Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Open Letter to Scientologists

This letters was posted on the Operation Clambake Messageboard. I'm reposting it here in its entirety, because I feel the more people in who read this the better.

Dear fellow Scientologist,

I have been pretending to believe some things which I do not. I wish to clarify this. I am stating this now, carefully, and at length because I believe that this statement will cause me to be declared as a Suppressive Person and you may be ordered to not communicate with me. So this might be my last chance to say this directly. I had hoped to avoid this penalty by remaining silent about certain opinions, but this silence is ruining my life. It is now preferable to suffer the consequences of free speech.

I believe some data and laws are more important than other data and laws. Any law or guideline for behaviour is only a generality and must be used with judgement and the awareness of its importance and the fact that there may be an exception.

I believe that purpose is senior to policy. That is, the end result is more important than how you achieve it. And no, this is not a license to cause whatever damage to get what you want, because the damage is also part of the end result.

I believe it is not just the right of an individual to think and speak freely, it is a fact. People just do. But as a right, it is supreme.

I agree with United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, except where it contradicts itself. The main contradiction that comes to mind is the conflict between one's right to property and freedom versus another's right to receive various services. I tend to favor the property owner, except in cases of corruption or extreme need.

I agree with the precepts of The Way To Happiness, with a qualification ("Try to") on precept 9.

I agree with the Code of Honor, with the understanding that its guidelines are used on a self-determined basis and are not enforceable.

I agree with the Creed of the Church of Scientology, except for the last four words of point 10.

I reject The Way To Happiness precept 9 "Don't do anything illegal."

This statement is too absolute. However, we should try not to do anything illegal. I do try. The consequences of breaking the law include the penalties defined by law, the fear of being found out, and the degradation of the system of laws. Breaking the law is almost always incorrect. Almost.

The law is vast. You may be doing something illegal and never know it. Not even the most knowledgeable law expert could confirm that he spent a day without doing anything illegal.

Sometimes the law contradicts itself.

Sometimes you must choose between what is legal and what is right. It might be correct to flout the draft, to avoid fighting an unjust war.

I know I'm setting myself up. But I'm favoring accuracy over safety.

I reject Creed Of The Church, point 10, last four words, "That the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills should not be ... condoned in non-religious fields;"

This contradicts the freedom to one's own life. I believe anyone may study the mind in any field whatsoever, so long as basic decency is observed.

I reject the strict prohibition of altering Scientology (squirreling).

KSW 1: "I once had the idea that a group could evolve truth. A third of a century has thoroughly disabused me of that idea. ... As we could have gotten along without suggestions, then, we had better steel ourselves to continue to do so now that we have made it. ... Squirreling (going off into weird practices or altering Scientology) only comes about from noncomprehension. ... If you can't graduate them with their good sense appealed to and their wisdom shining, graduate them in such a state of shock they'll have nightmares if they contemplate squirreling."

This contradicts one's right to one's own life.

This contradicts the recommendation to judge for oneself.

The intention of KSW is to keep Scientology working, that is, to keep producing good results - happier, more capable people. I agree that many Scientology processes and technologies do produce good results. I agree that altering a standard procedure often produces poor or bad results. I accept that squirreling has led to abuses. But these reasons and all the other reasons given are not nearly sufficient to prove the incapacity of man, of you and me, to propose new ideas, test new ideas in an ethical manner, and judge the result. If man cannot be trusted to judge truth, to judge a good result from a bad result, he cannot be trusted to perform a standard procedure.

I agree it is correct to follow standard procedure, normally. But when one sees an opportunity to improve a procedure, or make a new and better procedure, it is proper to pursue it. This is called research. It should be done with knowledge of existing procedures. It should be done carefully and ethically, with due regard for possible danger. Everyone involved should be properly informed that it is experimental, it is not standard, and should know the expected risks. It should be recorded accurately. But, it should be done. Research should not be prohibited.

The criteria of whether a procedure is valid is the result. That includes all the side effects. Harmful practices must be identified explicitly.

If an auditor has produced good results for many years, he knows how to get good results. This is true authority.

I reject the notion that students cannot/should not discuss the meanings of words. Sometimes it is difficult to guess the correct meaning of a word in a given context, even when looking in the dictionary. It is helpful to have the combined knowledge of others to help identify it. Furthermore, during a checkout, the student may flunk if he does not agree with the one giving the checkout. He may take it up with the supervisor, or even the D of T. But the whole matter depends on the opinion of just a few people, under pressure to make progress. There may be others who are well qualified to judge the meaning of this word in this context. But they are expressly prohibited from collaborating.

I reject, from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Unauthorized use of the materials of Dianetics and Scientology. "

This contradicts the freedom to one's own life.

I reject, from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Developing and/or using squirrel processes and checksheets. "

This contradicts the freedom to one's own life.

I reject, from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Public disavowal of Scientology or Scientologists in good standing with Scientology Organizations. "

This contradicts the freedom of speech.

This contradicts the right to choose one's own group.

I reject, from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Public statements against Scientology or Scientologists but not to Committees of Evidence, duly convened. "

This contradicts the freedom of speech.

I reject, from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Writing anti-Scientology letters to the press or giving anti-Scientologist data to the press."

This contradicts the freedom of speech.

This, as a measure to keep a good public image, is fully counter-productive. It's hard to think of a worse PR move than to blatantly prohibit statements against one's group. You might as well say, "don't trust us."

There is nothing wrong with telling the truth and stating one's opinions and observations, even when the truth is not pleasant. If one knows about an abuse occurring within a Scientology Organization, one should be free to speak of it. This would be considered anti-Scientology. In fact, it is not harmful at all, in the long run. Eventually, those who slander and maliciously twist the truth show themselves for what they are, as do those who are just telling it like it is. After a reported abuse is resolved, this resolution eventually becomes known as well. Allowing free communication speeds the whole process. Strict suppression of bad news causes anxiety, and produces a stilted, affected utopian image. It creates a withhold among Scientologists, cutting their communication with non-Scientologists.

Phillip Gale committed suicide (apparently) on L. Ron Hubbard's birthday, March 13, 1998. It happened. It's bad news. It's anti-Scientology news. Lisa McPherson died under the care of Scientologists, according to many sources. All is not well. It just makes it worse to try to suppress communication about such things. Though difficult, it is better to suffer the humiliation and deal with it as openly and straightforwardly as possible.

I reject from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Continued Membership in a divergent group."

This contradicts the right to choose or assist one's organizations.

I reject from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Continued adherence to a person or group pronounced a Suppressive Person or Group by HCO."

This contradicts the right to choose or assist one's organizations.

I reject from Introduction To Scientology Ethics, "Such Suppressive Acts include: ... Failure to handle or disavow and disconnect from a person demonstrably guilty of Suppressive Acts."

Besides being a needless interference in one's life, it is not consistently enforced. Pharmacists, hospital staff, and school nurses regularly dispense various harmful psychiatric drugs. Such drugging is one of the main suppressive acts against which Scientologists are rallied. But those people are not declared Suppressive. Any Scientologist can go to the hospital or talk to a pharmacist. This enforced cutting of communication is impractical. It's a double standard. It's cornball.

I reject unverified and unverifiable claims of superiority, such as "Scientologists are the most ethical", "Scientology is the fastest growing religion", "Scientology is the only hope for man", "Scientologists are the elite of planet Earth". For one thing, there should be some objective basis for making such claims. If you're going to make a ranking, then you'd have to be doing comparisons. If we're #1, then who are #2 and #3? Such comparisons are not only not scientifically done by the Church (as far as I know), the Scientologist is explicitly prohibited from engaging in "other practices" to find out for himself. Secondly, even if such claims could be proven, does it really help to state them? Finally, how can you say you are better than any other group because nobody else does what you do, and at the same time, attempt to enforce a monopoly, prohibiting anyone else from doing what you do?

I reject hard sell. High pressure sales make sense to me when 1) the situation is urgent and 2) the person being sold to is incapable of grasping the situation or too evil or stupid to take the right action. It could be argued that both of these are true in the case of a new Scientologist. I don't think so, but you could make the argument. But after twenty years in the group, why does he still need hard sell? The urgency becomes crying wolf. If the person is still not with the program well enough to just be presented with the facts and left on his own to decide, then he really is too stupid or evil. Or, you're selling him the wrong item. So I reject hard sell and all its variations, such as yelling orders to staff.

Withholds cause isolation and hurt relationships, right? What about the withholds a Scientologist builds up against non-Scientologists? That's enormous. Example withholds:
-- How much money you've paid to Scientology, and how much debt you've accumulated in the process.
-- Scientologists are subject to hard sell.
-- How often you are called by staff, harangued to help out or study, or pay, or go up the Bridge.
-- Policy on disconnection.
-- You or someone you know hasn't really achieved and maintained the ability promised for a given level.
-- You receive promotion with fantastic-sounding phrases, such as "Super Power" and "2 billion megawatt OT POWER NOW".
-- You have been trained to talk to new people in a certain way.
-- You are afraid to look at an internet site or TV show because you might be exposed to secret materials.
-- What became of certain leading Scientologists, such as Mary Sue Hubbard, Reg Sharpe, Mike Rinder, Ron Miscavige, Marty Rathbun, Jesse Prince, David Mayo, Martin Samuels, the first Clear, the first OT 7.
Do you feel free to say any of these things to non-Scientologists? To other Scientologists? Do you have to hide your mail? Are you withholding because you think it's right to not say, or because you are embarrassed? LRH said to answer people's questions. Can you freely answer people's questions? They want to know this stuff. Can you say it?

