From: Bob Minton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: LMT Literati Contest Entry - by "Downhill"
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 22:15:38 -0500
Organization: Lisa McPherson Trust, 33 N. Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater, FL 33755 Tel: (727) 467-9335
Part I: The Founder - Freedom
Once upon a time there was a man who had a great gift, but lacked the wisdom to use it. This is a common enough state of affairs, which might be expected to end in a dreary, personal tragedy too ordinary to write about. In this case, however...
He was born in the early part of the twentieth century, in what was then a remote part of the western United States. He grew up hearing tales of action and adventure that made his rural life seem dull and pointless, and he longed to be a person who did exciting, important things. As he grew, he discovered that there was a way in which he could partake in the world of action and romance that he so admired, for he discovered that he had the gift of story telling. He learned that he could impress strangers with stories of his own life and adventures, and it seemed not to matter that the stories he told were not true. It is ironic that by the time he had reached his mid-teens, he had travelled farther, and experienced more adventure than most adults at that time. Nonetheless, he felt the need to embroider his experiences, and the more fantastic the adventures he invented for himself, the more he impressed his listeners and the more they appeared to respect and admire him. And this admiration became increasingly important to him. Any misgivings he may have had about bending the truth faded as he embarked upon what would become his lifelong habit of lying about his background.
He matured, and his story telling ability matured as well. He found himself able to use it legitimately to provide an adequate income. His talent was not such as to generate literary masterpieces, but his writing was sufficiently entertaining that he could establish a modest reputation writing fiction for the pulp periodicals. By now, however, he as not satisfied with a modest reputation. His need for respect and admiration were growing. The small doses that had once felt good were no longer adequate. Whatever level of admiration he might achieve fell short of his needs. He began to dream not just of admiration, but of power - power that could command respect, bring security, and buy pleasure. This search for power was to become his lifelong journey. Because he had already become numb to the demands of truth, he was setting forth on this journey with imperfect charts and a broken compass. Not that there is anything inherently wrong about pleasure or admiration. When they appear, unbidden, as side-effects of the choices one has freely made, they enhance our lives and bring moments of joy and peace. Treated as goals, however, they distract our thoughts from more urgent concerns. Purchased at the cost of inattention to the needs of our fellow beings, they arrive imperfect - counterfeit gains providing no satisfaction but only increased hunger. And so, he set forth on a search for power and dominion, that he might experience the counterfeits in abundance. He was too far estranged from the truth to realize that the satisfaction of his real longings required travel in a quite different direction.
He had by now probably begun to lie even to himself, to believe at least to some extent the picture he painted of himself, the rationalizations he made for his failures, and the justifications he created for often self-centered activities. Perhaps to quell the lingering demands of truth, he began looking for a philosophy that he could apply to his life. What he "discovered" was that the sole purpose of life was survival. This "discovery" provided a comfortable excuse for his activities, and would become an important component of his future endeavors.
The nation went to war, and he may have thought that finally he would have the opportunity to experience the adventures and glories that he had thus far only invented for himself. He joined the navy. Perhaps predictably, the self he had invented was not well suited for success in the military and his career in the service was a disaster. He returned to post-war civilian life with an inglorious war record notable only for screw-ups and insubordination.
Now, he was perhaps close to confronting the truth. He had had the opportunity to demonstrate that the stories he told of himself were at least potentially true, and he had failed to establish himself as the man of honor and glory that he had portrayed himself to be. He was, I believe, significantly depressed. He appeared to have difficulty re- establishing his career as a writer. His personal life had deteriorated. He had left his wife and entered into a bigamous marriage with a second woman. He spent much of his energy attempting to wheedle a disability pension. Repeated medical examinations found little wrong, despite a large collection of complaints, and the pension awarded him was correspondingly small.
Several months after belatedly obtaining a divorce from his first wife, he wrote yet again to the Veteran's Administration. This time he begged for help, not money, and suggested that he might benefit from psychiatric treatment. While it is arguable that this letter was simply another manipulative attempt to get his pension increased, he had ample reason to be experiencing the depression that he described, and it is believable that this letter was (at least subconsciously) a real call for help. The VA responded promptly with yet another medical examination, which once again found little evidence of medical problems. While his pension was ultimately increased, there seems to be no evidence that he was ever given any assistance in finding psychiatric treatment.
If indeed this episode represented an attempt on his part to move closer to the truth, it might have marked a turning point in his life. Perhaps if there had been someone to reach out to him with real concern for his well-being, the subsequent tragedy could have been modified. But the VA apparently did not rise to the occasion, and there was nobody else to intervene. And so, he once again turned away from the truth and returned to the only technique that he knew; he invented a story. This time it was a doozy. He made himself into a philosopher-scientist, and invented a psychotherapeutic method.
