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 for more than a year on Saturdays he helped 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. He was kind enough to send us a new post.
Jon has previously talked about how long it can take a former Scientologist to recover after the years of indoctrination laid in during auditing. But why does it take so much time? In this piece, Atack suggests that a quicker recovery is possible — but only if a former church member can see clearly how L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas were so empty to begin with. Take it away, Jon.
JON: I loathe the thought that recovery is inevitably arduous and takes years. Some people recover from Scientology very quickly. This is because they have the courage, the support, and the necessary tools. Just because some have struggled for years — even decades — is no reason to believe that there is any pattern or a template, either. Take heart, have courage, find support and understand the thinking necessary to escape the “processing” and “indoctrination” that Hubbard created, in a failed attempt to heal his own constant physical and mental illness.
Let’s insert one of those Hubbard ideas that is actually true, at this point: “In what can a person become entrapped? Basically and foremost, he can become entrapped in ideas … Fixation occurs only in the presence of one way communication.” (Dianetics 55!, in Trapped). And Scientology is nothing more nor less than a trap made of ideas. A one way communication from Hubbard to the entrapped and fixated believer.
One of the lies of Scientology is the idea of a “white-taped route” that everyone must follow. A route that has extended with every year — even now, Miscavige is extending the time taken on each level. By now there are hundreds of steps, which take years to follow (and lead up the garden path) but in 1950, Hubbard boasted that anyone who was not brain-damaged could achieve the ultimate, final and eventual state of “Clear” within hundreds, even just tens, of hours.
To cite Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky (every point annotated from the Hubbard original, in my text, qv):
Dianetics was supposed to “Clear” people of irrational behavior. A “Clear,” according to the book, would have no compulsions, repressions, or psychosomatic ills. A “Clear” would have full control of his imagination, and a near perfect memory. With Dianetic counseling, IQ would “soar” by as much as “50 points,” and the Clear would be “phenomenally intelligent.” Dianetics would even rescue a broken marriage.
It was claimed that through Dianetics the individual would be freed of psychoses and neuroses. Amongst the “psychosomatic” conditions Dianetics claimed to cure were asthma, poor eyesight, color blindness, hearing deficiencies, stuttering, allergies, sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure, coronary trouble, dermatitis, ulcers, migraine, conjunctivitis, morning sickness, alcoholism and the common cold. Even tuberculosis would be alleviated. Dianetics would also have “a marked effect upon the extension of life.” A Clear could do a computation which a “normal would do in half an hour, in ten or fifteen seconds.”
Hubbard claimed to have examined and treated 273 people [not one of whom has ever come forward] and, through this research, found the “single and sole source of aberration.” The book claimed that Dianetics was effective on anyone, who had not had “a large portion of his brain removed,” or been “born with a grossly malformed nervous structure.” Better yet, Dianetics could be practiced straight from the book with no training. Therapy would take anything from 30 to 1,200 hours, by which time the person would be Clear and thus free of all irrationality, and every psychosomatic ailment.
From a single process that was guaranteed to achieve full health (with an impervious immune system) and high IQ (with a perfect memory) Hubbard poured forth hundreds of new procedures; because it didn’t work and the claims were false. And, once Clear had at last been fixed — in 1965, and then again in the late 1970s — and found wanting for any of the earlier promises, that ultimate, final and eventual state extended level by level into the future (because, heck, your body thetans weren’t Clear, and even after they were — on OT III — there were still reasons, and expensive ones at that, why you weren’t superhuman).
Hubbard managed to keep the final state of his Bridge “at cause over physical matter, energy, space and time” (as he defined OT VIII, in about 1970) from release until after his death. And it too proved to be a pipe dream. More the brig to total captivity than the bridge to total freedom.
All of this rather conditions the recovering Scientologist to believe that there is a long and very winding road ahead, but it is not true. Again, because Dianetics dwells obsessively upon the past — a notion challenged by Hubbard in Self-Analysis (what you put your attention on, you get, after all) — recovering Scientologists believe that they will have to arduously unpick their experiences. But the Scientology engrams — and they are the closest thing to engrams you will ever find, as no memories are actually recorded during unconsciousness — those engrams are susceptible to erasure not simply in chains but in great swathes, once the pins that hold them fast are loosed. There is no need to re-experience — to abreact — the humiliation and enslavement of Scientology. Rather, it is necessary to simply pull out those pins. And the pins are the implants — the beliefs, the slogans and the supposed ‘axioms’ of Scientology.
