From Phil and Willie Jones to Brian Sheen to Lori Hodgson to the Headleys to so many others. We’re hearing from more and more people who have been affected by Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is ripping families apart. Our friend and frequent contributor Jeffrey Augustine has been looking into Scientology’s documents, as he does, and has been thinking about disconnection. Jeff, where should we start?
Jeffrey: Understanding disconnection, you first have to put it within the context of L. Ron Hubbard’s system of ethics. According to Hubbard, disconnection is part of the “PTS/SP” model.
The Bunker: “PTS” is Scientology shorthand for “potential trouble source.” And an “SP” is a “suppressive person.” How does that work?
Jeffrey: A Scientologist becomes PTS when they become associated with someone antagonistic to Scientology. Wrote Hubbard:
In order to resolve the PTS condition, he either HANDLES the other person’s antagonism (as covered in the materials on PTS handling) or, as a last resort when all attempts to handle have failed, he disconnects from the person. He is simply exercising his right to communicate or not to communicate with a particular person.
To “go PTS” means the Scientologist will become unconsciously self-destructive and therefore “pull in” sickness, injuries, accidents, financial loss, relationship problems, make bad decisions, and incur a host of other troubles. The key Scientology notion to understand is this: A Scientologist goes PTS when they are connected to an SP, a person who is antagonistic to Scientology.
The Bunker: So the SP turns Scientologists PTS by being connected to them?
Jeffrey: That’s right. Here’s how the Technical Dictionary puts it: “A person…who suppresses other people in his vicinity…[who] become PTS.” An SP “actively seeks to suppress or damage Scientology or a Scientologist by suppressive acts.”
The Bunker: And what happens when the Church of Scientology decides that someone is an SP?
Jeffrey: The church issues an “SP Declare.” And once someone has been declared SP, all other Scientologists must “disconnect” from that person. This includes family and friends — everyone has to cut the SP out of their lives.
The Bunker: Everything we’ve seen in the last few years suggests that Scientology leader David Miscavige is declaring people SP and ordering disconnection with more frequency than ever, and for seemingly trivial reasons. Why is Scientology so aggressive demanding that Scientologists disconnect from SPs?
Jeffrey The answer is really interesting. According to the church itself, it’s because L. Ron Hubbard considered SPs to be Scientology’s kryptonite. Here, look at what Scientology says about disconnection at its website:
There you have one of the Scientology’s big secrets: Hubbard and his church admit, rather incredibly, that, “all spiritual advancement gained from Scientology may well be lost because one is continually invalidated by an antagonistic person who wants nothing more than to do harm to the person.” According to Hubbard’s logic, then, SP’s are infinitely more powerful than Scientologists; The mere presence of an SP can destroy all of a Scientologist’s Bridge progress and spiritual advancement. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Scientology can go down the drain if the Scientologist goes PTS because of a proximity to an SP. Hubbard characterized spiritual advancement in Scientology as a delicate hothouse flower, a frail object that cannot tolerate any suppression, antagonism, or opposition whatsoever.
The Bunker: They dare not hear any criticism. It apparently ruins everything.
Jeffrey: David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology, said as much in 2001, quoted in this church publication:
Hubbard said this about suppression in 1966: “Suppression is a harmful intention or action against which one cannot fight back.” (HCO PL 26 Dec 66) This is why suppression is so dangerous to Scientologists: They cannot fight back against suppression and will, in fact, lose all of their Bridge progress to it.
The Bunker: The poor things!
Jeffrey: Fortunately, every problem in Scientology has an exact solution that can be purchased. In the case of handling PTS/SP situations, David Miscavige introduced and heavily promoted the PTS/SP course in 2001. This course was designed to teach the Scientologist how to “confront and shatter” suppression:
The course reiterates Hubbard’s policy that Scientologists “handle or disconnect” from those who are suppressive towards Scientology. “Handle or disconnect” means that the Scientologist must get the person to stop being critical. Hubbard argued that most people who are antagonistic simply do not have the correct data about Scientology. So the solution is to give the antagonistic person the correct data. In the 1990s, Scientology created the cassette tape and booklet “Can We Ever Be Friends?” to handle family and friends who were antagonistic to Scientology.
If that “handling” doesn’t work, then the Scientologist disconnects.
The Bunker: Hubbard came up with disconnection and other “ethics” ideas — such as Fair Game — in the mid-1960s, when he was really unhappy about breakaway groups. And there’s been a controversy over whether he changed his mind about it, isn’t there?
