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LMT LITERATI 2000 CONTEST
Scientology: Control, Freedom, and Responsibility
by David Cecere
A humanitarian is always a hypocrite.If Scientology excels in only one operational aspect, it is in the area of control. Hubbard was certainly a savant, and some say genius, on the subject of establishing and maintaining control of both the members of his cult as well as the public's perception of Scientology. Hubbard's organization has survived his death by over a decade and its survival is predicated on the near absolute control established by him. We will examine the methods of control employed by Scientology both as an organization and by the individual Scientologist.
Hubbard said that freedom could be a trap. We will examine how it is that an otherwise intelligent, educated, and thoughtful Scientologist could accept such an obviously Orwellian assertion as a liberating realization. Added to this already bewildering perversion of control and freedom is Hubbard's concept of responsibility. We will learn how the adherent's innate sense of responsibility serves as the proverbial glue that binds him not only to Hubbard's cosmology, but also to a mechanism of ultimate servitude.
Control and Responsibility
Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.It is easy to compare the control mechanisms of Scientology to Orwell's 1984. It is an easy but largely inaccurate comparison. In Orwell's novel, the inhabitants of Oceania are not willing followers of Big Brother, nor do they truly subscribe to the principles of Ingsoc. Overt coercion and fear keep the Oceanians in line – they learned what they needed to do to avoid trouble and went through the motions. Even the most ardent of Party members knew what was going on. They knew that Big Brother was a sham; they knew that the Ministry of Truth spewed lies, and they knew the Ministry of Love was a place of pain and degradation. O'Brien was not a deluded adherent; he was a sadistic bureaucrat fully aware of his effect on Winston and Julia.
In Orwell's novel, doublethink is a part of Newspeak, and is defined this way:
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."The very definition of doublethink supposes that there is a contradiction. Doublethink was necessary because of Big Brother's lack of mental and emotional control over the Oceanians. Had his control been perfect, or nearly so, the doublethink mechanism would have been unnecessary. Where there is contradiction there is conflict. Where there is conflict there is a lessening of control. The best that the technique of doublethink could offer was a compartmentalization of the conflict experienced by the user. There was no way for the Oceanian to resolve the conflict or to prevent additional conflicts from accumulating.
Scientologists rarely, if ever, employ doublethink because there are no contradictions in Scientology. The entire subject aligns seamlessly and applies to all of life. If an apparent contradiction arises, it is resolved quickly.
Hubbard devised a brilliant technique in the early 1980s for eradicating contradictions called False Data Stripping (FDS). If a Scientologist experiences difficulty assimilating or applying Hubbard's teachings, the FDS technique eradicates the contradiction and prevents conflict. The success of the technique hinges on the acceptance by the Scientologist that Hubbard's datum is correct and that some as-yet-unidentified false datum is causing the conflict. It is easy to see that FDS would not have worked on the typical Oceanian – he had no pre-acceptance of Big Brother's truth. The Ministry of Truth was Big Brother's mechanism to prevent anyone from proving him wrong or exposing his previous lies. There was no technique to prevent mental conflict, only a source of misinformation.
Hubbard's FDS method is far more sophisticated and is illustrated best by an example. There is a 1960s lecture by Hubbard in which he addresses the role of the brain. Hubbard explains that the brain is not an organ of thought or computation but is merely a collection of tissue, the sole purpose of which is to buffer the electrical activity of the body. He explains that without the brain to dampen electrical surges traveling along the pathways of the central nervous system, an injury to the right side of the body would result in damage to the corresponding location on the left side of the body.
To a person of the 1960s, lacking an advanced education in medicine or physiology, this explanation of the brain's role could be accepted with relative ease. Hubbard's knowledge and understanding of most branches of science, and especially medicine, never advanced beyond what was known in the late 1950s. By the late 1970s, medical science had revealed significant details about brain function and anatomy. A student of Scientology from the 1980s on is likely to have a conflict with the "false data" about the brain they had been exposed to in school. This student is a prime candidate for FDS.
A Scientologist trained in the FDS technique acts as the "auditor" and conducts the session. Like all of Hubbard's techniques, FDS is highly circumscribed. The technique leads the student to a resolution of the contradiction. In this example, the contradiction as stated by the student is, "It seems to me that some level of thought and mental computation is performed by the brain. I can't quite grasp the fact that the brain does nothing but absorb excess electrical activity."
