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By Ted Schroder
Apr 29, 2018

William Sargant was a British psychiatrist who, in 1957, published one of the first books on the psychology of brainwashing, Battle for the Mind. He was heavily involved with the Intelligence Services, including the CIA Project MKULTRA. His work became termed 'The Manchurian Candidate' after the novel. His research destroyed the health, memories and lives of countless patients. He was one of the dominant figures in psychiatry in the 1970's. No one would dare to challenge him. He experimented with mind control, which had damaging effects on his patients. He believed that human beings were biological species, who resemble dogs in their brain functions. Their power of reason should not be abused by religious or political mystique that stunts the reason. He saw some forms of Christianity, and particularly the effects of John Wesley's preaching, as a form of neurotic hysteria, which, however, were socially beneficial. He did not rule out that the Holy Spirit could make use of the human nervous system to strengthen faith. His aim was to reduce the mystery from God's work by explaining it in terms of biology. None of us wants to be brainwashed or for our mind to be controlled by others, by ideologies or cults. So what do we make of what St. Paul writes about in Romans 8:6 -- "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."

Paul teaches that, when our minds are receptive to the Spirit, we have access to the life in all its fullness that Jesus came to bring, and we experience peace with God, others, and within ourselves. Life in its fullness is to be found in living according to the Holy Spirit, and setting your mind on the things of the Spirit. Each person has a choice in life. We can set our minds on what our lower nature desires, or on what the Spirit of God desires for us. If we want a full and flourishing life, at peace with God and others, and ourselves, we will set our minds on God's purpose for us.

To set your mind on something is to make it your priority, your interest, your goal. It is what preoccupies you, what drives you, what concerns you, what occupies your time, and your energies.

St. Paul identifies two kinds of people. There are those who, by default, have their minds set on what their animal instincts desire. That nature is hostile to God, and rebels against any spiritual direction. It focuses upon the life of this world only. It concentrates on the visible, the seen, and has nothing at all to do with the unseen. It has nothing to do with the eternal. It excludes any reference to God. It is life lived on a purely secular plane.

This mindset may be full of ideas about improving the world. It can produce masterpieces of art and of literature and of music; but there is no God, there is no eternity, there is no Spirit. They are hostile to God, and do not want to be accountable to any higher authority in their personal lives. They are dead to God -- alienated from God -- they live as if there were no God.

Some of your greatest moral men, some of your most cultured men in the world are in that position. They are very able, very cultured, very much interested in life. They never get drunk, they are not guilty of adultery. God is not in their thoughts, they are completely dead to God, they are living as if there were no God. That is what is meant by spiritual death. Spiritual death is to be outside the life of God...The spiritual realm does not exist for them, they scoff at it; spiritual realities mean nothing whatsoever to them; they are dead to them all. Ask them to read the New Testament, and they say that it is 'nonsense'. Draw their attention to spiritual things and they do not know what you are talking about.

There is a well-known story which seems to me to supply a perfect illustration of this point. It concerns two great men, William Wilberforce the leader in the movement for the abolition of slavery, and William Pitt the Younger, one time Prime Minister of Britain. They were both brilliant men, they were both politicians, and they were very great friends. But William Wilberforce was converted and became a Christian, while William Pitt, like so many others, was but a formal Christian. William Wilberforce was very much concerned about his friend. He loved him as a man and was greatly concerned about his soul. He was most anxious therefore that Pitt should go with him to listen to a certain preacher, a London clergyman of the Church of England named Richard Cecil. Cecil was a great evangelical preacher, and Wilberforce delighted in his ministry, so he was ever trying to persuade Pitt to go along with him to listen to Cecil. At long last Pitt agreed to do so. Wilberforce was delighted and they went together to a service. Richard Cecil was at his best, preaching in his most spiritual and elevated manner. Wilberforce was enjoying himself, and feeling lifted up into the heavens. He could not imagine anything better, anything more enjoyable, anything more wonderful; and he was wondering what was happening to his friend William Pitt, the Prime Minister. Well, he was not left long in a state of uncertainty as to what had been happening, because, before they were even out of the building Pitt turned to Wilberforce and said, 'You know Wilberforce, I have not the slightest idea what that man has been talking about.' And he hadn't, of course. As a man can be tone deaf to music,... he was tone deaf to the spiritual. He was bored, he could not follow it, he could not understand it, he did not know what it was about. A man of great brilliance, a man of great culture, a man of great intellectual ability, but all that does not help (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The Sons of God, 1975, 9,10)

There is another kind of person. There are those who have their minds set on what the Holy Spirit desires. What does the Holy Spirit desire for us? To live by the Spirit is to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 4:25), to keep in tune with the Spirit. It is to seek the Spirit's direction in your life. It is to pray in the Spirit. It is to seek the will of God in your life. It is to seek the filling of the Holy Spirit, so that you may have the gifts of the Spirit to exercise your ministry. It is to work on producing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 4:22,23) When your mind is set on those qualities, you will experience life in all its fullness, and peace with God, peace with your neighbor, and peace within. You will enjoy an inner integration or harmony with yourself and the world.

When you have your mind set on what the Spirit desires you see the world differently. You are not dependent on the culture, or politics, or your leisure pursuits, for your happiness. You see everything you do in relationship to what God wants you to do. You know that if you are seeking God's will in your life you will be fulfilling the purpose for which you were born. You will become the highest and best you can be.

Life is not just the survival of the fittest. You are not measured by your net worth. Your hope is in the life of the Spirit, in eternal life, not just the material world. You communicate with the unseen through the eyes of faith. You are more concerned for relationships, for helping others, for loving your neighbor, for sharing the peace you enjoy with others. You see yourself as a life-giver, bearing the life of the Spirit into every situation in which you find yourself. You want to be loving, joyful, peacemaking, patient, kind, to do good, to be faithful to others, gentle, and in control of yourself when there is reason not to be. But you know you cannot do this on your own. You need the Holy Spirit to empower you. You want to be controlled by the Spirit of Christ, not your own self-centered nature.

"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them -- living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored." (Romans 8:5-8 The Message)

When I read the Bible and seek the Spirit's illumination, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. When I pray for inspiration, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. When I am seeking wisdom and direction in my life, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. When I am praying for the empowering of the Spirit so that I am to be more concerned for others than myself, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. Whenever I am praying for protection from evil for myself or my loved ones, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. When I am praying for my health, for my family, for my finances, and for our leaders, I am setting my mind on the Spirit. When I do all these things I enter more deeply into an experience of fullness of life and peace.

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