The story he invented was one of years of introspection and experiment which resulted in a new model of the mind. Using this model, he claimed that he had developed a technology that, properly applied, was scientifically guaranteed to resolve all psychological and many physical complaints. This technology could restore a person to full proper function, and lift him or her above the level of the common person. His book outlining his theories enjoyed immense commercial success, for he -was- a good story teller. He was also quite willing to lie about the existence of underlying scientific research to establish its worth. It was not long, however, before the lack of verifiable results along with the inherent silliness of many of its teachings led to its condemnation by the medical and psychiatric community, the same community that had failed to help him just after the war. This book already demonstrated great antipathy towards towards medicine and psychiatry. Its condemnation hardened that antipathy into a lifelong obsessive fear and hatred of the established mental health field.
Despite this condemnation, his book and his technology remained popular with the public, and became the foundation of a financial empire over which he ruled. To make his system even more "scientific," he eventually added to its methods an electronic device, a crude bit of circuitry to measure galvanic skin response. This could be used to assess the client's reaction to questions posed by the the therapist. The device contributed a reassuring degree of pseudo-objectivity to the process. Because it was required for proper application of his technology, and was sold at a substantial price, it also contributed to his cash flow.
Unfortunately, at about this time, he became involved in a squabble with a former ally who was convinced (rightly) that considerable financial contributions had been misspent. This attack upon his empire represented a potential disaster, because by now he was far advanced in his addiction to power.
If, at this point, the empire had simply collapsed, and he had slunk away licking his wounds, our story might have been simply the tragedy of the self-destruction of a flawed man. However, he responded to this potential disaster with an act of hubris that immeasurably magnified the damage for which he was to be responsible. He created a religion in his own deceitful, miserable image, and established himself as its prophet, perhaps even as its god. With this action, our story ceases to be a personal tragedy, and becomes a social tragedy. For this religion embodied all of the character defects of its founder. It was based on the same lack of respect for the truth on which the founder built his life. Its goal became the amassing of power and money. In pursuit of this goal, it lies to, cheats, and exploits its parishioners. Worse, it attempts to re-form them into the image of the founder. It promises them power and teaches that wisdom, compassion, and freedom of though are aberrations. The more fortunate converts realize that they are suffering spiritual harm and leave, scarred, financially burdened, and marked by the church as enemies. Those less fortunate rise to power as little clones of the founder to perpetuate the wickedness. They pay for this with money, spiritual well being, and loss of freedom. And this is, for me, the chief offense of this institution. It exploits the misguided desires of well-meaning human beings and addicts them to power and dominion. It ultimately deprives them of the capacity for love, joy, or peace. In the process, this religion does much other damage as well. In its arrogance, it sees all criticism as attack, attack which must be countered by all possible means, fair or foul. This paranoid arrogance has damaged a great many good people. But I repeat that the greatest harm is caused by the church's intention toward well-meaning people of good will. By lying to them about its tenets and intent, it covertly transforms them into soul-shattered clones of the founder. The tragedy is not that the "tech" does not work. The tragedy is that for some people it works all too well - teaching them that lies are acceptable, that dominion and power bring happiness, that love is unimportant. This church even managed ultimately to consume its own founder, leaving him to die alone, psychotic, and miserable.
The above summary of this life is largely speculative and perhaps best regarded as fiction. It assigns feelings and motives to the founder. I hope that I have not the arrogance to believe that I can accurately ascribe such feelings and motives to a real person. Furthermore, I have as yet justified none of the claims that I make about the nature of the church that he created.
The goal in providing this summary is to provide one possible (and surely flawed) model of the founder, and of the events leading up to the founding of the Church of Scientology. I want to use this model to explore the possible nature of the church itself. I also want to argue that it is possible to view the founder as a human being, flawed (as we all are) and misguided, who used his freedom to make a series of increasingly bad decisions. Those decisions ultimately resulted in his creation of an institution of great wickedness. I surely do not wish to mitigate his responsibility for his actions. I do wish to portray him as a man whose life was not irredeemably fixed on wickedness from the very beginning. Rather I want to see him as a person who progressed slowly, step by tiny step, along a downhill path until finally he had not the strength alone to turn and climb back up. And I want to argue that the Church of Scientology attempts to manipulate others onto this same path, so that what Hubbard achieved through his own free choice might become the controlled destiny of the rest of humankind.
The reader who would like to read a fuller exposition of the events in Mr.Hubbard's life would do well to start with -Bare Faced Messiah-, written by Russel Miller. The full text is available at several sites on the World Wide Web, for instance at http://www.entheta.net/entheta/books/bfm/, and the documentation is sufficient that the reader may judge the worth of the scholarship for him or herself.
