Sexual Liberation and
|‘The first draft of a great work’|
E. Michael Jones
Americans had always tended to be a superficial lot, fumbling among the patrimony of the Western tradition like a cargo cult without a can-opener. And this same impatience characterized the founding of modern psychology. (p. 105)
Three years before Carl Rogers’ paper on encounter groups circulated among the nuns in Los Angeles, on April 17, 1962, Abraham Maslow gave a lecture to a group of nuns at Sacred Heart, a Catholic women’s college in Massachusetts. Maslow noted in a diary entry of the same date that the talk had been very “successful,” but he found that very fact troubling. “They shouldn’t applaud me,” he wrote, “they should attack. If they were fully aware of what I was doing, they would.”
Just why the nuns should have attacked him becomes evident from a reading of other journal entries written around the same time. Maslow was aware that encounter groups were toxic for Catholics in general and especially toxic for Catholic religious. Anyone who promoted encounter groups among Catholics was promoting ipso facto their demise as Catholics, even if he did so in the name of liberation and with that as his intent. For the liberal Jew or Protestant, the nun was the textbook case of someone in need of “liberation” and in the context of Catholic religious life and the vows upon which it was based, liberation could only mean annihilation. (p. 472)
The effectiveness of the encounter group was based on the deliberate violation of the sexual inhibitions which made everyday life possible. When the inhibitions dropped, the emotion which flooded in to fill the vacuum seemed a lot like the love which Christians were supposed to practice on their neighbors, when in point of fact it was more akin to unfettered libido, which could now be used by the facilitator as the energy which brought about the social engineering they desired. Maslow was never shy in proposing sexual activity as a form of social engineering. In a passage which appeared in his book Eupsychian Management (but was subsequently deleted by the editors who reissued it in 1998 as Maslow on Management), Maslow said:
It always struck me as a very wise kind of thing that the lower-class Negroes did, as reported in one study, in Cleveland, Ohio. Among those Negroes the sexual life began at puberty. It was the custom for an older brother to get a friend in his own age grade to break in his little sister sexually when she came of a suitable age. And the same thing was done on the girl’s side. A girl who had a younger brother coming into puberty would seek among her own girl friends for one who would take on the job of initiating the young boy into sex in a nice way. This seems extremely sensible and wise and could also serve highly therapeutic purposes in various other ways as well. I remember talking with Alfred Adler about this in a kind of joking way, but then we both got quite serious about it, and Adler thought that his sexual therapy at various ages was certainly a very fine thing. As we both played with the thought we envisaged a kind of social worker in both sexes, who was very well trained for this sort of thing, sexually but primarily as a psychotherapist in giving therapy literally on the couch, that is for mixing in the beautiful and gentle sexual initiation with all the goals of psychotherapy. (p. 473)
The sexual revolution was in full swing, and its initial message seemed to be: If it feels good, go with it.
[Father] Kieser was not only caught up in the cultural revolution of the 1960s, he was witnessing the engine which drove it first-hand, and yet he remained blind to what was right in front of his eyes. Wilhelm Reich could have explained it to him. Adultery and religious vows don’t mix. People involved in both have to choose eventually one or the other. Since sex of this sort is highly addictive, the choice often goes against the vows religious made to serve the Church. Sex was the best way of “liberating” nuns from the their convents. As Leo Pfeffer would say in 1976, the cultural revolution of the ’60s was a battle between the Enlightenment (as espoused by liberal Protestants and Jews) and the Catholic Church. Sex was simply the most effective weapon the Enlightenment would bring to bear in this battle. Reich had explicated the use of sex as a way of destroying religious faith, especially among the clergy, in his magnum opus of sexual politics, The Mass Psychology of Fascism which was undergoing a revival around the same time that Kieser was puzzling over Sister Genevieve’s behavior. But Kieser hadn’t read Reich, and even if he had he was probably incapable of understanding it. The reason is simple enough.... Kieser had so adopted the psychological categories of his oppressors, he couldn’t understand what was happening right in front of his eyes to Sister Genevieve and her order. (p. 476)
Encounter groups were simply the most effective instrument science had yet devised to manage social change through the manipulation of peer pressure. How that instrument got used would depend on the social priorities of the class of people who had invented it, and after the successful conclusion of World War II, those people shifted their concerns from fascism to the “Catholic problem,” most specifically the demographic threat which Catholic sexual teaching posed to continued WASP hegemony in the United States.
