Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. (Mark 4:24 KJV).
Hear, as in “to attend to (to hear) in order to consider what is or has been said.”
Measure, as in “the rule or standard of judgement” applied to what is heard.
In other words, like the old computer acronym, GIGO, garbage (or confusion or obfuscation or chaos) may be going in, but does not have to either stay or go out again if in the interim, discernment is employed.
However, of far more importance–and to my point, here–even if it is garbage, it can sound convincingly like the good stuff (truth or wisdom or beauty or ascendant revelation).
So here is a believer’s challenge: how to tell, particularly in an era when advertising geniuses know how to spin a lie into ear candy in seven-second sound bytes, or 140 characters or less.
We can tell by adhering to standards.
Technically, a standard is a norm, a convention or, in King James-ese, a “measure”. In short, standards are the rules of engagement or of interpretation.
But though in virtually every trade, craft, and creative pursuit the best and brightest achieve success by adherence to standards, such guidelines, evolving with clarity and information, can change.
And change is good, right?
Yes. No. Depends upon one’s lens of interpretation. Depends on the motivation of the changers.
For example, in my world of teaching, literature in particular, there are several ways of viewing a play, poem, or story.
One “school of literary criticism” involves taking an historical approach, another, a “reader response” approach. Or one can branch off into women’s studies, “ecocriticism” (relating literature through a naturalist’s point of view), and/or any variant of cultural interpretation, to name a few. So there are genre-specific guidelines.
A standard in literary criticism, however, involves foundational skills, i.e., no matter what the specific genre or school of thought, one has to analyze each element (author, setting, plot, character, themes, etc.) in light of the whole. Therefore, even for the most general analysis, it is not a completely subjective interpretation.
Example: someone offers you a thick adventure novel. It has numerous characters and a universal theme. But, the author is Stephen King. Right there, your view is narrowed to horror/adventure.
The same is true for any other set of standards. There are certain immutables that govern how a thing works, however many variations there may be.
Example: we are all born with hair, but each with his/her own color, texture, thickness, etc.
The same is true for spiritual interpretation.
As a Christian, I believe God’s Word to be a standard. A kind of “owner’s manual,” if you will. I also believe there are immutables there. “Yes’s” and “no’s” that provide the foundation upon which each of us, as works in progress, can find truth. If we pursue it, judging carefully what we hear, building a foundation, then we will recognize more where that came from–and we will be able to detect a hole in the substructure faster and get away sooner.
If we reject it, end of story.
Another Scripture comes to mind, here:
To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them (Matthew 13:12, NLT).
Taken, as in removed.
This implies someone takes it away. Consider, then, the parable of the sower and the seeds. There are various views on who, what, and how the seed (the Word of God) is removed.
SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HEGEL AND BRAIN WAVES?
As a metaphorist, I view the Hegelian Dialectic and Brainwave Syncronization (also known as Brainwave Entrainment) both as metaphors of how the ancient enemy of us, aka Satan, can lure us away from God’s standard, His Word. The former might be viewed as a semantic lure (the better to talk us away from God and into trouble); the latter, an auditory lure (the better to incite us away from God’s music, if you will, and into trouble). Both, however, in their exquisite cleverness, brilliant.
THE HEGELIAN LURE
I believe Satan’s first con under the apple tree was the original iteration of the Dialectic.
The Hegelian Dialectic, “usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.”
But it need not stop with just one synthesis, or one new idea based partly on both opposing views. In fact, depending upon how committed to the original thesis a hearer might be, it might take a number of graduated ideas. Each, slightly further away from the original.
In the hands of an expert spin-meister he/she can lure listeners far away from, in this case, God’s Word, by watering down the original view over and over again until the replacement is made more acceptable. For example, it took a number of iterations over centuries to reduce “Jesus Christ (is) the only Way, Truth, and Life,” to the philosophy of Universalism, i.e., the belief that “all sinful and alienated human souls — because of divine love and mercy — will ultimately be reconciled to God.” The fiercest proponents of this notion believe that even Satan will one day be “reconciled”.
But back to the Garden.
To God’s thesis, if you will, which was, “You shall not eat from (the tree in the middle of the garden) or touch it, or you will die,” the clever Devil proceeded by first, declaring the flat-out antithesis: “You shall not surely die.”
Now, in between this comment and the next one, the author penned, “the serpent said to the woman.”
This makes me wonder if the original Spinner-in-Chief, shimmering alluringly, there under the moist, fragrant apples, be-jewelled in the sun, paused for a few seconds to observe Eve’s reaction. Though her language may have been limited, a lot can be said by body language, too.
Apparently, she was interested.
So the snake kept up the Dialectic with this new thought, aka persuasive tactic, aka now, synthesis: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“Hmmm,” Eve thinks, if just in my imagination, “maybe he has a point, there.”
Here is where the subtlety of a psychological operation fits in.