Why don't I disseminate Scientology? I talk about Ron Paul to anyone who wants to listen (and some who don't). I think he's the greatest patriot since Thomas Jefferson. I bought a hand tool called Root Jack for $120 that was more effective at pulling out small trees then a backhoe at $250/day. Ask me about Root Jack, and you'd think I was a Root Jack salesman, the way I go on about it. So why don't I talk with everyone about Scientology? Why don't I bring new people in? Don't I want others to have the same gains I have had? You bet I do. There are real gains available in Scientology. But I don't talk because I'm ashamed. I don't want others to be subject to hard sell, to censored communication, to authoritarian control.

To honestly disseminate, the conversation would go like this:
Me: "I think the Communication Course would help you. You can do it at the Church of Scientology."
Public: "Isn't Scientology a cult?"
Me: "Technically, any religion is a cult, so yes. Could you be more specific?"
Public: "Isn't it like the mafia?"
Me: "Well, Scientologists are put under extreme pressure to pay money and/or work long hours for almost nothing. And anyone criticizing Scientology or leaving Scientology is considered to be a Suppressive Person. Suppressive Persons used to be subject to various types of harassment. Some people say it still happens sometimes. But people who say that are also Suppressive Persons, and therefore not reliable, in the eyes of the Church. In any case, Scientologists are not supposed to have any contact with a declared Suppressive Person, even if they are family. This is ensured by required confessionals. I've never been in a mafia, but I suppose there are some similarities ... Wait! Where are you going?"
Public: (running) "Stay away from me."
Me: "The Comm Course is really a good course! I wasn't supposed to tell you that other stuff right away! I was just trying to answer your questions! Scientologists are great people!!"
Me: (to myself) "I liked doing the Comm Course, anyways."

That's how it would go, if I wanted to be fully straightforward. Seriously, when you are in doubt, you want to know the good and the bad. When you buy a house, you want to know if crime is high in the neighborhood. If you're hiring a babysitter, you want to know if she slaps kids and so forth. You want to know the bad stuff, as soon as possible. Don't you? What's wrong with being out front with this? No one would join, that's what.

So I reject the policies and practices that set up the Scientologist to needlessly withhold communication with non-Scientologists, in some misguided attempt at good PR. No. This hogties and introverts the Scientologist, alienates the other guy, and just plain stifles normal conversation. Thumbs down on that. No go.

How can I be responsible for the Church when I have little knowledge or control of its management? How can we correct a serious wrong if we can't talk to the only people who are talking about it?

How am I supposed to be responsible when someone asks me about Lisa McPherson? The Church provides me no details. Do I say that I don't know and I don't want to know? Is that responsibility? Do I say that it's all lies, an attack on the Church, totally fabricated by evil men? There is too much evidence that she died needlessly, in the care of the Church. Whatever lies added to that are relatively minor. Can I send my condolences to her family? No. It's a safe bet that her family is anti-Scientology, for obvious reasons. So to talk to them at all, would be to associate with "Suppressive Persons". Why is it that the only information I've gotten from the Church is that we've won a legal victory? The criminal case was dropped, the Church's image is much improved. Hip, hip, hurray! But, you know, she's still dead. This is not good PR. This is cold. Will there be no public apology? Will there be no public statement that the Church goofed, and has taken great measures to ensure it never happens again? How can I stand tall and say, "I am a Scientologist"? I consider the facts that 1) Lisa died, 2) we're only told about a legal victory, and 3) any Scientologist who seriously tries to investigate this, risks being declared Suppressive. The more I consider these, the more I have to say that something is very wrong. Something is NOT OK. It's irresponsible for me to do nothing about this. It's a cover-up, maybe not for the world, but it's out of the knowledge of Scientologists. Or, I don't have my facts straight at all, which is very possible. So I'm going to get my facts straight, which involves communication with "Suppressives". So be it.

Learning opposing ideas, hearing critics, is only harmful to a person who cannot evaluate data. For a person who can evaluate data, who can observe whether some data is true, hearing false information causes only a temporary setback. Soon after the false data is recognized, the truth is strengthened, and the source of the false data loses credibility. To censor, to cut someone else's communication, is to imply that the listener has a weak ability to discern true and helpful information from false and harmful information. It is insulting and degrading. It is appropriate to censor information for young children. But, it sends the clear message, "you are no more intelligent than a child -- I am qualified to control what you can hear, you are not."

There is a story going around that Sea Org staff are not supposed to have children and SO women who do become pregnant are often pressured to abort their pregnancies. What a vicious rumor! Can you imagine being ordered to murder your healthy, wanted baby, your future family? This is unbelievable! Outrageous! Sounds like black PR. Who is saying this? Ex-SO staff are saying this. Here's a situation that needs to be stopped. Either all the stories are false and the stories need to stop, or the stories have some truth and the coercion needs to stop. It's not ok to ignore. But you, the Scientologist, are not permitted to communicate with those people telling these stories to get enough data to verify them. This is where censorship becomes evil.

So, again, I reject attempts to censor what I hear.

I reject the assumed authority of giving me permission to disagree. This is inherent in everyone and not for LRH to grant or deny. It's nice that such freedom of thought is stated many places in Scientology. But it's a mistake to say, "Hey, LRH says it's ok to disagree, therefore it's ok to disagree." No. Just say, "It's ok to disagree." And mean it.

The subject of secrets is tricky. It's pretty clear that sensitive personal information, given to another in confidence, should be kept secret. You might break the agreement for a greater good, such as exposing a severe crime. But keeping personal secrets is proper, in general.

There are other secrets which are appropriate. For example, I know the End Phenomena of some processes on the Key To Life Course. These are secret. But I also believe that the reason they are secret is so that someone doing the process wouldn't be tempted to fake it. I also know that it's not the end of the world if someone finds out too soon. It just means that he has to be more honest if he wants to reach the End Phenomena. And if it were appropriate to tell someone, I would. I have the judgement to go along with the secret.

But Scientology has needlessly multiplied the secrets to be kept, and set unjustifiable penalties for revealing them. Why is it a crime to feed someone the Clear cognition? I don't know what the Clear cognition is, but if I found out before I originated it myself, would I forever be damned? Clear is a state of being, not a cognition, right? It doesn't make sense that so much could be riding on a few words. If anyone is a Clear, there must be a more robust way to determine the fact and a more robust way of achieving it.

Also, I have been set up for failure because some secrets have become broad public knowledge. We can argue whether or not they should have been exposed. But they are out. And they are broadcast on TV, the radio, and the internet. I tried to avoid them at first, but I gave up. I don't think it's possible to close my ears and eyes at the appropriate times. It's absurd to try. It gives a tool to anyone who wants to introvert me.

I am reminded of the United States atomic bomb project during World War II. That seems like a technology you'd really want to protect. And Soviet spies were right in the middle of it. So much for secrecy. The exact people you don't want to find out, are some of the first people to find out. LRH should have known this. Secrets get out. You have to take this into consideration before producing something that the bad guys aren't supposed to know about.

Anyways, secrets are a hassle because you have to keep straight what you can say to whom. I really don't appreciate having to keep secrets needlessly. So, I reject the duty to keep secrets which are already public knowledge. And I reject penalties of revealing secrets that are out of proportion to the damage caused.

The following is a generality, but it's true. Some Scientologists consider that the fact that they will be sec-checked is a motivation for not committing overts. The main consideration is financial -- it costs too much to spend the extra time in session. At first, this seems like an advantage of sec-checking. The advantage is temporary. This is wrong motivation. This means that one's behaviour depends on who knows about what one is doing -- a very bad way to be trained. One should make decisions based on the greatest good, not based on who will find out.

The following is another generality, but still true. When one brings up a critical comment about Scientology, the response from a Scientologist would be to question the validity of the source of the comment. Similarly, the test of whether a datum is dependable is often totally settled once it can be found in an LRH bulletin or book. If Ron wrote it, then it's taken as true. If someone disagrees with it, it will be assumed that he has misunderstood words or some fixed false data preventing him from grasping the truth. Though this contradicts LRH essays on integrity, this is the principle in use. The fallacy of this is made more obvious considering the 2007 re-release of the basic Scientology books, and also considering the earlier/ongoing project to store Scientology materials in a durable form. This project involved creating stainless steel plates and books made of a special paper, then storing these in titanium vaults. The idea is that the materials will be preserved in case of catastrophe. But now, assuming the latest releases to be the best representation of LRH, the project would need to be re-done. And the existing materials would need to be destroyed, or somehow marked that they are the wrong version, etc. This leads me to several conclusions. One, storing the materials in a durable form is little guarantee that they will last, unless numerous people are doing so. Two, if RTC were really interested in preserving and disseminating pure LRH materials, it would also publish all the raw data, unedited. Three, we Scientologists cannot identify genuine LRH materials from altered materials. Four, anyone who did point out confusions in the books, would have been stopped and sent to find their misunderstood word, preventing correction of the material itself. So stifling argument in the effort to Keep Scientology Working resulted in keeping Scientology from working. Five, we should therefore de-emphasize the importance of the source of information, and emphasize more reliable methods of ascertaining truth, i.e., observation.

