Sounds lovely, doesn't it? What could possibly be the harm? Can you say "overt psychological manipulation"?Abbot Christopher Jamison, a Benedictine monk, believes that he can teach five ordinary people the value of silent meditation, as practised by monks in monasteries, so they can make it part of their everyday lives. He sets up a three-month experiment to test out whether the ancient Chrisitan[sic] tradition of silence can become part of modern lives.
In this episode, Christopher brings the five volunteers to his own monastery, Worth Abbey, before sending them to begin a daunting eight days in complete silence at a specialist retreat centre.
The programme takes four individuals, all of them recently bereaved, (or in the case of one person, subjected to complete ostracism by their family during adolescence) and puts them (for three days, to begin with) in a monastery of a silent order of monks, and then several days later, in an eight-day Jesuit-run silent 'retreat'.
These are all good-hearted, genuine people who want to do the right thing by themselves and their families, yet in the religious setting they're lied to (participants must attend mass every day, but are told: "we won't pressure you into any belief system - the belief is inside you"), manipulated (to a woman who's lost her faith after her father's sudden death: "the reason you're scared is because maybe you're afraid you don't have a good heart") and otherwise influenced (the guy ostracised by his family, who's an unsophisticated atheist, is directed to a deserted chapel, only to find there a bible opened at the page Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good... - he weeps).
I found it a real eye-opener. At every turn, the religious manipulators in the programme are cast as gentle souls, only interested in directing their charges to self-knowledge. The fact that they're adherents of a warped moral system with no factual basis is never challenged.
What really gets my goat is that the transcendental emotions and feelings induced by prolonged silence and introspection (or meditation, or marathon running, or free rock-climbing...), which we can all experience, are co-opted by religious believers as manifestations of God. They're not - they're just emergent properties of our consciousness. They are context-free.
Oh well, as my missus says, tongue in cheek, knowing it always get a rise out of me: "...but they mean well."
Tune in next week for part two, and in the meantime (BBC iPlayer not being available in the Republic - goddamn you, BBC) wait for the first episode to become available on BitTorrent. Sorry about the long absence. Thanks for letting me vent my spleen. I feel much better now.
Peace and blessings