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Gullibility and Trust

Take the time to assiduously study clear thinking and you won't be hoodwinked. - Epictetus

For most people, not getting duped and much exploited by trust is a matter of not using their intelligence wisely, affirms Stephen Greenspan. (2009:149).

The third and fourth World War did not come before 2000 CE
What is missed by the one eye is compensated for by overlapping vision in the other. - Daniel Goleman (1988:14)

Those who are told a prophecy, miss the "eye" of verification. That eye opens after some time, after the event that should have occurred. After that missing events, the vision should be corrected. Regrettable, all faithful and blindfolded believers in the Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) are not able to do it very well, not even satisfactorily, and that is where matters stand.

Yogananda came to America and prophesied a third and fourth World War, and that Europe would be devastated, Russia annihilated, Japan conquered by China, and America would survive - and "England is finished. Finished. Finished!" (Kriyananda 2011:125-26. Extracted). It was all to happen before the year 2000 (Kriyananda 1973, ch 6).

The year 2000 came and went, and there had been no third and fourth World Wars fortcoming. Japan, Europe, Russia and England remain so far. A good many Yogananda prophesies have failed, thankfully, for many reasons.

Are failed doomsday prophesies all good? It may get complicated if you are a firm believer in Yogananda before it comes to the fore that he is one of those false prophets the Old Testament denies a life (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Then you may experience a bit of "cognitive dissonance" (Festinger 1964), with uncertain outcomes, including: If you are in cult, you could actually get your faith in Yogananda strengthened by his many failed prophesies. It is a curious outcome of several when doomsday prophesies fail to come true. Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter explored a little doomsday cult in 1954 and went on to write a book about it, When Prophecies Fail (1956). All cult members are not rational individuals. Lorne L. Dawson sums up the odd phenomenon, telling about the same group:

Contrary to common sense . . . the group did not abandon its beliefs and disband even in the face of stark disconfirmation of these prophecies. Rather, a faithful core persisted and redoubled its efforts to convince others of the veracity of their ideas. . . . [W]hen people with strongly held beliefs are confronted by evidence clearly at odds with their beliefs, they will seek to resolve the discomfort caused by the discrepancy by convincing others to support their views rather than abandoning their commitments. (Dawson 1999:60)

We may soon wonder how Yogananda disciples handle his many failed prophesies once they get aware of them; if the good facts influence them all right, or they are under another, misty influence. Avoidance is a defence mechanism, for one thing. A sad thing about defence mechanisms is that they usually make those who resort to them, more defective and not healthier. Perhaps sound study in advance may help against believing like a fool, and other forms of forewarnings too. Albert I. Baumgarten describes that movements take measures to prevent defection and assure faithfulness of members:

"Upping the ante" [raising the stakes] can take many different forms . . . As part of "upping the ante" some sacrifice of individual identity for the sake of commitment to the movement may also be demanded. The extent of this sacrifice may vary, from a change of lifestyle within the original social context, to transfer of private property to the group, to transferring one's commitment . . . to sectarian brothers . . . In more extreme instances, believers may be asked to abandon their original social context to live in the new communal setting, to sacrifice their sexual identity (celibacy). (Baumgarten Apocalyptic Time (2000:xii)

In the last phase of disconfirmation and its aftermath, experience must be re-interpreted in light of the disasters that have not happened, and ideas of a new earth. A group's consent to the interpretation of why a bad thing did not come to pass is crucial. (Ibid., xiii-xiv)

If trust you must, are you being exploited?

Dr Stephen Greenspan, who has a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Rochester and a postdoctoral certificate in Developmental Disabilities from UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, holds that being duped or manipulated by others is a very common form of social incompetence, and it may have very serious consequences for the victim.

More important still, in the last chapter he outlines nine recommendations to limit our vulnerability. Here are some:

  • "Trust, but verify." It is the proverb "Believe, but make sure" in another garb.
  • "Adopt a "prove it" attitude." It is fit to ask for evidence too.
  • Another: "Don't rush a big decision. Avoid acting impulsively (p 169). You can sleep on it. Life is too important not to have the benefit of reflection on the major choices of your life."
  • Bringing other, more objective, people into the mix, can be helpful (p. 170)

There are people who are all too willing to exploit the gullibility of others, and other people all too ready and even eager to be exploited, says Dr Donald Connery in the foreword to Greenspan's book Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It (2009). It is a good book. In the following are some renditions and quotations from it.

