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 three years he’s been 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.
Thought-terminating clichés are used by advertisers, politicians and cult leaders alike to package ideas into slogans. There are other forms of cliché that are useful – for instance, when FDR said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Others, like the ‘War on Terror’ are not so useful.
Ron Hubbard was acutely aware of the nature of thought-terminating clichés and encouraged believers to absorb and spew them forth at every given opportunity. I tired of ‘make it go right’ while still a believer.
I’m still not sure what we learned from ‘the way out is the way through’ – a sign saying ‘exit’ would have helped – or Hubbard’s founding maxim, ‘the dynamic principle of existence is survive’, which doesn’t seem to contain any information at all: that which exists is existing and wants to keep doing so.
Hubbard was keen to make his slogans stick, so he borrowed extensively from earlier authors. I recently found the origin of the oft-parroted phrase ‘If it isn’t fun, it isn’t Scientology’. In the original, it was ‘If it isn’t fun, it isn’t scouting’ and it belongs to Lady Baden-Powell. It seems fairly likely that Hubbard heard this slogan once or twice during his time in the Boy Scouts of America.
My favourite such plagiarism is found in the Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary where the ‘Price of freedom’ is ‘constant alertness’. While there is disagreement about who first said this – and what the exact words used were – it can be found as ‘eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’ in many sources long before Hubbard was even born.
Maybe it’s time to turn to the comments section so that the Bunkerites can regale us with their own favourites from the Scientology slogan bank…
— Jon Atack
Yes, and in particular, we’re interested in hearing which of Scientology’s refrains stay with people the longest after they leave the church. What do you say?
Bonus items from our tipsters
Whoa, Mexico City is getting real! This event is not open to the public, they note, as they give a seminar on the “Genetic Entity,” which is this really weird non-thetan thetan that each of us has inside of us to make our meat bodies work separate from the thetan itself. In reality, it’s what L. Ron Hubbard sloppily came up with when he tried to meld Dianetics (your worst engrams come from the womb) and Scientology (a thetan jumps into a baby after it’s born, so where did those pre-natal engrams come from?). Not only is this woo of the highest order, the Mexico City org uses a cannibalistic image to illustrate it. Now, see, why can’t Scientology always be this open with what it actually promotes?
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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