Born Again Testimonies – Again

In a post last year about the Tony Anthony testimony debacle, I featured (with permission) a scanned copy of Simon Jenkins’ cartoon strip ‘Born Again Testimonies’ from Ship Of Fools when it was a print magazine in the early 1980s. I now discover, thanks to my friend David Parsons, a retired Baptist minister, that Jenkins turned it into a video and posted it on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:


  1. A “born again” experience can be induced fairly readily. Sargant was the son of a Methodist lay preacher and recognised the techniques described by Wesley as akin to his own therapeutic approach. Sargant went on to study this in more depth, but in outline, a combination of self-hypnosis (meditation, chanting, rhythms etc) along with build-up of CO2 in the blood (hyperventilation due to dancing, singing) creates a suggestible state in which the individual can be “flipped” to a new mind-state that lasts for a short period. Wesley had the bible as a “manual” – a very good “new state” guide – and the class system as a support mechanism. Otherwise the convert quickly returns to normal, which may not be the best outcome.

    This sort of manipulation has fallen into disrepute. It is fairly easy to see it coming once you know what to look out for. It can be both beneficial and therapeutic, not just intrusive and inappropriate.

    The last person to trust in leading such a process is a celebrity!


    1. Hi,

      Welcome here and thanks for your comment. I don’t know whether you have religious convictions yourself or not, but I think I would note a couple of things briefly in response. Firstly, the possibility of manipulation has been known and warned against in Christian circles. One example that comes to mind is the late Christian psychiatrist Dr John White, who described the relevant methods in one of his books. (I can’t remember for sure which title, but I think it might have been in ‘The Golden Cow’.) Nevertheless, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all heightened religious experience is induced by manipulation, and in fairness to you I am not clear whether you are claiming that or not.

      I would also note, though, that Sargant was and is a contentious character. To quote a sentence from his Wikipedia profile: “Although remembered as a major force in British psychiatry in the post-war years, his enthusiasm for discredited treatments such as insulin shock therapy and deep sleep treatment, his distaste for all forms of psychotherapy,and his reliance on dogma rather than clinical evidence have confirmed his reputation as a controversial figure whose work is seldom cited in modern psychiatric texts.”

      All that said, I share your suspicion about the value of celebrity.


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