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.
It is difficult to accept that you’ve been following orders from a guy behind a curtain with a megaphone. Better to make up any excuse than accept the Wizard as he really is and own the embarrassment. How was it that we became dependent when we had been promised “self-determinism”?
We are assured that through the strict application of “standard technology,” followers will become progressively more “self-determined.” Once this is achieved, they will seek to become “pan-determined,” but before entering this bodhisattva-state of compassion for all beings, “self-determinism” must be attained.
This is the heart of Scientology: if you don’t become more self-determined during your involvement, then Scientology has not worked for you – or you’ve been subjected to “out tech” in Hubbard’s justification for the usual failures. Either way, it’s time to quit. If you are losing “self-determinism,” then you should run as quick as quick can in the opposite direction.
Let’s forage among the many definitions of “self-determinism” in the Lexicon Hubbardicon (OK, the Tech Dictionary):
Self-determined gives us: “One can only be self-determined when one can observe the actual situation before one; otherwise a being is delusion-determined or other-determined.”
Sometimes there are spooky inferences in the “scriptures” of Scientology: “Only,” “actual situation,” “delusion-determined,” or in the case of the Scientologist “other-determined” (I’ve long called it “Ron-determined”).
I can certainly fit “delusion-determined” to the clam story of evolution, the Piltdown Man (Hubbard was the last to give credence to that hoax), life on Venus, or even those little gold discs in front of our eyes through which we allegedly see (darn it, where have all my anchor points gone?).
Moving on swiftly, “self-determinism” has a full-scale ramble of ten definitions in the Technical Lexicon, and I frankly grew bored (though neither “dizzy” nor “spinny”) while reading them, and I’m certainly not going to spend any time typing them all in, but I think we can leave the first on the shelf: “The ability to locate in space and time, energy and matter [yep, think I’ve managed that]; also the ability to create space and time in which to create and locate energy and matter [not met anyone who can do that, so far, and I do keep asking].”
Definition three is more fruitful: “Self-determinism is that state of being where in [sic] the individual can or cannot be controlled by his environment according to his own choice. In that state, the individual has confidence in his control of the material universe and the organisms within in along every dynamic.”
Oh, well, maybe not. How about definition nine: “A condition of determining the actions of self.” (He goes on to say how selfish this is). No, my favourite, for the purposes of this aimful stroll, and well worth waiting for, is the ultimate – number 10: “Self-determinism meant, in essence, control by the awareness of awareness unit [a/k/a “thetan”] of that which it conceived to be its identity.”
Now, this is in the past tense, which is a little unsettling – as if written for some future time (perhaps soon) when self-determinism will be a thing of the past, but “that which it conceived to be its identity” was under the control of the individual, and when that happened, it was called “self-determism.”
What precisely is the identity of a Scientologist and who defined it? Usually not the Scientologist, in my considerable experience, but the Founder.
The self-determined person would think for her or himself, make decisions based upon the best evidence, and not be swayed by obedience to other people’s rules, but be capable of making rules (and living by them!).
Indeed, the self-determined person would be the Tone 4, would be the Clear, as originally promoted as a done deal in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950 (273 cases, remember?). Or, after 1967, the self-determined person would be the OT III completion – having crossed the Wall of Fire (or traversed the Forest of Body Thetans), the individual would finally be alone in her or his own head.
Ah, the peace of solitude! Until OT V (NOTS), and then VI and VII (SNOTS) where new ways of playing with your own internal demons are revealed. At each of these stages, the individual is breaking the chains of conformity and becoming a unique, authentic, and totally free being, who can, yes, think for herself or himself.
Does this happen in Scientology? Do people come up with ever more different and wonderful ideas? Not really possible, because you can’t have any idea that disagrees with a tenet of Scientology. And Scientology has more tenets than you can shake a stick at – it is positively tenet-bound. Hubbard laid down thousands of little rules.
Hubbard also segregated those rules clearly – in What is Greatness (broad public issue) he booms that we must forgive all offenses against us and persevere on the high road: “The hardest task one can have is to continue to love one’s fellows despite all reasons he should not … A primary trap is to succumb to invitations to hate.”
In Attacks on Scientology – written a few days earlier and with restricted distribution (top secret sacred scripture) – he wrote:
1. Spot who is attacking us.
2. Start investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
3. Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
4. Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime [sic] actual evidence on the attackers to the press. [elsewhere he said, “find or manufacture”].
Actually, even What is Greatness reveals the true nature of Hubbard’s version of compassion: “There are those who appoint one their executioners. Sometimes for the sake of the safety of others, it is necessary to act, but it is not necessary also to hate them.” Which is nice for the victims of the executioner – at least they’ll have been murdered kindly and without malice.
In terms of the much-vaunted self-determinism, the Sea Org contract has long bothered me. The very first commitment of the Sea Org member is this: “I promise to uphold, forward and carry out Command Intention.” How can that possibly tally with “self-determinism”? The routine defense is that SO members are “pan-determined” – which is to say “acting for the benefit of all,” but if they do not have self-determinism – or at least some say in their life conditions – then they cannot be pan-determined. They are, as Hubbard says, “delusion-determined” or “other determined.” And they renounce self-determinism for not one, not ten, not a hundred, nor even a million but a thousand billion years – which by my reckoning is more than 70 times the duration of our universe (and, yes, I’d rather believe the measure of the background radiation of the Big Bang over Hubbard’s guess).
