasadena from about '68-'70, while beginning his graduate work, eventually to specialize in early Christian origins and present-day "new relgious movements," a la the Branch Davidians--and keeping up with all the Armstrongite umbrella. (In fact, it was he who clued me in to the fact that Worldwide Church of God was in the process of going Protestant, quite awhile before the masses caught on. I myself have been "exited" from the COG in all its forms since '77, but have family in it. When my parents told me a year and a half after talking with Tabor that Tkach was throwing out all the traditional beliefs, they were a bit taken aback when I told them I already knew that!) Anyway, these days, in addition to his "regular job" as Professor of Relgion at UNC-Charlotte, he is in cooperation with Ernest Martin translating the Original Bible: I have seen some past website updates from him, and his letters can sometimes sound very Worldwide Church of God influenced in style and content. He also has some ties with the Yeshua movement, i.e., the Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah but retain most of the Jewish law (like the Nazoreans of the first century, in fact, I think many of them call themselves "Nazoreans). Just wonder exactly what his own personal point of view is. Maybe John Trechak has some knowledge about this, if no one else does. Well, thanks again for the reply. I shall now go back to my "regular job" at this computer, but perhaps with distant images of Glastonbury (was there last month), or Rivendell or Lothlorien, working in the back of my mind.




If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that the story of Adam and Eve was stolen from the Babylonians when the Jews were in captivity. Karen Armstrong (no relation to HWA) wrote a book called The History of God. She talks about a golden era when stories were traded along the caravan route from Babylon to Egypt. This is where many of the Bible stories came from. There are many versions of the fable of Adam and Eve. Pandora's Box is one that we're taught in elementary school. The fascination with both of those stories is that we humans are psychologically aware that there was a time when our ancestors were unencumbered by civilization.

The myth of Adam and Eve is a great metaphor of human history since the earliest humans were indeed hunter gatherers who lived unclothed in the forest as one tribal family. So maybe, in the Jungian sense, our own minds can identify with the myth because it is archetypal. Moving from the jungle and clothing themselves, early humans began to sacrifice a tie to nature. Today we recognize that as sin entering the world. What sin it was is not clear to us.

McKenna and Roszak's theories seem interesting. Certainly we know that primitive tribesmen used hallucinogenics to travel to the nether world and gain greater consciousness. In the late 60s some of the professors at Berkeley felt that LSD would help them to gain this transcendence to enlightenment. Many people who take this journey with hallucinogenic drugs claim to meet God. Another claim made by those who have hallucinated is that they transcend reality and see that what we perceive as an intact world is merely a hallucination. Those hard scientists who study the brain and perception biologically describe the brain's functioning in a very similar way. Think about it. We believe that the color blue really exists, but it doesn't. When we see blue light, it is only because some of our retina cells at the back of our eye are excited when they perceive light traveling at the wavelength of 4500 angstroms. Outside of our own biological perception, the color blue does not exist. This perception is unique to us. So, the question is begged, is the way we perceive the rest of the world only an illusion that we put meaning to? If the integrity of the brain is altered by changing brain chemistry, humans hallucinate. But, what exactly does it mean to hallucinate? In one sense, it appears to mean that the brain cannot continue to construct its own "reality." Much of what we construct about the outside world is hard wired into us. Some of our hard wiring doesn't begin until we develop to a certain stage. For instance, very young babies will crawl to mother across a glass pane suspended three or four feet above a floor but older toddlers will not do so because they have developed depth perception.

I know about Tabor from John Trechak. I know about Martin from personal experience as well as from others. Both are very brilliant but strongly influenced by the Armstrong paradigm (in other words they are biased). There is no original Bible, so I don't know how those two can be translating it. (Please refer to my article on the Inerrancy of the Bible.)





Thanks for your last very informative letter; the matter of the evolution and operation of the human consciousness is absolutely intriguing, and one which I will explore much more deeply. You have put me on to the track of much further study, and I appreciate that.

About Tabor, Martin, and the Original Bible Project: by "Original Bible," I think they're referring to a) publishing the Bible in what they think is the original (Old Testament) order of books (you'd have to go to their website to get their reasons for thinking that is significant); and b) Tabor is attempting the most painstakingly "accurate" translation from the oldest possible ("original") text sources. But I have to believe that Tabor may very well have his shades of meaning influenced by Armstrongism and other similar belief systems. That's why I'm interested in finding out "where his head is". He's a constant peripheral satellite around the HWA solar system.

