Monday, November 12, 2007

The Importance of Self-Criticism

It is often said by proponents of alternative therapies and the like that Science is arrogant in thinking it has all the answers, but this is a false argument; science does not claim to have all the answers. Its method is set out in such a way that those working in evidence based science must continually attempt to disprove its firmly held beliefs; it is commonly said that scientific theories can never be proved, merely disproved; and as each theory is disproved we move towards a better understanding of the universe. That is to say that when evidence arises that points out flaws in the current theory, a new theory is required that will account for both the old and the new evidence. This new theory, in time, may well be disproved, and a further theory required.

Ben Goldacre, the author of the Bad Science column, often mentions the top 3 requested research papers from the BMJ's archives to highlight the fact that scientific endeavour is based in a healthy environment of self-criticism. This may be of special interest to those who spam alt.religion.scientology with anti-psych posts!

The top scoring paper was a case-control study which showed that patients had a higher risk of heart attack if they were taking the painkillers rofecoxib (Vioxx), diclofenac, or ibuprofen. Vioxx of course was at the heart of a major scandal. At number 2 was a large meta-analysis of drug company data, which showed no evidence that SSRI antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, but did find weak evidence for an increased risk of deliberate self harm, which is worth keeping an eye on. And in third place was a systematic review which showed an association between suicide attempts and the use of SSRI’s, and highlighted – very critically - some of the inadequacies around the reporting of suicides in clinical trials.

What is perhaps more important than the content of these studies is that the papers are not the result of Scientologists or any other axe-grinding, anti-science group researching the effects of medication. These papers are a result of people working in the rational, logical world of evidence based science. They are seeking out truth by the creation and analysis of data.

The problem that both Scientology and the anti-psych; anti-big Pharma movement has is that it tends to hold up disproofs as evidence of a systemic failure of science, as though the method itself was in some way flawed. Scientology, in its recruitment, warns staff to watch out for people who seem to require evidence for the claims Scientology makes about itself. Anyone who has done any serious research into Narconon or any of the other technologies developed and promotoed by the Church will know that the kind of rigorous, double-blind tested, evidence-based research that is necessary to determine the efficacy of their programmes either does not exist or is woefully misinterpreted for the sake of a sale. Furthermore staff working on such unproven therapies or techniques show no interest in researching or improving them. This is because it is not good Scientology to question the tech. There is no room in Scientology for it to criticise itself, despite the early writings of Hubbard on the subject. Keeping Scientology Working is used to ensure that no-one is able to put the tech to the test.

This is the fundemental hole in the anti-psych spam. It generally involves people working in the field of psychiatry publishing research into their own field. Few of the people quoted by the spammers are making a case against the field of psychiatry as a whole, and it is well worth investigating the background of those who do.

Much of the rest of the anti-psych spam is made up of psychiatrists being disciplined for improper behaviour. Again, all that these posts show is that self-monitoring of psychiatrists is ongoing, and that it gets results; the system works! Posters may want to see the transgressions of the minority of psychiatrists that are struck off or otherwise disciplined as a sign that there is something rotten at the core of psychiatry, but do be aware that you cannot hold that argument without also maintaining the argument that Scientologists who break into government offices, or defraud people, or otherwise harm or rob people also demonstrate something rotten at the core of Scientology.

Whereas one may, and often do, get scientists complaining about the way that research funding is awarded, or that there are flaws in the way pharmaceutical products are developed or marketed, one will not find any Scientologist criticising Scientology. Called on to say something, anything, that is wrong with Scientology might lead to the glib "there aren't enough Scientologists", but little more; not even how slow the Church was to pick up on all that bad tech it's been selling its members for years, right up to the day that the revised texts and courses were made available. That total lack of self-criticism (and intolerance to criticism) is not a sign that Scientology is somehow right and true; it is a symptom of its own failings.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Every Dog Has Its Day

The 30 Second Skinny The way in which auditing is carried out mirrors closely processes that lead to false memory syndrome. The Church of Scientology gently discourages validation of memories recovered via auditing, believing that the auditing process itself is enough validation. The e-meter becomes so tied up with the idea of determining truth, that it forms the foundation for Scientology's belief in past lives.

The Way to Cease and Desist

The Way To Happiness Foundation, an organisation that claims to be independent of the Church of Scientology but solely exists to distribute copies of L Ron Hubbard's 1981 common sense guide to happy living seems to be going through one cycle of behaviour rather a lot recently. As has been the case with other organisations claiming independence of Scientology, such as Narconon, the Foundation has been sniffing around after state endorsements, but whereas other organisations have been blinding police chiefs with glossy brochures and ill-founded claims of efficacy until such a time as the signature dries, the Foundation have been cutting out the middle man.

In both San Francisco and Texas, they have printed pamphlets promoting Hubbard's writings alongside letters of approval from mayors Newsom and Leppert. In the former instance the mayor's inclusion in the pamphlet caim to light when a box of 12 copies were sent to the mayor's office. Lance Miller, Scientologist and president of the Foundation, has claimed that the copies were a, in retropsect ill-thought-out, attempt to get the mayor to agree on his inclusion.

"Cities, churches and businesses around the country," he explains, "received similar customized copies of the booklets, and San Francisco just happened to be on the mailing list currently being used". Except the booklets printed weren't some automated "push a button and retire" product. They feature artwork specific to both San Francisco and the mayor so this statement from Miller is a little misleading. Further, his claims that it was a sales pitch is somewhat weakened by the fact that in Texas, pamphlets featureing Leppert were in actual distribution.

Incidentally, the Foundation website avoids all mention of Scientology, even in the FAQ section on Hubbard. It's one of the ongoing problems with Scientology-connected groups. They have the notion that if they divorce themselves from the Church itself, it will somehow absolve them of any problems that religious associations might bring (the separation of church and state often means that religious organisations are unable to get involved with state matters to the degree that they would wish). How far that is true is a matter for debate, but few can believe that an organisation furthering the teachings of Hubbard in any form cannot in some way be seen as a promotion of Scientology. The reason these organisations exist is so that people will read through the material and think to themselves "oh, this is interesting, I'll have to check out more from this Hubbard guy". That's why so much of the freely available material of Hubbard is of the "can't argue with that" flavour. That's why Scientologists like to lay out the "core beliefs" of Scientology to the naive and uninitiated - a world without crime and insanity? Sounds good to me. Just so long as it isn't based on a belief system riding on the back of deliberately engineered false memory syndrome and a mythology involving aliens.

What the Foundation does say about Hubbard, and forgive me my stray from the topic, is that he believed the upshot of the move away from religion (which, as we all know, happened in the 70s) was that the State failed in taking up the mantle of passing on a moral code to its country's citizens. He claims his Way to Happiness is a common sense moral code that could be used to replace what we've lost in turning our back on religion.

Only we don't get our moral code from religion; religion is just the means by which some of us confirm it (and it's great for supporting one's bigotry too!). Ironically, his seeking out of a moral code based on common sense is, in fact, exactly what did happen in the 70s, leading to what I assume he perceives as a moral decline (homosexuality, inter-racial marriages, etc.). People actually started looking at the meat of their morality, rather than thinking it was enough that it was all layed down in scripture. Morality based on scripture is, to coin a phrase, a house built on sand.

I know there are plenty of religious folk out there who distressingly believe that if someone lives without God there is nothing to stop them becoming homicidal maniacs, but it clearly isn't the case; I know plenty of atheists who have never killed anyone. This is in part because atheism tends to make people value life more, not less. If this is all we get, then we're best off making the most of it. If this is all everyone gets, then who am I to make someone else's life shorter or even just more difficult? Compare that to the offer of a life of misery in exchange for Brownie points in Heaven and I fail to see the contest.

What is disturbing about such claims that godlessness leads to mania is that it suggests the only thing stopping the religious folk making those claims from becoming homicidal maniacs is religion. Try not to be around the day they lose their faith! We have a moral compass; one that we are in part born with and in part learn. All scripture does is confirm the elements of that moral compass we wish to pursue, assuage our guilt when we transgress, and police our thoughts with the threat of supernatural intervention. What really irritates me in particular about Christians who routinely spout such nonsense is that it bears no relation to who Jesus was and what he did. Christ took the moral code of his day, tore it up and started again. That's why Tacitus described Christianity as a degraded sect. That and the lady deacons. So much of what remains of Jesus' teachings are about examining and re-examining our moral codes, not by living our lives out based on scripture alone. All the contemporary quoting of Leviticus and worse in the furthering of hatred and oppression must have Jesus turning in his grave.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Xenu or not Xenu

One of the first curiosities a critical thinker will encounter when researching Scientology is the cloud of confusion that surrounds what is one of its most central beliefs, the infamous Incident II in which, 75 million years ago, evil galactic emperor Xenu incarcerated billions of people in volcanoes and blew them up with atomic bombs. According to information given over in Operating Thetan 3 he then incarcerated the resultant "body thetans" in holographic cinemas in order to confuse them as to their time, place and true nature. Many of the symbols of world religions formed part of the holographic show, and it is around these symbols that all other world religions are based. This belief that other religions are implants flies in the face of the other oftentold lie, that Scientology is compatible with all other religions. It offers up an explanation of other world religions, certainly, but it is not compatible with them, no more than psychological theories on the origins of religion are compatible with the religions they explain.

