- Thinking for Yourself
- George Orwell’s View
- The Society Speaks Out Against Brainwashing
- The Society Advocates Open-Mindedness
- An Alternative View
- Evaluating Other Religions
- Evaluating the Society
- Belief and Understanding
- Imprisoned Ideas
- Organizational Imperatives
- When Doubts Arise
- A Study in Contrasts
- Organization Versus Independence
- A Study in Techniques
- Why Do They Do It?
Thinking for Yourself
The Watchtower Society sometimes encourages people to exercise their thinking abilities when considering issues related to religion. However, the Society does not want Jehovah’s Witnesses to apply those abilities to their own religion. The following discussion shows why this can be said.
The August 22, 1978 Awake! published the article “Do Others Do Your Thinking?” It encouraged people not to allow evolutionists to browbeat them into believing evolution. On pages 3 and 4 the article said:
Education teaches you how to think. Propagandists tell you what to think. True educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Propagandists hammer hard on their view and discourage discussion. Many times their true motives are hidden. They sift the facts, tell the favorable ones and conceal the others. They distort and twist facts, specialize in lies and half-truths. Your emotions, not your logical thinking abilities, are their target. Many fall easy prey because it takes no effort to feel, whereas thinking is hard labor. And the propagandist sees to it that his message is made to seem wise, the right and moral one, and gives you a sense of importance and belonging if you follow it. You are one of the smart ones, you are not alone, you are comfortable and secure — so they say.
Propagandists have little respect for people’s thinking abilities. Hitler wrote: “The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.”….
Tricks of Propagandists
Symbols stir feelings. Words such as mother, home, justice, freedom — all pack a wallop for the heart. Slogans are catchy and seem to be packed with wisdom. Favorable facts are exaggerated; the others are distorted or concealed. Oratory often substitutes for sound argument, and it diverts attention from unpleasant truths that cannot be concealed. Burn a building in one place while robbing a grocery store somewhere else, is the technique.
Tyranny of authority, ridicule, name-calling, smears, slurs, personal digs — all such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm. Sound evidence, reasoning, logic? The propagandist’s deadliest foes!….
But even educated, sophisticated persons fall prey to a very unfair and untrue type of propaganda. This type assumes a superior air of dismissal of an opponent’s viewpoint, treating it as rather pathetic and really not worth attention. It is what many evolutionists resort to in order to evade questions that they cannot answer. They can’t prove their theory. So they resort to making assertions, and they scoff at all who dare to dispute them…. They prove neither their assertions nor their smears, but by the tyranny of authority they pontificate their opinions, squelch objections and intimidate opposers. It works, and supposedly intelligent people who know nothing about the theory believe it because “all intelligent people believe it.”….
What About You?
Proverbs 14:15 states: “A simple man believes every word he hears; a clever man understands the need for proof.” (The New English Bible) Many today are like sponges; they soak up whatever they are submerged in. It is the easy way. Exercise for the muscles is hard work; exercising the mind is even harder…. “The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” that they might not know the vital truths of our time. What about you? Will you let others think for you, or will you do your own thinking? Do your own, and “thinking ability itself will keep guard over you.” At the same time, it must be admitted that we need good and proper guidance.
George Orwell’s View
An excellent description of the tyranny of authority carried to an extreme, and of the mental gyrations required of its subjects, was given by George Orwell in his 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (Remember “Big Brother is watching you”?). He described a totalitarian society called Ingsoc (from ‘English Socialism’) in which a supreme state had imposed a kind of theocracy on the populace — in effect, had created a “Kingdom of Heaven on earth.” The novel was intended as a serious warning about what could happen if certain totalitarian trends that Orwell saw developing during and shortly after World War II were allowed free rein. The supreme group at the head of the state was the Party. In order to insure that everyone thought along Party lines, the Party carefully altered facts to suit its present situation, and rigorously trained people to go along with it. Orwell wrote:
Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth. [Part 3, Ch. II; p. 252 hardcover; p. 205 paperback]
In order to ensure that whatever the Party held to be truth was rigorously followed, a thought process called doublethink was enforced. Doublethink, as Orwell conceives it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “is a vast system of mental cheating”:
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. [Part 2, Ch. IX; p. 215-6 hardcover; p. 176-7 paperback]
Propagandists often make good use of doublethink in order to justify in their own minds that whatever it is they are doing they are doing for a good purpose. They often use it to convince themselves that they are not “really” lying about something.
Phillip Johnson, author of the 1991 anti-evolution book Darwin On Trial, decried dogmatism about evolution in educational institutions and wrote, on a computer news network, in January 1993:
The points in dispute can only be settled by an unbiased examination of the evidence. Those who have confidence in their evidence and their logic do not appeal to prejudice, nor do they insist upon imposing rules of discourse that allow only one position to receive serious consideration, nor do they use vague and shifting terminology to distract attention from genuine points of difficulty. Still less do they heap abuse and ridicule upon persons who want to raise questions about the evidence and the philosophical assumptions that underly a theory. When an educational establishment has to resort to tactics like that, you can be sure that some people are getting desperate.
The Society Speaks Out Against Brainwashing
The January 8, 1980 Awake! article “Has Mass Persuasion Affected You?” contained a general discussion about not blindly accepting widespread attitudes or philosophies. On pages 13 and 14 it said:
The person most easily brainwashed is the “normal,” average individual. Such a one is already conditioned to accept opinions of others rather than to form strong convictions of his own. On the other hand, those hardest to brainwash are ones with unconventional ideas and strong convictions and who are not afraid of what others think….
The article listed five ways to resist brainwashing:
1. Have strong convictions: As noted above, the person most easily brainwashed is the one quickly swayed by others. Do not go along with an idea just because your associates accept it. Make sure that the views you adopt are truthful. The best way to do that is by comparing them with the inspired Word of God, which is ultimately “the truth.” — John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16.
2. Find the reason: Inadvertently we often accept attitudes without knowing what is behind them. For instance, people in your community may have a negative view of certain races or ethnic groups. But why? If you find the reason unconvincing, why adopt the viewpoint?
3. Resist improper thoughts: …. It is hard to avoid seeing, hearing or otherwise experiencing improper thoughts. But must we soak our minds full of them? Doing so will adversely affect our judgments and actions. How much better to resist improper thoughts and to dwell upon things that build up! — Eph. 5:3-5.
4. Speak up for what you know to be right: This will give you opportunity to test what you believe and more firmly entrench the truth in your life. If you are convinced of the truth of a matter after thorough search, do not be disconcerted by ridicule from others….
5. Live the truth: Do not look for excuses to compromise what you know to be right. Remember, if something is right and proper, it will work out for your good. Do not be tricked into thinking that you are missing out on something or that you are unduly restricted because you conform to what is right.
The Society Advocates Open-Mindedness
The November 22, 1984 Awake! contained two articles, “An Open or a Closed Mind — Which Do You Have,” and “An Open Mind Wins God’s Approval.” The first article said on pages 3 and 4:
An open mind is free from the fetters of prejudice, which by one dictionary is defined as follows: “A judgment or opinion, favorable or unfavorable, formed beforehand or without due examination; a mental decision based on other grounds than reason or justice; especially, a premature or adversely biased opinion.”
A necessary part of life is that we make decisions and reach judgments. But decisions made “without due examination” or judgments reached “on other grounds than reason or justice” are evidences of a closed mind.
