I found this book when I was trying to find more information on religious conversions caused by trauma. For some reason Bing as well as Google returned reference to this book for search term “trauma based religious conversions”. Bing 5th rank and Google 2nd rank, only book in the first 5 results.
Quite odd, I thought to myself. This book was first published in 1957. Don’t tell me that there is no literature on this topic since? (The book has been republished in 1997). Since I did not want to spend money on book J, I tried searching around on different terms. I was hoping for free information. However, most of the references returned were nothing but conspiracy theory for e.g. http://www.truthseekersvideo.com/articles/monarch_mind_control.php
I finally ordered this book from Amazon since there was no credible information available on the net.
This is a profoundly disturbing book.
The book caters to only a subset of phenomenon’s covered by Freud. (This information is from the preface, I myself have never read Freud for fear of discovering something about myself J.) However, this book is completely different compared to Freudian theory. While Freud takes help of subconscious mind, this book is restricted to physical changes in the brain (which is why the name ‘a physiology’ of conversion).
The book covers all sort of conversions, religious and political, violent and non-violent, in war and in peace, ancient-medieval and contemporary.
This book is largely based on experiments by a Russian scientist called Pavlov. What is disturbing is that this person proved the physiological effects of brain-washing on dogs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Pavlov by a Russian Scientist called Pavlov way back in 1920. (The link does not return much information on his experiment on dogs which are relevant to this book. Perhaps you will find more information about the experiment after further search on the web.)
After reading the book I am convinced that I myself is not immune to brain-washing. Brain-washing has nothing to do with weakness in intellect, moral character or subconscious mind. To quote the book:
No man, however highly civilized, can listen for very long to African drumming, or Indian chanting, or Welsh hymn singing, and retain intact his critical and self-conscious personality. It would be interesting to take a group of the most eminent philosophers from the best universities, shut them up in a hot room with Moroccan dervishes or Haitian Voodooists and measure, with a stop-watch, the strength of their psychological resistance to the effects of the rhythmic sound…all we can safely predict is that, if exposed long enough to the tom-toms and the singing, every one of our philosophers would end by capering and howling with the savages……
Assemble a mob of men and women; treat them to amplified music, bright lights, and the oratory of a demagogue (as demagogues always are) is simultaneously the exploiter and the victim of herd intoxication, and in next to no time you can reduce them to a state of almost mindless sub humanity. Never before have so few been in a position to make fools, maniacs or criminals of so many.
Though men are not dogs, they should humbly try to remember how much they resemble dogs in their brain functions, and not board themselves as demigods. They are gifted with the power of reason; but all these faculties are entailed to the brain. Therefore the brain should not be abused by having forced upon it any religious or political mystique that stunts the reason, or any form of crude rationalism that stunts the religious sense.
(emphasis is mine, I thought this is a very interesting statement.
Last but not the least, reading the information in the book, it seems there is some element of truth behind the conspiracy theory floating around on the web. Obviously they are not entirely true but they are based on some facts unlike alien invasion theory. The author of the book himself seems to be a controversial character as well.
I gained a detailed understanding of how brain-washing works from the book. I also gained some insight on certain episodes. For e.g. members of a religious cult committing suicide or the soldier in Afghanistan that went on a rampage. Not condoning the acts, but it is nice (*sic*) to know the method behind madness.