The body thetans or BTs then attached themselves to the nearest reasonably sentient life-forms, human beings, and it is the BTs discombobulated confusion that causes most of our day-to-day problems. Scientology's auditing procedures and OT courses offer a solution.

As religions go this is no different in any real sense to, say, Catholicism, where one is weighed down with one's own sin (and, I suppose, the sins of one's fathers) but can attone through the not dissimilar process of confession. That confession is free and auditing costs thousands need not concern us right now. What does concern us though, is this: the Xenu myth is at the core of what is being offered to members of the church whether they realise it or not. Incident II is not a creation myth in the traditional sense, but it operates in much the same way. It is the source of all our troubles. It is the thing we're trying to solve just as much as Christianity promises a solution to that first fall from grace. Where it becomes troublesome is when one considers that most Christians know Genesis. Heck, the Christian text starts at the beginning! The Scientology text effectively starts with a communication course. Scientology doesn't encounter its own serpent until it gets to the third level of Operating Thetan, before which much time and money has been spent.

Why is that?

Well one possibility is that if you pull someone in off the street after their complimentary stress test and tell them that the source of all their woe is a genocidal solution to overpopulation from 75 million years ago they will quite rightly be disinterested in the weighty paperback you're trying to sell them. Another possibility, one that Scientology ascribes to, is that learning about Xenu once you are clear but before you have completed OT1 & 2 will very likely kill you. This, despite the fact that the Xenu myth is by now well known. I dare say there have been several Scientologists who have attained clear in full knowledge of what secrets lie in the OT3 briefcase and yet have miraculously survived the ordeal. Here's how L Ron described the effects of the "research" that led to the creation of OT3:

The implant is calculated to kill (by pneumonia etc) anyone who attempts to solve it. This liability has been dispensed with by my tech development. One can freewheel through the implant and die unless it is approached as precisely outlined. The "freewheel" (auto-running on and on) lasts too long, denies sleep etc and one dies. So be careful to do only Incidents I and II as given and not plow around and fail to complete one thetan at a time.

In December 1967 1 know someone had to take the plunge. I did and emerged very knocked out, but alive. Probably the only one ever to do so in 75,000,000 years. I have all the data now, but only that given here is needful.
But this refers to running the procedures as written, not about sharing the information about Xenu, so it doesn't really account for why Scientologists of OT3 and above lie and lie again about what is a central belief of their religion.

Fortean Times, in their August 07 issue quotes Church spokeswoman Janet Kenyon Laveau: "there is nothing in the theology or philosophy of Scientology about belief in aliens." But if that were the case, then why would one of the Church's own websites list as its definition of Space Opera:
of or relating to time periods on the whole track millions of years ago which concerned activities in this and other galaxies. Space opera has space travel, spaceships, spacemen, intergalactic travel, wars, conflicts, other beings, civilizations and societies, and other planets and galaxies. It is not fiction and concerns actual incidents and things that occurred on the track.
The only explanation approaching legitimacy that this blogger has for the relentless lying about the space opera aspects of Scientology belief is in that very noun - "belief". The Beacon recently found itself in discussion with a Scientologist on the photo sharing site Flickr. During this discussion the Scientologist (M) stated that aliens are "not part of the religious practice of Scientology". M goes on to explain that Scientology does involve "the factual discovery by L. Ron Hubbard that almost any person, with very little effort, is able to access memories that stretch before this lifetime" and that people have recovered memories in which they encounter and belong to alien races1. So in the mind of the Scientologist the Xenu myth is not part of their "belief system" because they consider the "space opera stuff" to be cold hard fact2, just like their glossary states.

Suddenly Scientologists aren't lying about their belief in the myth, they are quibbling over the use of words. But get this - I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, and I believe that gravity is a universal force that causes matter to drift towards other matter. I believe that I am sitting in front of a keyboard typing these words. I believe them, and they are facts. The vocal denial that (OT3+) Scientologists believe in Xenu can only be misleading, whether or not the speaker is making a semantic point or out-and-out lying. When Sweeney interviewed Kirstie Alley, Juliette Lewis, Leah Remini, Ann Archer and Tommy Davis he asked them if they believed in the Xenu myth and each one of them denied it - celebrity Scientologists lying about their beliefs in a media interview. Tommy himself, in challenging Sweeney's persistence in asking about Xenu, provides insight into why the church is so keen to deny it: "it's like loony. It's weird.. makes you look weird." You're not wrong, Tommy.

Allegedly permission to use the interview footage in the documentary was pulled at the last minute due to Sweeney using the dread c-word, but could it just as easily be true that it would be damaging to the Church if such vocal supporters of the church could be exposed as demonstrable liars?

1 This is laid out in the book Have You Lived Before This Life, a collection of 42 testimonials involving past life memories, some of which are of the space opera flavour. No attempts are made to verify these memories within the book so it offers little in the way of proof that these memories are genuine.

2 One of the grand ironies is that this "truth" stems from the use of the e-meter. Hubbard claimed that it was possible to discern real memories from false memories by interrogating them on the meter. When he and others were confronted with memories that were hugely improbable and quite probably disprovable (an endeavour Scientologists are discouraged from pursuing), instead of taking them as a disproof of the ability for auditing to verify memories, they assumed that these memories were proved and the auditing process remained valid.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wog Blog Comments on Miscavige's Squirelling

Mark Bunker's Wog Blog has an excellent post on not only the recent massive alterations of Hubbard texts but a selection of videos detailing previous alterations and the fate that befell those Scientologists brave enough to question them. Is a schism fast approaching?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Magic Boxes - #3 Bioresonance Therapy

The 30 Second Skinny BRT is a treatment invented by Scientologist Franz Morell. It is based on the idea that all matter has a vibration, and that the BRT box is capable of recreating this vibration and as a result have the same effect on the human body as whatever generated the vibration. In other words, one could create the vibration of insulin, and it would have an insulin-like effect on the body. It is most commonly used today as a treatment for nicotine dependence, despite no clinical evidence or plausible theory behind it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


From amongst the defamation and the anti-psych spam of alt.religion.scientology appear the rumours regarding the revised Scientology books were true. Scientology critic Chuck Beatty received information from a contact in attendance at the 14th July, LA org event at which the new editions were launched.

The whole event was a video of the Clearwater event the big event, and the whole event was DM talking about the 18 new books, in sequence, book by book the changes, why the changes and details.
It started about 8:20pm and went till 11pm. Saturday, 14 July, 2007. LA org parking lot, covered in astroturf, normal vinyl curtain fence around the whole block cutting off outside views into the seating area. Only exit was the LA org driveway leading to LRH Way which had booths of all the PAC orgs setup, and all staff waiting to all hands sell the books to their org's public.
Almost 3 hours of DM telling how the books were messed up and how they were messed up.
It was estimated that 2500 attended, so the sales was well over a million bucks, just the LA Orgs namely LAD, LAF, AOLA, ASHOD and ASHOF and CC Int, together, and all the other LA and valley orgs held their own events, at their own orgs.

This is the earth-shattering, history-making event, that virtually everything that Scientology has been teaching since its inception has been flawed, despite previous attempts to ensure that the texts available match the original words of Hubbard. A failure on the part of the Church twice running, then...

