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.
I left Scientology because I believed in Scientology. The “Church” was clearly not following the strict policy laid down by Hubbard. It was not about to “maintain friendly relations with the environment and the public” as Hubbard’s “First Policy” demanded. David Miscavige had appeared unannounced, and without sanction from Hubbard, as far as we could tell. He was an unknown who had somehow replaced Hubbard’s chosen heir, David Mayo.
The organization was “down-tone” – somewhere around “blame.” Policies on justice had been flaunted with a list of over 600 people who had been expelled without charge, let alone a committee of evidence. The fundamental right to be faced with an accuser and allowed to speak in one’s own defense had been removed.
My first mission was to talk to some of those so wrongfully “declared Suppressive.” Yes, I felt some trepidation, but I was convinced that I could “confront” any Suppressive. I actually found that the first “SPs” I met were all supportive of the aims of Scientology, all believers in the “Technology” of Scientology, and all friendly. They were a long way from the snarling, rabid demons I had been led to expect.
I wrote to Cyril Vosper, the author of The Mind Benders, who was involved in Scientology for 14 years before leaving in the late 60s. I told him that we had liberated the “Tech” from the “Church” (I would not have dared even think of it as a “cult” back then).
I came to know Cyril relatively well. He was a charming, articulate man with an impish and intelligent sense of humour. I will never forget his response to my first missive. He did not think that the “Tech” could survive outside the “fascist” environment of the “Church.” That gave me pause for thought, because I had to agree that Scientology is not in the least bit democratic. It is an authoritarian belief system governed by a paramilitary group, after all.
Every belief system has a context. While Christianity was imposed on populations, on pain of death, thinking was stifled. This is a negative reflection on those who used Christianity to control people, not upon the tenets of that faith. In the context of the Church, it was considered righteous to burn disbelievers alive. Scientific inquiry and personal hygiene were off the agenda.
Is it possible to extract a belief system from Scientology, without generating a monstrous organization? Will the Independents turn into mini-Churches as they grow in followers and funds? Is there any context in which Scientology could be helpful to the world?
It is fairly well known by now that I disbelieve in Scientology. Although I am hesitant about certain of its practices, I would not ban any of its beliefs, and, yes, when consulted by the Hamburg government, I told them I opposed any ban.
I’ve seen victims of the Purification Rundown and am aware of a number of deaths associated with it. The first two were on the very first Purif at Saint Hill. I also knew an intelligent and articulate martial arts black belt who came back in a wheelchair, barely able to articulate a thought.
Dr. Angela Harris gave a matter-of-fact and conclusive presentation about the potential harms of the Purification Rundown at the Getting Clear seminar in Toronto last June. I agree thoroughly with her analysis: The Purif is based upon untested speculation and has no rational or scientific basis.
I have also had to help with acute psychosis brought on by OT III, so I feel that this practice should be restricted. Still, I have long criticized the attempts to ban Scientology, such as in Australia in the mid 60s. If there is a particular practice that is dangerous, it should be restricted, once clear evidence has been shown. Banning a group is not the way to go.
Although I do not want to ban Scientology, I do want to encourage those affected by it to discuss it. Not simply their “wins,” but the actual principles that they have come to believe. I aver that if you take any element of Scientology away from the context of Scientology, it will dissolve in a miasma.
Over 20 years ago, I analyzed Hubbard’s own statements in Never Believe a Hypnotist; Hubbard leaves no doubt that his processes are hypnotic in effect. Indeed, Scientology is nothing more than a series of hypnotic procedures that cause euphoria and heighten the willingness to believe. We became addicted to it, because it made us high. Our “reality” is measured against Hubbard’s tenets rather than the real world – where claims have to be justified with evidence.
If you collected all the cognitions from every auditing session there ever was, you wouldn’t have enough to make a single decent revelation, because those “cognitions” do not add up to a theory of relativity, an engineered bridge across an imaginary abyss, or even a mess of pottage; it remains simply a mess.