Having an open mind, on the other hand, means to be receptive to new information and ideas. It means being willing to examine and to evaluate information without a biased attitude. By retaining what is worthwhile and rejecting what is worthless, we can reach definite conclusions on a solid basis and still leave our minds open to further revision should additional information become available at a future time. He who feels he has learned it all can be sure that this attitude will prevent him from ever learning more.
A closed mind may indicate lack of knowledge. We may know so little about a subject, or have information so distorted or incomplete, that the facts necessary to reach proper conclusions are missing….
A closed mind may betray a lack of interest in the subject or a reluctance to look into the matter. In fact, it could even be a sign of uncertainty or doubt. For example, if we are unable to defend our religious views, we may find ourselves lashing out against those who challenge our beliefs, not with logical arguments, but with slurs and innuendos. This smacks of prejudice and of a closed mind.
A closed mind may also indicate a selfish desire to retain certain advantages that an open mind might cause us to lose….
The second article said, on pages 8-10:
The importance of having an open mind so as to win God’s approval is shown in the words recorded at Ephesians 5:10, 17. There we read: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”….
Even some religious people have closed minds. They are interested only in “their” religion, showing no willingness to as much as listen to the views of others….
What makes a religion right is its total adherence to God’s Word. Whether our religion meets this criterion or not can only be determined by open-mindedly comparing it with the Bible….
The apostle Peter’s admonition “be sound in mind” includes, of necessity, having an open mind, for only an open mind can reach sound conclusions and make sound judgments. Some of the inhabitants of Beroea had such an open mind, because of them we read that “they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” — 1 Peter 4:7; Acts 17:11.
An open mind, free of prejudice, will enable us to go on “carefully examining the Scriptures daily” and then to act upon what we learn. This is in harmony with the Bible counsel to “become doers of the word, and not hearers only.”
The January 15, 1989 Watchtower, in the article “Are You Open to New Ideas?” said on page 5:
Some people close their mind to any new idea. They may reject it because it differs from their viewpoint….
The rest of the article describes how to be unprejudiced against new ideas, like the Beroeans, but to be selective about accepting them, measuring them against God’s Word.
The foregoing articles encourage one to personally determine the truthfulness and scripturalness of things one is taught and of what one believes. They do not advocate a “go along” attitude simply to conform to the majority or the views of a particular group. They encourage personal testing, personal weighing, personal acceptance or rejection. They urge a person to be willing to stand up for what he believes with the confidence that holding to the truth, without compromise, will always work out for the best.
An Alternative View
Contrast this with the advice given to Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the May 1, 1984 Watchtower, page 31, in the “Question from Readers.” It argues that it is right that Witnesses, going to people’s doors offering them Watchtower literature, should refuse to accept religious literature the householders visited may in turn offer them. Among other things it states:
Witnesses do not go to people’s doors searching for truth or enlightenment. Rather, they already have devoted countless hours learning the truth from God’s Word….
In other words, the Watchtower Society has already taught Jehovah’s Witnesses everything they need to know about religion, and therefore they cannot learn anything useful from anyone else.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not ignorant of others’ beliefs. They have gained considerable basic knowledge of the doctrinal beliefs of religions common in their area….
Knowledge that is prejudicial and highly filtered by the Society.
So it would be foolhardy, as well as a waste of valuable time, for Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept and expose themselves to false religious literature that is designed to deceive….
Implying that all religious literature not published by the Watchtower Society is deliberately designed to deceive.
As loyal Christians let us hold to God’s standards, feeding our minds on what is true and righteous, and holding appreciatively and loyally to the channel from which we first learned Bible truth.
The open-mindedness the previous articles encouraged with regard to belief in creation rather than evolution, and for non-Witnesses with regard to looking at Witness beliefs, is discouraged for Witnesses themselves. Is this not hypocrisy? How would a Witness answer a householder who said that his religious organization did not permit him to examine Witness literature? Check Matt. 7:3-5 for how Jesus viewed this attitude. Should there be one standard of measurement for Jehovah’s Witnesses and another for everyone else?
The question must be asked: Can a person be consistent if he upholds the sound principles set forth in the above articles when dealing with sources of information and influence outside his own religious community and yet abandon them within its boundaries? What must be said about an organization that urges its members to apply diligently such principles toward outside sources of information but discourages, disparages, and even denounces those who apply them to the information it itself supplies? How honest is such an organization when it calls the applying of such principles to itself by its own members “rebellious talk”? Is it consistent to praise independent thinking with regard to outside information but to condemn it as a sign of immodesty and a lack of humility when it comes to the information the organization itself supplies?
This double standard is perfectly described by another term George Orwell coined in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He described a particular type of doublethink called blackwhite:
Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the Party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The key word here is blackwhite…. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. [Part 2, Ch. IX; p. 213 hardcover; p. 175 paperback]
Testing For Truth
Evaluating Other Religions
What course of action does the Society recommend for someone who finds that his religion does not measure up to God’s Word? The September 8, 1987 Awake! contained articles directed toward Lutherans to answer this question for them. One article is built around quotations from sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis. The article makes several good points about the deprecating view of the Bible held by some Protestant theologians, and about other deficiencies in Protestant religions. Consider the points the articles made on pages 8, 10 and 11:
Note the following excerpts from some of his sermons. Ask yourself: What would heeding his words mean for the Lutheran Church? for my church?
“In religion only one thing is of essential importance, that it be true.” [Quoting from Bonhoeffer] This agrees with what Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” — John 4:24; see also John 8:32; 14:6; 16:13.
Are you sure that everything your church teaches is really true?….
Then under the subheading “If Your Church Fails to Act, Will You?” the article said:
If, after making an honest investigation, you are less than pleased with what you see, do more than just complain. A journalist, while commenting on Karl Barth’s statement that a church is its members, logically concluded: “Church members… are responsible for what the church says and does.” So ask yourself: Am I willing to share responsibility for everything my church says and does?….
You may sincerely believe that your church is no part of false religion that God says he will soon destroy. But your life depends upon being 100 percent sure. Are you?
For those of other religions, absolute truth is set as the criterion — everything should be “really true.” They should be “100 percent sure” about their religion. If they are “less than pleased” with what they see, they should “do more than just complain,” because they share responsibility for “everything [their] church says and does.”
Evaluating the Society
Now turn this around and imagine what would happen if a sincere Witness wanted to apply this exhortation to his own religion. In contrast with the person quoted by the above article, who leveled criticism at his own religion, a Witness would be strongly discouraged from doing the same. When he sees clear evidence of error, of unscriptural policies and beliefs in his own religion, he should not complain, and certainly not leave, as the above article implied Lutherans should do. Instead he should quietly “wait for Jehovah to straighten it out in his due time.” What is right for Lutherans is at the same time wrong for Jehovah’s Witnesses! The remarkable thing is that most Witnesses see no double standard in this.
In practice, whenever clear errors in organizational teachings or policies are pointed out to Witnesses, they will either refuse to acknowledge them or deny their importance. They deny it even to themselves, to avoid an intolerable internal conflict between what they know deep down to be the truth and what they have been taught. The denial is automatic and almost unconscious, because they have been trained this way from their earliest experience with the Watchtower Society. The process is strongly reminiscent of another kind of mental gymnastic George Orwell described in Nineteen Eighty-Four:
A Party member is required to have not only the right opinions, but the right instincts. Many of the beliefs and attitudes demanded of him are never plainly stated, and could not be stated without laying bare the contradictions inherent in Ingsoc. If he is a person naturally orthodox (in Newspeak a goodthinker), he will in all circumstances know, without taking thought, what is the true belief or the desirable emotion. But in any case an elaborate mental training, undergone in childhood and grouping itself round the Newspeak words crimestop, blackwhite, and doublethink, makes him unwilling and unable to think too deeply on any subject whatever.
…. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. [Part 2, Ch. IX; pp. 212-13 hardcover; pp. 174-5 paperback]
One man became a leader in the Korean based Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, commonly known as the “Moonies.” After leaving the church he wrote a book about his experience. The book stated:
Another key aspect of thought control involves training members to block out any information which is critical of the group. A person’s typical defense mechanisms are twisted so they defend the person’s new [religious] identity against his old former identity. The first line of defense includes denial (“What you say isn’t happening at all”), rationalization (“This is happening for a good reason”), justification (“This is happening because it ought to”), and wishful thinking (“I’d like it to be true so maybe it really is”).
If information transmitted …. is perceived as an attack on either the leader, the doctrine or the group, a hostile wall goes up. Members are trained to disbelieve any criticism….
Loyalty and devotion are the most highly respected emotions of all….
People are not allowed to talk to each other about anything critical of the leader, doctrine, or organization. Members must spy on each other and report improper activities or comments to leaders…. Most importantly, people are told to avoid contact with ex-members or critics. [Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, pp. 62-65, Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont, 1990.]
Does this description not fit Jehovah’s Witnesses perfectly? When people put into practice the defense mechanisms described above, are they not being dishonest with themselves? If you are dishonest with yourself, refusing to face the hard facts of reality, how can you be honest with others? How can you be honest with God? How can a person claim to love truth when he can apply his reasoning abilities to expose the fallacies of others but is incapable of applying them to himself? Yet experience shows this is exactly the way Jehovah’s Witnesses are indoctrinated.
Belief and Understanding
The following statements from Watchtower publications are entirely reasonable and in line with the idea God wants his intelligent creatures to excercise the thinking abilities he gave them. But notice the contrast between what is said and what is really expected. From the April 1, 1988, Watchtower, page 30:
Jehovah does not expect us to show blind credulity. He does not want from us the kind of obedience that a trainer gets from a beast with a bridle or a whip. That is why he told David: “Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter.” (Psalm 32:9) Rather, Jehovah has endowed us with thinking ability and discernment so that, based on understanding, we can choose to obey him.
In Japanese, the word kiku (to hear) includes the meaning not only of listening and obeying but also of judging whether a thing is good or bad. When someone speaks to us, it is good to listen in this sense so that when obeying, we do so not by mere credulity but by choice.
Although it makes statements such as the above, the Society really wants people to practice what was stated by the religious philosopher St. Anselm (1033-1109):
I must believe in order that I may understand.
The approach stated by another religious philosopher, Peter Abelard (1079-1142), is more in line with Psalm 32:9:
I must understand in order that I may believe.
By doubting we come to questioning and by questioning we may perceive the truth. The Truth book, on page 13, applied this to religion:
We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us, and then to do it.
The December 15, 1991 Watchtower said on its back cover, in an advertisement for the book Mankind’s Search for God,
Most people know only the religion of their parents and that often only superficially. But should your religion be simply the one you were born into, or should you make an intelligent choice after comparing your religion with that of others? The 384-page book Mankind’s Search for God will help you to make this comparison.
The Watchtower of June 15, 1985, on pages 11 and 12, gives fine counsel for thinking Christians, which may also be applied to the search for true knowledge generally:
Proverbs 2:4, 5 states: ‘If as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, you will find the very knowledge of God.’ The context of that passage speaks of the need to seek out Jehovah’s “sayings,” “commandments,” “wisdom,” “discernment,” and “understanding.” Searching for treasures requires effort and perseverance. It calls for much digging. It is not different when searching for “the very knowledge of God,” for “discernment,” and for “understanding.” This also requires much digging, or penetrating below the surface…. We should be truly thankful for the spiritual digging that the “slave” class does to make clearer and clearer for us “the hidden depths of God’s purposes.”….
But that does not relieve each individual Christian of the responsibility to dig deeper into God’s Word, for the purpose of getting the full depth of the thoughts explained. This involves looking up the scriptures cited. It means reading the footnotes in Watchtower articles, some of which refer the reader to an older publication that provides a fuller explanation of a certain passage or prophecy. It requires digging deeper, putting forth effort to locate that older publication and then studying the pages referred to.
If one believes these words, one should not fear to examine ideas that may conflict with what the Society says on certain matters. Nor should one follow the example of the United States Congress, which makes laws that everyone is required to follow, but which often exempts itself from those laws because they are inconvenient. A red flag should go up when one hears words like these:
When we talk about law, we talk about organization. With all our hearts we need to search after that law. Jehovah doesn’t give individuals interpretation (of the scriptures). We need a guide, and that is the ‘faithful and discreet slave’. We should not be getting together in a clique to discuss views contrary to the ‘faithful and discreet slave’. We must recognize the source of our instruction. We must be like an ass, be humble, and stay in the manger; and we won’t get any poison. [Governing Body member Lloyd Barry, May 29, 1980, in addressing the elders of the Bethel family]
If you have a tendency towards ‘apostasy’, get a hobby and keep yourself busy to keep your mind off of it. Stay away from deep Bible study to determine meanings of the scriptures. [Governing Body member Karl Klein, April 30, 1980, in addressing the Bethel family]
Do these words not directly contradict Jehovah’s thoughts expressed in Psalm 32:9? Do they not contradict the spirit of Jehovah, who says to search in his Word to acquire understanding? When there is a conflict, who should one listen to — Jehovah or the Governing Body? As Joshua said, “As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”
No one should want to be included among those described by Jean-Paul Sartre as ones who, “since they are afraid of reasoning…. want to adopt a mode of life in which reasoning and research play but a subordinate role, in which one never seeks but that which one has already found.” [Walter Kaufman, Existentialism, Religion, and Death: Thirteen Essays, New American Library, New York, 1976.]
Karl Klein said to “stay away from deep Bible study to determine meanings of the scriptures.” This brings to mind another quotation from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:
He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. [Part 1, Ch. V; p. 54 hardcover; p. 47 paperback]
The Society’s focus on organization has become one of its most outstanding characteristics. Everything in the lives of members must be subservient to organizational desires. A British parliamentarian had some excellent words to say about people who become overly devoted to organizations, and the article is here included in its entirety:
By W. P. Brown, MP. A member of the British Parliament outlines the dangers of becoming a slave of institutions or organizations:
There are many classifications into which men and women may be divided — as upper, middle or lower class; rich, well-to-do and poor; religious, skeptical and theist; Conservative, Liberal, Labor, Catholic, Protestant, master and man; and so forth and so on, ad infinitum. But, as I think, the only categorization which really matters is that which divides men as between the Servants of the Spirit and slaves of the organization. That classification, which cuts right across all the other classifications, is indeed the fundamental one. The idea, the inspiration, originates in the internal world, the world of the spirit. But, just as the human spirit must incarnate in a body, so must the idea incarnate in an organization. Whether the organization be political, religious, or social is immaterial to my present argument. The point is that, the idea having embodied itself in an organization, the organization then proceeds gradually to slay the idea which gave it birth.
