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Jon Atack on Scientology’s methods of ‘thought stopping’

John_Stuart_MillJon 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.

Jon, you’ve been exploring numerous ways in which Scientology keeps its members cut off from the world around them. What do you have for us this week?

JON: “Thought stopping” is a fundamental technique of exploitative persuasion. Krishna monks, for instance, were taught to simply chant their Hare Krishna mantra loudly enough inside their heads to drown out any negative conversation. As with other aspects of exploitative persuasion, however, Scientology excels all other cults. Not only are a series of taboos put in place between the devotee and the world, but an Orwellian system prohibits reflection upon Scientology itself.

The taboos include the strange idea that any member of a profession with the prefix ‘psych’ is part of a conspiracy to rule the universe and destroy all hope for those within it. Anyone who has met psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists can see these people will never agree with either their own distinct profession or any of the others. There are hundreds of psychotherapies, from the warring analytical schools of Freud, Jung, and Adler to the tens of “humanist” therapies, existential, psychodrama, morita, person-centred and then the hypnotherapies, as well as schools like transactional analysis, which pretend not to be hypnotic, or the various dissenting schools of cognitive therapy. There is no agreement, so there can be no conspiracy, unless the tens of thousands involved in these professions all carefully maintain their animosity in public, while sitting down to entrap humanity with rose perfume behind the scenes, as Hubbard insisted in the Sea Org Hat.

In his vital list of thought reform methods, Robert Jay Lifton includes “ideology over experience.” In this phase of dissociation from reason, the individual puts aside actual experiences in favour of the thought reformer’s facile and often ridiculous claims. So, a gardener who has grown tomatoes for years on end is told by a cult leader that they grow best in sand and straw without fertiliser and will thereafter try to grow them in this impossible way, because the dogma insists that this is true. Never mind that the tomato plants never fruit. It is not because of the growing medium, but rather the fault of the previously successful gardener. Scientologists all too often simply accept what Hubbard criticised as “broad generalities” for no other reason than the belief that everything Hubbard says must be right.

Hubbard makes such belief very difficult by frequently contradicting himself, which, it turns out, is the best way to control people: give them conflicting information, and they will be paralysed and seek direction. Any Scientologist who believes in Hubbard’s infallibility need look no further than the False Data Stripping bulletin, where, despite the thrust of the bulletin, Hubbard claims that Socrates developed the syllogism, which is actually false data.


Scientologists will leap through hoops to avoid admitting the Founder wrong. When I pointed out to a course supervisor that the phrase ‘Some 14th century psychiatrists’ was a misprint for 19th century, he argued that it was a reference to Thomas Aquinas’ faculty psychology, rather than admit the obvious. He was no fool. He had a doctorate in physics and worked for NASA, but the thought that Hubbard was fallible was too hard for him to bear.

Hubbard himself urged people to check and test, but also introduced a series of measures to prevent such testing. The most potent of these is the injunction not to discuss the Technology, which is called “verbal tech.” The truth is that unless we have to articulate an idea, it often remains hazy, which becomes obvious if we are forced to articulate it. An excellent way of teaching ideas is to require that the student write them out or, better yet, deliver a presentation, as teachers usually know. It is only when you come to articulate complex ideas that you realize that you don’t fully understand them. Arguments that sound good on others’ lips can sound hollow on your own.

Add to verbal tech the injunction not to discuss your “case.” If you want to say anything about any bad feelings, you must pay for a “session,” and you cannot discuss the session itself, afterwards.

Criticism of Scientology or Hubbard is forbidden, once more limiting communication, although “more communication not less is the answer.” You are only encouraged to speak out so that you can tattle on others, in a knowledge report (a technique acquired from the Gestapo), and failure to do so carries the same penalty that the unreported person will receive.

In a subject that claims to be based upon communication, such limits are extraordinarily questionable, and lead to docile acceptance and furious defensiveness.

The great philosopher, John Stuart Mill, opposed the authoritarian regime of his time in his remarkable text On Liberty, published in 1859. Among the good advice that he offers is this, and I recommend it as an antidote to the restrictive thinking of Scientology:

“There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument; but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it. Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judgement is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct.”


Video Vault: Milestone One!

Our video source comes through again with another “quote video” made by Scientology to help sell L. Ron Hubbard’s wisdom. Enjoy “Milestone One”…


Once again we asked former International Base employee Marc Headley to tell us about this video’s production…

In this video we have an Int Base employee as the main actor. Tristan Korringa is the featured guy here. Tristan used to work in the International Landlord Office as computer draftsmen. The International Landlord Office was a bureau located in CMO International that is essentially in charge of all property and buildings for all of Scientology worldwide. I think Tristan at one point was promoted to the Int Landlord Officer and then as everyone at that place is eventually busted, he ended up in Golden Era Productions in the VFX department using his computer skills to build Ideal Orgs in the computer to do “fly through” visual effects videos. According to my latest intel, he remains in VFX to this day.

My favorite part of this video is the “walking across the desert” shots. We would drive about three hours from the Int Base to a place just outside Brawley, California for these types of shots. Imperial Sand Dunes is what the area is called and I am pretty sure it is the same place they shot parts of Return of the Jedi. I have the best video shoot story ever for this place. I actually ended up in the back of a real police car handcuffed, and that was not part of the video we were shooting! I so hope we get to that video some day so I can tell the story. Damn sand would get everywhere… Anyway, so Tristan walks over the sand dunes for an entire day and they got good 30 seconds of it into the video.

Then there are a bunch of stock shots of people walking in random cities all over the world. Near the end we have a bunch of B&W Int Base folks that just had to stand still for a few minutes and then for good measure they threw in some of those L Ron Hubbard writing with space as the background.

This was a short and sweet video shoot, maybe 3-4 days maximum. I would say the VFX shots for this video were the longest part of this production.

Thank you, Marc. And we hope we get to hear more about that arrest story!

And finally, Mark Bunker catches us up on what’s going on in Clearwater…



Here’s the original Clearwater injunction he refers to in the video, and his more recent motion to dissolve it. Also, watch Bunker as he addressed the city council about the injunction.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 8, 2014 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40


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