I have so often heard the idea that Hubbard lured us in with a few truths so that he could ensnare us. Those “truths” are few indeed, and largely irrelevant — because they are taken from popular rather than arcane knowledge. The “cycle of action” for instance. It is a good idea to finish what you start (which would include bridges to total freedom, something Hubbard never came close to finishing), but elevating this to esoteric marvel is a nonsense. We all know that chaos will result, otherwise. And redefining the word “cycle” does not help anyone’s understanding. And Hubbard admitted, in The Phoenix Lectures, that the “cycle of action” had been around for millennia.
Jeff Hawkins talks about his own sundering from the enchantment in his excellent Counterfeit Dreams:
Gwennie was amazed to hear from me, and doubly amazed that I was out of the Sea Org and out of Scientology. She said, “I’m coming down, I’m leaving right now.” Six hours later, she was at my door.
She stayed all weekend, and we spent hours talking. We walked down State Street all the way to the beach, and I told her all about what I had been through at the Int Base. It was the first time I had really unloaded to anyone. Our progress down the street was slow, because every couple of feet she’d stop and look at me and say “No way!” or “That’s nuts!”
It was an amazing experience for me. I had lived at that Base for years. That was “daily life.” It was “normal.” I was the one who was crazy, criminal, SP. To hear the reaction of someone outside that bubble was priceless. That’s nuts! And I was free to say, yes, yes it is.
I went from laughing to crying to laughing. Gwennie would hug me when I cried, and laugh with me when I laughed, and we somehow made it through the weekend like that. I told her everything, and I felt unburdened, liberated, free.
Hubbard told us what we longed to hear. There is not only an end to suffering, as the Buddha promised, we are also superhuman. Indeed, we are gods with magical powers. We will never die, but better yet, we will triumph over every distress, can float around the whole universe at will and blow up planets simply by turning our egos in their direction.
Palpable poppycock with not an iota of proof. If any single Scientologist had achieved even the slightest superhuman power there is no way that I would still be standing, over three decades from my first published complaint. Nor would the Guardian’s Office have needed to steal a ton of government documents, if they could have simply ‘exteriorized’ and noted down the content of every file cabinet.
Hubbard told us what we longed to hear, and we listened, mesmerised. As I have often enough said, Scientology is a set of hypnotic procedures that bring about euphoria and addiction. In over 60 years, not one superhuman has emerged (even Ingo Swan, bless his cotton socks, claimed that his “abilities” were developed before Scientology). Let alone that there are no Clears, and the promises of the release grades are farcical: Scientologists certainly cannot communicate freely on any subject, nor make problems vanish at source. And the same is true for the “end phenomena” of every other grade. Unless of course you believe that what is true for you is true (as all schizophrenics know).
It is a dream, and because it is a dream, all you have to do is wake up. This does not mean that the trauma and humiliation caused by membership will dissipate overnight, but it does mean that the belief system that holds the trauma in place can be fairly rapidly undone. The trance can be ended. And recovery will happen naturally and progressively from that point onward. There may be bad days, but overall, life will improve.
Of course it is disappointing to realize that you are not saving the world. That can be a huge let down. Many recovering Scientologists experience dejection and demotivation, even chronic fatigue disorder when they leave. One day you are a superhuman, whose wishes are shifting the millennia of human aberration, the next you are a regular Joe, and it is hard to find enough enthusiasm to leave your bed. This is where courage and support help, then this too shall pass (and, yes, Hubbard repeated that story, too — about the busy king whose wise men had to reduce the wisdom of the world to a single sentence).
The courage part is understanding that you’ve been living in a delusion, and that once it dissipates and reality (the true reality, not the agreement with Hubbard) sets in, you will actually be able to have fun again. Remember fun? Take hold of that fun. List the stuff you like to do that Scientology has prevented you from doing. And do it. You can even joke and degrade a little, if you like, because no one is going to tell on you, and there is no ethics department to police your thoughts out here in the real world.
