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Jon Atack: Auditing and recovered memory — why do Scientologists accept it as fact?

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.

Jon surprised us with yet another piece, and once again we are so glad he did. One of the things about Scientology that’s rarely discussed (because Scientologists are under strict instructions not to talk about it) are their “memories” of past life events.

Even former Scientologists, we’ve found, have been somewhat reluctant to discuss what they “remembered” under Scientology auditing. Jon dives into this, discussing what he thinks is really going on. We think you’ll find his thoughts fascinating.

JON: A few weeks ago, I was talking with a charming woman about her practice of “Ascension.” She told me that her aim was to escape the “mind.” I remarked that if she managed to do this, she would no longer be able to watch the favorite TV soaps she’d mentioned, because she would remember nothing of the plot or even who the characters were.

The mind can be very useful, though this clearly demonstrates that I’m fairly mindless. If I’d kept my mouth shut, we might have gone out on a date.

It has long since been demonstrated that memory is not video tape (or a recordable DVD, for that matter). In one experiment, people wrote down their significant life events, and after 15 years were asked to repeat the exercise, but without access to their original accounts. Not one memory was remembered in the same way. Not one.


Multiple drafts theory points out that whenever we recall a memory, we will make a memory of recalling that memory. Details change with each retelling. It isn’t just that the fish you caught doubles in size, all sorts of details can change.

Memory and fantasy are viewed on the same screen. The sense of certainty that we feel in dreams can leak into reality. We can begin to believe that our fantasies are real. In particular, we remember the emotions we felt and are easily tempted into exaggerating events to fit those emotions: Our opponent was bigger and more vicious; our own errors and misjudgements diminish in size. This is the “fundamental attribution error” (yet another verbal demonstration of the problems psychologists often have with language).

Enter into this normal process of self-inflation any sort of memory therapy. While the Auditor’s Code demands that we should “never evaluate for the preclear,” the truth is that all of the books and lectures of Scientology are evaluation. Even putting aside the extremes of OT III — where the “time, place, form and event” are all graphically “evaluated” — before receiving Book One Dianetic auditing, you will have learned about engrams, secondaries and locks; about chains, charge, basics and the permanently elusive “basic-basic” (though the idea in OT VIII that Hubbard created the universe clearly shifts all blame to him, or is that “cognition” OT IX?). You will also have heard about valence and the mysterious “file-clerk” that lurks in the brain (in Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health we were still allowed to have brains. They were banned a couple of years later).

Equipped with so much evaluation, the “preclear” or “pre-OT” knows exactly what to look for. I had a preclear who learned the grade chart “end phenomena” statements and parroted them about ten minutes into the first process, for each level. When I complained to the case supervisor about this, I was shown a Hubbard bulletin saying that we must allow people to attest. It later transpired that my preclear had faked her statistics from the moment she took up her post.

So, given a copy of Have You Lived Before This Life? and Scientology: A History of Man, and armed with hours of Hubbard’s “space opera” stories, what will preclears find in their auditing?

I often suspected my preclears’ fantastic memories of trillion-year-old space battles, because I knew that several of them could not have told me what they’d had for breakfast the day before. I met famous artists, great generals and even Judas Iscariot in the auditing sessions I gave. And more space pilots than you can fit in a death star (or a DC 8).

My own past life memories were every bit as colorful, and, now, are every bit as embarrassing (no, I’m not telling). After leaving the cult, I came across the work of Elizabeth Loftus, and read Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watter’s Making Monsters. I found that a regular industry had been made out of repressed memory recovery.

Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear, also wrote a book about Paul Ingram, who pled guilty to hundreds of accusations made by his daughters. Ofshe showed how easily Ingram accepted such accusations, by asking his son to make one up. As a devout Christian, Ingram was sure that his children would not lie, even though he had no recollection of any of these events. Ofshe was unable to persuade the judge, because Ingram had entered a guilty plea. Ingram served prison time.

The scandal of repressed memory theory erupted in the 1990s, with thousands of thirty-somethings accusing their parents of despicable childhood abuse. However, the vast majority of these accusers had spent a long time — often years — being encouraged to “discover” such memories by their “therapists.”

The battle raged in the American Psychological Association. The late, great Professor Margaret Singer was undermined as an expert witness, precisely because she agreed with Elizabeth Loftus’s careful work, which shows just how easy it is to create a false memory. Loftus has been exposed to harassment that sounds like the Guardian’s Office of Special Affairs, because so many APA members have relied upon repressed memory therapy for their livelihood and their status in the community.

It does not need to take years to implant a memory. English mentalist, Derren Brown, was able to persuade a man that he had enjoyed a wonderful experience in a hot air balloon. It took a matter of minutes to convince him of this entirely false memory.

In a Dianetic or Scientology session, you are prompted to find earlier incidents, with the readily evaluated belief in “past lives.” You can lead a horse to water, and, in this case, you can usually make him drink. A friend of mine was talked out of Scientology by his psychologist girlfriend. She offered to receive auditing to see if it worked (actually, a case you shouldn’t audit, according to Hubbard, but it was nothing to do with me). In her first session, asked to just say whatever came into her head (which, let’s face it is about the usual approach), she had the distinct feeling that she was a fish in a bowl. She accepted that this was a “past life” memory, though how can it possibly be differentiated from a waking dream? Or reverie as both Hubbard and other hypnotists have long called this “light trance” state.

