Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lessons from Jonestown IV: The Small Box

Outside-the-box thinking is so vital a part of the human experience that one comes away from the study of the concept with two ready amazements: first, it is amazing how much civilization strives to suppress it, and, second, that civilization continues to be unable to do so.

After all, we are born with no box at all. We have senses, reflexes, and embedded coping strategies, but no box to put them in. That's how Harlow was able to tease out the seemingly monolithic "mother concept" into food and comfort as separate concepts.

Civilization is a process of building a big strong box to put everything into. Why the sky is blue, what mommies and daddies do, how the whole world works, all of it is a box of varying sizes we all run around in. The more our boxes overlap with others, the better off we usually are. Sharing a common concept of car driving lets us all get to the store and back, safely.

The bigger and better the box becomes, the harder it is to think outside of it, because strategies inside the box work so well. Following the circular motion laws of physics, however, the opposite is also true. That is, the smaller the box, the harder it is to think outside of it, because there are fewer and fewer strategies in the box with us.

Thus, the key to proper box building is this: when a wall is encountered, it's time for outside the box thinking, which in turn makes the box bigger. Even as the box expands, the ability to think outside of it expands also. The goal of infinity boxing is, itself, infinite... but a person's reach should exceed their grasp. Or their box never gets bigger.

What cult thinking does is keep shrinking the box to contain only the concepts beneficial to the cult. They are presented as beneficial to the recruit, to engage their willingness to shrink the box. It seems like box expansion at the time, of course.

Tightening the circle of relationships to only those in the cult doesn't look like box shrinkage when those cult relationships are so gratifying.

Shrinking the possibilities of action to only cult-approved actions doesn't feel like box shrinkage when the cult-approved actions are so fulfilling.

Restricting one's internal thoughts to cult-approved thoughts doesn't make a recruit unhappy. Their thoughts feel like happy thoughts because the recruit relieves the tension of cognitive dissonance when they adopt cult thinking.

Better relationships, positive actions, doubt-free thinking. It's wonderful! The recruit feels loved, supported, and clear-headed in a way they never felt before.

When reality intrudes, as reality always does, boxes are threatened. People with box expansion capability push out on the walls, incorporate the lessons of reality, and have a better box to live in.

However, the whole point of cult-supported box shrinkage is to atrophy box expansion capability. It is literally inconcievable to go outside the box for new ways of looking at reality. Simplistic reflexes have replaced every possible avenue for box expansion.

"My friends and relatives seem worried about me." They're wrong! They don't support me the way my friends in the cult do.

"This action isn't something I thought was right and good." But I was wrong to think that! My new actions are what everyone else does.

"I have doubts about my decisions." Doubt is wrong! It's just outside-world/bad-programming/Satan putting these thoughts in my head. I must banish them!

In November of 1978, cult members in Guyana, picking up their latest shipment, found a drum of chemicals that they hadn't ordered. They were told it had been sent by Temple headquarters. They discovered that it was full of a cynanide compound with no conceivable agriculture or manufacturing use in the society they had carved out of the jungle.

And they brought it back to Jonestown.

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