Part II: The Church of Scientology - Control
This is enough evidence to conclude that the Church of Scientology is willing to lie at least sometimes It is thus impossible to accept any of its statements about itself at face value. All of its statements of high purpose, benefits to humankind, ethical standards, scientific research - all of these become suspect and subject to verification or rejection by comparing them to the actual activities of the church.
One such claim that -does- appear to withstand scrutiny is the statement (T&P98 page 45) "The Scripture of the Scientology religion consists of the writings and recorded spoken words of L. Ron Hubbard on the subjects of Dianetics and Scientology." Let us, then, examine some of his writings and see what they might suggest about his religion.
In -Dianetics-, Hubbard states that the underlying demand made of all life forms is survival (DIAN93 page 32). He identifies four different urges to survive, which he calls "dynamics." The first is the individual's urge to survive as an individual, the second is the individual's urge to survive through sexual procreation, the third is the individual's urge to promote the survival of a group, and the fourth is the individual's urge to promote the survival of humankind (DIAN93 page 53). These four dynamics, he claims on page 54, explain all of the purposes and behaviors of humankind. (Later an additional four dynamics were added, but for the present discussion, the first four will suffice.)
In all organisms, the demands of these dynamics are enforced by a built-in tendency to perceive pain in actions that may diminish the possibility of survival, and find pleasure in actions that enhance survival. This is true of humans in particular, but humans are "self- determined" and have the ability to reason. Thus it should be possible for a person to compute the effect upon survival of various options, and choose one that increases survival potential, and hence brings pleasure. That a person does not always do so is a measure of the degree to which that person is "aberrated" (DIAN93 pages 39-50).
Now, in solving a problem, or choosing a course of action, it may be that the demands of the four dynamics appear to be in conflict. It may be, for instance, that survival of the group may not be well served by that action which is best for survival of the individual. Hubbard (DIAN93 page 54-55) addresses this situation as follows (the italics are Hubbard's) :
The equation of the optimum solution would be that a problem has been well resolved which portends the maximum good for the maximum number of dynamics. That is to say that any solution, modified by the time available to put the solution into effect, should be creative or constructive for the greatest possible number of dynamics. The optimum solution for any problem would be a solution which achieved the maximum benefit in all the dynamics. ... The survival conduct pattern is built upon this equation of the optimal solution. It is the basic equation of all rational behavior and is the equation on which a clear functions. It is inherent in man.
Now, this may sound naive and harmless. It is, in fact, quite disturbing in its implications. First consider that this "optimum solution" will generally affect the survival potentials of others. In arriving at a "rational decision" then, one's computation must take into account the relative importance of the survival of other individuals (and groups). This implies that the computation will need to assess the relative worth of the various persons so affected. Hubbard realized this, of course, and provided "formulae" defining "potential value" and "worth" (DIAN93 page 61, repeated in SBOB83 page 66). He writes,
The potential value of an individual or group may be expressed by the equationx PV = IDwhere I is Intelligence and D is Dynamic. [He leaves the exponent x undefined.]
Again the italics are Hubbard's.
Hubbard states throughout -Dianetics- that dianetic processing can be expected to increase intelligence. As one example, (DIAN93 page 287) he says "...when therapy is done, [the analyzer] will be available for thinking. This increases IQ to an enormous extent." Thus, it should also increase PV. All of this strongly implies that the computation of "optimum solutions" to problems will tend to favor the survival of those who are undergoing dianetic processing at the expense of the survival potential of those who are not. And, it means that in some circumstances, the optimum solution will threaten the survival potential (i.e. may attempt to cause the destruction of) those whose worth is calculated to be negative.
There is worse to come. Hubbard repeatedly speaks (as he does in the quotation above) of -the- optimal solution to any given problem. If there is but one optimal course of action in any given set of circumstances, than any unaberrated person (i.e. a person fully processed by Hubbardian technology) should be expected to compute this same optimal solution. Any deviation from this computed course of action is evidence of aberration, and cannot be tolerated. The ultimate goal of dianetic processing, Hubbard's utopian dream, is thus the creation of a state in which all individuals think identically, act identically, and are identically intolerant of variation in thought or action.
Did Hubbard actually believe this? He writes (DIAN93 page 557)
Perhaps at some distant date, only the unaberrated person will be granted civil rights before the law. Perhaps the goal will be reached at some future time when only the unaberrated person can attain to and benefit from citizenship. These are desirable goals and would produce a marked increase in the survival ability and happiness of man.
