Mike’s Prattle


Two more down

Posted by Mike on March 9, 2006

Over the last few days I managed to knock out a couple of the books on the list I posted here a week or two ago. I’m happy because they were both a chore to get through and make me feel like I’m getting closer to the point where I’m reading more what I’m starting to look into now.

The first of these two was Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold. It’s one of the few books I’ve seen that lumps fundamentalism in with other cults in terms of the process of getting out and what it entails. It’s not surprising it’s on a small press, especially given the current political and social environment. Anyway, it’s a book I found fairly profound and a little irritating at the same time, possibly one I might have gotten more out of had I read it around the time I started going apostate from my upbringing (say a decade or so ago).

I think it’s mostly irritating to me more due to the language than the process, the process being a typical “meet your inner child” sort of thing that you see in a lot of modern psychology. It’s not that I reject the method per se, it’s that I generally find the qabalistic model a little more intellectually satisfying. I see similarities between her visualizations and meditations on the inner child as being almost a surrender to one’s Nephesh, the idea that one’s inner brat must be satisfied in order to work through emotional knots in one’s history. Later in the book suggestions to continue visualizations directed at the “higher self” are almost thrown in as an afterthought. While I understand the need and worth of trying to understand one’s inner squalling infant, or rather trying to get a grip on exactly how this reptile brain makes us leap before you look, I’m a little curious at the efficacy of the method over the longterm.

However, Winell has an incredible understanding of a lot of the details that occur after leaving a religion. It’s not as much the obvious stuff, that you don’t believe what you did, that you’re gonna have difficulty with friends and family who still do believe, that it’s a pretty long, lonely road. It’s how the brainwashing patterns of a particular religion can affect the way you think all the way to your core. This resonated pretty strongly with me in that I see this idea deeply in my own personality, the idea of the dual choice, the right choice, the right thing to do and all that. Even those who are only lightly religiously inclined talk in terms like this and it’s one of a million things people inherit from religion that they probably don’t always think about.

I can’t remember exactly where I read it and it will probably stretch the credulity of some, but the great Golden Dawn adept Israel Regardie addressed this issue when he mused over what he’d like to happen if he did indeed reincarnate. He said that he hoped to be born back into a Golden Dawn family so that he’d just be that much closer to his goals, without having to pay so much attention to the deep reprogramming needed because he was raised in a religious family. I found it a truly profound thought because leaving a religion is really only the beginning. Winell’s experience in understanding the effects cognitive dissonant thought have on a person was a well worth drawing water from, even if I found it as difficult to read as it was important.

The second of the two books I finished was the Necronomicon anthology edited by Robert M. Price and released by Chaosium. Chaosium compilations really only reflect my love for the Lovecraft circle, but they also define its boundaries, in this case showing about as far as I can take it. While the opening section of stories including those by Richard Tierney, Manly Wade Wellman and Fred Chappell are pretty good, certainly as good as most Mythos pastiche fiction gets, when it gets to the “Fake Necronomicons” section and 100 pages of Lin Carter spinning cliche after cliche, I was really started to hate it. Then there’s 40 or so pages of an even more arcanely written manuscript by Fred Pelton. That Price’s Necronomicon commentary, where as usual we are constantly reminded that he’s a professional in the field of biblical criticism (something, as may be seen above, I’m not totally unaware of), could be a relief after all of that really demonstrates the overall “geek” quality of the compilation, a book certainly more of use to Chaosium Call of Cthluhu gamers that Weird Tales fans.

Anyway, I broke my promise to finish my big pile of books before starting another in that I couldn’t resist starting Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. I think I read about a third of it last night, so I doubt it’s going to get in the way much. But I assume by the weekend I’ll be very disturbed.


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