This interview came out in 1994, but I heard of it first just yesterday, on Facebook, of all places, thanks to one of my FB contacts who posted it. Some of you probably know all about it: It's the story of how the "non-directive therapy" of psychologist Carl Rogers brought down religious orders with frightening speed in California in the 1960's. The story is told by a former associate of Rogers, now-repentant Dr. William Coulson.
Coulson's tale and his way of telling it are absolutely believable. He talks about the jargon of psychology and its follies with the familiarity of one who knows them from the inside. Speaking as a Protestant, I found the story shocking and yet all-too-predictable. I could not hope to reproduce it, and I encourage you to find time to read it. Let's hope that if we know history we can have a hope of not repeating it. At a minimum, the moral of the story is, "Never let people come and do psychology seminars, or for that matter, any seminars, for your well-functioning religious community, with the goal of bringing you 'up to date.' Chances are, by the time it's all over, you won't have a religious community at all anymore, much less a well-functioning one."
I have only a few comments that won't, I hope, simply be wasting time you could be spending reading the interview.
First, Coulson's story is an indictment of the pseudo-science of psychotherapy. As he tells the story, Rogers started out doing therapy with people who had solid ethical upbringings and hence fairly well-informed consciences. Rogers found that by prompting them with questions like, "What do you think?" he could get them to give themselves therapy, in a sense, to find good answers to their problems for themselves. He then proceeded to generalize this to the ridiculous idea that all of us can thus find the right answers (in heaven-knows-what sense of "right") if only we are encouraged to look within ourselves, be authentic, get in touch with our true feelings, and so forth. Authenticity then, predictably, became identified with rejecting whatever you had been taught previously, and especially with all forms of religious tradition, and when Rogers chose to do further work on the West coast, he found all manner of horrors and destruction flowing from his method. No kidding. Man is fallen after all. I was reminded irresistibly of the amusing story Richard Feynman tells of his draft interview. He annoyed the psychiatrist and was declared psychologically unfit to be drafted. The psychiatrist wrote in his notes, "Very peculiar facial expression." Feynman says, "I know what that was. That was when I said, 'And this is science?'"
Second, the interview contains a stunning confirmation of both Zippy's idea of the free and equal superman trampling the untermensch and of my idea that "choice devours itself." Coulson tells of a spin-off group from Rogers which was charged by the State of California with forcing its female patients to have abortions. The reasoning ran thus: We want you to be free to hear your inner voice. You cannot truly be free if you are pregnant or a mother. Therefore, we will force you to be free by forcing you to get rid of your children. (They also pressured women to place their children for adoption before entering therapy, if the children were lucky enough to have been born already.) Coulson doesn't say whether the group's leaders were convicted or not.
Anyway, try to find time to read the whole thing.