the darker side of “spiritual combat”


“Finally, writing about inner impulses appears, also according to Athanasius’s text, as a weapon in spiritual combat. While the Devil is a power who deceives and causes one to be deluded about oneself (fully half of the Vita Antonii is devoted to these ruses), writing constitutes a test and a kind of touchstone: by bringing to light the impulses of thought, it dispels the darkness where the enemy’s plots are hatched” (Foucault 1).

I don’t mean to take this passage out of context, but rather, I’d like to discuss how this sort of idea can be extracted and corrupted. Reading this, my immediate thought was, “sounds a bit like cult indoctrination!” Hear me out:

On Steven Hassan’s BITE model, a scoring system through which we can determine a group or organization’s cult status (and consequently, the severity of that cult), there is a particular point, under the “information control” category: “Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors.” Additionally, several other points further describe and round out a specific indoctrination technique, which is seen in some (organized) cults. This technique, generally, involves a ritual/routine where cult members will gather, in order to publicly disclose any impure or unwanted thoughts. Primarily, this is a shaming technique, and ultimately, a method of thought control and behaviour regulation.

…So! In a more religious, “evil”-opposed context, but where these thoughts are not written but shared, this passage reminded me a bit of this particular technique. While these methods of recording or regulating thoughts are often for the benefit of the individual, that is not always the case.


One Reply to “the darker side of “spiritual combat””

  1. I agree with this analysis. There are always two sides to every coin and while the method may look great on paper, in reality, things do not always work out as planned.

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