I reject "He pulled it in", when it means "He caused the abuse he got". If you realize you are being a victim or causing destruction, and you are therefore "pulling" bad things in, OK. You realize it, you take better control of your life, great. But for anyone else to proclaim that "you pulled it in" is just an opinion, and often not helpful in any way.

I reject fixing the price of services. I believe a free market is a better guarantee of quality. Furthermore, arbitrary (i.e., decided by someone other than the persons giving and receiving) fixed prices and commissions result in less services being done, just as income tax squashes trade and production.

I reject the authority of the Church to control me. I'm talking about situations where the C/S or Ethics Officer says I need to such-and-such action, regardless of my opinion or whether I can afford it. I'm talking about when I would like to get some time off course, and I have to get approval and "make up the time", as though I owed my time. I usually don't mind being controlled for a few hours, or maybe more sometimes. But it's totally my decision, and not a blank check from here on out.

I reject the notion that, though I have the ability to make money, I don't have the intelligence or can't be trusted to spend it exactly as I choose and find out how it is used.

I reject the concept of buying status.

I reject the concept of buying status at 20% off.

I reject the concept of buying status at 20% off until November 7, after which time, status will cost full price.

I reject the extension of the 20% discount on status until December 31. I'm beating a dead horse here. But seriously, I'm happy to contribute to worthy projects. But I try not to care about a status, a pin, a certificate, a plaque or a trophy that says I paid so much money? Who really cares about that stuff and why should we be encouraging such vanity?

I reject most required attestations to states of being and abilities. It's ok to gain abilities and achieve new states and attest that you've done so. But if it's a required step and the ability gained is very general, there's trouble. To make a TRs graduate attest to "ability to handle any situation in life with communication alone", is to set him up for failure. The next time he ends up in an overwhelming situation, say he gets mugged by a street gang, or even a gang of 2-year olds, and he can't handle it, he becomes a failure. He has to admit it and re-do the course. Or he has to bend his mind around and somehow qualify this ability he attested to and say, "well, there's no such thing as an absolute," and water it down in some way. In any case, from there on, it's tough to talk to others in a straightforward way about this, because he's supposed to have that broadly-worded ability and the course just doesn't produce it. It's less introverting to attest to something more specific and demonstrable, say "done: 2hrs flawless TR0; 1/2 hour each flawless TR1, TR2, TR3, TR4." In the case of professional auditing, there is the additional pressure of completing for financial reasons. Take a Grade I completion, who is supposed to be able to recognize the source of problems and make them vanish. This is great, until a problem comes along that won't vanish. It doesn't necessarily mean she needs to re-do Grade I. It means that the stated result of the process needs to be brought into alignment with what the process really does do. Another example, why would a flubless interned Class XII auditor ever need cramming? She's perfect, right? Wrong. Mistakes happen. She may be outstanding. She may be worth her weight in gold. But there's no need to label her "perfect" or "flubless." There should not be mismatch between what is advertised and what is actually delivered. And there should not be pressure on students and pcs to attest to the advertised state, thereby shifting the blame to them when they discover a difference.

I reject the statement that Scientology works 100% of the time when applied 100% correctly. I've heard various versions of this many times. Anyone who claims this needs to define what phenomena is meant by "works", a detailed description of what is meant by correct application, and the records of a repeated experiment. And after that, it could only be claimed that it worked in 100% of the repetitions of that experiment. It is also important to test whether applying it differently produces a same, better, or worse result. But, with limited knowledge of everything in Scientology, having experienced success with what one has tried, to then extrapolate that all Scientology works 100% of the time for 100% of the people from here to eternity, is not justified. This in no way degrades your success. It just means don't be blinded by it.

The only times I hear this "100%" stuff is when a service is being advertised or when a less than ideal result is achieved. In the latter case, it is the trigger to investigate what was done non-standardly. Fair enough. But what about when a good result is achieved? You could still find something non-standard done. My opinion there.

I reject that Scientology is a science. It is a science in the sense that it is an organized body of knowledge. But in other subjects commonly known as sciences, such as chemistry or mathematics, the scientific method is continuously employed. This means posing new hypotheses and trying new experiments to more accurately confirm or deny the hypotheses. Testing and questioning is ongoing. No law is sacred. Anything is open for revision if new observation warrants it. In Scientology, this is not allowed. So it's misleading to call Scientology a science. If you corrupted a math book or a chemistry book that was in use, sooner or later, the corruption would lead to a failure in practice and the corruption would be traced down and corrected. And anyone competent in the field could do that. Applied mathematics and chemistry, by the way, can be very dangerous. But this does not warrant the existence of a central authority to keep math and chemistry pure, to own the trademarks on the square root symbol, the periodic table of the elements, "Mathematics(TM)", "Chemistry(TM)", or "Chemist(TM)".

In 1966, Tony Hitchman interviewed L. Ron Hubbard on Rhodesian television. This is available from the Church as a video entitled "An Introduction to Scientology". It is claimed to be the only filmed interview with Ron. This is false. There is another. Charlie Nairn with Granada Television produced a half-hour documentary on Scientology in 1967, as part of the World in Action series. Despite the mostly negative spin, this documentary has some favorable coverage of Saint Hill. "Saint Hill is a nice place. Scientologists are very friendly and honestly believe they can help whoever goes there. Usually, they can." In the documentary, Janet Lundy is announced as a Clear. She speaks briefly and really looks happy. It also includes an interview with Ron, but he doesn't come off altogether favorably. The interviewer asks Ron about his (three) wives. Smiling widely, Ron says his first wife is dead. Then Ron says he never had a second wife. Despite all of Scientology's truths, this documentary, and the Church's effective claim that it doesn't exist, is evidence that neither the Church nor Ron is 100% reliable. There is other evidence, but this is some of the most blatant.

Here are a few questions to consider.

What kind of friend would leave you because someone else told them they had to?

Why is there not an early-detection system for Suppressive Persons? Why does it take ten or twenty years sometimes to discover them?

Are your statistics more important than you? When you're upset, who is there for you, free of charge? When you succeed at something you really wanted to do yourself, who cares?

When watching a Scientology event video alone or in a small group, do you give a standing ovation? Do you clap? What about when watching the same video in a large group?

What are the local or international 1-, 5-, 10-, 20-year statistics for training and auditing completions? Do you care? Are you curious? Where can you find out? Is it ok to ask?

Who are the top executives? What do they do? Have you ever met with them in person? Have you met their families? Do they have individual hopes and dreams? Hobbies? Problems? Are they happy or frustrated? Where are they now? Who were the top executives the past 40 years? Is it ok to ask? Who records our Church history?

If all you cared about was doing the right thing, you didn't care who was looking, what would you be doing? How much of what you are doing is based on following orders or going with the flow, and how much is based on what you truly believe to be right? Why do you need so many orders?

How many bulk mail items do you receive? How many phone calls? How many e-mails? Do you want them?

How many HCOBs do you know of that you seriously doubt that LRH wrote? Did you verify he did? How did you verify it?

What are your crimes? Hmmmm? Think about it. What are your crimes, really? Ok, scratch that. Answer this. How do your crimes stack up against your contributions?

Suppose David Miscavige showed up at the New Years Event in a grey shirt. And what if his first words were, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I've been lying to you all, to you who've trusted me utterly. I truly thought I was doing the right thing, at first. ...", and he proceeded to tell the whole story? What would be your reaction? He's a person too, you know.

I am not attempting to harm Scientologists, the Sea Organization, or any Church official or staff. They are good people who sincerely wish to help, and do so regularly. I am formally stating my beliefs. I am criticizing and rejecting various practices: pompous haranguing, bulk mail blizzards, limited time special offers, micro-management, ignorance/hiding/non-confront of bad news within the Church, ignorance/hiding/non-confront of possibly good new ideas elsewhere, needless secrecy, out-of-proportion justice actions, interference in others' communications, etc. I consider these to be anti-Scientology. I am asking the obvious questions, obvious to anyone who dares to look. And I'm not buying any more nonsense.