By 1950, Hubbard apparently had an enormous belief in his own worth. This is clear in his writings, but even more clear in his actions. He was able to justify to himself the abuse of his wives, the kidnapping of his child, and the cheating of his acquaintances. Indeed, it seems that in any interaction with his fellow creatures, he acted to maximize his own survival potential, and the that of his organization. This could only mean that in his computations, his worth and the worth of his organization greatly exceeded the worths of others. It is not surprising then, that he and his optimal solutions became the standard by which all other actions were to be judged. Within the dianetics community, and later within Scientology, Hubbard's teachings became the only standard of "truth" and the only measure of freedom from aberration. The identically computing entities that he aspired to produce were little Hubbard clones. They were to be guided along the same gradient, the same downhill path, that he himself had followed.
What sort of religion would be expected to emerge from such a philosophy? Let us create a hypothetical church that is consistent with these doctrines. Its actions must maximize survival potential in all dynamics. But its own worth is immeasurably large, for it is the only institution that has access to the technology that can lead to greater survival potential. Hence its own survival becomes of paramount importance. Furthermore, the only way to increase the survivability of individuals is through the church. This makes recruitment especially important, for it increases survival along two dynamics. Now, the unrecruited are aberrated, and thus generally not able to make rational decisions or to know their own best interest.
Since conventional notions of ethics and morality apparently play no important part in calculating optimal activities (Hubbard surely paid no attention to them), it becomes quite acceptable, even laudable, to manipulate non-members into joining the church by using tricks and distortions of the truth as necessary. This could include lying about the true nature of the church's philosophy and promulgating false creeds and codes of ethics and other material. Such would be necessary to make an inherently totalitarian organization appear beneficent and well meaning. The "aberrated" person would be unlikely otherwise to join.
Survival of the church also demands that current members must be retained. Retention can be enhanced in several ways. The church would be careful to continue to hide its true goals until the convert is ready to accept them uncritically. Training in uncritical acceptance of authority would become important. The idea that criticism equals aberration would be quickly developed, and enforced through mind numbing activities, peer pressure, and a system of rewards and punishments. Throughout this process, the member would be systematically deprived of support structures outside of the church, and made dependent upon the church and its institutions for any sense of worth and well being. Immense pressure could thus be slowly brought to bear on the member to conform to proper church thought.
Even greater pressure must be employed against thoughts of leaving the church. Only the severely aberrated could compute such a course of action, and they would threaten the survival of the church. The farther they have progressed, the higher their PV should be, but it would be aligned -against- survival (else they would not be able to consider leaving the church) and thus they must have a negative worth. Proper computation, therefore, would determine that their activities must be nullified by any means possible, including their destruction.
Finally, those members who resist all urges to depart, who learn to abandon critical thought, would be lead down Hubbards's gradient, step by step, until they achieve his likeness. Unable to reason, to love, to create, to care, they would enter into a world of utter conformity, mindlessly "computing" the same "optimal" solutions that Hubbard has already computed in a joyless, loveless, truthless quest for survival and "pleasure."
I believe that this hypothetical church is in fact a good model for the Church of Scientology. In its attempts to recruit new members, it attempts to portray itself as an institution of good will and self- improvement. This begins with Hubbard's own distortions of the course of his life, many of which are repeated in the official biography presented on the Church's web pages and in T&P98. As we have seen, this biography attempts to portray Mr. Hubbard as a great and wise man. In so doing, it totally ignores his less admirable qualities. It distorts his inglorious war record. It grossly overstates the worth of his literary contributions. The lies to the potential convert continue in the church's description of its own tenets of faith. The Creed of the Church of Scientology (T&P98, opening pages) is fundamentally inconsistent with Hubbard's own words. Later on page 81 of the same book, the church states
In 1981, Mr.Hubbard wrote a basic, common-sense moral code of fundamental principles and values for living an ethical and happy life that has been published as the book The Way to Happiness. This moral code consists of 21 precepts such as "take care of yourself," "be temperate," "love and help children," "set a good example," and "fulfill your obligations."
It fails to mention, however, that Hubbard took care of himself and displayed his temperance through the use of drugs and tobacco, loved and helped children by kidnapping his daughter, and fulfilled his obligations by theft and betrayal. The church apparently -does- believe that he set a good example, for the church is a direct reflection of his life and teachings.
Indeed, it turns out that potential members have no opportunity to adequately evaluate the true tenets of the church, for many of its articles of faith are claimed as trade secrets and withheld from public view; withheld with all the vigor and tenacity that the church can afford; withheld until such time as a member has become so fully under the church's control that he or she is unlikely to leave. And this brings me to the worst of the lies of recruitment. Potential members are given to believe that the choice to join the Church of Scientology is a reversible choice. The church offers to refund the money of those dissatisfied with its offerings and strongly implies that one can "try it out" with little to lose and much to gain. In fact, the stories told by many who have left the church suggest that the church's policy is to vigorously resist all attempts at dis-affiliation.
