Monday, November 26, 2007

The Dispensing of Existence (Lifton 101)

Simply described, the dispensing of existence is the group’s prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. 

This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group's ideology. Within many "Bible-based cults" (or Biblically Christian churches that practice surreptitious manipulation), a higher way of living or greater enlightenment may be obtained by striving and modeling the group’s ideals. If persons do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Sometimes they are denounced as apostates, but they are certainly viewed as lesser Christians.

All those outside the group (both within the world and those within Christianity) lose all credibility as the "special-ness" of the group promotes greater desire for milieu control and a sense of martyrdom. 

Leadership and group dogma manipulate members through fear of the outside world, because rejection of the dogma will result in loss of all social contacts in the group, loss of reputation and personal salvation. This mystical superstition also instills members with fear of complete abandonment by God so that they may anticipate befalling all manner of harm as a result of questioning or leaving the group. They are taught that their existence is dependent on the group’s favorable opinion of them and upon meeting the group’s standards of performance.

Those within the group who demonstrate non-conformity may also lose privileges or the status of enlightenment which serves as a very potent method of negative reinforcement. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must also be rejected by those who remain in the group. Even after leaving a group, the former member tends to have a sense of loss of grace and a programmed sense of shame. Leadership thus makes it difficult to leave such groups, and departure implies a rejection of the only true means of religious transcendence.

Ron Henzel’s article discusses this means of manipulation through fear in his article
One of the most insidious features of Spiritual Abuse ...
... is the state of terror in which it leaves so many of its victims.

People who flee Spiritual Abuse are in a double-bind: in the very process of fleeing from the oppression that comes from being part of the group, they are terrorized by the threats of the leadership and various members -- threats of dire consequences, punishment from God, and even eternal damnation.

Adapted from and expanded upon from the original source, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brain Washing in China by Robert Jay Lifton. In chapter 22 entitled "Ideological Totalism," Lifton details the major defining techniques that hallmark surreptitious manipulation, formulated from his experience working with prisoners who survived a Chinese brainwashing program while serving in the Korean War.

APRIL 2008 Update!..
Steven Martin's book, "The Heresy of Mind Control," also describes the Dispensing of Existence. Please visit his site and consider purchasing the e-book that is made available without cost but asks readers to pay an amount conmensurate with a 160 page work. (Steven is brother of Dr. Paul Martin of the Wellspring Center, the only inpatient recovery facility for those who have survived spiritual abuse, cults and manipulative relationships.) Here is his excellent summary of Lifton's Thought Reform Dynamic of the "Dispensing of Existence":
The Elitists (Pg 138)

The totalist environment draws a sharp line between those who have a right to exist and those who do not. They claim that those outside their group have no right to exist, or at least say that those outside their group are inferior. The group thus has an arrogant and elitist mentality, considering themselves superior rather than having equal rights as other humans. Those who do not conform to their path of existence are targets of rejection or annihilation.

-Summary & paraphrase of Dr. Lifton on the Dispensing of Existence.
(Chauvinism is very similar.)