Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and on Saturdays he’s helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
This week, Jon, we wanted your thoughts on the whole schmear.
L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas about the human mind and the physical universe really don’t comport with what science tells us about how the world works. But how does Hubbard’s worldview still continue to work for some people?
JON: Explaining the cosmology of Scientology for A Piece of Blue Sky was a struggle.
In his Data Series, Hubbard tells us that it is vital to determine the relative importance of information, but he did not apply this to his “science of the mind.” Because Scientology is additive, and nothing that Hubbard has said can be deleted, and because the relative importance of ideas is never clearly stated, there is no simple statement of cosmology in the vast forest of words considered “scriptural” by believers.
After far too many years thinking about this subject, I conclude that the simple most important notion in Scientology, and its best explanation, resides in the drastic redefinition of a single word: reality.
Hubbard tells us that reality is “agreement.” The universe entire is a construct, which extrudes from the thinking of the spiritual beings within it. It is a consensus. A mad person, Hubbard said, simply has a different “reality,” because they no longer accept the “agreed upon apparency” that is generally “mocked up” by we spiritual beings. This is confounded by the Scientologists use of the word reality to mean “what do you think?” As in “what’s your reality?”
“Reality is agreement.” This comes awful close to saying that reality is a trance. A group of people can share an emotional state, precisely because of their agreement. It happens in every shouting crowd. At any good concert or sporting bout; in every gang, in every military unit. When in a herd, we tend to share emotional states. We also tend to give over control of our emotions. So, we know that groups can go into sympathetic agreement. Is Scientology simply an agreement? Do Scientologists develop reactive minds, become hostile when rightly suspected (because of “missed withholds”) and grow body thetans to conform to “reality?” Do they “pull in” criticism because of their own “overts?” With this definition, a rend in the fabric of Scientology rips open, because if reality is “agreement,” then there is more than one possible reality, and it becomes necessary to choose which one you will belong to.
I belong to a “reality” that agrees with scientific reasoning and proof. I am skeptical of all and any claims, because I am well aware that even when they don’t mean to, people make things up. Indeed, in the right dream state, we can make anything up and believe it entirely. Every one of us has believed in something utterly impossible, when we were dreaming. I also know that people can carry the same spurious conviction from dreams, insisting that they ‘know’ what they actually only believe. I suspect that this “reality” is not compatible with Scientology’s “reality.”
There are many well-documented examples of mass sociogenic illness, where hundreds of people may fall sick in exactly the same way, because of a psychological, rather than a physical event. In Chechnya, Khapta Akhmedova successfully treated over a hundred youngsters who were hospitalised because they were having fits. They believed that they had been poisoned by the Russians. Aldous Huxley documented the demented persecution of Urban Grandier in The Devils of Loudon — which Ken Russell transformed into his film, The Devils. Grandier was burned at the stake, because according to the “reality” of those dark days, he was a witch (or OT, if you prefer).
The idea that “reality is agreement” mistakes culture for, well, reality. The world will remain real whether I exist to perceive it or not. Hubbard even referred to Bishop Berkley’s conjecture as to whether the tree falls in the forest, if there is no one there to hear it, so he knew what he was up to. And don’t ever forget that: whether you believe or not, Hubbard knew what he was doing. But I rely upon his supposed scriptures to show what he believed, where believers rely upon the highs they’ve experienced from repetitive hypnotic “processes” or through the electrical pain relief of the e-meter (check TENS machines out, which, just like the e-meter pass a small current through the body, but to relieve pain, rather than to get you high — both are achieved by the release of endorphins). Again, my “reality” separates highs and bliss states from genuine insight. And the only insight in Scientology is “Ron was right.” You can never be his equal (you would be squirreling, if you tried to think for yourself, especially if your thought did not conform to the Scientology agreement). He is not simply the OT, but the OT-maker. The god-maker, who will likely transform within the next few decades into an immortal being, worshiped by Scientologists (the chief statistic that Hubbard had personally reported to him was how many minutes an audience applauded his photo. For real). Hopefully, by then, I will have “dropped my body,” so won’t be burned at the stake for suggesting that the statement “Truth is what is true for you” is silly. If it means, you feel the way you feel, that’s fine, but, as it stands, it means that any folly you choose to subscribe to is true.
THE BUNKER: And just for the record, although Hubbard said it a little differently in his brief essay titled “Personal Integrity” — “What is true for you is what you have observed for yourself, and when you lose that you have lost everything” — we do find that in the Admin Dictionary, under the heading “Truth,” you will find the definition “Truth is what is true for you.” (Though most people we know usually say it “What’s true is what is true for you.”)
JON: One day, my friend Mitch was talking to Marie-Sylvie, Captain Bill Robertson’s girlfriend, who told him that she was on a colour diet. She waxed lyrical about the benefits of this cleansing diet. Mitch, who was wiser than his years, said, “Can you use food colouring?” Scientology elaborates on a similar theme: what’s true for you is what Hubbard says is true. But much of what he said is untrue, whether because is factually untrue — that Mars and Venus are inhabited, for instance — or it flatly contradicts some other statement he made. Whether, for example, he was “crippled and blinded at the end of World War Two” or that at the end of July 1945, he went down to Hollywood and beat up three petty officers, so getting his disabling war wounds during the first days of August. Because Hubbard was too busy to redraft anything, and far more interested in telling tall tales than in veracity, the poor Scientologist must struggle through a welter of contradictions. I must say that I disagree with Ron Hubbard’s reality and choose instead the reality of the real world, where I have the freedom to disbelieve in whichever nonsense I choose.
Posted by Tony Ortega on August 19, 2013 at 07:00
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