Welcome to our ongoing project, where we blog a 1950 first edition of Scientology’s bible, Dianetics, with the help of ex-Scientologist, Bay Area lawyer, blogger, and author Vance Woodward. Go here for the first post in the series.
We’ve now reached the chapter titled “The ‘Demons’,” and after a superfluous flourish, L. Ron Hubbard gets to his subject: that his “engrams” explain what mankind had thought of as demons plaguing the mind.
In case the reader might think he was being literal, he writes “There are no real demons in dianetics” in italics. “That’s underscored in case some mystic runs around telling people that a new science of the mind believes in demons.”
After the disclaimer, however, Hubbard then goes about describing how his engram-demons are capable of demonic possession, sapping a person of his or her ability to access the self-agency of their analytical minds. We’re all just slaves to our engrams, apparently.
Vance, we’re struck by the examples Hubbard uses here. He suggests that we can be practically debilitated by a random statement made in our presence while we’re “unconscious.” (Hubbard seems to assume that human beings get knocked out by falls a lot more than we’ve ever noticed.)
In one example, he describes a child falling from a bicycle who is knocked cold. A policeman at the scene happens to say, “Never say can’t” in the semi-conscious kid’s presence. And for the rest of her life, that child will have a difficulty saying the word “can’t” because that cop’s command has turned into an engram that possesses her like a demon.
Really? Vance, we have to say, this and other examples that Hubbard provides seem extremely unusual and not very convincing. After supposedly doing years of research, shouldn’t he have better tales to tell?
VANCE: When I first read this, it struck me how careful he was being to clarify that Dianetics “demons” aren’t supernatural. I suppose I probably accepted this as more evidence that Hubbard was legit. I’m noticing now that he didn’t go so far as to say that supernatural demons don’t exist, only that Dianetics demons aren’t supernatural. Huh.
But, yeah, you’d figure he’d have come up with better examples. Then again, maybe we don’t know what awful material the man had to start with. Maybe, out of the hundreds of cases that Hubbard audited, these examples represent some of the more believable yarns that his hypnotic subjects invented as the source of their problems. And that’s saying a lot considering they were no doubt spun with the assistance of Hubbard’s story-telling expertise. On the other hand, maybe he just pulled these out of thin air as he wrote the book.
Either way, I reckon this kind of writing gives many Scientolohics a sometimes-laughable aversion to pain, not to mention a positive fear of drugs (which are viewed as poisons that invariably cause unconsciousness, pain, and engrams). As an example, preclears must be medication-free for a full week before auditing, with individual dispensations (always given with a pout or sneer) for “therapeutic” medications. But aren’t all medications therapeutic? What other kind is there? For a long time I used inhalers for asthma and invariably got grief about it.
As another example, I remember exchanging wart-removal therapies with an otherwise normal fellow. I’d tried the freezing method; he’d tried the apple-cider-vinegar method. During the discussion, this guy said something to the effect of, “I don’t want to get an engram,” in reference to the idea of freezing a small chunk of his skin. The guy was seriously concerned that he’d get a mind-wrecking engram from from freezing a wart off his skin. In fairness to the guy, I can now tell you that the apple-cider-vinegar method works way better.
Of course, this whole aversion to pain gets tossed out the window as soon as we start discussing what’s in the best interests of Scientology, the group. When the group is at stake (it’s always at stake whenever any addict starts demanding time and money), then your personal pain is inconsequential.
THE BUNKER: Hubbard goes on to list a number of additional examples, and we are struck by the picture that emerges. According to Hubbard we’re all helpless creatures crippled by things that people happened to say while we’d been knocked unconscious. (Again, we’ve never, in our lives, been knocked unconscious, but maybe in the 1950s it was more common for someone to get slugged cold.)
How crippling to go through life thinking that you have been programmed to act certain ways by unknown persons who said unknown things while you were unaware of it. And yet, if you’re going to accept Hubbard’s ideas about therapy, you’re going to have to accept this dim view of existence. We’re just helpless automatons, floundering through life because someone said “You can’t think!” or “I can’t remember!” or I can’t feel anything” in our proximity while we were unconscious (to use some of Hubbard’s actual examples).