We may see this process at work in many fields. Let us take one or two by way of illustration. In the field of religion, a prophet, an inspired man, will see a vision of truth. He expresses that vision as best he may in words. He will not say all he saw. For every expression of truth is a limitation of it. But he will, so to speak, express the sense of his vision. What he says is only partly understood by those who hear him; and when they repeat what they understand him to have meant there will already be a considerable departure from the original vision of the prophet. Upon what his disciples understand of the prophet’s message, an organization, a church will be built. The half-understood message will crystalize into a creed. Before long, the principal concern of the church will be to sustain itself as an organization. To this end, any departure from the creed must be controverted and, if necessary, suppressed as heresy. In a few score or a few hundred years what was conceived as a vehicle of a new and higher truth has become a prison for the souls of men. And men are murdering each other for the love of God. The thing has become its opposite.
In the field of politics, the dispossessed dream of social order which shall be based on righteousness, a system in which men shall not exploit their fellowmen, in which each shall contribute according to his capacity and each shall receive according to his need. Upon this conception a political party is built. It gives battle, over the years to the existing order of things. As with the church, it is not long before the primary concern of the party is to sustain itself. Here again, any departure from the political creed must be repressed. The “party line” must be kept straight and dissent kept under. In the course of time, the party achieves power. By this time, it is no longer led by starry-eyed idealists, but by extremely tough guys — who then proceed to use their newly acquired power to establish a stronger despotism than the one they overthrew, and to sew up all the holes in it that they themselves discovered in the old. What emerges is not freedom and social justice, but a more comprehensive and totalitarian control, used to maintain a new privileged class, which, because of the earlier experience of its members, is still more ruthless than the old.
Similar illustrations could be drawn from all fields of life. But these two will suffice to demonstrate the truth with which I am here concerned. It is that, the idea having given birth to the organization, the organization develops a self-interest which has no connection with and becomes inimical to, the idea with which it began. Now, the thing which permits this process of diversion to take place, so that the organization comes to stand for the opposite of the idea which originally inspired it, is the tendency in men and women to become Prisoners of the Organization, instead of being Servants of the Spirit. In this tendency there are many elements. There is a sense in which you cannot run an organization without becoming its prisoner. Organization has its own necessities, in the interests of which the original idea has to be somewhat qualified. As soon as the idea passes from the unmanifested and embodies itself in the actual, it begins to be invaded by what the poet called “the world’s slow stain.” In this, there need be no conscious infidelity on the part of the leaders. Better, they may well argue, that the great idea should be only partly manifested than that it should remain a mere idea in vacuo. Better half the ideal loaf than no bread at all.
Next, the wider the area to which the idea is introduced, the larger the circle of men and women to whom it is propagated through the organization, the more it must be “stepped down” for propaganda purposes. The idea which gives birth to a party which wants to establish the cooperative commonwealth, must be translated into practical proposals, such as the eight-hour day, the five-day week, and what not, if it is to attract a mass backing. And so the organization becomes less the vehicle of the idea than a channel through which particular interests must be served. The service of such particular interests attracts the backing of other organized bodies more interested in the limited objectives which the organization has now adopted than in the great idea itself. And the pressure of such bodies is felt by the organization, with the result that the idea tends to retreat into the background in favor of less ambitious objectives. In this world, the Devil walks, and it is necessary sometimes to hold a candle to the Devil.
Another element is this: Prophets always stand a good chance of being bumped off. This chance is increased if they come down from the hills into the marketplace, and still further increased if they come down unarmed. Prophets should only go unarmed into the marketplace if they think that their work is done, and are prepared to depart hence. Some prophets take to arms. Even where the original prophet does not, his disciples may do so. The Devil must be fought with the Devil’s weapons. This is argumentatively sound but practically disastrous. For it means that the servants of God, the disciples of the idea, tend to descend to the Devil’s level. As the organization grows, it deteriorates. Its leaders are not the men they were.
Among the rank and file many things combine to keep them in the organization, even when they become uneasily conscious that there is a dawning, and even a yawning gap between organization and idea. First there is the force of inertia. It is easier not to resign than resign. Drift is easier than decision. Next there is the factor of sentiment. All of us tend to project onto the organization of which we are members, the virtue we would like it to have, and to be blind to its defects. And, finally, men are gregarious creatures and dislike falling out of the ranks away from the comrades of years. Gradually the organization changes. As it changes it attracts new elements which approve the change. Not because of conscious calculation, which comes much later, when the idea has been deserted, but because organization develops its own logic, its own raison d’etre, and because men tend to become the Prisoners of the Organization, the organization can finish up by standing for the precise opposite of the idea which called it into being.
What is the moral to be drawn from all this?
One moral, it would not be wholly facetious to suggest, might be that the first rule for an organization should be a rule providing for its dissolution within a limited period of time. “This organization shall be dissolved not later than …” But the deeper moral is concerned with our attitude to organization as such. The moral is that, even when we are members of an organization, our attitude to it should be one of partial detachment. We must be above it even when we are members of it. We should join it in the knowledge that there we may have no abiding place. We should be weekly tenants, not long-leaseholders. We should accept no such commitments as would prevent our leaving it when circumstances make this necessary. We should reckon on being in almost perpetual rebellion within it. Above all, we should regard all loyalties to organization as tentative and provisional. The whole concept of “my party, right or wrong,” “my union, right or wrong,” “my church, right or wrong” should be utterly alien to our thinking. We must be Servants of the Spirit, not Prisoners of the Organization. We must keep in touch with the sources of life, not lose ourselves in its temporary vehicles. And whenever the demands of the Spirit, the categorical imperatives of the soul, conflict with the demands of the organization, it is all contained in one of the legendary sayings of Jesus, which bears all the marks of authenticity:
This world is a bridge. Ye shall pass over it, but ye shall build no houses upon it.
Bivouacs. Yes! Tents. Maybe! Houses. No!
Brown’s article touches on the problem of what to do when one finds a difference between organizational imperatives and what one believes to be right. This conflict, between what reason tells one to do when one finds that the Watchtower Society is not all that it claims to be, and the Society’s organizational instructions on what to do, is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in material it publishes about “apostates.” According to the Bible an apostate is a person who has left or opposes God. The Society realizes there is a distinction between one who has left God, and one who has left its organization, but it calls anyone who leaves or even disagrees publicly with it an apostate. This allows the Society to apply Biblical admonitions concerning apostates to anyone who disagrees with it.
The Society has occasionally said that, in a general sense, an apostate is anyone who leaves an organization. This is patently ridiculous. If this is the correct use of the term, then because most of Jehovah’s Witnesses have left various religious organizations they must be apostates. The Society’s blurring of definitions is a smokescreen to cover the real issue, namely, that it wants to silence anyone who publicly disagrees with it. Properly, anyone who disagrees with his religious organization is a heretic, but use of this word carries certain bad historical connotations about the user, and so the Society never uses it.
When Doubts Arise
The following material well illustrates the Society’s technique of not clearly defining its terms in order to allow it to argue that Jehovah’s Witnesses should not listen to anyone who disagrees with it. The Watchtowerarticle quoted from is a textbook example of the propaganda techniques warned against in the above mentioned Watchtower publications. Compare the quotations to the techniques stated above in Combatting Cult Mind Control. Compare it especially to the article “Do Others Do Your Thinking?” quoted above from the August 22, 1978 Awake!