The second main source of Encounter Groups was Gestalt Therapy, a creation of Fritz Perls and Paul Goodman which was just as antithetical to Catholic sexual morality as the psychological warfare of the WASP elite. Gestalt Therapy was based to a large extent on the psychological ideas of Wilhelm Reich, who saw unfettered sexual activity as the best way to wean people away from their belief in God. Perls was resident guru at Esalen, a few hours’ drive north of Los Angeles, by the time Carl Rogers became involved with the Immaculate Heart nuns. His techniques were well known throughout California, spread by contact through Perls at Esalen and by Reich’s student Alexander Lowen, whose Bioenergetics were based on the Reichian idea of breaking down a person’s “body armor” and thereby helping him with the battle against sexual repression and its transcendent counterpart, belief in God. Michael Weber in his book Psychotechniken: Die neuen Verführer sees the rise of encounter-group techniques in German seminary training as a Trojan Horse whose purpose was the deliberate destruction of religious vocation, the weakening of the both the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany, and the subsequent triumph of the secular point of view. Weber also traces the rise of this attack on German religious life to the National Training Laboratories. “In September 1963,” according to Weber, “in Schliersee in Oberbayem, 30 German teachers were subjected to a three-week long workshop run by the National Training Laboratories. The purpose of the T-group was to ‘influence’ their authoritarian teaching style.” Weber also thinks that the Immaculate Heart nuns’ Education Innovation Project was part of the same campaign to lame religious life.
Thirty years later the T-group had become an essential part of German religious training. Weber sees the heart of encounter as a form of sexual manipulation. “Sexuality,” he writes, plays a crucial role in the group dynamic-based continuing education of priests, a program which involves the sexualization of the person who gets trained.” Sexualization, according to Reich, was “the mortal foe of religion.” That means that “only through the destruction of sexual repression and the alienation of the child from its relationship with his parents” can political liberation of the sort that Reich believed in succeed. This is a fortiori the case for religious, and Weber sees in the massive spread of encounter groups in seminary training the introduction into religious orders of a strategy whose purpose is truly Reichian, namely, sexualization as a prelude to annihilation.
In spite of Rogers’ protest to the contrary, Kleiner shows that encounter groups were associated not only with psychological warfare but with brainwashing. “As it happened,” Kleiner wrote, there was an expert on brainwashing within the NTL community, a young psychologist named Edgar Schein, who came to McGregor’s department at MIT in the late 1950s, had gone to Inchon at the end of the Korean War to help repatriate American prisoners of war. Schein learned from his research in Korea that the Chinese social control had taken place without drugs, hypnosis, Pavlovian conditioning or even torture; all that was used was peer pressure. (p. 483)
Gestalt guru Fritz Perls was nearing the end of his stay at Esalen. In 1970 he moved to Canada where he founded his own Gestalt Kibbutz on Lake Cowichan. After undergoing a serious operation, Perls grew tired of the intravenous needles in his arm and started to remove them. When a nurse entered the room and told him to leave them alone and lie down, Perls replied “Shut up, you aren’t going to tell me what to do,” whereupon he got up out of the bed and promptly fell over dead. Perls’ favored method for diagnosing sexual repression during his last days at Esalen was to place his tongue into the mouth of his clients, both male and female, for an extended session of French kissing. If he found an attractive young woman who seemed to be suffering from this malady, he would invite her to remove her clothes and join him in one of Esalen’s hot springs. (p. 491)
E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control, St. Augustine’s Press (South Bend, Indiana), 2005. Some minor edits made, references omitted.