From the Archives: Mind Control U.S.A. (1979)

in Culture

The marquee remains: PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, REV. JIM JONES PASTOR. The huge, cavernous building in the heart of San Francisco’s black ghetto is boarded up now; its furniture and fixtures were auctioned off to pay the cost of sorting out, embalming, shipping and burying over 900 men, women and children who followed Jim Jones to death.

First there were the photographs of brightly clad bodies, arms clasped around each other, beside a vat of poisoned purple Flavor Aide. Later, the tapes of the Reverend Mr. Jones exhorting his followers to drink the potion and “die with dignity” and eerie reports of the Big Brother tactics—amplified propaganda recordings, drugs, physical and sexual coercion—that he used to shepherd his flock to doom.

Jonestown was a horrible mess in many ways, but in the end, it was the specter of mind control that really chilled the hearts of Americans, probing a lurking fear of vampires and zombies, armies of the living dead held in thrall in the hypnotic gaze of the master operator. It is a specter that has surfaced repeatedly in the last 30 years, in the thousand-mile stares and exuberant, empty grins of returning Korean War POWs, the secret behavior-modification experiments conducted by the CIA, the helter-skelter killing spree of the Manson family, the transformation of Patty Hearst into Tanya, and now in the cult of cults.

Scientists now conclude that the brain processes information not in one way but in several concurrent streams. Neurophysiologists, unlocking the biological codes of the mind, have confirmed what Freud predicted nearly a century ago and what LSD had turned millions on to—that the conscious “self” is only a small part of a much more complex operation and that below the surface is always the “other” and another after that, a series of …

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Author: Jeff Goldberg / High Times

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