The March 15, 1986 Watchtower had several articles dealing with how Jehovah’s Witnesses should handle ideas that conflict with those the Society teaches. The first article, “Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason,” beginning on page 10, describes how Witnesses could lose faith in the Society as “God’s organization.” As usual it assumes that the Watchtower Society and Jehovah are virtually identical. Any difficulties are due to human imperfection and inconsequential. Note how subtly this mental manipulation occurs:
The Devil and other opposers of true worship are skilled in deception. We should never forget that they stand ever ready to break our integrity if they can. Their propaganda is designed to weaken our faith, to cool our love for God, to sow doubts in our minds — yes, to make the spiritual paradise appear to be no paradise at all.
The “doubts” include, of course, any doubts that the Society is “God’s channel.” Emotions about God are mixed up with emotions about the Society.
To borrow from a proverbial saying, we could come to the point where we would find it difficult, perhaps even impossible, to see the forest of the spiritual paradise because of looking so closely at the imperfect human trees now in it. The thrill we had in learning the truth of God’s Word, the grand hope we came to have, the love we developed for God and our spiritual brothers, and the zeal we had for Jehovah’s service can fade. If drastic steps are not taken to reverse any such spiritual deterioration, soon God’s loving requirements seem to be oppressive. The wholesome spiritual food from “the faithful and discreet slave” may seem to be something contemptible, and the brotherhood of loving servants of Jehovah may appear to be a household of enemies.
See how subtly the concept is brought in, that the Society is indistinguishable from Jehovah.
Then the only satisfaction, of a perverted kind, may come in beginning to beat one’s fellow slaves with slander and half-truths.
Any who don’t fully accept the Society’s views are implied to be perverted, slanderous and tellers of half-truths. All other possibilities are eliminated by not mentioning them. Doubting the Society puts the doubter in mortal danger:
Yes, we could not only lose the blessings of the spiritual paradise now but, more seriously, also lose the hope of living eternally in the earthly Paradise.
Next, the article tells how Adam and Eve lost out because of following a course independent from God. This sets the reader’s frame of mind to a state of abhoring the idea of ‘independent thinking’. What the aforementioned article on being brainwashed by evolutionists said was proper to do — think for oneself — is about to be denounced:
Independence — actually a different teaching — was more important to them than were obedience to Jehovah…. What a terrible price to pay for their so-called independence!
Then scriptures are quoted to the effect that no one should allow himself to be seduced by the Devil’s cunning. Of course, what is really meant is that any thoughts contrary to the Society’s teaching are devilish.
A Study in Contrasts
Next, the article gets to the real meat, under the sub-heading “Have No Dealings With Apostates.” In the following, the March 15 Watchtower article is quoted on the left, and on the right are quotations from previously mentioned articles.
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! Now, what will you do if you are confronted with apostate teaching — subtle reasonings — claiming that what you believe as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the truth? For example, what will you do if you receive a letter or some literature, open it, and and see right away that it is from an apostate? Symbols stir feelings. Words such as mother, home, justice, freedom — all pack a wallop for the heart.
The reader is given no express instructions on how to recognize apostate literature, but the first sentence cues him on how it is to be done. The symbol apostate is the cue. Anything that criticizes the Society is apostate, because all criticism of “God’s channel” is unwarranted. The question must also be asked, How can anyone recognize “subtle reasonings” as such without considering them carefully? This provides a second cue.
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! Will curiosity cause you to read it, just to see what he has to say? You may even reason: ‘It won’t affect me; I’m too strong in the truth. And, besides, if we have the truth, we have nothing to fear. The truth will stand the test.’ In thinking this way, some have fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious questioning and doubt. What about you? Will you let others think for you, or will you do your own thinking? Do your own, and “thinking ability itself will keep guard over you.”
A necessary part of life is that we make decisions and reach judgments. But decisions made “without due examination” or judgments reached “on other grounds than reason or justice” are evidences of a closed mind.
Having an open mind, on the other hand, means to be receptive to new information and ideas. It means being willing to examine and to evaluate information without a biased attitude.
Serious questioning and doubt about what? Not just about God or the Bible, but about the Society. This is what the Society is worried about more than anything else. The article goes on to describe the Bible’s view of apostates, all along implying that the Society is the only source of accurate knowledge and putting itself in God’s place in the mind of the reader. This is most strongly emphasized in the following paragraph:
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! When a fellow human tells us, ‘Do not read this’ or, ‘Do not listen to that,’ we may be tempted to ignore his advice. But remember, in this case Jehovah is the One who tells us in his Word what to do. And what does he say about apostates? “Avoid them”…. If, out of curiosity, we were to read the literature of a known apostate, would that not be the same as inviting this enemy of true worship right into our home to sit down with us and relate his apostate ideas? Tyranny of authority, ridicule, name-calling, smears, slurs, personal digs — all such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm. Sound evidence, reasoning, logic? The propagandist’s deadliest foes!
Some people close their mind to any new idea. They may reject it because it differs from their viewpoint.
True educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Propagandists hammer hard on their view and discourage discussion.
Next, the article compares reading “apostate” literature to looking at sexual pornography. Heavy use is made of symbols and cue words:
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! Should we not expect that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from spiritual fornication, including apostasy? He says, Keep away from it! Ridicule, name-calling, smears, slurs, personal digs — all such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm.
At this point the typical reader’s emotions will be telling him that seriously questioning the Watchtower Society is the same as committing fornication. This is powerful symbolism indeed.
The article now raises the question of what Jehovah’s Witnesses are to do with sincere people who raise the same questions “apostates” do:
But suppose we are preaching the good news and people raise questions or objections similar to those raised by opposers?
Note the subtle switch from “apostates” to “opposers.” This serves to reinforce the idea that any who criticize the Society are opposers and are therefore apostates. No allowance is made that sincere criticism might be warranted.
Of course, if a person is not sincere and merely wishes to argue, usually it is best to excuse ourselves and go to the next door.
How does the Witness determine whether the person is sincere? Since he can’t read the person’s mind, it must be by observing the response to the Witness’s answers. If the person does not agree, then he must be insincere.
But if someone sincerely asks about certain claims of apostates, what can be done?
Again note the subtle cueing. The person could not have come up with the questions on his own — he must have gotten them from devil-inspired apostates.
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! First, we can ask what, exactly, has caused the concern. It may be only one or two points. Then we can stick to these and answer from the Scriptures, from the Society’s publications, and from what we truthfully know about the subject. We need not conclude that we have to read a book or a pamphlet that is filled with slander and half-truths in order to refute the false claims and teachings of opposers. A closed mind may betray a lack of interest in the subject or a reluctance to look into the matter. In fact, it could even be a sign of uncertainty or doubt. For example, if we are unable to defend our religious views, we may find ourselves lashing out against those who challenge our beliefs, not with logical arguments, but with slurs and innuendos. This smacks of prejudice and of a closed mind.
It is, of course, assumed the Witness will be able to answer the sincere questions. He is never given a hint that he may not have a leg to stand on. All this propaganda serves to reinforce the idea that the Society is God’s channel and should not be questioned. It cannot possibly be wrong about anything. Any who have enough knowledge to raise valid questions must be insincere at best, opposers and apostates at worst. The rest of the article makes full use of the propaganda techniques described in Combatting Cult Mind Control. The article that follows, “Allow No Place for the Devil!”, uses similar techniques but goes even so far as to deliberately misinterpret the Bible to prove its point. On page 17, paragraph 8 states:
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! A person may… claim that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or other responsible brothers interfere with freedom of conscience and the individual’s “right” to interpret the Scriptures. But remember Joseph’s humble words: “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) They sift the facts, tell the favorable ones and conceal the others. They distort and twist facts, specialize in lies and half-truths. Your emotions, not your logical thinking abilities, are their target. Many fall easy prey because it takes no effort to feel, whereas thinking is hard labor.