That idea of compliance with the Source may feel comfortable to a determined Dev-OT, but the truth is far more comfortable. When I left, I gradually found that it was safe and liberating to change my mind – to disagree capriciously about anything without rancor or disdain, just for the hell of testing ideas. This traditional Buddhist method is far more comfortable than the spinny, dizzy confusion of believing a pair of Hubbard contradictions simultaneously: Self-determinism = doing what Ron says!
The terminal argument concerns the god-ploy, which I pointed out in 1990 is the “end phenomenon” of Scientology. The purpose of Scientology is to elevate Hubbard to godhood. Even Mark Rathbun agrees with me on that one, though he may not have had the next “cognition” on the Bridge to Total Freedom: The true purpose of auditing is to reveal Hubbard as the Source of the Universe, so that he can be properly venerated.
Hubbard stated his goal most explicitly in a 1938 letter to his first wife (a letter copyrighted to Hubbard, lest there be any concern about its authenticity): “Personal immortality is only to be gained through the printed word, barred note or painted canvas or hard grabite [sic]. Foolishly perhaps, but determined none the less, I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so violently that it will take a legendary form even if all the books are destroyed. That goal is the real goal as far as I am concerned.” (My spine tingled the first time I read that 1938 letter – as authenticated by Author Services Inc).
I had not heard of the notorious OT VIII “I am Lucifer” bulletin when I figured it out – I learned the “End Phenomena” of the almost forgotten breakthrough of 1965, the “Power processes,” and reckoned that the use of the word “source” (sorry, “Source”) was as deliberate as all of those other words, like “process” and “indoctrinate” (!). He wasn’t just talking about Scientology, but, well, take a deep breath here: He wanted his Dev-OTs to believe he was the Source of the universe (sorry, Universe!).
OT VIII confirmed this – Hubbard is the demiurge (oh, all right, “Creator God”), as well as being Lucifer – and it is written into the “scripture” that around 1965, Hubbard realized that no one had made any significant contributions to Scientology but his extraordinarily good self (despite all the “doctorates” he’d handed out for significant contributions, and the lists of lauded precursors in Science of Survival and Scientology 8-8008).
Hubbard had become the only person in 50,000 years to have contributed to the science of mind or spirit, or so he claimed. And he would forever and for always be the only”‘thetan” capable of perceiving the workings of other thetans to the degree where they could be fixed up and sent out to “make more money” (the Governing Policy of Scientology).
As L. Ron Hubbard Jr. put it, after seven years of devoted service to his father, Hubbard senior was a god maker, which is surely a higher status than a god.
Hubbard will always be superior to we mere immortals – we will never be able to advance to his level. Which is to say, there is only one self-determined being in the universe, and if you want a really subtle twist, go and read (or watch) One Was Stubborn, an old time Hubbard story about the only man in the universe who refuses to agree. As he said, the game-maker doesn’t have to follow the rules, just make them for those trapped in his game.
Only Hubbard can be self-determined in the Scientology belief system. We are his inferiors, as he so often boasted (“how I came to rise above the bank…”). Or we can walk away from Scientology, dust off the tenets, carefully examine them, discuss them, and even think about them (yep, “verbal tech” and “thinking” – two forbidden practices in Scientology. “Looking” is better than “thinking” which is just “figure-figure” anyway, at least according the Source).
The tenacity with which some hold on to the rules of the self-proclaimed game maker is simply staggering. There is no doubt that Hubbard usually exaggerated both his history and his successes, and his endless contradictions prove that he was ever ready to lie (“honesty is sanity,” as he assured us).
There has never been a “Clear” – “phenomenal intelligence,” perfect memory, unremitting enthusiasm, immunity to every disease or accident, let alone an “OT”: “At cause over physical matter, energy, space and time.” Communications “releases” often have significant problems communicating; Problems “releases” have problems, well, with problems (far from uncovering their source and “as-ising” them out of existence).
Scientology doesn’t achieve what it absolutely guarantees on the tin (“we always deliver what we promise”) – it just provides boosts of the traditional faith-healing adrenaline and opioid mixture, and gets you high and pain free for about three days (when potential trouble sourceness sets in on the “rolly coaster” of Scientology).
The good news is that you can break free from the circular reasoning of Ronald Hubbard and regain your self-determinism. It may be a let-down to realize that you are no longer saving the world, but you may well be able to help your fellow-sufferers to escape from the total freedom trap, and that is worth so very much more!
— Jon Atack
Mark Bunker faces eviction
We’re still hoping that Mark ‘Wise Beard Man’ Bunker can finish up his documentary about Scientology. In the meantime, he’s run into some trouble where he lives in Clearwater, and has put out a call for a little help, if you’re so inclined.
John Duignan on the Sea Org and Ireland’s new national affairs office
Author of The Complex John Duignan has written a thoughtful essay about his personal experience with Scientology’s Sea Org and what it means for Ireland that Scientology has opened a new national affairs office in Dublin.
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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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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