Gullibility, credulity and trust have been studied academically

Overly trusting people may be duped - also some highly intelligent and educated people. Some extremely gullible people has got into serious difficulty because of it, but outside of professional journals, little is written on this very common phenomenon. However, folklore is rife with many tales about fooling, duping and riduculing others. Also, writers of fiction, plays (like Shakespeare's Othello) and novels have had gullibility as a central theme.

Greenspan, who describes himself as gullible as a child, finds this definition of a psychologist to be largely true: "Someone who studies things he is bad at." He still continues to have gullible moments as an adult, he admits.

Greenspan understand gullibility as "an unusual tendency toward being duped or taken advantage of." A key difference between gullibility and credulity is that gullibility typically involves some concrete action, such as handing over a check to a con artist. Thus, gullibility may also lead to be manipulated. (p 2)

Credulity refers to a tendency to believe things that on their face are ridiculous or that lack adequate supporting evidence. Credulity involves a state of belief or conviction and is related to gullibility in that gullibility builds on credulity, but may be said to go further in exploiting a victim's credulity. It may or may not play on false claims, greed and stupidity.

Trust is related to gullibility. Gullibility always involves an act of trusting someone or some assertion, when skepticism or inaction might have been more appropriate. "So is gullibility nothing more than trust, and is mistrust the antidote to gullibility?" asks Greenspan, and answers: "One hopes not," and finds a difference: Gullibility may be taken to be foolish or naive trust in situations where "warning signs are fairly evident" to some. And thus he thinks the challenge involved is to be able to recognise those occasions when wariness is proper and needed for one's wellbeing. (p 3)

There are factors to take into account

Greenspan finds many factors that can contribute to a gullible outcome, but makes use of four broad explanatory factors: situations, cognition, personality, and state. He thinks gullible outcome occurs out of a mix of these four factors. He devises a model: Gullible Action = Situation + Cognition + Personality + State. By this model he shows how a gullible outcome (such as handing over money to a con artist) is the result of a complex interaction among four sets of factors:

  1. The social situation (presumably the con man was very persuasive, or there may have been others who vouched for his honesty);
  2. Cognitive processes (perhaps the victim was bad at reading people or naive about the type of investment covered by the scam);
  3. Personality (perhaps the victim was a highly trusting or weak person who has difficulty saying "no"); and
  4. State (perhaps the victim was exhausted or inebriated or highly infatuated with the con man).

Individually, any of the four factors could explain a gullible outcome if they are weighty or strong enough. However, in most cases of gullible behavior, at least two of these factors are at work, Greenspan says. (p 4)

A sidelight: "Foolish actions" from folklore and other sources

To understand the nature of gullibility better, it is useful to consider it a form of "foolish action", such as folk tales tell about. Greenspan posits two forms of foolish action, (1) "practically foolish action" and (2) "socially foolish action." Each may be subdivided.

Foolish action has a high likelihood of backfiring. A practically foolish act is one in which the potentially serious consequence is physical. A socially foolish act is one in which the potentially serious consequence is interpersonal. (p 5-6)

Many adults behave gullibly, yet children are far more likely to behave gullibly. (p 6)

Human gullibility differs from animal gullibility in that language – spoken or written – is almost always part of the equation, and the duping usually involves a more complex sequence of behaviors. (p 12)

Gullibility has been a very central theme in many works of literature, including fiction and folklore. "Several of these works are aimed at a young audience, and have the purpose of warning them against the perils of being overly trusting." (p 13)

A good example is Little Red Riding Hood. Another is the Emperor's New Clothes (p 16. 17-18)

The message in gullibility stories is that one must be on one's guard against those who would exploit one's trust and kindness, Greenspan tells (p 19)

Outsmarted and religious

"Religion has proved to be a fertile field for the expression of gullible behavior, both in the portrayal of gullibility in religious characters, and in the unquestioning acceptance by followers . . ." (p 29)