Recognizing that many potential converts approach Scientology through a sense of dissatisfaction with and disaffection for the spiritual havens of contemporary society, the church immediately begins to foster a sense of "us vs. them." The political structure of the organization is based upon inner circle within inner circle, with advancement from elite to more elite as the never-ending goal. Such advancement requires considerable investment in money, and worse, the increasing relinquishing of the freedom of one's own thoughts and ideas. By the time a parishioner has advanced only a small distance, the habit of uncritical loyalty has become strong, for there are substantial dis-incentives for defying it, and even more substantial penalties for attempting to depart from the church altogether. Most ensnaring of all, perhaps, is the realization that by leaving the church one must give up the womb of stature and security that one has attained, and return to the outside world one has already rejected, tail between the legs. One must admit to one's self that much money has been wasted and worse, must face the fact that one has been living with and promoting lies and has damaged him or herself and perhaps others. The downhill path has been one tiny step after another, directed by the church. The resolve to turn upwards, against the stream, has been made as difficult as possible to achieve. For once a victim has been snared, the Church of Scientology becomes relentless in adding external pressure to the psychological pressures described above. From the point of view of Scientology, indeed one of the stated articles of its belief system, an apostate is an enemy and may be dealt with in any way possible. The evidence given by ex-members includes stories of threats of divulging personal information obtained during supposedly private auditing sessions, lies to family, friends, neighbors, and employers, attempts to dissociate the potential apostate from any loved ones outside the church who might provide support, threats of frivolous law suits designed to erode financial resources - anything that might convince the member that security lies only in the bosom of the church. If a member actually -does- leave, these threats are often carried out. Similar pressures are applied to those members who, unready to leave, nonetheless dare to question the church's authority or teachings.
The relationship of the church to non-member critics is similar. Again, it is a tenet of faith, expressed by Hubbard himself, that those who criticize, who question church doctrines or activities, are enemies not only of Scientology, but of society. Critic's experiences indicate that no dialogue is possible, and any means may be used to silence them. Critics who have come to the attention of the church, have found their backgrounds investigated in an attempt to find criminal or anti-social activities. Where such activities cannot be found, lies have sufficed - lies spread to friends, family, neighbors, and employers. Groundless legal actions may be undertaken in an attempt at financial ruin. Silence at all cost becomes the goal against effective criticism of the church.
All of these activities of the Church of Scientology appear to be consistent with the hypothetical model constructed above on the basis of Hubbard's teachings in -Dianetics-. Axiom 56 of the Axioms of Scientology (SBOB83, page 36) states "THETA BRINGS ORDER TO CHAOS." The creation of a world in which all humans are reduced to robotic calculating machines, blindly recomputing identical "optimal solutions" would indeed bring about a kind of order, but it is an order that I find frightening to contemplate. I prefer chaos.
Part III: Up-hill - Responsibility
In Part I of this essay, I attempted to provide one possible model for the path taken by L. Ron Hubbard. The model portrays him as a person who became progressively estranged from the truth. Day by day he freely made little choices, each leading him further away from his fellow creatures. Every day's decline facilitated the making of poor choices on the following day, until he had become the focus of great wickedness. The church he created has harmed so many people that it is easy to demonize him, to overlook his underlying humanness. This is a mistake that I wish to avoid. not only with respect to Hubbard, but also with respect to the members of the church and with respect to the church's current leadership.
In Part II, I first argued that one cannot attempt to understand the Church of Scientology on the basis of its own description of itself. That description contains verifiable lies and deception. This makes the unverifiable parts of the self-description also suspect. I then proposed that the church's claim that Hubbard's teachings about Dianetics and Scientology form its scripture -is- a claim that is consistent with the actions of the church, and that examination of his teachings could give insight into the workings of the Church of Scientology.
Accordingly, I looked at a small portion of Hubbard's teachings and attempted to deduce from them the way in which a religion based upon them might be expected to behave. I concluded that the model thus developed is consistent with some of the observable activities of the Church of Scientology. Now of course, this proves nothing. I had, after all, the reality in mind as I built the model. Nonetheless, it was a useful intellectual exercise, I believe, to discover that some of the behavior of the church as it exists can be inferred from its "first principles."
In undertaking this exercise, I have ignored many aspects of the church and its teachings. My goal has been to establish that the church is harmful, and that its propensity to be harmful is deeply interwoven into its philosophical foundations. In addition, I wished to establish this on the basis of publicly available documents from official church sources. I believe that I have done this.