Only DMSMH and maybe one or two other books were typed by LRH. All other books were dictated onto diskettes or tape.
So that's how the screwups occurred, the sluggards who originally transcribed LRH's diskettes or tapes, messed up. And then the people splicing together the sections of the transcripts messed up in the splicing of the transcripts into books! Paragraphs were transposed, misplaced in wrong chapters, and just a whole slew of mis-splicing. LRH didn't notice it, he read the transcripts, and noted things in the margins of the transcripts, so then the splicers who spliced the transcripts into the books, messed it up.
LRH must have not ever read the final books, and noticed the splicing errors, etc. DM didn't explain LRH's goof of not proofreading the full final books by reading them, that is just obvious.
This dangerous complacency is at the heart of the organisation. It remains to this day impossible to fathom exactly what Hubbard truly believed. I suppose the believer will think Hubbard assumed the transcribers would be clears and not prone to error, and the non-believer that it didn't really matter what was in the final work, so long as the money kept coming in. Keeping Scientology Working, after all, need not have been a Quality Assurance measure. Instead it can be seen as an assurance, at least as far as the copyrighted scriptures are concerned, that ownership and use of such texts remain entirely within the Church's influence.
DM apparantly didn't say during the event that all the old books are to be destroyed. That is the case though. Public asking staff what to do with their old books are told to bring their old books to the D/ FBO MORE of their orgs, and the books will be destroyed.
Posters on ARS have quite rightly questioned how this fits into the Doctrine of Exchange, the notion that goods and services should indeed be exchanged for money or kind. The DoE is something of a doctrine of convenience for the church - they certainly don't mind forgoing paying the state for the services it provides, usually citing the work of the Volunteer Ministry as a means of evading these payments within its own dogma (as if benefiting the illiterate of India somehow will be seen as a payment in kind by the IRS). Even shakier is that the Church are now admitting that their products have always been flawed, perhaps in the all or nothing world of KSW actually worthless. Thus the Church ought to be indebted to its followers, some of whom have already payed more than once for the CoS product. Not so, it would seem, as members are asked to pay up for the unrevised texts, and to destroy (or go out ethics and sell on ebay) the corrupted work.

Donation sets of books for libraries were also sold. My contact only bought the books, and next day, Sunday, got 4 phone calls, over and over, to buy the tapes.
Entrance to this event was tighter, people had to register to get into event, give phone number. There were electronic entry stations, getting everyone's info before letting them in. (Getting those phone number for the next day's flogging for those that hadn't bought all that could be bought.)
All staff on sales, after event. Very hard sale afterwards. But considering these books are in effect almost the Scientology bible, this was an easy sell to these public at this event.
This was an easy release sale, all public pretty much were resigned and knew they couldn't dodge not getting their new set of books! Bridge staff might get some libs this coming weekend.

The earth-shattering news, it would appear, is that Miscavige has realised it has become virtually impossible for Scientology to pull out of its decline, and so has tapped existing members, may of who have already spent a fortune on texts and courses, for further finance. The news that these texts were "squirreled" from the start poses more questions than it claims to answer. Church staff were quick to compile a list of positive quotes to back up the notion that their actions have been benefitial.

"In the past I would never read Dianetics because I thought it was too hard and would not confront it! After the event I could not wait to read all these 'new' books and so I began reading DMSMH. While reading it I am having lots of wins. I thought I knew quite a bit about the mind, instead I found out my knowledge was just approximate. It is wonderful how LRH studied and experimented everything down to the finer details. I noticed this book flows really well and the glossary is awesome. I thank LRH for the data he is giving me, RTC and COB for their relentless procurement of pure tech, just like LRH gave it. Thank you." F.A.

"Dianetics is so much more understood now than it was before! In the past I used to have a fear of this book and of reading it. It seemed so difficult. Not only was it easier to read this time, but it was easier to look at too! I had more cognitions than ever and it was another basic book like the rest, not a scary book that was hard to confront. My thanks go out to COB and the Sea Org, without whom we would not have these beautiful, readable, standard products. Thank you very much." R.M.

"There are so many things about this book that I finally get, whereas when I read this book before, I was practically in the clouds. Specifically, there is one paragraph in the beginning of the book I couldn't understand for the life of me. This time I just checked out a word or so in the back and that was it-complete understanding!"

Many of these smack of relief, of a confusion long-suffered and finally lifted, which again poses the question of how such a confusion in Scientologists has been tolerated for so long? Because there is no room in the organization to question the writings of L Ron Hubbard. Keeping Scientology Working has, in effect, ensured (and this just according to Miscavige's current belief) that Scientology remained hobbled by incorrect teachings for half a century.

The critic posting as Piltdown Man offers up a fantastic idea that the new-old versions of Hubbard's books are nothing more than the first drafts. It's a lengthy post but is a meaty enough supposition to cast a long shadow on the July releases.

So we start with Hubbard dictating one of those books, and a secretary then typing out a transcript of his dictation. Let's call that Revision 1. Authors who work that way (and Hubbard, while a crappy one, was a professional writer) normally treat such a transcript as a rough first draft, to which they then start making handwritten corrections, revisions and additions, or perhaps dictating such changes. Let's call the combination of the transcript with the handwritten edits Revision 2. Once things become too complicated to decipher, they might have a secretary make another typed version, Revision 3, start editing that one, etc. But at some stage, of course, a clean typescript for publication has to emerge. Let's call that the Final Revision.


So here's my hypothetical idea: what if what was printed at the time, and was reprinted until these 'new' versions emerged, was indeed Hubbard's Final Revision, as he edited and approved it himself, but that the typescript has been lost somewhere in the process of publication, as often happened? That all those what DM apparently calls "splices", according to Chuck Beatty's account of his speech, are in fact real, but they're Hubbard's *own* edits? Maybe, just maybe, DM or someone else noticed that what is in the printed versions does indeed differ from what they have in the vault where Hubbard's manuscripts are stored, but that's because all they've got is what I called Revision 2 above, not the Final Revision as Hubbard wanted it. Maybe he's managed to strip Hubbard's own final editorial revisions from the books, and is now presenting an intermediate draft version which Hubbard never intended to see published.
This is just a supposition of course, but it's one well worth exploring. Such an exploration cannot take place within the totalitarian structure of the Church; the emergence of the new releases themselves are testament to that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Scientology Cited in Australian Murders

The daughter of a Scientologist couple is currently on trial for the murder of her father, her fifteen-year-old sister, and the attempted murder of her mother. She was diagnosed as psychotic in late-2006 and it is alleged that her parents, being good Scientologists, refused her medical treatment. Scientology has painted psychiatry as the villain in the history of the human race, even in being co-conspirators (along, tellingly, with the tax man) of Xenu in the Teegeack genocide, the so-called Incident II. One of the key pursuits of scientology is the defamation and destruction of the field of psychiatry. The Church used their 2007 New Year celebration to push their desire of the global obliteration of the field, complete with the same kind of metaphorical calls to arms that put critic Keith Henson in prison. Ironically many of the criticisms CoS have of psychiatry, Scientology itself is guilty of. They claim psychiatry is not an evidence-based science, that it has inhumane practices, that it denies individuals their human rights, that it is criminal but manages to evade justice on a meaningful scale due to a conspiratorial web of power.

Yet Scientology states it has evidence to back up its own scientific claims, from the supposed benefits of Dianetics, through to its rehab programs and even the more outlandish claims of past lives and the powers said to open up to a scientologist when he reaches the top of the bridge to freedom - this evidence is often cited but never seen. Scientologists have been guilty of crimes as seen in Operations Snow White and Freakout. In the "treatment" of Lisa McPherson she was confined against her will, as documented by the watch logs. Scientology has a long history of out-of-court settlements and a habit of offloading its crimes onto its followers so that the Church itself never appears in the dock (despite the fact that when a psychiatrist breaks the law, he is seen by Scientology as committing a crime on behalf of psychiatry itself).

The case in Australia is not unique; in fact it parallels closely the Elli Perkins murder. She, too, tried to treat her psychotic child, Jeremy, with vitamins. She too was stabbed to death for her troubles. That Scientology's attitude to psychiatry and psychiatric illness seems clearly irresponsible (Lisa McPherson, once taken out of the "evil" care of psychiatry was then looked after by Flag staff members clearly unable to deal with her illness) goes almost without saying. Even if their criticisms of psychiatry stand up, Scientology does not satisfactorily provide a replacement. The big mistake is that Scientology relies on standard procedure - Hubbard praised himself for establishing rundowns that worked for everyone so long as they are followed to the letter. One of the things that psychiatry realises, and struggles with, is that the various conditions they encounter are fantastically difficult to categorise, and, as a result, treat effectively. Scientology, from what this blogger has seen, finds it even difficult to recognise the difference between clinical depression and a case of the doldrums.

The tragedy in Australia is not as clear-cut as the death of Elli Perkins, however. The daughter had been allowed back onto her medication for the last three weeks as it helped her sleep. If we attempt to find a cause, or apportion blame, how are we to tell whether it was the deprivation of medication, or the medication itself. In a sense, that the waters are muddied like this will only serve to invite debate, which I suspect will be detrimental to the Church's position. There are few critical thinkers out there who cannot see the lack of logic in the following: a psychotic person is put on medication; the psychotic person then commits murder; the murder occured due to the medication. This is what Scientology believes. They also believe this: a depressive person is put on anti-depressants; the depressive person commits suicide; the medication caused the suicide. It is an oft-repeated observation, but the Church's position is akin to blaming cancer deaths on chemotherapy. The Church has long since withdrawn its support for Hubbard's statement that Dianetics can cure leukemia. I suspect it is about time that they withdraw their claims regarding serious psychological disorders.