The auditor leads the student back in time to the student's first exposure to the "false data" about the brain. The student's previous indoctrination has taught him that locating the point of first exposure will immediately nullify the effect of the false data. With his the false data eradicated, the student can happily continue his Scientology studies – free from contradiction, conflict, and with a renewed certainty of Hubbard's genius. Now the student is able to "know" the truth of Hubbard's teaching – that the human mind is composed of "mental image pictures." The student knows that these pictures contain all that we know and experience and that they stretch back to the beginning of time. The reason the adherent chooses to believe Hubbard will be explained when we address the subject of illusion.
This is true control at work. There is no resistance, no argument, and not even a hint of reticence. The student willingly submits to a technique that the outsider sees as mentally debilitating. Moreover, the student perceives his experience as liberating. Some would call this technique brainwashing, but that label is a far too simplistic and misleading. The ex-Scientologist and author, Cyril Vosper refers to Scientology techniques as "mind bending." This is a more accurate description. The change is gradual. Perceptions alter a little at a time and only in ways that are acceptable to the adherent, and always with the adherent's cooperation. The Scientologist accepts the responsibility for understanding Hubbard's teachings. This acceptance of responsibility is based on one of the noblest of human traits: altruism. The Scientologist learns early that unless he "duplicates" Hubbard exactly he will not be an effective Scientologist, and an effective Scientologist can change the world.
We are looking at the first two points of what will form a powerful triad. Control leads the adherent to a heightened sense of responsibility. His own responsibility leads him toward a higher degree of control.
If we are going to compare Scientology to a literary example, Melville's Moby Dick will serve us much better. Captain Ahab easily established total control over the hearts and minds of his crew. He did not merely rely on his maritime authority as master of the Pequod. He used his rank as a starting point to skillfully recruit his men to help him in his quest for the white whale. Where O'Brien had to resort to brutal torture to convince Winston that he was truly seeing five fingers, instead of the four shown to him, Ishmael was a true believer from the start:
A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge.
Moreover, Ishmael was not the only crewman on the Pequod who felt that way. He described the crew's feelings eloquently:
They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all contrasting things-oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp-yet all these ran into each other in the one concrete hull, which shot on its way, both balanced and directed by the long central keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man's valor, that man's fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab, their one lord and keel, did point to.
Control and responsibility go hand-in-hand. Ishmael's description above of the crew's "oneness" is a description of the responsibility they accepted as individuals to find and kill Moby Dick. Likewise, the Scientologist seen assaulting a critic, burglarizing a government office, or inveighing against the dangers of psychiatry is expressing his responsibility to make the planet a better place. Thus, we see control of the individual increasing his responsibility toward that which controls him and vice versa.
Notably absent from this example is Orwell's Oceanian. The typical Oceanian felt no responsibility to Big Brother or to the principles of Ingsoc – he did not have to. It was enough to merely shuffle through the day, following orders and dimly hoping for death or some other form of liberation. Neither Hubbard nor Ahab would have accepted such halfhearted participation. Ahab's quest was more important than anything or anyone else and he made sure the entire crew agreed. Hubbard's requirement was for all Scientologists to be loyal and capable or else.
The typical Scientologist is like a crewman aboard the Pequod. He is a willing and responsible participant in a noble quest. Despite the dangers, despite the cost, the Scientologist perseveres to apply Scientology to himself and others for it is the "only hope for Man." The Scientologist adopts not only Hubbard's goal of a "cleared planet," but also the "technology" to achieve it.
Neither Ahab nor Hubbard denied the costs of pursuing their respective adventures – quite the contrary. Both men warned of the difficulties inherent in the mission and the privations incumbent upon the participants. Hubbard was very much to the point:
We're not playing some minor game in Scientology. It isn't cute or something to do for lack of something better. The whole agonized future of this planet, every Man, Woman and Child on it, and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years depend on what you do here and now with and in Scientology. This is a deadly serious activity. And if we miss getting out of the trap now, we may never again have another chance.
Ahab was also forthcoming about what the crew could expect on the hunt for Moby Dick:
–Aye, Starbuck; aye, my hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye," he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose; "Aye, aye! It was that accursed white whale that razed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!" Then tossing both arms, with measureless imprecations he shouted out: "Aye, aye! And I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! To chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out."
