Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lucifer Effect

"The Lucifer Effect; Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" is a new book by Philip Zimbardo, Emeritus Professor Stanford University and past president of the American Psychological Association.

Click on the link below for an excerpt from the book's webpage:

Resisting Influence; Cults Want to Own Your Mind and Body

Admittedly, most TMers did not succumb to exteme devotion within TM-as-cult.

TM's influence spectrum is broad, fortunately!
(and Maharishi lacked a taste for sadistic violence... forgive my twisted humor)

Zimbardo's latest book examines extreme influence resulting in cruel acts by coerced individuals.
As with any research on negative outcomes, extreme examples are the most obviously identified.

Any of us within the TM organization witnessed good individuals who changed with time to become controlling, judgemental, or hateful to those who questioned regimentation or doctrine. We often giggled while avoiding the "program nazis."

We also know those who lost compassion, blaming others' hardships on deserved bad karma, or lack of purity.

And we know kind generous individuals, afraid to speak their minds lest they would be ostracized from "Program."

My dome badge was nearly revoked because I publicly maintained close friendships with those following another guru. The control mentality frightened me. At the time, stigma of being kicked out of the dome (even though I rarely participated) would have caused me to lose all that I loved - a disquieting proposition.

Those "badge snatchers" believed they were working for the higher good, the "purity of the teaching." We who coveted our badge's active status (even if we did not attend) likewise valued our membership in this noble group. The group psychology influenced us.

We also know individuals who 'willingly' relinquished careers, finances beyond their means, and neglected families to follow the "knowledge" for "support of Nature," "spreading the teachings" and "meditating for world peace."

Good hearted kind people lost the ability to successfully interact outside our protected cocoon.

Did a personality flaw predispose devotees' susceptibility to our "taste of Utopia"? I don't think so.

Is something inherently flawed with a person because their neurologic response to alcohol varies from that of their neighbor? No.

Despite critical comments to the contrary, we own our accountability for prior participation.
That is why we are here.

How about accountability for group leaders and sub-leaders who knowingly deceive?
What of those born or raised in such a group who lack skills for interaction and human connection outside?

Once again, Zimbardo succinctly explains dynamics of social psychology. I recommend the link, and entire website, to his lastest book as above.


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