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Jon Atack: At the heart of Scientology is L. Ron Hubbard’s paralyzing use of contradiction

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 always enjoy it when Jon dives deep into the origins of Dianetics and Scientology to teach us more about L. Ron Hubbard and how he managed to capture the imaginations of people who came to believe that he had unlocked the secrets of the universe. Take us on another journey, Jon!

JON: After 40 years of involvement with the teachings of Ron Hubbard, I believe that the key to Scientology is paralysis through contradiction. Hubbard would very often contradict a statement, making it impossible to decide which statement to believe without further interpretation. He had stumbled on the law of cognitive dissonance, developed during the early 1950s, by Leon Festinger.

When presented with conflicting information, the mind boggles. When Professor Festinger was testing his hypothesis of cognitive dissonance, he sent graduate students into a flying saucer cult to see what members would do when the mothership failed to show. Curiously, the leader of the cult had a live-in Scientology auditor. As Festinger predicted, those who did not go to meet the mothership fell away, where as those who went strengthened their belief. Belief usually trumps evidence, as conversations with Scientologists have frequently proved.

For instance, when I showed a fervent member contradictions between Hubbard’s accounts, she immediately insisted that he occupied two bodies — so, while crippled and blinded in Oak Knoll Hospital, he was simultaneously beating up Petty Officers in Los Angeles. I pointed out that his own statements often supported his Navy records — for instance, his interview with Look magazine in 1950, where far from the heroic career he would later invent, Hubbard said he was in Oak Knoll suffering from “ulcers, conjunctivitis, deteriorating eyesight, bursitis and something wrong with my feet.” The fervent believer insisted that Hubbard had been a wounded war hero. By then, I had sifted through thousands of pages of Navy and Veterans Administration records and over 20 usually conflicting Hubbard autobiographies, so I asked how she knew. “I was with him,” she explained. In her last life. It is hard to relinquish a belief, no matter how strong the evidence against it.

I’m happy to say that this former executive changed her tune, a year or two later, but she exemplified cognitive dissonance: The unease we feel when our mental map of the world is challenged. Hubbard was able to create dissonance through contradiction.


Unlike the Buddhists, who see four corners to every argument, Hubbard reduced everything to the “two terminal universe.” This notion reached its apogee with the “goals problems mass” — one of the half dozen or so notions that he reworked (and often renamed) from the early Fifties onwards. These GPMs form the core of the “R6 Bank” formerly known as the Reactive Mind. Once the “Bridge” was formulated, they were the material on Grade 6, the Clearing Course, the original OT I and OT II.

Such polarisation had earlier been criticised by Hubbard in Science of Survival, where he briefly spoke of Korzybski’s “infinity valued logic,” showing that polarisation — or black and white thinking — is overly simplistic. I am not aware of any further reference to this sensible concept in the voluminous Hubbard literature.

Two terminals, according to Hubbard, will generate “charge,” a term conveniently borrowed from Freud’s English translator to mean “emotional upset” as well as its more conventional electrical meaning. Here is the clue: by creating such “charge” out of conflicting ideas, you can trap the individual. You have to keep creating new “charge” to displace old, and Scientology is geared to do this.

Hubbard was probably aware of a popular idea in psychiatry (having absolutely scared his followers out of reading psychiatric literature, he was free to plunder it, after all). It provides more than a clue to Scientology. The “schizogenic double bind” was put forward by Gregory Bateson and his co-workers while working in a Veterans’ Administration hospital (something like Oak Knoll, where Hubbard claimed to have put on a white coat, so that he could sneak into the library and read the psychiatric textbooks). There is no overlap with Hubbard’s stay as a patient, as Bateson began working in the VA hospital in 1949, but his ideas were widely reported.

Bateson believed that schizophrenia might be caused by a family environment of conflicting emotions and instructions. In the simplest terms, a parent might tell the child he was loved and then hit him (“I’m doing this for your own good, because I love you”). While the notion that this causes madness is not supported by evidence, it can cause indecision and inaction. I recommend looking at the wiki on this subject (to save me the trouble of copying it in here).

The Goals Problems Masses of which the Reactive Mind is supposedly constructed are double binds (“to be or not to be”), but so is much of Scientology. Hubbard can contradict himself in a single text. See for instance Ron’s Journal 67, where he says it is not worth bothering with the dogs that yap at the wheels of the fire engine, and goes on to say that Mary Sue has hired “professional intelligence agents” to find information about at least two of those dogs — the British Prime Minister and press baron Cecil King.