The recruiting skills of both Ahab and Hubbard come from the difficult-to-define realm of charisma fortified by their instinctive understanding of human nature. It is reasonable to wonder why the crew of a whaling vessel would willingly pledge their lives in the pursuit of one particular whale. The typical crew of a nineteenth-century whaling vessel did not come from the highest echelons of society, but they were professionals nonetheless. The crew of the Pequod willingly violated their professional responsibility in favor of a single-minded and deadly mission. In the same wise, we see examples of Scientologists willingly violating not only the laws of the land but also their own pre-Scientology sense of rightness and fair play.
The author and ex-Unification Church member, Steve Hassan refers to a cult member's "authentic self" in his book, Releasing The Bonds. The authentic self is the personality of the cult member before his involvement with the cult. The cult member's family and friends are often the first to see changes in the neophyte's personality. These changes are not always negative. The introvert becomes an extrovert; the self-conscious person becomes confident, the unmotivated one, happy to coast through life, now has a purpose. This is the upside of activating a person's inherent sense of responsibility through effective control techniques.
The downside, often occurring simultaneously with the upside, includes such unpleasantness as withdrawal from activities formerly enjoyed by the neophyte. The new adherent will typically become critical of family and friends who do not conform to the adherent's new value structure. He will be impatient and often aggressive with anyone who "doesn't get it." The adherent will often give up his usual life-pleasures and accept a lower standard of living to pursue his new set of goals. These effects are common to the majority of people who join a cultic group, Scientology included. The personality changes of a Scientologist can be far subtler. Scientology encourages their members to keep good relations, as much as possible, with family and friends. This policy has been beneficial for Scientology – allowing a higher level of recruitment of the family and friends of their members and keeping bad publicity to a minimum.
The study of the cult personality versus the pre-cult personality presents many contradictions. It is reasonable to ask why, if the adherent is being benefited, is there such a negative change in their personality? Why does the adherent withdraw? Why does the group present an "all or nothing" attitude? Why does the group demand so much of the adherent's time and resources? If the work of the group holds so much promise for the world, why is it so exclusive, so secretive, so litigious, etc?
An explanation of these contradictions is possible when we examine the last component of the triad – the concept and pursuit of freedom.
An utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward. - Herman Melville
As a concept, freedom probably goes back to the emergence of Modern man. Recent archeological research indicates that Modern man coexisted for a time with Neanderthal man. There is evidence that suggests that Modern man had eradicated the Neanderthals by the end of the last ice age. Some researchers speculate that there was competition between the two species for limited resources and the Neanderthals lost. It is just as likely that our prehistoric ancestors perceived the Neanderthals as a threat to their freedom.
Not counting pandemics, the quest for freedom has been the single largest cause of death in history. Countries have emerged violently to secure it with bloody wars resulting to protect it. The majority of mankind considers the loss of freedom to be the greatest hardship imaginable. Though the concept of freedom is universal, it can also be subjective. For the convict languishing in prison – spending his days in a six-foot by 8-foot cell, an hour's walk in a small exercise yard can give the same sense of freedom as a free citizen entering a polling place. To be successful, the would-be cult leader must understand the freedoms desired by those he is recruiting. Freedom is the most important aspect of the triad – serving as the emotional power supply to drive the adherent toward a locus of control and an acceptance of responsibility.
The crew of the Pequod was enticed by the promise of freedom, and Ahab offered it in several ways. First, he gave the crew his respect, i.e., freedom from the derision and abuse so commonly suffered by seamen of that time. Secondly, Ahab offered financial rewards, starting with the gold doubloon he nailed to the mast. Thirdly, he offered them the fame and bragging rights that would fall to those who slew the mightiest whale in the seven seas. To the crewman of a nineteenth-century whaler these things were tantamount to being reborn as a nobleman – free to live a life of respect and plenty.
Thus, it was easy for Ahab's crew to violate maritime protocols – their quest for freedom became all-important. They even supported Ahab's decision to deny assistance to the remaining crew of the Rachel. Ahab refused the pleadings of Captain Gardiner for help in searching for his lost crewmen – for it was Moby Dick who killed the Rachel's men and now Ahab knew where to find him!
Hubbard elaborated in various books and lectures on the two categories of freedom that Scientology offers: "freedom from," and "freedom to." Hubbard promised that the proper application of Scientology, which includes Dianetics, created freedom from the effects of past physical and mental trauma as well as freedom from the guilt and inability resulting from one's past misdeeds. Once the adherent has attained sufficient "freedom from," which culminates in the state of Clear, he begins the journey toward "freedom to." This is the realm of spiritual freedom – the level of Operating Thetan (OT).
