There's something a little baffling about the Church of Scientology's response to criticism. Happily, Yvette Shank, president of the Toronto Church, wrote an opinion piece for the National Post that happily brings this baffle into sharp relief. Opening the piece, she sets it up as a contrast to an earlier, no doubt critical, item from the paper.
Jonathan Kay's article on Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard ("In fear of Xenu," Jan. 18.) certainly didn't give the picture of the religion I have known for the past 40 years.
But later on in the same article...
In studying Scientology, I have never been required to believe anything, and I appreciate that. Mr. Hubbard states this in his writings on personal integrity: "What is true for you is what you have observed yourself and when you lose that you have lost everything . Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation. That is all."
This should, for any free-thinker, prompt the question "What is true for the critics?" Those who oppose the policies and beliefs of the Church do so founded on their own beliefs, so such opposition is valid; it is true for the critics. "But what have they really observed?" a loyal Scientologist might ask, and this certainly must account for the oft used "suck it and see" answer that many an armchair critic encounters. Such suggestions become rather redundant, though, when faced with the former Scientologists who speak out against the Church. They have observed, and at close quarters, the kind of behaviours and beliefs they criticise; they inform those who have not. How ethical is it of Scientologists to question those beliefs?
This sounds like I am just game playing, and although there is a certain pleasure from the sophistry of the argument, I don't believe it to be a false argument. If you sign up to the "If it's true for you..." system of universal validity, that has to encompass the truths that the mask-wearing, plackard-waving protestors at your door believe in. So they conflict with what you believe about your Church? Deal with it! "True for you" will lead to conflicting beliefs. What is important is to look at the ways in which the Church deal with those conflicting beliefs. If they were seekers of truth, then they would engage in a dialogue; an exchange of ideas. As it is, they do not. They view any kind of criticism as something that needs to be "handled". They derail discussions, through the invocation of religious bigotry, the distraction of their anti-psych agenda, or through comparison to other, larger religions (always with the assumption that the critic has no problem with these either). This is not truth-seeking. This is an attempt to cling on to a belief system that may not bear up to scrutiny.
The Church waves the flag for freedom of thought (you don't *have* to believe any of it), suggesting that the individual is empowered enough to pick and choose from the smorgasbord of truths available, but at the same time it sets up mechanisms that actively counter that freedom.
First and foremost, a good Scientologist must surrender their ability to validate truth for themselves, by way of our old friend, the e-meter. I've talked at length about this before, so won't bore long-time readers. Suffice to say, though, that the main function of the e-meter is to externalise the process of establishing certainties about a person's internal state and that person's environment. What's true for the e-meter is true for you.
But the e-meter does not exist in a vacuum. There's an auditor there, and c/o the tightly scripted auditing routines, Hubbard is there too. To that end the sitter is being led down a very specific line of enquiry leading ultimately to a "truth" that the e-meter validates. Writing about the e-meter, I am more and more reminded of the electronic monks from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. These robots were created to believe in things in order to save you having to believe in them yourself. That's virtually what an e-meter does, but with the added inconvenience that you still have to attend to it, and it's not the e-meter's deep, dark secrets that end up in the file.
What's True For You is at total odds with Keep Scientology Working. This too I have discussed before. KSW is the document that lays down the authoritarian nature of the Church. It appears in most of the later courses offered by the church. Here's a quick reminder, published here under Fair Use.
Getting the correct technology applied consists of:
One: Having the correct technology.
Two: Knowing the technology.
Three: Knowing it is correct.
Four: Teaching correctly the correct technology.
Five: Applying the technology.
Six: Seeing that the technology is correctly applied.
Seven: Hammering out of existence incorrect technology.
Eight: Knocking out incorrect applications.
Nine: Closing the door on any possibility of incorrect technology.
Ten: Closing the door on incorrect application.
This is how Scientology, as a set of ideas, protects itself. You can be free to believe what you want, but not if you want to move up the Bridge. If you want to move up the Bridge, then you have to follow these ten commandments, in all their unquestioning, uncritical majesty. There can be no future for a Scientologist who picks and chooses from its ideology what he or she wants to believe.
The final question must be, given that Scientology is all about moving up that Bridge, what does the loyal Scientologist do when he is asked to believe in something that he has not as yet observed to be true? He has two, closely linked, options if he wishes to progress. Firstly, he must go on observing and observing and observing until he observes the truth. This, of course, may never happen for him, especially if the truth simply isn't there1. The second option, always there, is to believe without observation; something that the "if it's true for you" mentality ably accommodates. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with truth.
1A further word here is necessary about what is meant by "observe". How can one, say, "observe" the Xenu myth in order to know that it is true, given that these events are believed to have transpired so long ago? The answer, I think, is in associative truth. More babysteps from rationality to irrationality. It works like this... the e-meter (so you think) validates truth. You recount memories, and the e-meter validates them. You invent memories, the e-meter validates them, you interpret this as "recovered" true memories. You invent past life memories, the e-meter validates them, you interpret this as recovered past life memories. The rest follows through quite easily. Your belief in the validity of the process means that you can read the space opera past lives recounted in Have You Lived Before This Life? and believe them, because they have been recovered using the same process that you used to recover your own past life memories. When Hubbbard pitches up with his tales of galactic overpopulation, bt clusters and more, you have already bought into the notion of a galaxy whose history is teeming with alien life, and the validity of all the tech you have encountered up til now. You've also, as a counter-intuitive sweetener, paid an awful lot of money for this information. Everything leads you to believe, despite the fact that nothing is based directly on personal observation.