Welcome to our ongoing project, where we blog a 1950 first edition of Scientology’s bible, Dianetics, with the help of ex-Scientologist, lawyer, and author Vance Woodward. Go here for the first post in the series.
Vance, we’ve reached a chapter titled “The Laws of Returning,” and it’s at moments like these that we wonder how this book was ever taken seriously by anyone.
“Let us take an engram which comes from one of Mother’s bowel movements,” L. Ron Hubbard writes in this chapter and, come on, what human being puts those words together in a sentence?
She is straining, which causes compression, which brings about “unconsciousness” in the unborn child. Then, if she habitually talks to herself (a monologuist) as an enormous number of aberrated women do, she may say, “Oh, this is hell. I am all jammed up inside. I feel so stuffy I can’t think. This is too terrible to be borne.”
What is it the kids say today? “Said no one ever.”
But let’s humor Hubbard and entertain the thought that somewhere, at some time, a constipated pregnant woman spoke the words “I’m so stuffy I can’t think. This is too terrible to be borne.” Hubbard tells us that because she’s straining to relieve herself, it “knocks out” the fetus (again with the quotes because in Dianetics actual unconsciousness isn’t really necessary to soak up an engram) and whatever she then says gets absorbed by the zygote’s reactive mind, which takes everything literally.
Hubbard proposes two results. Later, as an adult, that child will have a persistent cold (“I feel so stuffy”) and will regret his own birth (“too terrible to be borne”).
Now, just let that sink in a moment.
We’re talking about a worldview that suggests a grown man could have the sniffles because, decades earlier while he was in the womb, his mother had a hard time taking a dump and unwisely spoke out loud while straining on the toilet.
This guy Hubbard had issues.
Vance, is it just that Scientologists don’t actually read this book, or had your fellow church members found a way to dismiss examples like this. Or, a horrifying thought, did they actually believe the human mind works this way?
VANCE: It’s complicated. Superficially, yes, Scientologists believe unquestioningly that the mind really works this way. If Hubbard says it’s so, then it’s so. A Scientologist’s only job is to understand what Hubbard wrote and then apply it. That said, I think most Scientologists know that they are not as messed up as they should be if it were so easy to mentally destroy a zygote with a mere pooping coupled to some horrific dialogue. So, I think this all plays out with Scientologists feeling a bit lucky that their engram-filled minds haven’t been “restimulated” to the point of making them go insane. In other words, Scientologists get the sense that they are sort of walking hair-trigger bombs that could be set off at any minute from some minor but restimulative event.
But I’m not sure that’s the most accurate answer nowadays. Take me. When I was in, my response to Hubbard’s claims was always more or less something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe. I guess. We’ll see. I’ll find out eventually. Either way, I hope I’ll get some benefit from this, like everybody else.”
Having talked to a few other ex-members, I now get the sense that nearly everybody has secret reservations. It’s like we were all a bunch of morons, each having our secret doubts, and each hiding those reservations to avoid being a downer for everybody else. Incidentally, this type of thing played out in other ways with, for example, some Scientologists simultaneously encouraging others to empty out their savings while they themselves saved their own money. It’s like the place is salted with voyeurs who are good at giving lip service while staying above the fray. I was not one of them. I mean, I was a voyeur too. But I paid for the privilege. In summary, nobody can deny that Scientology is much more about PR than actuality. And that’s part of what convinces me today that the e-meter does worse than nothing: it allows pathological liars and sociopaths to sail by in Scientology while earnest folks get hammered. Oh, those were fun times.
I can almost imagine a day when the entire religion falls apart and all that will remain is David Miscavige saying, “Geez, guys. By the time I realized it was all nonsense I felt obligated to carry on because everybody was hanging so much of their happiness and self-worth on my shoulders. I felt trapped. Terribly sorry about that.”
Well, maybe not.
THE BUNKER: The chapter then goes on to explain that there are ways the auditor can be skillful and detect when certain types of engrams are resisting removal. The auditor must use what Hubbard calls “repeater technique” to get at those basic problems that lie underneath a person’s problems.
And somehow, he always seems to come back to a preclear “remembering” the experience of being in the womb while his or her parents had sex fraught with anxiety and drama.
There’s this example that Hubbard supplies, for example, to illustrate how a woman makes a breakthrough during counseling. Up to this point, the auditor had been unable to get at her prenatal memories. But he kept at the repeater technique until finally…
GIRL: I have a somatic in my face! It feels like I am being pushed. (This was good news for the auditor knew she had a mid-prenatal pain shut-off which prevented later somatics from appearing.)
AUDITOR: Contact it more closely and continue to repeat.
GIRL: “Much later. Much later.” It’s getting stronger.
GIRL: “Much…” I hear a voice! There. That’s it. Why, that’s my father’s voice!
AUDITOR: Listen to the words and repeat them, please.
GIRL: He’s talking to my mother. Say, this face pressure is uncomfortable. It keeps going up and down on me. It hurts!
AUDITOR: Repeat his words please.
GIRL: He’s saying: “Oh honey, I won’t come in you now. It’s better to wait until much later to have one.” And there’s my mother’s voice. Say, this pressure is hurting me. No, it’s eased up considerably. Funny, the minute I contacted his voice, it got less.
AUDITOR: What is your mother saying, please, if you hear her?
GIRL: She’s saying: “I don’t want you in there at all then!” She’s mad! Say, the somatic stopped. (Coitus had ended at this point.)
AUDITOR: Please return to the start of this and recount.
GIRL: (Regains the beginning, somatic returns) I wonder what they’re doing? (then a pause) I hear a squishing sound! (then a pause and embarrassment) Oh!
Vance, why was L. Ron Hubbard so obsessed with his parents screwing? And wasn’t it obvious to his followers that they were supposed to work through his own hangups in their cases?
VANCE: Funny, when reading these examples, I always assumed that Hubbard was describing his own sexual experiences as an adult. Either way, it never occurred to me that Hubbard was essentially guiding people through his own personal hell and forcing others to “audit his case,” as it were. When I was in, I believed that he had alighted upon some universal truths and that, despite all the the shortcomings of Scientology, I could get a lot of benefit from it. I’d never heard anybody articulate the idea that fundamentally, we Scientologists were being forced to work through Hubbard’s hangups. Only then did it seem obvious. It makes me wonder if Scientology doesn’t attract people who are similar in some way to Hubbard. Yikes.
I should probably note that Dianetics is way more focused on sex than the bulk of Scientology. So, you might be getting a slightly warped idea of what Scientologists are learning on the whole. Don’t get me wrong, Scientologists tend to be a little sexually repressed in my experience. As an example, masturbation is discouraged though not, in my experience, grounds to be sent to an Ethics Officer, the Scientology thought police.
THE BUNKER: Thanks, Vance. We hate to think of you going to ethics for that. Anyway, just for fun we’ve put a headline on this story that brought back some great memories of a person we sorely miss. He was taken from us 15 years ago this month. Phil, you were the best…
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 2, 2013 at 07:00
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