In Hubbard's cosmology, the thetan is the timeless life force that animates the human body. The thetan survives the death of the body and is indestructible. Hubbard believed that our universe is trillions of years old and that thetans have been here from before the beginning. He taught that the thetan has become degraded by its involvement with the physical universe – the creator as benighted pawn. Hubbard promised that the OT levels in Scientology would restore the adherent's "native state" of awareness and ability.
Hubbard's list of freedoms is long and enticing. The adherent learns to expect excellent physical and mental health, perfect interpersonal relationships, high income, increased IQ, supernatural perceptions, and the list goes on.
Hubbard reminds the adherent often that these freedoms are only available through Scientology, and only when the "technology" of Scientology is properly applied. He dangles the proverbial carrot of freedom shamelessly both in his writings and lectures and frequently warns of the pitfalls the adherent will encounter. Hubbard stressed that the adherent's own aberrations will deter him from pursuing freedom as avidly as he should. He often used this argument to segue to the need for a strong Scientology organization to guide (control) the adherent along the path to total freedom.
Hubbard admonished his adherents constantly to increase their sense of responsibility to both themselves and the organization. We see here that by manipulating the adherent's sense of responsibility Hubbard is able to gain an extremely high degree of control predicated on the adherent's willingness. There is no "Big Brother" in Scientology – such a persona is unnecessary. Hubbard presents as an avuncular spiritual statesman, completely absent malice. There is no need for an O'Brien to run a "Room 101" – the adherent polices himself and the adherent corrects himself. The two factors of control and responsibility, strengthened constantly by the promise of freedom, create a powerful self-sustaining triad.
Like Ahab and his crew, the typical Scientologist is willing to violate established laws and protocols. The Scientologist however, has an additional justification to venture outside the pale of societal decorum. Hubbard provides additional incentive by defining the Scientologists' ultimate enemy: the Suppressive Person (SP). The Scientologist must battle for freedom on two fronts. First is the front of his own weakness – constantly serving to pull him off Hubbard's path.
The second front consists of those people in society, and sometimes even within Scientology, who seek to prevent anyone from going free.
Hubbard is to the point: The SP is an insane criminal and only an insane criminal would try to stop Scientology.
Hubbard elaborates on the SP theme by pointing out that the SP acquires minions to do his dirty work. He calls these minions Potential Trouble Sources (PTS). The PTS is an unfortunate soul who has fallen under the influence of an SP. Hubbard says that the PTS will wreak havoc both in society and within Scientology organizations. Hubbard assures the adherent that any criticism or attacks against him or Scientology are mere fabrications concocted by the SP and perpetrated by his PTS foot soldier.
According to Hubbard, the PTS is salvageable, but the SP is not. The SP must be stopped at all costs for, according to Hubbard, if he is allowed to operate unchecked he will destroy Scientologists' only hope for freedom. Hubbard gives his adherents carte blanche in dealing with the SP. He assures the Scientologist in his policy letter of October 18, 1967 that an SP
May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.
In this way, Hubbard gives the Scientologist both an objective enemy and freedom from fear about the consequences of battling that enemy.
In this way, the triad expands. It gains strength by self-reinforcement of each point. Control leads to willing responsibility and responsibility fuels the fight for freedom, which in turn reinforces the willingness to be controlled.
And perhaps after all, there is no secret.
No organization runs perfectly because perfect control of its members is impossible. Any organization, whether a cult or not, must ultimately address to a greater or lesser degree a potentially disruptive influence: the Starbuck factor. Mr. Starbuck was Ahab's first mate, i.e. the Pequod's second in command. Starbuck was the only crewman who did not subscribe to Ahab's quest for Moby Dick. Starbuck knew that Ahab's mission was not only dangerous but also illegal. Ahab had a contractual responsibility to the investors in the Pequod to fill her hold with whale oil as soon as possible and to return the ship safely to Nantucket. Unfortunately for Starbuck and the crew, he was never in a position to relieve Ahab of his command. Starbuck used what influence he had left to keep Ahab oriented to his duties as captain, and wherever possible, to distract him from his pursuit of the white whale.
