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Jon Atack: Scientology’s notion of ‘case gain,’ and how it reinforces the prison of belief

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, thanks for thinking of us this week. We know you have been busy putting out a new book that talks about a number of different subjects relevant to what we’re interested in here. We’re hoping to dig into it soon. In the meantime, you have an excellent meditation for us today.

JON: Believe it or not, I spend very little time thinking about Scientology, but occasionally something will bubble to the surface. A friend used the expression “case gain” last week and it gave me pause for thought.

For nine years, I pursued “case gain.” Now, the expression seems all but meaningless to me. Let us take a closer look at the notion. First of all, we have to accept that there is such a creature as a “case.” For once, the Dianetics and Scientology Dictionary gives us only a single definition: “The whole sum of past by-passed charge.” I hope I didn’t suggest that this would be simple; we’ve already lost most of our audience: “by-passed charge,” indeed.

Let’s bite that bullet: “By-passed charge” (or, yes, “BPC”) we learn is “mental energy or mass that has been restimulated in some way in an individual, and that is either partially or wholly unknown to that individual and so is capable of affecting him adversely.”

Now, this idea of “charge” is not original to Hubbard. He first used the term four decades after Freud (indeed, Freud’s translator seems to have used it just before Hubbard was born). In Science of Survival, in 1951, Hubbard listed Freud in his acknowledgement to “fifty-thousand years of thinking men whose speculations and observations the creation and construction of Dianetics would not have been possible.” (He would, of course, later claim to have made the only discoveries in the fields of the mind and spirit in 50,000 years, but it wouldn’t be Hubbard if there wasn’t a contradiction involved.)


In a lecture given in 1909, Freud outlined his early ideas about “pathogenic memories” – which are pretty much Hubbard’s engrams, secondaries, and locks. He put forward the notion that these memories are repressed and form in “chains” and can be abreacted (or re-experienced) under the direction of a psychoanalyst. For Freud, these “pathogenic memories” were linked to an “intolerable wish.”

In the Freudian model, memories are repressed so that anti-social acts will be avoided. The urge to perform these acts surfaces in disabling conditions – psychosomatic paralyses, phobias, and aches. Freud was long obsessed with the “seduction theory” and believed for some time that all parents abuse their own children, so the “intolerable wish” to him was libidinous: The child’s wish to be sexually seduced by an adult. Indeed, Freud refused to talk to his own father for two years, because he believed this silly idea. He later realized that most of the awful tales of childhood abuse recounted by his analysands were imaginary and the idea was quietly brushed aside.

Freud used the term “charge” to indicate the emotions aroused by the repression of memories. He abandoned his original technique – which is almost identical to Dianetics – because patients became more dependent upon the therapist, which is the exact opposite of a true therapeutic transaction.

Hubbard, as ever, has his own definition of “charge”: “Harmful energy or force accumulated and stored within the reactive mind, resulting from the conflicts and unpleasant experiences that a person has had. Auditing discharges this charge so that it is no longer there to affect the individual.” However, “charge” is also “the electrical impulse on the case that activates the meter” and “the stored quantities of energy in the time track. It is the sole thing that is being relieved or removed by the auditor…” or “the accumulation of entheta in locks and secondaries which charges up the engrams and gives them their force to aberrate” or, finally, “anger, fear, grief, or apathy contained as misemotion in the case.”

So, “charge” is a “harmful energy,” an “electrical impulse,” the object of “auditing,” “entheta” and/or “misemotion.” As is often the case, Hubbard shifts between the physical and the metaphysical without any real explanation. The energy that causes every human ill, according to Hubbard, is both physical and metaphysical and, so it seems, rather slippery to define.

“By-passed charge” comes about when this ill-defined energy is aroused but not perceived, and “case” is its consequence. In the ideal state – as thetans who operate – there would be neither case nor charge.

We could also look at the repository for this charge – the reactive mind – and say that the end goal of Scientology is the removal of this repository. But that would be a little naïve, as Hubbard elsewhere said, a Clear does not have “his own reactive mind,” but still has problems, because he does have other people’s reactive minds, although little people, a/k/a body thetans.

This has become far more elaborate than my initial, simple thought. It is so long since I thought about “case gain” that I simply could not make sense of the notion, and looking up the words has only made it less sensible.

To Scientologists, there is the possibility of “case gain.” It would mean the permanent removal of eons-worth of “charge” leading to ever-more remarkable abilities. Without “charge” we would have perfect health and perfect memory (or so Hubbard loudly claimed in 1950’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and ever after). This charge has taken over a quadrillion years to accumulate (I’m using the date given in the OT V material, which extends way beyond the brief trillennia of History of Man, let alone the puny billennia measured by the Big Bang’s background microwave radiation). Given that this “charge” has taken so long to accumulate, releasing it should make for wonders unseen since long before the Big Bang. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be working: Scientologists are every bit as charged up after decades of auditing as they were to begin with.

No, the Dev-OT (and the Pre-Dev-OT, for that matter) actually sees “case gain” in terms of “cognitions” and “very good indicators.” Here we go again! A cognition is “as-ising [erasing] aberration with a realization about life” or “something a pc suddenly understands or feels.” “Very good indicators” means “pc happy” (no, really, that’s the Hubbard definition). So, case gain comes from releasing by-passed emotional or electrical charge from the reactive mind through realizations and euphoria.