Richard Dawkins explores the role of gullibility in religious belief. He alludes to "the programmed-in gullibility of a child, so useful for learning language and traditional wisdom, and so easily subverted by nuns, Moonies and their ilk". For Dawkins, gullibility is a quality that has important survival value for the species, one that keeps children from being exposed to danger. Greenspan: "The basic gullibility of humans continues into adulthood, albeit somewhat abated . . . , and accounts for the susceptibility of many adults to supernatural beliefs . . ." Some supernatural beliefs are like unworthy and untrue "mind viruses" that are masquerading as legitimate ones, Dawkins further considers. (p 32-33)

"A personality quality that Dawkins sees as critical to escaping the clutches of religious ideas is a willingness to stand up to authority." (p 33)

"The notion of Satan as a manipulative trickster who preys upon the gullible and weak is still alive and well in some religious circles." (p 36)

When Prophecy Fails

Festinger, Riecken, and Schacter wrote a study, When Prophecy Fails (1956). Their study was inspired by a publicised prophecy by a Chicago wife, Mrs Keech. She claimed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954, and that the message about the flood had come to her by automatic writing and was from superior beings on a planet called Clarion.

The researchers infiltrated Mrs Keech's group and described what happened when the appointed day came and went without any apocalyptic flood (- a recurrent phenomenon throughout the last two thousand years). A small number of members dropped out of the group after the flood failed to come, while most of the members had their beliefs strengthened by the failed prophecy (!). This was accomplished by telling the flood story was a test; by interpreting events as signs that something was still going on; and that the predicted catastrophe had been averted by the cult's actions and beliefs. (p 39-40)

There are mechanisms that serve to explain away things. Festinger stated some conditions for a believer to become a more fervent believer after a failure or disconfirmation. Among them: The believer must be deeply committed and have acted on the belief in ways that are hard [or painful] to undo. The belief must be specific so that happenings really refute the belief and the believer recognises that (!). The believer must have social support from a group of similarly minded persons who can support one another. (p 38-39)

(Wikipedia, "When Prophecy Fails")

Religious and thwarted

A sect mobilises a belief system to explain away disconfirming reality so as to ensure the group survives and grows. The makeup of church member, some with marginal mental health, may be a contributing factor. The church's rigid hierarchy, its beliefs, and the movement's tarnished history could cause more elevated people from adhering. (p 41)

Christian leaders increasingly came to scapegoat Jews for the death of the Jewish Christ. (p 44) The Pauline and medieval myth of Jews as evil conspirators has continued into the modern era and lies at the core of 19th- and 20th-century anti-Semitism. (p 45)


Royalty, academics and scientists are gullible folks too. Sometimes we do not see well enough, or deep enough. (p 93-109)

Some populations that are at increased risk of being duped and socially exploited. Children, young people and frail elderly people are among them. "Gullibility is a universal tendency of young children." (p 113, 119)

"The most common forms of gullibility . . . are financial gullibility and relationship gullibility." (p 127)

"The portrayal, in the media, of successful and famous people living wonderful and happy lives (whereas, in reality, many of them are pretty miserable) gives many people the feeling that somehow life's possibilities aren't being experienced. . . . [I]t was only with the approach of middle age that I was able to overcome the persistent feeling that other people seemed to be having more fun." (p 130)

"The uncritical acceptance of the truth of unfounded rumors is a form of gullibility of which most of us are occasionally guilty." (p 135)

Rumors thrive among populations trying to comprehend their environment, and flourish in periods of tension and boredom. These elements can be found in high schools, Emily White finds. Rumours too. (p 137-38)

"The process in which a journalist interviews a subject for an article, TV piece, or book, is analogous in some ways to a seduction dance." (p 139)

"Distortion of a subject's character and essence is never justifiable, and fidelity to the truth (which often does not make so compelling a story) should always take precedence over the financial or ego needs of an author." (p 141) "The term gullible can certainly be used to characterize the behavior of victims of sexual seductions. All of the factors that explain gullibility in other settings can be found operating in seduction scenarios." (p 141)

"Sexual gullibility comes into play in various other ways, in addition to susceptibility to the insincere lies of a seducer." (p 142)