The Starbuck factor gives rise to defectors and whistle-blowers. In many instances, the Starbuck of the group spends time trying to change the organization from within and only defects or blows the whistle as a last resort. The successful cult leader knows how to deal with a Starbuck. Ahab knew how Starbuck felt, as Ishmael describes:
To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He knew, for example, that however magnetic his ascendancy in some respects was over Starbuck, yet that ascendancy did not cover the complete spiritual man... Starbuck's body and Starbuck's coerced will were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck's brain; still he knew that for all this the chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain's quest, and could he, would joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it.
Whereas Starbuck would have been willing to lead the crew in relieving Ahab of his command, he was unwilling to go against Ahab alone. Ahab knew this and made sure that the crew stayed loyal to him – literally to the very end.
Hubbard understood the Starbuck factor. Like Ahab, Hubbard concentrated on keeping his power base intact – effectively preventing a Starbuck from leading a successful coup. Hubbard was not above using coercion when it suited his purpose. He devised fail-safes to catch the small percentage of adherents who did not adequately police themselves.
Hubbard's penal system can be quite brutal and allows for the imprisonment and torture of seriously errant members. The success of Hubbard as a cult leader was due in part to his minimal use of direct and violent coercion. Ahab's cult lasted only a few months so he never had to employ violent coercion, but Hubbard's cult has existed for over fifty years and the list of Starbuck-factor casualties is significant. Since Hubbard's death in 1986, reports of abuse within Scientology have grown. The increase in reported abuses indicates that the current management is more willing to use violent coercion than Hubbard was.
Even at its most violent, the Scientology penal system is designed to convince a Starbuck that the ordeal he is enduring is designed to rehabilitate him to the level of functional Scientologist – it is not a punishment, but another aspect of Hubbard's all-encompassing technology. Of the small percentage of adherents that end up in the penal system, most of them become "rehabilitated" – remaining in the cult as a strong adherent. The remaining few, who either escape or are expelled as unredeemable, have been so traumatized by their experience that they are unwilling to speak about it to anyone. They are the broken pieces of Hubbard's twisted game and many keep Scientology's secrets – silence being the only way for them to keep what remains of their dignity.
For those on the outside looking in at the narrow world of the Scientologist it seems impossible that anyone could be so beguiled.
This is the power of context at work. The successful cult leader creates an all-encompassing context, idea-by-idea, concept-by-concept, experience-by-experience, until objective reality is displaced completely. It is fortunate for mankind that the vast majority of would-be cult leaders fail entirely, for the few who become even minimally successful wreak incredible havoc on society. The full range of methods and skills that make a cult leader successful is a study in itself and are beyond the scope of this essay. It is certain however, that establishing credibility early and using illusion wisely are of crucial importance.
Hubbard used a variety of means to establish his credibility. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he emphasized his accomplishments as a Naval officer serving in the Pacific in World War II. He also presented himself as a well-educated researcher. He claimed to be a degreed nuclear physicist, mathematician and, civil engineer. He claimed to hold a Ph.D. for a period in the late 1960s.
The Scientology organization published a variety of biographies of Hubbard in the 1950s and 1960s, many making claims similar to this excerpt:
. . . L. Ron Hubbard was trained in mathematics, science and engineering at George Washington University, in government at Princeton, and has a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
By 1967, Hubbard had abandoned his title of Doctor of Philosophy but still claimed to have a Ph.D.:
I was a Ph.D., Sequoia University and therefore a perfectly valid doctor under the laws of the State of California." (Policy Letter of 14 February, 1966 –Doctor Title Abolished–).
Hubbard claimed that the development of Dianetics during the late 1940s employed valid scientific research protocols. Hubbard never published a peer-reviewed paper and never offered any confirmation of his research methods. He also claimed to have traveled extensively and to have conducted anthropological research. Although the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has debunked most of Hubbard's claims about his Naval career, education, and research, he accomplished what he intended: Hubbard convinced many people that he was qualified to develop and administer a new mental therapy.
Hubbard's next task was to convince his growing group of interested participants that his therapy was safe and effective. With the triad of control, responsibility, and freedom in place, it was a relatively easy task for Hubbard to employ the artful science of illusion to its best effect. Hubbard employed many techniques during the 1950s from light hypnosis to drugs and vitamins – all designed to convince the adherent that he was experiencing beneficial phenomenon. It was a chiropractor named Volney Mathison who, in 1953, provided Hubbard with his most effective tool: The Mathison Model B Electropsychometer (E-meter).