Monday, July 09, 2007

There is an interesting post on the Ex-Scientologist website. It would appear that the rumours regarding new/corrected versions of Hubbard's work are beginning to be substantiated. It seems the books that LRH "wrote" he actually dictated, and all sorts of errors crept in despite subsequent claims to the contrary. LRH, of course, never noticed any of this...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Suppressed Kipling

Hello there.
Oh! I didn't see you there.
No, not down here. I blend in nicely don't I.
Yes sir, you do. You... you're a crocodile, aren't you?
At your service. I would doth my hat to you, but I came out without it this morning.
I see.
Might I be allowed to make an observation?
I... I guess so.
You look awfully tired.
I do?
Awfully tired. Dead on your feet, I'd say.
Well, I am a little sleepy, I suppose.
Come closer, boy.
I'd rather not, thank you.
Oh. Oh really. Whyever not?
You're a crocodile.
Ah yes, I am. Do you like my tail? I can swing it around rather well. Watch.
Yes. That's very impressive.
Thank you. I bet you wish you had a big strong tail like mine, don't you?
Not particularly no.
No? So you could do this? Look at it there, swishing about.
I ought to be going.
Oh please don't. Please don't go. You see... I've something else to show you.
You do?
Yes. It might wake you up a bit. You see these ridges on my back?
Rub them and see what happens.
I'd rather not.
Whyever not?
You're a crocodile.
You said that before.
Crocodiles are dangerous.
Are they now? Have you ever met a crocodile before?
Well then.
I've heard tell of crocodiles. They eat people.
Ho ho ho. Eat people? The things folk say! I don't think I've ever eaten anyone. I can state that categorically.
And anyway, if I were interested in eating you, I'd have some trouble reaching you back there, now wouldn't I?
I suppose so.
And it would be a shame if all you knew of crocodiles was what you'd heard from other people.
So what do you say?
Okay ... There.
How do your hands feel now.
They tingle a little.
That's the magic, you see. Very magical beasts us crocodiles.
So, that's something you'll be able to tell people from now on. Crocodiles don't eat people, you can say, they happen to be very magical beasts.
It doesn't seem very magical.
You do look terribly tired, you know. Did I say that?
You did.
Well if I've said it twice, it must be so. Do you know, boy, what the most comfortable pillow in the world is?
Is it... eiderdown?
No no. It's a crocodile's tongue.
A crocodile's tongue?
Quite so. Another part of our magic, you see. Let me open my mouth so you may rest that weary head of yours.
Please don't feel you have to.
You're stepping back. You're still afraid of me?
Yes I'm afraid of you! You want to eat me.
We don't eat people! Have you ever spoken to a person who has ever been eaten by a crocodile?
Well I wouldn't have, would I?
No, because we don't eat people. We busy ourselves doing good works. That's all the sustenance us crocodiles need. See that over there?
Over where?
That pile over there, steaming away in the sunset. Do you know what that is?
I think I can guess.
I make that, you know. It's... it's unguent.
What does it do, this unguent?
Why it cures people of their ills! It can make them more confident, and intelligent. It can stop them drinking, and smoking, and over-eating. It is a most remarkably efficacious concoction. Scientifically proven, don't you know.
By whom?
Scientists. I have the papers with me, but they're heavy reading. Why not sleep here and you can look them over in the morning.
I'm not resting my head inside your mouth.
You still think I'm going to eat you?
However can I rid you of this strange delusion.
It's not a delusion.
You think I lie? I find that rather offensive, as it happens.
I have it on good authority. A zoologist told me.
Oh you don't want to listen to zoologists. I shouldn't really tell you this but... zoologists have their own agendas.
Zoologists are interested in the study of animals.
And I suppose these zoologists have told you that all sorts of wild creatures go about the place eating people, have they.
Yes. And I trust them. I've spoken to several zoologists and they seemed very nice.
Ha! A worse breed of man there has never been. Do you know why zoologists go around spreading such lies?
They aren't lies. I know-
They spread such lies, my young fellow, to cover the awful truth.
I'm beginning to tire of this.
You are tired!
Go on then. Unburden yourself...
They go around infecting people with their dangerous fictions because... zoologists are the ones that eat people.
That's ridiculous.
They eat people as sure as eggs is eggs. As eggs is eggs, they eat people. They gobble down babies and children and women and men, and when the authorities come aknocking, they point to the nearest gazelle and say "dreadful, bloodthirsty things, gazelles, officer," and that is that.
I really am going now.
But home is such a long way.
It's not that far.
It's getting dark.
I can see just fine.
Well I worry for you. They come out at night, you see.
The zoologists.
I'll walk with you a while.

Just to the edge of the village.

Just till I know you're safe.
You can ride on my nose if you like.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Anatomy of a Deception - Part 2

In Part 1 we learnt of Mary Turner Thomson's relationship and marriage to Will Jordan, a man who presented himself to Mary as a CIA agent caught between an agency he was trying to leave and the dark forces he encountered whilst working for them. While Will faced a court appearance, Mary waited to hear back from his lawyer, but instead received a call from Michelle, Jordan's other wife.
It was not the words "I'm the other Mrs Jordan" that shook my world but "I have been told you are an agent." It was those eight words that finally bridged the gulf and reality became clear."
Mary arranged a meeting with Michelle that day and they swapped details.
I had crossed the gulf and knew the truth. After the initial numbing shock, there was an overpowering emotion that can only be described as "relief". I was free. Free from fear of being followed or targeted by shadowy enemy agents - they were not real and no one was after me; free from social services threatening to take my children away from me, as now I could tell them the truth; free from my prison of silence and lies.
Distressingly, with Will out on bail, Michelle was sucked back into the lies. Mary, on the other hand, took full advantage of her regained clarity, barring Will from her life save for the occasional conversations by telephone.

Mary was asked by a lawyer in the run up to Will's court appearance to discuss the reality that she had been living in for the previous six years. To her frustration she found herself unable to articulate or explain Will's CIA fiction, almost as if the language to do so wasn't there for her. The reality had been presented to Mary a piece at a time, such that when it came to explain to someone who had not travelled that same journey, it was impossible for that someone to understand.

Mary also found that the reality of certain events became unfixed. As she picked away at Will's lies she found memories that she couldn't rationalise, and it became more and more apparent that Will's manipulation of her went far beyond merely lying.
For example, I seemed to remember having talked to Michelle in the past and felt sure that I had firm proof of her as his "asset". I even remembered discussing with Will how I had talked to her directly. But when I tried to pin down the memory of talking to her and work out when it had happened I couldn't do it - the only clear memory was of him telling me I had spoken to her.
She believed she had somehow had her memory manipulated, and in researching this possibility acquired training materials covering techniques that she could relate exactly to the ways Will had controlled her. There remain a variety of incidents that defy explanation, but as she explained to John Ronson in his Radio 4 programme, one doesn't have to know how a magician performs a trick to know it is a trick. She thinks of Will Jordan as providing a mirror to her, matching himself to whatever her desire was so that he could exploit her.

Mary also added more names to the list of Will's victims, and is certain that there are more women out there that Jordan preyed upon. Her story stands testament to the fact that one needn't be stupid in order to be duped, merely trusting and needful; like most people, really.

Readers who believe they may have been a victim of Will Jordan or someone like him can find help and support at the Love Fraud website. The Other Mrs Jordan is available in paperback.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Panorama - What Happened Next

It would appear that we are due a Panoramic return to Scientology. A follow-up to the Scientology And Me episode is in the pipeline, though has been rescheduled, one assumes, to make way for a show on our PM nouveau Mr Gordon Brown. The What Happened Next episode, will likely focus in part on the Panorama Exposed documentary. For those who didn't see it, the Church of Scientology created a documentary as a counterpoint to the Panorama episode. The film focused on the alleged breaking of a variety of Ofcom rules in the BBC's re-examination of the self-help organisation. It was produced in tandem with the Panorama episode itself which was largely to its detriment as it covered a great deal of subject matter that never appeared in the programme. The documentary featured a number of interviews with people who could, under no circumstance, have seen footage from the Panorama episode itself. Lafayette understands that at least one of the talking heads had only seen the footage of Sweeney ranting, and answered a series of questions regarding hypothetical scenarios. Hardly valid criticism, therefore, of the documentary itself.

Also, some of its accusations were rather absurd. They accused Sweeney et al of pulling the wool over the BBC-viewing public's eyes in the filming and refilming of Sweeney entering a building, as though using take 1 over take 3 in some way constitutes a material change in the information being presented. They make quite a success at undermining "doorstepping", of turning up at someone's house or office unannounced in order to get an interview with someone, but again the doorstepping filmed didn't make it into the Panorama. This blogger has in the past accused the Church of Scientology of spending too much energy focusing on the details (perhaps a symptom of the word-based, and to that extent detail-based, thinking encouraged by Scholastic tech and word clearing (one can understand all the words but miss the concept)). This "winning the battle and losing the war" symptom is manifest in the Exposed documentary.

What the programme-makers seem to misunderstand is that the use of security footage and quite transparently manipulated interviewees only furthers the image that Scientology is a disproportionately defensive cult. As an exercise in damage limitation the documentary fails. One is left wondering what the details of the unacceptable agreement between the BBC and the Church of Scientology was. One is left wondering exactly why Tommy and co spent a day providing interview subjects for Sweeney only to pull the permissions for their use in the final programme. One is left wondering why the Church of Scientology accused Sweeney of bias when they, and not the BBC, made it impossible for him to represent the views of scientologists and the Church itself. One is left wondering why the organisation spent so much energy chasing, following and filming Sweeney in order to prove that they do not do that sort of thing.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Anatomy of a Deception - Part 1

In 2000 Mary Turner Thomson met a man named Will Jordan via an internet dating site. They hit it off and, despite his being unreliable, frequently disappearing for great lengths of time, they got married and had two children. Prior to the wedding Will revealed the reason behind his absenteeism and poor time-keeping; he was a CIA agent. Throughout their relationship Will slowly extracted himself from the agency, an expensive process that involved an unending flow of money, largely provided by Mary, her family and credit rating. In 2006, following his arrest and trial, she finally woke up to the fact that he was a bigamist, a convicted sex offendor, and a fraudster. Mary Turner Thomson is an intelligent woman. Prior to meeting Will Jordan she was a single mother with a good job; independent with a clear idea of what she wanted out of life, both for herself and her daughter. That she came to be duped and defrauded in such a dramatic way serves to demonstrate how easily one can find oneself believing the unbelievable, and the abuse to which such beliefs can be put.

Jordan initially admitted to being a workaholic, claiming that he had been guilty in the past of putting his work above everything else, with relationships suffering as a result. He claimed that this was something he wanted to rectify in himself. He also stated that he was infertile following an attack of mumps. This groundwork was explicitly set in place, but other foundations were also lying in wait, ready to be made use of. Initially Mary was not without her doubts.
In the back of my mind ... I had a feeling that something wasn't right. ... Gradually I grew suspicious. There was something very odd about all of this and by the end of January [2001] I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

He had created a personal website for me, so I looked it up on WHOIS and found details of his business and an address in Lancashire. I pulled the Company House records for his business and found he was the company secretary and a woman named Michelle Hayward was listed as director. Her address was in Lancashire but his was listed in a village just outside Edinburgh. I agonised over what to do but I had to know, so I got in the car and drove there.
What she found was a large house with Will's car parked outside. In the garden were children's toys. When Mary confronted him about this she was first told the CIA story, that he was an agent, that the house outside Edinburgh was part of his cover. Will claimed to gain security clearance for Mary, and told her of his CIA work, all while her mobile phone received data messages from ODCI RELAY. These messages, Will explained, were software downloads, allowing her phone to be tracked. She was being pulled into Will's secret world. Mary's discovery of Will's home clearly forced him to carry out a maneauvre he had already planned in order to safeguard the relationship, the creation of a coherent cover story that could be deployed should Mary get too close to the truth.

In The Other Mrs Jordan Thomson speaks about the emotional truth of Will Jordan, his overwhelming love for her and belief in monogamy. She describes how earnest and powerful Will's declarations of love were. These lies were just as important to the maintenance of Will's cover story as the various other "proofs" that Will provided:

...the emails he sent me from the field, which when I checked the path came through and (the CIA website); the cash he produced sealed in plastic wallets prointed with the Ministry of Defence logo; the gun that I had often felt through his jacket and the holster that I saw; the pass and parking permit for Brize Norton air force base; the gadgets and mobile phones; the secret calls; the language he used...
In Mary's telling of the narrative, and invariably when she reached a point in life where she had to choose what to believe in, the emotional truth of Will Jordan proved to be key, with the above more tangible evidence of Jordan's reality being secondary.

Will stated he was infertile, and more of his "emotional truth" concerned how badly he wanted children, how guilty he felt in not being able to give Mary a child. When the "miracle" happened, that it was a chance in a million in the first place cemented the relationship further. It also put further distance between truth and reality, a distance Mary herself refers to as the "gulf". Mary was sold a fairystory - a brave, loving husband, and a miracle pregnancy. When doubts came in, Mary would have to choose between that fairystory and a much uglier reality.

A further tool at Jordan's disposal in maintaining his fiction was the level of stress and fatigue that Mary was placed under. Whenever he was absent (which was more often than not) he was working in the field, was in possible danger. Will would often text Mary to say that he was on his way to meet her, only to never arrive, and only text a day or two later, always to say that he had been followed, or was ordered away on CIA business. He created a conspiracy, that the CIA were trying to drive a wedge between them. Mary described herself as an army wife lacking in the usual network of support that exists for them. The stress and the worry that she was constantly under (Will repeatedly claimed that she and the children were in genuine physical danger, and had trained her in self-defense, how to spot if she was being followed, and showed her how to use the Taser he had bought for her) meant that she was never afforded the mental space and the calm with which to take a step back and assess what her life had become.

She describes a holiday at Centerparks, the longest time they ever spent together. Will was called away before the holiday ended, and after he had left Mary found, in the bedroom, a wedding band that was not the one she had bought him, along with documentation referring to another marriage and children. This event seems to be hugely significant. It is almost as though Jordan was seeing how far he could take Mary's belief in him. He talked her round once more, and it seemed at that point his requests for the money he needed to escape the control of the CIA became more frequent and insistent. One is tempted to think that it was a challenge to her - if she could see concrete evidence of his other wife and children and be convinced of their forgery then she didn't want to wake up. Her commitment to the fiction became all the clearer.

The use of the CIA is itself fascinating. The agency, and the less-than-pleasant elements that Will had to deal with were blamed for his absenteeism, his insatiable thirst for cash, the emotional turmoil and stress that Mary had to deal with constantly. It was the motivation for Mary not being open with her family about her own situation. Will briefs her to be aware of being pumped for information by those around her, putting a tension and guardedness into every new friendship she would make. Mary at one point mentions to her family the real nature of Jordan's work, and Jordan receives a beating at the hands of his colleagues, a punishment by a third party on the second party to discipline the first party. Every action that the CIA take within the narrative that Will concocts serves to push Will and Mary together, strengthening their bond.

Hope is always dangled in front of Mary. Things are always about to get better, but of course they never do. Payments and compensation that Will expects to arrive in his account fail to appear. Contracts for his IT firm are won only to be lost later when he is dragged back into service. Even when Jordan is arrested, it is not enough for Mary to realise she has been duped. One reaches a point where the length of time that a belief has been held serves to maintain that belief further. By the time Jordan is charged with illegal possession of an offensive weapon, bigamy, fraud, and failure to notify a change of address with the sex offenders' register, Mary was five and a half years into the relationship, and had passed on about £300,000 to Jordan. Such a level of investment in both time and money creates a strong mental trap. As Jordan was facing trial, Mary was still holding on to the reality that Jordan had presented to her, that the pervious conviction for the molestation of a girl between the ages of nine and thirteen was a cover to allow him into a sex offenders prison in order to get information from another convict, that the other marriage was his cover, and that the credit card fraud was an honest mistake; that he would at worst be sent to prison for a few months, and once released would be able to rid himself of the CIA once and for all, allowing Will and Mary to finally set up home together properly.

Waiting for a phone call from Will's lawyer, Mary answers the phone instead to Will Jordan's other wife, and at last reality begins to break through.

Readers who believe they may have been a victim of Will Jordan or someone like him can find help and support at the Love Fraud website. The Other Mrs Jordan is available in paperback.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

News from Germany's Morgen Post on Cruise's latest cinematic venture, an account of Stauffenberg, the man that came very close indeed to assassinating Hitler.

High-ranking politicians of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) in Berlin have argued against Scientology ambassador Tom Cruise playing German resistance fighter Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Secretary general Frank Henkel (CDU) said: "That‘s utterly distasteful, and it would cast doubt on everything Stauffenberg stood for." In a letter to minister of defence, Franz Josef Jung (CDU), Henkel is now pleading to prevent movie shots at original locations, such as the Bendler-Block.

This opinion is shared by member of the Bundestag, Klaus Uwe Benneter (SPD): "Stauffenberg was prepared to give his life in his fight against an authoritarian regime and its repressions. He of all people is now to be portrayed by Cruise, whose cult uses dubious methods in an attempt to lure and control people. This is a slap in the face for all respectable democrats, resistance fighters in the Third Reich and all victims of the Scientology cult." Benneter‘s fellow party member, expert on protection of the constitution Tom Schreiber, has a slightly different view, that Henkel apply for the part of Stauffenberg as an alternative to Cruise.

SPD: Scientology is not wanted

"With Tom Cruise it is dificult to differenciate. However, it would be wrong to use his part as Stauffenberg to campaign for Scientology." Schreiber stresses that, unlike Berlin‘s mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD), he would address the actor with firm words: "Scientology is not wanted here. It is a malodorous commercial enterprise trying to give itself some semblance of religiousness." Therefore, secretary of the interior, Ehrhart K├Ârting (SPD), recently decided to have Scientologists monitored by the institution for interior safety and protection of the constitution.

From the German perspective there are a great many things in Scientology to cause alarm, from the military hierarchy, the youth-orientated programmes and the totalitarian nature of its teachings to its self-proclaimed desire to "salvage the planet". This site has more on Scientology being perceived as a totalitarian regime aiming for world domination and the segregation and possible destruction of dissenters and those singled out on the grounds of a pseudo-science.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jon Ronson On... Worst Internet Date

The first episode in the third series of Ronson On is of interest. It had originally supposed to be part of what became the second episode, on waking up from false beliefs, but was so extraordinary in itself that it turned into a programme on its own. It tells the true story of Mary Turner Thomson who met and married a man online that she had convinced her he was an American CIA agent. The CIA lie was backed up by, amongst other things, a watch he alleged was an alert from his superiors and incorporated GPS, and some apparent cracking of US Government systems.

Thomson also swallowed the story of his need for a "wife", another CIA agent who formed a mock marriage with him in a nearby town to provide a cover story for a safehouse. Thomson, who has written a book, The Other Mrs Jordan, about her story comes across as intelligent and articulate. That she was duped at all is testament to the slow gradient of lies fed to her, and the effects of the attendant fatigue and stress of being involved with someone who (apparently) had such a dangerous job.
"For six years, Will kept me pregnant, sleep-deprived and silent, so I could never work through in my own head what was happening or articulate to others around me the insanity in which I was living. He always gave me hope that the situation was just about to change for the better. I do not think he did it for the money, even though he conned me out of £200,000 during the years we were together. I think the money was a measure of the control he had over me, a benchmark."
MTT, Guardian 26/05/2007
I think another factor at play is the size of the lie. When a lie is so great that it makes you doubt the sanity of the person telling it, but the person telling it does indeed appear sane, you are left with something irreconcilable, and one of those two thoughts has to be dismissed.

EDIT: 28/06/07 Your humble servant is currently halfway through the book and will post a more detailed discussion of it in due course.

Some Magic Boxes - #2 de la Warr's Radionics

The 30 Second Skinny Radionics was created in the 1950s by George Warr. It is a type of sympathetic magic where the possession of hair or similar of a person allows the practitioner to influence the subject. Warr made medical claims for the device but in court in 1960 claimed that the device was only capable of ending potential illness on a spiritual plane, not cure someone of a physical illness. Despite this admission, medical claims for radionics continue to be made to this day.

The Wisdom Of Crowds

Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is said by the Church of Scientology to be a best seller. Judging by its second-hand prices, people can't give it away, nor much else by Hubbard.

How much note we should take of the $1 list price for most of these is anyone's guess...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Times They Are A Changing

There were two articles about the Church of Scientology in the Times today; here and here.

They focus on CoS's bid for respectability through the work of its various affiliate groups, and an apparent attempt to avoid paying taxes in Britain following a redefinition of the word religion across the EU (though a posted comment seemed to suggest that the change in religious status of the church would still not lead to charitable status). An earlier article on their tax avoidance (and possible evasion) habits is here.

A quote from the Times tax break article:

Ms Yingling said: “The biggest discrimination is that you are looked at as a second-class citizen because of the failure to recognise Scientology as a charity. They can call you names like ‘nefarious cult’, which you wouldn’t do to the Church of England.”

Ms Yingling may have got that the wrong way round, I feel. It doesn't have charitable status in part because it is considered by many to be a nefarious cult. Oh and I admire the use of "failure to recognise Scientology as a charity". It is not that Scientology has failed to convince, but that the authorities have failed to recognise.

Much of the "good work" that Scientology does is through its various affiliate groups and that gives them a bit of a no-win situation. If they do not announce the various affiliation then they are accused of being underhanded, sly and devious. If they do announce it then they are accused of using the groups to unjustly raise the profile and respectability of Scientology and Dianetics. Compare, for instance, the almost tongue-in-cheek Youth for Human Rights International (stealth Scientology) versus the dayglo decals and pamphleteering of the Scientology Volunteer Ministers. The former host award ceremonies to honour individuals who may very well have issues with the Church of Scientology. The latter turn up at high profile disaster areas such as at the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 7/7 bombings or recently the Virginia shootings[1]. Much of their work at such sites is involved with ensuring victims do not receive psychiatric help. This site levels criticism of varying quality at the organisation, should you be interested.

Concurrently, the grapevine has it that David Miscavige is all set to announce on the fourth of July that the name of L Ron Hubbard is to be excised from all public facing documentation. They have, it would seem, realised that L Ron Hubbard is a bit of a liability when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of the people around them. In the past when the Church has broken the law it has always been able to put the blame onto individuals, Operation Snow White being the prime example. It's worth mentioning of course that LRH was considered a non-indicted co-conspirator in that instance. It seems that this misdirection of blame must take a step further, with Scientology tech just "being" without necessarily having to be ascribed to an individual. It is as though having gone around exposing the crimes of their critics, it has finally dawned on them that the logic swings both ways, so if Hubbard himself is not without crime, where does that leave the sacred and copyrighted texts of the Church.

These are, I must stress, just rumours at present, but the implication of destroying all existing editions of Hubbard's work and replacing them with re-edited versions are massive. Not least is the fact that CoS has spent a small fortune having Hubbard's canon etched onto metal plates and buried in the desert for future space aliens to benefit from should the OT VIII's stand by while humanity blows itself up.

Added to that is the overnight obsolescence of every Scientologist's library on the planet. Suddenly they are going to have a range of very expensive books to order in. We've seen in the past that floating OTs have often found the launchpad they've needed to leave Scientology in the flagrant money-making acts of the Church. Tory Christman was sold on freedom from the Church as soon as she was unsold on the idea of shelling out, as an OT VII, on more tech than she had been told would be required.

Lastly, the re-edit of the books may yet lead to more trouble from an ideological point of view. Hubbard is supposed to be source, but if Miscavige is tempted to dicky around with the tech too much, how will it survive an ensuing compare and contrast exercise? Hard-core scientologists will bow to the discouragement of such exercises in critical thinking, just as they will blindly agree to replace their dead books. Again it will be the floating scientologists whose doubts will be amplified by yet more inconsistency in the tech.

[1]Speaking of which, Travolta no doubt thought the timing of his "Psych drugs turn people into murderers" would key in perfectly with the release of the toxicology reports on Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho. Surely with news of his psych drug use to back up Travolta's claims it would be a real slap in the face for psychiatry? Only, of course, they didn't find any psychiatric drugs in Cho's bloodstream, undermining Travolta's j'accuse. Ironically it would seem that not enough psychiatric help was what led to the massacre. Cho was a psychiatric outpatient.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Psych Drugs Are Killing My Cognitive Function

John Travolta has been in the news lately nailing his flag to Tom Cruise's (and, natch, Scientology's) mast with regards psychiatric drugs. Travolta believes (and he has every right to believe, however wrongly) that if you delve into the backgrounds of the highschool shootings in America you will find that the perpetrators of the attrocities were all on psychiatric drugs. How true this is I don't know enough to say, but the notion that people who are psychologically damaged are on psychiatric medication is of no surprise, and it is grotesquely false logic to assume that the playground slayings are the direct and sole result of psychiatric medication; should we tolerate Scientology attempting to benefit from them?

It is a tired old phrase, but one that appears to require endless repetition; correlation does not equal causation.