"The convention of playing practical jokes on April Fool's Day is reputed to have started in France in the late 16th century to make fun of those who refused to accept the Gregorian calendar (which moved the start of the New Year from April 1 to January 1). (p 143)

There is a tendency to want to believe in the goodness and assertions of people to whom we are related. There are times when "familial gullibility" gets blind to the lies or self-deceptions and prove rather harmful. (p 145)

"The reason why alcoholics . . . should generally not be believed is because after a while their pattern of failure and regression is so entrenched, and their response to stress so well established, that it is pure fantasy to think that they can change. At some point, in other words, belief and trust equates with foolishness." (p 147)


Some fallacies contribute to credulity toward wacky ideas, much as Michael Shermer has it:

  • A belief that an authoritative style and simplifying 'theory of everything' is an indicator of substance.
  • The belief that the burden of proof falls equally on both established and proposed alternative truths.
  • A belief that rigidly holding onto one's beliefs and assumptions in the face of contrary evidence is a good thing. (Max Planck observed that a new idea is accepted in science not because opponents of the idea change their minds but because they eventually get old and die and newer scientists with other mind-sets change systems of though).
  • Simplistic explanations and hasty generalisation (rather than getting at least most of the relevant facts). (All: p 150-51)

"When emotion walks in the door, reason flies out the window." (p 152)

It seems that thinking done under the influence of strong emotion is less adequate than thinking done in a nonemotional state. (p 152)

The process by which we deceive ourselves is called self-deception. Perhaps the main task of psychoanalysis is to explore and challenge the use of defense mechanisms, such as denial or projection, to deceive oneself about one's true feelings. A summary of this literature is found in Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception (Goleman, 1988).

A strange thing about self-deception is one convinces oneself of something that one prefers to believe, even if it is not really true.

Loyal Rue developed a theory of self-deception based on these factors: (1) Some leave the dupe in a state of ignorance on some matter. (2) Some leave the dupe in a state of false belief about that matter. (3) Constructive ends enhance one's self-esteem. Also, in a group, even a group of scientists, some evade any information that could cause damage to one's shared ideas. (p 155)

Rue also considers that ndividuals engage in, or communicate, fantasies that enhance their sense of self-worth and engage in superstitious rituals aimed to convince them of something. (p 155)

Another field of self-deception enables individuals to cope with anxiety and fear about things that threaten their ability to carry on. Such self-deception takes the form of defense mechanisms (such as repression and denial), possibly blaming others for one's own failings and for buying into fantastic after-life schemes to deal with one's fear of dying. (p 156)

Hypnosis and hypnotic suggestibility contribute to gullible conduct. "Presumably, hypnotic susceptibility, in combination with other personality indices of suggestibility, can help to explain a wide range of other gullible behaviors." It would appear that the credulous and guileless are more easily swayed by hypnotists and more vulnerable to deception. (p 160, 161)

Social intelligence, which has to do with one's ability to think about and make sense of interpersonal situations and phenomena, enters into the gullibility equation in that it helps one to label a situation as exploitative and to recognize an exploiter as 'not the friend he pretends to be.' (p 175)

'High trusters are shrewder in potentially risky social interactions than distrusters' - people low in trust, because of their fear of betrayal, avoid many interactions, thus limiting both their opportunity to learn as well as their opportunity to succeed. (p 175-76) (Cf. Maxwell 2013)

Respond to an influence agent's question not with an answer but with a question of your own. (p 179)

Help young people to be less gullible. (p 179)

"Considerable research evidence . . . shows that socially competent children are more likely to have been exposed to parental discipline styles that encourage both good behavior and the ability to function autonomously." (p 180)

Competent parents always allow for the child's expression of independent feelings and thoughts, even when setting limits on inappropriate behaviors. That is the basic approach that Haim Ginott advocates. (Ginott; 1971, 1972, 2003)

Cultivate skepticism, but not cynicism. (p 181)

The ability to resist deceptive social predators would appear to be an important human strength, one with important implications for personal survival and happiness. (p 183)

One positive psychology trait that has obvious implications for the development of gullibility resistance is 'wisdom.' . . . 'Wisdom has been defined . . . as the possession of 'knowledge of fundamental pragmatics of life and implementation of that knowledge through the life management strategies of selection, optimization and compensation' (p 184)