Hubbard was very intrigued by Mathison's E-meter and he tried and failed to acquire Mathison's patent. By late 1954, Hubbard forbade the use of E-meters in Dianetics and Scientology counseling. Four years later, Hubbard acquired the patent to a battery-operated device, dubbed the Hubbard Electropsychometer. This device, available only through Scientology organizations, became a requirement for all practitioners of Dianetics and Scientology counseling.
The addition of the E-meter to the Dianetics and Scientology counseling protocol firmly established the method for producing an illusion of efficacy. The E-meter allowed what Hubbard claimed was an objective view into the workings of the human mind. The strength of the illusion relies on two factors. First, the Scientology/Dianetics practitioner is trained in the use of the device. This training accomplishes two things: the practitioner comes to believe that the E-meter is always accurate, and he becomes able to produce consistent behavior in the device.
The second factor necessary to an effective illusion is the correct and thorough indoctrination of the person receiving the Scientology/Dianetics counseling. The counselee's indoctrination convinces him of several things. The most important thing that the counselee comes to believe is that the E-meter can detect his subconscious reaction to questions put to him by the counselor. In this way, the E-meter becomes a lie detector. More importantly however, the E-meter becomes an integral part of a physiological and emotional feedback mechanism. The counselee comes to believe that the combination of the counselor and the E-meter establishes an infallible link into the counselee's psyche. The counseling the adherent receives strengthens the triad exponentially by employing the self-confirming feedback mechanism. This mechanism becomes so powerful that the counselee eventually becomes his own counselor – watching the E-meter's reaction to questions that he poses to himself or reads from a form.
Although we do not understand the exact mechanism by which we blink our eyes, we become perfectly capable of doing so both automatically and deliberately. With the aid of the E-meter, the Scientology/Dianetics counselee learns to blink both emotionally and intellectually. The illusion is built and strengthened session by session until the adherent is consumed completely by Hubbard's techniques and cosmology.
In his book, How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker describes how the visual system of the human brain can be "fooled" by presenting it with certain types of stimuli. He takes care to point out however, that the fallibility of the human visual system is not necessarily a defect. Our brains have apparently evolved to make the most use of limited resources. One method of increasing efficiency in our large and complex visual cortex is by the use of a rule-based system. The visual cortex is virtually "hard wired" with assumptions about light, shape, perspective, and spatial relationships. Systematically violating the rules of our visual system creates anomalous results. Our visual cortex insists on presenting us with the anomaly even when we know how the illusion is produced – its rule-based system is immutable. Although we cannot correct an optical illusion by force of intellect, we can however know that we are experiencing one and why.
Cognitive science is relatively new but it offers hope in understanding why the emotional and intellectual systems of the human mind can be deceived with relative ease. By bringing together a number of disciplines: neurology, psychology, biochemistry, anthropology, and physiology among them, the pieces of the mind puzzle are coming together through cognitive science. There are still many pieces to collect however, and their positions in the puzzle are not always obvious. It may be that, like our visual system, our emotional and intellectual systems are prone to rule-based illusion. If this proves to be true then we must counteract the situation with our most significant ability: our ability to learn.
The Role of Education
Hubbard's, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, published in May 1950 by Hermitage House, became a surprise best seller. Although Dr. Winter, an MD, was initially involved with the manuscript the book was not well reviewed.
Dr. Rubi expressed the medical establishment's concern that the popularity of the book presented, "... evidence of the frustrated ambitions, hopes, ideals, anxieties, and worries of the many persons who through it have sought succor." (I. Rubi, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," Scientific American, January, 1951)
Rubi was not alone in his distrust of Hubbard's treatise. The New York Times carried an article on September 9, 1950 by Lucy Freeman that stated in part:
The American Psychological Association today called on psychologists, 'in the public interest,' not to use in therapy the techniques 'peculiar' to a new approach to mental health called Dianetics. It is outlined in a book of the same name. The action was taken in a resolution unanimously adopted by the association through the Council of Representatives, its governing body, at its closing session.
Eric Fromm's article expressed well the reasons behind the APA's resolution:
Hubbard's book can hardly be taken seriously as a scientific contribution to the science of Man but it must be taken seriously as a symptom of a dangerous trend. Were it only an oversimplified popularization of early Freudian theories it would be harmless . . .