Jeffrey: Hubbard issued orders that cancelled some of these ethics policies, including disconnection and Fair Game, in 1968. But it’s clear that he did that specifically as a reaction to investigations of Scientology in Commonwealth countries and especially in New Zealand. This was done as a part of Hubbard’s disingenuous “Reform Code of 1968.″ However, none of these policies were ever actually cancelled in practice and continue to this day.
The Bunker: In fact, as we saw in documents from the Garcia federal fraud lawsuit that were made public yesterday, Scientology’s current “International Justice Chief” Mike Ellis cited a 1983 policy on Suppressive Persons to tell the Garcias that no current church members in good standing can have anything to do with them. There it is, in black and white — Scientologists today must disconnect, and it’s based on a 1983 official church policy.
Jeffrey: Exactly! Those documents made public yesterday were pretty amazing. And they were official communications from Scientology’s top justice official.
The Bunker: Well, prepare yourself, Jeff, because as soon as you cite that 1983 policy, some former church members who still revere Hubbard will tell you that there’s a problem with it. Hubbard went into permanent hiding in February 1980, and Dan Koon and others who were around then tell us that Hubbard actually had nothing to do with that policy (even if the church today relies on it to force disconnection). Koon and others insist that Hubbard cancelled disconnection in 1968, and the evil David Miscavige brought it back, against Hubbard’s wishes.
However, we showed Dan that, in fact, a 1973 policy, written by Hubbard, endorses disconnection. And when we asked readers if they knew of any acts of disconnection that occurred between 1968, when it was supposedly cancelled, and 1980, when Hubbard went into hiding, we received dozens of responses. The “indies” might have rosy memories of the 1970s, but based on what we heard from our readers, disconnection was definitely part of the Scientology 1970s experience, and with Hubbard fully in control, even if it’s more prevalent today under Miscavige.
Jeffrey: There’s no doubt Hubbard endorsed disconnection. And his warning that the Scientologist can lose all spiritual advancement to an SP plays right into the “me, me, me” egocentricism of the Scientologist. In the thinking of the Scientologist, disconnection is a “pro-survival” act in which the Scientologist is declaring that his or her spiritual progress is infinitely more important than any family relationship or friendship. This was made abundantly clear in the disconnection letter that Cindy Plahuta received from a friend, which you published here in 2013:
Dear Cindy: After our conversation today I went to the MAA to get ethics handling because I had some attention on what we had discussed concerning the people that have left the Church. The MAA informed me that you have a connection to a known SP in Denver, that you are no longer in good standing with the Church, and you are pending a justice action. I found this out after I left a message on your phone that I had good news. You and I have been close friends for so long Cindy that this is very difficult for me. However, I don’t want to jeopardize my standing with the Church and eligibility for Solo NOTS, or my relationship with my children and friends, and definitely don’t agree with the people that have left our Church. Therefore, I have no choice but to follow LRH Policy, which is very specific concerning this, and can no longer communicate with you until you get this situation handled. I hope you will please contact OSA or the MAA here at Flag to get this resolved as soon as possible.
[MAA = Master at Arms; Solo NOTs = New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans, high-level church processing that is done alone on the e-meter; LRH = L. Ron Hubbard; OSA = Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s intelligence wing.]
The writer of this disconnection letter makes it clear that she will not be allowed onto SOLO NOTs if she stays friends with Cindy. Worse, the writer states that her relationship with her family or friends in the Church would be at risk if she stayed connected to Cindy.
Hubbard feared PTS Scientologists because they were capable of suppressive acts. In 1965 he wrote: “Until the environment is handled, nothing beneficial can happen. Quite the contrary. In the most flagrant of such cases, the Scientologist’s case worsened and the suppressive person or group sent endless distorted or false reports to press, police, authorities and the public in general.”
We now begin to zero in on Hubbard’s real fear and that of his Church: The PTS Scientologist is likely to tell an “SP” what is really going on inside the organization, which then can get out to the press and the public. Hubbard additionally makes it a “high crime” for any Scientologist to report the church to police or the courts.
The Bunker: Heaven forbid.
Jeffrey: Disconnection — it’s information control.
The Bunker: Of course it is. And that’s why the firehose of information that is the Internet has proved to be such a disastrous calamity for Scientology.
Jeffrey: And the more Scientologists are exposed to it, the more they’re voting with their feet and leaving.
The Bunker: Thank you for digging into these idea for us, Jeffrey. We really feel for the families that have been torn apart by this toxic policy — many of whom never speak up for fear of retaliation. For them, we’ll keep exposing these practices for what they are.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield