Today I want to talk about The Art Series, a set of Scientology policies that I find both highly amusing and deeply offensive. The Art Series provides an excellent illustration of a) how full of himself L. Ron Hubbard was and b) how tight a grasp he had on the minds of his followers. If you’re looking for evidence that LRH was a megalomaniac, you’ll find it in the Art Series.
(For those who want to read along, you’ll find the Art Series policies in the Management Series volumes, which you can download from this MegaUpload link.)
The first Art Series policy, HCOB 30 August AD15 (1965), “ART,” is typical Hubbardian drivel. Basically, it says that the subject of art has been confusing and confounding people for centuries, so LRH magnanimously decided to engage his superior powers of comprehension and sort out the subject once and for all. And in doing so, he accomplished what millions of people have been unable to do for centuries.
Hubbard’s definition of art is pretty narrow. “ART,” he says, “is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION.” But that doesn’t stop him from administering a healthy dose of microanalysis and mumbo-jumbo:
“The rule is if one is being too perfectionistic to actually achieve a communication, reduce the mass, time, impedimenta or facilities sufficiently low to accomplish the communication but maintain the technique and perfection as high as is reconcilable with the result to be achieved and within one’s power to act.”
In otherwords, “Don’t over-complicate things.” This is hardly a new concept, but it always amazes me Hubbard was able to stretch out the simplest ideas into unnecessarily long diatribes, and how his followers seem perfectly willing to mistake his needless verbosity for intelligence. People sometimes assume that if something is difficult to understand, it must be above their level of comprehension — a concept of which LRH took full advantage.
What really sticks out about the Art Series, to me at least, is Art Series 11, HCOB 1 February 1984: “HOW TO VIEW ART.” Yup, that’s right – Hubbard actually told his followers that there was a specific and correct technique to view art. Basically, it involves clearing your mind and pretending you haven’t seen the artwork before.
In typical Hubbard style, he takes two and a half single-spaced pages to say this.
I’ve always believed that art is an intensely personal thing. People create art for their own reasons, and people see art the way they see it for their own reasons. According to Hubbard, however, I’m wrong. From Art Series 16, MESSAGE:
“Successful works of art have a message. Art is for the receiver. It is not enough that the creator of the work understands it; those who receive it must.” — LRH
And what about all those art professors who tell you it’s okay to create something simply for the sake of creating it? According to Hubbard, they’re just trying to protect their own interests. From Art Series 2, HCOB 19 July 1973, “ART, MORE ABOUT:”
“Some professors who don’t want rivals tell their students “Art is for self-satisfaction.” “It is a hobby.” In other words, don’t display or exhibit, kid, or you’ll be competition!” — LRH
The Art Series goes on and on and on and on like this. In Art Series 3, STAGE MANNERS, Hubbard gives actors blindingly obvious advice such as, “If you goof, ride right over it. Do not break off, call attention to it or look helpless or foolish.” And surely no artist can accomplish anything great without the advice given in Art Series 9:
“To do a montage, shot or work of art that talks, one must: 1) Figure out what your message is. 2) Decide to communicate the message. 3) Put in things or arrangements that contribute to the message. 4) Take out or exclude things that don’t contribute to it.” — LRH
Art Series 4, RHYTHM, defines rhythm for music, poetry, and the like, with information that one of our musically-inclined readers tells me is completely wrong. Art Series 14, COLOR, has frustrated countless Scientology art directors by making it policy to use a color wheel for their creations. And Art Series 17, ART AND EQUIPMENT, contains the earth-shattering revelation that knowing how to use your equipment will yield better results.
Here’s the rub: For all that Hubbard claimed to have “discovered” about art, Scientology artwork tends to be pretty fucking terrible. The over-the-top backgrounds for David Miscavige’s televised extravagasms are about as good as Scientology-inspired artwork gets; all of the other Scientology paintings I’ve seen have been sci-fi-themed anonymity of the type found on corporate office walls.
LRH’s influence on music can be heard in the horrifically bad album he produced, The Road to Freedom (samples here; download the whole thing here, and if listening to this prompts you to rip out your own eardrums with a salad fork, I am not responsible). And let’s not forget Hubbard’s Hollywood opus, Battlefield Earth, or Marty Rathbun’s awesomely awful Ode to L. Ron Hubbard, presumably written using LRH’s “tech”.
Practical applications aside, the implications of the Art Series go way beyond Hubbard’s laughable delusions of adequacy. The idea behind the Art Series is that all things in the human experience can be quantified and measured. The truth is that no one can really explain why the right arrangement of paint on a canvas or the right combination of musical notes can move a person to tears.
In Scientology, such unexplainable emotional reactions are a bad thing. After all, “THE PRIMARY BARRIER TO PRODUCTION IS HUMAN EMOTION AND REACTION,” LRH wrote in HCO PL 2 June 1971-II — and in all caps, no less.
Personally, I prefer living a life where some things are beyond explanation. I’m not a Scientologist; I am a free wog, and I don’t need Hubbard to tell me what is art, what is beautiful, and why.
Especially when it’s so plainly obvious that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.