Do you scorn me? Are you thinking I am a treasonous 1.1 goody-goody, now turning on my group? Then, realize what this means to me. I've been a Scientologist practically all my life. I've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of my own hard-earned money on Scientology. I've spent years studying Scientology courses. I'm risking losing many friends. I'm risking the Church ordering my own mother to never speak to me. Speaking out as I am is not a choice I made without much painful consideration. I'm putting my ass on the line, looking like a traitor to Scientologists and looking like a brainwashed fool to everyone else. So, don't lay the blame on me. I tried in earnest to get it right. I tried to help. I ain't the problem here. You'll know that when, after you've written me off, all the problems I mention will still be with you.

Suppressing one's own communication is often wrong, but is a personal choice. Suppressing others' communication is, for lack of a better word, suppressive.

What is Scientology?

I thought the top triangle of the Scientology symbol represented Affinity, Reality, and Communication. Affinity -- I like you. I don't like your money, your position, your impressive achievements, your statistics or certificates. I don't care about your public speech, your clever jokes. I might or might not like your intelligence, your ability, your body, or your beliefs. It's not your culture or your country. I like the person inside, the real you. I like being with you, no matter what anyone else thinks. Reality -- We agree on something. We're not just trying to impress someone. We don't reluctantly agree. We're not voting for the same lesser-of-two-evils. It's not a forced compromise. It's not a legal contract. We just happen to agree. And it's great to know someone that thinks like I do -- what a team! Communication -- I'm talking to you. I want you to know what I'm thinking. I'm the guy sending the message. It's coming from me. It's not coming through me. It's not paid for. It's not approved. And I'm sending the message to you. Though the whole room can hear me, it's for you. I want you to get it. You. Not him. Not her. You. Me to you. And if you want to reply, all the better.

I thought the lower triangle represented Knowledge, Responsibility, and Control. Knowledge -- You know something. You're not afraid of being proven wrong. You welcome criticism. You didn't just repeat "4x6=24" a hundred times. You made a rectangle out of 24 marbles. Your certainty does not decrease by hearing more opinions, because you can differentiate between your own observation and what someone tells you. You looked, you struggled through the confusion, you found out. You know. Responsibility -- You own something. It's your job, your area, your operation. You know what's yours and what's not yours and what you share with others. No one forced you into it. No one dumped it on you. You decided to put it on yourself to make it happen. You'll gladly take the credit for success, or suffer the consequences of failure. You don't let the ignorant make the rules. You care about the outcome. You care about the people. Control -- You control something. You're not on a power trip, impressed with your own status. You're not issuing impossible orders in a commanding voice. You're not freaking out, overworked, overwhelmed. Your credit is not maxed-out to the insane edge. You're not sloppy and lazy. You set the example. You lead from the front. You make steady, skilled motions. You're competent. You're in control.

I thought Scientology was for improving the ability and courage of the individual. I thought the idea was to increase survival and knowledge of self, family, groups, mankind, plants and animals, the physical universe, life, and God. A world where the able can prosper and where honest beings have rights. Freedom. That is the Scientology I was taught. That's what I thought it was all about. That's the Scientology we were promised. Remember?


Mac Stevens

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Complex: John Duignan, Nicola Tallant

In 1985, in Stuttgart, a twenty-one-year-old John Duignan, as a means to fund Scientology services, signed up to the local org staff. Twenty-one years later, he engaged in a cloak-and-dagger game on the streets of Birmingham, misdirecting OSA, the Church of Scientology's intelligence agency, so that he might flee to family in Ireland and rebuild his shattered life. In 2008, to a backdrop of Anonymous protests and high-profile defections, Duignan co-authored The Complex with Sunday World journalist Nicola Tallant.

On the verge of release, and with tedious predictability, the book was withdrawn from a variety of online outlets. One of the church members Duignan named had threatened a libel lawsuit, and The Complex is now chiefly only available through Amazon-affiliated booksellers or the Irish bookshop Eason. Church of Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw issued a statement, as is her wont, employing that familiar Scientology brand of not-lying. Duignan refers to a girl named Alice who, while on RPF, drank cleaning fluid and threw herself from one of the buildings in Saint Hill. The suicide attempt failed, but left Alice invalided. Prouw went on record stating "no one has ever committed suicide at the facility where Mr. Duignan worked in the UK" - denying a claim that Duignan hadn't actually made. With yet more predictability, the attempt to quash the distribution of The Complex has only served to fuel the interest in the book's contents.

Duignan's exposé does not limit itself to discussing what happened from the day he took the Oxford Capacity Test but instead takes a chapter out to outline everything that brought him over the threshold of that Stuttgart org. This courageous confessional serves two purposes, explaining what it was in Duignan's make-up that made him a mark for the organisation, and undermining any leverage the Church may yet hold courtesy of his case notes, the copious details of anything he may have discussed during his auditing sessions.

Duignan embraced life in the Sea Org, making his way from his initial training up to the heights of Deputy Flag Banking Officer for Org Resources and Exchange in Birmingham. Unlike many who find themselves in the organisation, Duignan was able to determine where he most wanted to be, what posts were best suited to him, and how to ensure his stats, the weekly results by which each member of CoS staff is judged, remained on the up and up. There is a palpable joy to Duignan's accounts of his times of success, though these shift over time from a sense of achievement to a sense of survival over adversity, of raising church funds to cover payments of legal damages, or turning around press releases within an impossibly short space of time.

As much as the book tells the story of Duignan's career as a member of Sea Org, it also serves as a history of the Church as it transformed itself under the leadership of Miscavige. Whereas CoS was no picnic under Hubbard, it became darker and more paranoid still following his demise. Miscavige rose to power following a coup against Pat Broeker, and impressed upon the organisation a far more totalitarian regime than existed before. Perhaps due to the shadiness of his own rise, Miscavige's leadership was characterised by purges and punishment. Whole levels of management were replaced. The base at Hemet has reportedly become a ghost town, with few people in the Church willing to be posted there, and fewer still able to survive the increasingly insane demands placed on them by their church leader. It is telling indeed that Duignan describes being held at Saint Hill in a room that once was given over to watch equipment (walky-talkies and the like) but had been turned into a cell where those undergoing ethics were to write out their confessions; Hubbard's outward-facing paranoia, raging against the psychs and the government, making way for Miscavige's inward-facing paranoia.

It was not Miscavige's tightening fist that led to Duignan's emergence from the cult mentality, however, but the organisations ongoing romance with celebrity. Duignan was able to get over the various injustices he had suffered for his alleged out-ethics, but not the disproportionate rewards that Cruise et al received when hard-working Sea Org members continued to live in cramped conditions on a diet of rice and beans. This crack was widened further following Duignan's access to the unfiltered internet (in order to sell goods on Ebay, where Duignan encountered e-meters and more) and with it an unfiltered view of the Church and its history. When Duignan took the courage to read, in Hubbard's own writing, the OTIII materials, he knew his life with the Church was over.

But Duignan does not end his story with his life on the run in Birmingham and his mad dash to Douglas. He also writes about his ongoing recovery; the counselling, the difficult successes, the community of ex-scientologists, and the slow but sure rebuilding of his life outside the Church. This is a vital part of anyone's Scientology story, an offer of hope to those stuck in an organisation that too often uses fear of the "wog" world to keep people trapped.

The power Duignan's story holds is because it is just that, an unflinching account of one person's own psychological journey through Hubbard's mad mad world. It's a great look not just at the church, but the personal motivations of those who find themselves employed by it. There are a few minor factual errors here and there (the occasional street name; Hubbard, while "researching" the OT levels, is described as popping "greens and reds" rather than the traditional "pinks and greys") but they do not detract from what seems to be an open and honest account of a man who was both victim and perpetrator of a powerful, fraudulent organisation.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Touch Assists and Logic Traps

Following a recent posting to ARS by the infamous Barbara Schwarz I took a deeper look into the "Touch Assist" as owned by the Church of Scientology. I find the alternative medicine side of Scientology quite interesting, and to some extent it was the medical claims the Church makes that led to my sustained writing about the organisation. The liberal in me insists that Scientologists can believe in whatever they like, but when they start trading in treatments, and this includes auditing, then they need some pretty robust proof to back up their behaviour. CoS, however, treats proof, and the need for proof, with suspicion; proof, they will tell you (in more words than necessary) is suppressive; by saying that there is no evidence for leukaemia being cured by auditing you are attacking the beliefs of those who say auditing can indeed drive out cancer.

The irony of this should not be lost on you. In their ongoing battle against the imagined psychiatric conspiracy, CoS will often complain that psychiatrists do not make it clear to their patients of the potential side effects the drugs they adminster might have. The flipside of that, though, is information about the likely efficacy of the treatment. If you are offered a drug that has a 99% chance of making your schizophrenia manageable, but a 1% chance of inducing a mild heart attack, you are going to treat that decision differently than one about a drug offering only a 10% chance of success. Where is the information about the efficacy of the tech? Right from the start, back in the days of the Dianetics Research Foundation Hubbard showed little or no interest in doing anything approaching clinical research; that was the main reason why Dr Winter resigned. Hubbard was instead only interested in disseminating his techniques and selling his wares.