In Part III, I mean to consider the following question. Having become aware of a harmful institution, what are our responsibilities? I must make it clear that the answers I shall propose are primarily answers that make sense to -me-. I do not believe that I dare address the responsibilities or coerce the actions of others. This is especially true in the case of those who have, as I have not, directly experienced loss or damage at the hands of the Church of Scientology. I offer my own thoughts and suggestions for consideration and criticism, in hope that they may help the reader to arrive at his or her own answers.
Let us consider some possibilities. I reject the idea of a frontal attack upon the Church of Scientology, an attempt to directly bring about its destruction, for several reasons. Several thousands of years of experience have demonstrated that religious intolerance can be the cause of immense pain, suffering, and injury. I could not justify to myself any attempt to disallow a belief system, however noxious I might personally find it. It is therefore important to me that I undertake no activities that might appear to support such intolerance or become a precedent in the attack on other religious institutions. It might be possible to argue that the Church of Scientology is not, in fact, a religious organization, but I am not enthusiastic about entering into that endeavor either. The arguments tend to devolve into debates about dictionary meanings, with each side re-quoting its favorite definition more slowly and loudly. Such activity tends to be non-productive. Finally, even if I believed that the best goal was the direct destruction of the church, I have no idea how I would proceed. I have not the resources to undertake such an endeavor, and quite frankly, I would be afraid to try. Any organization that can intimidate the United States Internal Revenue Service scares me a lot.
If not destruction, than what of reform? Attempts to encourage voluntary reform are likely to fail, for the church declines to enter into dialogue with anyone critical of it. Moreover, since the church's behavior is a direct reflection of its faith, reformation would be unacceptable to the church. It would violate the inviolable teachings of its founder, and thus would be unthinkable. Indeed, because the problems that I see in the Church of Scientology are thoroughly interwoven into the fabric of its beliefs, I seriously question whether voluntary reform will ever be a possible solution.
On the other hand, I have no objection to attempting to hold the Church of Scientology responsible for its actions. While not enthusiastic about the debate over what constitutes a religion, I feel that the Church of Scientology is demonstrably not a charitable organization, and should have its tax status revoked in the United States. I admire greatly those who have endured the sacrifices of litigation in attempts to establish the church's responsibility to behave legally. I admire equally those ex-members who have had the strength and courage to risk the wrath of the church by making public their experiences. I also respect those who have not. My admiration extends to anybody who has found the ability to depart from Scientology.
And this brings me to what I regard as the most important activities that I can undertake and support. For me, there are two goals especially worth pursuing. The first is to ensure that potential members are informed about the nature of the Church of Scientology before they join. The second is to care for the needs of current members and facilitate the departure of those who may wish to leave. These are equally important goals, and one must take some care that in the pursuit of the first one does nothing to undermine the second.
How might those goals be achieved? I believe that the key lies in the application of the very tools which the church itself repudiated. Hubbard makes much of a concept that he calls ARC. This, he claims, is the interdependent working of Affinity, Reality, and Communication. Typically, he uses each of these words in non-standard ways. This was one of his tricks. He would take a word, choose humpty-dumpty- like to change its meaning within the context of Scientology, and then rely upon the confusion of meanings to confound the outside world. I propose that we substitute three better words.
Working backwards, I begin with "communication." All too often in the Scientologic world, this word is used to mean a one-way flow of information either for giving orders or for indoctrination. I propose that we replace this word with "dialogue." The kind of dialogue that I mean is that which invites ego-free exchange of critical thought. It is not entered into with a tone 40 proclamation of "reality," but with an invitation that says "I have some ideas. They probably contain some error. Let us see if we can find it, and come up with better ideas."
Hubbard's definition of "reality" is given in the 113-th Axiom of Dianetics, which reads "REALITY IS THE AGREEMENT UPON PERCEPTIONS AND DATA IN THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE." This is followed by the explanation "All that we can be sure is real is that on which we have agreed is real. Agreement is the essence of reality." (SBOB83 page 83)
I propose that we replace Hubbardian reality with the word "truth." This requires a bit of explanation, for while I believe in the existence of absolute truths, I also believe that we have no means of perfectly knowing them. The best that we can do is to attempt to approximate them, and then subject our approximations to criticism in attempts to find better, more refined approximations.
Perhaps a two quotations from Karl Popper will clarify my meaning. The first comes from "Knowledge without Authority(1960). (POP85 pages 56-57)
If only we look for it, we can often find a true idea, worthy of being preserved, in a philosophical theory which must be rejected as false. Can we find an idea like this in one of the theories of the ultimate sources of our knowledge?
