Pathways to Freedom began as a spin-off from a presentation which I gave to the International Cultic Studies annual conference in Manchester in the summer of 2019. Returning to Manchester to deliver that presentation brought to mind a remarkable and very special person whom I had known briefly many years before. Phoebe Willetts was one of the regulars on a Sunday evening at Manchester’s speakers’ corner shortly after I had broken free from my Jehovah’s Witness background. Phoebe had shortly before then served six months imprisonment for her part in the CND campaigning against the development of an atomic weapons establishment at Foulness Island and had just published a book, Invisible Bars, about her experience of open prison and subsequent release.
Phoebe draws a memorable picture of how scary it can be to face release after a long period with no freedom at all. She writes of how she was, “still frightened at coming out, of standing and looking at strange coins in the palm of my hand, not knowing what I should do with them, of wondering if I should be able to cross the road by myself, or if I should burst into tears the first time anyone was polite to me.” (Invisible Bars, p. 70)
A picture of someone standing at the roadside unable to cross because there was no authority figure t give the instruction ha stayed with me all these years. It so vividly portrays the situation of one who has been brought up or long schooled to believe that self-determination is sinful but who has now been given the freedom that everybody else takes for granted.
For the recent defector from the Watchtower movement unaccustomed freedom can be like that. How does one set about making those free choices which are now presenting themselves? In Pathways to Freedom I try to give a helping hand along the way from the Watchtower prison to the rich freedom which authentic living can offer.