Letters to The Remnant, 7: Beware of Spiritual “Gaslighting”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Co-Saints,

The response of a technology expert to the concern over the damage computer hackers can do caught my attention. He said that we need to be far more worried about unwanted software that snakes into the grid by means of playing to human nature, thus gathering our data “with our permission,” as it were, than we should be concerned about hackers scaling firewalls to get at our stuff.

“It’s easier to trick than to hack,” he said.

For example, by playing to our desire to get our “fifteen minutes of fame,” as Marshall McLuhan famously put it, all manner of data on social media can be gleaned by which to insert advertising pop-ups “selected just for you”.

Not that ads and coupons for desired products are bad.

For another example, by playing to our sense of fear over the scary state of the world, entrepreneurs can more easily sell us grub, guns, and gold via the ads appearing in the margins of the monitor while we tremble over a You Tube feature on the looming Battle of Armageddon or incoming Planet X or something like that.

Not that preparedness is bad.

It’s just that the information gleaned with our okay (at least some of it with our okay) might also be used for more nefarious purposes. Does “En Es Ay” sound familiar?

All of which reminds me of the multi-faceted “gaslighting” technique that is another form of trickery with which to hack you spiritually, as it were, by getting YOU to agree to the dirty work. It also plays to human nature in order to draw us away from truth. Consider the following.

gaslight“Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted, spun, or selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity” [1].

The most popular gaslighting technique, that of instilling doubt, works by causing the victim, or target, to second-guess him/herself. The gaslighter will pose questions designed to erode confidence thus opening the target up to suggestion. In a relationship, such questions essentially boil down to:

Are you SURE you saw/heard/experienced/believe that?

This gaslighting technique works best when the target has first learned to trust the gaslighter, having no reason yet to NOT trust him or her (or not to trust the spokesperson for some heretofore esteemed institution). The target may then easily reconsider what the other is suggesting even over the strength of empirical evidence and/or scientific data. The target is then much easier to influence—and control.

In the spiritual realm, I believe this gaslighting technique was used to pose the very first temptation: the temptation to doubt God. Consider the following (adapted from the book of Genesis, chapter 3, KJV):

ACT ONE

SETTING: Garden of Eden. Eve has wandered off by herself to admire the sun be-jewelling the fruit in the high afternoon, bees buzzing softly about, the scent of the ripened food perfuming the air. Enter the snake.

SNAKE: Yea, hath god said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

EVE: Hmmm (she pauses, thinks, likely charmed by the novelty of this beautiful talking creature, itself shimmering in the sun).

NARRATOR: Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman,

SNAKE: Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

EVE: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

SNAKE: Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil…

EVE: Hmmm, (snake turns to shine his best side on her, flicks a bee off a scale, waits…) he kind of makes sense, muses Eve, if you think about it, and didn’t God make this creature, too, so it must be good? And he IS quite charming and well dressed…and it doesn’t look like there is anything wrong with the apples…maybe there are exceptions…

ACT TWO

SETTING: Garden of Eden, under the apple tree. After successfully tempting Eve for round two of the Fall (to take that fateful bite—and to share), the snake let Eve finish the dirty work.

(Sound of footfalls approaching.)

EVE: Adam?…

THE END, as it were.

Clever devil indeed…

And the rest, as they say, is (spiritual) history.

The original tempter first gaslighted by charming, then suggesting, then waiting for doubt to take full effect.

Much easier to trick than hack in the realm of the spirit, too. Much easier to light the fuse of suggestion and stand back, hoping the targets don’t employ critical thinking of course, than to line up the targets and demand allegiance at gunpoint to gain control…

(Aside: think of the ability to dupe and control by another gaslighting technique called “spin,” or “political correctness,” as it is known today, that also works via the power of suggestion with some old-fashioned peer pressure mixed in for good measure.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled evil.