Perhaps Milton Sapirstein's review in the August 5, 1950 issue of The Nation, explains in part why the general public accepted the book so readily:
Ordinarily, a new book which offers a generalized cure for all the ills of mankind – guaranteed, within twenty hours – would not be reviewed in these columns. This new book on 'Dianetics,' by L. Ron Hubbard, however, is in a class by itself. In the first place, the author seems honestly to believe what he has written. His own powerful conviction, in turn, seems to have convinced many others – apparently intelligent people who would be inclined to toss aside a book of this type.
In the same review, Mr. Sapirstein offers what has proven to be a prophetic warning of a cult in the making and hope for the future:
The real and, to me, inexcusable danger in Dianetics lies in its conception of the amoral, detached, 100 per cent efficient mechanical man – superbly free-floating, unemotional, and unrelated to anything.
Did Sapirstein, Fromm, Rubi, and others know something that the rest of the American public did not? Were they magically immune to Hubbard's claims? Were they simply more intelligent that the bulk of the population? If the people who see through Hubbard's unsupported dogma have one thing in common, it is education. More specifically, it is an education in a branch of science almost as old as the Archimedean screw: the science of logical reasoning.
Most of us are not exposed to the science of logical reasoning unless our college education requires it. Of those exposed, most consider it an ordeal to be endured rather than a tool to be used for a lifetime.
Logical reasoning is the primary tool of the intellectual. Like the compass and chronograph of the ocean mariner, logical reasoning guides the intellectual mariner through the dangerous seas of fallacy and lies to a fruitful destination.
By way of a test, answer the following questions:
Which of these logical fallacies apply to Hubbard's, Dianetics?
A) Argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignoratiam)
The correct answer is of course, G.
Put the following scientific methods and protocols in order from best to worst:
A) Empirical evidence B) Anecdotal evidence C) A blind study D) A double-blind study
The correct answers are: D, C, A, and B.
Why is a control group part of an experiment?
Answer: To validate the results, or lack thereof, obtained with the experimental group.
For additional credit, and proof of your "logical I.Q." give a brief explanation of each of the logical fallacies described above and their respective proofs.
Please do not feel inadequate if you failed all or most of the test.
Like higher mathematics, the science of logical reasoning has become a specialized field. Those of us who do not hold an advanced degree, and even a few who do, rarely consider the use of formal logical reasoning a necessity. We learn enough math to balance our checkbook, and figure out how much wallpaper to buy. We use logic, sometimes referred to as uncommon sense, to keep us suspicious of politicians and away from pyramid schemes. If you want to compute the future position of an orbiting body you need to know calculus – basic math does not provide the needed tools. Although our everyday logic skills serve us well, they are not sufficient to insulate most of us from the likes of an Ahab or a Hubbard.
Despite the dogma, the lack of scientific method, and the presence of logical fallacies, Hubbard's Dianetics provided something that many people in America and throughout the world felt they lacked. Dianetics gave people a confidence in the idea that they could understand their mind, and create positive changes in their personalities by using its techniques. Dianetics became one of the most attractive carrots that can be dangled in front of a human being: something to learn. To the academic who could easily see what was wanting in Hubbard's theories he became just another crackpot. To those who lacked the sophisticated logical tools, Hubbard offered hope and knowledge, albeit false hope and flawed knowledge.
With the establishment of Scientology in 1954, Hubbard glued his pseudoscience of Dianetics to a spiritual base. Not only was his organization free from many taxes, the religious status thwarted the FDA's attempts to regulate the use of the E-meter and the application of Dianetics as a mental therapy. Dianetics devolved into a specious entryway to spiritual awakening. By the mid-1960s, Hubbard had recreated Dianetics in Scientology's image. He was then free to weave it ever more tightly into his evolving neo-Gnostic cosmology.
By combining the spiritual with the pseudoscientific, Hubbard made it more difficult for the layman to intellectually assess his offerings.
The neophyte's emotions are leveraged to maximum effect – hijacking the intellect and accelerating the growth of the triad. Education is the best protection against usurpation of the intellect – perhaps the only protection.
Recovery from Scientology
For those lacking the tools to avoid recruitment into Hubbard's cult they will eventually need to recover from Scientology's effects. Some of the most common effects include anxiety, phobia, and delusion. Most of the anxiety suffered by Scientologists is caused by their exposure to people and material critical of Scientology and Hubbard. The Internet's wide availability since 1995 has opened an effective channel by which former members and other critics can communicate and organize.