It is this blogger's opinion of Scientology at large that tech serves to impose cognitive disfunction on those who adopt it. This can be seen in the neologist Newspeak language of Hubbard himself. This can be seen in the way that auditing slowly divorces its subjects from reality. This can be seen by the weird logical fallacies that pepper Hubbard's thought processes, the same thought processes he imposes on his followers.

For Travolta, Cruise et al to blame highschool shootings on the medication that the perpetrators may have been on is no more or less ridiculous and unfounded an assumption than the notion that chemotherapy causes people to die of cancer.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Attacking the Critics - #1 "What are your Crimes?"

"There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime."
HCO Policy Letter, 25th Feb 1966.
The Church of Scientology has always had its critics, and for understandable reasons. It has made all sorts of claims over the years, many of which are falsifiable1, and all sorts of lawbreaking has gone on in its name. The greatest infiltration of US Government buildings remains the Church's Operation Snow White in which papers and documents pertaining to Scientology were stolen from IRS buildings. This led to arrests and the subsequent court case: United States vs. Mary Sue Hubbard et al., 493 F. Supp. 209.

Eventually, 11 Scientologists, including Guardian's Office director Mary Sue Hubbard (wife of the church founder) were sentenced to prison. "The crimes committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard," wrote U.S. Attorney Charles Ruff in a sentencing memorandum. "It is interesting to note that the Founder of their organization, unindicted co-conspirator L. Ron Hubbard, wrote...that 'truth is what is true for you,' and 'illegal' is that which is 'contrary to statistics or policy' and not pursuant to Scientology's 'approved program.' Thus, with the Founder-Commodore's blessings, they could wantonly commit crimes as long as it was in the interest of Scientology....The standards of human conduct embodied in such practices represent no less than the absolute perversion of any known ethical value system."

Besides Hubbard himself, Kendrick Moxon and 21 others were named unindicted co-conspirators and were not charged. (Moxon tells New Times he didn't knowingly supply false handwriting samples and that the stipulation of evidence was something signed by church officials but written by FBI agents. He says the matter was thoroughly investigated by two bar associations -- in D.C. and in California -- before they admitted him as an attorney. Moxon is in good standing with the bar associations in both jurisdictions.)

After the Snow White debacle, church officials insisted that the Guardian's Office had contained "rogue elements" who broke into government offices without the knowledge or permission of the rest of the organization. The church has promised the IRS and said publicly that it has purged itself of the Snow White operatives. In 1993, the IRS granted tax-exempt status to the Church of Scientology after, among other things, it declared that it had changed its ways.

Double Crossed, Tony Ortego, 23/12/99

When someone chooses to criticise the Church of Scientology it is invariably based on behaviour such as the above. Often they have seen friends and families broken up by the Church's disconnection policy. Often they have been motivated by the Church's defensiveness itself. Many critics were once Scientologists themselves, who have become disenchanted either with the Church or with Scientology and Dianetics itself. Most critics have very little to gain in criticising the Church, and have exclusively altruistic motives. But here is how the Church views its critics:

Now get this as a technical fact, not a hopeful idea. Every time we have investigated the background of a critic of Scientology we have found crimes for which that person or group could be imprisoned under existing law. We do not find critics of Scientology who do not have criminal pasts. Over and over we prove this.

Critics of Scientology, "Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter,"
5 November 1967

This belief that all critics of Scientology are criminals is still held true today. One only has to see some of the video footage of the peaceful picketing of the Church by the Lisa McPherson trust to know that. But what is the thinking behind the "criminal critic" belief? There are two associated beliefs:

  1. because the argument against the Church is being made by a criminal, it somehow makes that argument less plausible. This is clearly incorrect, though. The worst criminal in the world could amass with ease a collection of authorised, genuine documentation that would demonstrate, for instance, L Ron Hubbard's drug use, or his request for psychiatric help. This documentation would still stand up whether or not it is being put forward by a criminal.
  2. the "discussion" of Scientology is derailed. This is most effective when the crimes in question appear to be greater than whatever the accusation is being made towards the church by the critic. That is why often, when the Church has dug up something or other on a critic, it is exaggerated or, when nothing suitable is found, it is merely invented. That's quite an accusation to make, but it is one I am comfortable with. The Rundown on Scientology's Purification Rundown, recent article in the New York Press by John DeSio utilised comments from Free Speech activist David S Touretzky and when news of Touretzky's involvement reached Narconon, the knives came out.
    [Jim] Woodworth [director of the Scientology run New York Rescue Workers’ Detoxification Project] specifically pointed to items on [Religious Freedom Watch] that note Touretzky hosts bomb-making instructions on his own website and accusing him of being a racist. 'If you quote this guy as an expert, I want you to put in exactly who this guy is,' said Woodworth.

    Bomb-making instructions do appear on Touretzky’s website, along with an explanation that he has hosted them as a protest of the arrest and conviction of Sherman Austin, the owner and operator of anarchist website, who was arrested for publishing the information on that site several years ago. Touretzky explains that he now hosts the information to “facilitate public scrutiny of the law under which Austin was charged” and to shine a light on First Amendment issues raised by the case. The professor even points to other resources on bomb-making, available through, Wikipedia or even CNN’s website, that have not led to the arrest of their creators as a contrast to the Austin case.

    As for the racism charge, the information hosted at Religious Freedom Watch could not be found at any other credible source. A Google search found only reposts of the information, and a Lexis-Nexis search found even less. Therefore, the racism charge was deemed useless and unfounded. “It’s the same thing since the beginning of the cult,” said Touretzky. “They attack their enemies relentlessly in the hope that people will shut up and go away. But in the age of the Internet, it doesn’t work so well.”
Hubbard claims that whenever he has investigated the background of a critic of Scientology he has found crimes. I shall stick my neck out and say that that doesn't surprise me in the least. If you investigate anyone you will find crimes. If you ask anyone if they have ever broken the law, they will invariably say yes. I understand it's a standard part of police training. So criminality isn't particular to the critics (nor for that matter Scientologists).

For those unfortunate critics who were once Scientologists themselves, the Church need only check out their auditing files to find dirt on them, breaking a fundemental agreement of confidentiality. This is akin to a confessional priest using confessions to press-gang members of his congregation into staying within the church. To make it even worse, the Church would ordinarily use that information to demonstrate that Scientology works! If you're in Scientology your (prior) crimes are "proof" that Scientology reforms people, but when someone leaves the Church, it is as though they have lost their reformed character as well. But as I've said, the accusations of criminality are just a distraction, an attempt to place critics on the backfoot.

To that end it's no defence at all. One cannot prove Narconon works by libelling Touretzky.

In reading for this post I came across the following from the end of an LA Times article by Robert W. Welkos and Joel Sappell entitled Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison.
Boston attorney Earle C. Cooley, Scientology's national trial counsel, said the present church management does not condone the criminal activities of the old Guardian Office. He said that one of Hubbard's most important dictums was to "maintain friendly relations with the environment and the public."

"The question that I always have in my mind," Cooley said, "is for how long a time is the church going to have to continue to pay the price for what the (Guardian Office) did. ... Unfortunately, the church continues to be confronted with it.

"And the ironic thing is that the people being confronted with it are the people who wiped it out. And to the church, that's a very frustrating thing."
The answer to Cooley's question is to stop libelling people, to pursue Hubbard's dictum of "friendly relations" and see that fair game and dead agent tactics are not a part of it. The lay person knows very little about Scientology beyond its "cooky cult" status. When Scientology attacks its critics all it does is fulfil the ideas people have about it.

1 A falsifiable claim is not a false claim, merely one that can potentially be proved false by experiment. The term falsifiable is used because science sets itself up to disprove theories. A scientist posits A, an experiment is created to prove A false, A is not proved false by the experiment, so A becomes part of orthodox science. A later experiment proves A false. A scientist posits theory Aa, which seeks to explain the results of both experiments. This is the nature of scientific progress.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Some Magic Boxes - #1 The E-Meter

The E-Meter is a galvanic skin response meter that is used in the auditing process. Galvanic skin repsonse (GSR) refers to the electrical resistance of skin, and is thought by some to change depending on the emotional state of the subject. A mild current is passed through the skin and the efficiency with which the electricity is conducted is measured. This efficiency fluctuates and it is the fluctuations that are considered to be meaningful. GSR is one of the indicators used in the polygraph, or "lie detector."