Do we have this right, Vance? Is that what we’re supposed to take from this, that we are slaves to very literal interpretations of voices stored in our cells?
VANCE: If you don’t mind, I’d like to quote a paragraph that sums up the full-on insanity of it all. I recommend you close any open windows before proceeding:
Absolutism is a fine road to stagnation and I do not think Spencer meant to be so entirely absolute about his Knowable and Unknowable. SURVIVE! is the demarcation point between those things which can be experienced by the senses (our old friends Hume and Locke) and those things which cannot necessarily be known through the senses but which possibly may be known but which one does not necessarily need to solve the problem.
Oh, so many questions. Do the caps on “Knowable” and “Unknowable” indicate that they are, like, important but not absolute? Do the all-caps on SURVIVE! mean that SURVIVE! is absolute? Or does it just mean that Ron likes to SCREAM AT HIS READERS? Does this mean that nothing, including Dianetics, is absolutely true? Either way, Hubbard certainly must know what he’s talking about to so masterfully toss around those lofty names in such a casual manner. I mean, like, golly. I’m impressed … and utterly confounded.
Well, anyhow, the answer to your question is sort of, kind of, maybe. In later times, Hubbard articulated a reverse attitude, which more or less marks the difference between Dianetics and Scientology. Basically, the premise of Dianetics is, as you said, that you are the victim of your engrams, that all this stuff has been done to you and is causing your problems. The premise of Scientology is 100 percent the reverse: that you are ultimately responsible for your problems and conditions, that you did it to yourself, that your real problem isn’t what happened to you but rather what you caused to happen to yourself. And yes, interpret that as ludicrously as you like. We’re talking about deciding that a certain horrific event was humiliating or degrading. We’re even talking about allowing yourself as a five-year-old child to be placed into the custody of a child molester. In Scientologese, no matter what happens, the follow-up question is, “What did I do to pull that in?” So, there’s something there for everyone. If you wanna feel like a victim, Dianetics is your thing. If you wanna blame everything on yourself (more my style), Scientology has you covered.
Anyhow, isn’t it wonderful? Here Hubbard has discovered that we’re all total victims to this engram business and yet he simultaneously discovered the solution to them. If I were cynical, I’d suppose that he was playing up the severity of these engrams as a method of playing up the importance of his solution to them. But I’m not cynical. So, instead, I’ll just scowl at people who don’t agree with me.
THE BUNKER: We are, as usual, rather in awe of your observations and experiences. You are truly Hubbard’s demon seed. And so we push on.
PROF. DAVID TOURETZKY’S DOSSIER ON NARCONON’S TESTER
Yesterday, we reported that Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, is the subject of yet another investigation, this one regarding the credentials of its staff members. The National Association of Forensic Counselors is looking into allegations that Narconon employees improperly received Certified Chemical Dependency Counselors (CCDC) credentials. Specifically, two former Narconon officials have come forward to say that they were given answers before taking exams by the test proctor, a man named Kent McGregor.
McGregor’s involvement with Narconon goes back many years. Carnegie Mellon University professor David Touretzky has been watching McGregor for much of that time, and made us aware of a page he’s assembled about McGregor. We encourage you to give it a look for a more full picture about this interesting character.
SCHOOLS AND HARD KNOCKS
In the current media climate, things are starting to get tougher for Scientology’s normally stealthy front groups. We noticed two recent stories a world apart that both involved journalists uncovering attempts to get Scientology into schools.
In Phoenix, Arizona, radio station KJZZ revealed that a charter school is using Scientology’s “Applied Scholastics” for its curriculum. It’s hard to tell from the story whether the charter school’s president can be taken seriously that he thinks the material is purely secular and is not a recruiting tool for the church.
Meanwhile, in Australia, a high school seminar put on by another Scientology front group, Youth for Human Rights, got exposed in the local press.
It’s almost like Scientology can’t get away with anything anymore.
LATER TODAY: We’ll have an update on the Narconon legislation in Oklahoma.
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 21, 2013 on 07:00