The second quotation is from "Truth and Approximation to Truth(1960) (POP85 page 185)
...only with Tarski's work has the suspicion been removed that the objectivist theory of truth as correspondence with the facts may be either self- contradictory (because of the paradox of the liar), or empty (as Ramsey suggested), or barren, or at the very least redundant, in the sense that we can do without it (as I once thought myself).
We can see that this idea of "truth" is interrelated with "dialogue." The search for truth demands honest, open, critical dialogue. And meaningful dialogue is not possible without a respect for truth.
Finally, "affinity" is defined by the 112-th Axiom of Dianetics thus: "AFFINITY IS THE COHESION OF THETA." This is followed by the explanation "Affinity manifests itself as the recognition of similarity of efforts and goals amongst organisms by those organisms." (SBOB83 page 83)
This, one can only have affinity for those beings whose efforts and goals are similar to one's own. I propose that we replace "affinity" with "love." Here I must be particularly careful to make my meaning clear. By love, I do not mean liking of, or being drawn to, or lusting after, or any other emotional response. I mean whatever act of will is necessary to extend to another individual one's non-coercive concern for his or her well-being. One may thoroughly dislike another, even have been harmed by the actions they have taken. Yet one can choose to care about such persons' welfare. One does not have to approve of or forgive their actions, or fail to hold them unaccountable. Nor does one have to disavow one's feelings of anger. One -does- have to manifest a determination to seek to do for them what good one can, with respect and without coercion. This may seem like a coldly clinical, possibly hypocritical definition of love, but it is the only sense in which love can be understood to be a virtue. One cannot choose one's emotional responses, and it is both untruthful and unhealthy to fail to acknowledge them. One -can- however, choose one's actions, in despite, if necessary, of one's (valid and self-acknowledged) feelings.
This is the most difficult of the three sides of our new DTL triangle to achieve, but it is probably also the most potent. As before, there is interdependency between love and the other two sides. Caring about another's well-being demands truthfulness. Truth harshly applied without love can become falsehood. Dialogue facilitates theexpression of of love, and love enables the invitation to begin dialogue with those one may neither like nor trust.
How can one apply this to the two goals that I listed above? I do not have any definitive answers, but I will make some observations and proposals.
The most useful service I can suggest is to do one's best to spread the truth about this organization. One must do so, however, with respect to the needs of those who are already members. This means that the truths to be told must be put forth with respect for (but not necessarily acceptance of) the beliefs of the believers. In particular, one must not dwell on those aspects of Scientology which are, to me, simple inanities. One must especially beware of mocking these beliefs. To dwell on the Xenu myth, for instance, or Hubbard's teachings about clams may have the effect of deepening the sense of those within the church that they cannot return to the non-Scientologic world without facing humiliation and rejection. Rather, in dealing with potential converts, one must concentrate on exposing the greed of the church, its reliance on lies in its quest for power, and the corruptive effect that Hubbard's philosophy has had upon the activities of the church.
All of these things are more likely to dissuade potential members than stories of clams or galactic empires. Many, perhaps most, prospective members (and current members) of the Church of Scientology are well-meaning people looking for personal and spiritual growth. The church knows this. It aims its advertising directly at such people. The science-fiction aspects of Scientology are so outrageous that it is easy for outsiders to dismiss them as hyperbolic anti-church propaganda. However, if potential members can be convinced that the Church of Scientology leads in the wrong direction, away from personal growth and towards loss of freedom, loss of the ability to think critically, loss of one's humanity, then they are likely to reject it. Even dwelling on the non-scientific nature of Hubbard's claims may not be useful to the extent that many potential converts may not be rationalists. While all of these issues may be easy targets, they may -not- be targets that help dissuade the seeker, and they -are- targets that are likely to say to current members, "You will be received with contempt, should you choose to leave the church."
The message that I would propose offering to the world at large might, then, contain the following points:
a) Scientology was founded on lies by a man devoted to lying in the quest for power.
b) Joining the Church of Scientology is not an easily reversible decision.
c) Those who join do not gain the spiritual growth they have been promised, nor will they be contributing to the good of humankind. Rather they are subjected to an attempt to remove their capacity for individual thought and freedom.
d) Members of the Church of Scientology are not badly intentioned people. Many are good, well-meaning people who are being coerced through lies and training into making very bad decisions. They need to hear that they have options, and the right to exercise those options. They all need our support and love, not our contempt.
However that message is given, it needs to be given without arrogance. It should express a willingness to provide evidence of its claims, and more importantly a willingness to enter into open, honest discussion of them. It should not use mockery, call the members "clams," sneer at the Xenu story, or dwell on the pseudo-scientific nonsense promulgated by Hubbard, lest it limit the perceived choices of those who are already members.