When I pulled together the research for “Never Believe A Hypnotist,” I was frankly stunned by the amount of contradiction about the use of hypnosis in Dianetics and Scientology. I strenuously recommend that anyone with the slightest interest in the subject reads this paper, but here is a paragraph as a taster for the conflict generated by Hubbard: “Hubbard’s own claims become confusing, because they contain so much contradiction. Hubbard called hypnotism ‘an excellent research tool in Dianetics’ (Research & Discovery, first edition, volume 1, p.332; see also D:MSMH, p.385). He was also to say that he ‘used an awful lot of hypnotism in early research’(Methods of Research — the Thetan as an Energy Unit, Hubbard lecture, 6 November 1952). This conflicts with his assertion that the investigation which led to the discovery of Dianetics ‘was not approached through hypnotism’, adding, however, ‘and hypnotism is just another tool, a tool which is of only occasional use in the practice of dianetics’ (D:MSMH, p.58).

I often overheard discussions between staff about which policy to use: Do we always repay or never repay, for instance. In the Solo Pack there are two bulletins, face to face, where Hubbard instructs that the tone arm must be between 2.0 and 3.5 for a “floating needle” to be called, and then rails against the “idiot” who gave this instruction. The book Scientology 8-8008 flatly contradicts the bulletin “Obnosis and the Tone Scale.” One insists that the “chronic tone” is always “below death.” The other does not. Against the instruction of policy, the more recent issue was almost always followed.

And there are also many “absolute statements” — “absolutes are unobtainable” being one of them. For instance, we are told that the “only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused” is the misunderstood word. But we later find that it can also be “too steep a gradient” or even “suppressive rendition.”

Perhaps the fundamental contradiction comes with the repeated assertion that communication is the basis of Scientology — the great discovery. So, we have, “more communication not less is the answer” as opposed to disconnection, verbal tech, and not talking about “case” (or “problems” for those uninitiated in the profoundly loaded language of Scientology). At Grade 0 release, we shall be able to “communicate freely with anyone on any subject,” but as all Dev-OTs know, we must never communicate with Suppressive People, because they will eat us for breakfast, like the frightened little souls Ron Hubbard had turned us into.

My old friend, George Shaw, reminds me that What is Greatness and the vile HCO Manual of Justice were written back to back. As were the four policy letters called “Attacks on Scientology.” In What is Greatness, we are assured that we must “refuse all invitations to hate.” In the Manual, how to hate is explained in fine detail. The same is true for the four policy letters. The one for broad public distribution tells us simply to “advocate total freedom,” the other three, with ever more limited circulation, tell us how to destroy enemies: “Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime [sic] actual evidence on the attackers to the press.” Another tells us to “investigate noisily the attackers.” The Guardian’s Office was formed just a few weeks later to make it so, and many of us know just how effectively they performed their tasks of hate.

In the face of such contradiction, cognitive dissonance sets in and the follower has to ask for instruction from the authority figure. Which is always the next person up the command chain.

It is not my purpose to list such contradictions here — life is too short — but I’d be grateful if others would, because it is a key to understanding the trap. My thanks are again due to mockingbird for encouraging this investigation, as it has progressed. I believe that he too will soon be making comment. The more the merrier, I say. Scientology requires that there be only one person allowed to do the thinking. I believe in self-determinism.


PatronLaureateFlip or Flop: Richie Acunto’s trophies go for $1K to $3.5K

On Saturday we told you about the rise and fall of insurance mogul Richie Acunto, whose business empire collapsed after he made a $9 to $10 million donation to the Church of Scientology in 2008. By 2011 he and his companies were bankrupt. And then on November 13, some of the trophies he was awarded by Scientology leader David Miscavige for donating huge amounts to the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) showed up on eBay after they were found in a storage unit auction.

Last night, those auctions ended, and the trophies went for some pretty hefty amounts:

“Silver Meritorious” (for cumulative donations of $750,000) — $1,025.00
“Platinum Meritorious” (for $2.5 million in donations) — $1,352.98
“Diamond Meritorious” (for $5 million in donations) — $3,550.00
“Patron Laureate” (pictured, for $10 million in donations) — $2,247.22

The Platinum, Diamond, and Patron Laureate trophies were all purchased by the same winner, who swooped in at the very last minute — the sign of an experienced eBay trader. And sure enough, within hours, the winner had already placed the Platinum Meritorious trophy back on auction, asking a starting bid of $5,000.

Many of our commenters assumed that the church itself would snap these up to save itself embarrassment. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but is this flipper banking on the church eventually forking over money to take them off the market?

Former church member Karen de la Carriere tells us she doesn’t think that will happen. “The more this drags on at eBay, the more embarrassing it is for the church, but they will not buy it back. They just won’t. It is not what money allocation is permitted to buy,” she says.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 24, 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, 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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