Monday, August 26, 2013
The Hidden Persuaders
Working in a convent home for the care of emotionally disturbed adolescent girls can throw up insights into the hidden worlds of communication. Telepathy, empathy, subliminal advertising. I remember Vance Packard wrote a book in the late 1950s, called The Hidden Persuaders. That was sometimes what it felt like as an atheist working with committed religious women. They were kind, generous and philosophically open, as earlier blogs will vouchsafe. Anyway, more of their strange powers a little later.
A form of communication which will have by-passed most men’s knowledge (and some women’s) is via hormones. All the women and girls in the convent had synchronized periods. New girls would fall into the same menstrual cycle within a couple of months of arrival. I remember taking a nun into town for three months supply of sanitary towels. They filled the back of the mini van!
The fact that we communicate with each other in subliminal ways seems to be within most people’s experience. It is usually laughed off as statistically inevitable that synchronous thought should occur. Despite all those Russian experiments during the cold war to produce secret agents who might gain the west’s secrets via telepathy, it remains an unlit area of scientific progress – unless you add in the latest thought controlled cursors in computer technology or quantum theory which stipulates that any observer will change the patterns of movement within atoms by observing the interactions. My vignette is more prosaic and easier to follow than Heisenburg’s masterful theory.
We took all the girls to the Lake District. Climbing big hills is symbolic for urban girls who do not know that milk comes from big grass-munching beasts and that there are places where you cannot see a house no matter how hard you look. The nuns had a sister convent up there with dormitory accommodation and some separate rooms. We arrived in the evening after a long drive from Norfolk. Nothing much happened to me that night. The next day was a successful hiking, climbing, blistering, prickling, stinging sort of day. The girls were tired out. They went to bed early and that was that. I retired eventually. I lay in bed and was about to fall asleep (or did so, who knows) when I was presented with a shimmering figure of Christ. The apparition, delusion, actuality did not speak but communicated mind to mind, as it were. It was trying to persuade me to become a Christian. It was surprisingly powerful. I remember my stock reply was something along the lines of “That’s not why I am here in this life”, thereby opening a door to the notion or reincarnation perhaps but nothing more. This struggle of wills went on for a few hours. The Christ figure in hippy beard and long hair, robes etc (a rather late version of him as artists cloned this image from a Roman god; all the original images being hermaphroditic, bare-faced and late adolescent) eventually disappeared. I slept a couple of hours and then faced the day. The nun who accompanied our party from the convent in Norfolk asked whether I had experienced anything unusual during the night. I felt a bit embarrassed to recount what I had seen. Before I described it, she said;
“You see, we were all praying for you until late in the night, hoping you might see the light.”
There are many levels and forms of communication of which we are either unconscious or only dimly aware.