And the believers’ real enemy (along with his principalities and powers) employs this spiritual gaslighting technique today. Perhaps even more so in these, what many believe are “end times,” as more and more believers are charmed further and further away from Biblical roots by today’s popular “suggestions”. For example:

If God is about love, won’t everybody eventually get to heaven?

How can a loving God have made a Hell, anyway?

Surely there is more than just one way to get right with God?

If God is good, then surely it is His will for everybody to always be healthy and wealthy, right?

God? Isn’t He dead?

And perhaps the most potent suggestion of all, Satan’s all time greatest hit (and run):

Are you sure that Bible isn’t just a random collection of fables and myths and legends? That’s what most of the educated people say. And people were far less evolved back in the olden days, right? Surely, there can be no proof for half those stories!

(See a source below, [2], for a sample list of other “suggestions” that have snaked into the spiritual grid over time.)

Fortunately, there was Another in that Garden, watching. And He (God) already had a plan in play: He would send His own Son to pay for the sin of doubt, disobedience, and all the rest, not only then, but since, now, and in the future. The book of John, chapter 3, covers this. See details, below*.

The point is: the oldest temptation by way of instilling doubt (gaslighting) remains one of the most potent. It not only makes the target crazy, as they say, with self-doubt, it erodes confidence and stalls the defense while engineering enough plausible deniability to effectively deflect blame.

Clever devil indeed.

So what’s a body to do?

Jesus put it this way when discussing temptations of various sorts: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

In short, do not engage, argue, or debate with—or even muse over—the gaslighter’s suggestions.

Eve had it right the first time. She along with Adam had walked with God in many a cool evening. She had heard and understood God’s instructions and responded appropriately.

However, being a human with a human’s nature, the power of suggestion (likely served with a twist of charm) changed her thinking—then her mind. Adam succumbed to peer pressure.

If we, unlike Eve, are truly not sure of our response when some gaslighter sidles near, at the very least we can resist being cornered into thinking we have to answer immediately. “Let me think about that and get back to you” deflects the other(s) until we are truthed-up, as it were.

And then we must engage in the critical thinking needed. The Bereans had an app for that apple, you might put it: “Study and show thyself approved.”

In short, we are both forewarned and forearmed if we stay. In. The. Word.

For as those who study it seriously discover, the Bible is not what “they” suggest, i.e., an anthology of primitive myths bubbling up from some collective, cultural subconscious (a popular spin in this era); rather, it has been described as a seven level chess game for the intellect—and the spirit—while at the same time conveying a message that even the most innocent and vulnerable can comprehend if they desire to have ears to hear and eyes to see.

How?

By asking the Author.

Why?

* “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

And don’t let anyone gaslight you.

***

[1] The term owes its origin to the play Gas Light and its film adaptations after which the term began to be used in clinical and research literature. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting.

[2] https://carm.org/heresies There are, of course, many other such sites to explain the history of heresies throughout the ages and the specifics on each one.

Image: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-gas-street-lamp-westminster-london-england-uk-image9094334

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2 Responses to Letters to The Remnant, 7: Beware of Spiritual “Gaslighting”

  1. pnissila says:

    Yes! And I fear critical thinking is fast going out of style…after all, we’re only “allowed,” as it were, what is it? 140 characters within which to craft a fast, pithy, most of all “likeable” reply (before the topic scrolls past, magically, almost of its own accord)… That is, if we get all our news on the most popular forums…

    It’s easier to simply adopt the meme du jour and proceed to the next ms…

    Critical thinking, on the other hand, takes work, time, a particular set of skills, and requires the use of logic, not to mention spiritual discernment.

    Nothing good comes without effort. Most of it requires sacrifices such as time, effort, etc.

    Evil understands this.

    But, I know I am preaching to the choir!

    Carry on, and awaiting the efforts of your own critical thinking to soon emerge for sharing!!

    Like

  2. Carl Gordon says:

    Critical thinking is critically important.

    Like

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