This is the hardest argument for any Scientology protester to counter. To an outsider, Scientology seems to be obvious sci-fi baloney. Surely anyone who believes in it is either stupid, delusional, brainwashed, or all of the above. But here’s the truth: Some of L. Ron Hubbard’s “technology” does actually work.
To separate the good from the bad – and to understand how a perfectly sensible person starts to believe we are all space aliens trapped in “meat bodies” – one has to understand how a person gets into Scientology. This will take a few paragraphs, so please bear with me.
Most people are introduced to Scientology in one of three ways: A friend’s recommendation; the street-side personality test (the loftily-titled Oxford Capacity Analysis, written by LRH and designed to find flaws); or by an advertisement. An interesting note on ads: LRH taught his followers to regularly survey people to find out what was troubling them and then advertise that Scientology has the answers to those specific problems. LRH calls this “come-on dissemination”:
If we tell him there is something to know and don’t tell him what it is we will zip people into…the org. […] Never just GIVE the data. […] Keep the prospect’s appetite for knowledge and mystery well stimulated and channel the person right along so that he will and does become an actual Scientologist. – LRH, HCO PL 25 June 1978, COME-ON DISSEMINATION
Once the initial contact is made, the prospect starts with some small, inexpensive action – purchasing and reading the Dianetics book or taking an entry-level course such as Success Through Communications (known as the Comm Course).
This is a critical step, similar to the way a car dealer “qualifies” his prospects to determine if they are serious about buying or just looking – except Scientology prospects qualify themselves.
If you read Dianetics and think it’s rambling nonsense, or if the Comm Course strikes you as the world’s most expensive staring contest, you are not a good prospect, and you will most likely take yourself out of the equation. But if your interest is piqued by Dianetic’s promises of higher IQ and perfect health, or if you assume that the reason it makes little sense is that you are not intelligent enough to understand it (a frequent hook for young people), or if the Comm Course helps boost your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations (which it does), chances are you will be intrigued enough to do more. Pretty slick, eh?
Now, this is not to say that Scientology prospects are gullible. That’s a common misconception. We all have points in our life when we have needs – the need for answers, the need for greater knowledge, the need to belong. When we are needy, we look for ready answers. LRH designed Scientology to feed on these needs.
Moving on to the tech that works
From here, people generally move on to Dianetic auditing – one aspect of the tech that really works. Dianetic auditing involves tracking down the root of problems in your life by searching out early incidents. Let’s say you feel that you are unintelligent. Your Dianetic auditor will take you back through your life, getting you to talk about all the times you felt unintelligent, until you get to the root problem (i.e. your father always used to say “What are you, an idiot?”). Once you find that root incident, you are encouraged to talk through it until you understand that it was an outside influence that caused this problem, and not some flaw in your personality. You have the realization that you are not unintelligent, but rather have been made to feel unintelligent. It’s a massive, life-changing realization. You feel great! And assuming you have more than one problem, there will be more than one solution, and you’ll be flying high.
Now, many of you are probably thinking, “So what? That’s what any good psychotherapist does.” Correct! L. Ron Hubbard borrowed this bit of “tech” from the group that would soon become his sworn enemy, the psychiatric profession. And that’s why it works: The theory had been proven long before Hubbard got into the self-help biz.
Incidentally, you’ll note that people who have undergone psychiatric care are generally ineligible for Scientology services. Now you know why – because they’ll recognize that Dianetic therapy wasn’t Hubbard’s original idea, which blows the whole illusion.
So, now we have the roots of “working” tech – proven techniques that produce guaranteed results – what Scientologists call “wins” – and credited (improperly) to LRH. Now, let’s fast-forward a bit…
A little further up The Bridge
Scientology consists of a specific and tightly-ordered program of courses and levels called The Bridge to Total Freedom. (You can see large scan of The Bridge chart here (official Church of Scientology site link).)
Here’s some of the “technology” a Scientologist gets when he or she is a quite a bit further up the Bridge:
“Incident One Sequence: Loud snap; waves of light; chariot comes out turns left then right; cherub comes out; blow horn; cherub retreats; series of snaps; blackness dumped on thetan. Date: 4 quadrillion years ago (4,000,000,000,000,000). Location: Not given.” — LRH, OT III
Hold on a minute! How did we get from proven psychotherapeutic techniques to cherubs and chariots?