Less sophisticated than the polygraph (which as its name suggests utilises a number of different indicators with which to measure anxiety) the E-Meter was the invention of Volney Mathison, an associate of Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the author of Dianetics and architect of Scientology. He created and patented the device, which he named the Mathison Electropsychometer, claiming that it would allow access to the subconscious and so aid any form of psychotherapy. Mathison experimented with lie-detectors in the 1940s and noticed that when a subject recalled past events, a fluctuation would occur that appeared to corelate with the level of response in the subject. How Mathison measured the level of repsonse so that he could check it against fluctuations in the GSR is hard to see. I'll come back to this point in a moment.

The notion of the E-Meter was appropriated by Hubbard while he was creating Dianetics. This was an above board arrangement, but in 1954 Hubbard and Mathison fell out when Mathison refused to take his name off of the device. As Mathison had the rights for the device, Hubbard decided that the E-Meter was no longer deemed a necessary part of auditing.

"Yesterday we used an instrument called an E-Meter to register whether or not the process was still getting results so that the auditor would know how long to continue it. While the E-Meter is an interesting investigation instrument and has played its part in research, it is not today used by the auditor except perhaps in testing the basal metabolism of the preclear. The E-Meter is no longer used to determine 'what is wrong with the preclear.' As we long ago suspected, the intervention of a mechanical gadget between the auditor and the preclear had a tendency to depersonalize the session and also gave the auditor a dependence upon the physical universe and its meters which did not have to be there. I knew when we first began to use E-Meters that sooner or later something would have to be evolved, or that something would turn up which would dispense with them. I worked along that line rather consistently and about half a year before this writing developed 'communication lag' as the only diagnostic instrument needed by the auditor."

-- Hubbard, Dianetics 55!, Chapter 10, "Communication Lag"
Four years later Scientologists Don Breeding and Joe Wallis developed a similar tool that was smaller and ran from batteries. Hubbard, evidently rethinking his reasons for dismissing the meter, patented it in 1966 and reintroduced it into the process of auditing. It would appear that the key element of his thinking with regards the E-Meter was whether or not he could own and market the device. The E-Meter remains a central part of the auditing process to this day, despite various criticisms about its efficacy both as a measure of stress and in terms of the explanation of the device as laid out in Understanding the E-Meter. The earliest key criticism of the device focused on the supposed ability for an E-Meter to access the sub-conscious. We are told that the sub-conscious mind retains all information given to it. Indeed one of the abilities that a subject is supposed to acquire on becoming clear is perfect recall. Thus it is suggested that the E-Meter would be able to access memories inaccessible to the conscious mind. This claim was challenged by Alan Levy in an article he wrote for Life Magazine. During an auditing session it became important to pinpoint the time on which a particular argument took place.

Somehow, I was reliving an argument from early in my marriage. I had been blathering about how well I was doing and how great I was, and my wife had made a face. I shot back then almost jokingly: "Don't you love me anymore?"

"I love you," she had replied, choosing her words carefully, "but I'm not sure that I like you at this very moment." Her words had for a brief time devastated me.

David wanted to know when this had happened.

I thought for a moment and said: "In 1958. We were living in Louisville and had just came back from a winter trip to New Orleans, so I'd say early 1958. And it was Sunday morning -- I remember that distinctly."

"Good. Let's get a fix on the date, Was it January? February?"

"March, I'd think."

"It was March," said David, consulting the E-Meter. "Now the date? First to 10th? Eleventh to 20th? I've got a read on 11th to 20th?"

"Wouldn't it be easier," I said, "to consult a 1958 calendar? There are only four to five Sundays in March."

"There's no need for that. And keep your hands on the E-Meter," David said sharply. "The E-Meter will find out for us. Was it the 11th to 15th? Sixteenth? Seventeenth? Eighteenth? Nineteenth? Twentieth? That's funny, I get reads on the 15th, the 17th and the 18th."

"I think I know," I said. "When you said '15th' the Ides of March went through my head. And the 17th is St. Patrick's Day, which anybody who grew up in New York remembers. But I don't know about the 18th."

"Then it's probably the 18th," said David.

We rechecked March 15 to 20th on the E-Meter. This time the only "read" was on the 18th.

"Before we go on," I said, "can't we get a calender and check whether March 18, 1958 was a Sunday?"

"No," said David. "This is the session. And don't let go of the cans!"

March 18th 1958 fell on a Tuesday. It seems unlocking the subconscious mind may not be as certain as the literature of Scientology suggests. It turns out the E-Meter isn't all that good at monitoring Galvanic Skin Response in the first place.

The Food and Drug Administration took the Founding Church of Scientology to court in a case that saw the E-Meter facing criticism from the scientific community. Paulette Cooper summarises these criticisms as follows:

1. The E-meter has no device to control the constancy of current.

2. Holding a can in the hand permits great variations in the area of the skin in contact with the metal electrodes, and would allow great variation in the amount of actively sweaty tissue that is in contact with it.

3. The instrument is subject to polarization.

4. It is not a quantitative instrument due to uncontrollable variations in skin contact and current.

These experts also explained that the machine was not really a measure of skin resistance at all, but partially a reading of how firmly the individual was grasping the can; if the person squeezed the can, there was more contact, and apparent skin resistance would drop. If he held the cans loosely, the apparent skin resistance would simply increase.
That last paragraphs brings me back to my earlier query. How was it that Mathison could tell that the needle fluctuations of his device matched the level to which a subject responded to certain memories? Unless Mathison quizzed the subjects, asked them to gauge their own responses, which would be a rather sloppy way of going about it considering his interest in unconscious and subconscious responses, it is likely that he assessed the reaction levels based on observation alone, which would involve determining from the subjects body language the significance of each memory. If the body language changes, indicating a significant response, it's not too far a supposition to think that the grip on the cans (or the metal scouring pads that Mathison seemed to favour) would change along with it, providing the real cause of the fluctuations.

Not all criticisms of the E-Meter focus on its explicit claims. One of the routine accusations levelled at Scientology is that of brainwashing, which is one of those terms that somehow automatically undermines itself. Brainwashing is a word that tends to be used by one ideology to describe the indoctrination of someone into an opposing ideology. The claim invariably is not met out with science, however, but therein lies a problem with the word. It is very much an a priori term. The term is used and it is left to the listener to determine exactly what is meant by it. We can imagine some kind of crude torture, perhaps a 1984 style Room 101 encounter where the butterfly of humanity is broken on the wheel of a fascist government. If what Scientology does can be called brainwashing (and that is a discussion for a later post), it is of a much gentler and discreet form. Arnaldo Lerma's criticism of the E-Meter is very much bound up with this notion of auditing as a means by which a person is in some way detrimentally altered.

He notes that the E-Meter passes a low current through the subject and that this current, albeit harmless for short periods of time, has other effects when the current is sustained for the sort of lengths of time associated with the auditing process.

The E-meter can expose the human body with a left hand to right hand current up to 300 Micro Amps. 1/3rd of the value that is generally considered noticeable by a person.
Studies have shown that a small electrical stimulation with a small morphine dose has a therapeutic effect of a larger clinically significant dose, which indicates there is a close relationship between these two factors.

Thus, I conclude that the E-meter directly provides a pain killing adjunct to the implied result of Scientology auditing technology's release state.

This is also the source of the sag effect of a participant feeling great after auditing, yet having a sagging emotion tone some few days later - as his bodies endorphin levels go down past normal in a hang over effect, in which, like a heroin addict, he wants another dose, only it is a dose of auditing.

The feeling of euphoria that is often associated with the auditing process is central to the way in which the Church of Scientology slowly divorces its subjects from a commonly held worldview. Auditing is primarily a form of regression therapy, and the feeling of euphoria that comes with protracted auditing is a powerful tool for legitimising, at least in the mind of the euphoric subject, the validity of the process. That auditing then leads on to past life regression, a process that results in that same euphoria, that quasi-proof does much to assure the subject that the lore of Scientology is little short of fact. No wonder they didn't want Levy to let go of the cans!

What I think is worth pointing out with regards Lerma's claims is that it seems doubtful to me that Hubbard knew of the effects of receiveing a low and lengthy electric current. Lerma describes the electric shock machines that were common in the fairgrounds of Hubbard's youth, but the experience of a short sharp shock, and that of a low, almost imperceptible hum, seem too dissimilar for Hubbard to associate them. What I suspect is that Hubbard may have encountered the euphoria of the cans and either unwittingly associated it with the auditing process, or saw something that he could use to his advantage and lay the foundation for a fraudulent religion. I hope in future posts to suggest that Hubbard may have trodden that same slow gradient that Scientologists today tread, the path from immediate credibility to the heady heights of Incident II, that he to some extent, and using the same doublethink that many Scientologists cling to, suckered himself. I realise this is conjecture, but I feel it is conjecture worth pursuing.

coming soon... de la Warr's Radionics