I’m sure I’ve made enough noise elsewhere about euphoria and hypnosis, but it does no harm to repeat a truth, especially when it happens to be a home truth: Euphoria is an effect of trance. In Scientology, it often verges on mania, as recorded in Hubbard’s Preclear Origination Sheet (for instance, “I feel wonderful,” “WOW – I didn’t know that before” or “I feel like I’m floating” or “WOW!!! W-O-W !!!!!!!”), but euphoria is still an effect of trance. It is an altered state. When we get high, we cannot think straight (so it must be time to find more cash for the registrar).

The “realizations about life” found in Scientology Success Stories rather undermine the grand notion of “case gain.” On the one hand are the unproven and generally unwitnessed supernatural phenomena – often professionally provided by a Scientology magazine editor – and, on the other hand, trivial “revelations” about everyday life. Somehow, the word “revelation” is too strong, so perhaps “cognition” in its proper sense – a thought – is preferable. “I got happy and I had a thought. So, I achieved case gain.”

When I arrived in Scientology, at the very tender age of 19, I was familiar with both euphoria and revelation. Every few days I would be smitten by some truth, whether discovered in philosophical notions or emergent from my daily life. The process slowed down markedly in Scientology, perhaps because my “case” no longer belonged to me: I had handed over responsibility for said “case” to the organization. Following Hubbard’s “white taped path,” I could no longer talk to anyone about my “case” when “out of session.” My problems should only be shared with an “auditor,” who would share them (in excruciating detail) with a “case supervisor” through a permanent written record. I could not talk about my problem and my embarrassments, but conversations with enough former “ethics officers” over the decades have convinced me that almost anyone else could and possibly did (such “case” details have often been publicized, despite furious denials by the Org).

Scientology would “handle” my “case” and I was no longer allowed to go to any other practitioner without permission from the organization. It would be “mixing practices.”

My “case gain” would come through ever-increasing realizations, but there was a rather sinister element to these realizations. Although I would be becoming progressively more “self-determined” and therefore able to think uniquely, individually, and entirely for myself, my “cognitions” had to agree with Hubbard’s incredibly elaborate dictates (I mean, the most published author in the history of the universe is pretty elaborate). The more uniquely, eccentrically, creatively and originally me I became, the more I would agree with Hubbard.

My case would finally dissipate when I agreed with Hubbard on every last detail. I would never be able to understand deeply enough to create “technology,” but I would nonetheless be fully self-determined, because I would have realized the truth – that Hubbard is always right. Even if he flat out contradicts himself (see my somewhat pedestrian Never Believe a Hypnotist for one or two such contradictions).

“Case gain” is no more than a pretty language trap. I broke off while writing this to find that the same dear friend who stimulated these thoughts had written to ask if I felt any benefit from Scientology (if not, I’d be a “no case gain,” if I remember rightly, and therefore an “anti-social personality”). Well, yes, I did feel euphoric – in fact, year in, year out I was used in various course rooms to demonstrate “floating needles” – which indicate euphoria – on demand. Perhaps I just had less case to lose (I was declared a “Natural Clear,” after all). I also had plenty of “cognitions” but not one significant enough to have stayed with me as a lesson learned (I’ve tried to remember, honest I have, but my cognitions have all erased, or so it seems). I learned a great deal in those nine years, but as with every other Scientologist I’ve met (perhaps a thousand, by now) none of the gain claimed. Nor for me the gain intended, which is clearly devotion to Ron. I’m fairly sure that any totalitarian organization could have taught me the same lessons. The most important was perhaps that I do not have to agree with anyone about anything unless sensible proofs are offered. There are no such proofs in Scientology. Not a single one.

If there were to be such a thing as “case gain” it would surely have some social benefit. In the early 90s, I was asked to write about Transcendental Meditation by publishers Collins and researched deeply enough to reject the offered commission. One often repeated tale concerned me deeply: parents who let their children run wild because they felt compelled to meditate for 12 hours a day. Anything can be addictive, or so it seems, if you have an addictive personality, but the meditators are simply getting high. A true science of mind would help people to stop pretending, not fill them up with more pretence.

No, true “case gain” would contribute something to society, rather than simply swelling the ego through the euphoria of dopamine release. It would be pro-social. The “I, me, my, mine” trap of Scientology – the religion of materialism, as a cult-hired academic in Russia put it – is most definitely not pro-social. Self-aggrandisement is anti-social, but, as is usual with anti-social movements, Scientology is made up almost entirely of people who mean well and do their best. The truth is that Scientology makes people more inclined to hate than to love, and that is a tragedy. It is not the first totalitarian group to fit this template: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Ron Hubbard enticed many good souls onto that downward road with the offer of “case gain.”


Bonus items from our tipsters

Yesterday was Human Rights Day, and around the world the Scientology front group Youth for Human Rights was making Legoland proud by spreading Scientology’s influence in places like Mexico — with a kid’s race in Michoacán, a petition in Puebla, and a group drone shot in Nuevo León…


Lori Hodgson let us know she’s put up a short Christmas message about the Scientology disconnection that’s ripped apart her family at her blog.




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 11, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com 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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