Despite the best efforts of Scientology's management to block the use of the Internet, more information is available on a daily basis. The Scientologist feels besieged and anxious – growing criticism is not part of Hubbard's prophesied future of Scientology.
Like most cult founders, Hubbard induces a variety of phobias in his adherents. The most significant is a phobia of the medical establishment: medical doctors, and especially psychiatrists. Hubbard rails against government in general and specifically against what he perceived as its anti-religious activities. He decided in the late 1960s that a mixture of SP bankers and psychiatrists was running the U.S. government. Hubbard warned Scientologists that these SPs used the press to forward their destructive agenda by manipulating public opinion to serve their nefarious ends. He also assured Scientologists that they would be victorious in their struggle against evil for they had the power of truth and sanity on their side.
Some believe that the counseling techniques of both Dianetics and Scientology invite delusion and dissociative thinking as a matter of course. It is a requirement for Scientologists to uncover memories that extend past their present lifetime. Hubbard contends that the root of human aberration and disability lies in our distant incarnations.
Although the validity of false memory syndrome is in dispute, recent research indicates that our memories of past events are far more malleable than previously believed. The formerly secret levels of Scientology teach the adherent that the degraded spirits of extra terrestrials, introduced to earth 75 million years ago, inhabit his body. Hubbard contends that these parasitic beings cause physical and emotional impairment. The adherent is trained to be his own counselor, using the E-meter to contact these beings and make them depart his body.
Although effective intervention strategies exist for those involved in cults, an intervention on behalf of a Scientologist presents unique challenges. The triad of control, freedom, and responsibility can seem impenetrable to the uninitiated. The interventionist must walk a fine proverbial line between initiating a dialog on one side, without causing too much distress on the other. The triad must be handled gently, otherwise it will spasm – injecting the adherent with fear of and loathing for the interventionist. Like the stinging cell of a jellyfish, the phobias are always poised to fire into the adherent's psyche. Virtually all cults induce some form of phobia and some degree of dissociation. In addressing the Scientologist, the interventionist is up against one of the most highly evolved and invasive forms of cult indoctrination.
To date there are only a handful of interventionists in the U.S. and not many more in other countries. More are needed to assist the growing number of Scientologists leaving the organization. Some leave voluntarily – forced to realize that the organization no longer supports their ideals. An increasing number of Scientologists are being expelled – unwilling or unable to conform to management's edicts. The vast majority of Scientologists who leave will have to face the loss of their friends who remain in Scientology. Some will lose a spouse and other family members. They are forced to operate in an environment that they believe to be hostile at best and dangerous at worst.
In addition to the stresses described above, many ex-Scientologists also have to face the fact that Hubbard was a usurper, and a liar. It is an especially difficult transition for those who have completed one or more OT levels. They discover that once they leave the rarified environment of organized Scientology they are just like everyone else. They must endure the disintegration of their belief system – becoming a mere human being again, and typically having to face anew the issues that they thought Scientology had addressed.
Research over the past two decades has established that there is no such thing as a "cult-prone personality." There is no protocol for prescreening children or adults as potential cult victims. The late psychiatrist and cult expert, Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West was asked once to describe the difference between a person who is recruited into a cult and one who proves immune to recruitment efforts. Dr. West's one-word answer was, "Luck."
We need to remove the element of luck from the equation. Our society deserves better than to allow for a statistical probability that a percentage of the population faces recruitment into a damaging cult. We are blessed, by whatever source, with a neo cortex that gives us self-awareness and the ability to learn from experience. We owe it to the great thinkers of the past, Aristotle, Plato, and Descartes to name a few, to solve the problem of dangerous cults. The human intellect has eradicated smallpox and put man in space. A modified cold virus has become a vector for gene therapy. In view of our accomplishments as a species, it seems unlikely that we will fail to eradicate cults.
It is also possible that our best minds and most ardent efforts will prove fruitless against the cult phenomenon. We still fight wars.
Millions of people die annually of preventable diseases simply because poverty is allowed to exist. Perhaps our evolutionary track, so successful to date, has left us with crippling intellectual and emotional deficits. It might be that our fate is to devolve back to our origins – pummeled into ignorance and superstition by a growing army of cult-bound warriors. The future of mankind may indeed be dark. Perhaps Dr. West's answer to the cult recruitment question was the best one we will ever have. If so, may we, and all our descendants, be lucky.