Wisdom almost always involves seeing the hidden dangers in a situation. (p 184)

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Yogananda Prophesies

Swami Kriyananda published a booklet, The Road Ahead: World Prophecies by the Great Master, Paramahansa Yogananda. in 1973. He avoids talking about him as a false prophet of many failed world prophesies though, and that is not as it should be. Instead he writes yak-yak:

Of the great sages of our time whose concern for mankind has led them to make important world prophecies, one was Paramahansa Yogananda . . . Past and future were as clear to him as the present is to us. (ch 2)

Many statements in the following chapters were recorded by me personally from discussions with the Master. Others were taken from his lectures. A minority of them are second-hand, having been reported to me by some of my fellow disciples. (ch 2)

Many of the prophesies that Kriyananda speak of, have also been published in Yogananda articles in Self-Realization Fellowship's magazine, Self-Realization, in earlier volumes from the 1960s and onwards for some decades, for example. So Kriyananda is not the only source of many failed Yogananda prophesies.

He could have been more moderate

"He" in the heading is Yogananda, a false prophet (of many failed prophecies), and also his proselyte disciple Kriyananda. Boasting stands out. It shows up in retrospect. Second, "important world prophesies" should not be taken to mean "true and of much worth, all of them, or most of them", since later events have proved most of Yogananda's world prophecies wrong. Third, "future . . . as clear to him as the present is to us" signifies that the happenings that unfolded before 2000 and after were not crystal clear to Yogananda, despite all that promotional boasting.

These things had better be told to all who would rather not be outsmarted too much and would rather find better things to do. Kriyananda of the hype was a follower of the kriya yogi and presents him through some mumbo-jumbo as a war criminal by Black Arts too. It stands out: [Yogananda, a War Criminal?]

The Yogananda disciple Kriyananda became a minister of the guru's Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF. Yogananda put Walters in charge of the monks of the Self-Realization monastic order, asked him to write articles for the SRF magazine, and had him lecturing in Southern California. After Yogananda's death, Kriyananda became SRF's vice-president in 1960, and remained so until the SRF Board of Managers asked him to leave SRF in 1962. Kriyananda had an eventful and prolific life in the service of Yogananda, scandals and ballyhoo included. (WP, "Swami Kriyananda")

World Prophesies about the end of the world or less

In a booklet, Kriyananda (1973) tells of things Yogananda foretold about future disasters, a worldwide economic depresson, "much worse than the one in the thirties." Yogananda spoke of wars of massive destruction and once cried out: "You don't know what a terrible cataclysm is coming!" He did not cry out exactly where or when, though. Kriyananda adds there are over 30,000 known atomic weapons in the world, but that ideal communities might gradually uplift the world (2011:307). A correction: there are around 15,000 known nuclear weapons, according to Ican (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) (2017) and other sources such as CNN.

"You must report people," Yogananda cried, "if you know them to be communists. Do not allow them to betray this great country." (Ch 5). Yes, Yogananda cry-advocated informing, squealing. But he was much against governmental interference in peoples lives, writes Kriyananda (ch 5), and that Yogananda in principle "was opposed even to social charities." (Ch 10).

Yogananda, further said: Europe will be devastated, Russia, annihilated. Japan will be conquered by China. America will survive. England is finished. Finished. Finished! (2011:125-26. Extracted)

When was that supposted to happen? The two added World Wars were to be waged before 2000 CE, and the other disasters were to strike before the year 2000 too, writes Kriyananda in the booket (1973, Ch 6). Note in passing that Russia is not annihilated!

One may first gasp of relief that the "finished!-time" is past for England too. But in some Yogananda followers, anger is into the play today too. For prophesies that has failed to come true when they were said to happen, disappoint many who were victims of misplaced trust and more. In this case in Yogananda. After a failed prophesy about a cataclysm or worse, believers may suffer from shattered faith that interferes with being glad to live on and try to remain positive. It shows up time and again. It also shows up that some faithful believers go on as earlier.