Propagandists have little respect for people’s thinking abilities. Hitler wrote: “The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.”….
Fraud is defined as “an act of deceiving or misrepresenting.” It is the “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value.” [January 22, 1990 Awake!, page 8]
This is a blatant misuse of the scriptures, as Joseph was talking about interpreting dreams that were prophecies given by God, not about interpreting the Bible. The two things are completely different, and whoever wrote this article knew this perfectly well. As 1 Peter 1:20 says:
For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.
It is truly amazing that the writer of this article can so cynically, and so rightly, believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses who read his words will ignore the true meaning of the scripture cited. The man obviously takes Jehovah’s Witnesses for fools. The December 15, 1988 Watchtower, on pages 3-4, told how even the apostle Paul avoided this:
Of course, it would have been wrong for Paul to take scriptures out of their context and twist them to fit his own personal ideas. But Paul was not guilty of this. Apparently some early Christians were guilty, however, for the apostle Peter speaks of “things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” — 2 Peter 3:16.
Another gem from this article attempts to show why the failed chronological predictions of the Society do not make it a false prophet. This extract is a textbook example of the ad hominem argument, where a personal attack is made on the opponent rather than on the argument being addressed.
March 15, 1986 Watchtower August 22, 1978 Awake! Finally, we might consider what the Society has published in the past on chronology. Some opposers claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets. These opponents say that dates have been set, but nothing has happened. Again we ask, What is the motive of these critics? Are they encouraging wakefulness on the part of God’s people, or are they, rather, trying to justify themselves for falling back into sleepy inactivity? (1 Thessalonians 5:4-9) Oratory often substitutes for sound argument, and it diverts attention from unpleasant truths that cannot be concealed.
Name-calling, smears, slurs, personal digs — all such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm.
They prove neither their assertions nor their smears, but by the tyranny of authority they pontificate their opinions, squelch objections and intimidate opposers.
Does the article say that such “opponents” are wrong? Of course not, because nearly all Jehovah’s Witnesses know they are right. Instead it resorts to the ad hominem attack.
More importantly, what will you do if you hear such a criticism? If a person is questioning whether we are living in “the last days” of this system, or perhaps is entertaining ideas that God is so merciful that he surely will not cause the death of so many millions of people during the “great tribulation,” then this individual already has prepared his heart to listen to such criticisms.
What incisive reasoning! If a person is asking hard questions, he “already has prepared his heart to listen to such criticisms.” What insight! What a response to give to opposers! What swill!
The writer of this article is a master of understatement. It is well known that the Society predicted the end of the world for 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. The Society claims that it never predicted the end of the world for 1975, and as far as explicit statements in official publications go this is correct. However, the Society has an informal channel for distributing information — through meetings and assembly talks — which information is not published. This way, organizational instructions are distributed, but it is difficult to later pin anything down since it was never part of “official” policy. The following is a partial transcript of a talk entitled “Serving with Everlasting Life In View,” given at a circuit assembly in the spring of 1967 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin by the Society’s representative. The speaker emphasized the nearness of Armageddon without setting a specific date. However, speaking of the world to come after Armageddon, he said: “Well, now, who will be there, of us here tonight? For the Society has made application of this scripture, in pointing out that those of us among Jehovah’s Witnesses that are not regularly associating with his people, without good cause, such as being flat on our back, will not be in the new order. And we’re the ones that are going to come around when the doors close, and say ‘I want in now. Sir, open to us!’ And Jesus will have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t even recognize you.’ Now wouldn’t that be an awful thing. Do you see now why the Society implores us, year in and year out, the same old thing, ‘Brothers, get in the flock. Don’t let any excuses get in our way. Nothing of any nature. There’s only one thing that’s going to count when that time comes, and that’s that we are inside.’ And we hope that all of us here tonight are going to listen to the Society’s imploring. We’re going to listen to the agonizing entreaty, ‘Brothers get in!’, because they know what’s coming. And it’s coming fast — and don’t wait till ’75. The door is going to be shut before then.” The Society predicted the end of all false religion for 1918, and made many other predictions too numerous to mention here. Note how the writer describes this:
Jehovah’s people have had to revise expectations from time to time…. The need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false prophets.
Is that so? If false predictions spoken in God’s name do not make a false prophet, then what does? All the statements in these articles do is give Jehovah’s Witnesses a list of excuses to offer for the Society’s failures. Not a single argument that is said to be raised by opponents is answered. Instead, excuses are offered.
Organization Versus Independence
The Society has sometimes made the point that Christians are not dedicated to an organization. The October 1, 1966 Watchtower said on pages 603-4:
We cannot keep everlasting life in view without staying close to Jehovah, the source of life…. This is what we mean when we dedicate our lives to Jehovah. We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicated ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself.
In line with this, the baptismal questions, which really amount to vows, up through the mid-1980s included something like the following, which appeared on page 465 of the August 1, 1970 Watchtower:
On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?
The newest baptismal questions, from the June 1, 1985 Watchtower, showed that new Jehovah’s Witnesses were no longer to dedicate themselves just to God, but in effect, to the Watchtower Society as well:
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?
These changes indicate that the Society wants members to focus on itself as much as on God. Everything is oriented towards organizational thinking.
The January 15, 1983 Watchtower contained two articles that well illustrate the problem areas described above. Although couched in language that exhorts the reader to avoid such things as sexual immorality and unfaithfulness to God, the main thrust of the articles is to reinforce the reader’s focus on the Watchtower Society as the center of all spiritually good things. On page 22, the sub-section entitled “Avoid Independent Thinking” said:
From the very outset of his rebellion Satan called into question God’s way of doing things. He promoted independent thinking. ‘You can decide for yourself what is good and bad,’ Satan told Eve. ‘You don’t have to listen to God. He is not really telling you the truth.’ (Genesis 3:1-5) To this day, it has been Satan’s subtle design to infect God’s people with this type of thinking. — 2 Timothy 3:1, 13.
How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization. For example, God’s organization has from time to time given warnings about listening to certain types of immoral and suggestive music, and about frequenting discos and other types of worldly dance halls where such music is played and people are known to engage in immoral conduct. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Yet certain ones have professed to know better. They have rebelled against such counsel and have done what is right in their own eyes. With what result? Very often they have become involved in sexual immorality and have suffered severe spiritual harm. But even if they have not been so affected, are they not reprehensible if others follow their example and suffer bad consequences? — Matthew 18:6.
This fact cannot be overemphasized: We are in a war with superhuman foes, and we constantly need to be aware of this. Satan and his demons are real; they are not mere figments of the imagination. They are “the world rulers of this darkness,” and we have a spiritual fight against them. (Ephesians 6:12) It is absolutely vital that we recognize their subtle designs and not allow ourselves to be overreached by them.
The next article in the January 15, 1983 Watchtower had a subsection entitled “Fight Against Independent Thinking,” on page 27, which said:
As we study the Bible we learn that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way. And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organization, so today Jehovah is using only one organization. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45-45) Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: “This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.” This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous?
Note what W. P. Brown, quoted above, had to say about this: “Before long, the principal concern of the church will be to sustain itself as an organization. To this end, any departure from the creed must be controverted and, if necessary, suppressed as heresy.”
Such thinking is an evidence of pride. And the Bible says: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organization? Really, can we get along without the direction of God’s organization?” No, we cannot! — Compare Acts 15:2, 28, 29; 16:4, 5.