That, my friend, is thanks to another of Hubbard’s great (and borrowed) concepts: The gradient.
“Gradient: A gradual approach to something, taken step by step, so that, finally, quite complicated and difficult activities or concepts can be achieved with relative ease.” —What Is Scientology? glossary (official Church of Scientology site link)
I touched on the concept of gradient in my blog entry LRH: Spinney and Bent. Basically, LRH said that if you try to learn too much too fast, you’ll get overwhelmed. Well, duh. But in the case of Scientology, LRH turned this into an art form – and a lucrative business practice.
“Gradient:” Scientologese for “conditioning”
Any non-Scientologist who reads about Incident One will think it’s nuts. Hell, reading about Incident One would probably cause a brand-new Scientologist to run screaming from the org. That’s why LRH uses the gradient. You do you Dianetic auditing. It works. You don’t realize this is proven psychotherapy – remember, former psychiatric patients are not welcome in Scientology – so you credit LRH. You do the Purification Rundown. Days and days in a sauna, possibly with rainbow-colored sweat seeping from your pores, is bound to strike anyone who isn’t medically trained as impressive, or at least having some tangible result. You credit LRH. Gradually, you are conditioned to attribute all of your “wins” not to your own initiative, but to “LRH tech.” And as your trust in LRH gets deeper and deeper, the tech gets stranger and stranger, until you’re up to your armpits in cherubs… and beyond.
As Scientologists go further up The Bridge, many (quite naturally) begin to have doubts or problems putting it all together. Let’s say that happens toyou. You aren’t getting “wins” the way you did back when you were doing Dianetic auditing. You may have more and more trouble understanding what Hubbard is talking about. And yet you keep believing. (And keep paying.) Why?
The Success Story
After every Scientology service, participants are asked to write a Success Story, outlining the “wins” they achieved. So what if you don’t get any wins? Can’t you just opt out of writing a Success Story?
Of course you can’t! LRH teaches that if the technology does not work for you, that means you didn’t learn it properly. (Remember, you’ve been conditioned to believe that LRH has all the answers.) So if you don’t achieve success, you have to go back and re-take the course, or find the word that you didn’t understand (skipping over misunderstood words is a HUGE no-no in Scientology), or take more auditing. Look, all these other people are having successes and getting wins, right? Just look at their success stories! Surely, the problem is you.
All of this costs time and money (you don’t expect the Church to let you re-take courses for free just because YOU messed up, do you?), so pretty soon, you learn to find successes which you can write in your Success Stories.
So why don’t disillusioned Scientologists warn other Scientologists? Because Scientologists are instructed not to talk about their experiences with anyone – not that they would want to, as just like psychotherapy, auditing often results in the revelation of very personal issues. But unlike psychotherapy, there is nothing like doctor-patient privilege to guarantee confidentiality. And you won’t have much luck finding a Scientologist who will listen, because LRH taught that that if you hear about an upper level from another Scientologist, you will not be able to achieve the gains from that level yourself. (Doesn’t he think of everything? Remember, LRH was a successful science-fiction writer. Closing holes in the plot was his specialty.) LRH formulated his methodology to isolate Scientologists from the rest of the society and from each other. When a Scientologist suffers, he or she suffers alone.
The end phenomenon
Pretty soon, you start finding wins. You credit all your successes to your Scientology training. You blame your failures on yourself – your inability to understand or apply the technology.
LRH has got you. You will believe what you are told, when you are told. You will believe in the Helatrobus implant and you will believe that you must rid yourself of your body thetans. You believe that psychiatrists routinely rape and lobotomize their patients. You believe that illness and disease is caused by negative people rather than germs, and that treatment with medication should be avoided whenever possible. You believe that anyone who tries to tell you Scientology is a scam, even people who have known you and loved you for years, have a secret agenda to destroy Scientology.
You believe you have to keep donating and have to keep paying for courses because Scientology is the only path to spiritual freedom and the only hope for Mankind.
You believe whatever Hubbard tells you, because you know the technology works.
It certainly worked for L. Ron Hubbard, who died a multi-millionaire.