In 2011, Kriyananda published only bits of his formerly published Yogananda prophesies, without telling that the time for almost all of them to happen was past, and likewise a third and fourth World War - before 2000. Yogananda had foretold them, but in Kriyananda's book from 2011, what we get for most part are overdue prophesies, that is, failed prophesies.

Kriyananda had now left out vital information after the events that did not happen when Yogananda said they would or could. Wrong handling of failed prophecies may be misleading, may be marring and therefore unfit for folks.

The capsules about hard times (above), about devastation, annihilation and "England finished", are from such a wider context that Yogananda foretold in vain. "After the event we are all wise," is a proverb. "After the events that failed to happen, we are also wise." It could be needed as part of the lessons in the school of hard knocks.

The Yogananda foretellings about a coming cataclysm might still come true. Many events may cripple or destroy modern civilization. There are cosmic threats among others. (Wikipedia, "Catastrophic risk")


Many failed Yogananda prophesies were published in older issues of the Self-Realization Magazine back into the 1960s. We can be glad they failed, and make better use of our precious time and the good times too. But, failed Yogananda foretellings have angered some of his disciples that once believed in him and thanked him a lot for telling of coming events. Yogananda predictions may well have taken part in moulding the faith and lives and steer the investments of a good many, also after it came to the fore that most Yogananda prophesies were failed prophesies.

Interestingly, Yahweh of the Old Testament wants his people to kill and not fear false prophets

A prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say . . . must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)".

"We are not Hebrews, luckily," a Yogananda follower can rightly hold, but SRF members are members of Yogananda's hybrid church, which presumes to show and preach Jesuism, also called Jesusism and Jesuanism. They say they represent "original Christianity of Jesus Christ". It is a bluff. Jesus said his teachings and healing minstry were for Jews only, and gave his disciples strict orders to adhere to that, the Bible scholar Geza Vermes points out:

Fl. During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-8; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-8). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012)

Monastics were not parts of Jesuanism either. Christian monasticism stems from Egypt, from around 300 CE. (Wikipedia, "Christian monasticism")

If a fellowship claims to represent original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ, they have to be Jewish - and must purge out the monastics that ride on top of the crew, so to speak. And they need to heed that Jesus vouch for the Law down to the tiniest dot (Matthew 5:17-19) - a law that regulates slavery and tells how to treat false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

Not just Yogananda but Jesus too foretold of a cataclysm that failed. The end of time did not come when he had said (see Ehrman 2001). A very alternative view, "That end came and went, unnoticed by all," is not a fit explanation. Jesus of the failed prophesy vouched for the Law down to the tiniest dot. That law would have him killed and not feared.

Does it also apply to Yogananda or not? There is reason to suggest that he was not circumcised, so that the Law did not apply to the Gentile Yogananda, no matter what he called himself. There were "pros and cons." (Matthew 5:17-19).

Another absorbing topic here is whether Jesus should be executed as a false prophet, executed once again after the world was over . . . on his own word, that is, according to that Law he vouches for in Matthew 5:17-19.

Failed prophesies may have something good in them too

Failed foretellings contain lessons against believing to your loss, against believing yourself into a cult setting and be made a freak. It has been a lesson for thousands of years.

Now you have been informed that there is a booklet by Kriyananda, The Road Ahead: World Prophecies by the Great Master, Paramahansa Yogananda (1973). At the bottom of the page is a full reference to it and other works referred to in the text.

Kriyananda renders and quotes several Yogananda foretellings about the world. Almost all of them were told to happen before the twentieth century was over, and a large part of them failed to come true. Kriyananda fails to inform about that in his book from 2011. That looks sneaky.

Once again, what does Jesus vouch for should be done with a dead and gone Yogananda when his foretellings proved untrue? You think about it . . .

There is not much excitement in getting a booklet with failed foretellings, an outsider might think, but followers of Yogananda who read it and see he erred, may get full of defective attitudes that could range from telling they would slap him if they could - angered for trusting him - , to getting yet more cramped or neurotic Yogananda followers. Better be warned.