Often CoS spokespeople will explain, when pressed for evidence that the tech really works (and hey! Ensuring the tech works is part of KSW, people, so get your ethics in!), that no trials have been carried out because their simply hasn't been the time time. Usually this is in reference to techniques and treatments that have been around for 30-50 years. For a multimillion dollar multinational corporation such as the Church of Scientology there can really be no excuse. This would be akin to Glaxo Smith Kline having a drug on the market for half a century without ever getting round to providing any evidence for it.

So anyhew. Touch Assists. Here is a case in point of a tech that is supposed to have clear medical benefits, has been around for about fifty years but has yet to be put through any kind of robust clinical trials by its main sponsor. The WIS page holds some interesting statements. Possible uses include "the banged hand ... burned wrist ... a dull pain in the back, a constant earache, an infected boil, an upset stomach. In fact, the number of things this simple but powerful process can be applied to is unlimited!" Everything, then! Well, as long as you're not overselling it.

It has more to say on the nature of physical injury. "Every single physical illness stems from a failure of the being to communicate with the thing or area that is ill. Prolongation of a chronic injury occurs in the absence of physical communication with the affected area or with the location of the spot of injury in the physical universe." Bang goes germ theory...

So, having established the cause of all physical illness, and that the touch assist can be applied to them, what does the process actually entail? Well you can read through for yourself, but it primarily involves getting the subject to lie down and make themselves comfy, then prodding the gently with your finger, each time stating "feel my finger". The prodding approaches the injured part. "You try to follow the nerve channels of the body, which include the spine, the limbs and the various relay points like the elbows, the wrists, the back sides of the knees and the fingertips. These are the points you head for. These are all points in which the shock wave can get locked up. What you are trying to do is get a communication wave flowing again through the body, because the shock of injury stopped it." This is close to the gate control theory of pain, although seemingly reversed, and is further confused on learning that the "touching must be balanced to both left and right sides of the body. When you have touched the person’s right big toe, you next touch the left big toe; when you have touched a point a few inches to one side of the person’s spine, you next touch the spot the same distance from the spine on the opposite side." Thus not following the nerve channel of the illness or injury at all.

But such musings on the possible theory at work behind the touch assist is rendered useless by the next step; continue the assist until the person feels better. Continue the assist until the person feels better! This seemingly innocuous instruction is a devastating boobytrap. Were we to construct ourselves a clinical trial, where a randomised group of recently injured people (perhaps as part of aftercare in an A&E ward) were either told to lie down, or told to lie down and get prodded by a Volunteer Minister, we would be no nearer to establishing scientifically whether touch assists worked because an integral part of the touch assist is that you do them until they work. There is nothing in the description of the touch assist explaining what to do when you get no positive indications; you simply keep going. If you break off the touch assist before you get a positive indication, then the touch assist wasn't complete. The reason for breaking off the assist is because it wasn't working, but in the topsy-turvy world of Scientology, the reason the assist didn't work was because the assist was broken off.

Regular readers ought to recognise the shape behind this. The tech is presented. The tech Works. The tech is tried out. If the tech fails, it is not the tech, but the practitioner; a logical trap that lies at the heart of so much of Scientology's scripture, where Hubbard's writing is never brought into question, but his followers are.

In the interests of transparency, both mine and CoS's, I should point out that all assists are treatments for shock and shock alone. If you were brave enough to read all of the Touch Assist description, you would have discovered this: "If the body has been very badly damaged, the person may still be in agony after your assist, but you will have gotten some of the shock off. At this point a medical doctor could administer a painkiller and repair the physical damage." So the assist doesn't treat pain, or the injury itself. Instead it treats the only thing left which is shock. This makes me wonder if the lying down and getting comfy part is actually the active ingredient, and that "poking on a gradient" is just a bit of the old witch doctor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One Ear, Low Tone

I came across this word for the first time in the latest batch of Wikileaked documents. Had me a MU! So off I went to the Scientology handbook, where I found this page of wonderful.

I learnt that obnosis means "observing the obvious", but with an n thrown in. The link above describes the training procedure for learning how to obnose. The first phase involves a bit of unlearning. People are encouraged to say what they can see and discouraged from making any kind of assumptions. So we have this gem:

A student starts to catch on and says, “Well, I can really see he’s got ears.”
-“All right, but from where you’re sitting can you see both ears right now as you’re looking at him?”
-“Well, no.”
-“Okay. What do you see?”
-“I see he’s got a left ear.”
The student realises what is expected of him; that he is to observe only what is immediately in front of him, without making any kind of deduction whatsoever. Now, let's try and spot where this gets into trouble.

The goal of such drilling is to get a student to the point where he can look at another person, or an object, and see exactly what is there. Not a deduction of what might be there from what he does see there. Just what is there, visible and plain to the eye. It’s so simple, it hurts.

You can get a good tip on chronic tone from what a person does with his eyes. At apathy, he will give the appearance of looking fixedly, for minutes on end, at a particular object. The only thing is, he doesn’t see it. He isn’t aware of the object at all. If you dropped a bag over his head, the focus of his eyes would probably remain the same.

That's right. The second phase in this training, having been taught to discard any kind of assumptions in what we observe, is to then learn a whole new set of assumptions; assumptions based on the Tone Scale1, itself an arbitrary hierarchy of mood and behaviour.

It's often been said that Scientology seeks to destroy a person's existing mental tool set and replace it with its own; that Hubbard tears down someone's identity and rebuilds it in his own image. This pattern is clearly demonstrated in the learning process of obnosis. We have a range of learned assumptions; Scientology gets you to unlearn them so that you can replace them with Hubbard's assumptions - obnosis has nothing to do with "observing the obvious" and everything to do with sticking the tone scale between the subject and the world at large.

1 The Beacon revels in the fact that the Tone Scale puts "sympathy" in at 0.9 and "no sympathy" in at 1.2; low tones both! And let's not forget that LRH believed everyone below 2.0 on the Tone Scale ought not have any civil rights.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mario Majorski Shooting

Running through the news coverage, the shooting of Mario Majorski seems a clear-cut case, that Majorski was mentally ill, that he posed a genuine threat to the security guards at the Celebrity Centre, and that the killing will likely be viewed as justified. That he was released from prison two weeks ago, and that his illness wasn't picked up at the time ought to garner the focus of the media above the Scientology connection.

Majorski was a church member, but it seems he left some time ago (see EDIT). His last dealings with the church on public record involved a law-suit against UCLA lecturer Dr. Louis J. West in 1993. He does not appear to have been well for some time - what led him to illness is too open to conjecture, certainly at this stage. Should a clearer picture of Majorski arise when the official ruling on the shooting is made later this week, I'll post again.

EDIT - Apparently Majorski was a practicing member of the Church as late as June 2004:

Tommy and or OSA Int intentionally omitted from consideration the fact that ASHO's Auditor Mag of June 2004 lists Mario Majorski amongst the people intending to come next for the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course training.

Chuck Beatty

I hope to confirm this soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yvonne Schick for Senate?

I learn from Xenu Barb that Yvonne Schick is running for Senate as a Libertarian candidate. Yvonne Schick is a Scientologist. And should we care about that? The small-l libertarian in me says that, up to a point, the answer is no.

There is a coda to that, though. We, hopefully, assess our candidates based on a variety of attributes, and like it or not, belief figures in that. I wouldn't want to see a health minister that believed that vitamin C cured AIDS. I wouldn't want a prime minister that believed in the tooth fairy. But how do I measure that suitability of belief? Why, I measure it against my own beliefs! And in order for me to do that, I need to know what the candidate's beliefs are. Political ideologies are a form of belief, no more or less sacred than religious beliefs, and it would be an odd election indeed that ascribed someone's political beliefs the same level of privacy we often attach to their religious beliefs. This might seem unfair to some who view it as not being a matter for political debate, so here's the thing - if you think it unfair, disregard the information. It's all going to a vote any way, so let those who think it important vote the way they want, and we'll see who wins. The beauty of democracy.

So to clarify, my position is that no-one should be forbidden from candidacy based on their belief, but those beliefs should be open to scrutiny, because they are material to assessing a candidate's suitability. Many of Scientology's beliefs are quite deliberately hidden from public view; they claim that this is right and proper, and similar to many other religions. Whether or not that is the case is a debate for a different time. Yvonne Schick has completed OTIII. This suggests she may believe in Incident 2 and all that that entails. Let's ask her. I shan't insult any below OTIII Scientologist readers by repeating that oft-told tale, but it is important to state that it is a genuine part of Scientology literature, and shall surely stand between Yvonne Schick and a fair few votes.

(if you really want to know about OTIII, start at Wikipedia, then progress onto Scientology vs. Providers and Karin Spaink (1996), the legendary court case that saw CoS, in defending their copyright for OTIII, saw it entered onto the public record, making any future denial of its contents impossible)

Threatening Man Shot Dead by Scientology Armed Guard

The LA Times have more info on the deceased, suggesting that he was a former member of the Church. I'll post more details as they come to light.

Why Germany Bothered.

