When we heard that one of Scientology’s mouthpieces would be speaking at this year’s Chautauqua, we assumed it would be a non-event. It’s been a long time since Chautauqua had much of an effect on popular culture or made the news. And we figured the religious liberals at the yearly conference were just trying to be inclusive by inviting Sylvia Stanard of Scientology’s DC national office.
Well, we were right about one thing: Sylvia’s speech was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But if you can get through it, the really good part comes in the question and answer period afterward.
Here’s the full event. Skip past the boring intro and get to Sylvia’s part…
We were struck by a number of things in Sylvia’s presentation. First, as much as she wants to present a safe-for-the-public version of Hubbard and Scientology, it’s still interesting to see how much Hubbard’s legend has been pared down. Now he merely had some hearing loss during World War II (even though he said he was machine-gunned), and his childhood exploits have been scaled back quite a lot. See what you’ve done, Russell Miller?
Scientology itself is presented as vaguely as possible, of course, but you can see Sylvia struggle because she knows she’s in front of an audience with a Judeo-Christian background, and she has to know that Hubbard said that what they all believe is the result of a mental implant foisted on thetans by an evil galactic overlord. “There was no Christ,” Hubbard said in a notorious lecture aboard the ship Apollo in 1968. So it’s entertaining to see Sylvia tiptoe through the eighth dynamic nonsense — that you can believe in a supreme being if you want to — and otherwise try to sell this stuff to a knowledgeable audience.
And the Chautauqua folks are no dummies. Sylvia gets a pretty hard time from the very polite folks in the crowd after her presentation.
The woman who read the Ron DeWolf quote was confused. That wasn’t Nibs. However, that quote did put Sylvia on the defensive about Nibs, and at that point it was starting to get ugly.
And oh man, Sylvia really referred to Mission Into Time as Hubbard’s “research”? Not even Scientologists try to bullshit each other with that one. Mission Into Time, of course, was the 1968 voyage that Hubbard went on to prove that he’d lived previous lives by digging up old treasure he’d buried during the Punic Wars. That snipe hunt didn’t turn up any treasure, of course. And it has nothing to do with the “research” Hubbard said he did that was the basis of Dianetics and Scientology.
When Sylvia is asked about Xenu and OT 3, she says she’s never encountered it in a book or lecture that she’s seen. She calls the Xenu story “counseling notes” and unpublished material. It’s just something that someone came up with in an auditing session, she implies.
Wow, that’s a whopper.
Sylvia’s dodge on the Cult Awareness Network is also egregious. Yes, it was the Jason Scott lawsuit which eventually led to CAN’s bankruptcy, and Jason was a kid from a Christian cult who had been deprogrammed against his will by Rick Ross. However, there was only a lawsuit because Scientology recruited Jason as a plaintiff, supplied all of his legal work, and then bought CAN when it defaulted. It was a Scientology battle from beginning to end.
These folks in the audience were great, but it would be nice if they had a little more knowledge. Every time Sylvia said Scientologists make “donations,” it would have been nice to point out that they have a friggin price list, with auditing costing hundreds of dollars an hour.
But all in all, we really have to hand it to Chautauqua. They not only gave Scientology the chance to explain itself, they also knew when they were being bullshitted. And they didn’t take it lying down.
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 29, 2014 at 14:55
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