Take hold too of the benefits of Scientology. Many people (though not me) say that military experience toughened them up and made them able to face hardship. One recovering Scientologist asked me to write about the “can do” attitude of the former Sea Org staffer, explaining that although he had suffered trauma, he was grateful for this capacity to point himself at a task and complete it.
A great deal of the benefit of Scientology is “negative gain” — not a consequence of the indoctrination or the processing (to use Hubbard’s revealing words, once more), but of the experience of Scientology. The camaraderie and the capacity to endure — very much like the military. But I’m not recommending warfare as a therapy any more than I’m recommending Scientology.
In my experience, there is a single point where Scientology grabs a person and a single point where it releases them. The first point is a peak experience, usually of a hypnotic nature, early on, that will never be repeated. Pretty much like a drug high. People keep taking drugs in the hope that they will achieve that brief wonder of the first rush. With Scientology, it is usually a TR-0 high or an early auditing high — the full perceptual experience of what appears to be a past life, for instance (but read Elizabeth Loftus or Richard Ofshe on false memories, and think about how unquestionably real dreams seem while you are dreaming).
In truth, all meditators have felt that TR-0 bliss moment. It has nothing to do with Scientology. And any decent hypnotist can induce a joy-filled false memory. Watch Derren Brown convert a life-long atheist in a matter of minutes, in Faith and Fear, for instance.
The moment of release is not necessarily a moment of euphoria, but it is a moment of wonder. The recovering Scientologist realizes that some principle long held is bogus. My favourite example, in all these years, is the friend who piped up that she had used scented laundry conditioner for the first time in her life. We hadn’t spoken about the Sea Org Hygiene Hat, so she wasn’t following my lead (which is the nature of Scientology “cognitions” — never evaluate for the preclear, indeed!). After a life time of warning people that all perfumes are the snare of the devil (sorry, “psychiatry”), she realized that this Hubbard paranoid phobia, is, well, a paranoid phobia. Her belief in the Great OT was gone.
There is no need to systematically unearth the notions that hold the Scientology trance in place. They will present themselves from then on, and truth will indeed, as Hubbard said, blow the lies away. And, you will likely be a tad embarrassed, if you have managed to retain the slightest humour or humility after your processing.
Let me make a final note about Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy. I’m generally not a fan of therapy. Scientology rather put me off. But the ideas of some of the therapists are rather helpful. Beck realized that we self-instruct. So, if I knock a glass of water off the table, I might say to myself, “I’m always doing that! I’m so stupid!” And the chances are that I always will do it and be stupid.
If I tell myself I’m clumsy, then I will fulfill my own expectation. Scientology does exactly this. Once you believe it, you really will have engrams, and implants, and ARC breaks, and missed withholds. You will “natter” if you think someone has guessed at your bad behaviour. You will believe in “third parties,” though it is patently obvious that most conflicts start head on, without anyone in the background (Hubbard was paranoid, so always heard that the third party putting him down — if anyone laughed in the room, he knew they were laughing at him).
Aaron T. Beck’s Love is Never Enough is a good start to unlearning Scientology’s confrontational communication style and finding out how to deal with the world in a more insightful way.
Scientology instils constant self-criticism. Constant evaluation of your own state. “Am I doing it right?” The main trick of the hypnotist is introversion, and Hubbard built a system that made him right and us wrong. So, be aware of those fleeting almost subliminal self instructions and life will gradually, or even rapidly, improve. Good hunting!
[We’ve repeated this message from yesterday evening for the morning folks who might have missed it.]
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As we told you recently, Google stopped serving our ad which we were using to keep the lights on here at the Underground Bunker. We made dozens of appeals, trying to figure out what Google objected to, and we were only told that it had to do with “adult content.” Since we never post adult content in our stories, we could only conclude that it had something to do with the language we use in posts and that gets used in our comments.
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And now we say, fuck Google! We’ve taken off the language filter, and we’ve put back our Paypal donate button, something we haven’t had for more than a year. This time, however, we’ve added the option of donating a small amount in monthly installments — some of you had asked us about scheduled payments, and we think they might be a good idea. (It’s also still possible to make a one-time donation to email@example.com)
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Bonus photos from our tipsters
Look, someone has a new Super Power certificate!
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
22 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah
9 days until our special Underground Bunker announcement at noon, January 12
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 3, 2015 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49