The German government recently announced that it was no longer looking to ban Scientology in Germany. This has been heralded by many a Scientologist as a victory for their church, despite the government also stating that both its Domestic Intelligence Services and its Office for the Protection of the Constitution will continue to monitor the organisation.

The reason the attempt to ban has been abandoned appears to be the large divide between what Scientology says and what it does. Germany's annual report on Human Rights described the organisation as "[seeking] to limit or rescind basic and human rights, such as the right to develop one's personality and the right to be treated equally." This is in no doubt based on the writings of Hubbard himself, who declared that Civil Liberties should be withdrawn from people who are 2 or lower on the tone scale (people suffering from grief, or fear, for instance). Hubbard also declared quite openly his political ambitions. In discussing a "clear" planet, he envisioned a society wherein local government would be run from Scientology orgs, where policies would be based entirely on Scientology principles. He describes democracy as a failed experiment. Germany has, in light of these writings, decided that, at its heart, Scientology is an unconstitutional organisation. Its attempt to ban the Church was in this context, and Germany has, due to its own history, charged itself with taking a very close rein on the organisations that practice within its borders.

But happily, Scientology does not practice what it preaches. Not outside Clearwater at least. Erhart Koertig, Berlin's top security official, said "This organization pursues goals — through its writings, its concept and its disrespect for minorities — that we cannot tolerate and that we consider in violation of the constitution. But they put very little of this into practice. The appraisal of the government at the moment is that [Scientology] is a lousy organization, but it is not an organization that we have to take a hammer to."

CoS might point to the number of Euros that have been spent in surveilling the organisation, only to shy away from putting a ban in place. I suspect that the German government has also seen wisdom in this; that there is little ground to be had in attempting to outlaw an organisation that is held in such low public regard to begin with. They are, in effect, saying that Scientology in Germany is so poorly organised that should they seek to put into practice those policies of Hubbard that are unconstitutional, they wouldn't be able to. Also, like it or not, Germany has to walk a tightrope between outlawing unconstitutional organisations and being seen to be unconstitutional in doing so - its own First Amendment paradox.

I suspect Germany's biggest mistake in pursuing the Church of Scientology is that it attempted to address the organisation's vision of a Scientology-run planet. A more effective approach would be to look at the church's recruitment methods and its practices; its fraudulent marketing, its dodgy employment policies, its medical claims. Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Criminon worse than nothing!

I don't usually post in this manner, but thought I'd make an exception in this case. Many apologists and supporters of the Church of Scientology point to its drug and crime programs as evidence of the good that the Church does (confusingly, as a way of counterbalancing the bad that the Church does). Second Chance, offering Criminon in New Mexico, claims a 90% success rate, but appears to have a lower success rate than people not participating in the program.

The document mentioned can be found here.

The overall point of this is that many of the services that the Church of Scientology try to provide are services with measurable performance - Narconon, Crimonon, Scholastic Tech, the Purification Rundown. Because Scientology is always marketed as new and revolutionary (Dianetics is still "Modern Science" despite being over fifty years old. And not science.) they'll often get away with suggesting that the reason they don't have any research into efficacy is because they've not had the chance to do any yet. Leaving aside the fact that they are marketing techniques before establishing whether or not they work, they have had plenty of time, money and resources to put their theories to the test. When research has been carried out, the results have been hidden away or misrepresented.

Scientologists often claim that their religion is being victimised, that they should be free to believe in what they want. I agree that they should be free to. Emphasis on free. I also believe that where their organisation makes realworld, falsifiable claims, then those claims should be put to the test, and put to the test in an open and honest manner. If seeking out proof is unpalatable to Scientologists, then they ought only be offering their unproven services to other Scientologists, not trying to peddle it to all us spiritually-stunted, evidence-based fools in the Wog world.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Co$ and the Chemical Brain

The Church of Scientology, as any fule kno, thinks that all psychiatric drugs are bad. Quite where they draw the line on things like "what is a drug?" and "what is a psychiatric drug" is anyone's guess, but in the broad brushstrokes of their anti-psych rhetoric, they're all bad. As Juliette Lewis said recently, schizophrenics would be much better off forgoing their meds and getting themselves down to a petting zoo.

What amuses me is the reasons given. Invariably two simultaneous but contradictory positions are maintained. Firstly, they claim that psych drugs are based on "brain chemistry" and that this theory is flawed, that there is no evidence for it [sic]. Secondly, and here's the fun part, they claim that psych drugs have a detrimental effect on people. Drugs that operate on a person's brain chemistry can lead them to kill themselves, or shoot up their highschool. So in the first instance, brain chemistry does not exist, but in the second instance it does. Whenever you find yourself in a discussion about this with a Scientologist (flunk! You've let them derail the conversation!) ask them the all important question of how psych drugs effect behaviour.

Now I'm no fan of Big Pharma myself. It is true that mistakes happen, with varying degrees of culpability and intent - trials resulting in negative findings fail to get published, adverse reactions aren't picked up on, and so on. But Big Pharma is slowly getting better. Big Pharma creates self-regulatory bodies with real power to monitor the way that drugs are developed and marketed. There is an increasing momentum behind the ideas that are looking to address flaws in the clinical trial process (such as the trials that are registered but never published). Put simply, it is an evidence-based field, so anything that generates evidence will come out sooner or later, and there is a wealth of patients and practitioners out there who want the straight dope, pun intended, on their lotions and potions.

Big Pharma may not get it right all the time, but they stand a far better chance than the vitamin and dietary quacks who cling to their unmonitored products and wave massively flawed studies and even more flawed reasoning at media whorish enough to lend anyone with the remotest air of scientific authority fifteen minutes in which to flog their snake oil. One weak and yet to be repeated study into the effects of Omega 3 fish oils on kids suffering from ADHD becomes the foundation of sand on which is built an industry safe in the delusion that fish oil turns kids into placid brainiacs. One weak and yet to be repeated study into Narconon suggests that the rehab treatment aint that great, and so is buried away, far from the prying eyes of a public that have a genuine need to know.

But I digress. The cognitive dissonance at the heart of the Church's anti-psych stance stands as a crystalisation at the level of cognitive dissonance that exists throughout the organisation as a whole - the Orwellian double think that allows people to believe they are free, yet unquestioningly follow orders, write cheques, and fill out credit applications. And on the subject of the chemical brain, who says there's no evidence for it? It remains the strongest model we have of the way mood functions, and certainly a stronger model than the suggestion that we are controlled by memories lodged in each and every cell of our body. There is an excellent and balanced blog post on the subject here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Adapt and Survive

One of the things I enjoy about criticism of the Church of Scientology is that it forms a microcosm of most religions, as though Hubbard had engineered it as a model of religion so he could observe how it behaved in the world at large. He didn't; he just foolishly thought it would allow him to get rich through the application of little effort.

Much of the criticism of Hubbard's writing, that which doesn't hinge on its logical inconsistencies and occupation of bad or invented science, has focused on its bigotry - its position on homosexuals (should be cured or killed), on native South Africans (can't do anything with them, primitive, utterly materialistic), on Chinese ("the trouble with China is there are too many Chinese there"), and so on. Apologists say "well, he was a white middle-class guy in the 1950s, what do you expect?" To which one must reply "I expect him not to inflict his opinions on future generations by starting up a fraudulent organisation pedalling this bigotry as though it were inescapable gospel truth."

Last year David Miscavige oversaw the re-editing of many basic texts, against Scientology rules, and resold them all to Scientologists worldwide in an aggressive series of celebratory events. If you're curious about these new editions, you can get them for pennies on ebay. You might even be able to save on postage and packing by contacting local libraries, many of whom will have been sent unsolicited copies they'll be keen to get rid of.

This is the second time the tech has been changed since Hubbard's death, and crystalises the paradox of the sacred text. How can Truth cease being True over time? How can you change your sacred texts and still be the same religion? How can the new Truth be trusted if the old Truth has been swept away. Scientology adopts the George Orwell approach. The new Truth is actually the original Truth, kept from us by nasty nasty squirrels, which is not a trick they can go on pulling forever (twice is already pushing it) and when the continued financial success of the corporation relies not on the increasingly impossible task of new recruits, but of reselling the same stuff over and over to members who feel unable to leave.

But here is the dilemma, and it is a dilemma that is faced by many more orthodox religions. People pursue their own moral compasses - they have an ability to assess, based often on a few core principals and internal debate based on those principals, the rightness and wrongness of things. Often that compass will develop within religion and within a legal system. The law and religion will not necessarily see eye to eye all the time, but more to the point, that person's moral compass will not always marry up to what their religion tells them. These people then run the risk of disenfranchisement from that religion. If the dissonance is strong enough then the religion will cease to function well at all. If, for instance, a religion stipulates in its scripture that women are subservient to men, then in time, as sexual equality becomes the norm, people will consider this aspect of religion (often taken, rightly or wrongly, to be representative of the religion as a whole) and choose to leave, or at the very least to humour it without conviction. If this continues, over the course of a couple of generations the religion will flounder and fail - and attendance will drop. If the religion refuses to change its ways, it will not survive; it will return to the cult status it no doubt started as.