The most common cognition is “Ron was right….” In the context of Scientology, this is a supporting strut, but the truth is that Ron said we should be self-determined, and agreement with Ron is in flagrant conflict with this fundamental principle. What if you saw the world differently, uniquely, in your own way, rather than in the self-framing world of Scientology?
What if Scientology is simply a Matrix? A trip into the mind of a solipsistic narcissist? What if the elaborate map of reality laid out by Hubbard is nothing more than a map? But a map of a country that has no existence beyond the barriers of Hubbard’s imagination?
My jaw dropped when I read the text of a Hubbard lecture in an Advance! magazine, many years ago. I was a true believer, but I feared that Hubbard was making an admission when he relayed Lord Dunsany’s story about the last day of a monastery that had lasted for a thousand years. The end of the monastery had been predicted, so a young man from the village was able to walk past the weeping guards and through room after room until he reached the Holy of Holies, where the force that maintained the monastery’s power was kept. The Holy of Holies was empty. Hubbard was surely pulling our legs, because, yes, the Holy of Holies – OT VIII – does not lead to being “at cause over physical matter, energy , space and time,” as Hubbard promised, but more likely to fiscal and intellectual bankruptcy.
If any of the claims were true – the amazing powers of the Clear, guaranteed after over 270 successful cases, according to Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950; the ability to “operate” as a “thetan exterior” and cause changes in matter, energy, space and time, by willpower alone; or any of the lesser stages – super-literacy, the recovery of lost education, release from the “hostilities and sufferings of life,” the ability to recognize the source of problems and make them disappear, the ability to communicate with anyone on any subject – if any one of these claims were true, then Scientology would be justified, but these states exist only in the pretend world of Scientology. Scientologists are notoriously unable to communicate either about any subject or to anyone they choose.
Not one of the 270 pre-Dianetics Clears ever materialised. There was no one who had genius IQ, perfect “glowing” health, perfect eyesight, perfect recall of every moment lived, or resistance to disease (including the common cold and bacterial infection).
Every one of these promises was made by a charlatan, who knew them to be untrue. His only virtue is that he wished they were true, and kept working to try and liberate himself from his addictions, his temper tantrums, his “terror stomach,” his poor eyesight, his asthma, his deep and frequent depression, his paranoia and his loathsome behavior towards those who loved him.
Take away the organization, the ardent belief in Ron, the hypnotic euphoria induced so deliberately (yes, Never Believe a Hypnotist again) and what remains? A club where people agree on new definitions for superhumanity and can shun anyone who disagrees? Just today, I received a message from an intelligent chap who asked why he should take notice of someone who “bashes” Scientology.
This rather frames the debate for many who are involved with dangerous ideas: Why should I listen to people who disagree with me? But let me point to a neglected piece of Hubbard wisdom. In the back of Science of Survival, there is a glossary featuring the term “gradient scales,” which is illustrated with a chart headed “evolution of logic.” It lists single-valued logic – the Will of God; two-valued logic – right or wrong; three valued logic – right, wrong or maybe; and infinity-valued logic.
I think these notions derive from Korzybski (one of the 23 men “without whose speculations and observations the creation and construction of Dianetics would not have been possible,” according to Hubbard in Science of Survival). It pains me to point out that this appears to be the last mention of infinity-valued logic in the huge corpus of Hubbard material, and that Scientology is actually based upon single-valued logic: The Will of Ron.
I fear that at some point in the future, a refined version of Scientology might be extremely dangerous. It seems likely that at least one Independent group will follow the heavy ethics route. The rationale is simple: If ethics is out, tech doesn’t work; tech is not working (let’s face it, no Clears or OTs so far), therefore heavy ethics is needed. These people will have their own response to Scientology-bashing (a/k/a free speech), and I imagine it will also follow Hubbard’s directive in Science of Survival that those who are “below 2.0 on the Tone Scale” should have no rights whatsoever. By that time, I hope to have reincarnated on a planet in a galaxy far, far away.
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