All this has said is that “independent thinking” is dangerous because it is an evidence of pride. Then the paragraph immediately appeals to the reader’s loyalties and emotions: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place?” What has happened to Psalm 32:9, “Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter”? Certainly Pastor Russell did not think Psalm 32:9 should be ignored, at least not when he was younger. As W. P. Brown said: “The point is that, the idea having embodied itself in an organization, the organization then proceeds gradually to slay the idea which gave it birth.” The original idea having been slain, standardized thinking takes over, and the organization looks inward and adopts a “them against us” attitude. This is well shown by the last quotation from the Watchtower article:
When we consider the mighty spirit forces who are fighting against us, we must acknowledge that on our own we could not possibly win. Yet with God’s backing, and with the help and support of his organization — our worldwide association of brothers — we cannot lose. (Psalm 118:6-12; 1 Peter 5:9) However, we must never forget that we are in a spiritual war, and that wartime is no time to be relaxing, enjoying only leisure and the pleasures of life. Rather, it is the time for vigorous training, alertness and self-sacrifice. The enemy has been able to get some from among us to relax their guard, and these have become battle casualties. May this never happen to us! It will not if we keep on “the complete suit of armor from God” and “stand firm against the [crafty acts] of the Devil.” — Ephesians 6:11, 12.
A Study in Techniques
As an exercise for the reader, the following material from the 1943 Watchtower is presented. The reader is invited to see how many propaganda tricks are used.
In 1943 the Society was apparently having trouble getting its members to go out and preach as much as the headquarters staff thought was desirable. So a Watchtower article was written to correct the situation and stimulate members to preach more and in the prescribed organizational manner. The article is a classic in the field of persuading by guilt and tyranny of authority. It also nicely illustrates the Society’s technique of finding all sorts of plausible reasons for doing something, but never explicitly giving the real reason. In the article the Society declares explicitly that its instructions are exactly the same as if God himself spoke directly to the members. The outline of the article goes something like this:
1. Declare that it is a fine thing to serve God.
2. Declare that the Watchtower Society is God’s representative on earth.
3. Declare that members must listen to the Society because its instructions are equivalent to those of God.
4. Issue explicit instructions.
5. Downgrade those who would slack and commend those who would respond.
The article makes free use of Watchtower Society jargon and special symbol words or phrases such as “service,” “love,” “pleasing to God,” “the Lord’s people,” “righteous,” “call to action,” “consecrated,” “spirit-begotten,” “anointed,” “cleansed,” “commissioned,” “meat in due season,” “household of faith,” “faithful and wise servant,” “organization,” “righteous requirements,” “vindication of Jehovah’s name,” “the work of the Lord,” “those who have the mind of the Lord,” “appreciate,” “responsibilities,” “faithfulness,” “Jehovah’s will,” “organization instructions,” “God’s channel,” “joyfully accept his part,” “faithfully carry out,” “visible mouthpiece,” “privileged to represent the Lord,” “established agency,” “prove your integrity,” “magnify the Lord’s “name,” “rank unfaithfulness to the Lord,” “bear his burden before the Lord,” “provisions the Lord has made,” “excuses,” “duties,” “those who really love the Lord,” “fighters for the New World,” “obey instructions,” “take responsibilities seriously,” “old world interests,” “New World interests,” “wholeheartedly,” “blameless,” “by God’s grace” and “do your part.”
The July 1, 1943 Watchtower article “Righteous Requirements,” on pages 204-6, said:
The kingdom of God is the highest government any creature can serve. All kingdom service to be acceptable must find its motive in love for the Lord. The intelligent creature desiring to be pleasing to God must always have this fact foremost in his mind. The call to action going forth to the Lord’s people throughout the earth at this time is a righteous call, and action is a righteous requirement…. in 1918 the King came to his temple class composed of the consecrated, spirit-begotten and anointed members of his body. These he has judged cleansed and commissioned to act as his “faithful and wise servant”….
“Propagandists hammer hard on their view…. Your emotions, not your logical thinking abilities, are their target.”
This servant he has placed over his earthly household and has given him charge over all his goods with specific instructions to bring forth “meat in due season” for the household of faith. The servant was also anointed “to preach good tidings unto the meek….
The Scriptures and the facts clearly establish that the commission given to the “faithful and wise servant” is grounded in the Word of the Lord. There is only one organization on earth today fulfilling the righteous requirements outlined in this commission from the Lord. The Society, represented by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is the only one preaching good tidings unto the meek….
“The propagandist sees to it that his message is made to seem wise, the right and moral one, and gives you a sense of importance and belonging if you follow it. You are one of the smart ones, you are not alone, you are comfortable and secure — so they say.”
The “Society” is composed of the Lord’s consecrated, spirit-begotten and anointed servants, and is the “faithful and wise servant” class, who, under the leadership of Jehovah’s commissioned King Christ Jesus, are fulfilling this commission. We should not expect more than one organization doing this work, and the fact that there is no other proves clearly who is the “faithful and wise servant” whom the Lord places over his household. The Lord did not commission a number of servants to act for him, nor did he scatter his work and goods over a great many organizations. No! There could be only one “servant”; and as Jephthah demonstrated that he was the Lord’s choice by doing the Lord’s work in the spirit and power of the Lord, so the Society today clearly demonstrates to all who have the mind of the Lord and are interested in the vindication of Jehovah’s name that it is the Lord’s choice and is his “faithful and wise servant” doing the work of the Lord in the power and spirit of Jehovah.
“Even educated, sophisticated persons fall prey to a very unfair and untrue type of propaganda. This type assumes a superior air of dismissal of an opponent’s viewpoint, treating it as rather pathetic and really not worth attention…. They resort to making assertions, and they scoff at all who dare to dispute them…. They prove neither their assertions nor their smears, but by the tyranny of authority they pontificate their opinions, squelch objections and intimidate opposers.”
This Society was authorized by the Lord to bring forth things new and old for the household of faith and do the work for which the Lord had organized it. Therefore it is fully qualified and duly authorized to issue a “call to action” to all who claim to be on the Lord’s side to busy themselves in doing the work of the Lord.
“Tyranny of authority…. such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm.”
This “call to action” sent out by the Lord through the Society is based on the fulfilled prophecies of his Word clearly revealed to those who have the mind of the Lord, by such Watchtower articles as the prophecy of Daniel 11:27-45, “Micah,” “Song-Call to Action,” “Defeat of Persecution,” “The Only Light,” “Fighter for the New World,” etc. These thrilling prophecies were called to our attention during the past year and clearly reveal the Lord’s requirements for those who are under the leadership of his King. These are, therefore, right and righteous requirements to every consecrated servant of the Lord.
“Symbols stir feelings. Words such as mother, home, justice, freedom — all pack a wallop for the heart. Slogans are catchy and seem to be packed with wisdom.”
How does the Lord issue the call to his people? Does it come in the form of a harsh ultimatum: You do thus and so, or else — ? No! Such ultimatums are not necessary. The Lord never adopts that attitude toward his servants, and no one else has a right to….
This call is therefore for those who love the Lord and rejoice in his righteous requirements and who wish to live in and accept the responsibilities of the New World. Such show their faith and faithfulness by their response to the call to action. When this class sees the issue and hears the call, that is all that is necessary. Jesus says of them, ‘For they know the good shepherd’s voice, and a stranger will they not follow.’ (John 10:4, 5) The Lord always issues his call to action in an organized, systematic manner. This is emphasized throughout the bible, from the opening chapters of Genesis to the concluding chapters of Revelation. Let us consider one or two by way of illustration.