How that change takes place is problematic if the rules are laid down in scripture. Abrahamic religions are lucky (just about) in having a multi-translated ancient text to work from - open as it is to reinterpretation, translation errors and more. Hubbard's intentions, however, were to avoid schism. He mistakenly believed that the best way of avoiding schism was to ensure that everyone was clear on what was meant by everything he wrote. He wasn't especially good at this - his policies were frequently amended, something that has officially stopped since he died. Hubbard's words are carved in stone (well, etched in titanium, really) so can't be changed as readily. As a result, critics, perhaps a little unfairly, highlight Hubbard's bigotry, but also highlight the Church's attempts at changing its ways. The real root of this two-pronged attack is that CoS makes the claim that it is the purveyor of truth ("I only deal in facts" as Hubbard so memorably sang), but doesn't make very convincing arguments, especially when it starts changing its story about what that truth really is. The attack only seems unfair because it has been spawned by the cognitive dissonance at the heart of Scientology; the doublethink on which the cult thrives. As noted in the Purview, a CoS PR officer recently stated that touch assists are there as a means to heal on a spiritual and emotional level. For years touch assists have been marketed as a means of speeding recovery on a physical level; as it becomes clearer and clearer that no evidence for this will be forthcoming, the claims are being shifted to where evidence cannot exist - the spiritual plane (see Evolution of CAM). Soon those will be the only claims ever made about it, irrespective of what is written in the books right-thinking Scientologists ought to have pulped when they got their new, un-squirreled editions hot off the presses

As a footnote, it should be pointed out that Hubbard, for all his attempts, got his schism in the end. The unmovable position he made, first on Dianetics, and later on Scientology, created the Freezone, offering many people who like the belief system but not the Church, a way to the kind of freedom they'd initially imagined.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Atheists Go Home!

One of the accusations that is regularly trotted out when addressing critics of the Church of Scientology is that of "religious intolerance". This is to suggest that by voicing one's concerns about the Church's scant avoidance of corporate responsibility in, say, the safe removal of blue asbestos from it's fleet, or its willingness to allow its staff to practice medicine without a license, a person is no better than an ignorant bigot and would probably go around leaving burning CroSses on Beck's front lawn. Apologists and Scientologists alike are quick to draw comparisons between critics of the Church and Nazis, which is rather insulting to Jews, and also confuses religious and racist persecution. It was the Jewish race (along with gypsies, the mentally ill, homosexuals) that Nazi Germany had a problem with - no appostates were saved. Unless I have misunderstood, and the Nazi card is played in reference to their persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, then the murder of six million Jews ought not be compared to people speaking out against another person's belief system or, as is more usual, their behaviour.
Religious Tolerance, though, is a peculiar beast. It has to be universal for it to work at all. We can't pick whose religion we are tolerant of. You could, for instance, say that you were tolerant of all Abrahamic religions, but you're still making a distinction. I think it's true to say that most people who pay lip-service to religious tolerance have to qualify it to a greater or lesser extent; they have to draw a line in the sand. That line may concern itself with behaviour, fundementals of belief, or even be personal to individuals within a particular belief system, but it is drawn nonetheless.
Except that in today's political climate, you can't say any of that out loud. We're all supposed to have universal religious tolerance. People of differing religions are expected to have tolerance of other religions. This latter issue is particularly amusing because in most cases, it's fundementally disallowed. Nazarene dissident Jesus Christ said "No one comes to the father, but through me," and pretty much all religions have some kind of exclusivity claim built in somewhere; so what is the true nature of that religious tolerance? It is either an admission that one's own religion is just as flawed, unlikely and dubious as everyone else's or it is disingenuous "I tolerate your beliefs, however wrong they may be."
Now, how far this is right or wrong doesn't immediately concern me. I'm an atheist, so anyone of any religious conviction is barking up the wrong tree as far as I'm concerned. What does interest me, however, is the effect that this tolerance is having on the religious landscape as a whole.
The importance of tolerance comes down to the current climate of fear we're enjoying following the terrorist attacked that have been made by Islamic fundementalists. Political figures, realising the possibility of widespread civil unrest and intolerance in our multi-cultural and multi-faith world, made it hand-wringingly clear that we all had to get along, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Christians, Scientologists and Moonies. So we end up with senior policemen making glowing speeches about Scientologists at the opening of a London Celebrity Centre, and we decide to lift the ban on the Reverend Moon entering the United Kingdom.
Put plainly, fringe religions are, more and more, enjoying the same kind of respect and lack of scrutiny enjoyed by more mainstream religions, and at the expense of mainstream religion. Christianity in the UK has been multi-denominational for years now, but I'm noticing a greater number of small churches springing up, often with more letters in their overbearing titles than they have congregation. Along with that, Christians themselves seem to be getting kookier, or at least the visible ones are. Fundementalism is creeping into the fragmented church under a blanket of political correctness. Fringe cults are beginning to enjoy tax funding for the running of faith schools. It is becoming increasingly possible to pick a religion that matches one's own prejudices, faiths that use the bible to excuse a belief in racism, slavery and sexual inequality.
Here's a reality check. The guys who stand on street corners and tell passers by that they're going to hell are not good adverts for their religion. The smiley, happy clappy Christians performing entertaining bits of shtick in front of a Sesco are not good adverts for their religion. Both parties are projecting an image of what their particular religion does to its converts. This, you're probably thinking, is stating the obvious. But the trouble is, passersby aren't going to know where these people have come from as they quicken their step to take themselves out of earshot. They'll hear the word "God", or they'll recognise the tome of onionskin in the preacher's hand, and just lump the evangelical in with all the other Christians. And in an environment where we are continually told all religions are created equal, where does this ripe and fertile ground for fringe religions leave mainstream religions. Which faiths are rubbing off on which? Religious tolerance does not, in practicality, provide a bedrock for Christianity or Islam; by embracing the fringe and the fundementalist, religious tolerance serves only to undermine it. It is said of Incident II that it is no stranger than many of the events spoken of in the bible. This is quite true, but illuminates Christianity more than it does Scientology.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Secret... of Assumed Mechanisms

Having learnt recently of the forthcoming visit of The Secret interviewee and chiropractor John F Demartini to London I thought I would finally get round to posting on the dread subject astral calling.

Astral calling, or the law of attraction, or whatever you want to call it follows, in all its guises, the following stages; the window dressing may differ, but the core is the same.

1) write down what it is that you want.
2) consciously permit yourself the thing that you want
3) look out for and pursue any opportunities to achieve what you want.

As I say, the rituals of 1 may vary. Tell everyone, tell no-one, stick it in a box, write it in a tin and bury it, say it out loud to the stars at midnight. The point is, though, that most people's goals are woolly and vague. Generally speaking people know that they don't want whatever it is they already have, but rarely get to a point where they sit down and establish something that they would like to have. Within the context of astral calling, then, point 1 serves two important functions - it allows the person doing the calling to establish concretely what it is they want but it also lays down a parameter of success.

Once the person has decided what it is they want, then they must allow themselves to have it. This is a fair bit of deprogramming - to tackle one's own guilt at, or fear of, achievement. More important than this, the person is taking their pipedream and changing their attitude to it so it becomes an achievable goal. This becomes absolutely vital for the next phase.

If we return to our average non-achiever, another thing holding them back is the likelihood that they are risk-averse and non-opportunistic. Even if they've decided what it is they really want, they are probably pessimistic enough to believe their ambition is unattainable, so they simply will not try. We can, rather sadly, add fear of failure to fear of success, pushing an individual into a position where they daren't even make an attempt. Astral calling breaks that by instructing its advocates that once a goal has been decided on, opportunities will be drawn to them, that success will virtually fall into the person's lap. What occurs, though, is that people will start to recognise opportunities that were always there, and will even be in a position to take things that aren't prima facie opportunities, that don't have anything directly to do with the goal, and turn them into stepping stones towards achieving that goal. The last aspect of this phase is that individual failures are shrugged off but the pursuit continues. The knowledge that the opportunities are out there means that the individual moves away from the "you only get one chance" mentality, and failure really can become a learning experience on the way to success.

So here, in summary, is what is happening - someone is defining their goal, they are creating an attitude whereby they will pursue that goal, they will take opportunities and risks in order to achieve that goal. What amazes me about this is that it is so simple, and in a sense so humanist. There's an aspect of freeing oneself in order to achieve success which is actually quite moving. It seems, though, that it isn't moving enough. What I have described is the mechanism of astral calling, but most sources of astral calling suggest this is not mechanism but method, that the mechanism lies elsewhere.

Here's the other side of the three phases.

1) you describe what you want - something out there listens to you
2) you allow yourself to have it - something out there listens to you
3) you take opportunities and risks as they arise - something sends them to you.