It could do good to face some facts. So far, after many failed Yogananda prophesies, the future is yet to come, and some goings are possible to live with, despite "Europe will be devastated, Russia, annihilated. Japan will be conquered by China. America will survive. England is finished. Finished. Finished! (2011:125-26)

Terrible predictions that fail, is that something to thankful for? The earth is still spinning and whirling; that is something to thank for. A wise, added response might be: "Do good during the time we have left - Educate your children a lot against being taken in, duped, and repressed in an all too cult-serving, cramped or worse by willy-nilly adaptations to a largely fiendish society."

The Issue of Self-Deception

What is self-deception, and why is it mobilised in a human? Deceiving oneself is rather common. It is done by degrees, in different areas, and serve temporary ends. The ends include self-preservation, presumably, but the means to that end may give rise to mental disease, so better be careful about rationalising away fair facts and documentation, denying the value and relevance of facts and truths, to go on "as the leader maintains", for example. Anxiety - authoritarian-made - could well be a factor behind self-deception.

When a human rationalises away "the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument" it is called self-deception. Examples of self-deception include the alcoholic who deceives himself when thinking that his drinking is under control. Moreover, self-deception has a prominent role in several medical conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder (they are described briefly in Wikipedia).

When the church-goer officially thinks that the beliefs that are planted in her or his mind are truths but without evidence or experience that it is so, it means "fooled a lot" in so many cases, since the beliefs in the world are many and different. Granted that, most beliefs might be wrong. In such cases the "faithful believers" are stuck in different mind-prisons, prisons that few get out of without hardships such as scapegoating. Better avoid the acts that lead to prison. Better not be indoctrinated in the first place, and better find out for oneself.

Some who are fooled to become paying believers, also fool others to enter the herd. They proselyte, provoke, seek attention, want to impress much in rather shallow and blunderbuss ways, but lack details,, and try to make their group attractive to newcomers by for example theatrical displays - including ceremonies and rituals they find attractive. They may have gone beyond recovery if too much feigning stands out, since lots of proselytes may be histrionics past warnings already.

Here is a mnemonic to remember the signs of histrionic personality disorder. It is: "PRAISE ME", from the first letters in this list:

Provocative (or seductive) behaviour

Relationships are considered more intimate than they actually are


Influenced easily by others or circumstances

Speech (style) wants to impress; lacks detail

Emotional lability; shallowness

Make-up; physical appearance is used to draw attention to self

Exaggerated emotions; theatrical

Many people have emotional attachments to beliefs, which in some cases may be irrational, and perhaps defended by what is called self-deception. Things had better not get that far, for medical conditions might follow. Better work at being "honest to God" and oneself in the first place and not feign so much. In Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception (1988), Dr Daniel Goleman holds:

"Those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, and those who suffer have no power." (Goleman 1988:13)

Buried secrets can have devastating impact. The playwright Henrik Ibsen calls this sort of secret a "life lie," the family myth that stands in place of a less comfortable truth, as a result of adaptations to lies. Life lies are not uncommon. (Goleman 1988:16)

A psychiatrist who treats families with problems like incest and alcoholism observes how [life] lies operate: Clues are minimised, joked about . . . or called something else . . . euphemisms are employed to hide what is really going on. A "good" drinker, marital "disputes," or "stern disciplinarian" can mean alcoholism, spousal violence, or child abuse. (Goleman 1988:17)

As the now fully grown child of an alcoholic put it, "In our family there were two very clear rules: the first was that there is nothing wrong here, and the second was, don't tell anyone." (Goleman 1988:17 "Military history is rich with another variety of . . . cases of outright refusal to believe the truth." (Goleman 1988:18)

"Blind spots are especially tempting to a mind-set hypersensitive to pain. They offer easy solace from the flow of facts that prick that pain." (Goleman 1988:20)

Some filters on awareness are essential. Perception is selection, and may get biased thereby. The mind is vulnerable to skewing what is admitted to awareness, and what is rejected. Attention is ruled by forces both conscious and unconscious. Some are crucial, and some can be self-defeating. Foremost among these is the self-deception induced by the trade-off [compromise] between anxiety and awareness. (Goleman 1988:20-21)

Goleman posits: "The mind can protect itself against anxiety by dimming awareness. This mechanism creates a blind spot: a zone of blocked attention and self-deception. Such blind spots occur at each major level of behaviour from the psychological to the social." (Goleman 1988:22)

Goleman, further: "The mind packages information in "schemas," a sort of mental code for representing experience. Schemas operate in the unconscious, out of awareness. They direct attention toward what is salient and ignore the rest of experience – an essential task. But when schemas are driven by the fear of painful information, they can create a blind spot in attention." (Goleman 1988:22)

"Psychological defenses – the quintessential self-deceptions . . . in the mind's design, inattention to painful truths shields us from anxiety." (Goleman 1988:23)

"Habits of avoiding anxiety through inattention are passed on from parent to child . . . with them the blind spots and self-deceits they lead to." (Goleman 1988:23)

"Shared schemas guide group dynamics. The same anxiety-attention trade-off operates here, carving out blind spots in a group's collective awareness." (Goleman 1988:23)

"Shared schemas are at work in the social realm, creating a consensual reality. This social reality is pocked with zones of tacitly denied information. Such social blind spots . . . [t]heir social cost is shared illusions." (Goleman 1988:23)

Self-deceptions often worsen the mind. Deceit is not good enough, nor is hypocricy or feigning, for most part. Hypocrites are not appreciated by the gospel's Jesus, for example in Matthew 7:21-23 . . . Role-playing in social-life could be somewhere between naive deceit and feigning well.

Instead of sleek facade tricks to cover rotten or rotting behind it for the sake of impressing others, Dr Eric Berne and TA (Transactional Analysis) advocate autonomy, which is marked by awareness, spontaneity and intimacy (Berne 2010:158).

"Awareness means the capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one's own way, and not the way one was taught." (Berne 2010:158)

Spontaneity means liberation from the compulsion to play hanky-pankies or psychological games. It rests on being who you are. (Cf. Berne 2010:160)

"Intimacy means the spontaneous, game-free candidness of an aware person" in the here and now. Because intimacy is essentially a function of the natural Child [read: libido], it tends to turn out well if not disturbed by the intervention of games. Before, unless and until they are corrupted, most infants seem to be loving, and that is the essential nature of intimacy, says Dr Berne. (Berne 2010:160)

Intimacy equals good and savoury honesty lots of times.

To top

Live and Learn Still

John C. Maxwell (2013, ch 7) finds that persons who are able to learn - including from their mistakes -, manifest some of the following features -

  • They have an attitude conductive to learning.
  • They have a beginner's mind-set, an open enough mind. Compare Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind also (2000:21 etc.).
  • They recognise their own parts in their failings, if any, are prone to seeking solutions above blaming,, and are able to work hard to put solutions into place.
  • They are willing to accept fair feedback and criticism without defending themselves too much, even if they are highly successful.

Perhaps there is something new to learn and remember each day - and to do too. One may work at consolidating a lot too. What matters is not to be overturned. Also, it is good to remember that there can be much to learn from negative experiences you happen to survive in one piece.

Martin Luther, "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." You could do more than that.


Kriyananda, Yogananda, failed world prophesies, gullibility, self-realization fellowship, gullibility, self-deception, small sects, credulity, Literature  

Baumgarden, Albert I. ed. Apocalyptic Time. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

Berne, Eric. Games People Play. Reissue ed. London: Penguin, 2010.

Dawson, Lorne L. "When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Overview." Oakland, CA: The University of California Press: Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 3 No. 1, October 1999; (pp. 60-82).

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Paperback ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Festinger, Leon. Conflict, Decision, and Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964.

Festinger, Leon, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. When Prophecy Fails. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964.

Ginott, Haim G. Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication. Revised, updated edition by Dr. Alice Ginott and Dr. H. Wallace Goddard. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.

Ginott, Haim G. Between Parent and Teenager. New York: Avon, 1971.

Ginott, Haim G. Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers. New York: Avon Books, 1972.

Goleman, Daniel. Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. Paperback ed. London: Bloomsbury, 1988.

Greenspan, Stephen. Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2009.

Kriyananda, Swami. Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2011.

Kriyananda, Swami, ed. The Road Ahead: World Prophecies by the Great Master, Paramahansa Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Ananda Publications, 1973.

Maxwell, John. Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses. New York: Center Street, 2013.

Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Rev ed. New York: Weatherhill, 1999.

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