My own reasons for keeping up with what goes on in that system--besides the logical one of my having been involved myself for a number of years, including having been a student at AC-Pasadena in the early 70's--is as an historical study of a fringe apocalyptic movement and its evolution (or devolution) after the death of its founder. To see if the Mother Church will hold together as an identity as it becomes totally mainstream evangelical Protestant, and what kinds of political machinations will continue to take place within and among the various offshoots. I try to keep up a bit with Garner Ted and Rod Meredith as individuals, especially trying to gauge their own psychological processes as they run their own "works" and get thrown out and have to start again, etc. etc. An historical/sociological study, I guess.

To briefly address your comments on psychedelics and how they re-wire consciousness during a trip: I have read quite a bit on the subject, as there is a fair bit of info available about the studies done from the 40's to the mid-60's. There seemed to be a great, great potential for the administering of LSD and other psychedelics as therapeutic agents, in carefully prepared "set and setting", to enable patients to break through psychological barriers by breaking through, temporarily, the constructs they had built around their consciousness. Two things primarily killed this research: 1) the carelessness of Tim Leary as his project progressed, until his Millbrook experiments drew unfavorable attention, especially from a young district attorney named G. Gordon Liddy; this combined with a sudden availability of LSD and other psychedelics on the "street", and a wave of non-confined usage, particularly in L.A. and San Francisco, creating a burgeoning new hippie subculture that alarmed authorities. 2) in association with this, the tendency of "trippers" to associate the major societal institutions as authoritarian barriers to full personal and psychological freedom. One commonly shared aspect of the trip was a sense of transpersonal unity and consciousness, which replaced the old need for external structures; the sense of Unity rendered such structures unnecessary and a hindrance. Authorities soon became acutely aware of this, and therefore not only cracked down on acid and other hallucinogenics as "recreational" drugs, but banned nearly all scientific research with them as well. (One wonders if that had some role in leading to the epidemic use of hard drugs such as cocaine in the 70's, i.e., trying to find replacements, which unfortunately were a completely different category of drug, with devasatating effects.)

Thanks again for all your ideas and references.




I do recall hearing about the Tabor/Martin project. Years ago, I spoke to Earnest Martin's son and he told me about his father's projects. I remember him referring to his father as a mystic. Looking at his writings, I would say that's a fair assessment. I think that one of the things that lured so many of us into believing those old church teachings was their mystical nature--e.g., discovering that the U.S. and Britain were descended from the tribes of Israel, discovering that counting a day for a year in the book of Daniel meant that the end of the world would occur in 1975, believing that we had found God's one and only organization....After Martin left the Armstrong organization, he continued to write in the same tabloid style.

Back in the late 60s ministers used to talk about a correct order for the biblical books. What they meant was the order that the Old Testament books are placed in in the Hebrew Bible. This is no great project. Just go out and buy a Hebrew Bible.

Their second project ( "Tabor is attempting the most painstakingly "accurate" translation from the oldest possible ("original") text sources.") is literally an impossible task for an honest person to attempt. The oldest text source is the Codex Sinaitcus and the second oldest is the Codex Vaticanus (both preserved in Catholic monasteries for centuries). All versions of our modern Bible were translated by the early Catholic clerics in Rome. Tabor will only join a long line of scribes dating back to the fourth century in his attempt to edit, interpolate, and delete bible verses. The hermeneutic challenge alone makes his task impossible. One cannot make something that is so tampered with and so ancient, as the Bible, MORE accurate. You wonder where his head is at. I do too.

On the subject of LSD. Most laypersons may not be aware that LSD is not addictive like most other street drugs. When I admitted people into the hospital for drug addiction, I never met a person who had become addicted to LSD even though many of them had experimented with it until finding their drug of choice. The person that we think of as an addict is generally not interested in hallucinogenic type experiences. You stated, "One commonly shared aspect of the trip was a sense of transpersonal unity and consciousness, which replaced the old need for external structures; the sense of Unity rendered such structures unnecessary and a hindrance." I believe the book, "The Holographic Universe" describes experiments done on patients under the influence of LSD being able to read each other's minds and see the same hallucinations. I have an acquaintance from college who told me that she and her husband stop talking after taking LSD and just listen to each other's thoughts. Is this the type of experience you are referring to?

I don't know about your assertion that the persecution of those using LSD caused the widespread use of other more illicit and addictive drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroine. There are those who claim it is a government plot to keep a steady flow of these drugs in the ghetto to keep minorities down and nonproductive. I don't know about that theory either. Since I work with juvenile offenders, I can say that there just isn't enough concern in our society to solve problems like gang violence and drug addiction. The children I have seen are just given minimal counseling before they are returned to the streets. Our society doesn't provide them jobs or skills or protection from their gangs. Therefore, they continue to commit crimes and return to incarceration.


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