Those who are already a part of the church need in addition to hear something like the following, "You have a right to your own thoughts and beliefs. It is wrong and abusive for any individual or organization to try to limit those rights. If you feel that you would like to change the way you are living, there is love and support available outside of the church. This does not mean, of course, that you may not have to accept responsibility for your actions in the past. I do believe, however, that if you are willing to endure the difficulties leaving, of saying to yourself 'I may have been wrong.', you will find more love and help and support in the outside world than ever you found in the church." Of course, I am not proposing that those exact words be said. They merely represent the content that I think needs to be conveyed. The most urgent requirement is that the content be delivered as a sincere intent to engage in dialogue, to discuss rather than to convince, to undertake a joint effort at finding the truth.
The question that I have no answer for is, "How are these messages best delivered?" In the case of the message to the world at large, it is already being delivered to some degree through web pages, leaflets, books, magazine articles, and doubtless in other media. I regret that it is not always delivered in the caring way that I proposed above, but perhaps I am wrong about the potential harm that I see in the mockery. One problem with the media mentioned above is that none of them support an active invitation for dialogue, which I regard as essential. Picketing, which could invite one-on-one discussion, is, unfortunately, inherently confrontational. It would be wonderful if there were an institution, staffed by persons with high DLT, to which prospective members and those with questions could be referred. Unfortunately, such an institution would be expensive to create and publicize, and would certainly become a prime target of Church of Scientology legal harassment, just as the Cult Awareness Network did.
These problems are even more formidable in the case of getting the appropriate message to current members. A carefully staffed and well publicized 800 number might partially serve the needs of some members who have already begun questioning their membership and need help and support. But again, this is impractical given the tenacity with which the church attacks those who would interfere with its activities. While I have heard that there are informally organized groups of ex- members and others who make themselves available to support and advise impending and recent escapees, I suspect it is not easy to discover how to contact them. I would guess that they prefer, for obvious reasons, to remain as unpublicized as possible.
It might be useful to consider the approaches that have been brought to bear on the problem of domestic abuse in our society. Through efforts over thirty years, initially the efforts of individuals and increasingly the efforts of governmental organizations, the public is slowly internalizing the notion that domestic violence is unacceptable and that it is everybody's responsibility to respond to it. A part of this campaign has been heightening the awareness of physicians, nurses, and other health care workers. Training is available to increase the "index of suspicion", and to suggest techniques for asking appropriate questions and responding effectively and supportively to victims. Similar training is available to some law enforcement agencies. Finally, mechanisms are in place, at least in some locations, for providing both acute and longer-term support, care, and protection for victims. None of this is totally successful. After so many years, the number of people damaged is still dishearteningly large. But more and more are being helped, and as public awareness continues to grow, and public intolerance of abuse continues to strengthen, the successes will grow as well.
I think that this is a reasonable approach to pursue in dealing with the problems posed by the Church of Scientology and similar organizations. I believe that some of the dynamics of spousal abuse and the techniques used by batterers to maintain control over their partners are quite similar to the practices of cultic entrapment. While there are clearly differences, bruises and broken bones are more easily understood than twisted psyches for instance, the existing successful programs for public education and victim support in the realm of domestic abuse may well serve as a useful model in the development of similar programs directed at protecting the victims of Scientology and similarly abusive institutions. In some cases, it might even be possible to piggy-back our goals onto the activities of currently existing projects.
I do believe that the application of dialogue, truth, and love can provide one important key to containing the harm done by the Church of Scientology. We need to find the keyhole and figure out how to insert the key. If we can do this, I would expect that slowly, step by step, we can help people find their way back up the hill. This would not lead to the sudden dissolution of the Church of Scientology, nor an abrupt cessation of the harm it causes. But a determined attempt to concentrate on the welfare of its current and potential victims, and of its leadership, should slowly lead, as a blessed side-effect, to the progressive weakening and eventual withering of the church.
(SBOB83) -Scientology 0-8 The Book of Basics- by L. Ron Hubbard, fifth printing 1983 NEW ERA PUBLICATIONS ApS, Copenhagen, Denmark Copyright 1970, 1982, 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard
(POP85) -Popper Selections- edited by David Miller, 1985, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA Copyright 1960 K.R.Popper
(T&P98) -Theology & Practice of a Contemporary Religion Scientology- Presented by the Church of Scientology International, 1998 Bridge Publications, Inc., Los Angeles, California, USA Copyright 1998 Church of Scientology International
(I would have preferred to use a first edition of -Dianetics-, but could not lay my hands on one at the time of this writing. The careful reader may want to compare the statements attributed to Hubbard in this work with the contents of earlier editions, especially those published while he was still active in the Church of Scientology).