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Jon Atack on Scientology’s fundamental feature: the thousand-yard stare

StareJon 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 on Saturdays he’s 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.

Once again, Jon takes apart a bedrock concept of L. Ron Hubbard’s cabal. Take it away, Jon…

JON: Scientologists will correct you, should you suggest that in Training Routine 0 you stare. ‘No,’ you will be assured, ‘You confront.’ Taxed on the difference between ‘confronting’ and ‘staring’ little of use is forthcoming. The difference, it seems, is too subtle for words.

But, OK, let’s go with ‘confronting.’ By learning to ‘confront’ people, we improve our communication skills and find the best way of making people comfortable, during their ‘processing.’ At least these are the assumptions that underlie belief in the sense of ‘confronting.’

Do people really feel more at ease when ‘confronted’? How is it conducive to the therapeutic process? The military and police forces about the globe teach this ‘look them straight in the eye’ technique, and Ronald Hubbard may well have learned it in the US Navy. In India, during the Raj, in the nineteenth century, soldiers were instructed to ‘face down’ the ‘natives.’ Among animals this locked-on eye contact means only one thing: you are prey and I am about to eat you. And you can watch as certain animals fall under the spell of this dominant ‘confronting.’ It might be why rabbits are stunned by headlights.

While the TR-0 ‘confront’ may have an effect upon the ‘preclear,’ it also has an effect upon the person doing the confronting. Fixed eye contact, as anyone who has tried it can tell you, leads to hallucination in the vast majority of people. Just look fixedly at a wall for ten minutes, and you will see distortions and changing colours. Sit in the dark in silence, and you will hear movements. In both cases, the mind is slipping out of neutral and contributing to what is perceived. Very much as it does on a hallucinogenic trip, except that if you relax the locked gaze, the hallucinations will go away. Unless, of course, you learn how to keep the gaze locked, through hours and hours of practice.


ScientologyMythbustingLocked perception has long been used to enter altered states of mind. Repeated phrases, whether made by Wordsworth or Krishna devotees, will lead to excited states of mind, which many people believe to be blissful. Staring at a wall may ultimately lead to some buddhic breakthrough, but along the way there is much illusion. Hypnotists often direct the gaze as their only means of induction. They can move a person into obedient states with ease. With TR-0, the clever part is that not only does the ‘auditor’ often move the ‘preclear’ into a hypnoid state, but that the auditor, too, maintains a special state by staring (sorry, ‘confronting’).

Unlearning the stare — let’s call a stare a stare, here — took me six months. I have never felt like staring at anyone since. It makes you seem threatening to most people: domineering, overpowering. And it limits your perception of the environment, even, curiously, of the subject of your stare. And, oddly enough, confronting people shows them that you are confrontational and it certainly doesn’t put anyone at the ease, or make them willing to open up to you.

TR-0 makes a perfect trap for all concerned. Between them, auditor and preclear seek the ‘end phenomena’ of the ‘process.’ This will be a realization or ‘cognition’ (interesting redefinition there), ‘very good indicators’ — beaming — and with a ‘floating needle’ on the e-meter. Whether the needle floats on heroin or cocaine, I do not know, but it likely does. In other words, the person feels an intense positive emotional state, as dopamine and serotonin marinade the brain. It will be transitory, and will usually pass within hours. For many, the goal becomes achieving these carefree, euphoric moments, in the belief that they will somehow appreciate into knowledge or supernatural abilities. The entranced believer treks from stage to stage, lapping up the entirely false claims about the wonders ahead. But history tells us that Scientology doesn’t lead to success in any walk of life. It more usually leads to betrayal and bankruptcy. Time to lose the stare.


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 18, 2014 at 07:00

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