In Genesis 1:26 Jehovah issued a “call to action” to his Son, the Logos, and such other agencies as were required for the creation of man, in these words: “And God said, Let US make man in our image, after our likeness.” This is all there was to it. Jehovah expressed his will. That expressed will became “organization instructions” to the Logos….
Every organization requires specific instructions for all those who serve in it. In the past the Lord issued his “organization instructions” to his servants through his central agency or channel. Each one joyfully accepted his part therein and faithfully carried it out.
This is, of course, absolute nonsense. Prophets never went to some central body for their instructions. They received them directly from Jehovah God. Even prophets who were contemporaries did not consult each other about the message they were to give. This was also true in the early Christian congregation. The gifts of the holy spirit were not distributed through some earthly channel, but directly. As Acts 15 and Galatians 1 and 2 show, the apostle Paul never went to the Jerusalem congregation to receive orders, as if it were a central authority. Instead he worked out of the Antioch congregation and reported his activities to it. In fact, the most important reason Paul went to Jerusalem was as a result of a revelation, to straighten out a problem created by men from Jerusalem, “men from James.”
Now, the apostle says, Jehovah speaks to us through his Son. (Heb. 1:1, 2) The Son has returned as King; he has come to his temple. He has appointed his “faithful and wise servant”, who is his visible mouthpiece, and says to those who are privileged to represent him upon the earth, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matthew 24:14); and, “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 8:21); and, “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” — Jer. 16:16.
These expressions of God’s will by his King and through his established agency constitute his law or rule of action for the “faithful and wise servant” and for their goodwill companions today who will dwell upon the earth for ever in the New World. The Lord breaks down our organization instructions further and makes them more practicable by further instructing us through his “faithful and wise servant”. He says, ‘Let us assign the field, the world, to special pioneers, regular pioneers and companies of Jehovah’s witnesses in an orderly way, sufficient for everyone to thoroughly witness therein, and let us place upon each one the responsibility of caring for the New World interest in these respective assignments.’ He says the requirements for special pioneers shall be 175 hours and 50 back-calls per month, which should develop into a reasonble number of studies; and for regular pioneers 150 hours and as many back-calls and studies as can be properly developed during that time. And for company publishers he says, ‘Let us make a quota of 60 hours and 12 back-calls and at least one study a week for each publisher.’ These directions come to us from the Lord through his established agency directing what is required of us; and, for those who really love the Lord and are guided by his counsel, that is a reasonable service requirement. This expression of the Lord’s will should be the end of all controversy. It is for your good that these requirements are made; for thereby you are enabled to prove your integrity and magnify the Lord’s name.
These directions from the Lord come to us as individuals and as collective units called “companies”. Almost everyone who is consecrated to the Lord recognizes that a company requires organization in order to function properly, but not all of these same brethren appreciate the fact that they as individuals require just as complete an organization to carry out their individual responsibilities as the company does. To illustrate: All realize that every company should have a definite assignment of territory in which to witness, but not all appreciate that each individual in that company should have his or her own personal assignment of territory in which to witness. It is just as foolish for a publisher to conclude that he can serve the Lord properly without a personal assignment as it would be for a company to decide that it could function acceptably to the Lord without a territory assignment. A company is required to have an assignment and to systematically work in it from house to house, make back-calls, conduct book studies, and generally aid the people of good-will. They are to carry on all the forms of magazine work in that assignment. They logically hold their own city and such adjacent territory as they can properly handle. It would be the height of foolishness for them to leave their own city and go to a city twenty miles away held by someone else and try to systematically witness in it. Every intelligent person will admit that that would be not only foolishness but rank unfaithfulness to the Lord. The same principle applies to the publisher who refuses to accept the responsibility for a personal assignment of territory and have that assignment as close as possible to his home. The farther away from his home that assignment is, the less time he will have to devote to it and the more difficult it will be to give proper attention to the interest in the territory. Consequently, it is a measure of unfaithfulness to the Lord to thus waste time and energy that belongs to him.
“Propagandists have little respect for people’s thinking abilities. Hitler wrote: ‘The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.’….”
The time has come when each one must bear his own burden fully before the Lord. With the provisions that the Lord has now made in supplying us with new books, question booklets which contain complete instructions for properly carrying on a study, etc., there is absolutely no excuse for anyone, man or woman, to claim to be unable to accept an individual territory assignment and assume full responsibility for it. Those who really love the Lord and are fighters for the New World will not try to excuse themselves on that or any other ground, but will hear the Word of the Lord when he says, Let us do thus and so, and always keep in mind the us includes the Lord, who will be with you in every undertaking. — Matthew 18:20.
The Lord through his “faithful and wise servant” now states to us, “Let us cover our territory four times in six months.” That becomes our organization instructions and has the same binding force on us that his statement to the Logos had when he said, “Let us make man in our image.” It is our duty to accept this additional instruction and obey it. But someone will say, “The conditions are different. In the case of the Logos, he could accomplish what Jehovah commanded him to do; but when it comes to covering our territory four times in six months, that is out of all reason. We have never covered it more than once or, at the most, twice in six months. It just can’t be done.” We have all heard that argument before. And if it were true it would look bad indeed, and would imply that the Lord was asking us to do something that is impossible for us to accomplish. The children of Israel walked around Jericho seven times the last day.
The territory now being covered one to two times in six months could very easily be covered four to six times in the same period if everyone took his Kingdom responsibilities seriously. This is not theory, but actual facts based on figures gleaned from a number of companies during the past six months. Psalm 116:12-18 seems worthy of consideration here: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.”
To do this may mean taking time and effort that is now being devoted to “old world” interests and transferring them to New World interests, which are of God and shall abide for ever. The words of the apostle Peter are to the point in this respect: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11) Before real progress will be made in increasing our activity we must each one recognize these calls to action as coming from the Lord and applying to us personally, and respond to them wholeheartedly.
Why Do They Do It?
The Watchtower Society has made a number of false predictions about “the end of the world.” Many people have accused it of being a “false prophet” because of this. The March 22, 1993 Awake! attempted to answer such critics, but it did it in such a way as to be a textbook example of Orwellian doublethink. The rationalization process the Society uses to sweep under the rug its false predictions and about-faces of doctrine are clearly evident. Already the false predictions about 1975 have nearly disappeared from the collective consciousness of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The failed prophecies of preceding decades are all but forgotten. George Orwell perfectly described this process:
The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth. [Part 1, Ch. VII; p. 75 hardcover; p. 64 paperback]
Since the Party is in full control of all recorded, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. [Part 2, Ch. IX; p. 215 hardcover; p. 176 paperback]
The Bible says that Jehovah is a God of truth, and it would seem that a passage from James Moffatt’s translation of Job 13:7-12 is applicable here:
Will you bring unfair arguments for God? Will you tell lies on his behalf? Will you be sycophants of the Almighty? Will you be special pleaders for God? Will it be well when he probes you? Can you deceive him like a man? No, he will punish you, if you are sycophants of his in secret. Should not his majesty cause you to shudder? Should not the dread of him seize you? Your maxims crumble like mere ashes, your arguments collapse like mounds of clay.
In conclusion, it appears that the Watchtower Society does not want its members to exercise their thinking abilities. Rather, it wants them to prostrate themselves before it.