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How Scientology’s “Study Tech” Turns Schoolwork Into Conditioning

BSMClaire Headley is taking us on our journey to train as Scientologists. In 2005, Claire and her husband Marc escaped from Scientology’s International Base after many years as “Sea Org” workers. She spent years working with Scientology’s “tech,” and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Go here to see the first part in this series.

Claire, we’re glad you’re back after a little time off. Last time we were talking about overt and withholds. Where are you taking us next?

CLAIRE: Next up is the Basic Study Manual. It’s another beginning course and a person’s first introduction to “study tech.”

THE BUNKER: Well, that’s timely. We’ve noticed Hubbard’s “study tech” causing controversies recently in places like Phoenix, Arizona and Sweden where schools have been called out for using it. But let’s get to what you learned on your way up the Bridge. What are the basic concepts of study tech?

Up_The_BridgeCLAIRE: You learn the three barriers to study. 1. The misunderstood (or not understood) word, 2. Lack of mass and 3. The skipped gradient.

Ask any Scientologist, they’ll be able to tell you the three barriers to study.


In my case, because I later trained as a supervisor (ran a course room of students for several years at the Int base) I was also required to learn all the symptoms of each of these barriers to study verbatim.

Sad to say I haven’t been able to get those out of my head as yet.

This course is all about studying and learning what the barriers to study are, and then learning how to apply those when you study.

And it’s also at this point that you learn the only reason anyone would ever question Scientology, or want to leave and stop studying Scientology, is because they have misunderstood words. (In Scientology slang, “M.U.s”)

THE BUNKER: That’s an interesting bit of conditioning: the only reason why you would doubt Scientology is that you have misunderstood Scientology’s words. That’s sort of chillingly brilliant. But let’s drill down a bit so we understand these concepts. Let’s start with “mass.” How is it used in this context?

CLAIRE: Lack of mass is when you’re studying something but really have no idea of the “mass” or reality of what you’re studying. For example, if you were studying about trains but had never seen a train before, this would be an example of lack of mass.

In Scientology, lack of mass is remedied with clay demos (demonstrations) — For example, in the train scenario, you would make the train in clay.

Other remedies for lack of mass are demos made with a “demo kit” to work out ideas for yourself and how they apply to you. The demo kit is made up of miscellaneous small objects like paperclips, rocks etc.

Another remedy for lack of mass is to diagram what you’re studying about.

THE BUNKER: And learning on a gradient refers to moving at a proper pace, from one concept to another and not skipping levels.

CLAIRE: You learn study technology through all introductions to Scientology. This includes Applied Scholastics, Delphi, Criminon, Narconon etc.

THE BUNKER: We can see some value in creating a tactile display to help learn an idea, or to looking up words in a dictionary. But doesn’t Scientology take these ideas to rather silly ends? Looking up chains of simple words seems like it could be a huge waste of time. And telling a person they can’t encounter advanced ideas until they’ve properly accepted the proper gradient — is something else going on here, more about reinforcing of discipline, of breaking down a person to trust only in Scientology?

CLAIRE: Yes, I agree with you, it takes it to an extreme. And frankly, with the information now available through the Internet, there are many much more effective means of remedying lack of mass if you really think about it. But then again, God forbid that any Scientologist should ever have open access to the Internet!

And yes, in retrospect, for me personally I often felt intimidated by the steps required of me in Scientology training. Truly, at this point, the idea that “what’s true for you is what’s true” was out the window. If I didn’t agree with or understand any aspect of Scientology it now meant that I had misunderstood words.

This was the beginning of learning the truly “black and white” world of Scientology — “our way or the highway.”

And the other aspect I found daunting in regards to my studies at this point was that on demos, clay demos, drills, checkouts etc. you could be given a “flunk” at every turn. At least from my experience, this was the opposite of positive reinforcement. Instead you were constantly being interrogated on the meanings of words. When you do a clay demo, someone has to check it for you, and if they don’t see the idea represented in clay, it’s a flunk. You get the idea.

THE BUNKER: Sounds infuriating. Well, there are other very interesting concerns about the way study tech is less about learning and more about conditioning a student to accept Scientology concepts. Carnegie Mellon University professor Dave Touretzky has written fascinating material that breaks down the concepts of study tech. We highly recommend them for people who are curious about this material, especially if they’re educators concerned about Applied Scholastics moving in on their local district. One more thing Claire: what did you pay for this course?

CLAIRE: I believe cost of this course is $200 to $300 plus $75 for the course pack.



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