I believe that there is a distinct danger in any form of recovered memory therapy (if “therapy” is the right word). If we interfere with memory, if we are anything less than honest with ourselves, we will move progressively into a world of delusion. Under competent psychiatric examination, any OT VIII would be considered absolutely bonkers (as would anyone who believes that psychiatrists are part of a conspiracy that controls the universe using perfume, as Hubbard insisted).

I have banged my head against this particular wall many times. The incredible ability of the true believer to resist logic, facts, evidence, and information. When I asked a former high-ranking Sea Org official how she could account for contradictions between Hubbard’s own accounts, she insisted that he occupied two bodies. When I showed her Hubbard statements that agree with his actual war records, she insisted that he had most certainly been a war hero. I asked how she knew, and she insisted that she had been at his side throughout his adventures. She couldn’t tell me anything about them, because that would be her “case” (such an excellent excuse! Like the one that OTs shouldn’t show off their super powers, lest someone be upset). Years later, she dismissed Scientology completely in a media interview.

I am an advocate of reason. I was before I joined Scientology, and my adherence to reason has only increased. We should use the full wealth of our emotional, intuitive, and intellectual powers in combination. It is too easy to turn thinking into wishful thinking. With hard experience, and the healthiest possible skepticism, I tend to dismiss the Von Danikens of this world, who pile up fragile — or invented — evidence to create a scary mythology. This doesn’t mean that our world isn’t beset by conspiracies, but it does mean that we should examine them very thoroughly indeed.

Edward Snowden’s revelations prove that Big Brother really is watching us — every single one of us — but not that he is really Queen Elizabeth II and a lizard in people’s clothing. The World Bank did force stupid rules about cash crops onto emerging nations, but it wasn’t run by Prince Xenu. Zionists did set up the state of Israel, but they had absolutely nothing to do with the cheap fake called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (read Norman Cohn’s excellent Warrant for Genocide, if you don’t believe me).

The more auditing people receive, the more likely it is that they will create a fantasy world. The fundamental distinction between the sane and the insane is not whether they agree with the “reality” of those around (as Hubbard suggested) but whether they use reason as opposed to living in delusion; by this measure, many Scientologists are actually crazy. Do fundamentalist Scientologist really believe that the planet Venus is inhabited? Or that we descended from clams? Or that the Piltdown Man was not a forgery, as History of Man asserts (“this is a cold-blooded and factual account of your last sixty trillion years.” Do Scientologists believe that the 13.8 billion-year age of the universe indicated by the background microwave radiation is so significantly wrong?).

Madness is a state of delusion. Our memory is incomplete and biased, but once it is infected with delusions, it is also corrupted. We already tend to see ourselves as the “center of narrative gravity?” — the heroes of our own lives — but this bias can be ridiculously exaggerated, given enough auditing.

At worst, Scientologists will simply refuse to believe anything that disagrees with their “reality.” They will cling to Hubbard’s “what is true for you is true,” forgetting the additional clause “what you have observed yourself.”

Over the years, I have spoken with many people who were there at the moment that a particular piece of “tech” emerged. As often as not, they told me that Hubbard simply wrote something down that changed slightly what they had said, or some thought that had just occurred to him. Thereafter, this idea became “true.” There was no scientific research, and apart from a single, failed attempt to implant and recover an “engram” — using “pain drug hypnosis” — not one single scientific experiment. The many independent groups face the same criticism. Yet hundreds of thousands of people have accepted the “truth” of Scientology. The truth is that Scientology is all evaluation and that it encourages false memories and arrogant self-importance (heck, at least I know I should have humility…).

Scientology is a fantasy world. In Hubbard’s own terms it is a “game” and, as he said in the Philadelphia “Doctorate” Course, the maker of a game does not have to follow the rules, and the player of the game must hide the rules from the pieces. Hubbard was the game maker, Miscavige is the player, we were all simply pieces, following the “white-taped path” of Hubbard’s delusion. Not crossing, but “going up” the Bridge to “total freedom.” To liberate ourselves, and at last find freedom from Hubbard-determinism — we have only to question the truth of the tenets that are the foundation of Scientology. They are wishful thinking — aspects of delusion — compounded by Hubbard’s many falsehoods and the false memories that we generated during our “auditing.”

With time, we can come down to earth again, realizing that we are not gods; that we are not possessed of perfect knowledge; and that our wishes — or “postulates” — do not govern reality. Welcome back to the real world: it’s a beautiful place to be!


Meanwhile, in Hungary

Hungarian Scientologists continue to come out with some of the goofiest and most fun promotional materials. One of our tipsters sent along this creative flier…


Says our tipster: The guy on this photoshopped cover is Tamás Kasza, a business consultant (sales trainer), and an active Scientologist. This was a promotional poster for a sales workshop for Scientologists (how to sell Scientology to your friends). The captions are as follows:








Hey, that’s fun.




NEW: Check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour.

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, so we’re posting them at the Underground Bunker. We’ve created a dedicated page for them, and we hope you go through them all, then come back here and tell us your thoughts!

Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly. Isn’t technology cool.

Our appearances…

June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper) We’re keeping the venue on the down-low at this point. If you’re interested in coming to this unique event — Paulette in New York talking about Scientology where her story began — drop us a line so we get an idea how many are coming.

June 20: Chicago (with Christian Stolte) The Annoyance Theater, 5pm: This event is SOLD OUT.

June 22: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 7:30 pm, sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry-Canada
June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 30, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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