Up to this point, as far as we know, Eve has never heard or entertained an opposing thought to God’s directive. Upon hearing the snake’s shocking revelation, the resulting Cognitive Dissonance, a kind of mental pain caused by attempting to hold two opposing thoughts in one’s mind at the same time, must have been very uncomfortable for Eve, yet also very seductive.
Here is this beautiful, seemingly harmless creature, surely one of God’s own (?), she may have reasoned (this kind of psy op causes the victim to participate in the rationale process), who is offering a perspective that might just be, well, glory added to Paradise (while it also quells the riot in her mind…).
A two-for-one deal for him, you might say.
(The snake waits, shimmering; Eve takes a bite…)
Next comes Adam, and wrestling with his own set of temptations on viewing the scene, he, too, then grasps at relief from the mental pain.
And the rest is history.
THE BRAIN WAVE SYNCHRONIZATION ALLURE
The second metaphor that helps to explain how easy it is to stray from the standard of God’s Word that I find even more powerful than the Dialectic, is a phenomenon called brain wave synchronization (aka entrainment).
In a nutshell, this phenomenon occurs when our brain waves (alpha, beta, theta…) synchronize with external noises/beats/music thus changing at will (our will or somebody else’s) instead of shifting organically as we wake, sleep, and interact with our environment naturally.
A formal definition will help explain why this experience, in a similar way but through different stimuli (auditory instead of semantic, like the Dialectic) is also a powerful instrument in luring the mind away from the standard of God’s Word. I have bolded words/terms/notes of particular interest:
Brainwave entrainment, or ‘neural entrainment’, refers to the capacity of the brain to naturally synchronize its brainwave frequencies with the rhythm of periodic external stimuli, most commonly auditory, visual, or tactile. Brainwave entrainment technologies are used to induce various brain states, such as relaxation or sleep, by creating stimuli that occur at regular, periodic intervals to mimic electrical cycles of the brain during the desired states, thereby “training” the brain to consciously alter states. Recurrent acoustic frequencies, flickering lights, or tactile vibrations are the most common examples of stimuli applied to generate different sensory responses.
Of course, music, as one of the most powerful of auditory stimuli used to both “calm the savage breast” as well as to stimulate the lethargic mind, has effective and therapeutic uses. Certainly the psalmist David’s skill with lyre and lyric was much desired in Saul’s court. And worship music enhances our time with God.
However, to my topic of the danger of such mechanisms as synchronizing brainwaves to external stimuli in order to artificially induce altered mental states, there is also a down side, another psychological (neurological as well) operation for the purpose of luring one away from God’s Word. It depends upon the stimuli and, again, the motivation behind it.
Brain experts tell us that inducing certain altered states of brain wave activity leave the mind curiously “open” to suggestion. Here, in my view, is where this is akin to the Hegelian Dialectic, but in a much more powerful, subtle way.
The Dialectic approach requires the hearer to first have to experience the mental pain of conflicting thoughts, then to submit to the argument, the “synthesis,” presented (and planned ahead of time) to help ease the pain–and “water down,” so to speak, the original thesis, thus leading the thinker away from a previously held belief or standard. It all started with one alluring suggestion (synthesis) for Eve to not only seek relief from the mental pain incited by the original lie but also to alter her belief about God and His will for her life.
Allowing one’s brain to be synchronized to external sounds, often very pleasant, on the other hand, is almost effortless. It requires only passive “listening”. It is very popular with Zen Buddhists, people desiring “out-of-body experiences,” and among the revivalists of the practices of the Catholic mystics.
As one brain expert puts it:
Higher Spiritual Awareness
Hundreds of thousands of people use binaural beats (a form of such auditory stimuli) for meditation purposes, as a way of inducing a meditative state that enables access to higher levels of spiritual consciousness and oneness with the world. The reason for this is that binaural beats in the low theta frequency range are able to slow the mind down to a state that comes just before sleep, so you are still awake but less influenced by the physical world and open to transcendental experiences.
On a similar note, there are binaural beats tracks designed to induce lucid dreaming and astral projection. More and more people are using bbs to access these kinds of Out of Body Experiences and spiritual encounters. Lucid dreaming is when you are able to control your dreams and create the fantasy landscape of your imagination, and astral projection is to access the astral plane, to leave the physical world for another dimension.
For those who know how to induce altered brain states in others–whether by others’ consent or not–via artificially or technologically altering brain waves, it’s not too difficult to understand the possible dangers thereof.
SO WHAT IS A BELIEVER TO DO?
Appreciate the brilliance of our true enemy, Satan, who is at his psy-ops best when appearing as an angel of light (inspiration, enlightenment, ascendant master).
Remain in God’s Word for confirmation, verification, validation, explanation, and truth, for, as Jesus put it, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
And be very careful, lest anyone rob you of truth.