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Jon Atack: How Scientology’s methods of manipulation stay with you after you leave

Jon_AtackJon 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 a year on Saturdays he helped 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. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

We’re fortunate to have two pieces this week from you, Jon. On Thursday, you told us about L. Ron Hubbard’s theory that life was a game, with him controlling the pieces. Today, you’re talking again about leaving Scientology and recovering from it. Help us understand why it is ex-Scientologists have a hard time leaving the church behind.

JON: To keep the follower trapped in the mindset of the group, it is necessary to erect fences, so that they will not stray. In most groups these fences melt away once the rituals of the group are abandoned. The Krishna stops chanting all day long. The TMer stops repeating the “secret” demonic name, ceaselessly. Away from the rallies and the group euphoria, people come down from the high and integrate back into reality and the mundane. Not so with Scientologists. Scientology is self-reinforcing. We keep on “confronting” with our TRs “in,” and we try to inflict the petty, endless rules of L. Ron Hubbard on all who are around. Until we don’t, which usually takes some intervention on the part of reality (or from me and others of my independently-minded ilk).

Hubbard devised a set of tricks that reinforce the beliefs he so carefully implanted into us. Krishnas are made phobic of the world with talk of “deadly demons.” Moonies are taught that lapsed members are devils, and that your family is destined to destruction if you abandon belief in the True Messiah. Hubbard replaced these traditional views by borrowing from psychiatry. He grabbed hold of Hervey Cleckley’s work — including the psychiatric designation “anti-social personality disorder” — and induced phobia about “Suppressive People.” These people are so toxic that your life will collapse in ruins if you even talk to them. And none of the tools of the Tech will save you. You will never be OT enough to overcome the SP. They will always leave you quivering.

My own response to sociopaths is skepticism and derision. I don’t feel in the least harmed by rudeness. I feel sorry for people who do not know how to communicate in a friendly and encouraging way. Their criticism does not reduce me to tears or self-doubt. But, then, I am now a grown up. Hubbard, on the other hand taught that evil lurks around every corner, and will consume you at a moment’s notice and in a single bite. The world outside the cult must be perceived as hopelessly dangerous, and the member reduced to childlike dependence. Such is the power of phobia induction.

As with all other mechanisms of control, this technique is found throughout society. Identification with nation — that bane of 19th century thinking — leads people to believe that communists or capitalists — or ‘ists’ of whatever variety — are intent on destroying their world. This is convenient for the masters of war who rule us, but, actually, most of us are only intent on putting food on the table, spending time at the game, watching TV, catching a movie or playing with our kids. Hubbard focused this phobic induction and ringed it round with danger signs. That little fish in the brackish water, which he told us about in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, has become thee and me — terrified that a predator lurks in the shadows.


Disgust is a significant element of manipulation. The Nazis taught Germany that Jews and Romanies were “fleas” or “rats” — vermin to be casually exterminated. It is almost beyond belief that German doctors joined in the T4 Program and murdered 270,000 of their own patients, at the behest of the Party. But they did. Indeed, among the professions, medical doctors were the most ardent Nazis, with 45 percent of them joining the Party.

Hubbard’s vermin were squirrels. Hubbard also compared “squirrels” to lice: “There’s nothing personal in having squirrels. Even heroes can have lice.” (HCOB Signs of Success). Squirrels are to be “ruined utterly,” according to his 1955 dictum, in The Scientologist. By the 60s, he was demanding that defectors be murdered — using R2-45 — on the front page of The Auditor. The Fair Game law has been an essential (if no longer spoken) part of the “scripture” since 1965. In-house jokes about the “psychs” abound in his lectures.

This last is a fascinating piece of phobia induction. “Psychs” are not only psychiatrists — whose practice is with the mentally unwell — but also psychologists, who study all areas of the mind, and psychotherapists, who try to help those who are struggling. In Hubbard’s “reality,” all “psychs” are in conspiracy to dominate the universe, using scent to “restimulate” us all. If you can ever find any two practitioners in these fields who agree about anything, let me know. So much for the grand “conspiracy.”

While most Scientologists, thankfully, do not need psychiatric intervention — even though a summary of their beliefs will generally lead to a diagnosis of “paranoid delusion” — they are also immunized against the sensible and experimentally demonstrated theories of psychology and against any therapeutic assistance, after cult involvement. This cuts us off from any help, out in the real world. Sadly, most therapists have no idea where to begin in undoing this tangle.

A chap once told me that you know someone has left the cult if they’ll smoke a joint with you. But, you’ll have to forgive me, I don’t smoke. You actually know that you are on the road to recovery when you dare to read a book about the brain. I had the good fortune to share my recovery with a very clever chap named Mitch Beedie, who revelled in breaking the taboos. I started it, by deciding to talk to the SPs. I found that Ron Hopkins, Jay Hurwitz, and Cyril Vosper, far from being slavering monsters from the pit of Hell, were actually considerate and compassionate people (Captain Bill was a little odd, however, but very well meaning).

Mitch grabbed a copy of Oliver Sacks’ marvelous The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and passed it on to me. I realized that I was self-determined enough to read any book and make my own mind up. And there was no doubt that the afflictions described in Sacks’ book were linked to the destruction of specific areas of the brain, because the same damage causes the same affliction.

I learned about people who can only perceive the left side of their world (I had the pleasure of meeting a lady who recovered from this condition, only last week), or believe that their friends and relatives have been replaced by clones. In Korsakov’s syndrome, induced by vitamin B deficiency brought on by chronic alcoholism, sufferers can make no new memories, and spend a lifetime where everything before a certain day is lost to them. If you leave them for five minutes and re-enter the room, they won’t recognise you. They do recognise people from their former life, but cannot understand the years that have been added on since their memory failed. They are still 25, but their brother is now 60. This puzzles them, every time they see the brother.

Hubbard would have us believe that the brain is just a switching exchange between the “thetan” (satan, but with a lisp, as I insistently point out) and the body. Thetans carry a couple of ounces of “mental image pictures” around with them, from life to life. And that, along with a big helping of body satans, is all there is. He had no cures for the many brain afflictions and aphasias, other than sending the sufferer to Coventry until they snapped out of it, but he had only scorn for anyone who thought the brain a wonderful and vital organ, and the most marvelous development in all of evolution. Hubbard was kind of like the flatworlders, who refuse to believe that anyone could ever sail around the world.

These are all fear inductions. Ways of fencing you in, so that you won’t deign to think, because, after all, thought is a low tone activity. Much lower than following Ron’s commands. You don’t have to smoke dope to leave Scientology, or take up any of the other behaviors generally associated with college, but there is a tremendous liberation in making up your own mind. I recommend it, heartily. I also highly recommend V.S. Ramachandran’s wonderful Phantoms in the Brain, for any who suddenly feel brave enough to confront the reality of the brain.


Scientology is going to save Flint!

The UAW couldn’t do it. Michael Moore couldn’t do it. But L. Ron Hubbard and his little booklet of great original thought, with gems such as “Try Not to Do Things To Others That You Would Not Like Them To Do To You,” could be the answer to Flint, Michigan’s troubles!

Just the other day we told you about the background to Hubbard’s pamphlet, The Way to Happiness, born during a time when Scientology needed some decent PR after years of FBI raids and prosecutions, and how ever since the church has handed them out by the truckload as if they were the solution to mankind’s ills.

Well, Flint, good luck with that.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 23, 2014 at 08:30

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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, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

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, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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