Opinion varies on the something. Some say it's the universe (which is kind of a handy get out considering you're part of the universe too). Others, like Joel Osteen, will tell you that it's God listening and responding. There is a strong and definite suggestion by many of its proponents that whatever is out there responding to what we have written on a bit of paper and buried in the garden is a universal and intelligent force. But this process does not require the existance of such a force. It is akin to saying that God powers your bicycle, and you call on God to power the bicycle by working the pedals. Not only is it a ludicrous suggestion, it's also demeaning to the pedal-pushers, robbing humankind of achievement so that those laurels can be handed to a fictional genie.

Oh, and because I couldn't fit it in anywhere else, The Secret is not quantum mechanics. What are they talking about?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Finding Suckers

Those paying attention will know that I am an avid reader of the Advertising Standards Authority adjudications. In the United Kingdom adverts must comply to a set of standards and those that do not, and are complained about, will face the mild wrath of the ASA. Every Wednesday the ASA publish on their website the results of their investigations into whatever possibly non-complaint ads have swum into their purview.
Advertising compliance focuses primarily on three particular areas: offense, misleadingness, and harm, and because of the last two, woo advertising falls fowl of the codes over and over again. The ASA takes an evidence-based approach - if a claim is made in an advert and there is reason to question that claim, then in pursuing an investigation the ASA will require evidence that those claims are genuine. Needless to say, for much of woo, no such evidence is forthcoming. This is just as true with "the world's favourite cheese pasty" style claims as it does for books the ownership of which may cure you of your brain tumour. The point is, if someone is putting that claim into the advert, then the claim ought to be based on something other than the whims of the advertiser.
Much as I enjoy reading through individual adjudications, despite the fact that more often that not all that happens is that the ASA rule an advert that has already finished its run must not be run again, there are certain important aspects of the marketing of woo that only really come to light by comparing similar cases.
The most obvious one, to me at least, is the paths by which such things are advertised. The more laughable the claims being touted the more likely the ads have appeared on either race- or faith-based broadcasting channels. The reason for this seems clear; in the United Kingdom racial communities are more often than not faith-based communities too. The Afro-Carribean community in London, for instance, has a very loud and very active Christian centre. Asian communities will tend towards Hindu or Muslim, simply because there is a greater overlap between race and faith than there is when compared to more secular caucasians.
Consciously or not, those peddeling their woo realise that it is a waste of energy trying to sell their magic beans to people who already demonstrate a lack of gullibility. So the thinking goes that if they are open to religion, open to miracles and wonder and prayer-answering deities, then they will have no trouble stomaching the notions that crystals can shield you from evil forces, or that someone can cure your heart-condition over a premium-rate phoneline. Advertisers pursue faith channels, which is a no-brainer, and race channels because they know that they will get a higher sucker yield for their buck than other, more inclusive, broadcasters.
For some reason, though, I feel that such behaviour is less of a transgression than the sight that met me while visiting Brixton yesterday. Laid out, ironically enough alongside a small choir singing Jesus's praises, were a set of tressle tables with an all too familiar offer of free stress tests and copies of the gate-way tech manual Dianetics.

Brixton, for those who do not know, is one of the most Afro-Carribean areas of London - added to the number of small churches that pepper it and the surrounding area, it has the reputation (not entirely earned) of being a rough part of town. Google provides 327,000 hits for Brixton Murder, and 620,000 for Brixton Drugs. This mix of race, religion and trouble, it seems, turns the area into something of a honeypot for the Church of Scientology.
Things noticed about the operation on Saturday. The Scientologists selected for the operation all seemed to be under thirty. Some, the ones selected to hand out the notorious "2 out of 3 people suffer from stress" leaflet (also, it seems, non-compliant), were just children. Naturally it was ixnay on the ientologysay, apart from the copyright notices in the small print, so perhaps people don't think enough to notice, but there is something worrying that CoS can't pull in any old Scientologists to sell their stuff. This, you would expect, would be the way to go - if someone has been involved in Scientology for years, then they'll have more experience, more knowledge, of the effects of the tech, but it is not these that are sent out but the young and occasionally the beautiful. CoS, comparatively, sends out provisionally-licensed drivers to sell cars One can suspect the reasons - old Scientologists are in short supply because people don't stay in. They can't turn to old Scientologists to sell their dangerous nonsense because they've either gone or crossed the street to stand with the critics and Anonymous.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Day in Court No-one Wants

During the May Anonymous demonstrations, a fifteen-year-old boy was singled out by the police and served with a court summons for persisting in holding a plackard that stated "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult." This story has been picked up by The Guardian, and leads to a curious issue. The article in question is by Anil Dawar, who wrote about Will Smith's forthcoming school which intends to make use of Scholastic Tech, the untested teaching method licensed from the Church of Scientology and "developed" by physics drop-out L Ron Hubbard. This is how the first sentence in that article reads:

"Actor Will Smith is funding his own private school that will teach youngsters
using an educational system devised in part by the Scientology cult."

Clearly the Church of Scientology wishes to choose its battles wisely, and sees more scope in taking a minor to court over exercising his freedom of speech than a national newspaper. The trouble is, should the Crown Prosecution Service feel that a child calling a cult a cult is a matter for the courts, then who will benefit from the trial? The defendent could probably do without the hassle. He's got GCSEs to prepare for. The Church of Scientology probably could do without the embarrassment of standing in court and describing how, against all knowledge of their modus operandi, the term "cult" is abusive and insulting. Those who will benefit, one can assume, are the media. A large and powerful organisation playing to type by pursuing a case against fifteen-year-old that will make McLibel look like the Queensbury Rules will cause heavenly column-inchage for reporters in any country the CoS maintain an org in.

This demonstrates with incredible clarity how lost the Church of Scientology has become. It finds itself in an idealogical combat with a group that was motivated primarily in pursuing a freedom of speech agenda. At a demonstration targeting specifically the Fair Game policy, which suggests that crimes of critics should be discovered or invented, they ensure that freedom of speech is curtailed, and potentially that people may be criminalised for daring to speak out against the criminal organisation in their midst. This can and will and has brought the wrong kind of attention to further the planet-clearing ambitions of Scientology. Why grass roots parishioners have yet to hammer CoS out of existence remains a mystery.

The Telegraph cover this story too.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Call an End to "Pay and Obey" Scientology

It's no secret that I don't agree with a great deal of Scientology's weltanschauung, but nevertheless I do believe that it is an individual's right to believe in whatever they may wish to, on the proviso that that belief does not damage in any way anyone who does not share that belief, or encroach on their freedom.
There appears, with the emergence of various websites written from, if you like, a post-Church Scientology perspective, that there is a growing wave of dissent against the current Church's hierarchy, its staff and its policies. The trouble is that due to its fascistic nature, the brandishing of ethics as a weapon against dissent, its use of KSW as a means of keeping parishioners and staff in line, it is difficult and often impossible for that dissent to find a stong enough position to have an effect on the Church.
Another poster on ARS has called attention to the child-abuse scandals that have beset the Roman Catholic Church, and this provides a very powerful allegory for dissenting Scientologists. This is covered in great detail in the Clay Shirky book Here Comes Everybody. Priests who were guilty of child abuse were being protected by the Church; and unpalatable and unacceptable state of affairs, but within the parishioner / church relationship there was no mechanism in existence that could counter it. Legal actions were derailed by the church's attempts to cover up what was going on.
The thing that finally empowered the parishioners, and allowed a victory against the church, was the networking tools available on the internet. By some coincidence, the difference that the internet had over such a situation can be clearly seen; two separate, but near indentical, scandals broke out, the first in 1992, the second in 2002. In each case a pressure group was formed, but the one that was able to utilise modern communication technology was the one that won through. The ability to quickly and cheaply spread the scandal far and wide, and attract an interest in doing something about it made all the difference.
Voice of the Faithful was set up by Catholics frustrated with the conspiracy of silence and the browbeating that their Church was perpetrating against its parishioners. The initial membership of 30 meeting up in a church basement quickly grew, such that in a few months the group had amassed 25,000 supporters; a single body stretching over diocesan borders the world over - a post-geographic organisation fighting against (or rather for) a geographically demarcated body.
The RCC were unable to quash the movement, and some six years after its conception, the VotF have become a genuine force for laity representation in Church matters, having brought about a bedrock for reform, and even successfully campaigning for the resignation of corrupt church staff. It should serve as a beacon of hope for any Scientologist who feels that the Church no longer represents their faith, that their Church could quite feasibly be brought to order, that all it would take is the strength that comes from parishioner unity.
The relatively small size of the Church of Scientology might make what Voice of the Faithful achieved seem only a pipedream, but consider that, with a smaller parishioner base, the power yielded by each individual parishioner is far greater. If the rules and policies that you operate under forbid such union and affirmative action, then perhaps that is where your reformation should begin; the RCC tried to insist that VotF follow diocesan boundaries; VotF simply refused. KSW serves to keep any existant rot in place, which surely is not its purpose.
With CoS in such a state of chaos, it seems the moment is ripe for the Church to be refashioned by its grass-roots laity into something worthy and respectable. If you want to read more about the VotF story, here are some links to get you started: